There’s something about August that always reminds me of watermelon, tomatoes, and plum jam. There are a surprising number of watermelon farms in Indiana, where I grew up, and the melons would be at their sweetest in the late summer. We’d always pick up a few from one of the roadside stands and have them cut up in the fridge for easy snacking. This was also the time of year my mom and grandmother really got canning fever. By August, my family’s garden was rolling in tomatoes (which we’d can for future pots of chili in the fall and winter) and the plum trees were dripping with fruit (which also got canned into golden, sweet, sticky plum jam).
Late summers in Texas give a slightly different (but still familiar) picture. Instead of plums in my parent’s back yard, we have a friend’s fig tree that is positively drooping with almost-ripe figs. Our garden is scarce in tomatoes, but we have tons of peppers. And then there’s the watermelon – Texan watermelon, instead of Hoosier.
What’s a girl (and her unwitting husband) to do with all this bounty? I don’t know, maybe make Chili-Peach jam with some juicy Texas peaches? Or maybe some fig jam perfect for a fancy cheese plate? Or maybe whip up a Watermelon-Basil gin fizz? Oh, the possibilities! There might even be a giveaway or two…
All that (and more) is coming to the Little House soon. In the mean time (to whet you canning appetite) be sure to check out Ball Brand’s (of ubiquitous blue Ball jar fame) International Can-It-Forward day live stream here. They’re mixing up some really great recipes that just might get you inspired! I’m excited to be working with them on the recipes I mentioned about (hasn’t it been to long since I posted a recipe anyway?)!
For the most part, whoever built the Little House did a fantastic job. For a 74-year-old pier and beam house, it’s remarkably square. Instead of traditional plaster, the original walls are Sheetrock, a product that wasn’t used extensively until about ten years after the LH was built. And yet… there’s not a stitch of insulation in the walls. In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised us; most homes built before WWII didn’t have wall insulation… but they need it. Why?
Allow me to get on my engineer soapbox for a moment (feel free to skip this bit): insulation increases the thermal resistance of your home’s walls, basically making it harder for heat to move through them. This means that in the summer, it’s harder for heat to get into your house. In the winter, it’s harder for it to get out of your house (technically speaking, heat always travels from warm to cold, so in the winter it’s never the cold getting in – it’s the warm getting out).
Why does all that matter? A well insulated home stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, meaning you use less energy keeping the temperature where you want it. It’s not worth tearing down walls to add insulation, but if you happen to have the drywall down anyway, throw some insulation in the walls. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, and it’s easier to install than you think.
When installing insulation, the larger the R-value, the better. You’ll also want to get the right sized insulation for both your stud spacing and stud size. Our studs are 2x4s and are on (roughly) 15″ centers, so we bought the largest R-value insulation in that size that Home Depot carried. Depending on your sizing, you can find insulation all the way up to R-30 (and above). In our case, that was R-13. One roll set us back a whopping $12.80.
A few notes on insulation safety: fiberglass can be nasty stuff. Be sure to wear long pants and sleeves, gloves, and even a mask when installing insulation (PS. I realize Kevin isn’t wearing long pants in the photos below… he got a stern talking to for it ).
Measure you walls and the insulation. You want the insulation to go from ceiling to floor, so measure accordingly.
Cut you insulation to size using a utility knife. It’s helpful to use a board to compress the insulation so that you can cut through all the layers at once (ignore the scribbles on our board, we drew out plans and made cut lists on scraps of wood).
Place your insulation in the wall and staple the flaps to the studs, being careful not to compress the insulation into the wall (you want to keep things fluffy).
Repeat. It took less than an hour to insulate our entire bathroom (granted, it is tiny).
The bathroom is on the west side of our house and gets full afternoon sun. We can already tell that it’s staying cooler in there thanks to it’s new insulation. For less than $13 and an hour, it’s a big difference.
Does your home have insulation? Have you ever installed it? Is your husband also too suborn to always wear the proper DIY-ing attire?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
It’s been a couple weeks since we shared anything on our bathroom renovation. To be honest, we’ve been so busy working on it, we haven’t had time to write about it. Like we’ve said before, not having a functioning bathroom in our house is a great motivator to do nothing but work every spare minute we have.
After demolition, the first step in putting everything back together was to start repairing the subfloor. When we demoed the floor we found old water damage (from leaks that were fixed long before we bought the house) in a couple places. The Little House was built in 1940, so we were expecting something to be wrong with the subfloor. The issues we found were relatively minor, so we knew we could fix them ourselves.
Repairing a subfloor isn’t a task to take lightly; if not done well, it can cause big headaches down the road. That being said, if you’re relatively handy (ie. you can use a tape measure, a drill, and a saw), repairing your own subfloor is a pretty easy job that you can definitely tackle yourself (we have faith in you).
The first thing to do when finding subfloor damage is to determine the cause. Was it termites? Are the little buggers still hanging around? You probably want to call an exterminator either way to make sure that the problem is under control. If the damage was caused by water, make sure that the leak has been repaired. If you’re not comfortable with checking out the plumbing yourself, have a plumber come out to make sure everything is hunky-dory.
Remove the damaged parts of the subfloor. In our case, this meant just prying up the damaged planks. If you have a plywood subfloor, you may need to get out a circular saw to remove all of the damaged wood. Regardless of what type of subfloor you have, make sure you remove everything that looks damaged. In the end, you should have a nice, clean hole in your floor.
Once you have your hold cleaned up, you can measure and cut your new wood to fit. We used 1×6” planks since that was what our original subfloor was constructed out of, but if your floor was plywood, you’ll want to go back with that. You may also have to “sister” your joists if they were damaged or if you don’t have a say to screw into them. This means you may have to bulk them up by screwing additional wood to their sides.
The last step is fastening your repairs. You can use screws or nails, but if you’re repairing the subfloor in a wet location, be sure and use coated deck screws or deck nails. This way, should the area ever get wet again, you fasteners won’t rust.
Depending on what you’re doing, you may be done at this point. Because we needed to build up the original subfloor, we went a step farther and laid down 23/32” plywood (why they use such an arbitrary measurement, I have no idea) CDX exterior grade plywood.
Sometimes it feels like we’re not getting anywhere, but we’ve come so far on the bathroom since we took these photos! In fact, we’re ready for tile!
Have you ever had to repair subfloor damage in your home? Did you do it yourself or call in the pros?
That’s how long it’s been since there has been a functioning bathroom at the Little House. We put up the last (and I swear by all that is holy it IS the last) coat of mud on the drywall last night and are oh-so-close to the home stretch on this one… but we’re not there yet. Hold on folks, it’s about to get wordy.
Needless to say, not having a toilet in our house for 36 days is starting to get to us. We started this project thinking it would take three weeks, tops… but we forgot we still have a life to live. We have to take a night here and there and do laundry, to clean house. We have church commitments and work commitments and blog commitments (Hellllo, Haven!). Some nights, we’ve just taken off because if we had to stand in that tiny bathroom one more minute we’d scream. At each other. Not quietly.
And that’s happened, more lately now than in the beginning. We had no idea the inner demons that could be summoned forth by a little box of drywall mud, but trust me. They’re there and they aren’t pretty. A few nights ago we were so mad at each other we could barely see straight over a not-so-straight corner mud job and it hit me. The drywall demons had us. We were focusing on what was going wrong with the bathroom and forgetting all the good things we were getting out of it.
So I put my big girl pants on, apologized for letting the drywall demons get to me (and maybe for calling Kevin a name we can’t repeat on here), and suggested we make a list of all the great things we were getting out of remodeling our only bathroom (did I mention ONLY?).
In no particular order, here’s the things we came up with:
1. We’re doing it right, not fast. Sure, it’s taking forever, but that’s because we’re making sure every little detail is done correctly and thoroughly.
3. We’re learning new skills. Neither of us had done much by way of plumbing before, nor had we ever done much framing or drywalling. We’re old pros at all of that now!
4. We’re getting to spend a lot of time together. When this is all said and done and I have a gorgeous marble floor to sit on and reflect back on the project, I think what I’ll remember most is not driving each other mad (and we’ve done plenty of that), but talking for hours while we worked together. Solving problems together we didn’t think we could do ourselves. Singing along to Disney radio on Pandora at the top of our lungs (through our respirators).
5. We’re getting a ton of new tools and renting a few more awesome ones. Can anyone say Jackhammer? New 18V DeWalt jig saw?
6. We honest-to-goodness appreciate our western luxuries more. Hands down one of the best parts of Haven was having a toilet and shower. You don’t miss things like that until you don’t have that luxury anymore.
7. Although it’s definitely not why we started the reno, it does provide a lot of blogging material!
8. All of the difficulties we’ve encountered has given us a reason to plumb the depths of our dads’ knowledge. And they know A LOT.
9. We can take pride in telling people we did it ourselves. It may sound petty, but I can’t wait for the first person to say “No way!” when I tell them we did every single inch of the bathroom ourselves, from the plumbing to the electrical to the tiling to the decorating.
10. We’re learning about our ourselves. For example, we will never own another one bathroom house and drywall mudding brings out the worst in us.
11. We’re learning about construction materials and techniques which we’ll be able to use to help our friends and readers! We never want to recommend something we haven’t personally used ourselves and know to be awesome!
13. We’re increasing our home value and saleability. The Little House is one of the few single bathroom homes in our neighborhood, so making sure it’s an awesome one will definitely help our saleability and home value in the long run.
14. We’re earning a ton of Home Depot Pro Rewards. We should probably have bought stock in the company before we started this reno, but pro rewards are the next best thing!
15. We’re going to have an awesome bathroom when we’re finished. Seriously, guys. I’m so excited. It’s going to be classy and clean and GORGEOUS.
Everyone has told us that if our marriage can withstand home renovations, it will be able to withstand anything. I don’t know how true that is, but if it is true, I expect I’ll be driving Mr. Beals up the wall for a long, long, long time to come.
Have you lived through your own home renovation? How did you stay sane through it? Any tips for us newbies?
It might be all-bathroom-all-the-time around the Little House right now, but we don’t want to subject you guys to that! We’ll have a few posts now and then that are completely unrelated to the crazy reno going on. We hope you enjoy them!
If there’s one piece of furniture I remember most growing up, it would be a little table and two chairs given to my sister and I by our paternal grandparents. I don’t remember getting the table; we just always had it. It was brown wood and was home to more tea parties, Play-Doh creations, Easy Bake disasters, and pretend restaurants than you can shake a stick at (not sure why you’d want to shake a stick at my childhood memories, though…).
As we grew up, the table passed down to the scores of younger cousins (yes, scores) that were always visiting and playing in our forgotten playhouse in the basement. The table was covered in doodles in marker and crayon, vestiges of artwork that couldn’t be contained on a single sheet of construction paper. The chairs were as coveted a seat as any first class recliner on a long-haul flight and squabbles to claim one resulted in many a time out being given.
Eventually, even the scores of cousins outgrew the little table and chairs and they were left to sit alone in our basement and wait for the next group of kids to come along. Instead of kids, the next thing to come along was a flood. After a torrential rain, our childhood home was left with several feet of water in the basement that didn’t recede for days. When the water finally drained, the little table was a broken down wreck of itself and was tossed to the side to be taken to the dump.
That’s where my sister found it. That’s where she rescued it and took it to her grandfather-in-law to be saved. They replaced the parts that couldn’t be repaired and restored it to even more than it’s former glory. A coat of white paint and a chalkboard top have given this little table a new lease on life with a new kid, our niece, Emma, to doodle and have tea parties and to run imaginary five-star restaurants.
My sister even wrote a sweet note to my niece on the bottom of the table explaining its history.
It’s a little hard to read, so here’s what it says:
Sweet Emma Sue,
This table was Mommy and Aunt Jessie’s (EDIT: that’s me!)back when we were just little girls; our Mamaw, your great-Mamaw, Virginia McKinley, gave it to us. It was probably the single most used piece of furniture we had. In 2008 there was a bad flood and Mamaw and Papaw’s basement filled with water and the table got wet and destroyed. When you were 2 years old, mommy saw it in pieces at their house and saved it. I took the pieces all to Daddy’s grandpa, your great-grandpa Ike Wasson, and he managed to restore and repair all the wood and put the table back together and even added the wood buttons. We all hope you have so much fun with it, and may it always remind you of who you are and the one who have loved you along the way!
I love you more than words can say, Love, Mommy
PS. Mommy painted the top with chalkboard paint and the sides white after Grandpa restored it.
Seriously, I tear up every time I read that. I think I need a moment.
What was your most memorable piece of furniture growing up? Have you passed any of your old things on to your kids/nieces/nephews? Does anyone else want to play with Play-Doh now?
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 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
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!
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
Do the same thing with the other landscape timber.
Both Landscape Timbers in Cinder Block
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
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
Repeat 3 more times on the outside of every cinder block hole.
Notice how the landscape timbers can’t slide out
Stack the wood on it. That’s it. You’re done. It should look somewhat like this:
Cheap DIY Wood Rack
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?
I’m not a city girl. I grew up on an Indiana farm in the middle of trees and cornfields so far off the county road you couldn’t even see it. Growing up, we never locked our front door – there was no need. I always felt safe and secure tucked back far from “town” (town being a bustling metropolis of less than 1,500 people).
Now that I live in a metro area of almost 7 million people, I feel a little less safe. Okay, maybe that’s an understatement. I feel a lot less safe. We live in a great neighborhood, but even so, we’ve had our cars broken into and bikes stolen out of our garage. That’s why we opted to get a security system last year. It was a DIY system (of course) that we installed and set up ourselves, then is monitored by a company we subscribe to (Kevin’s planning on a Handyman Wednesday on it soon). It works great and has a handy key pad for arming and disarming the system that we keep by the front door. When we installed it, we set it on our bench with intentions of hanging it above our mail slot the next day. Fast forward to last weekend.
The control panel was still sitting exactly where it had been since we hooked it up. Since we were trying to finish some smaller projects before starting the bathroom, we got out the drill and some anchors to hang that baby up over our mail slot (Rosie was trying to get her leash out of the box where we keep them).
We used simple anchors to hang the control panel. You simply drill a pilot hole with the provided drill bit, pinch the anchor, push it into the hole, then put in your screw. We used these same anchors (in a heavier size) to hang our floating bar shelves and love them.
I’ve still got to tack the cord in alongside the mail slot, but the control panel is doing great in it’s new home. An added benefit is that Fievel can’t step on the unit in the middle of the night and set off the alarm (it’s happened).
This little corner isn’t quite finished. We still want to build a cubby hook shelf thing similar to this one from Target – it’ll just have to wait until after the bathroom.
Have you tackled any simple projects lately? Any you’ve been putting off (for years, like us)? Don’t you think we should paint the back of our front door navy? Me too!
We finally, finally finished the bar rail (and it only took us a year and a half to get to it)! We’ve already had a party with it (for my birthday) and it was awesome to have a second seating/conversation area.
The whole schebang took us less than two hours total to build and cost less than $60! Honestly. It was so easy… if you can sand, stain, and use a drill, you can build one of these.
We started out with two 16′ pressure treated deck boards. I sanded the ends of the boards out in our alley (no judging my painted pink Soffe shorts from high school), then we stained them with some of our leftover fence stain. This took about an hour, tops, then we left the boards to dry in the warm Texas sun (seriously, it’s not even hot yet!).
While the boards were drying, we turned our attention to attaching the brackets that were to hold up the bar. We went with four smaller metal brackets on each of the four posts on the section of deck were the bar was to go, screwed in with coated decking screws to prevent rusting. In order to get the right spacing between the top of the bracket and the railing, we used a scrap piece of decking leftover from the big deck project.
When the boards were dry (we gave them a full day to get that way), it was time to attach them to our brackets. We used short (1/2″) galvanized screws with head big enough they wouldn’t slip through the holes on the bracket (learned that one the hard way).
Did I mention I can’t believe we put this project off for so long? It was so fast and so cheap and so good looking I don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner. I mean, look at it.
It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?
Here’s the cost breakdown (from Home Depot):
(2) 16′ Pressure Treated Deck Boards = $27.14
(4) 12in x 8 in Metal Shelf Brackets = $27.44
Stain (Leftovers) = $0.00 Screws (Leftovers) = $0.00 Grand Total = $54.58!
Have you finished any projects you’ve been putting off lately?
It was a Wednesday night like any other. Kevin and I were in the kitchen, cooking up some (awesome) tacos when suddenly we hear: CLUNK! CRASH! SHATTER!
We’d left some glasses sitting on the higher (and more level) of the two shelves we installed Sunday night.
Big mistake. Two glasses had fallen to their deaths and imbedded their shards in our jute rug.
We had to admit it. We’d tried to make the Ikea Lack floating shelves work, but no matter how many anchors we added, they weren’t going to sit level. We needed brackets. Two trips to Home Depot later (I only bought two brackets the first trip; I’m a bit of a ditz sometimes) we had anchored and leveled our brackets.
Honestly, I don’t dislike the way they turned out. I took this pictures this morning without much light, so please ignore how grainy they turned out.
Styling isn’t my forte, but I think these shelves may be the best I’ve put together yet. I raided other shelves in the house though, so now there’s bare spots in a few places I need to figure out.
Our little dining room is coming right along. I think I may try to sew some curtains here in the near future and get the gallery wall up on the other side of the room. Once those things are done, we can cross the dining room off the list (for now)!