Venting My Frustration

For the most part, our bathroom has been surprisingly painless (knocking on every piece of wood I can find).  We’ve not found any water damage other than what we repaired on the subfloor, no termite damage, nothing, really, that we couldn’t handle 100% ourselves… that is until we unearthed the tub’s vent stack and thought we had to call a plumber.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 1

When our house was built in 1940, cast iron was a very common piping material.  However, at some point in the Little House history, there was a transition from cast iron to galvanized pipes…  not everywhere though; that would be too easy.  Someone decided to transition from cast iron to galvanized inside the wall between the kitchen and bathroom.  It required a coupling that looks like it should be on an episode of Doctor Who, not inside a wall.  However, the biggest problem with this coupling was that is stuck 2 inches past the wall stud, making it impossible to put our Hardibacker cement board up.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 2

So what is a vent stack anyway? A vent stack is a pipe that usually exits through your roof that allows for there always to be neutral (or atmospheric, if you like) air pressure behind the water in your drains, preventing it from backing up (which is a bad thing, I promise). They are completely necessary (have you ever seen Mike Holmes go crazy when he opens up a bathroom and doesn’t find a vent stack?!), so there was no way we could just rip that sucker out of the wall. The only solution was the flange/coupling had to be replaced by something a little slimmer and trimmer.

Unsure of what to do next, we turned to our dads (via text, of course).  Both came back with the same general consensus: we could do this ourselves. All we needed to do was to use our reciprocating saw to cut out the coupling and galvanized pipe, then replace them with new couplings and PVC.  We weren’t sure what type of coupling to use either – Should we put steel brackets on them?  Use a galvanized coupling? Use a black Fernco coupling? – but our dads had a solution for that one, too.  My dad let us know that black Fernco couplings would offer us the most flexibility, while still being strong enough to hold both pipes.  It also had the advantage of being the easiest of the three options to install… which is always a plus.

Once we had all our supplies, we headed home to cut the old pipe out of the wall. I personally enjoyed this because I got to put my reciprocating saw to the test.  Cutting through cast iron isn’t easy, and we went through three $7 blades on that one pipe.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 3

Things to remember if you have to cut cast iron:

1, Go full speed.  You won’t get through it if you don’t.

2. Have someone hold the pipe so it doesn’t shake.  Fortunately Jess did this for me.

3.  Don’t put a hole in the other side of the wall…more to come on that when we repair the kitchen wall.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 4

After cutting through the cast iron just below the bell flange, I went up in the attic and cut the galvanized pipe just below where it exited our roof. Then I replaced it with PVC and a Fernco coupling.  Jess had the fun job of removing the galvanized steel pipe through the bathroom and feeding the PVC back up to me  [WIFE EDIT: That sucker was HEAVY], then seating the PVC in the new 2”x1.5” Fernco reducing coupling.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 5

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 6

It worked like a charm. The vent stack tucked perfectly into it’s spot in the wall and we were able to install our Hardiebacker over it (but that’s another post).

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 7

In the end, the cost of what we used was:

2” to 1.5” Flexible PVC Coupling – $4.93

1.5” to 1.5” Flexible PVC Coupling – $3.84


10’ of 1.5” PVC – $5.13

1 and 1 half in pvc pipe


Total Cost: $14… much less than calling in a plumber!


Doing your own plumbing is not for everyone (and not all cities allow homeowners to do their own plumbing, so check that before you start), but if you’re willing (and allowed) to give it a go, it can really save you a lot of time and money spent on a plumber!
Have you had any plumbing surprises in a renovation?Is a pessimist’s blood type B-negative? Why does the Easter bunny carry eggs? Rabbits don’t lay eggs. Why does caregiver and caretaker mean the same thing?


Nice Rack

Hey, what else could I call a post about a firewood rack? “How to DIY a Cheap, Easy, and Fast Firewood Rack?”  Nah. Too boring.

Some of you remember “Treemageddon” last spring here, here, and here.  It left us with a surprisingly large amount of free firewood which we burned last winter.

Lots of rack

Lots of firewood…no rack

We noticed, however, that the bug population where we kept the wood exploded. This is not comforting when you have a lot of wood siding 4 feet away.  In order to stop the bugs, you only need to get the wood off of the ground.  Hence, the need for a Firewood Rack.  This was surprisingly easy.  Since most wood racks on the market are $100-$300, this is an easy way to save some cash while looking like you know what you’re doing!


(2) Cinder Blocks = $2.76

(2) Landscape Timbers = $7.94

(4) Mini Fence Posts = $12.68

TOTAL = $23.38

Supplies for the Wood Rack

Supplies for the Wood Rack

Step 1:

Determine where you want your rack.  Make sure you don’t have the wood touching anything except the rack or there is a greater risk of bugs eating the wood (or your siding!).  Also make sure it’s not sitting in standing water or that will defeat the purpose of building the rack in the first place!

Step 2:

Place cinder block where you want the rack and slide one end of the landscape timber into the hole of the cinder block.

Landscape Timber in Cinder Block

Landscape Timber in Cinder Block

Step 3:

Do the same thing with the other landscape timber.

Both Landscape Timbers in Cinder Block

Both Landscape Timbers in Cinder Block

Step 4:

Place the other ends of the landscape timbers in the other cinder block (did I mention this was ridiculously easy?).  It helps to have one person making sure you don’t slide the wood out the other end!

Base of the DIY Wood Rack

Base of the DIY Wood Rack

Step 5:

Hammer in a green fence post so it blocks the hole of the cinder block using a 3 lb sledgehammer if you have one…a regular hammer works but it’ll take a while.  This prevents the landscape timbers from ever sliding out and gives you something to stack your firewood against.

A 3 lb Sledge Hammer makes quick work of the fence post

A 3 lb Sledge Hammer makes quick work of the fence post

Step 6:

Repeat 3 more times on the outside of every cinder block hole.

Notice how the landscape timbers can't slide out

Notice how the landscape timbers can’t slide out

Step 7:

Stack the wood on it.  That’s it. You’re done.  It should look somewhat like this:

Cheap DIY Wood Rack

Cheap DIY Wood Rack


Affordable DIY Wood Rack with wood on it

Affordable DIY Wood Rack with wood on it


Is it pretty? No. Does it work really well? Yep. The whole thing took about 15 minutes and saved us about $100.  Can’t beat that!  Time to go find some firewood!

What do you think?  What happens when you put a lightsaber in water?  When sign makers go on strike, is anything written on their signs? Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii? If a bee is allergic to pollen would it get the hives?

Kevin the Tree Killer

Last year in the Winter Wonderland post,  we showed you how beautiful the Little House is with a 1/2″ of ice.  What we didn’t show was later that day when part of the tree by the front porch decided it didn’t like the ice as much as we enjoyed the day off work.  Unfortunately, it left a gap in the front where greenery should have been.  That tree next to the front porch looks a little off, doesn’t it?  Trust us, in real life, it looks pretty bad.

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

So, we decided the tree had to go.  Plus, we recently got a chainsaw that we’ve never used before and were excited to give it a go.  The tree had three tall remaining sprouts that had to be cut off.  The entire project took about an hour and was super easy…but we haven’t dug up the stump yet!

After Branch #1

After Branch #1

After Branch #2

After Branch #2

After Branch #3

After Branch #3

I cut the third branch down by hand to feel manly (as if using a chainsaw wasn’t enough).  This is my serious tree murdering face (#selfie):

Kevin's Serious Face

Kevin’s Serious Face

Fortunately, in Dallas the city comes around once a month and hauls off branches and bulk trash for free!  Well,  I guess we pay it in our property taxes, but it feels free.  Here was the pile:

Standing on our porch

Standing on our porch

Looking at the Little House

Looking at the Little House


This opened up the Little House to so much more light!  We were planning on planting another tree, but now we may just put in a couple hydrangeas and call it a day.  Here are the before and after photos to compare:

In the Beginning





Would you plant another tree in its place?  Do you think grass will grow by where the tree was now that it’s gone?  Did you know it is NOT wise to run a chainsaw without oil (I knew I forgot something my Dad told me!)?  Alternatively, we could have used a woodchuck/beaver-like animal for this.  If you have a pet that eats wood, can we borrow it for the stump?

Handyman Wednesday: Installing a Screen Door

Hi everyone! Kevin’s here as a follow up to my last post on buying a screen door.  It is now installed in the Little House and it was a pretty painless process.  I had my awesome dad in town to help me, so that made life SO much easier (thanks Mom and Dad!)


I’m going to keep this pretty high level because every door is different.  Most importantly, read ALL the instructions before you start.  I put a couple of screws in the wrong place because I didn’t read everything first.  A couple other things to remember:

1. You can’t do this alone.  Don’t try.


2. You need plenty of space.  Like a yard to lay the door down in.

Door in Yard

3.  Assemble all tools before starting.

More Tools for hanging a door  Tools

4. Don’t try to hang the door when a storm is coming in (we may have made this mistake).


Here are the basic steps.  It’s quite easy if you have the tools and the people to help.

Step 1.  Determine if the door is right hung or left hung (see the last handyman Wednesday for this)

Step 2. Measure and cut the trim pieces for the door using a hacksaw.

Cut Trim PiecesStep 3. Hang the trim pieces using the included screws.

Hang Trim Pieces


Step 4. Hang door and hinges on trim pieces (there should be a diagram for this in your instructions).

Step 5. Drill holes for hardware.

Screen Door Hardware Template  Holes for screen door hardware  Drill holes for screen door hardware


Step 6. Install faceplates.



Step 7. Install hardware.  This was way easier than I thought.  Basically it came in two pieces and you just have to tighten one screw to make the whole thing stay together.

Install Door Hardware


Step 8. Install the slower-downer-bar-thing-that-makes-the-cool-noise (yes, that’s the official terminology…trust me).

IMG_9082  IMG_0376


That’s it.  Test out your new door!  I would say for your first door allow about 3 hours.  The directions will inevitably be confusing and you’ll have to refer to Mr. Google for some advice (or in my lucky case Mr. Dad).

Here’s a picture of the finished product (we need to paint the trim now!!!):




Let us know what you think!  We love this door because our cat and dogs can look outside without jumping on anything, and if we ever have smoke in the kitchen (cough, never happens, cough), we can lower the screen on this bad boy and air the house out.


If a bee is allergic to pollen would it get the hives?  Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?  Why does a dog get mad at you when you blow in his face, but stick his head out the window when you take him for a car ride?


Handyman Wednesday: We Bought a Door

Hi everyone!  Kevin is here for a 2-part Handyman Wednesday.  Today, we are going to discuss doors.

I know, you have them, they’re very useful for keeping people out of your house.  However, if you don’t have a storm door or screen door, you can’t let the breeze blow in without letting the pets blow out.  Therefore, a door with a screen is a must.  The Little House lacked these doors.  With my parents in town this weekend (love you guys!), I had the handyman of all handymen here to help me pick out and install a door.

My Dad said there are 5 things to consider in a new door.

1. Size.  Please measure your door-frame.  Our kitchen door-frame was 32″ wide and 80″ tall.  This is the standard door size.

Door Frame Size Guide2. Decide what kind of door you want.  There are storm doors that are all glass, doors that are glass and screen, and then all screen.  With us, we wanted the screen, but couldn’t do the full screen or the Fievel would sharpen his claws on it.

Storm Doors and Combo Doors

Combo Screen/Storm, and Full Storm Doors

Screen Door

Full Screen Door

3. Make sure you know if your door is right-hand or left-hand.  This is easy.  Look at you door from the outside.  If your hinges are on the right it is right-handed.  If your hinges are on your left it’s left handed.

Hinge Side

4. Decide your budget (Doors range from $90 – $300+).

5. Have at least 4 hands available.  I would NOT install a door by myself.

We had a budget of $150 for our door which severely limited our choices of prettiness to this:


Then we found a clearance sticker at Home Depot.  When I see a yellow sticker at Home Depot, I get more excited than Thor at a 2-for-1 sale on hammers.


Did I read that right?  Is it $103 off?

Did I read that right? Is it $103 off?

Here’s our pretty door.  Come back next week for the install tips!

This is our door, except replace nickel with Brass

This is our door, except replace nickel with Brass


Here’s a link to Home Depot of our door:

EMCO 400 Series Door



What do you do when you see an endangered animal that is eating an endangered plant?  If you put a chameleon in a room full of mirrors, what color would it turn?  Can an ambidextrous person make an offhand remark? 

Handyman Wednesday: Ditch the Cable

Handyman Wednesday Returns (sort of).  Jess and I were online the other day when we saw that Best Buy was giving a $25 gift card for ANY Windows XP laptop that worked.  We just happened to have 2 of these laptops sitting around doing nothing.  Why not recycle them and get paid to do it?


Then came the problem: what do we buy?  Fortunately, I already had an idea.  The Roku Streaming Stick for $50 (Amazon Link).  If you’ve also been on Amazon the past couple weeks, you’ve noticed they released Fire TV.  This is basically a streaming service for your TV so you can watch Amazon, Netflix, etc on your TV without connecting your laptop to it.  The Roku Stick, which launched in late March, does the same thing… only better (because it’s so much smaller, cheaper, and you don’t need to find a place for the box!).


All you have to do is plug this little guy into your HDMI port and USB port on the back of your TV, and connect to the wi-fi (there are on-screen instructions to help you).

roku stick TV Installation

It was PAINLESS.  Your grandma and grandpa could set this up on their own.  Then, using the included remote (which is an AWESOME little thing and works from anywhere in the house), you can stream your Amazon Prime content, your Netflix, your Hulu Plus, and over 1000 other services directly to your TV.  Plus, there are 4 buttons that launch the most popular apps.


Honestly, you’ll only use 5-10 of these 1000 services, but who’s counting.  Here’s my favorite channels:

1. Amazon Prime (it’s AWESOME)

2. Netflix (We will be getting this when we ditch DirecTV at the end of our contract)

3. Hulu Plus (Don’t have this yet either).

4. Pandora

5. Blockbuster Movie Rental (No need to go to the store any more)

6. RedBox

Previously I had a ChromeCast and I found it useless.

Roku Stick vs Chromecast

You can’t stream videos from your laptop easily with the ChromeCast, there is no remote so you have to use your phone, and they don’t have Amazon Prime.  Trust me, pay the extra $15 and you’ll be well rewarded for your investment with Roku.  Disclaimer: I did NOT get anything for writing this.  No freebies, no money, no anything.  I paid for this just like you would.  I did, however, get a lot of enjoyment for my nerdy self.

Any questions or thoughts?  I’d love to hear them!  How does a shepherd count his flock without falling asleep?  Why do people say heads up when you should duck?  Have ex-cowboys become deranged?


Crazy Custom Caps for Kevin

Happy Monday!  If you’re anything like me (this is Kevin), you already feel exhausted when you wake up.  One more reason to drink that extra cup of coffee when you’re heading to the office.

Today, I wanted to talk a little about one of our hobbies: Homebrewing.  We make our own beer and it’s quite easy.  Let’s save that for another time though.  This weekend, we ordered our 2014 customized bottle caps.  Here’s where you can use these:

1. Homebrewing (probably the biggest client)

2. Weddings

3. Playing Caps Drinking Game (wikipedia)

In the past, you used to have to make a large order to do this.  Now, you can order 1, 2, 100, or 10,000 using Bottlemark.

BottleMark Logo


You upload your own design.  A picture, a template, anything you can create in Paint or PowerPoint or PhotoShop and voila, in 2 weeks you have a finished product at your doorstep.

Now, introducing the Little House Brew Haus 2014 Bottle Caps:

Blonde Ale Bottle Cap

Blonde Ale Bottle Cap

Kolsch Ale Bottle Cap.  This is similiar to the flag of the Cologne region of Germany.

Kolsch Ale Bottle Cap. This is similiar to the flag of the Cologne region of Germany.

Red, Wit, and Blue Ale Bottle Cap

Red, Wit, and Blue Ale Bottle Cap

Belgian Strong Ale Bottle Cap

Belgian Strong Ale Bottle Cap

Do you have other things you custom order? Imagine you are in a sinking rowboat surrounded by sharks. How would you survive?  What would happen if you shot a gun in space?

Thursday Dilemma: (Friday Edition): Ikea Shoe Cabinet

OK.  Let me start this post by saying how much we at LHBH love IKEA.  You can find some really fashionable furniture/accessories/plants there for affordable prices.  Who doesn’t love a good deal, right?


Now let me tell you why we don’t like IKEA.  Everytime we go we spend money.  We find things we didn’t know we needed.  Thank you IKEA marketers, great job!

On our last trip, we found something that could make our office more functional, but we resisted on buying it before we got your opinion.

We need some form of storage in our office.  We have those cubicles, but Kevin comes in through the back door with muddy shoes, coats, work bags, etc. and he has nowhere to put them.  We could use a cubicle, but it may look cluttered.  That’s when we came across this bad boy (here’s the IKEA link).


We were envisioning it on the right side of this picture…Office Progress

Behind where the plant is now (another Ikea buy I might add).



The downside is the price.  At $129,  we would do a lot with this room.  The entire floor cost less than $1000.



We also found this one on the website for $99:



So, what are your thoughts?  Were we crazy not to buy it?  Should we stick with what we have?  Is anyone else really really happy it’s Friday?

Subbing In: Part 2


That’s what Jess and I were thinking this morning.  See, neither of us had tiled before.  In preparation, we studied, watched videos, bought all our supplies in advance, prepared everything, and only then got to work.

Little did we know how much work is actually involved in this process.  You remember this post from last week? You thought we were done with the subfloor. Surprise! We weren’t.

The patch

The bigger patch

Repaired Subfloor

That was only step 1 of the subfloor.  The next step was putting down wood so we had something to adhere the Ditra to (more about that in the next post).  We went with 1/4 in plywood for this step because we already had a sturdy floor with tile on it.  We didn’t want to pull up the tile, nor did we want to make a big step for ourselves to go from our hardwood to our tile.  Commence the nailing of the subfloor.  Make sure you nail in a grid pattern.

Qtr Inch Ply

By the way, it’s important to note here to use nails that don’t go into the  floor joist.  This way, your top layer of wood has slightly more flexibility in the summer and winter when your house expands and contracts…meaning less chance of cracking your tile.  We went with 1″ Galvanized nails to go through the 1/4″ Plywood we put down and the 3/4″ board that was existing.

Oh, if your mom, sister, sister’s mother-in-law, and niece drive 16 hours to surprise you and help, remember to say “Thank you!”  Also, it’s never too early to start teaching your niece how to DIY!

Emma Hammer

About 2 hours in, we had finished nailing the subfloor down with 3 lbs of nails.  We had blisters.  Actually, our blisters had blisters.  LESSON #1: WEAR GLOVES.

At this same time, our knees we aching.  LESSON #2: WEAR KNEE PADS

After you nail down your subfloor, grab a level and make sure it’s almost perfectly level. If it isn’t level, you risk cracked tiles later.  At this point, you’re ready to lay your underlayment!

Good Luck!