Something New Is Coming

Kitchen Renovation Round 1As you know, we have spent the last 3 years slowly making our house into the home of our dreams. When we bought it 3 years ago, the 7,000 sq ft of property and 1,050 sq ft of house were a blank slate for us. The landscaping was all dirt, the trees were all half dead, and the inside of the house was old and bland. After landscaping the back yard and most of the front, laying new floors, painting every wall, and redoing the kitchen, we're ready for more.We have been praying and dreaming about our home and the needs of our family for the past year or so. When we took into account the square footage of our home, size of our family, and the fact that we will be home schooling starting this fall, we knew we needed to make some changes.  So, we began looking at other homes for sale in our area, thinking that buying something larger would be our only option. But a part of us was sad at the thought of leaving our first home. After lots of research we realized that if we were to sell our current home and buy something large enough to accommodate our needs our mortgage would nearly double... and that did not make us very happy. So we started brainstorming our next best option, and we quickly decided that adding on to our existing floor plan was the way to go.Thankfully we have an awesome contractor (Shout out to my Pops!) who helped us come up with an excellent floor plan. We are finalizing the layout and design details this week and will be submitting the plans to the building department soon! Prayerfully we don't hit any major snags along the way and if everything goes according to plan, we will be enjoying our newly renovated home this summer. We will be sharing all our plans and costs here as the project unfolds and as soon as we are finished with the plans we will post those as well.Have any favorite before and after pictures? Renovation stories? Ideas? We'd love to hear them!

How Do I Install Laminate Wood Flooring?

Photo of Installed Laminate FlooringFor Sam's 26th birthday I squirreled away some money, took a 4 day weekend, and surprised her with new laminate wood floors. The bank-owned carpet and linoleum had seen a long full life and deserved retirement.My father and brother-in-law helped with the installation while I sent Sam to her mom's house with the kids.It was one of the longest weekends of our lives (and we only replaced the 500 square feet in the living room, kitchen, and hallway).**Husbands: don't surprise your wife with a big DIY project that takes all weekend and keeps you two apart ON HER BIRTHDAY.**

Here's my amateur guide to installing laminate wood flooring.


Step 1 - Research, Shop, Compare

Price goes up with the plank thickness and more popular colors and perceived widths. We compared the options available at Lumber Liquidators, Home Depot, and Lowe's finally deciding on this medium toned Fireside Oak laminate from Lowe's for $0.99/sq. ft. (Or $20/box).Buy the laminate a week or two before laying the floors as you'll need to let the wood acclimate to the room it'll be installed in. The box will have instructions for how long it'll take to acclimate - usually 3 or 4 days.Don't forget to budget for underlayment (that padding layer that goes between the new laminate and the concrete or wood sub-floor). The cheap stuff we used is $25/box (100 square feet) at Lowe's as of the writing of this post or you can find laminate underlayment on Amazon for around $21 per 100 square feet.

Step 2 - Demo, Remove, and Prep WELL Beforehand

I assumed it'd take my brother-in-law and me a simple 2 or 3 hours one evening to pull up the old carpet and scrape the old linoleum. 4 hours in on Thursday night we realized we were in over our heads. Pulling up the linoleum in the kitchen revealed a surprise layer of more linoleum, which we decided to leave in place. But the glue on top if it took forever to scrape out. (The linoleum we left in place was thin enough to not notice now that the floors are settled)The carpet came out quickly, but the tack strips and nails took very focused, slow attention to detail to make sure the whole floor was clear.Give yourself plenty of time for demo and prep. We ended up rushing to start laying and didn't spend anytime checking the concrete, sanding/filling low or high spots to make it level.The floors are down and we only barely notice a few spots that give. Those are even settling with time, but we could've spent a few hours leveling the concrete base.

Step 3 - Start Laying Your Laminate

When picking the direction of the boards, we decided to run the planks down the longest sight line: from our living room down the hallway towards the bedrooms.This helped us maintain the straightest true line possible and lengthened the feel of the house itself.We then started laying laminate out from that center line, first left, toward the back sliding door, then right, toward the kitchen. Once we got out in the open of the living room work sped up.Piecing the boards together involved lifting each new laminate board to a 2o degree angle, sliding it under the proceeding piece, and pushing the laminate flat until it snapped into place.A dozen pieces in we realized most of our boards weren't flush. We'd been tipping each peace up only maybe 5-10 degrees and not hearing that crucial click as the board would slip into place. The grooves are set to match perfectly and hold snug, but only if you follow the instructions!

Step 4 - Mind the Edges

If you're installing baseboard over the floors like we did, you'll leave an expansion gap between the end of each laminate board and the wall.This being my first attempt at laminate floor laying, I thought I knew better than the instructions and left gaps bigger than 3/8"... which made for a headache later when we started installing baseboards only to see gaps between the edge of the baseboard and the laminate.20140426-190411.jpgIn my (weak) defense, I thought the 3/8" recommendation was a minimum gap, leaving room for the floors to expand in different temperatures and humidity. Turns out it was more of an exact requirement.I fixed the gaps by cutting tiny slivers of laminate to fit in just under the baseboards, pulled the baseboards back off, used wood glue to install the laminate slivers, and then finally re-installed the baseboards. All those tiny cuts cost us a lot of time.

Step 5 - The Flooring Finishing Touches

Our kitchen is set up with an entry door by the front door, and then a big opening out into the living room. In other words it makes for the perfect race track for our kids to run a loop around endlessly.This made for one of the trickiest parts of laying laminate - meeting in the middle as we rounded both sides. The floor actually gives a little so we were able to line it up perfectly. If you run into the same situation, don't be afraid to pull the boards a bit. The tiny gaps, or slight misalignment will disappear as you lay more laminate.We also laid the laminate all the way under the appliances (fridge, range, and dishwasher) and into the pantry. These narrow paths meant lots of cuts and slow work, but left the space feeling complete.So, that's what I learned my first time laying laminate wood floors! Hope it helped. Have you laid flooring before? Any tips or steps to add?20140422-192156.jpg(Visual test of the new laminate and baseboards. Good before vs after comparison to the old carpet.)

Front Yard Makeover Stage 1: The Before

Front Yard Makeover Stage 1 Panorama PhotoTo say that our front yard is an eyesore would be like saying chicken pox aren't that bad. Till now, we've focused most all of our renovation time and budget on the backyard and interior of the house (the spaces we live the most life together). The front yard is a combination of desert landscaping (not the pretty kind - just 4 inches deep of mixed rock), dirt, and un-killable weeds.We've decided that our curb appeal has been neglected long enough, and so we've embarked on operation Front Yard Makeover. I spent most of this last Saturday with a shovel and wheelbarrow, getting as much rock out of the front third of the yard as possible in preparation for some fresh sod with roses lining the fence. I woke up Saturday morning confident digging all the rock out would take me about an hour.Stage 1 Of Our Front Yard Makeover - Digging Out RockAs the sun finished setting, I packed up the shovels and wheelbarrow, glad to have at least moved most of the rock out. Lesson learned: don't be over-ambitious. Digging is hard. Rocks are heavy.

Next Steps

  1. Get the rest of the rock out
  2. Trench & lay sprinklers
  3. Finish the picket fence, add a gate
  4. Lay Sod
  5. Plant Roses
  6. Rejoice

Please leave a comment with your wisdom if you have ANY tips on easy ways to get rock out of a yard.

DIY Coatrack How-To

When 40 feet of tree almost crush your backyard cinder block wall... make lemonade. Or, in our case, a custom coatrack.20140119-202050.jpgAfter the tree fell we chainsawed it into manageable pieces and kept one long, straight branch with the hopes of using it in a future project.Fast-forward several months. A fresh coat of gray paint, white baseboards and new laminate wood floors demanded a decent coat rack for our front entry. Light bulb!We'd finally found the perfect project for that old, dried out log leaning next to the shed. Our plan was to cut a plank out of the middle using the table saw, knowing full well chances were slim I'd be able to get a straight enough plank to actually mount to the wall. In which case we could just toss the wood and mount our coat hooks to the wall individually. Who knew it'd turn out as handsomely as it did?

Here's how we made our custom coat rack:

Step 1 - Pick Your Stick

20140117-211652.jpgFind a nice dried out branch. It's important that the branch be several months dry before you cut into it, so the blade can slice right through.

Step 2 - Get the Table Saw

20140117-211714.jpgSet up your table saw. Yes, I did this on a table saw. I wish I had a rip saw but there are safe ways to do it my way.

Step 3 - Cut the Wood

20140117-211703.jpgMy log was too thick for the table saw blade to cut all the way through. So I'd cut about a 6-12 inch line on one side, then roll the log over and match the line on the other side.I could look down through the first cut and see the blade coming through the second cut, making sure to keep cuts from both sides in line.In other words, I eyeballed it.20140117-211736.jpg

Step 4 - Cut SLOWLY

Cutting slowly will help you make straighter cuts (I eyeballed the lines remember?) and as your blade heats up, it'll etch some really nice burn marks across the wood for a unique, worn look.20140117-211751.jpg

Step 5 - Mount It

20140117-211844.jpgThat's it. No staining. No paint. No sanding. We loved the way the natural wood came out with the burn marks. The dry layer of bark around the outside actually greyed just right, making for a perfect match to our wall color (completely by accident).20140117-211821.jpgWe test-placed the hooks on the board while it was laying on the ground.Then, we mounted the board and finished by installing the hooks.20140117-211907.jpgIt works! Coats, consider yourselves hooked.