Disclaimer: we aren't professionals

Thanks for reading our silly little blog! As the disclaimer says, we aren't professionals in either blogging or house stuff, but we try. This is mostly to let our friends and family know what we've destroyed so far in the house. We post irregularly and usually forget to take pictures, so thanks for your patience, and please feel free to comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Veggie Tales: building a planter box

Because we are a bunch of tree-hugging hippies*, Chris wanted to have a garden somewhere in the backyard so we could grow vegetables (like tomatoes, which is weird because he only eats them in ketchup, salsa, or sauce form, and not even chunky sauce).

*(Chris has informed me that
i am the sustainabilitist
you are a normal person
with good intent")

Unfortunately, the backyard is shady due to the eleventybillion pine trees, and gardens like full sun. I have noticed that our deck is sunny (and that there is a stump next to it, so it is probably only recently sunny). So we were like hey, let's make a garden on/near the deck! And so the idea of a planter box was born.

The easiest and cheapest way to get the size we needed was to find some plans to build our own. A quick google search revealed this site. Most of the stuff on there is irrelevant, but this lady had made her own urban garden container and has plans available for free download. This particular box is 6' x 2', which is a lot bigger than most of the other plans, which are basically for making window boxes.

We downloaded the plans and modified them a little to suit our needs. She used redwood, which is a) expensive and b) I'm a hippie National-Geographic-reading tree-hugger who doesn't want to encourage the harvest of redwoods. Therefore we just used pressure-treated wood. Because we don't want chemicals leaching into the soil and our veggies, we decided to line the box with plastic sheeting and put trim over the top to hide the staples. The bottom is supposed to be made out of fence planks. Since we need to leave gaps for drainage, and we still don't want chemicals getting into the soil, we'll use cedar planks over charcoal-fiberglass screen mesh so that soil doesn't fall out through the cracks for drainage, but also that it isn't in contact with any fiberglass stuff. We would have just used landscape fabric, but it was about 3x the cost of the window screen.

Ok! So here are pics of the building process!

Plans from teh interwebz


Mighty miter saw

Boards being laid out (sort of). I cut those boards myself! 

See?! Now I know how to use a miter saw! I am unstoppable! (and safe: glasses, check; earplugs, check; pink work gloves, check!)

We laid the boards out for the sides of the box and screwed some side supports in

The ribs will be on the insides of the box

Attaching the short ends to the long sides. Again, note the awesome pink work gloves. Chris will never mistake them for his gloves. Also, we really need to epoxy that garage floor cuz it's splotchy green all over. Yuck. 

We flipped it over, put some 2x4s on the long sides to hold the cedar fence planks, attached 4x4 legs underneath the 2x4s, and flipped it back over.

You can see the lip formed by the 2x4s, and the inside corner supports.

The legs are attached using these 90-degree angle bracket thingies and exterior 2-1/2" screws. They're each 2' long, which means when they are resting on pavers on the ground, the bottom of the box will be just about level with the deck.

Here I've started to put the 4-mil clear plastic sheeting on the inside of the box. It's stapled top and bottom, and will be covered by 1x2 trim on the top and by the cedar fence planks on the bottom. 

So that's all the work I've done so far. I still need to:
  • plastic-ify the long sides
  • staple the screen on the bottom
  • cut and nail in the cedar planks
  • add the top trim
  • paint the outside of the box (probably not the legs, it's not worth it)
  • move it to beside the deck
  • fill with soil
  • plant seeds
  • ... etc. etc. to infinity and beyond

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kitchen decoration - I changed my mind

When we first started looking at the unfinished oak cabinetry, we were like "yeah, these could be stained really prettily, and then people will know they're real wood instead of laminate or something". I bought sample stain cans, and tested a few, and decided they were not quite what I had envisioned. I feel like the really distinct oak grain would give the cabinets a more country or rustic look. While oak is gorgeous in the right space, as is dark-stained wood, I don't think the combination would be right for our kitchen because of 1) its size and 2) the grain. Dark stained cherry is very pretty, but it has a less distinct grain pattern. Maple or birch with a clear varnish is also gorgeous, and modern, but again both of those have very subtle grains. The size of the kitchen is small, and it's enclosed by walls, so we need something that will make it seem light and open and airy.

The new kitchen cabinet idea is: painted white cabinets! Classic, bright, easy to clean, and they can go either traditional or contemporary. So now we'll have black appliances and white cabinets. We're looking for a laminate countertop that can bring those two together. We were thinking a black-gray-white granite-look laminate like this:
"Granite" from Wilsonart
However, then I found these pretty cheap mosaic glass tiles for the backsplash:
They incorporate my original colors of red and green, but not yellow. So yellow is out of the kitchen design scheme. I like these tiles because they're small (only 3/4" each) and a sheet (1 square foot) only costs $6. They will tie in with the white cabinets, with the tan floor tiles, and once I paint the walls green, they'll match the walls too. If green is too much for the new owner, they can paint the walls beige, or white. They can strip the paint off our cabinets and have the cabinets match the wood tones in the tile. There are many options!

The trouble is, the beige does NOT go well with the pink in the laminate. I have samples of both the tile and the laminate, and it's awful. So we're going to keep looking.

Home Depot has 3 colors of stock countertops. Using the stock colors, we could get counters for less than $200. Here's one that might work for us:
This one is nice but has bits of green-blue. We definitely like the darker look, though, to provide contrast with the cabinets and to match the appliances. 
Lowe's has a bit wider selection. Here's a grainy picture I took with my cell phone: 

That middle one, the grayish with beige, might work. I'll have to take my tile sample with me and check it out.
Another option is Ikea's stock countertop Pragel, which is just black and white speckled. A 96" section is only $70. I haven't looked at it in a while, so I'm not sure of the quality, but we'll have to swing by Ikea soon anyway to pick up some outdoor furniture for the cookout.
Finally, the wall color will be something like this:
I've tested Spring Leaf already, and it's not quite so lime. I've also tested its darker tone, Granny Smith Apple, which matches the tile perfectly but is a little too dark to do a whole room in. I haven't tried Spring Cactus yet, which has a little more blue, or Celery Sticks, which comes recommended by younghouselove.
Because samples are only $3 each, I'll go ahead and get those two and check it out. Also, these are Glidden colors, which I mostly chose because they have these awesome testers:
Brush included, eggshell finish, $3 a pop. They cover enough space so you can see them on different walls, in different light conditions. Can't get better than that!

So in summary:
- white cabinets
- black appliances
- black/gray/white/tan countertops
- tan/white/green/red mosaic tile backsplash
- red small appliances (stand mixer, coffee maker, toaster)
- green walls
- tan ceramic floor tiles

Deck layout plans

I just whipped up this pretty picture for you all to see my grand plans for the deck.

We're bringing benches back to part of where they used to be. We're going to get a 11'-triangle sun shade (only $30, vs. > $100 for even a cheap umbrella). When they go on clearance at the end of summer, we'll get a deck box for storing outdoor stuff. Chris wants to get a nice little Weber grill, so we're watching Craigslist for those. The hammock and pergola thing is kind of far away now; obviously we'll have to get the inside of the house done before attempting that. The planter box is already built; I'll update on that later. It'll go off the deck, resting on pavers on the ground, but it will be close enough to the deck to work on it from there. It'll also serve as a barrier. The table we can make ourselves, just using pressure-treated lumber.

Top view:
Side view (looking to the left if you're standing by the door to the kitchen):
Side view (looking to the right):
Front view (looking out of the kitchen window or french doors):

Also, the colors shown here are probably what we'll end up using. They may or may not happen to be Georgia Tech colors...
Behr solid deck stain: $26/gallon (oof) but should cover the many imperfections of the aged wood. Beige-y color for the deck itself only
White paint for the benches
Navy blue paint for the planter
Maybe yellow paint for the table? Like a gold-beige maybe.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Deck benches and more

Once the drywalling in the corner room was finished, I couldn't really contribute to fixing that and doing the hardwood floor and stuff, so I have claimed the beautification of the deck as my pet project. It started out like this:

Then I took the benches off. Several boards were rotting, as were the boxes on the corners. They ended up as this pile of scrap wood:

Now we were left with the 2x4 railings, which our inspector had told us was too wide for code. So, I looked up the International Residential Code, which said you should have a railing height of 36" (check), it should be able to take some huge number of pounds (probably check, I wasn't going to throw myself against the railing or anything), and spaces between the ballusters must be 4" or less. Woops. Ours are a tad farther than that. However, the code also said that for decks where the ground is less than 30" from the top of the deck surface, no railing is needed. I double-checked Cobb county code, and they said nothing about modifications to that rule. At the highest part (over there on the left of the above pic), the deck surface is about 29" from the ground. If we plant anything there in a raised bed, it'll be higher.

So basically, we don't need a railing all the way around the deck. However, we do want deck benches. We have a few choices:
- build freestanding benches that you can move around (kind of unstable)
- build benches that require you to cut a hole in the decking for the 4x4 support (fine for new construction, but hard to do for ours)
- build benches using premade brackets (you supply the 2x4s, and pay for the brackets)

I think we're going to go with the deck brackets. There are two kinds, resin and steel. Resin looks like this when assembled:

This type has to be spaced 2 ft apart, with 1 ft on each end (those are the maximum recommended distances). So, for a corner with 10 ft of bench on either side, we'll need 10 brackets, or 5 2-packs @ $30 a pack from Northern Tool or amazon.com.

The second type, steel, looks like this:

They have to be spaced 4 ft apart, with one at the corner. Basically it'll be $24 for the corner bracket, then $20 for each additional 3-4 ft of length we want after that. So We could do 12-ft benches on either side for $144, or 8 ft for $104. We'd buy them here.

So we get to pick our favorite from those. We'll cover the rest of the edges of the deck with one of those plastic storage boxes for cushions and whatnot, a hammock/pergola, the grill, and my other pet project, the vegetable planter box. That way, even though we don't need a railing, we'll still have some barrier between us and the 2.5 feet to the ground. I'll post a planned layout shortly, plus more on the planter box.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Garage Drainage Problem

It has been about two weeks since I last posted (thank you grad school...).

One of the spring break posts that I left off was the work that we did in order to address the flooding issue in the garage. Basically, every time it rained hard, water would make its way into the garage and puddle at the low spots in the concrete pad. Part of it appeared to be coming through the south wall where there was not much of a slope on the outside. Water could just puddle up next to the footing and seep through the siding. Part of the water was able to make it close enough to the corner of the garage door where the slope of the concrete pad unfortunately faced into the garage. There was also a little bit of water making it through at the south-west corner.

I originally thought the major flooding was coming in under the garage door and felt that the best solution was a drainage trough with a grate running across the top to allow cars to drive over. This would run about $300 for a DIY job but would require renting a concrete saw, 10 bags of Quikrete and a bunch of carefully made forms to set the trough shape. The other $150 or so would be spent on the plastic grate material (which is surprisingly expensive, even simple metal grating is expensive).

After discussing the water issue, we felt that more of the water contribution was actually due to the water puddling at the corner and along the south wall. We decided to slope the ground down and away from the foundation almost like a "U-shape". The neighbor's yard already formed half of the "U" as it met my side area. My DIY landscaping book suggests an 1" drop for every foot for the eight feet immediately adjacent to he foundation.

We also had to move the water coming from the gutters since the down spout brought about 1/4 of the water that landed on the roof. The idea was to use the black corrugated pipe to move the water around to the backyard. I kept pushing the french drain design but and bought 3 ten foot sections of the slitted corrugated pipe. After realizing that I had not purchased enough and that, since our "U" channel would effectively move all the run-off water to the backyard and down to the city drainage, I bought a 100' roll of the solid black corrugated pipe that we would bury the entire length. We buried the pipe about 12" deep and shot for a 1" drop every 24". Needless to say, the trench became very deep by the time we hit the backyard fence. I don't have Annie's camera at school with me right now so I will edit this post tomorrow morning and add the photos that we took. I will also include the list of purchased items and the total bill.

One thing that I have in mind for the roof water is to capture the back half of the house's rain water in a pair of 55 gallon barrels (now marketed as rain barrels if you want to pay $100 or more). I want to tie these two barrels together (even though the distance between the two is pretty crazy) and use a pump tied to a sensor switch and a battery to water our vegetable garden and plants around the perimeter of the house. The best part is that I want to run the battery/pump system with a small set of solar panels mounted at the south east end of the house. I can't guarantee that the rain in the summer will be enough to keep the entire system off-the-county-water-grid, but it should do quite well for the rest of the year.

I'll update this post with photos and play catch up with the rest of the work that has happened over the last two weeks soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Roof Decking Patch Job

Dad and I focused on replacing a section of decking on the roof that I had mostly stepped through the weekend I purchased the house. Dad was headed home around 3, so we were trying to get things done efficiently that day. This turned out to be a rather fast repair. Roofing and roof patching is a lot easier than I imagined. We started by finding the perimeter of the area that we wanted to focus on. After finding those shingles that we were going to take out, we delicately lifted up the nails of the shingles directly above them and overlapping them from the sides. I am postponing the full re-roofing until May-June because we may need to change the location of the plumbing vents. If we move those, we are going to have to install new decking and drill new holes for the locations.

After we had all of the shingles off the roof within the perimeter, we inspected the decking section of where I stepped through. I did not have a camera on me at this point so, once again, I missed out on a few important shots for this post. The secondary bathroom vent flashing had leaked in the past and it ran down the truss under the decking. This led to rot in the decking near the soffit. Dad used the circular saw to cut the decking out. We measured out a 48"x48" piece and made sure one edge was a seam to the truss. We then cut out some 2x4s to attach to the trusses so that we had somewhere to nail the new decking to. Unfortunately, being a home built in the 70s (they sure were cheap back then), all of the decking on the home is 1/2" plywood. Fortunately, I still had enough plywood left over from repairing the rotted corner that I could use on the roof. I have a feeling that there will be a few more sheets of plywood going onto the roof to replace decking damage when we re-roof the house (mainly where it has bowed a fair amount; using 3/4" decking will help to avoid this if you build a house anytime soon).

The following picture shows the decking in place:

You can see the flashing directly above the section of plywood that caused the leak and the rot. We went to Home Depot and purchased a bundle of shingles and a roll of underlayment. We nailed the underlayment down in a few places to keep it in place. We then started from the roof edge and shingled towards the top. It only took about 25 minutes to reshingle the job and the only thing that slowed us down was weaving the top section back into the existing shingles. We used a roof caulk (some type of tar caulk) to seal any tears that we caused while working with the older adjacent shingles and then sealed the flashing to ensure that a future leak would not return. We weren't too worried about the shingle color because it will be replaced again when we go to re-roof in May. The following picture shows the finished product:

The entire project took a total of about an hour and required the following materials:
  • Bundle of shingles - $21
  • Half of a 4x8 sheet of 1/2 plywood - free from the other project
  • Tar paper - $21 (still a ton left over for some of the work on re-roofing)
  • 1 1/4" roofing nails - $3 (again, lots leftover for more shingles)
  • 8d decking nails - $8.50 (lots of these too)
  • Roofing caulk - $4
This comes to a total of about $55. Several of these items will be re-utilized on the re-roofing project. No more roof leaking or rot damage to the truss or ceiling!