Monday, June 29, 2015

DIY Outdoor Sink for the Garden

When searching for a faucet and sink for the Master Bath renovation, I found the perfect faucet on a boring sink, and a great sink with a boring faucet. Pitsch Salvage doesn't let you split the items or swap things, so I had to buy both. After some serious work, I was able to swap the faucets, threw away the bad one (destroyed by corrosion and my attempts to remove it), and ended up with an extra sink.

Becky had suggested we use it for a bird bath, or maybe an outdoor wash station for the garden. I thought long and hard about how I could pull off the sink idea. Her birthday was last week, so it was the perfect time to complete the project.

I started with the base. I had a bunch of leftover treated 2x6 pieces from the deck project, and thought they'd work perfectly as a cube base.  I started by using my Kreg Jig to attach two boards together with pocket hole screws. 

Then I attached one side, then the other side, with pocket hole screws again.

For the bottom, I just used outdoor screws faced in. It's probably not as strong a hold as the pocket holes, but easier, and with how many screws are holding this thing together, it'll be fine.

The days following were so busy, I wasn't able to complete the project before Becky's birthday, and the day after I had to scramble to complete it so I didn't feel so bad about missing out. As a result, photos were not taken, unfortunately, but I'll walk you through it anyway - it was super easy.

The thing I was having trouble with the most was what the top would look like. Originally, I just thought the sink would sit on top of the two cubes, but I just couldn't come up with a solution of how the sink would actually stay put, since it was bigger than the actual base. Then it clicked. I had grabbed a pallet from one of the Home & Garden Shows that had no space between the slats, and was going to use it as some sort of wall hanging, but this was the perfect scenario for it. I also had a leftover treated 4x4 post that I could sink in the ground as an anchor, and decided to pick up some paver stones for the base to sit on. 

I measured the bowl of the sink, drew a rough sketch on the pallet, drilled a pilot hole and then took my jigsaw around the rough drawing. A few drop-the-sink-in-and-cut-some-more and I had it.

Next I put the pavers down (just regular concrete pavers from the big box, $1.68 apiece or something like that), put the cube base down, put the pallet on top and measured where the post should go.  I dug the post hole, putting it all back together to see how level I was each time, and finally got it to the right depth. I filled the hole around the post back in with dirt - I saw no reason to sink it with cement. 

Because it's not a treated pallet, I used a spray polyurethane on the top, just a couple of coats. I figure if we see serious wear I'll step up and do something a little more heavy duty.

I dropped the sink in, caulked around it, and added the faucet, which was our old kitchen faucet, semi-ruined by calcium deposits before our softener was installed, but still operational for this application.

For the hose hookup, because the spigot is on the house, about 20 feet away and across the yard, every time we have to mow we have to wind the hose back up, being careful not to break the spray nozzle end. I thought instead it would be nice to use a quick release attached to a hose already on the base. So I bought a quick release attachment (so there's no screwing the thing on every time), a coiled hose with a rack, a 3-way connector (to split the feed to both the hose and the faucet), and some adapters to hook the faucet up with.

The only criticism is that the coil hose is sort of annoying when going around the garden, since it can catch on the plants, so I might scrap that and get just a regular hose. But other than that, it works great and Becky loves it!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Children Under the Stairs - Creating a Playroom Pt. 2

The playroom has been a huge success in creating a comfortable and organized place on our main floor for all the toys, but it hadn't yet met the demand for storage. Some of that is our inability (lack of time) to separate all the toys for what needs to be downstairs and what should be in storage for now.

To alleviate some of that pressure, and because I still have quite a bit of flooring left, I created some extra shelving.

Some time ago, I purchased a small cube storage unit with fabric boxes from Y.E.S.S. Thrift (probably my favorite and most frequented second hand/estate sale overflow shop in GR) for just $18. With no clear purpose at the time, my hoarding was once again justified in this application.

I'll warn you right now, this is a largely text-based post, since I was trying really hard to get this done and didn't take the time to snap a lot of shots.

In the playroom, on one side, there is a border of 1x2's around the ceiling just on two sides, so I had to add that same thing on the third side. I also had to add a 1x2 along where the joist is so the shelf had something to grab to when I screwed it in. You can see both of those in the pic below.

Since the shelves I'd be making out of flooring planks didn't have to hold a lot of weight, I just cut scraps and spaced them to the width of a plank, and secured them to the side of the cube storage. The top two were 5" and the bottom one was 6". Since most of the vehicles I was looking to store on these shelves are only 5" tall, I was able to get three shelves within the space.

I then did the same thing on the other side, using a flooring plank situated vertically, and with the same size scraps spaced exactly the same way. They're secured with caulk (what I had laying around) and 1-1/8" brad nails.

When put all in place, the shelf planks just slid right into the gaps. I then secured them from the sides with brad nails. The bottom shelf I actually made the full length of the wall and nailed it to the bottom of the cube unit.

Strangely enough, I purchased the fabric boxes with the cube storage separate from Becky purchasing the big fabric storage cubes - so it's completely coincidental that they match.  I thought at first that the cubes in the unit would be too small to really hold a lot, but when you're talking about little animals, wood blocks, small cars, etc. they actually worked out perfectly.

We're not quite done, but if I stopped now, it's already pretty sweet, so I feel pretty great about it. Next I'll be wrapping more flooring around where the light switch is, and maybe adding more shelving to the other side.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Turning a Vintage Sideboard into a Sink Base

People are always asking if we're done with the house yet, to which I reply "are you ever really done?" But in all honesty, although most of the big stuff - kitchen, flooring upstairs, kids rooms - is done, there are still huge things we have put off and are either ignoring or just dealing with.

What happens with those big things is we get so fed up with talking about them, or imagining things to do with them, that we finally just pull the trigger on one of the million things we were hoping to do within that one project and everything falls in to place from there.

One of those things is our master bath, and one of those things-within-a-thing is using a sideboard, buffet or dresser as a sink base.

The pulling of the trigger started with a sink search. I wanted a vintage sink, so I started with Pitsch Salvage, as most of my searches do. I found the perfect sink and faucet, but unfortunately they were separated, and Pitsch doesn't allow you to swap things. The black faucet is awesome, but the sink it was attached to had enamel chipping, so I found an equally cool wall-mount sink with integrated backsplash.  I picked up both for just $50.

Once I got them home, and went to swap the hardware, I found them a lot more difficult to work with than I'd hoped. The black faucet came off without much of a fight, but the silver faucet took some serious ingenuity and tool swapping to find the right combination. Ultimately, I had to cut the top flanges with my Dremil Multimax.

Next was finding the sink base. My staple location for furniture pieces is Y.E.S.S. Thrift, an estate sale resale shop - it just takes time to wait for the right estate pieces to come in. And one day it showed up on their Facebook page:

The perfect width. Almost the perfect depth (just an inch shy of the sink). Great coloring to where we don't even need to really refinish it. Solid wood. And best of all? $145. I rushed over to pick it up.

Once home, I set out to cut the hole in the top for the sink to rest in. I know it's a wall mount sink, but the water lines and drain in our bathroom go into the floor, not into the wall, so the combination of this sink and the base are perfect. It just sits right on top of the cabinet.

I made some measurements, drew it right onto the top, drilled holes in all the corners for the jigsaw and got to cutting.

With the top drawer removed, I tried the fit.

It was perfect. I removed the sink again to start finishing the top. Because this is nice wood, I went with a spar varnish - an oil based heavy duty sealant that will be perfect for protecting the wood base. The first coat went on smooth and shiny.

Three more coats and we'll be in great shape. I look forward to tearing out the rest of the bathroom and getting this thing in place. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Children Under the Stairs - Creating a Playroom Pt. 1

Been a long time since we've posted something!  With two kids under two, it's become difficult to keep up the pace we had before. Which is fine, since most things in the house are done, there's just some small unfinished things, and a few larger projects that aren't necessary to complete immediately. We've just been enjoying our little family and all the updates on the house we've made so far.

As the kids have grown, as has their toy collection - with both grandmas around a lot, and one owning a toy store, it's inevitable that they get a pretty constant flow of new things to read or play with. We didn't want to be the house with the toys in every living space on our main floor, but we also didn't want to always be upstairs playing. Most of what we do - cooking, music, socializing - happens on the main floor, so that's where the kids should be. Luckily, we had a perfect solution.

Under the stairs, through this door, there was a small storage room under the stairs. And in the music room, the same thing, separated by a wall. Looking at the structure, it was obvious that the wall was simply to create a separation, and not a structural piece, based on the joists. So I took a hammer to the wall and created one room that could go from the living room into the music room.

What I did discover is that the wall also served a purpose of running power through to one outlet in the music room. I turned off the power, cut and split the wire, then turned it back on to see where the source was by using a voltmeter. Unfortunately, the power did come from the outside wall, and fed through a post on the other side. So I decided to just not have power run to that outlet, at least for now. I used the existing line to wire up an outlet, motion sensor light switch, and two LED can lights.

I built a small 2x4 frame around where the box should go, creating a little bit of a bump out. It's been a while since I started this project, so I'm not actually sure why I didn't go into the existing outside wall, but I must have had a reason...maybe? Anyway, it's done.

Once the switch and outlet were wired, I ran wire through the ceiling to one can light, then another, and tested everything out. It worked great!


Next up was fixing the floor. The floor in there was the same tile that is in the living room and music room - ceramic tile. Great for cleanup, not great for kids playing. So as much as we don't like carpet, we really needed to soften that room up. Luckily, my boss was having her carpet replaced, and there was enough of it that was still in decent shape that I could make it fit and have it look nice.

On thing I always do is measure the layout and draw it on the nearest piece of drywall or wood or scrap paper, and then take a photo of it. I always have my phone on me, but not always what I write it on, so it's the easiest way to reference the measurements wherever I might be.

I cut the carpet and the pad and set it in place to make sure it fit. Because this was tile, and I didn't care about stretching the carpet and making it perfect, I just used carpet tape, which doesn't hold great, but it works fine enough for a playroom. So I cut the pad 1/2" smaller on all sides to allow for the tape, trimmed up where I needed to and laid it all in place.

This is the point at which I took a break over the winter. The room was decent enough to keep toys in. We put a bookcase in there, a couple tiny chairs, a couple of bins, and every night we'd just toss all the toys in this little room and close the door. But after months of that nonsense, and Ollie not even knowing how to find anything in there, it was time to step it up.

Over the course of the Show Season for my job, where we do all the consumer shows in the first quarter, inevitably I find something left behind or thrown out that becomes useful to me.  This year, it was the Lansing Home & Garden Show, where Lumber Liquidators decided to throw out 200 sq ft of brand new laminate floor with a grey wood look. Just used once during the show and then tossed in the dumpster. I, not knowing what I'd do with it exactly, packed it in the truck and brought it home. And then for a couple of months it sat in the corner of the garage, me just staring at it, trying to figure out what to do with it.

Then it clicked.

Rather than putting new drywall through the studded areas of the playroom, and having to mud the whole thing, I'd just use this flooring for as far as it would go, starting with the ceiling.

My first drawing was this:

I was still stuck in the mentality of a floor and how you have to stagger the seams, but with most of the pieces still close to full length, I didn't have to stagger them at all.

 The first photo is looking from the living room to the music room, and the second is the other direction. The template that came with the can lights made cutting around the lights much easier, though there was still a lot of measuring and measuring again just to make sure I got it right.

After the ceiling, I still had a ton of wood, so I set out to do the angle part under the bottom half of the stairs, envisioning some built in shelves.

Since the angle goes all the way to the ground, obviously, I decided to create a wall that was about 36" tall to serve as the back for the shelves. I then thought that I could screw the supports (1"x2") to the studs before I put in the side pieces for added structure to the shelf supports. I tacked these in temporarily before I realized I didn't want to have to jigsaw in the middle of a plank.

I took them back out and put in the first two rows of boards and then added the supports. I then measured where the supports were, and jigsawed a board for each side to wrap around the supports.

I repeated this process for the upper supports, and then cut the angled pieces to follow up the wall. As you can see, it's not perfect, but again, it's not out in the open, so I wasn't concerned about being super accurate.

Next I grabbed a bunch of short pieces, cut them all to the same length and laid them in on top of the supports. To mask the front, I ripped a a couple of boards to about 2 1/2" tacked to the front.

After all this, I STILL had plenty of flooring left, so I just kept going.

And I still have plenty left, so I'll be adding more to around the door and to the jut out around the light switch. I also want to add shallow shelves along the left, a storage bench across from the built in shelves, and do something different with the doors. Artwork is also a must. Like these great kids records that our dear friend Brooke found - perfect for the header between the two halves of the room!

So we're not quite done in here, but it's now a much more usable room, and the kids love it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

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.


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