Friday, November 7, 2014

0 Hire-it-Done - Crushed Asphalt Driveway

This is not a DIY post, nor is this an ad. This is just us being ecstatic to have a functioning driveway that doesn't flood dirt into the garage every time it rains. To have a driveway you can enter from the street without feeling like your car is going to break in half. To have a driveway that I don't have to mow parts of. It's an amazing feeling, and we owe it all to Gravel Graders.

I don't have a lot of "before" pictures of the driveway, cause what kind of weirdo stands around taking pictures of his crappy driveway? But that's what Google Street View is for. So our driveway, after two years of living here, had become mostly sand, and it had eroded from the road down toward the house in such spectacular volume that we discovered drain pipes that came from the road and ran down to connect to the drains in the south side cement pad and in front of the garage. Also at some point, the city had built up a curb on the side of the road, so that when you entered our driveway, there was at least a 3" drop, which might not sound like a lot, but when you turned in, you definitely knew it.  On top of that, the grass had started to take over the entire section in front of the garage, and it's weird mowing your driveway.

After last winter, we knew we had to do something to correct this issue. So we called up a couple gravel companies to get quotes on crushed concrete. The first one we got back actually quoted us for paved asphalt. At $11,000. So we knew what we WEREN'T going to do.

Then I talked to someone at our Home & Garden Show, a landscaper who told me he'd buzz in there and spread some crushed concrete as a favor, get it done in a day and only charge me for materials and a little bit for his time, all in all costing about $1,600. But days turned into weeks, into months, and our back and forth phone calls had me worried he was too busy to get it done. I got a phone call that it was happening the following day and it didn't. When I called, he said he'd be back the next week. That was the last I heard from him. Because it was a favor, I understand, but I just wish it had been communicated - just as simple as "I know I said I could, but I'm busier than I thought I'd be, so you shouldn't wait on me to do it." But alas, nothing.

So at this point it's October, and we're feeling the pressure to get this thing done. We get two new quotes, one from a company that does crushed concrete and another, Gravel Graders, that does crushed asphalt. The photos and testimonials from the crushed asphalt had me really intrigued, and at just over $3k for either option, it was hard to decide. I looked at the testimonials page for Gravel Graders, and there was a company name along with one of the names, so I looked that up and called the guy. He said it'd been two years since they did it, it has held up really well, and although it got pitted in some spots, Gravel Graders came out and fixed it for free. The other thing that sold me was how personable the owner of Gravel Graders, Jim, was, and how responsive he was. It became clear that it was his business, he did the work himself, and he really knew what he was doing. When I called, I spoke to Jim. When I emailed, it was Jim responding. I was sold. We put half down and booked our time.

On Wednesday, November 5 at 7am, Jim pulled in the driveway with his equipment and we went over the plan. Get rid of all the sod, square up the ends so that it lines up with a couple of pads on the north and south ends of the house, and fix the grading. I had no worries.

When I arrived home that night, I found a perfectly dug out, refilled and graded driveway ready for a top layer of crushed asphalt. It was smooth and shaped. Even just seeing this stage was great - it was so clean.

On Thursday morning, Jim was back, this time with his dad, and they got to work spreading the asphalt. Becky said they were very meticulous, dropping piles, moving it, taking some back out, dumping again - it was clear they were taking great care in making sure it was done right.

Pulling in the driveway that night, I was amazed at how smooth the transition from the road was, and how defined and smooth the driveway was. Walking on it, although it's loose, it's much different from crushed concrete - softer and more compacted for a really nice finish. The edges are clean, not unclear or messy. 16 year old me would be pissed at how excited I am about a driveway.

In other news, that truck up there is my new ride. It's a 2009 Chevrolet Colorado, and it's fantastic. Becky hates the topper, but when you have a guitar player that decides to drive a sedan that doesn't fit any cabs, sometimes you gotta be band dad and buy a sensible automobile.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

0 Vintage Bass Drum Chandeliers

A while back (a LONG while back), I purchased these vintage bass drums from Craigslist for $25 for all. Not each - ALL.


I was sad to see that the White Marine Pearl ones were so badly UV damaged, but one was beyond repair, so I gave the other to the man that tipped me off to the sale, long time friend of the family Bill Vits, percussionist extraordinaire.

The rest I thought I'd make tables, light fixtures, etc. But time and budget constraints caused me to leave them in a pile for a while, slowly realizing that as much as I'd like to create more things and make some money on them, the smarter play would be to pick the few I want to keep, and sell the rest off to friends for cheap, so they could make their own creations.

My first thought was to create two matching chandeliers for the band garage, and since the blue drums were not the same on the inside (one has a grey graphite look) the only other two matching drums were the red sparkle.

I started by removing all the hardware and washing everything. The wrap on one of the drums was pretty badly cracked at 3 seams, but not so bad that it wasn't still worth working with.

I then needed a chandelier to suspend within the drum. I headed to Habitat for Humanity ReStore, thinking I could find some hideous chandelier to strip down to just the basics - after all, it would be inside the shell, so you wouldn't really see it.

I was so lucky to find two matching black chandeliers for $10 each:

All the horrible ornamental stuff was easily unscrewed so all I was left with was a downrod, three square arms, lights and the wiring. They couldn't have been more perfect. Also, the ends of the arms were threaded, so I could use threaded rod to attach to the drum. I didn't end up taking that last step, since finding fine threaded rod of the same size proved impossible without special ordering, but I think if I had to do it over again, I might take the time to do so.

My first obstacle was figuring out a way to suspend the drums from the ceiling, since they were after all made of wood, and not as easily hung as your typical fabric shade. For this, I contacted recent buddy Dan Faires of HGTV, who we had at our Home & Garden Show, and was a genius at refinishing and repurposing things. Without him, this project would have ended up SO much more complicated.

The dude is so awesome, he sent me a rendering of what he would do:

Using simple cable and ferrule stop sets, I would be able to suspend them from the ceiling via an eye hook into the ceiling joist, and then run power through conduit to each drum, without having to tear apart the ceiling drywall.

Some of the drums came with these handy hooks that were presumably used to attach the drums to a shoulder harness for marching band, but worked very well for my purposes, since they were open-ended, and I could just slide a hook of wire over it instead of having to loop wire in mid-air.  I counted the spaces between the lugs, and found three spots evenly spaced to drill holes and put the hooks in place.

Next came figuring out how ferrules worked. I had bought 3/16" wire from Lowes, that claimed to be able to handle 160lbs each (I believe), and the drums are only like 25 lbs maybe, so I figured that'd be safe enough!

I started by snipping the wire to 6 exact lengths of 36", which would put the drums about 8' off the ground. I then threaded the wire through the double ferrule, through the hook and then through the other side of the double ferrule, and then added the stop to the end. Then, there's a special crimp tool you can use, but I just used a pair of Vise grips to crimp the stop onto the end of the wire. I repeated for both ends of all 6 wires, being careful to make them as close to the same crimp spot as possible.

Our ceiling was still drywall/mud, so I could easily see where the ceiling joists were, so I marked where I would drill the holes, measuring evenly from each wall, and measuring up so they were on the same line as the current junction box, and the conduit could go straight over.

Drum #1 went up with little hassle, as did the second. They looked fantastic. Now the hard part - adding the chandeliers.

I decided that since I had the hooks, and there were hooks on the chandelier arms, that I'd just use the same wire concept to suspend the chandelier within the drum.

I also had a plug from a lamp laying around, so I attached that with some wire nuts and plugged it into a wall outlet just to be sure the lights actually worked, and both of them did!

Finally, I added a steel junction box over top of the existing box, just so the conduit would have something flush to go into, and ran conduit to both hooks. Then I fished new wire through, hooked everything together and flipped the switch.

One thing I was afraid of was there not being enough light, since most shades are transparent. But with 6 total bulbs, and the drums being so large, the room is brighter than it's ever been.

Now I just have to make the rest of the room look as good as these lights...

Monday, August 25, 2014

0 Thrift Store Finds

I'm a thrift store addict. BUT, I'm have a manageable addiction. I'm luckily addicted only to the hunt, but not with the thrill of buying everything I can just cause it's a great deal. I can justify my purchases because I have a vision, and can let things go if they don't work out. In some cases I hoard, but there is always an eventual purge.

Last week, I found a tall end table for the front door for $15, a set of speakers for $12 and a pair of floating shelves for $10/ea, and they all had a place almost immediately.

We were originally going to use the shelves in Ollie's room, but then we moved a bunch of stuff around, adding some furniture (including this mini hutch we got from one of Becky's coworkers), and ultimately not thinking they'd fit.

So then we thought maybe next to the mirror by the kitchen, but while I held them up on the wall, Becky thought it'd feel too crowded.

So we walked around the main floor, holding them up to different walls, trying to figure it out. THEN, I held them up in the little nook by the desk, and thought it was perfect.  I put a couple coats of polyurethane on them and put them up on the wall.

Then I remembered the speakers. They were shallow enough for these shelves (almost like they were meant for it), AND the location was such that the receiver for the stereo was right on the other side of the wall, so I could wire them up without showing any wires at all. It was destiny.

I put the speakers on the shelves, stepped back to make sure they were in the right locations, made a mark in the center (where the connections would be made to the back of the speakers), and measured. I measured up from the floor and over from the left wall, so that I had my coordinates. On the other side is speakers, records, and all sorts of other things I could drill right into if I wasn't careful. I took the same coordinates to the music room and made sure the coast was clear. I also made sure there was not a stud in either location - drilling right through a stud would be no good. Then I took a looooong 1/4" bit I had acquired somewhere along the way and drilled a hole straight through. If I didn't have such a bit, I could have measured really carefully and drill on both sides. I then took a disassembled coat hanger (since I don't have a fish tape), taped the speaker wire to the end of the coat hanger using electrical tape and guided it through the wall. Electrical tape is the best because it's sticky (but not too sticky), strong and thin enough to not add too much bulk.

I then attached the ends to the speakers, pulled the excess through, cut off what was not needed, and added to the receiver. Tested, and they both work wonderfully.

They have a little hollow vintage sound to them that is best for old country records, but not great for heavy bass, but for being small, I was surprised as to how great they actually sound. Mostly they look great!

That started me on getting this little area more in order, so I finished off the bead board on the side of the stairs and added the baseboards. I also added a couple of frames next to the shelves to sort of round out that wall.

Once again I'll say that the bead board SHOULD HAVE gone on before the stair treads, so learn from my mistake if you ever have to do this. My work in this area will look okay, but it's not ideal, and it'll be one of those things that will haunt me every time I look at it.

We still need to paint the bead board and add some other little things, like this Pinterest idea I'm implementing:

We picked two up from IKEA, and I'm skipping the stain step and just adding a couple coats of poly to match the floating shelves.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

0 Fix the Dang Roof!

In the band garage, we had some spattering of mold on the wall, which is why we tore the drywall out a couple weeks ago. Luckily it was just surface mold, but it was pretty obvious it came from some failures in the roof - the water running down the joists and onto the drywall. So I called up my good friend Larry, who's father, Andy, owns and operates Kole Roofing, and he said he and I could get it done in a couple of days on some weekend, so I waited for the call.

This past weekend, he finally had time, so my Friday and Saturday were spent on the roof of the garage!

PLEASE NOTE: this post is not meant as a how-to. This is one of those projects that is best left to the pros - I was assisting Larry, but by no means would I have done this myself. This was a pretty straight-forward repair with no flashing needed or anything like that. You may use this information to do small repairs, but do not attempt to reshingle your roof without the supervision of a professional. I've also recently had an acquaintance fall off a roof and break most of his body, so even if you get brave and want to attempt this, PLEASE be careful.  Alright, enough disclaimers.

The part of the roof we worked on is part of the original house, so there were two layers of shingles to remove. Judging by the amount of granules in the gutters, the top layer was really starting to give. The great thing about the house is that we're able to do the roof in sections instead of having to get it all done at once. We also took Andy's advice and went with a dark gray shingle instead of the brown, which is going to look fantastic when the whole thing is done.

To start, they brought in a Skytrak to get the shingles up onto the roof, cause carrying them up a ladder is way old school.

We were planning on starting on Saturday, but it called for rain all day, so we decided to do the tear off on Friday evening instead. I'm glad we did - that split the job up into two days instead of one long day.

Larry determined our starting point based on where the garage met the house, then we grabbed our tear off tools, and started pulling up the first layer.

You can see the layer underneath was in bad shape, hence them adding a layer on top. We worked our way down with narrow rows of shingles so they'd be easy to toss into the dump trailer, but then we got what Larry referred to as a "super roll" going - which although effective and quick at the time, pulling it apart to toss over the side was not as fun.

We moved onto the second layer, and the tar paper underneath, and started discovering the weak points.

There were several spots where the plywood had separated from the nails, and created some gaps, but most didn't appear to have any water damage. Then we found the spots.

This was about halfway up, and maybe 4 square feet, just enough to be problematic. The other was near the edge of the roof, and not quite as bad, and not really worthy of  a photo. The whole tear off took maybe 2-3 hours, which was pretty amazing. We called it a night and started in again bright and early Saturday morning.

Saturday - 9am. Not super early, but I'm not standing on a roof at 7am - I need to be awake and have some balance before I get up there. \

For both weak spots, we broke out the circular saw, set the depth to 1/2", and cut it out. The one above we cut to be 4'x4', just to be sure we got all the rotting, and the other was about 2'x8', so we could use one 4'x8' sheet and patch both holes using a pneumatic nail gun.

We then took the nail gun around and inspected all the other seams and made sure any that were popped out were nailed back in place.

Once the base was all secure, we rolled out a couple rows of ice and water shield at the edge of the roof, and DiamondDeck underlayment on the rest using staple hammers, which are awesome, and although I have no reason to own one, I still want one.

Larry added the drip edge around the perimeter, and then it was time to start laying shingles. The first row is no fun, since I hate being on the edge, even when it's only 6 feet to the ground (because of the berm on the side of the garage), but once we got the initial row out of the way, just like flooring, it was a breeze.

To start, I had to cut a couple of starter sets using the 6-12-18-12-6 rule, where I would cut a shingle at 6", and put the two pieces in separate piles, then the next at 12", and so on. That way the seam is staggered as you move down the roof, instead of having the seam in the same place every other row.

We had two nail guns, and the shingles have this blue line on them to show you exactly where you should place the nail, and again, just like flooring, the outer nails should be close to the seam, and then two more in the middle, so each full shingle gets 4 nails. Before I knew it, we were done.

The worst parts of this project were the tear off and the clean up afterward, as a result of the tear off. Applying the roof was actually quite fun, and although I was sore, it was way worth it. I love that the new shingles mute the siding, making it more gray and less tan. The shingles are also double thick and the color varies, so it hides dips in the framing more than the brown did.

Overall we're very happy with it, and can't wait to get the rest done, but it will have to wait till next year!

Friday, August 15, 2014

0 All the Small Things 2014

With all the big DIY stuff outta the way, and the big hire-it-done things on the way, we're starting to focus on the smaller things around the house, and this past week was all about closets and lighting.

We had always planned on doing something with the bedroom closets, but we weren't sure what. Originally, two of them had the wire Rubbermaid shelving that somehow continues to be the most popular solution, and mirrored sliding doors. Neither were our style - they reminded me of the apartments on campus.

I didn't want to spend a fortune on closet systems just because I didn't like the look of the norm, but I also didn't know how to design the closets so that they would be most efficient as the kids grew up and not have to change them again and again.  So I started with just basic shelving and a curtain rod in the new nursery.

I bought 8' 1x2s and 8' x 16" x 3/4" white melamine shelf boards, mimicking what I did in the pantry. I cut the shelves down to the right length using a circular saw and some painters tape - this was a trick I learned from our friend Dave (used to own a great bar called Jukes that really gave a good push to all the bands I was in the past 6 years) who told us that if you put the tape over the cut line, it reduces splintering and cracking when working with plywood or melamine.

I also bought just a basic primed bifold closet door system - the problem I had with the sliding doors, aside from the gold and mirrors, was that you could only access one side at a time. I like the bifold so you can get the full width of the closet at once.

Since we moved the changing table into nursery #2, we put the extra changing pad on Ollie's dresser, and I added a shelf in his closet, and with one board left, I added one in the spare room as well.

I love that all three closets already had lighting in them with switches. Much thanks to the original builder for those.

Speaking of lighting, this house has an unbelievable amount of lighting in it. Most of it we don't use because they're just your typical "nipple" lights, but I really believe that a great light fixture can make a room.

Our good friend Marisa reminds us why they're called nipple lights with this illustration:

Let's start with the music room.

Super old photo, I know, but it's the only one where I caught the old light. We were walking through IKEA, and walking through the lamp section looking for bedside table lamps, my eye immediately was drawn to this huge hanging shade, the NYMĂ–, and I had to have it. The music room deserved to have a statement piece in it, and this was it. We bought the shade for $35, picked up a mini pendant light from Lowes for $18 (they sell mix-and-match, so you can buy the light without a shade), and we had an awesome statement piece.

Now for the entryway.

Again, super old photo, but here's one of the flush mount lights.

Probably 10 years ago, I found a pair of diner-style lights at a garage sale or thrift store or something - it's been so long I can't even remember. I bought them knowing I'd someday have a house worth putting them in,. so I've been storing them all this time, and they've been in the back of my mind through this whole renovation process. Originally, the chains were long enough to hang down nearly 3 feet, but because we don't have raised ceilings, I just took out all but two links and it worked perfectly.

And lastly, there's been a light above the stairway that we never use, and with the new look of the stairs, and how that was designed with that big open atrium, it also deserved a cooler light.

Once again, we bought a hanging light about a year ago that I'd been holding onto, looking for somewhere to put it, and now that the railings were in, I was able to actually put the Little Giant on the stairs and reach this junction box without fear of the ladder slipping. I can't recommend this ladder enough - they have them on Woot all the time for much cheaper, but honestly even if you pay full price, it'll be worth it. You can climb both sides, the sides raise up independently (so you can use it on uneven surfaces, like STAIRS!), and it folds completely out so you can use it as an extension ladder. This is not a sponsored post, I just love the damn thing, and it makes jobs so much easier.

Usually I don't use touched-up photos on here, but with the window, it was really hard to get a clear image of the light without boosting some highlights and contrast. The clear glass and Edison bulb are great. Again, the chain was too long, but we opted to add a hook to shorten it up, since the location of the junction box was not ideal anyway, and gave us a chance to better center up the light in the opening.

Now, if the rain holds out, we'll be roofing the band garage tomorrow, and hopefully adding some very cool chandeliers using the drum shells I picked up for super cheap on Craigslist. Stay tuned!


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