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[ 6 ]

Our budget bathroom update: Let there be light (part 2)

By on July 23, 2014


(In case you missed it, read Part 1 of this bathroom light fixture update here!)

We finally have a new light fixture in the bathroom!

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

Before I go into more detail about the installation process, here’s a quick before-and-after shot. Seriously, it’s a huge (actually, make that smaller) difference!

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

In our last post, I talked about how we began the process of replacing our old bathroom light fixture. First, we found a smaller and more modern light to better fit the space above the medicine cabinet. Then I removed the old fixture and rerouted the electrical connections to sit centered above the vanity mirror in order to properly install the new fixture. The last thing I showed you was the bare wall structure that I rebuilt after sawing a hole for the new junction box:

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

After the junction box was in place and secure, I began the process of patching over the rebuilt lath and fixing the damaged wall areas. Since our new light fixture is smaller and narrower than the old one, we’d be exposing areas previously hidden from view – these were showing signs of damage from the heat of the old light and the paint layers were cracked and bubbling.

In addition, I tested this old paint for lead and got positive results, which gave me another reason (besides aesthetics) to cover this exposed area: safety.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

First, I vacuumed up the dust I’d created when cutting out the old plaster, and prepped the lath and surrounding wall with a bonding agent. The bonding agent is painted on like a primer and keeps the lath and wall from pulling water out of fresh plaster patching material (keeping that material from adhering well to the lath and wall). Then, to match the look and feel of the original plaster to both fill in the hole and smooth out the wall, I mixed up some setting-type joint compound for my patching material – basically, fast-setting plaster.

Mixing Fast-Setting Plaster to Repair Old Walls | Rather Square

Mixing Fast-Setting Plaster to Repair Old Walls | Rather Square

I’ve used this product for other projects around the house (most of our interior walls are plaster), and it works really well. It’s got a similar texture to the original plaster, but dries hard in about 90 minutes (or less) so that I can apply multiple coats in the same day. Using a mixing drill with a mixing paddle attachment, I just mix up a small batch at a time in a 5-gallon bucket until I get the right consistency (something resembling thick cake icing). I didn’t need a ton of this stuff for the bathroom, just enough to build up the surface of the hole to the level of the wall and to apply a thin skim coat of plaster over the old painted areas.

Patching a Plaster Wall | Rather Square

I ended up doing a few layers of plaster, sanding between layers. It was a little rough looking, but my initial objective was to get enough plaster on the wall to fill and cover all the trouble spots.

Patching a Plaster Wall | Rather Square

Then, right after applying and smoothing out the final layer, I ran a clean damp paint roller over it while it was still wet. The paint roller had a slight nap that helped create a subtle texture to match the rest of the wall surface. This technique can also be used on a freshly spackled repaired area of a wall to help it blend in with a previously painted wall.

Patching a Plaster Wall | Rather Square

Then I let it dry completely. The new patched plaster looked and felt like it blended in really well with the rest of the wall surface.

Patching a Plaster Wall | Rather Square

The next step was to paint. I used a small roller to apply our bathroom wall paint over the plaster (Silver Leaf by Behr), and didn’t worry too much about the few minor imperfections in the painted textured plaster surface. In fact, the imperfections helped this area match the rest of the 92-year-old walls – you’d never know it was newly patched.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

Once the paint was dry, I was finally able to install our new light fixture! Thanks to all the prep work I’d done to get the wall ready, it was a quick installation. The light sits nice and flush against the wall, which means that the layers of patched plaster underneath are pretty level.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

You may notice that we made a few modifications from the installation shown on the box. The most obvious change is that we decided to install the new light with the shades pointing up rather than down (the original orientation shown on the box). With our large mirrored medicine cabinet below, it made more sense this way – the bulbs shine up at the ceiling (bouncing the light around the room) instead of down on the cabinet. We also removed the little knobs protruding from the end of each shade. They would have bumped up against the top of the medicine cabinet, and we weren’t enamored with the look of them anyway. Luckily, you can’t really tell that these are missing – there are some screw holes showing, but they are inset pretty deeply and just look like part of the design.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

We LOVE our new light! The frosted white shades diffuse the light around the room really well, and the color of the light is much more neutral and bright (I used these 60-watt LED bulbs), compared to the dingy yellow-ish glow we had before. And the design of the fixture, with its clean graceful lines, helps bring our bathroom into the 21st century. So long, medical-exam-room harshness.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

What lighting challenges or updates have you encountered lately?

Missed part of this budget bathroom project? Read our previous posts on:
Our budget bathroom update: Painting
Our budget bathroom update: Four fixes for under $20
Our budget bathroom update: Let there be light (part 1)

Links may contain affiliates.

July 23, 2014

[ 2 ]

Our budget bathroom update: Let there be light (part 1)

By on July 17, 2014


Sometimes during DIY renovation projects, the initial plans and ideas you have for fixing up a space snowball into something bigger. That’s kind of what happened with our budget bathroom update when we added a new light fixture into our list of improvements.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

When we initially thought about making several small updates in our main bathroom, we hadn’t planned on touching the big ugly light fixture above our vanity mirror. It seemed like something that could wait until our larger full-on renovation down the road. But in the course of painting the bathroom, we ended up getting up close and personal with the light as we painted around it, and decided that we just couldn’t live with it any longer. Here it is in all its aged glory.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

It looked like something you’d find in a 1960s medical exam room – not exactly the ambiance we’d like for our main bathroom. And it cast a harsh yellow glow on the white walls and gray tiles, making everything seem kind of dingy and ancient.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

We also felt that the existing fixture was too big for our not-so-big bathroom, and it seemed like a better use of funds to just invest in a new and smaller modern fixture altogether. Fortunately, the light isn’t attached to the giant vanity mirror/medicine cabinet, so we could deal with it separately. (We’d definitely like to do something different with the mirror – like the light, it’s too large for this bathroom – but that’s a more extensive project that we’ll deal with in the future reno.)

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

So we started shopping around for a new fixture. We looked for something large enough to light the space effectively, but not as large as the old fixture, which stretched the full length of the mirror. Something with modern clean lines, but not too industrial or utilitarian-looking. We also considered how many bulbs we’d need to light this space, maybe between 3 and 6 (the old light used 6). And finally, we wanted a fixture with a brushed metal finish, since that’s the finish we are going for with other bathroom elements like the cabinet hardware and the door hook.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

We found a few good contenders at some of the big box stores, and brought them home to try out in the space. In some cases, the design of the fixtures and shades didn’t fit the bathroom quite right. Other options were just too big or too small. We even thought about installing two identical 3-bulb fixtures side by side. But that seemed like overkill when I tried them out in the space.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

In the end, the winner was this guy – a 4-light fixture with gently flaring frosted white shades and a mix of brushed and shiny metal parts.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

We’d already painted the bathroom walls, but I knew that installing this new light fixture would involve some additional painting and wall repair. Not just because it had a smaller footprint than the old light (so more of the wall behind the old light would be exposed), but also because that exposed wall looked like this.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

Lots of heat damage to the various paint layers (at one point this bathroom had apparently been green!), so that would all have to be smoothed out somehow. In addition, I realized that the original electric line for the bathroom lighting had been placed off-center. Since the new light plate needed to be connected to the electrical source in the center, and we wanted to center the entire fixture over the mirror, I’d need to do some extra electrical work and put a new junction box where we needed it to be.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

Which meant I’d also have to cut a new hole in the plaster-and-lath wall for the junction box, and then re-plaster any leftover openings in the wall, including what was around the original electric line. And then paint over it all. See what I mean about snowballing?

So I got to work. After turning off the power and removing the old light, I cut a hole in the plaster of the wall where I wanted to relocate the junction box. I used my oscillating saw with the grout/plaster cutting blade.

Using an Oscillating Saw to Cut Through Plaster Walls | Rather Square

Using an Oscillating Saw to Cut Through Plaster Walls | Rather Square

Then I went back and cut into the lath with the same saw using the wood cutting blade. I made a hole that was larger than the junction box – I needed to allow some working room to move the electrical lines around. And I made sure to cut the lath in between the studs, so that I could re-attach it around the box when I was done. The oscillating saw made this part really fast and easy.

Using an Oscillating Saw to Cut Through Plaster Walls | Rather Square

Using an Oscillating Saw to Cut Through Plaster Walls | Rather Square

Next I needed to re-route the electrical wire over to the new location, and attach it to the junction box. I figured I’d have to drill a hole in the studs to move the wire over, but luckily, this wall is thicker because of the plumbing pipes and has two sets of studs with a space between them. So I was able to snake the wires between these double studs. I also added a two-by-four scrap piece of wood as a brace for mounting the box and making it flush with the plaster. This gave the light fixture a solid base for installation.

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 1) | Rather Square

With the junction box in place and all the gaps reinforced, the wall structure was ready to support the new light fixture. But before I could install it, I’d have to plaster over this big hole and repaint the sad looking wall to match the paint job we did during the first step of this budget bathroom update.

In our next post, I’ll cover that process, including the materials and tools I used… and a final reveal of the new light fixture! (Update: read Part 2 of this lighting fixture project here!)

Missed part of this budget bathroom project? Read our previous posts on:
Our budget bathroom update: Painting
Our budget bathroom update: Four fixes for under $20

(linked at Remodelaholic)

Links may contain affiliates.

July 17, 2014

[ 4 ]

Painting tiny closets for tiny people

By on July 10, 2014


As we get ready to update the toddler’s bedroom and convert the spare bedroom into a nursery for the new baby, I took on the quick project recently of painting the closets in both rooms. Not a very dramatic or exciting job, but one of those necessary updates that I wanted to get done and out of the way before we started to work on the rooms themselves.

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

Both of these small closets have enough room for kids’ clothes and storage. They were a little worse for wear on the inside – the wall paint was dingy and scuffed, with shelving covered in old contact paper. And neither have lighting installed. Eventually we’ll probably put in some kind of wireless light in each closet, but for now I thought that repainting them a fresh white color would help clean and brighten them up. The toddler’s closet was an old dull white already, but the baby’s closet had been painted a pale shade of peach (hard to see in in this less-than-stellar photo, but kind of similar to the room’s original wall color).

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

For the paint itself, we took advantage of Ace’s recent buy-one-get-one-free sale on Clark + Kensington paint. We hadn’t used this brand before, but figured that using it inside closets was a safe way to try it out. And I wanted a formula that included primer, to keep this (hopefully quick) painting process as streamlined as possible. We paid only about $30 for two gallons of the Premium Interior Eggshell Enamel, which I knew would cover both closets with extra left over for future projects. I went with a nice bright white called Illumination… although the toddler seemed more interested in the bolder end of the color spectrum.

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

And so a couple of weeks ago, I went ahead and tackled this project. First, I tested the existing paint for lead (I’m not sure when these closets were last painted), and was happy to see negative results. Painting over lead paint would seal and contain any toxicity anyway, but I like knowing what areas of our house are lead, and I’ve developed the habit of testing any surface I’m working on lately (we learned our lesson last summer).

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

Before starting to paint, I removed the hanger bars and the contact-paper-covered shelving. Then I broke out the new paint and got to work. The job took a little longer than I anticipated – even though the closets are small, there are a lot of angles and nooks. And I did the inside baseboard trim at the same time (but I left the closet doors for another time). It’s hard to get good photos of these tiny spaces, but here are some detail shots of the process and end result.

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

I ended up doing two coats of paint on each closet – the C+K didn’t seem to cover completely after just one coat. Even so, I was pretty satisfied with the paint quality, and I was able to finish both closets in one day. Including the ceilings!

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

Brighter, cleaner, and they even feel a little bigger now with their new coat of (aptly named paint color) Illumination! Just painting over the aged walls makes these small spaces seem more inviting.

I still have to do a little work on the shelving and the hanger rods. I’m thinking I’ll replace the existing rods with narrower ones so that we can hang things more easily. I’ll just have to pick up some dowels and cut them to fit. And for the shelves, I’ll either repaint those, or get some pre-made laminate shelving to replace them (if they’re a standard size).

And you may have noticed the freestanding shelving unit in the baby’s closet. The previous owner left it, and we don’t really need it in the closet, so we took it out and hope to repurpose it somewhere else in the house. Like in the playroom, maybe?

Painting Tiny Closets for Tiny People | Rather Square

Otherwise, it’s a great feeling to get this not-very-visible but necessary closet painting project off our to-do list. Now we can focus on the fun part – actually furnishing and decorating these bedrooms. We shared some ideas for that in our summer plans post, but we’ll be back with more details and a progress report on each room soon.

What un-glamorous projects have you had to do lately?

(linked on Remodelaholic)

Links may contain affiliates.

July 10, 2014

[ 6 ]

Yew and me: A landscaping renovation story

By on July 2, 2014


Remember the huge yew bushes in our front yard that we talked about in our last landscaping post? Well, we did a little work on them recently…

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

You may recall that last summer I spent a lot of time trying to trim their out-of-control growth. Aside from contorting myself into knots trying to reach some spots, I was frustrated to see that these bushes were pretty bare underneath and getting sparse on the tops too. We wondered if they could be as old as our house (92 years) – it’s hard to say. But it’s obvious that they are reaching the limits of their aesthetic qualities.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

In addition to looking scraggly, the yews were proving to be a bit of a safety hazard. They obstructed the view from our entry pathway and living room windows – and with small children playing outside the house, it’s important that we’re able to keep a quick eye on them.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Plus, they just made our house look like it had an overgrown beard. Our harsh winter dumped a lot of snow on the yews and really crushed them down at times, but they are apparently engineered for survival at any cost, because they bounced back once the weather warmed up. I knew I’d have to do something about them this year, but hanging out the window again with heavy-duty shears didn’t sound too appealing. So we came to the conclusion that it was time to say farewell to the yew beard.

One option was to have them professionally removed (roots and all), which would cost between $500 and $700. But we ultimately decided that this cost is not in our budget right now. And digging up the yews ourselves is not a task we’d want to DIY, since these decades-old bushes have pretty extensive and solid root systems. I knew I’d largely be handling any yew removal on my own (with Laura on toddler-watch and fetus-growing duties), so I had to think about how much effort and knowledge a one-person amateur landscaper could take on.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

I did some extensive research on yews and found that they are good candidates for renovation pruning, which means that they can be rejuvenated by cutting them down nearly to the ground, and then they’ll grow back over several years. Not only did this sound doable, but it would give us a chance to see if the yews might look better with all-new (and smaller!) growth. So I made the decision to go ahead with this approach.

First, I assembled all my tools (a chainsaw, a reciprocating saw and heavy-duty loppers), and made sure they were clean and sharp.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

This landscaping project took me two days. Not only did I cut down eight huge yews, but then I had to clear out all the trunks and branches and other debris from our front yard afterward. Laura was able to document this process during the toddler’s nap (somehow she slept through the chainsaw roar!) as I started at one side of the house and worked my way across the front.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

It was easier to get the smaller branches first with my reciprocating saw and the loppers, and then use the chainsaw on the thicker trunks at the bottom.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Here’s a video of the chainsaw in action.

And once I chopped down every last bush, we were left with this aftermath.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

I piled all the cut branches and trunks in an out-of-the-way area behind our garden for now, while we decide what to do with them. Maybe we’ll rent a wood chipper to make some mulch? If not, I need to figure out how to dispose of them (they’re too big for our village’s yardwaste bag pickup).

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Here’s our front yard after all the debris was cleared away. It feels like our house can breathe a little more easily now without its big bushy beard.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

It’s a little surreal to be able to stand in the space where these giant bushes used to be.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

I counted the rings of the stumps, and it looks like these yews were actually about 60 years old. So not quite as old as our house, but they’ve still been around for a very long time. I can only imagine what kind of root systems must be under our front yard!

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Now we wait to see how the yews will react to their clean close shave. These bushes grow pretty slowly, but a smaller, gentler greenery border in front of our house is our goal anyway.

In the meantime, we’ve suddenly got a lot more space in our front yard to do some landscaping! We don’t have a lot of time to allocate to this at the moment, but I’ve been brainstorming some small quick things we can do this summer to get this space ready for more major changes down the road.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

I’ve got some ideas that I’ve already started to implement, so I’ll be back with a follow-up post soon. Have a great Fourth of July, readers!

Links may contain affiliates.

July 2, 2014

[ 0 ]

A new (life) addition to our summer project plans

By on June 25, 2014


With this year half over already, we’ve been re-visiting and re-evaluating our earlier 2014 project plans and ideas. It’s been good to take a look at what we’ve accomplished so far and what’s left on our list. And since we need to balance any work we do on our house with other things going on in life, our project priorities can shift and evolve pretty quickly.

In fact, speaking of other things going on in life… we’ve got an exciting life project currently in the works right now. By the end of the summer, we’ll be adding a new baby to our family!

Our New Life Addition | Rather Square

We’re very excited – it’s been a busy, fun, crazy, and special time for us as we get ready to grow into a family of four!

And this life development is something that will obviously have a big impact on our house project priorities for the next couple of months. With a hard and fast baby deadline approaching (and with my own increasingly limited physical abilities), we’ve had to figure out ways to get things done in time for the baby’s arrival without burning ourselves out or neglecting other aspects of our lives. It’s a tricky balance, since it involves maximizing our available time and energy, staying within a budget, keeping our processes as simple and streamlined as possible, and still taking care of ourselves and the toddler (and the fetus!) – all at the same time.

So here’s our house project plans for the rest of the summer!

The Baby’s Bedroom

We haven’t done much work to our spare/third bedroom – soon to be the new baby’s bedroom – since we bought the house. We painted it when we moved in and had some asbestos issues in the the room’s heating duct addressed. But since then, it’s become a default storage space for various odds and ends, plus now some baby items we’ve brought out from storage. This room needs to be cleared out, pronto. Yikes!

Baby's Bedroom Before | Rather Square

Obviously, we need to prioritize finishing this room before the end of the summer. We’ve got some strong design ideas in the works – since we aren’t finding out if the baby is a boy or girl ahead of time, the room’s decor has to work for either. Here’s a moodboard we’ve been playing with, focusing loosely on a color palette of oranges, yellows, and cool neutrals:

Moodboard for Baby's Bedroom | Rather Square

A. Crib from the toddler’s room (we’ll be transitioning her to a “big kid bed”)
B. Wall paint color is Nimbus Gray by Benjamin Moore
C. Billy bookcase with a DIY fabric backboard (similar to our previous fabric panel project)
D. Our gray La-Z-Boy rocker recliner
E. Yellow chevron crib sheets
F. A fun and bright orange area rug

And you can see more of our inspiration for this room on Pinterest!

The Toddler’s Bedroom

We designed and set up the toddler’s bedroom pretty well last year when we moved in. It was painted in a pale green and we brought in and reused most of the furniture from her nursery in our previous rental apartment.

Painting Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

Some of that furniture will be moving next door to the baby’s room, so we’ll be getting several new pieces for the toddler. But a few of her favorite bedroom items – like her area rug, lamp, and owl art – will be staying to ease her through this transition. We plan to retain the general color palette of this room (greens and oranges) with some warmer accents:

Moodboard for Toddler's Bedroom | Rather Square

A. Her round Fillsta orange lamp from Ikea
B. Billy bookcase (I’ll make a DIY fabric backboard for this too!)
C. Wall paint color is Urban Nature by Benjamin Moore
D. We’ll hang these owl prints that we bought when she was born
E. An extendable toddler/twin bed
F. Her favorite multi-color circle rug
G. Orange blanket for her new bed

These and other ideas can also be found on our Pinterest page.

The Bathroom

As you may have noticed, we’ve been doing a lot of work on our main bathroom lately as part of our budget bathroom update project. We’re almost done with this initial phase of DIY upgrades, so we do plan to finish up the few remaining tasks before the end of the summer. So far, we’ve caulked the tub and replaced the shower headpainted the walls, changed or fixed hardware, and added a window curtain.

Budget Bathroom Update: Painting | Rather Square

Budget Bathroom Update | Rather Square

John’s been putting in a new light fixture and sink faucet these last few weeks, so we’ll be posting about those soon! It’s exciting to see how much just a few little changes help make this space seem more modern.

Bathroom Budget Update: Faucet | Rather Square

We’d really like to replace the toilet (old) and the flooring (ugly) in this room as well, but realistically that won’t happen in time for the baby’s arrival. So we’re putting those tasks at the top of our post-newborn house project list.

The Office

Earlier this year, we had some pretty aggressive goals to finish our home office space (originally the house’s dining room). Our dads helped paint it when we first moved in, then we worked on an overall design plan and started cleaning out old paperwork and shredding it. We even bought a shelving unit and some baskets and bins for organizing.

Painting the Office | Rather Square

Designing our Home Office | Rather Square

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square

But our progress on this room stalled a bit this spring. Here’s what it looks like at the moment – functional, but not beautiful.

Paper Shredding | Rather Square

And once we started thinking about what we needed to prioritize before the baby’s arrival, the home office design project fell to the bottom of the list. So… we’re suspending work on this project for now. Most likely we’ll pick it up again early next year sometime. It can be hard to relegate lower-priority projects to the back burner, but being realistic about what we can accomplish while still enjoying our last weeks together as a family of three is the most important thing.

So those are our plans for this summer! Growing a little person and doing a lot of bedroom design. It will be cool to see how the kids’ rooms come together, and we’ll definitely keep you updated on their progress.

What are your summer plans? Working on your house or outdoor space? Relaxing at home? Going on vacation? Let us know in the comments!

(linked on Remodelaholic)

Links may contain affiliates.

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June 25, 2014