All posts by agirlcandoit

DIY dreaming in the sky….cloud based DIY project planning


Feeling a little out of touch lately since I am not actively involved with dirty hands in a DIY project at the moment.  My husband and I are building a new home and are acting as owner/builder which means doing our own project management.  Crazy maybe, but the reward at the end will be immeasurable.  Like any good project, it requires HOURS of careful planning beforehand to be successful.  Measure twice, cut once right?  I have also found that there is absolutely no way that I would be able to carry a huge binder or boxes of ideas around with me as we go through the extensive design planning process.   Sure formula for going crazy!

So, forget the old idea of magazine clipping and folder making.  Now, anyone can dream with ease by clicking the button on their mouse.  With the explosion of online information and social media, there are lots of sites now dedicated to the online consumer of information.  Even online “bookmarking a page” has gone into the caveman era.  Pinterest, Houzz and similar sites have grown by ginormous numbers that allow consumers to easily share and save socially their ideas, dreams and in the case of Houzz, portfolios of design professionals in your area that can help you.

As a user of both myself, I can tell you, it was love at first click to discover these sites.  These online based idea boards also allow me to also easily identify  a client’s ideas by going to look at their likes and wants on their idea boards online.  Anywhere that I have an internet connection, I can see YOUR ideas as well as my own.

Now to take it a step beyond the “idea board”…..Enter “Evernote” and “Dropbox”**…ahhh true love.  Continue reading

1920′s Budget Kitchen Makeover

This 1920′s kitchen was in desperate need of a makeover.  New custom crafted cabinets were added for around $75 in materials,new  counters for less than $200, sink $120, faucet $150, lighting $60, new stainless backsplash $200 and appliances were added.  The old linoleum floor was pulled up to reveal wood floors that could be sanded and refinished.  The result?  See for yourself.

Kitchen Before

Kitchen before

Kitchen Before

Stove area before hot water heater was moved to attic and a new custom built cabinet was added

Kitchen floor once linoleum was pulled up

Kitchen After

Kitchen after

How to replace electric outlets

A very quick and inexpensive update that you can do in your home is to replace outdated yellowed or broken outlets.  You can buy a “contractor pack” of ten or as singles for usually around $.50-$1.30 per piece!  The plastic covers for each can also be bought as a contractor pack for pennies on the dollar.   Can you believe that?!    Most people don’t realize this because they don’t make it a habit to walk up the electric nuts and bolts aisle at the store.    Even better, each outlet only takes a couple of minutes to replace.

** Disclaimer:   I am NOT a licensed electrician.  However, there are many simple projects such as this, that you can do for yourself safely and accurately, as long as you follow EACH step precisely.  Any deviation or questions, should be consulted further before proceeding.

Materials Needed:   flat and  Philips (star head) screwdrivers, wire strippers, plug in style voltage tester (shows proper ground, etc)

How to replace:

1)  First and foremost, the most important thing to do is to turn off the WHOLE house power at the breaker panel.  The “main” switch is usually at the top.  For good measure, I not only flip this one switch but also each individual switch as well to OFF.  Overkill maybe, but it doesn’t hurt anything.  Of course, just to be certain or if there’s a concern, power off AC’s, computers, TV or other sensitive electronic equipment before you flip the breaker.  Some people still like to double check each outlet before they begin by inserting an inexpensive plug in type of voltage tester that shows “no voltage”.  This is perfectly fine if it makes you feel better, but really, if you have turned off ALL breakers, there should be no voltage. Continue reading

1920′s home renovation portfolio of before and after photos (kitchen)

One of the biggest transformations occurred in the kitchen.  I loved the custom built cabinets, but there was only one.  I also loved the idea of converting the “indoor/outdoor utility room” to be fully enclosed so that I could add a dishwasher to modernize the space.  It was a big job, but here is what was done:

Demo:  removed all pine tongue and groove slat walls, relocated back door from its current spot and removed half window, used Craigslist to dispose of all old appliances, reconfigure stainless counter top to fit a modern sink

Here is what I started with; in this photo you can see the slat walls, the back door in its current location and the lack of an additional upper cabinet:

Continue reading

How to refinish hardwood floors (Part 2-stain and seal)

Now that the sanding is done as seen here in my prior post   the floors are ready to apply the new finish.  For hardwoods, I recommend a stain and 3 coats of polyurethane.  I chose MinWax’s oil based stain in Jacobean, which is a dark brownish black color like coffee beans.  I chose the darker color not only for aesthetic purposes, but as I discovered, it hides imperfections in the floors very well.

In small spaces, I recommend using a brush. but in the larger areas, the stain is applied easily with a paint roller and an extension pole.  Here you can see how it hides all the imperfections and repairs made to the original hardwoods very well.  When patching wood to be sealed, make sure you get the wood filler that says “paintable AND stainable”.

The stain will be “tacky” to the touch for several hours.  You don’t want to proceed to sealing until the stain is completely dry which typically takes at least 24 hours if not slightly more, especially in humid conditions.

Once the stain is completely dry, you can proceed to sealing.  Minwax makes a Polyurethane for Floors; I chose a satin finish which will look shiny when wet as you can see in the below photo but dries to a nice subdued finish.  It applies easily with a lambswool applicator attached to a painters pole.  After about 4 hours, the manufacturers label says that you can reapply a 2nd coat without sanding in between.  If you wait to let the first coat dry, you should plan to sand the area with a fine grit sandpaper and remove all sanding dust before proceeding.  In this case, I opted to reapply the 2nd and 3rd coats so that I could eliminate the sanding.  A word of warning here and that is to wear a face mask meant to block odors because this stuff is very noxious!  Allow at least 48 hours before walking on the surface.

The finished look:

1920′s Home Renovation Portfolio of before and after photos (bathroom)

Continuing my series of portfolio pictures of what was accomplished at the 1920′s duplex, one of the major transformations occurred in the bathroom.  Everything was white:  original hexagonal tile, white shower, white paint and white sink and white tongue and groove plank wood walls.  I struggled initially with the emotional decision as to whether I should retain some of the original elements for historical purposes but I decided it was best for rental value, and considering what was there was in bad shape, to go ahead and modernize the space a bit.

Here’s what was done to transform this room:  1)  All fixtures and finishes were removed except the medicine cabinet and tile 2) new travertine tile was installed directly over the old tile 3) new toilet, vanity, lighting and fixtures 4) had a plumber help to replace old galvanized pipes in walls and under foundation for new shower  5) installed new step in shower pan, backboard and tile for shower 6) instead of going back with mini-blinds, I used a frosted window film that I found that gives privacy yet lets the natural light shine in uncluttered.

Details:  wall paint color-Mushroom Bisque, oil rubbed bronze fixtures by Danze, Medicine cabinet and shower trims painted Espresso brown, shower tile is a combo of blanco tumbled marble and a glass mosaic I found at Lowe’s



Vanity area

Continue reading

1920′s Home Renovation-Portfolio of before and after photos (bedroom)

I am finally finished with the 1920′s duplex, at least one of the two units anyway!!  This will be the first of a series of posts just showing the makeover, before and after and sometimes during progress.  Hopefully you will agree that the changes are amazing, and in most cases, very little to do yourself if something you see sparks your creativity!  This project has taken a lot longer than expected, given my time availability and other factors.  Renovating an older home has many twists and turns that can be unexpected, but I have enjoyed every minute of it.

The bedroom, like other rooms in the unit showed many signs of settlement with cracks above almost every door and window.    The home has a pier and beam foundation with a brick ledge around the perimeter which all had to be leveled and repaired.  This allowed me to make the crack repairs inside.  In the bedroom alone, there are six lovely windows that allow A LOT of natural light to enter so I definitely did not want ugly cracks to detract from that beauty.  The bedroom also had an area on the wood floor that had been damaged either by a prior roof leak or heavy object that was dropped.  I was able to cut the damage out and match the hardwood.  In older homes like this, all of the walls, interior and exterior are actually tongue and groove wood and over time sheetrock installed over the wood.  Pretty much, you can install a picture anywhere without having to wonder if you hit a stud!

Bedroom (Before)

Bedroom before

Bedroom (After):  Paint, new blinds, windows, doors and trims painted, new fan and outlets/switches with stainless covers, refinished hardwoods with a repair area and all door and window settlement cracks repaired

Paint color:  Home Depot’s Behr Paint and Primer in One- Mushroom Bisque

Floors stained:  Minwax Jacobean with a satin Polyurethane for Floors

How to apply window film

So in my mission to finally finish my 1920′s duplex, I wanted to replace the cheesy plastic mini-blinds throughout the space, especially the floppy one on the back door.  Have you ever been lucky enough to find a window blind that stays in its brackets and even better, ever found one that is short enough that you don’t get lost in a tangle of strings trying to shorten it to fit?  Well, during my hunt, I stumbled across a product from Home Depot called “Artscape” decorate window films.  You can choose from two sizes: 1) 24″ x 36″ for $20 or 2) 36″ x 72″ for $30.   They have a variety of finishes like etched glass, leaded glass (like the one I used), stained glass, rain, etc depending on level of privacy you also want the film to have.  For about the same cost or better than a blind?  Sold!

Here is a picture of the product:

Tools you need:  Measuring tape, straight edge, razor knife, soapy water in a spray bottle; the film itself comes with a squeegee

Here are the steps:

1)  Clean the window-ensure interior of window is completely clean

2)  Measure the area to be covered and cut film on the paper side using a razor knife and straight edge-Before you cut the film, ensure that it will be even on both sides if there is a pattern.  To do this, subtract 50% of the total reduction from each side.  In other words, in my case, my width was 21 1/2″ and the film is 24″ wide; I cut 1 1/4″ from each side.  Repeat the same measurement for length.

3)  Wet the window-Using a spray bottle with water and a couple of drops of  hand soap inside, wet the window generously.  The wetter the window, the easier to work with the film.  Of course, lay a towel down on your floor to protect it from the drips.

4) Apply the film-Starting in one corner, peel the film from the paper backing and press into place and gently continue to roll the paper backing away and pressing the film against the window at the same time.  Be careful not to let the paper come in contact with the window.

5) Squeegee the air bubbles-Using the provided squeegee, start in the middle and work outwards to remove all air bubbles. Once dry, the film should be nicely adhered.

No more blind and a bonus that I now made my 1920′s door look like it has a leaded glass insert.  Love it!  This really was such an easy project that gave me so much reward and was much faster than installing a floppy blind!  I’m going to now use the same film but in etched glass to get rid of the blind in the bathroom.

If you have any questions, let me know…hope you enjoy transforming your window.

How to refinish hardwood floors (Part 1-Sanding)

The day has finally arrived!  My 1920′s duplex I have been laboring over for MONTHS now is finally ready to have its floors restored!!!   The original hardwoods are luckily in pretty decent condition with a few areas where the finish has completely worn off.  In order to renew the finish and restore the floors to their full beauty potential, I must first sand the old finish.   ** Disclaimer ** I have never attempted to refinish a floor before.  I’ve refinished furniture, sure, but floors?  What do I have to lose??  I hope I do not eat those words!

Belt Sander from Home Depot

Step 1:  Tool Rental

Home Depot thankfully rents large tools that would normally cost the regular weekend do-it-yourselfers a small fortune to buy the same.  For 4 hours and $32, I rented a belt sander which comes with a large dust collection bag.  I also purchased a 60 grit belt and a 100 grit sandpaper belt for $9.97 each.   The tool rental people will ensure that it works before you leave and demonstrates how you will operate the tool and how to install the sandpaper.  In this case, it is very easy since you simply slide the belts right on the sanding drum on the sander, no tools required.

First swipe-Bedroom

Step 2:  Sanding first swipe

Using the courser sandpaper first, start on one side of the room and work your way across, always sanding with the grain.  The sander has a handle that you can use to raise and lower the sanding drum while you maneuver the sander to each new row; *TIP* I did not do this at first and began noticing some unevenness in my sanding pattern so once I began raising and lowering the drum as I moved, it did much better.

2nd Swipe-the floor looks much more even

Step 3:  Sanding second swipe

Once the room is finished with the first swipe, change to the lower grit sandpaper belt.  Follow the same steps as above and you will notice that some of the unevenness is now easier to make disappear.

Living room-before sanding; surface scratches disappear!

Living room-after second swipe

Step 4:  Sanding the edges

Upon my tool return, I inquired about the next step, edging.  Unfortunately, the gentleman explained that most people actually begin with the edges so that any imperfections can be concealed with the larger belt sander.  Just my luck!  Instead of renting a large orbital sander that may cause round sanding marks, I purchased a smaller 4″ handheld belt sander for $40 that I plan to use to go straight down the edges.  I will use my hand sander to get into the corners.

After I sand the edges, my next step will be applying the new stain, so I hope you come back to see the finished results.   I must say, having spent 3 1/2 hours to sand 700 SF, it went fast and was very easy. I would definitely rate this job an easy one for a do-it-yourselfer.

RV Remodel Series-Flooring

Continuing my quickie makeover series in our new RV, “Road Kill”, I am delighted that I have finally zeroed in on the color scheme…light tan, chocolate and TEAL.  I’m going to salvage what I can of the existing improvements and make it work.  After all, a steal isn’t a steal if you pour money into it for cosmetics.  My goal for any improvement is how to get the most bang for your buck.  So teal we are sticking with.

For an RV, the ideal floor covering is one that is durable, flexible and will tolerate dirt, wet and easy to clean.  So I found myself looking at VINYL tile again.  An aisle I hardly ever venture down in the big home improvement stores.  To my surprise, they now carry a product called “Allure Ultra”.  Its a heavy duty vinyl product that is made to look like real wood.  I’m impressed to say, it really does look good…not some cheesy, grainy looking screening.  It carries a hefty warranty and is “WATER PROOF”; the cost was $2.97 psf and they have one that is less than $2 psf with the only difference being that it is considered water resistant.  It is installed similar to a floating laminate floor with a tongue and groove interlocking design.  There is no glue or other tools required except for a razor blade and straight edge.    Let’s see what happens!

Before I start, because the rental RV we had last summer had some sort of engine or drive train problem, it caused the RV to feel like a rolling oven inside.  The floors were so hot, it was hard to walk around and we were all fighting for the best spot by the air vents.  I did not want a similar experience this time.  I found a product called EZ Cool which is an automotive thermal insulation that is said to reduce noise and heat transfer.  I installed it  directly over the wood subfloors.

Next we laid new 1/4″ plywood directly over the thermal layer.

So now the new vinyl goes in.  I started with the wall opposite of the door and the directions call for working left to right:

A little trick I learned along the way is to leave the stuff sitting in sunlight before you score and snap it with your blade.  The heat makes it very pliable and easier to cut.  And now the finished project result; the Allure product really does look good!  I wouldn’t be bashful about putting this product in my home and I must say, we are beginning to have a classy looking RV.   I definitely give a thumbs up to this new flooring because it really is very easy to install yourself and looks really nice:

Here is the information from Home Depot’s site about the Trafficmaster Allure product:

Enjoy the resilience of 100% waterproof flooring and the look of real wood with new Exclusive Trafficmaster Allure Ultra flooring. The no-glue floating floor installs over most existing surfaces with a simple installation Click & Lock System. No underlayment, expansion joints or heavy tools are required to install. Allure Ultra is perfect for any room in your home, including basements and has a lifetime residential warranty and a 10-year commercial warranty.