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Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Big Kahuna: Conquered

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Friends, family, strangers – we did it. We conquered the biggest do-it-yourself project to come our way. We remodeled our kitchen.

I still will find myself amazed in our new kitchen. When I look at the ceiling, I know that Jim and I put that up. Almost every wall in the kitchen was also put up by us.  I know what is behind my walls – I’ve seen it and at times, put it there. I drop something on the floor and become worried I broke the tile even though I would never think that somewhere else – but I know how fragile each tile is since Jim and I put them there. We see every imperfection – which isn’t great, but we also see the big picture and it is awesome.

Our kitchen is modern, welcoming, and spacious.  We have a ton of counter space and some cabinets we haven’t even used yet! The work triangle flows just as we hoped – with the pantry nearby as well.

It took us 5 months almost to the day to complete this project. Demolition was on 10/10/11 and we finished Sunday, 3/11/12. We have only been married for 7 months and therefore have spent most of our marriage thinking, talking, planning, and working on this kitchen. The best part is that we worked on this together and completed it together. We barely fought and even when frustrated with a project, we stuck through it as a team.  Our kitchen project just reinforces the strength of our marriage and friendship. If we can handle this – we can handle it all.

Ok – enough of the reflection.  Here is what you’ve all been waiting for – the before and after pictures!!

Kitchen when we toured the house

The same view of the kitchen on demolition day

The same view today!

Eat-in part of the kitchen on the day we toured the house

The same view once the walls and ceiling came down

The same view today!

Similar view today!

The view of eat-in part of the kitchen into the family room on demolition day

The same view today!

A similar view today!

View of kitchen from the other direction on the day we toured the house

Same view of the kitchen on demolition day

A similar view after the walls and ceiling came down

The same view today!

A similar view today!

View of family room on the day we toured the house

Family room plus the eat-in section of the kitchen today!


Painting the Town

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The last week has been B-U-S-Y.  Jim and I have been going nonstop from when we get home until bed every night.  A lot of the projects have involved painting and little fixes in each room.

Last Monday night – we painted the living room.  Jim had the idea of painting one wall a bold color while keeping the rest of the walls white (we did a yellowish off-white). We already bought a new sectional for this room that had not yet arrived. The sectional itself is a beige color but we picked colorful pillows and we wanted our bold wall to match a color in the pillow.  We picked a bright blue.  It was a very pretty blue color, but it was a little bright for the living room.  We decided to wait until the furniture arrived before making our final decision.  It took two days (Monday and Tuesday) to paint the living room and entrance way.  There was a lot of trim and taping to do.  Here is the transformation from the first two days:

Living room before - view 1

Living room before - view 2 (painter's tape already up!)

Living room (and entrance way) before - view #3

Living room after first round of paint - you can see the bright blue color we had

Another view with the first blue color (and old furniture)

Wednesday, we dedicated ourselves to the dining room.  We fixed some holes in the wall and got to painting. We had a late start that day and we had to do two coats, so we didn’t get to the trim.  Thursday – Jim was at the station, but I finished up the trim on the dining room.  Here are the dining room shots:

Dining room before - view #1

Dining room before - view #2

Dining room after - view #1

Dining room after - view #2

Dining room after view #3

On Friday, we put our focus back on the living room.  The sectional was going to be delivered Saturday, so we needed to get our current couches out of the way (we moved them into the basement). It was a little difficult, but we were able to get the couches downstairs with just the two of us.  We also decided this was the perfect time to clean the floors.  We didn’t just clean the floors though, we also polished them to help bring back the shine from when Jim first finished them.  While I was working on the floors, Jim got to work on the closet in the entrance way.  The old closet doors were broken.  One of the doors didn’t stay on the track and would just fall every time you tried to open the closet – it was miserable.

See the door on the left falling over?

New closet doors!

Throughout the week – Jim also added blinds to the window in the family room and the two windows in the living room.  All the days are blending together so I can’t remember which days they were. It is a-m-a-z-i-n-g to have new blinds in the living room.  The old blinds were meant to be under-mounted but they were outer-mounted, so the blinds were too short on both sides. Therefore, our neighbors could see into the house even with the blinds down. In addition, the blinds’ pull strings were the kind that were one big loop. Do you know what I mean?  You have to pull over and over just to move the blinds up 3 inches at a time.  They were horrible.  Now we have beautiful new blinds that are quick and easy to use.  In Jim’s haste to get rid of the old blinds, I did not get a picture. I do have a picture from when we first toured the house that captured one of the blinds though, so I will post that.

Their living room was more of a playpen...but let's focus on the blinds. Do you see how the blinds are too short and you can still see the window? good

Her's one of the living room windows with the blinds removed

And now...our beautiful new living room blinds!

And our new family room blinds (no before picture here either)

On Saturday, Jim tackled the crown molding (our LAST project of the kitchen).  It was a one person job for the most part (I had to help hold the molding up every now and then). It was also a very frustrating job. The molding came in a length of about 10 ft. One would assume although there were different poles of molding, they would still line up the same. That was not the case. This meant Jim had to be creative when lining up two pieces of molding at a corner. Some of the molding was also a little warped which added more challenges. In addition to measuring, cutting, and nailing the molding up – Jim had to hide the nail holes with this wax and marker filler we have.  Needless to say – this took all day.  By dinner time, Jim had finished all the sections but one on the crown molding.

Cabinets before molding 1 - Jim cut into the edge of the cabinets for the molding

Cabinets before molding 2

Cabinets before molding 3

Cabinet after crown molding 1

Cabinets after crown molding 2

Cabinets after crown molding 3

Cabinets after crown molding 4

While Jim worked on the molding, I painted our front and back doors. Our doors are made of a weird material (not wood), so it did not take too easily to the new paint.  The first coat looked horrible, but luckily the second and third coats were better.  There was also a TON of taping to do. Between each window and the door molding, there was a lot of space I did not want to get the exterior gray paint. Painting the doors took me a lot longer than one would expect.

I remembered to take a before shot after I started painting a little! The back door before -side 1

The front door before - side 1

Front door before (and cute pup) - side 2

Back door finished - side 1

Back door finished - side 2 (I forgot to take a before picture for this)

Front door finished - side 1

Front door finished - side 1

The sectional arrived around 3pm on Saturday.  Shortly after we were able to analyze our blue paint and decide it needed to go.  After dinner on Saturday, we ran to Home Depot and got a new paint color.  We protected our new sectional and got to work changing blues (we went with a darker blue). We worked into the evening, but it was well worth it.  Our finished living room:

New and improved living room!

Another view! I love it!

Sunday was another day of many things.  Jim finished the last bit of the crown molding (the kitchen is DONE!! another post to come), put knobs on the closet door, hung up a new coat rack in the front entrance way, and added molding and new blinds to the dining room window.  I finished the trim on the back door and the many touch-ups the doors needed after the blue tape ripped some of the tape off, I cleaned all the picture frames that got dusty while we worked on the kitchen the past few months, and I cleaned the garage.  The garage was pretty disgusting and dirty – filled with a lot of scrap wood we needed to get rid of. Our garage is now clean enough for us both to park in it!  We really are going to start this time.

Jim also threw in some plumbing along the way the past week.  The sink on the first floor was barely draining (due to all the things we had to wash down it the past few months), so Jim cleared the clog.  The connection under the sink was pretty poor, so Jim replaced some old pipes as well.  It worked pretty well the past few days but this Monday night it needed some more TLC from Jim. After the plumbing, some painting touch-ups, and cleaning windows – we decided where to hang pictures throughout the house. The pictures went up last night and our first floor is now ready to go. It looks like a different house.  We can’t wait to show it to our friends and family this weekend!

It’s Electric!

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We had an electrifying weekend….that is, we did a lot of work with electricity. Now that we have drifted our focus to the other rooms on the first floor – we are working with the family room (attached to the kitchen – seen in some kitchen pictures), the dining room, the living room, and entrance way (sort of part of the living room).  Between all of those rooms, there are a lot of electrical outlets, light switches, and light fixtures.  All of them needed to be changed.

You may be wondering, why in the world do you need to change an outlet?  Let me show you:

This is one of the old outlets in the dining room (ignore my weird shadow in the picture). Notice the outlet is a different color than the outlet cover? That made it ugly. In addition to ugliness, many were dirty and dingy as well.

There are 4 – 5 outlets in all of the rooms I mentioned. In the past, Jim has performed the changing of the outlets but with 15 or so outlet changes looming before us, I needed to get to work as well. On Friday night, Jim and I did a Home Depot trip to get the majority of the supplies we would need to make-over the first floor. After our trip, Jim taught me how to change an outlet. I have watched him do it before, so there was not anything too surprising. One outlet change later – I was working on my own!  At times, I struggled to move the wires where I wanted them to go, but I successfully changed every outlet I attempted – pretty cool!  We divided and conquered. Before long – our outlets looked like this:

Clean and one color!

The best part of our new outlets are that they are tamper resistant.  That means when we have kids, we won’t have to put outlet protectors on everything because they have a built-in protector!

In addition to switching out the outlets, we also changed the light switches. In the family room, we had light switches that were circles and dimmers – hopefully you know what I mean. Jim apparently hates those types of light switches – so we went to regular  (we didn’t really need a dimmer so it isn’t a regular dimmer). The switch in the entrance was one of those flat switches. We also switched those to regular. We added a dimmer switch to the dining room and a cleaner switch in the family room for the backyard lights. With both of us working hard – we were able to get everything done before 11pm on Friday.

On Saturday, we weren’t able to get started until the evening do to a busy day for both of us.  On the theme of electrical – we decided to focus on the light fixtures. The family room had an unattractive white and gold fan without a light.

Not cute

Since the fan and the two recess lights (seen in the background of the photo) are the only fixtures in the room, that side of the room is pretty dark. We needed a new fan with a light. We have switched out two ceiling fans already (see here), this was a piece of cake. We really like the ceiling fan we bought before, so we got the same one. The new fan adds so much light to the room – it is great.

Much better

Once we finished the fan, we set our sights on the dining room.  The previous owners used the dining room as an office-type room. It was horrible. We have already made strides to make the room more like a dining room – aka ripping up the carpet and re-doing the woods floors.  Although we have not purchased a dining room set yet (it’s on the list), we know that down the road we will have a dining room table in the room.  Therefore, like any nice dining room, it should have an appropriate light fixture.  This was the light fixture in place:

Don't you love our textured ceilings? We don't...

The light fixture isn’t horrible, but it is not very dining room like.  That is good for an entrance way or hallway, but a dining room needs some sort of chandelier.  We didn’t want one that was too fancy because that isn’t us and wouldn’t fit the overall house.  We couldn’t have one that was too big or hung too low because we do not have very tall ceilings.  We were able to find the perfect chandelier when we went to Home Depot Friday night.  After the fan was done – we moved right on to putting the chandelier in.  It was not too difficult and before we knew it – our dining room light fixture looked like this:


Jim decided to add a dimmer for the light switch in the dining room, so the chandelier can dim as well.  It changed the whole feel of the room.

There was one more light fixture on the first floor that we tackled Saturday night.  The entrance way had a pretty hideous light fixture.  It was all glass and gold.  We even bumped it when we were moving in and broke on of the pieces of glass. Jim especially hated it.  We found a perfectly normal and nice light fixture to replace it.  The entrance way went from this:

The picture doesn't do it justice

To this:


One the entrance way was complete – we called it a night. Sunday would bring us more projects.

Super Power Mode

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Jim and I have been on super power mode.  We are trying to get the first floor ready for guests we are having on St. Patrick’s Day. Since we have greatly ignored the first floor, we have a lot to do in just a few days time.  There has not been much down time in the Mai Household the past few days.

After our electrical work on Saturday evening, Jim and I got up early Sunday to get back to work. We decided to divide and conquer – splitting up the projects.  Jim started to work on adding quarter molding to the dining room, living room, and entrance way.  Since there was carpet in the living room and dining room when we moved in, there was no quarter molding. Since I was doing my job in the other room – I didn’t get a before picture.  I also only took a picture of one corner in the living room.  It would be too hard to take pictures of all the new quarter molding – so this gives you a general idea.

The quarter molding is the bottom part of the molding that sticks out - it gives the molding a more finished look

While Jim was working on the quarter molding, I started painting the family room. We both liked the original color of the family room but it did not match the color we picked for the kitchen.  Since the kitchen and family room are connected – the colors really clashed.  The white trim and white panels really needed a good painting as well.  Here was the before:

A view of the family room - the kitchen table is right next to it (I know it is messy...we picked it up eventually)

While painting, I was tempted to touch up the paint on the fireplace. Jim and I both hate the white, painted bricks on the fireplace but they look dirty and I thought another coat of paint would freshen it up. We paint to eventually change the fireplace bricks – maybe go back to the original brick, maybe use something else – but either way, a new coat of paint would have just been a waste of time, so I left it alone.  I did paint the mantle though.  I also cleaned out the fireplace – which was DISGUSTING.  First – the previous owners left these creepy, red candles in the fireplace.  Since the doors to the fireplace were SO dirty, it was hard to notice they were even there.  In addition, it looked like they never once cleaned out the ashes from the fireplace. On top of all the ashes, spiders decided our fireplace was an awesome spot to make their cobwebs.  All and all – cleaning the fireplace was gross but ultimately rewarding. It looks 100 times better now.  I resumed painting after being distracted by the fireplace.  Here is the finished product:

Still messy - but you get the general idea!

We have a new carpet being put in TODAY and new furniture arriving next week that will really finish the room.

Painting took me a really long time. Jim was able to finish the quarter molding and go back to another electrical project. The last electrical projects we have left deal with our outside lighting. We have empty boxes with electrical cords sticking out of the back of our house and the side of our house – this is where lights should be. We bought new fixtures and Jim was ready to add the new fixtures. Unfortunately, these white boxes are blocking the way to the mounting plate. That wouldn’t be a problem if we could take off the white boxes – but they seem to have been placed on underneath our siding. This is a problem. Unfortunately, we have not solved this problem yet. We do have a light next to the front door that does not have this problem. Jim moved on to the front light.

This front light was incredibly frustrating. It was on some sort of sensor switch. We assume it was supposed to turn on when it sensed movement but most of the time, it did not do this. Or it would turn on after you walked past the front door. It was very temperamental and we could not figure it out. None of the settings seemed to change anything. I was SO glad to be rid of it.

Again, I didn’t get a before picture since I was painting – but imagine a dingy, old front light.  Here is our new one:

It turns on and STAYS on!

With all that accomplished, we called it a night.

The past two nights (Monday and Tuesday) have been busy as well but I don’t have pictures of the finished projects yet – so you’ll just have to wait and see!

Roll Back(splash) to Me

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Why hello readers!  It has been a while!  Do not worry – we have not forgotten about you.  With the kitchen ALMOST done, there have been a lot less updates to post.  The past few weeks have been focused on smaller kitchen projects.  Although the projects are small, they can still be time-consuming which is why we are not finished yet.

The smaller projects have included adding trim to the windows and archway. We also needed to add quarter molding around the walls of the kitchen. Jim put up new shades and curtain rods for the windows (the curtains have been ordered) and I spent a LONG time cleaning the windows.  Apparently after 4 1/2 months of construction – windows get really dirty. We also painted all the trim and added some finishing touches like new doorknobs to doors leading to the bathroom, basement, and garage (those doors were also painted).  Here are some pictures I took along the way:

Window #1 before

Window #2 Before

Molding and blinds on Window #1! (sorry about the lighting)

Molding and blinds on Window #2!

Final product with the curtains! (window #1)

Window #2 Complete!

No divider between the kitchen and dining room/living room

Jim added a threshold!

Old and gross hinges

Another view of the hinges

New, clean hinges!

Another view!

New door handles! (I didn't take a picture of the old ones before Jim removed them - use your imagination)

We added a door bumper to the bathroom door so it won't have a hole in it (it previously had a hole from the garage door opening into it!)

With these smaller tasks completed, we were left with the last two big tasks of the kitchen. The backsplash above the countertops and the crown molding along the tops of the cabinets. We ordered the backsplash from the same store we bought our kitchen tile (shockingly not Home Depot). The store has an awesome selection and we were able to get something we both really liked. It arrived two Fridays ago, so we decided to do the backsplash first.

We ordered glass tile for the backsplash.  There is a lot of similarities between applying floor tile and applying a backsplash.  You need to cut it to fit into place, use mortar to set the tile, and then finally apply grout.  Even with our tile experience – we still thought we might get the first two steps done in one day. We were wrong.

There are a few steps that are different between laying tile and applying backsplash. Some of them had to do with preparing the space. We needed to protect our new and beautiful granite countertops from any mortar and/or grout that may be spilled. It was also suggested to start the backsplash slightly above the end of the countertop. This meant taping down cardboard along the edge of the countertop. The cardboard provided the perfect amount of space between countertop and backsplash starting point. With the cardboard there, we could rest the backsplash while we applied to the mortar. Otherwise it may be hard to hold in the right place. We also needed to pull the outlets from the wall a little because they would need to have a different end point once the tile was up. It was also suggested to sand the walls and roughen them up a little. This would help make them more adhesive.   Another prepping step had to do with behind the stove. We needed to included backsplash behind the stove, but there was no countertop to use as a guide. Instead, Jim hammered on a 2 by 4 to the wall so we could use it as a guiding point. It worked wonderfully.

Countertops protected - you can see the 2 by 4 behind the stove in the left of the picture

More protection and cardboard in place

As you may remember from our tiling, we needed to lay out all of the tiles to make sure they fit and cut where they needed to be cut.  There needed to be a hole for all seven outlets. While measuring and cutting all the tiles, we wondered why we didn’t just decide to have one outlet. Luckily, with the smaller tile, we did not need to rent the wet saw again. Jim had a tool that could cut the glass tile. We worked all day Sunday. When it got to 7pm, we realized we may not be able to mortar the same day. Measuring and cutting out tiles is very, very time-consuming.

Some of the tile cut and laid out

More tile ready to go

And even more!

Monday, after work, we were both ready to mortar.  We got started around 5:30 and finished around 9. Overall, applying the backsplash to the mortar went smoothly. We only had one section where the measurement was off, so we used other pieces of tile and swapped them out. Since our backsplash is a bunch of different smaller glass tiles, it wasn’t too difficult to replace pieces. If a tile was scratched or broken, we also replaced it. Here is how our tile looked Monday evening:

First corner up (you take the plastic off after it is up)

More backsplash

More of that section

Wide view

Tuesday was our grouting day.  We got started closer to 6pm that night and finished after 9 – almost the same hours as before. We needed to take the plastic off the tiles before we got started. Jim put the grout down with the grout float and I wiped it smooth with the sponge (same jobs as before). The grout was a different texture than before which made it a little harder to work with for both of us. Almost, there was less room and a lot more space to fill grout (there is grout between each tile).  It took a long time (considering the space), but we did finish in one night. Phew.  My hands were pruney but no injures this time from wringing out the sponge.

Tile with grout

View #2

View #3

Close-up so you can see the grout

It took us through Wednesday night to finish everything up. Jim added silicone in the space where the cardboard was while I cleaned up the counters and did one more wipe of the backsplash. We also had to put all the outlets back in place. We were finished putting everything back in place around 8 – it was great to have dinner a whole hour earlier that night!

Finished product:


View #2

View #3

View #4

We are ONE step away from a finished kitchen.  We are actually holding off on that step for just a few days.  We’ve been ignoring the rest of the first floor for the past 4 1/2 months and it needs some TLC. Since the crown molding is just a finishing touch, we are going to come back to it after working on our other rooms.  When we finish the crown molding I will place before and after shots – STAY TUNED!