Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wallpaper Removal. Is It Worth It?

Or More Like What Worked and What Didn't.

One of the first and most daunting tasks a lot of people face when they first move into an older home is what to do with the wallpaper. For most people, living with it just isn't an option. Wallpaper preferences are not only deeply personal, but trends come and go so quickly, it gets outdated pretty quickly.

When we moved into our 1974 house, there were six different wallpapers in the house and I wasn't going to keep any of them.

1. Rip off what you can.

Sounds like common sense, and it really is. If it's possible, do it. Some of the wallpaper in our house had been there so long and the air so dry, that it was practically falling off the wall as it was. THAT was awesome! In the living room, where an entire "focal" wall was papered, it came off in huge strips--like a quarter of the wall at once. My son and I had so much fun!

But even if it doesn't come off in large pieces, it's easier and cleaner than anything else.

While monotonous, pulling off pieces was highly satisfying when you get a large chunk. I started to feel like I was playing Minesweeper. In the picture above, you can see by the shadow that it isn't stuck, so I would tug on that part, and sometimes I'd get a big piece to come off, and others it would be disappointingly small.

What didn't come off easily, I tried to pry off with a scraper. NOT a good idea as it left pits and scratches and even huge gouges. Which meant that I would need to repair the wall before painting it.

2. Spray with Mixture of Laundry Detergent and Water

I wasn't very exact when I mixed this up. You could probably find a "recipe" somewhere online if you're worried about it, but I think I did about half and half in a spray bottle. After letting it sit only a few minutes, the liquid penetrated and the wallpaper was easily scraped off the walls.

The biggest problem with that--there was an awful residue left behind. I washed and rinsed and repeated that process trying to get rid of the slippery soapy feel and the sticky wallpaper paste residue.

3. Roll-On Wall Texture Paint

Looking for an easy way to texture the walls where I'd removed the wallpaper, I decided to try out wall texture paint. Instead of adding texture to the paint, I purchased a pre-mixed roll-on texture. I wouldn't recommend it. We tried to apply it with both the recommended texture roller, which made for very close, very rough peaks, and a regular paint roller, which still looked awful.

Not sure what I did wrong, but the texture paint didn't create an appealing look.

Not only that, but it didn't stick well at all. (Which may have been due to the laundry detergent trick.)

So I just tried to scrape it all off the wall so I could start over.

4. Forget What I Said and Do This Instead!

What I learned from this project was that the easiest solution is to rent a hopper and texture over the existing wallpaper. Period.

When we realized how long this process had taken just for a small bathroom (out of three) and one focal wall when we had entire entryway and breakfast room still to go, we knew something else needed to be done.

Enter hopper and texture. As in the kind you mix yourself and spray onto the walls. We rented a hopper from our local home improvement store, bought some of the dry texture, mixed it up, and were on our way.

Well, okay, so it wasn't quite that easy--we had to do a lot of prep. Most of the time it took us to do this project was in masking off light switches and wall outlets, as well as draping windows and doorways. And of course, you need to protect your floors as well, except that we were planning on replacing our carpet, so we only had to protect the floors in a couple of the rooms.

Prepping for texture. That took the most time.

The hopper was easy to use and it only took a few hours to do all the rooms versus the days I'd already spent trying to remove the wallpaper in the two rooms I'd started on. It was so worth it!

Be warned though, it is a very messy, fun, two-person job--which is why I didn't get pictures taken. Sorry about that. But it was so nice. You couldn't even tell a difference between where there'd been a border on top of the wallpaper.

The same wall in previous pictures.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Adventures in Insulation

We'd never done it before, though we've lived in several houses that could have used it. But in this 1974 house, it couldn't be ignored. The house had almost NO attic insulation left. What was there had compressed so much, it only measured a couple of inches in most spots. As in two inches--nowhere near where it should be.

So we decided blowing in attic insulation would be high on our priority list in renovating this house. We moved in at the beginning of the summer, and in Texas, there was no way I was going to send my husband up into the attic in the sweltering heat, possibly to never find him alive again. (And I wasn't volunteering myself, that's for sure!) We did, however, want it done before winter.

Phase one of the project involved my husband installing an attic pull-down ladder. Instead of expanding the woefully tiny attic access that only the circus tall-man could have slipped his skinny little body through, he chose to create a new space where the ladder could be easily accessed and sturdily attached to the ceiling joists. (Later he did trim out the hole so it doesn't look quite this rough.)


Once we had comfortable attic access, we scheduled the day for blowing insulation. The first Friday evening in October, we prepared everything we needed. By purchasing the insulation from Lowe's, we were able to borrow the hopper free of charge for 24-hours (with a ten package minimum purchase, which was about a quarter of the amount we used). Using charts we found online and in the store, we calculated the number of "bales" we thought we needed for the size of our home and the existing amount of insulation, and loaded our garage for an early morning.

Not having any idea how long this little project would take us, we got up at dawn-thirty on a cool Saturday morning and hoped we wouldn't make too many enemies in our neighborhood with our racket. We hooked up the hopper--which consisted of plugging it in and dragging the hose up the attic ladder to the furthest point in the attic.

My job was easy: making sure the hopper didn't get low. So basically, I just fed the monster all day long. It was noisy and dirty and completely boring. Pretty much almost as soon as I opened the plastic and pulled off chunks of the insulation (which came off rather easily) and dropped them into the churning hopper. I was pretty happy with the insulation we chose. It was clean and easy to use, and the hopper never got stuck.

My husband's job was just a tiny bit harder, but mostly on his knees and his head. His mission was to wrangle the hose, angling it over our cathedral ceiling and into each crevice, while simultaneously making sure not to fall between the ceiling joists. All the while, he needed to remember to make sure his head didn't get snagged on the roofing nails that jutted out like a medieval torture device.

It took approximately 7 hours and 39 packages of the GreenFiber R-13 to R-60 to insulate our home. One of the easiest (says me, who only had to stand there) and most effective projects to date.

You Will Also Need:

Make sure each of you also has a good air mask and goggles (personally, I would spring for the anti-fog variety so you can actually see what you're doing).

And a MUST for the person in the attic: a headlamp for hands-free light!

Tip I wish we'd been smart enough to consider:

Make sure to do any electrical work BEFORE doing this. We are still planning to install recessed lights in the kitchen. Now hubby will have to dig through his hard work in the attic to get access. Eh, but why make it easy on him, right?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to Build a Floating Wood Fireplace Mantel

One of my favorite renovations in our house--and certainly my husband's pride and joy--is our fireplace mantel. Not only does it look fabulous, but it was cheap, easy, and a fun way for father and son to have beating something up.

As with pretty much every surface in the house, when we moved in, the fireplace was all one color--vanilla. Boring.

After painting the brick a brighter white (I would have loved a whitewash look over the natural color of the brick, but I wasn't about to go through the work of somehow getting rid of the previous coats of paint), we were left with this "lovely" look for a mantel. Granted, it was a different color, but that was because we knew it wasn't going to stay. I mean, look at it! Maybe in 1974, but nope, not in 2016.

The best thing I can say about this mantel is it has an outlet.

Scouring Pinterest (oh, such torture to be forced to perform one of my favorite pastimes, right?), hubby and I decided on a plan. And it was a simple one.

After measuring, we decided on 1x6x8 and 1x10x8 pine boards. We liked the softer wood of the pine to work with. While we wanted the boards as straight as possible, we weren't too worried about how rough they were because step two involved beating up the wood as much as possible. That's where father and son had some fun using their muscles to scar the wood with screws, hammers, chains, and anything else they could do to make it look a little more rustic.

Inside the floating mantel. Crafted to slip over the existing brick one.

Once the wood was sufficiently beat up, my handyman crafted this box to slide over the existing brick mantel. You may notice that he didn't miter it anywhere--and that was on purpose.

No-Miter Mantel

Using the same Minwax mahogany gel stain I'd used on the beams overhead (see blog post about that here) in that room brought out the detail of the "flaws" and helped tie the room together.

The nice thing about the fact that the new mantel slides over the existing one is that there aren't any screw holes that had to be fixed, it can be changed at any time with no demo, and--it makes a great hiding place for letters or valuables or whatever. . . Not that I've done that. Probably.

Checking the fit before finishing the stain.

I think it turned out pretty great!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Great Review of Remodel Novel

While I love remodeling my house, it's more of a hobby than anything else, which makes my blogging about it a hobby of a hobby. (And thank you for reading it!)

My real job, however, is that of being a novelist. My latest novel, The {Re}Model Marriage which has a lot to do with remodeling, was released at the end of March 2016. Just the other day, my book was reviewed by the prestigious InD'Tale Magazine, and I'm thrilled with what they had to say.

Among other things, the reviewer said,

"This is a beautiful allegorical work that is seldom seen in this day and age. A wonderful story filled with heartwarming surprises, this is a novel that should not be passed up!"

Overall, the book garnered 4 1/2 stars!

If you'd like to read the entire review, please click on the images below (two different web pages, same article).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Home Remodel Novel Finalist in Cover Contest

The InD'Tale Magazine is holding its cover contest again, and the cover for my latest release, The {Re}Model Marriage, has qualified as a finalist and I need your HELP!

Click on the image to vote for your favorite cover (which I hope is mine!).

The cover for The {Re}Model Marriage is one of four covers chosen, and now I need YOUR help! It's simple and takes only a minute. Voting does require signing up for their free monthly magazine that comes complete with reviews in many genres (and you could unsubscribe any time, though you won't want to). After signing in, take a look at the four covers and vote for your favorite. Easy as that!

Thank you so much for being willing to help! It means a lot to me!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

More Home Renovation Tips

Ten More Home Renovation Tips

to make your remodeling project go a little easier!

1. If you are unable to loosen a tight or rusty bolt, try these steps:

* Tighten it the wrong way, and then try the right way.
* Tap it with a hammer.
* Use a heat gun or hair dryer.
* Use a product like Liquid Wrench or WD-40.
* If all else fails and you don’t need to use the same hole, use a reciprocating saw and cut it off.

2. Salvage your molding.

Oftentimes it’s difficult to find molding to match the rest of your home—especially if you live in an older one—and you might need it for another project. To remove the molding safely:
1. Tap a three-inch scraper behind the edge of the trim.
2. Rock it back and forth until you can fit a pry bar in front of the scraper.
3. Slide the trim outward, being careful not to dent the wood with the pry bar.
4. Once the molding is free, pull the finish nails through the back with plyers.

3. Paint dries quickly when you are painting trim with a brush.

To minimize this problem, pour a manageable amount of paint into a smaller container and add latex extender. This will give the paint time to level out and leave a smoother finish.

4. When tiling, if you have a section where you need to build the height to match something else, use kitty litter in the thinset.

It will soak up the extra moisture, help the thinset dry with the tile in place, and will harden like concrete.

5. If a hole has become too loose to hold a screw tight (for a hinge, etc.), fill it with a toothpick dipped in wood glue, break off the toothpick at the surface, and then screw back into the same hole.

6. Tiling tip for difficult cuts and mesh-backed mosaics:

Draw the cut line on the front of the tiles, clamp the tile sheet to the workbench, and cut the tiles with a 4-inch side grinder.

7. Old plastic shower curtain liners and plastic-covered tablecloths make the best drop cloths for painting.

They are just the right weight, have straight lines (no gaps for drips), are a manageable size, and drips won’t bleed through.

8. Attach a strong magnet to the end of your hammer to hold nails while you’re working.

9, When replacing anything in your house, keep the old fixture in the best condition possible until the project is completed.

You never know when you might need that extra tile or faucet piece. If you don’t end up needing it,
you can donate it to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore for someone else to use. There are also others who restore old homes that might be looking for exactly what you have. Check online before you throw anything away.

10. Headed to the hardware store?

Use your smartphone to take pictures of your project before you go. That way you can find specific products or consult with an expert and find exactly what you need to finish your job.

These and other great tips can be found in Maria Hoagland's first Romance Renovations novel, The {Re}Model Marriage.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Home Renovation Tips

Ten Home Renovation Tips

to make the process a little easier and a bit more fun!

1. To create a neat bead of caulk—

* Cut the tip of the tube at a 45° angle.
* Apply even pressure on the trigger as you move the caulking gun slowly across where you want the caulk to be.
* With a damp finger, slide with slight, even pressure across the line of caulk. If it’s too wet the caulk will be runny, too dry and the caulk will pull up, sticking to your finger. If you press too hard, it will squish out and make a mess. With a little practice, you will get the hang of it.
* Wipe the excess off your finger frequently. When you start again, overlap just a little where you stopped, and the finish will be seamless.

2. To remove a stripped screw, place a thick rubber band between the screw and the screwdriver.

You might need to go up a size on the screwdriver.

3. To keep from hitting your finger or thumb with a hammer, use a comb or bobby pin to hold the nail steady while you drive it in.

4. To drill straight, use a block of wood to the side or bottom of the drill as a guide.

5. Choosing paint colors can be harder than you think.

Start with your fabric as a guide, and choose at least ten paint chips to look at in the space. After narrowing down the selection, buy three or more samples to try on the wall. Live with the samples for a day or two, taking note how they look in the changing light throughout the day. A word of warning: Just because it looks good in one room, doesn’t mean it will work in another—try it out first.

6. Use a paint stir stick to scrape off the wax ring when replacing a toilet.

The stick is free, disposable, and will keep your tools from getting gunked up.

7. The rule of thumb when painting a room is from top to bottom: ceiling, walls, trim, touch-up.

8. Everyone’s heard, “Measure twice, cut once.”

Another thing to take into account is the amount the blade will remove from whatever you are cutting. When you measure, make sure to tell yourself whether to “Cut the line” or “Save the line.”

9. To remove mold from drywall, studs, trim, or tile

Scrub with a mixture of 1 quart water and ½ cup bleach with a soft brush until all traces of the mold are gone. Make sure to let it dry completely, moving it to direct sunlight if possible (trim or tile).

10. What to expect in a remodel—

* Dust
* Noise
* The Unexpected
* Cash Concerns
* Changing Your Mind
* Decisions, Decisions, and Even More Decisions
* Delays & Setbacks
* A Party When It’s Complete!

These and other tips can also be found in Maria Hoagland's first Romance Renovations novel, The {Re}Model Marriage.