RV remodel series

It serves as “home away from home”, so hopefully, its still considered a “home improvement”.   We are excited to have purchased our first RV for a steal, a 1995 Class A motorhome.  Its 33′ and completely outdated.  It didn’t help that my daughter has already said it looks like Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine upon first sighting. Sure shiny brass, teal and purple may be heaven for some, but not this home improvement nerd.  I’m considering a total redo and converting to a sandy tan, chocolate brown and maybe a cranberry color scheme.  It’s all about presentation, right??

Here’s the new blank slate, what my daughter has now dubbed “Road Kill”:

Day 1: Demo of carpet, prep walls for paint

It took about 2 hours to demo the existing carpet and linoleum flooring.  Doing so, I can see how much dirt lives under carpets even with the cleanest of Mr. and Mrs. Clean’s.  Yuck!  Another bonus to doing this is that we can now see just how good of shape the sub floors are.

The interior walls have a wallpaper covering throughout.  In case you haven’t read it before, you can save yourself a lot of time and sanity by leaving a wallpaper in place and painting directly over it.  http://agirlcandoit.com/2010/04/22/paint-over-old-wallpaper/

Here’s my secret:  Using 2 1/2 cans of spray texture set to “fine”, I sprayed the texture directly over the wallpaper.

Day 2:    Painting, painting, painting

Allowing the texture to completely dry overnight, I began painting.  I use Behr’s Paint and Primer in one over wallpapers.    The painted walls instantly tone down the teal.  I’m rethinking my color scheme strategy already.  Maybe it also helps that after I have been gathering estimates for reupholstering or a replacement of furniture inside, it would run over $2,000.  Yes, the teal isn’t looking so bad after all.

Tomorrow-Flooring!

Wood deck makeover in a weekend

Love the look of a new wood deck when its first finished but now that time has passed, you can’t even recognize it?  Even if your deck is old and looking a little sad, for a little time and a $30 can of stain/wood protector, it can really take on a new life.  Keep in mind as you are reading that this same process can be done with fences, wood trellis, wood patio furniture etc.

Before we start the how to, lets take a look at what happens to wood that is left exposed to the elements without waterproofing over time; dirt and algae build up in the wood grains making the wood appear as if its a lost cause.  Left unchecked, this actually decreases the lifespan on your wood.  Don’t rip it up just yet!

Take a look at this deck before…it is nearly black!

Step 1:  Pressure wash

If you have access to a pressure washer, borrow one from a friend or neighbor.  If you think you’d like to have one to keep at home for odd projects, you can find a pretty reasonably priced electric psi model for around $200.  These do a fine job of cleaning wood decking, fencing, siding and concrete around your home; the higher psi and gas models are stronger but why pay the extra money for a home model that serves its purpose?

After pressure washing the wood, let the wood completely dry before proceeding to the next step.

Take a look at this photo to see how the dirt and grime virtually disappear with the pressure washer:

Deck after it is fully pressure washed:

 

Step 2:  Stain/Waterproofer

I like Behr’s Stainer and Sealer in one.  Using a nylon brush or rough surface roller, roll out the stain over the deck.

The sealer will take several hours to fully dry.  Once it is dry, water should “bead” right up on the wood and you are left feeling like you have a new deck again.  Repeat every couple of years so that the wood is always protected from the elements and it will greatly extend the life of your deck.

Step 3:  Rearrange pots, add some colorful flowers and wah-lah!  It looks like an entirely new deck!

Spring Exterior Preventative Maintenance for your Home

Spring weather is a perfect time to get outside and walk around the entire perimeter of your home to check for any signs of needed maintenance.  Houses “settle” over time and are constantly in a state of movement, believe it or not.  It is common for caulk joints to deteriorate over time and a lot of us take it for granted that certain small, but very important areas such as caulking are “out of sight, out of mind”.    Its much easier and less expensive to replace caulk in order to prevent larger and more expensive issues later.  Wood rot and excessive movement however may indicate larger issues that need to be dealt with.

Check for the following:

1) Foundation

Check for any insect intrusion coming into your brick’s weep holes, any cracking of the slab, or soil separation.   Make sure vegetation, mulch and dirt stay at least 4-6″ below the top of your slab

2) Windows

Check your window’s caulking.  An inexpensive tube of caulk goes a long way to keep your windows air and water tight.

3)  Wood trim and siding

Check for any signs of wood rot, mildew or gapping due to settlement.    In our case, Spring brought an overactive squirrel that chewed right through one of our trim boards to take up residence in our attic!  Use binoculars if you need to see the higher points better

4)  Hose Bibs and other Exterior penetrations

Check the seals around any exterior penetrations; again, good seals and caulking help prevent insect intrusion, water issues and the like.

If you are not up to the challenge of getting up on a ladder for 2 story homes, most painter type contractors should not charge a lot for this type of caulking or small wood replacement maintenance.

As always, I am here to help with any questions you have.  Enjoy your Spring!

A little trick for hinges

So I’ve been relocating some doors and building new cabinets and I can tell you, I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to get the silly hinges in alignment with only my two hands!  The hinge slips just as I’m about to drill the screw or worse, the tiny screws that come with some hinges are so hard to work with unless you are able to have two hands free!  Worse yet, some of the screws “strip out” before you can get them all the way in, creating a real headache and a loose screw, literally.  A loose screw equals a loose hinge and doors won’t line up properly.

So here are two little tips to save your sanity when working with new hinges to assure yourself a smooth installation:

1) Stick it and Shim it

To mark the location of the hinge and the location of the screws, use a small piece of double sided tape to secure the hinge temporarily in the proper spot.   The tape will keep the hinge from slipping.   For heavier doors, they make a seriously strong tape and I cheat with this and shims to keep the door in alignment until the screws are in.

2)    Pilot Holes

With the hinge securely in the correct location, always drill a pilot hole with a drill bit just slightly smaller than the screw itself.  This will allow the screw to be drilled in smoothly without stripping out.

Hope my learning curve can save you some time and headaches!

How to make a corner shower shelf using tile

If you don’t want the cluttered look  of a shower basket hanging off of your shower arm or can’t afford a pre-fabricated recessed niche when tiling your new shower, an easy and great solution would be to build a corner shelf using the same tile!

Shaving ledge

 

Soap and shampoo shelf

 

 

The process is the same for a shampoo/soap shelf or a shaving ledge:

1) Determine location

Once you determine the height of your shelf, mark the location in the corner so that when you are cutting the backer board, you can leave a horizontal cut out for the shelf.  Allow enough room for the tile shelf  to slip in snugly.

2)  Cut a shelf to fit in the corner

Sometimes a 45 degree cut is all you need but if you want it larger, you may have to play with your angle a bit more.

3)  Tile up to the shelf

Tile up to the self and using a stacked spacer in the corner where both walls join, lay the tile shelf in place.  The additional spacer gives it a slight angle so that water will run off.

4)  Cut an L tip on the next tiles for the top

The little “L” helps to hold the shelf in place once its grouted.

5)  Grout as typical

 

 

Tricks and tips to use when working with natural stone tiles

There is no doubt about the natural beauty of stone tiles used in your kitchen or bath.   Unfortunately, because it is a natural product and not “man made” like porcelain tiles, the cuts and variation in size may be slight, but create havoc when trying to stay “square and level”.

Here are some tricks I have picked up when working with natural stone to make your tile job a little less frustrating:

1)   Tiles do not stay square

When a natural stone tile is not cut square, it will create “unevenness”.  Depending on the severity of the misalignment, use a toothpick on top of a spacer, a stacked tile spacer or a shim to level the tile at the top or sides. Don’t worry if your “lines” don’t look exactly the same throughout as the variation should be so slight, especially if you split the adjustment difference between the tile out of square and the next tile.  Grout hides more than you may think as long as variations are kept small.

2)   When cutting, the stone breaks before you get to the end

Many natural stone tiles are actually somewhat “soft” and crumble, chip or break easily when using a tile saw before you even finish the entire cut.  Start with a small cut at the opposite end then flip the tile to the other side.  This extra cut at the end will give it better “strength” as your cut line comes together.  Also make sure your tile is wet enough.

3)   Tiny L-shaped corners just break off

Start by cutting the smaller part of the “L” before you do the longer side.  Again, this gives the tiny part better strength when the long cut meets up.

4) ALWAYS seal your natural stone tile before grouting

Natural stone tiles are very porous.  Use a matte or glossy  sealer that is compatible with your stone (read the manufacturers label) and apply at least 2 coats and let the sealant completely dry before grouting.  This will make grout clean up a cinch.

5)  Always seal your natural stone in wet areas at least once a year.

Some sealants claim to have better waterproof longevity, but why risk it when the sealing process is so easy?  This  also helps with maintenance!

How to install a new toilet

If you are like most people, you probably never give your toilet a second thought as long as it works.   If it doesn’t work however, it can get aggravating really fast.

Once you find yourself with a leaky toilet or worse, a money flushing toilet (think lots of water used to do the job), then it may be time to think about a replacement. You might be surprised at the flushing power and water efficiency of today’s modern toilets.  For $100-150, you can install a new toilet that flushes quickly and with very little water….think 1.4 gallons!  Your water bill will thank you!  I know, I know, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.   Unless you want to pay a plumber, the good news is that it is fairly easy and quick as a do-it-yourself project.

What you’ll need: New toilet, new flanged wax ring with adjustable height bolts, plumbers tape, wrench and pliers, plastic putty knife, level, shims and caulk

Continue reading

Quick and inexpensive makeover for your stairs

A friend of mine decided to give her stairs an update and loved the look of iron balusters, but didn’t want the big investment that goes along with it to change those out.  Her old stairs were painted in a traditional look with a stained oak railing on white baluster.  To imitate the look and feel of iron, she decided to paint them black.    See for yourself the dramatic and elegant change accomplished with some patience, a light sanding of the old finish, a can of flat black paint and a good paintbrush:

And now:

Look at how her neutral beige paint instantly warms up against the new finish!  In this example, the rails will have a glaze finish coat that will add  a slight sheen and layer of protective finish.   What a difference for a project that can be accomplished in a weekend!

How to cut ceramic tile to fit around a toilet or bath fixture

Ever wonder how to cut tile to fit around a circular object like a toilet flange or a plumbing fixture?  Its easier than it may look and the steps are similar for any area where you need a rounded cut.

You will need a tile saw and some tile nippers; these instructions assume you are familiar and comfortable with the use of a tile saw and safety is always important when working with mechanical equipment!

Here’s the basic steps:

1)  Take a piece of paper and sketch the outline of the rounded area you need to cut so that you can transfer that same radius to a tile.

2)  Use a permanent marker or pencil and transfer the radius pattern you need to the tile to be cut.

3) Using your tile saw, cut several straight lines with about 1/4″  spacing into the tile up to the point of your marked radius; don’t worry about the appearance of the cuts as long as you don’t go beyond the marking.  Use your tile nippers to “break” the straight pieces off one by one by holding the nipper claw at the mark.  The straight pieces should break off easily.  You may be left with some jagged edges but don’t worry, most plumbing fixtures come with an outer flange or cover that will conceal these imperfections.

4)  Now you have the rounded edge you need and the tile should fit right in.  Good luck!

If you have any questions about this process or any other home improvements, please leave your feedback.

Quick and easy makeover for your front entryway for under $100

First impressions are lasting impressions.    At first glance, it may not seem like there is anything wrong with this entrance.  Upon closer inspection however, I found a rusting hollow metal door, chipped paint, brick covered with vines, mismatched door hardware and a tired light fixture.

Still have a little painting to do, but this should give you an idea of the changes you can achieve with a few simple items and a free weekend:

1)  Remove the vines-Cost $0  (time to complete: 2 days)

The vines are no doubt very attractive and give a formal look, but they are also very damaging to your mortar and are  haven for bugs. Once removed, I pressure washed the brick so the brick’s rich colors would shine through the dust and grime that had accumulated over the years.

2)  Fresh paint- Cost $15  (time to complete 1 1/2 hours)

In this instance, I decided on a color change.  I went from a forest green to a deep red rose color in a quart of Behr’s paint and primer in one.  I added some colorful plants in the pots that flank the entrance that compliment the new red.

3)  New door hardware, door knocker and kickplate-Cost $55  (time to complete: 1 hour)

Because I am trying to maintain a historical feel for this property, I decided on the oil rubbed bronze.  The kick plate concealed the rusting blemish at the bottom of the door while also adding a sense of sophistication to the entrance.

4)  New entry light-Cost $25 (time to complete: 30 minutes)

Same as the door hardware, I found a carriage style light fixture on oil rubbed bronze to place above the front door.

Welcome in!