Sunday, June 27

primed and ready to roll

Last weekend, I finished painting our kitchen with the final touches in my little laundry nook.  I was a little worried that going from the cream walls to our grey-blue would make the tiny space seem really dark, but instead it is just the opposite.   I really like how the fresh coat of white on the ceiling ties in with the trim, the remaining cabinets and the washer and dryer. 

The trim still needs some touch up paint and I want to add a few finishing touches, but that will come in time. It feels so airy and much more open than it used to. 

Ah the wonders of can actually make this nerdy bird enjoy laundry day(s)!

After finishing the laundry nook, I was anxious to see how the kitchen cabinets will look in the space.  Instead of begging the Man to move everything back in the house, I pulled out my trusty Frog Tape and tape measure and went to town.

It helped me a ton to visualize where everything would be going, and actually led to a resolution for a nagging concern of the Man and I.  When we first moved the fridge and oven back into the kitchen, things felt a little cramped-- we have a small space and a HUGE fridge.

 I shifted everything down about a foot, shuffled some of the wall cabinets around and things seemed to work much better. 

Thanks to YoungHouseLove for the suggestion of using painter's tape to plan a space!
On the agenda this weekend was to jump start the work on the cabinets.  Previously, they were crashing in the kitchen, but most recently they have been calling the garage home sweet home.
After a deep cleaning with some heavy duty degreaser, I ran by our local movers to pick up a few boxes.  It only took about $4 and twelve flat boxes to create a clean cardboard surface for the next step of prep. 
I caved and make a run to Home Depot to pick up something to speed up the process:
It cut down on a ton of time, and it's something I've been wanting for a while.  I like the fact that I feel like I can easily control this sander compared to some of the others I've used in the past.   The Man helped me sand everything down and we were ready to prime.
This oil based primer does not play around.  It smelled pretty horrible and I don't recommend painting with it in 90+ degree heat. (We ended up taking another motorcycle ride to get fresh air like we had to after the attack of the toxic adhesive remover.) I understand now why everyone prefers to use latex paint.  This oil based stuff was a pain to work with, but it did cover well and I don't think we'll have to worry about anything getting through it.
I'm glad we had the primer tinted.  I actually really like the color. 
We let everything dry, and next up is another light sanding and then we bring on the black!

Thursday, June 24

go big or go home

I revealed earlier in this post on inspiration a quick picture of our tile on my kitchen inspiration board, but I don't think I ever clearly said that we had decided on Rock Grey from Florida Tile as our tile color. 
Rock Grey porcelain from Florida Tile
What I also failed to mention was exactly what size tile we decided to go with in our little kitchen.  This is where you may think I'm crazy (if you don't already). Initially we decided on 16"x16" tile (HUGE, right?).  But Florida Tile doesn't carry Rock Grey in 16"x16".  We had to choose between the standard 13"x13" or ginormous 18"x18"

Since beginning our quest for tile, I've been enamored with over sized tiles.  I think it's pretty, different, and a good way to open up a room and make it seem a little larger.  With the whopping 10'x20' space that is our kitchen, I was convinced that the giant 18"x18" tile was the way to go.

Uncle Contractor was supportive of our choice, even though he did show some concern over such large tiles in a little space.. but he knew that the tile was ordered and on it's way from Texas, so he changed his tune to encouragement and reassured us that he and Cousin Contractor would make things look awesome (which we knew they would!) 

The Man and I couldn't settle on just a unique size tile, we also wanted the tile to be in a different pattern than the standard grid.  Uncle Contractor had mentioned laying the tile diagonally, but we weren't sure if that would be traditional enough for us.  Instead, we asked them to lay the tile in a brick pattern.
And boy did they:
Now typically, I am one to encourage DIY. I knew that our flooring was going to pose an additional challenge-- a tiny space, giant tile, and a foundation that isn't perfectly level.  As you've seen so far-- the Man and I recognize where our newbie DIY skills end and when to call in the pros

 When it comes to tiling: Cousin Contractor is surely that.
We were lucky enough to tour some of their houses a few months ago and I wish I had thought to take some pictures. In the meantime, here are some more shots of their work in our nerdy nest:

Notice the half-tiles running the perimeter of the room and how everything is so symmetrical. 
 I love the detail they put into their work!
My washer/dryer nook with a custom mosaic under the washer.
 We were running short on tiles, so the guys got creative.  I hated to cover it up, it was so pretty!

After a taunting night of not being able to walk on anything for fear of smooshing some of tiles around, the guys came back and grouted with the "Winter Grey" grout we bought to match the tile. 
The grout dried about two shades lighter.

Special thanks to Liz at BiCity Decor in Opelika for helping me decide on which shade of grey.  Also, I have to praise their patience with me as I took over a month's worth of visits just to decide on the tile, and 2 weeks of that month I was holding a tile sample hostage "just to be sure." Everyone there was so nice and excited to help.  It doesn't hurt that Uncle Contractor gave them a glowing recommendation.  He really knows his stuff.
Another 24 hours passed and we were able to walk on our lovely new floors.  I could not be happier!  I love them and hate the idea of covering a single one up... but I knew we had to in order to move anything back into the kitchen (like our fridge and oven that were in the living room.)
Before we did anything else, we mopped the floor another time or two with HOT water to remove any last bits of grout haze. Our next step was to seal the grout.  Off to Lowe's we go:
We picked up a few of these and only ended up needing one.

The Man sealed grout while I prepped for an impromptu birthday/Father's Day celebration.  It only took about 4-6 hours to dry and then we could move things back in.   By midnight that night our kitchen went from an open expanse of gorgeous tile work
and became one step closer to a real kitchen again. 

Who would have thought 218 square feet of 18x18 porcelain tile could make this nerdy bird so happy?
I heart it.

Tuesday, June 22

a fourth layer?

Once we peeled and hacked away at the three layers of linoleum on our floors, we were met with a new nemesis.
A thick, uneven layer of grey and white mottled adhesive.
it's just so gross...and icky.. and smelly

We first decided to try brute force and scrape the floor with a heavy duty 7inch long handled scraper from Lowe's that was purchased on one of our many weekend trips.

The Man worked valiantly for a good ten solid minutes with hardly any results.  We knew it was time to do some research—this method just wasn't working.  So we were off to youtube, google, and the blogosphere to try and find some answers.

As much as I didn’t want to resort to it, we ended up deciding to purchase an adhesive removing solvent. Based on our online research, KrudKutter was the way to go.
From what I read. it's supposed to be low odor, inexpensive, and quick to take effect.
We did a quick run by the Lowe's and KrudKutter was no where to be found. We were tired, hot, and running late for an early dinner with friends—so we went with this instead:
Chapco Impressions -- MultiSurface Adhesive Remover

It was only about $10 and was over in the flooring section. We decided to go for it and hope it worked. I liked the fact that it didn’t seem as threatening as the adhesive remover that was over with the paint thinner in its boxy, warning bedecked, red and yellow metal can.

A few hours later, we were home and anxious to get to work. I locked the kitties up in their office (my office, officially, but it’s where they stay when we’re doing big house projects), turned off the air conditioner, opened a few windows in the kitchen and we were good to go. The instructions seemed pretty simple, mix one bottle in with a gallon of hot water. We blended the two together in one of the Man’s favorite five gallon buckets and immediately lost a few brain cells.
After a quick slathering with an old mop, we covered the floor in the adhesive remover and washed up (apparently adhesive remover is not the best on bare skin). The instructions said to let everything soak for 1-2 hours before attempting to scrape the floor. The Man and I decided to watch a movie, and tried to keep sane as the fumes grew stronger.

Eventually we had to bail out of the house, and after a quick motorcycle ride through the cool-ish summer air we were feeling somewhat refreshed and a little less dizzy. By that time, the solvent had been working its magic for a few hours softening the adhesive. The Man got to right to work.  Scraping was messy but things went much smoother with the help of the adhesive remover. The Man scraped for about 30 minutes while I swept and scooped up the gloopy adhesive shavings.

We still didn’t remove all of the adhesive, but our floor looked and smelled much better after we mopped it with non-solvent infused hot water.

We mopped again the next day and could finally say our little concrete slab of a kitchen was ready for tiling.

 If you ever decide to remove your multiple layers of flooring—here are a few tips we learned the hard way:

  •  Carefully remove your baseboards (and do so before painting) otherwise you'll be forever patching holes like we were.
  • Be prepared for a stinky, dusty mess no matter how clean you keep your floors.  Our house smelled horrible for a few days!
  • A linoleum blade can save lots of frustration
  • A good floor scraper can save even more—I almost wish we had used that along with our linoleum knife to pull up the tile initially. It made quick work of a few stubborn self-adhesive tiles that were hiding under our washer and dryer.
  • A long soak with hot water can help loosen up adhesive, but a strong adhesive removing solvent really does the job!
  • If you’re going to use an adhesive remover, be sure to evacuate the house while it sets, if possible—it will save your brain cells and prevent you from a toxic hangover in the morning.  I had a killer headache the next day and was really scatterbrained.. but that's somewhat typical for me.
  • Always appreciate those you love, especially when they are crawling around on their hands and knees for hours peeling up stubborn floors (and affectionately calling you the devil, stating that this is his hell, and threatening to divorce you).
  • Remember to remind those you love that you aren't married-- so divorce is not an option, and have a good laugh over the devil/hell thing as an eternity in "hell" is a lot longer than a mortgage. :)
  • A nice dinner of cheesy, garlicky, meaty goodness from Brick Oven can usually make any floor peeling experience just a little bit better.
It's such a great feeling when I look back and see what all we've accomplished as novice DIYers.  True, it was just a few hundred square feet of stubborn flooring.. but it's our stubborn flooring, and we kicked its ass.

Sunday, June 20

cheap thrills

I don't know many twenty-somethings who start their weekends off at 5:00am.  For me, it was a little earlier than I originally planned but I'm glad I didn't sleep in this Saturday.  There was a ton on my to-do list, but a few cheap thrills were on deck first.

I've mentioned before my love of thrifting and yard sailing.  With our budget getting tighter as our kitchen reno seems to cost more and more my "fun money" is dwindling faster than ever.  We both try to reserve a little fun money out of each paycheck for a few indulgences-- for the Man, it's the latest and greatest video game or a new blu-ray.  For me, it's usually spent on a new book, handful of magazines, something off the clearance rack at Old Navy, at the thrift store or my favorite this time of year: a yard sale!

Thanks to my friend Kate for giving me the heads up about the community wide sale at Camden Ridge this Saturday.

I made a beeline for the neighborhood and picked up a few good deals.  There was a total of 26 houses having sales.  

I think I maybe only stopped by about half. It was so sweltering out (ugh to humid Alabama summers...) and it wasn't even past 7am.  I also detoured by another sale or two on my way back to the house.  I couldn't resist. 

On to the goodies:

I fell in love with this white shabby metal door pocket.  I paid $2 for it and even though I couldn't get it to fit perfectly for our front door just yet I've already put the silk tulips to good use.
I picked up two European shams in a soft white with scalloped edges and another fun white rug for our guest bathroom for $2.  After these two stops, I was beginning to think my yard sale theme for the day was
"buy anything white for $2" day!
The shams are great because they are just feminine enough without being too "girly" and the rug is already a favorite of Inari's (our little grey kitten).
Besides, who doesn't love white linens-- all it takes is a little bleach and you are so fresh and so clean!

This next find took a little convincing.  I'm still not sure what to do with it, but for $3, I figured I would think of something eventually.  I just liked the shape and size of this little glass house-- perfect at about 5" wide and
7" tall.  Perfect for what though?
I also picked up this footed bowl for $3.  I loved the cut glass and it's pretty heavy.  It matches a pitcher and vase I have inherited from Dear Mother.  I'm just glad to add to the set.

In the background of the main picture (and the far right of this one) you can see my final find. It was also about $2 and it's a good size black framed mirror.  I can't resist a mirror in good condition.  I also picked up a handful of white pull-bows which are great for last-minute gift wrapping for a whopping 50 cents.

Overall, I spent about $15 (counting the ice-cold Coke I picked up on the way) and shopped for a good three hours.  I love yard sale Saturdays!

I'm linking to Rhoda's Thrifty Treasures party over at
 southern hospitality
Come join the fun and check out everyone else's finds!

Tuesday, June 15

dear previous homeowners,

I understand the desire to leave your mark on your home, to customize your home, even the longing for home improvements. Really, I do. However, I have to ask: Why did you feel compelled to half-ass everything you did to what is now our lovely abode?

I can even understand the poor paint job. Sometimes a roller can be difficult to control. Trust me, it’s taken two coats and we still have some issues with our new paint in the kitchen. And painters tape can be a pain. Is that why you left some on the shower in the bathroom? Are you scared of electrocution? I know we were a little fearful when replacing a light fixture, but hesitating to remove the switch covers when you paint? No risk there. But in your eyes, better to be safe than sorry.  Is that why you chose to paint over the switch covers? For these nerdy birds, we just turned off the power when we were anxious about shocking results.

It’s okay. Don't worry about the switch covers, or the plugs..we’re going to replace those anyway. My bone to pick with you is not about your poor painting habits though. It’s about something much more substantial.

Three layers more substantial.

Why in the world did you think it was a good idea to put down three layers of flooring in the kitchen?

Really?  Seriously?  And  did you have to use single square self-stick tiles? 

I'm sorry. Enough of me berating you, previous owners. If it wasn’t for you—we wouldn’t have this lovely house to buy and love.

We also wouldn’t have had three layers of flooring to demo this weekend.

But back to our working weekend...we picked up one of these bad boys a few weeks ago from Home Depot and it was worth every bit of the $5 price tag:

Meet the biggest and baddest linoleum knife I've ever seen.

A good chunk of our Saturday consisted of the Man using his insane upper body strength to cut through three layers of linoleum and vinyl flooring, me getting in his way trying to pull up the stinky floor, and us hauling the stack of sticky pieces away to the dumpster in the back of Lola, my Civic.
The pile of rejects grows.

In a few short hours (and lots of sweat, cursing, and reaffirmations of love) we went from this:
to this:
and of course we couldn't have done it without the encouragement and assistance of our ever present foreman perched high above us:
Yes, this was mid-meow.

Our next task was to figure out how and what would get up the adhesive that remained (and replenish the empty cat food dish).

Friday, June 11

plans, plants and a busy weekend

It’s been a busy week here in the nerdy nest and it’s already Friday again! I think we’re still recovering from last weekend. We got a lot of little jobs done and spent some time with friends and family last weekend for which I’m glad.. because this  weekend is going to be a doozy.

That’s right… a doozy.

But back to last weekend… after seeing so many beautiful transformations in the blogland where folks have really amped up the curb appeal with pretty flowers and a fresh summer look
I love this crisp red, white, and blue combo at Centsational Girl

I was in a tizzy. I had to do something for the front door. It wasn’t horrible.. but it certainly didn’t seem all too welcoming.

For the longest time I had quite the lovely little apartment patio garden, if I do say so myself. I really enjoyed it, if for no other reason than being able to prove that if I tried I might be able to channel a tiny bit of my grandmother’s phenomenal green thumb.

My grandmother on my Dad’s side, lovingly known in the family as Mama, was a dynamo in many ways. But when it came to keeping and growing a garden she was unstoppable. She couldn’t kill a plant if she tried. I remember having fresh tomatoes at Christmas. She even had some plant, I can’t remember what it was, that would only bloom late at night. I remember seeing her so excited when it would bloom, and when she was happy it spread like wildfire through the family. You could feel her joy and warmth from a mile away.

I loved her spider lilies lining the driveway, and all the lush plants that seemed to pour out of every pot, basket, and window. It was one of her passions, and plants filled every available space that wasn’t already covered with photos of her family and friends or something she recently cooked for whoever was dropping by for dinner. She made a mean chicken & dumplings, dressing to die for, and the best butter yellow cake with chocolate frosting and pecans that you can imagine.

She was a strong independent woman who would do anything for her family and I can only hope to be half the woman she was.

That includes my challenge to try and keep my few little plants alive. It’s been almost a year since my last patio plant died .. and I finally decided to try again. I desperately wanted to take my handful of abandoned terra cotta pots (that we even hauled from the old apartment to our new house back in December) from their shadowy home in the corner of the garage and fill them with a couple of cheap favorites from the Home Depot.

So, I threw a mini-tantrum, scrounged up some cash, and off we went. I had no idea what I wanted, or where to find it. I walked in laps around the garden center and I finally decided on a few vinca, some caladiums, and one of my favorites, begonias.

While the Man cut the grass and ate the weeds (Finished weedeating? Used the weedeater? Weedate?) I shoveled anthills, kill some stray weeds, washed down and swept the entryway, and got to potting. After I arranged the pots for about 13 times, I settled on this:

Add in an old wreath from the attic, a few pretty plants, and a freshly cleaned doormat and we have a little bit more curb appeal than before. At least the front door is a bit more welcoming and a little less blah.
We also finished the touchups on the wall color in the kitchen. It’s a good thing too since Uncle Contractor will be coming Monday to install the tile!! That is, if the tile arrives on time.

So this weekend will be filled with prepping the floors for the new tile work—peeling up a few layers of old linoleum, cutting it into controllable pieces and scraping any glue or sticky mess that remains. This also means that we will be moving the last few appliances that have held on strong to their kitchen location like the refrigerator and my weekend buddies—the washer and dryer.

Who knows, I might even try to paint the nook the washer and dryer live in (so I don’t have to worry about potentially messing up our lovely new floors) while they are vacationing out in the garage.

I don’t want to be too ambitious though.

Me, too ambitious... never.

Wednesday, June 2

catching up: a little dap will do ya

At this point, we have a fancy hole in the wall and two arched doorways.  The Man and I were surveying our space, and trying to decide what comes next.  We knew a new floor was in order, and were debating on whether to lay the tile around the cabinets that were left or go ahead and gut the place. 
Can you guess which we went with?

Just to brag on the Man for a minute: not only did he remove our dishwasher and garbage disposal without flinching, he also fixed a few leaks that we managed to start when messing with the sink hookups. And he did all this in a few hours with minimal obscenities.

It became apparent pretty quickly that neither of us are plumber material.  We tried for a while to remove the shutoff valves (so that the cabinet could be pulled away from the wall easily) and realized that our limited plumbing skills, tools, and YouTube advising was no match for the copper compression nut of doom

It was time for plan B.
Yes, plan B for removing the kitchen sink cabinet did consist of a borrowed jigsaw (thanks, Dad!), lots of cursing, and cutting a hole through both the back of our cabinet and a good bit of the drywall behind it.

Add that to my and the Man's newbie cutting technique, the spectacle of two grown adults trying to fit into the cabinet under the sink while holding a tempermental flashlight and very powerful jigsaw, and a severe lack of patience and you get a pretty entertaining afternoon for the Dad as he watched us struggle, cuss, and boldly attack our bedraggled cabinet.

Thankfully we had already invested in the jumbo sized version of this guy:
Meet DAP, drydex spackling.. our new best friend.

I thought it was a pointless splurge at the time, but after patching a few large holes and numerous smaller ones-- I'm a big fan of the color-change indicator.  It's nice to know when it's safe to walk through the kitchen again without fearing an aerial attack from the droopy spackle.

Oh, I didn't mention we had to patch holes in the ceiling too?  Yup.  Of course we did! But I blame that one on the Dad and his brother-from-another-mother/best buddy and their technique for finding studs in our ceiling.  I mean, what works better than poking nails and a bent clothes hanger through the ceiling and "wiggling it around a bit"?  Who needs a stud finder when I've got those two to determine where the nail-poking holes should be?  After about 30 minutes and 8 holes later, we found the stud and were able to get back to work. (And I got back to spackling)
We also had this beaut to fix: 
I'm not sure what the previous owners did to make this hole, but a quick self-adhesive mesh patch and liberal spackling later and we almost had a semi-smooth wall again.

Oh, then when trying to pry the base molding away from the floor and the perilous grasp of two layers of linoleum we had another little incident with the pry bar and the wall. But thankfully, spackle saved the day again.
Super Spackle to the Rescue!! (yes, I'm a nerd.. and you know you love it.)

Overall we've gotten pretty good at patching holes (I'm sure it's a skill that will come in handy someday). I think we've patched somewhere around 15 or so just in this one room. Some of our must haves for this are:

I think we've torn out everything but the floor.

No worries, it won't be much longer until that dual-layered disaster is gone too. It's only a matter of time, single-square-stick-on-flooring. 
Only a matter of time...