Disclaimer: I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago, but I kept forgetting to post it!

I decided to start the new year off right with finishing a project that has been going on almost since we bought our house. 

I don't have many great photos of the upper stairs from before we moved in, but they weren't in the best condition.  They were plywood, which had obviously been covered with carpet at some point, and then ripped off and refinished in an unattractive orange/brown stain. 

Very early in the renovation process, we started sanding the stairs, with the hope of refinishing them.  Unfortunately, there was a lot of water damage on the bottom two steps, and we had a hard time sanding it away. 

Eventually we just gave up, and went on to other projects, pushing the stairs out of our minds as much as you can ignore something that you see every day. 

Three years passed, and we ignored the stairs.  Until one day, a friend of mine redid her stairs, and they looked amazing.  I was so jealous, and also impressed.  She had a whole flight of stairs and I only had six!  Why was it taking me so long?  I'm nothing if not competitive, so I decided that it was time.

Matt and I talked about it, and he finally convinced me to use stair caps instead of trying to sand and re-stain the stairs.  I'm so glad he did, because the finished product looks so amazing.

We had to cut off the noses of the current stairs, which we did with a circular saw.  Since the saw didn't cut to the edges, we chiseled the rest of the wood off.  During this time I realized how fun chiseling is, and I'm sad I haven't had a chance to do it before now.  Our stairs were very creaky, so Matt sunk some screws down, and now they are much quieter. 

Next, we cut the treads to the width of the stairs using a miter saw, and cut the depth with a table saw.  This was probably the most difficult part.  It took about three hours to cut the 6 treads and risers to size.  We had to do this part in order from bottom to top, so that we could get the measurements for each subsequent stair.  We made sure to write the number of the stair on the back of the pieces, so it was easy to remember for later.

After the treads and risers were cut, I stained and painted them.  It was easier to do this before they were installed, because I didn't have to worry about it drying or running or the dogs trying to go up and down the stairs.

It took 3 coats of stain to get the color I wanted, and I also did 3 coats of white paint on the risers.  While I was working on the caps, Matt was filling the holes left by the previous treads, and sanding down the trim a little bit, to give in a newer look.

I painted the trim around the stairs before installing the stairs, and it already looked so much better.

Finally, we were ready to install the stairs.  I borrowed a nail gun from a friend, and we got to work.  Once everything was set up, installation went very smoothly.  We worked from bottom to top, spreading a generous amount of liquid nails over the stair surface before attaching the wood caps.  Then we added the nails.  We used 4 for the risers, and 6 for the treads.  Luckily, because of all our prep work, this part went very smoothly, and we finished in about an hour. 

After the stairs were installed, we still had to caulk around the edges of the boards, fill in the nail holes, and add a coat of polyurethane to the treads.  I wanted to do this after it was installed so the nail holes would be filled in, and hopefully not as noticeable.   

After all of that, our stairs are finally finished!  I'm so happy to have them done, and I keep staring at them when I pass by.  Now all we need to do is finish the banisters, and the stairs will really be done!


Happy New Year!!!

I hope everyone had a great holiday season!

It seems like all I write on here anymore are my new years goals!  Last year I started grad school, and I greatly underestimated how much it would take over my life.  After two semesters of extreme stress, I adjusted my plan of study, and I think I've found a balance between work, school, and life.  Unfortunately because of this, I wasn't able to fulfill a lot of my goals for 2014.  But this is 2015, and I have a feeling it's going to be a great year!

Here are the goals I've set in 2015:

- Maintain at least a 3.5 GPA.  Pretty self-explanatory.

- Give 5 speeches for Toastmasters, get my Competent Leadership award, and finally organize the finances.  I've been the Treasurer for 2 years, and everything is still a mess in the box that the previous Treasurer handed me. 

Complete all of my half-done house projects.  Oh, there are so many.  The banisters and stairs, the backyard renovation, the built-ins.  I am very bad almost finishing a project and then moving on to the next thing.  I want 2015 to be the year of finishing what I started. 

- Run a half marathon.  This was one of my incomplete goals from last year.  I just didn't have time to train because of my crazy school schedule.  But I've been running more recently, and I think I can handle it this year. 

- Stick to meal planning.  I did really good at the beginning of 2014, but once again, once school got crazy I kind of gave up, and started eating more frozen foods and quick meals.  I want to start cooking and eating real food again.

- Be better about staying in touch with people.  I generally like to stick to goals that are quantifiable, but this is important to me.  I've always been bad at keeping in touch with people I don't see on a regular basis, but it doesn't mean I don't want contact!  I'm going to try to keep in better touch with people.

So there it is!  My 2015 goals.  Does anyone else have any goals for the new year?  How did you do on your goals for 2014?


Major Backyard Update - Part 2

Matt and I have had a super busy summer.  I had two very time consuming classes, and Matt was working a lot of nights and weekends.  But in between all of that we were still able to put some work into the backyard, mostly during this past week.  We took off of work and spent most of the time trying to get our backyard in order.  We were able to get a lot done, and we're much closer to our new and improved patio.  Here's what we've done so far:

I'm really happy with how much we've gotten done.  We've definitely been able to cross a lot off of our list.  

Backyard Project List:
-Move a/c unit (this is the one thing we hired out - don't want to mess with Freon!)
-clean, sand, and stain deck
-paint under deck
-replace deck railings
-replace deck stairs
-grind patio
-fill cracks in patio
-resurface patio
-build retaining wall around patio
-remove concrete walkway
-install patio addition
-complete landscaping
-replace back lights

We are planning on finishing the deck stair railings and the patio before winter.  Then next summer we'll tackle resurfacing the patio and the landscaping in the spring.  It's so nice to have a larger area to hang out!  I'm looking forward to next summer when we can enjoy the patio without having to work on it!


Major Backyard Renovation - Part 1

So for most of this year it's been radio-blog-silence from me, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy.  Actually, it means I've been so busy I haven't had much time for hobbies.  Work and grad school have been getting in the way of me having a life recently. 

However, Matt and I are determined to complete our backyard project(s) this summer.  We want to actually enjoy our backyard, and we've been working hard for the past month.  There is a long list of projects that we have lined up, but we're well on our way to getting there.  As usual, we're doing 90% of the work ourselves, so it's taking a while.  Here are the "before" photos.


Backyard Project List:
-Move a/c unit (this is the one thing we hired out - don't want to mess with Freon!)
-clean, sand, and stain deck
-paint under deck
-replace deck railings
-replace deck stairs
-grind patio
-fill cracks in patio
-resurface patio
-build retaining wall around patio
-remove concrete walkway (we may hire this out as well)
-install patio addition
-complete landscaping

Whew!  Consulting the list it doesn't seem like we've done too much, but we've done preliminary work for the stairs, and I'm very close to finishing the deck railings.  Once I remove the old stairs I can use the new paint sprayer that Matt got me for my birthday and paint the bottom lattice.  I started to paint with a brush and then realized how ridiculous I was.  The paint sprayer should be much more efficient. 

So anyway, here's what we've done:

Deck stripped with the railing removed.
Kiwi helped to get the railings ready!  Holes were drilled into the wood at 4.5" intervals, which keeps the railings to code.  The aluminum posts are .75" wide, so there is 3.75" between each baluster. 

I gave up painting the bottom by hand, but I should finish it soon with the paint sprayer.
Stained deck ready for railing!

I started by attaching all of the bottom wood rails to the posts. 

Next I put all of the aluminum balusters in the bottom rail, and lined up the balusters with the top rail.  Then I attached the top rail to the post. I will be putting a 2x6 across the tops of the rails, which will finish it.

The pressure treated wood I used for the new railings (and will use for the new stairs) takes 6-8 weeks to dry out, so I'll be staining those parts to match the rest of the deck towards the end of the summer.  If you stain the wood before it's dry the stain might peel or bubble. 

We ground down the patio and filled in the huge, and not so huge, cracks.  We will be adding a flo coat to entire patio to even it out and add a nice finish. 

So there you have it!  We are working hard, and hopefully I'll have more updates soon!


Office Redo

I think out of all of the rooms in my house, the office has been updated the most times.  It was the very first room that I painted, and I was never truly happy with the color.  I remember pouring it in the paint tray and thinking "I really hope that looks better when it's dry." 

And it did look a little bit better.  For a time.  But the longer I lived with it, and the more I got to figure out what colors I liked and my personal style, I realized that it wasn't working.  So I started trying to figure out what would work.

I've been wanting to do a dark colored ceiling for a while now, and I figured this would be the perfect time to do it.  Matt got to choose the bright orange of his band room, so I should be able to do a dark ceiling for my office.  But what color?

I bought samples of purple, green, and gray.  But in the end I decided on a gorgeous blue/green color. 

The color I ended up with on the walls is Rock Candy by Sherwin Williams.  The ceiling color is Martha Stewart's Plumage, which I had color matched to Sherwin Williams.
I installed a new semi-recessed light fixture on the ceiling.  I also added a new mirrored desk lamp, which I got at Target. 

I made the desk from several Ikea pieces.  I used 2x2 Expedit shelves for the sides, and a Linnmon table top.  I'm really happy with this, because I was looking for a large working space and a lot of storage, and this has everything I wanted.  My dad gave me the drawer inserts for Christmas, so I installed them for even more storage options.  The purple baskets are great for holding craft supplies, or will be good for school books when I start grad school this March. 

I still need to put in trim and closet doors.  I'll also probably change the window treatments, but for the moment I'm just enjoying the calming blue ceiling and massive workspace I now have. 

And really, the biggest test of a room is whether the dogs are comfortable, so I think we're good with that!