Monthly Archives: May 2011

Wood You Be Mine?

Hers.

I can’t even begin to count the number of houses we looked at that featured wood paneling.  Every time Chris and I walked into one of these houses, all we could do was shudder.  We vowed we would never waste our money on a house stuck in such a tacky decade (no offense to all the 70s babies out there).  Imagine our surprise when the house we fell in love with happened to not only be one built in the 70s but also have a living room flanked with… you guessed it… wood paneling.  Not only that, but this house had one of the biggest living rooms we looked at so there was A LOT of wood paneling.  As naive as we are, we simply said, “no worries, we’ll just paint it.”

I would now like to take a moment of silence for the little piece of my soul that died the month in which Chris and I woke up, went to work, came home, painted, slept a minimal amount, woke up, went to work, came home, painted some more, made it to the weekend, woke up, painted, painted, and painted some more, slept a few hours, woke up, painted, painted…. well, you get the idea.

Here was the problem, as the paint sage at Home Depot soon explained to us:

1) Scrub scrub scrub.  When painting old walls that haven’t been touched since being installed, you have to scrub the walls of all the junk that had built up over the years.  “Uh, excuse me?” I asked.  Mr. Paint nodded his head saying, “Yes, you wouldn’t believe how thick the layer of crud can be.”  Fabulous.

2) Patience young grasshopper.  Once the scrubbing is done, you have to wait for the walls to dry completely so the paint will adhere.

3) It’s all in the details.  Let me also take this moment to explain that not only did we have wood paneling, but we had framed wood paneling with squares of trim littering the walls (I actually like the effect… but hate the work that went into painting it).  Because of the trim work, we had to caulk each side of the trim.  When the seasons change, the house shifts and if we didn’t caulk the trim, little pieces of wood paneling would begin to show.  We would constantly be touching up.  And you can guess how excited we were for the idea of that!

4) Prime time!  After that, we could proceed with priming (with the lovely smelling oil-based primer… two coats since it was wood).

5) FINALLY!  Only after that could we begin painting the room.

I can only imagine our befuddled expressions listening to the Home Depot employee explain the process to us.  Chris and I looked at each other wondering if wood paneling was really that bad afterall.  But, sadly, it was.

So, the long process began.  We had just moved in and had agreed that the first project we took on would be painting the living room.  If this wasn’t the most honest introduction to home ownership, I don’t know what is.  But as all was said and done, we survived the nearly-coma-inducing paint fumes, Chris and I still liked each other (amazingly), and the house was now void of wood paneling.

I just hope I like a light blue living room until Chris and I move on to our next house because there’s no way we’re repainting.  Ever.

His.

Let me put it this way: wood paneling is so dated, even my grandparents have painted over theirs- well, most of it, anyway. In terms of aesthetics, the 70s didn’t have too many hits, not the least of which was wood paneling. Nothing darkens a room quite like wood paneling, and this room had a LOT of wood paneling.

Julie and I couldn’t stand this room; the walls looked more like portals to some unknown abyss than, well, walls. My parents, on the other hand, loved it. The first time they saw the house, they commented on the “beautiful” wood paneling. I told them all they had to do was pay to have the room drywalled and they could take that stupid paneling with them. They passed.

When it comes to painting, the end result is entirely dependent on the prep work, and wood paneling requires a disgusting amount of prep work- scrubbing, sanding, scrubbing, sanding, caulking, scrubbing, priming… and finally painting. By the way, I don’t recommend carrying out this task in Texas in the summer time, as you’ll want to open the windows- there was a cocktail of volatile chemicals involved that would make the bomb squad cringe, and it was beginning to take its toll. I thought that if I woke up to “let’s get started on painting the living room, Chris” one more time, I was just going to burn the house down and call it done.

Anyway, after the longest month of my life (and our marriage), every last inch of paneling had been eradicated and replaced with some sort of blue. When my parents came back for another visit, they responded with dismay, “Oh… you painted the paneling…” All I can say is, Thank God!

See below for before pictures (taken by sellers before we moved in), during pictures (as the primer went up), and after pictures.  More pictures of the living room to come when we finally put the finishing touches on the room.

After.

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Re-Dubbed

Hers.

So, it’s finally been settled.  A brand new spankin’ name for the blog.  Chris apparently had had enough of my feminine (but oh-so-cute) name for our blog.  To be fair, Chris originally didn’t want any part of this blog so I wasn’t really thinking “gender neutral” when I came up with Cotton and Cream.  I was thinking- what’s short, catchy, and describes my design aesthetic?

So, without any further ado, we are proud to announce the new blog name… *drum roll please* Do or DIY.

After weeks of debate and a long list of contenders, Chris’ frontrunner was chosen.  There were some less than stellar recommendations such as Web Design, DIY the Heck Not, and  n/o design (our middle initials) but in the end Do or DIY won out.  It also helped that I had talked Chris into spending the afternoon in the attic wiring up a new chandelier in our bedroom so I was feeling a little generous.  But, hey, it works.

His.

Finally.

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We Don’t Need No Stinkin Showers

Hers.

…is apparently what Chris thought one excruciatingly hot day in June last year.  The group, however, would have outvoted him 4 to 1.  But, let me start from the beginning.

One hot, hot day in June, my mom, dad, and brother were in town to see our house for the first time.  They had also volunteered to help us re-landscape our backyard (maybe an unwise decision considering the 100 degree heat index but I wasn’t going to argue with free labor).  While my family and I got started on my mom’s master landscaping plan (her green thumb helps make up for my black one), Chris decided to tackle the annoying drip we had seemed to acquire in the non-functioning master bathtub… I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  How would a non-functioning bathtub drip…?  Gotta love these older houses.

After a long day of unplanting, replanting, weeding, and grooming our lawn to perfection, we were ready to scrub away the newly acquired layer of dirt and grime coating our skin.  As we all began to make a run into the house to claim the first shower, we heard an unpleasant shout from the front yard.  Upon running outside to see what had happened, I encountered Chris kneeling over what seems to be a river spouting in our front yard.  As I continue to survey the scene, I see that he is holding a valve in one hand.  Hm… I don’t know a lot about plumbing but I was pretty sure the valve was supposed to be on the pipe, not in Chris’ hand.  The look on Chris’ face proved my theory right.

So… what to do, what to do.  It’s now 10 pm, we are hosting 3 visitors, oh and it’s Saturday meaning all plumbers on-call will demand a service fee only an oil tycoon could afford.  We have two choices:

a) Find the shut-off to the shut-off valve (who knew?) to cut water to the house eliminating all possibilities of finishing the night squeaky clean.

b) Give the lawn a good soak and keep the water flowing long enough for us to shower.

It doesn’t take a genius to guess that we went with option b.  Let’s just say that Chris and I were super excited to get that month’s water bill.

So, the water stayed on for 25 minutes (for those of you with math skills as bad as mine, that’s a 5 minute shower per person, even the girls, ugh) then the water was shut off before the lawn floated away.  The next morning, Chris and I (Chris especially) bit the bullet and called a plumber who had to rebuild our whole shut-off valve piping.  No biggie… right?

Well, just another day with the Webers.  Needless to say, it took my family 10 months to visit the house again.  I wish I could say the plumbing problems ended here.  But, alas, there are many many more.  But we’ll save those for another blogging day.  Lucky you.

His.

Unfortunately, this is only the first installment in what is destined to be a series on plumbing disasters. It’s also a lesson on why you shouldn’t cheap out on valves. Oh, and as you’ll soon find out, Julie and I’s stories are completely different.  Interesting how that happens.

When we moved in, the master bathtub worked (sort of) but the faucet dripped like crazy. Not only was this incredibly annoying, but it also wasted a ton of water- dozens of gallons a day. I knew exactly what the problem was, and it was a simple fix- the valve for the bathtub faucet was worn out and needed to be replaced. I had successfully replaced a few in the past so I knew it would be no big deal. Well, what I didn’t account for is that cheap fixtures aren’t as easy to fix as the nice stuff.

I found the part I needed at Lowe’s and headed home, thinking I’d just pop it in and be done. Wrong again, Chris! I found the shutoff valve at the house (not to be confused with the shutoff at the main… thank God there’s a difference), and of course it was a multi-turn valve. I should mention here that I HATE multi-turn vavles- why would I need to regulate flow through the lines when I can regulate flow at the outlet point (i.e. the faucet). Stupid. Anyway, I started cranking on the valve and noticed the flow didn’t seem to be decreasing. A few twists later and I was holding the valve handle in my hand and being sprayed in the face by water shooting out of a hole that once held the handle’s spindle.

I generally try to stay calm in these situations and don’t want to alarm people, but pulling your valves apart is disconcerting. I also didn’t really know how to announce to the room that I had just broken the valve and no one could take showers, so I just walked in and said “hey I broke a valve and we can’t take showers.” This wasn’t well received and, of course, everyone thought they had a solution. Trust me, when you’re carrying the valve handle around, there’s no solution to be had. Fortunately, the water company had a separate shutoff valve at the meter, so the house didn’t float away.

After a night of worry, we called around looking for plumbers. When you have a plumbing emergency on a Sunday, they call the shots. Fortunately, we found a guy that wanted to work more than he wanted to make a point, and they started digging up the old valves. When it came time to solder in the new ones, I insisted on quarter-turn, and it’s paid off a few times since then. I also insist on spending the extra money to get the good valves.

This experience taught us a few things. First, always expect plumbing problems when family is visiting. Second, Julie has learned that when I say “we have a problem,” we really have a problem. And third, I learned that plumbing problems aren’t cheap, especially when you get the water bill.

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A Few of our Favorite Things…

I’d like to introduce a new section to our blog called “Our Favorite Things” in which we list some of the items we’re currently lusting over.    The list is constantly changing but here’s what top-of-mind for us at the moment.

Hers.

Sunburst mirrors.

Every time I see one of these mirrors in a store, I feel like a kid in a candy shop.  I am officially obsessed. Bronze, copper, pewter, wrought-iron- no matter the finish, I want them all.  It’s the perfect combination of art and function.  Not to mention that as a summer baby, I love the reference to my cheery friend, the sun.  These mirrors are ideal for entryways, fireplace mantles, and give any dresser that extra “oomph.”  You can also use smaller, rounded versions for a display plate or tray.  I placed one on our entryway table and filled it with candles.  I love how they reflect the candle’s light when lit.  See below for a few of my favorite sunburst mirrors out there, on both ends of the price spectrum.

1. Seventh Avenue, $65.99   2. Amazon.com, $394.00

3. Pier 1 Imports, $199.95   4. Crate and Barrel, $199.00

5. Crate and Barrel, $199.00   6. Horchow, $495.90   7. Country Door, $59.99

8. Wisteria, $79.00   9. Ballard Designs, $269.00

His.

Ceiling fans- the unsung hero of every room. Now, if you think it’s odd for someone to imply that a ceiling fan should be in every room, well, clearly you haven’t spent enough time in Texas. Summer is an eight-month season here, and ceiling fans aren’t a commodity, they’re a necessity. When Julie asked me what I was looking for in an apartment, I just said, “fans.” I think 75* is scorching, so I find fans to be invaluable- they’re relatively easy to install, dirt cheap to operate, and ultra-efficient because they cool you, not the room.

When I first moved to Texas, there were basically two types of fans: indoor and outdoor (except the airplane fan I had- if you can name anything cooler than that, I’ll give you $10). When Julie and I bought what seemed to be the last house in Texas that didn’t have ceiling fans and therefore had to install them, I realized that there are literally hundreds of choices, and that a fan is as much a piece of furniture as the coffee table. You can choose from dozens of shapes, sizes, colors, finishes, etc. I also discovered that installing a fan on a vaulted ceiling where there was once nothing (i.e. no circuit or ceiling box) is a job-and-a-half.

As you can see, fans are now available in a variety of styles, including the absurd.

1. Home Depot, Hampton Bay, $309   2. Home Depot, Hampton Bay, $69.97

3. Lamps Plus, Hunter, $319.91   4. Home Depot, Hampton Bay, $99.97

5. Amazon.com, Fanimation, $691.95  

6. Lighting Universe, Fanimation, $1153.95   7. Lowe’s, Harbor Breeze, $98.94

8. Lowe’s, Harbor Breeze, $84.00   9. Home Depot, Hunter, $179.00

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You Painted the Bathroom WHAT Color??

Hers.

Purple.  Yes, purple.  Well, lavender to be exact but Chris didn’t care to hear that either.  To be fair, I was going for a smoky purple… it turned out more grandma-doily-purple than smoky purple though.  Before you hear Chris’ rant regarding how life-shattering this room was, please consider the following:

  • I, Julie Weber, painted the whole bathroom myself while Chris was at work so it’s not like he wasted his day slaving over this color any seven-year-old girl would’ve killed for.
  • Before opening the door and revealing the purple paradise, I both warned him and acknowledged the error of my ways.
  • You should also note that the bathroom was the most horrid shade of stale mustard yellow that you’ve ever seen.  No color in history could have been worse than what the previous owners had slathered on the wall.
  • For the second round, I chose a soothing, sea-foam green that is now approved by all parties.  Problem solved.
The powder room was our first adventure into truly renovating a room of the house.  And, as I’m sure you’ve discovered by reading about the paint, it was quite the learning experience.  After we finished, the only pieces that were unscathed by our remodeling were the toilet and the floor.  The following items weren’t so lucky: new sink, new faucet, new mirror, new lighting, new countertop, new towel ring, new accessories, newly painted cabinets, new cabinet hardware, and, of course, new wall paint (four coats…)
So, what were our take-aways?
  1. Spray paint isn’t just reserved for art projects and graffiti.  I was shocked to discover that spray painting bronze light switches and toilet paper holders doesn’t turn out that tacky.  We sprayed ours to a nice, oiled-rubbed bronze color to match the new faucet and light and it actually looks legit.  And what a convenient way to cut costs!
  2. Hobby Lobby a) is closed on Sundays (forgot that one) and b) has really cute, inexpensive towel rings.  I found an antique, rod-iron-looking heart-shaped towel ring (phew, that was a mouthful) that worked perfectly.  And with an $8 price tag, it was even better!
  3. Avoid Valspar paint.  We purchased Valspar white semi-gloss trim paint and were highly disappointed.  Within a week, it started peeling off the wall and had a rough texture.  We’re a proud Behr family now.
  4. Don’t be afraid of visiting your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  Being the latest and greatest finish, oil-rubbed bronze items can get expensive.  We found a fantastic deal on an oil-rubbed fixture for $30 at our local ReStore.  It looks comparable to any $100 fixture at Home Depot or Lowe’s but at a third of the price!
After one weekend (yes, we did all this in one weekend!!), the “Charlene/Julie’s mom” room (thus dubbed by Chris) was complete.  I am shocked to say that we survived, can still say that we like each other, and, most importantly, were ready to move onto the bigger bathrooms.  No rest with the Webers!
His.
 
Blurple. That’s the word I reserve for particularly ugly shades of purple. And this room was blurple. Honestly, I wasn’t upset that the room had to be repainted; I was upset that I was the one that had to repaint it as Julie had “already painted so much” that day. “Had already done enough damage” is how she should have phrased it.
Anyway, let’s talk semantics. There’s a fine line between “should fit” and “does fit.” For example, if you measure a bathroom and then pick out a vanity top that is the same size as your opening, well, in theory, it “should fit.” However, when you get home and install it only to discover it’s wedged against the wall at a 30* angle, it’s safe to assume that it “doesn’t fit.” Oops. I’m not a professional, but I think I came up with a pretty clever solution: bash the hell out of the wall with a hammer. All I needed was a few millimeters of flexibility in the wall, and the side splash was just tall enough to cover up the swiss-cheesed drywall. Jackpot. While Julie prayed in the corner, I got medieval on the wall. A few good whacks and the vanity fit like a glove. Huzzah!
I’d also like to take this opportunity to discuss electrical safety. The human body is, unfortunately, an excellent conductor. This means that as someone is getting electrocuted, they will conduct electricity onto any other conductor they come into contact with. What this means for you is that if you touch someone that’s being electrocuted, you’ll get zapped as well. Also, I now know that our house was wired with a GFCI circuit powering all the outlets near a water source, rather than having individual GFCI outlets in each location, so when I shut off power to the bathroom I foolishly assumed the outlet was shut off as well. ZAP! Wrong. I’m not easily startled, but getting an unexpected jolt always gets the job done. I can’t fault her for rushing to my aid, but the first thing Julie did was grab me, and I immediately lectured her on electrical safety, fingers still tingling (in all seriousness, as little as one amp can kill you, so be absolutely sure a circuit is off before you work on it).
The moral of this story, though, is that this was our foray into true renovations, and we survived. More importantly (or perhaps most depressingly), we had been bitten by what we call in the car world the “mod bug”, that is, the inability to leave something the hell alone, and the uncontrollable compulsion to customize everything you own. When an 18 sq. ft. room no one really uses literally tries to kill you, renovating the rest of the house seems daunting. But if it gives me an excuse to buy beer and tools, I say bring it on!
Now, onto the good stuff: the pictures!
Before.
          
After.

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And So It Begins…

Hers.

Once upon a time (May 2010 to be exact), my high-school sweetheart and husband of 1.5 years, Chris, and I embarked on a magical journey into the world of home ownership.  To be clear, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  From the numerous plumbing fiascos (which always seem to occur when family is visiting from out of town) to the pencil-sized hole in our living room ceiling from Chris missing a plank in the attic, the experience has been… well, interesting, to say the least.

Having bought a house built in the 1970s, we soon found that much of the house was still trapped in that era of disco balls, bellbottoms, and the burnt-orange Nova that Chris had to drive in high school (have I mentioned that it had puke green carpet as well?).  Yes, we were in for quite an adventure.

This blog follows us as we make our way through the house, room-by-room (well, as much as I can without excitedly jumping ahead to the next project), learning as we go (yikes!).  Follow our blunders, discoveries, Chris’ patience for my wild ideas, and our growing love of home renovation and design. We hope you enjoy the ride as much as we do!

His.

Let me start by saying that I grew up helping my dad around the house. This wasn’t really a bonding experience; it was mostly that I was the only other one in the house that knew the difference between a crescent wrench and a wood rasp. Anyway, in helping dear old dad I apparently learned a thing or two about home renovation, repair, carpentry, and swearing.

Somehow my wife picked up on my handiness (but has yet to accept the swearing) and I’ve been sentenced to a life of catering to every design whim she’s had- including painting almost every roomtwice. After 12 months of painting, wiring, mitering, a few dozen electrocutions, countless hammered fingers, and more trips to Home Depot than I care to admit, we decided to document all the adventures, mishaps, and odd doings of previous owners that homeownership has to offer. So whether it’s the finer points of painting the trim or busting out the smoke wrench (that’s a torch) on plumbing lines, you can revel in the fact that it’s our problem, not yours.

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