9-11-2001 – Never Forget

11 09 2009

Today, I break from posts about homeownership to remember the events of September 11, 2001.  On that day, I was a senior in college, asleep on my futon.  With the head of my bed closest to our phone, I was the one to pick it up when it rang that beautiful sunny September morning.  I heard my roommate’s boyfriend (now husband) ask for her, and he sounded so terrible, I thought someone in his family had died.  In shock as she listened to him, she told me to put on the tv and we saw the results of the first plane’s hit on the North Tower.  I knew my dad was supposed to fly to Portugal that day for a conference, and had it in my head that his flight was that morning.  In a panic, I managed to get him on the phone before the lines were too busy with frantic calls from loved ones and found out his flight was supposed to be later that day.  Since then, I’ve heard so many stories like that of near escapes and plain luck.

My roommate and I watched in shock and horror as the second plane crashed into the South Tower.  We called our friends in the next dorm to see if they’d heard the news, and found out that one of them had a cousin who worked there (we later found out that she was just in the lobby when the plane hit, and managed to get out safely).  We decided that we just wanted to be together, so I vaguely remember rushing around to throw on some clothes so we could head over there.  I was standing at the sink, my roommate at her dresser, when we heard Matt Lauer say the South Tower had collapsed.  I thought he must be kidding, and we rushed back to the tv to see that it was true.  After we reached our friend’s dorm room, the four of us watched the North Tower collapse, at first believing it to be re-aired footage of the first collapse. 

At that time, it felt like pure chaos.  On the news, they were saying that more than 30 planes were unaccounted for, and as we heard about the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of flight 93, I wondered when it would end.  It felt like the end of the world.  We were devastated, horrified, scared, and overwhelmed.  Finally, there was an eerie calm as we tried to make sense of it.  I still had to go to my job, first a lunch with my boss and another student – my boss was originally from Rockland county, so she knew firefighters in New York.  I’m not sure how that lunch went because we were both in a fog, but I do remember watching the coverage with her when we got back to the computer lab where I worked.  We were still in shock. 

The campus posted a website where they would update the names of those who had confirmed that they were okay in New York and D.C., so we watched for friends’ names to pop up.  Our college lost three alumni that day.  The school put together a hasty memorial service for that night and most professors cancelled classes.  The next day, I was with three classmates on an errand when the 7pm memorial time started – the President had called the nation to stand outside with candles at that time, in memory of those we had lost.  I stood in a parking lot with these three friends for an hour, until candle wax was melting over our fingers and the flame was threatening to burn out.  Motorists honked and waved.  More people joined us and we cried together.  But it was comforting, the togetherness. I always think of that night on the 9/11 anniversary.

And I think about my dad.  My dad who almost worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and was almost working there that day.  My dad, who had to sit in his office alone and watch friends and former colleagues perish as the towers fell.  What a nightmare for him, but how fortunate for my family that his life had taken a different turn.  I think of those friends.  Kevin Dennis, a stock broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, who left behind his wife and two young twin sons.  Randy Scott, a broker at Euro Traders, who left behind his wife and three daughters and who I can still remember sitting on the couch in our living room in Old Tappan.  And many more.  It reminds me that just because time passes, the loss is no less great.  I saw some of the young children at the memorial today, and knew that they may have never known the loved ones their families were mourning. 

Since 9/11, I have watched friends and family serve overseas because of the events of that day – my brother-in-law, cousin, their friends and our friends.  Their service and the sacrifice of their families reminds me of 9/11.  And I long for that sense of unity and community I felt in the days and weeks after the terrible events of that day – the sense that we could all get through this together.

Today, as I watched the families and volunteer representatives read the almost 3,000 names, I cried along with the family members who broke down remembering their loved one.  I thought about how I would feel if it were my sister, my father, my husband, my best friend lost that day.  My heart goes out to them and I hope they can find strength and peace today.  A father who had lost his son said that it wasn’t raining today – that these were tears.  I think he’s right. 

9/11 – We will never forget.

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Installing a Fence – Part II, Hanging Panels & Gluing Post Tops

7 09 2009

When part II of installing a fence happens the day after part I, be prepared for some sore muscles.  My shoulders are especially tight, so there were a couple of times I wasn’t sure I’d be able to lift the fence panels!  But with my creepy neighbor watching us intently during the entire project yesterday and coming over to chat with us at least once, I was definitely looking forward to sealing up the fence today!

We started by checking the posts to make sure the concrete had set enough to install the panels.  It was nice and strong, so we were ready to get started.  This was when we learned that we hadn’t been as exact with installing the posts yesterday as we would have liked – two of the panels would be too short to hang between the posts.  But before I get to how we solved that issue, I’ll start with how we installed the panel in the section that fit just right.  First, we decided how high the panel should be installed.  Since it was shorter than my neighbors’ fence, if we brought it in line with hers, it would leave a lot of space along the bottom for my puppy to stick his nose through.  So we brought it a couple of inches down, and marked where the first bracket would go with a marker.

When I’d first seen the brackets, I couldn’t figure out how they were used to hold the fence, since they were much narrower than the fence posts.  But with holes for screws on three sides, I soon learned that you line up the flat back of the bracket against the post, with the fully open side to the top (to slot the fence panel in) and the side with just a smaller opening to the bottom to act as a shelf for the fence panel.

The brackets get screwed to the posts first

The brackets get screwed to the posts first

Two brackets are used on each side, one at the top and one at the bottom.  We started with the top brackets, screwing in the first one to one post and then slotting in the panel to level it and determine where the second bracket would sit.  After marking that one, we moved the panel aside to screw the second bracket in.  Then, the panel was set back in the two top brackets to determine where the two bottom brackets would go.  When you slot the panel into the top two brackets, you might be tempted to screw them to the panel – but don’t jump the gun! You’ve still got to lift the panel one more time – after screwing the bottom two brackets in, we lifted the panel and slotted it into the four brackets.  The way the bottom of the panel was designed, we had to squeeze the bottom of the panel to get it to sit properly in the brackets, so this really was a three person job.

Once the panel was slotted in correctly, we screwed the brackets to the panel itself on both side of the fence.  That finished off the first panel!

Once the panel is installed, screw the bracket to the panel

Once the panel is installed, screw the bracket to the panel

Panel 1 is up!

Panel 1 is up!

For the second two panels, we had at least an 1 1/2 inches of extra space in each section.  So my dad came up with the solution of cutting pieces of wood, screwing them to the posts, and then screwing the brackets to these and repeating the above process.  Getting the fence put up was our main priority today, so next year, we’ll unscrew the panels and paint the wood white to blend in with the fence.  This solution worked great, and added just enough bulk to secure the posts tightly.

Looks good - keeps the fence posts in tightly!

Looks good - keeps the fence posts in tightly!

Finally, all of the brackets were installed and the panels secured and as I finished the side of the fence by my neighbors’ yard, he said “Goodbye” – because, of course, he’d come out just after we started and sat on his deck staring at us the whole time.  My dad put it best – it’s very “off-putting!”

But the work wasn’t quite finished – I still had to attach the fence post tops to the posts – since they’re so light, they could come off easily in a strong wind (something we on the coast know a little bit about!) and as I said yesterday, I don’t need any projectiles in my yard!  This was the easy part (and since it was easy, I was able to take a few more pictures, whereas with the first part of the day, I was busy working – hard to take a picture when you’re holding up a fence panel!).  So first, I dry-fitted the post tops to make sure they would fit snugly on the top of the posts and then I cleaned both the top of the post and the inside of the post top.

I cleaned the inside of the post top with a damp paper towel before applying the glue

I cleaned the inside of the post top with a damp paper towel before applying the glue

After wiping off any excess water, I wiped the glue along both the inside of the post top and the top of the post.

This is a case of do as I say, not as I do - it's good to spread the glue around, but not glop it onto the post!

This is a case of do as I say, not as I do - it's good to spread the glue around, but not glop it onto the post!

Then, I put the post top onto the post and held it tightly for 10 seconds.

Post tops are glued!

Post tops are glued!

Once the top was securely glued, I wiped up the excess glue so that it looks neater – I used a wet paper towel for this, because it cleaned up a little bit better than a dry one.  Finally, my fence was complete!

Ah, how lovely.

Ah, how lovely.

After creating a little barrier between my fence and my neighbors’ fence (only attached to my fence), I was able to let my puppy out into the yard without his extended lead for the first time ever! He was definitely a little concerned that something was wrong because I “forgot” to secure him, but I think he’ll really like being able to spend more time exploring the yard!

But the saga with my creepy neighbor is far from over – while someday I hope to learn how best to handle a difficult neighbor, I haven’t figured it out yet.  About an hour after we’d finished the project, my neighbor walked around the block and rang my doorbell, so that he could show me a survey of the property he’d had done 3 years ago, which says that my neighbors’ fence and my new fence both sit a couple of feet onto his property.  According to my next door neighbor (the owner of the other offending fence) who came outside as we were talking, there was some confusion when the units were built in the 80’s, and so the neighbors actually each share a buffer of about 3 feet at the end of their properties.  She said that every survey you get will be different because it depends on how it’s read, so both of our fences are legal.  But the creepy neighbor said he had just come by to tell me that he and his wife “didn’t mind” the fence, and they thought we’d done a good job.  I was very polite, but I did make sure to say that if we’d known at the beginning of the project (you know, when he was sitting on his deck, staring at us) or even once we’d started to dig the holes (when he came over to talk to us about the project) that the fence was too far back, we would have moved it further in.  But I think he preferred to wait until the entire project was done, and my parents had left, to come over and tell me that it’s “okay” with him.  So although I’d hoped that the fence would end my troubles, it seems it’s only made my neighbor’s work of tormenting me more challenging.  But at least I don’t have to see him much anymore, thanks to my fence, and maybe I can spend more time enjoying my yard now!





Installing a Fence – Part I, Digging Post Holes and Cementing Posts

6 09 2009

Today was one of the best days I’ve had as a homeowner.

Why, you might ask? Because today was the day we started installing my fence, an early birthday/Christmas gift from my parents.  You just can’t put a price on privacy.

To give a little background, when I first moved in, I felt lucky to have nice neighbors – neighbors who offered me help, advice and tools.  But after a while, I started to realize that because I live in a small neighborhood, everyone knows everyone else’s business and a few of the neighbors are on the nosy side.  The neighbor directly behind me is retired and a smoker, so I started to notice that he was spending hours sitting outside on his deck, just looking at my house and smoking.  Hours.  Every time I let the puppy out, he wanted to have long chats (I work from home, so although he has the time to just shoot the breeze all day, I don’t). He decided that I would be his pet project, so he started giving me unsolicited advice on everything from reminding me to check myself for ticks to what I should use to grill with. And he’d make slightly offensive comments about my ability to put together furniture, take care of my lawn, etc.  I’ve come to realize that he’s basically harmless, and is just bored, despite having a disaster of a backyard (he’s a bit of a hoarder for tools and even walks the neighborhood on trash day to root though people’s garbage and take things home to re-purpose) and a wife.  The last straw came when he started coming into my backyard to see my puppy (on an extended lead) when I wasn’t out there with him and I finally had to yell at him to get through to him that I didn’t appreciate it.  It’s gotten to the point where I feel uncomfortable even walking outside for a minute if he’s out there and I even wait to mow the lawn until I think he’s left the house.  So needless to say, I’m not enjoying my nice little backyard at all and either is my puppy, who I basically rush out and in a few times a day.  I’d always planned to finish fencing in the yard, which was fenced on 2 1/2 sides, but I thought it would be too expensive to have someone come to work on such a small job and I was worried it might be too complicated to have to install a gate at the front of the yard.

Enter my parents.

My mom, knowing how upset I was about the neighbor, was on the lookout for fencing solutions.  She recently noticed at Lowe’s that in addition to the regular 6×6 panels and posts that I could use to seal off the back of the yard, they also had shorter PVC panels that they advertised as accent pieces for the yard.  Because they’re much shorter and are staked into the ground, they would be secure enough to keep a short basset hound in the yard and short enough that I could still hop over them instead of having to install a gate.  Great solution.  I still needed to put off the project until I’d saved a little more money, but then my mom asked if I’d like an early birthday/Christmas present of fencing.  Some people might not be too excited, but what better gift could I get than privacy and peace of mind?

Since installing a fence is really a two-day project, I’ll break it into two posts.  We started the project today, heading to one of my favorite places, Lowe’s, around 8am.  But before heading out for materials, we’d already researched, discussed and planned it out.  My parents and I had separately been to Lowe’s to see the panels up close and estimate how many panels and posts would be needed.  We’d picked up a few brochures with checklists of what items we’d need and measured both openings, confirming my measurements from earlier in the week that showed we’d need to overlap the fence panels with my neighbors fence in the back and with my deck in the front.  I should mention that the back fence is entirely on my property and if you’re fencing in your own property, you’ll want to make sure to know where your property end lies.  I also chatted with the neighbor whose fence I’m overlapping to check that she’d be okay if we needed to close off my fence against hers.  Some neighbors will be very nice about this, but it can still cause issues when you go to sell the property, so it’s important to make sure that any connection to a neighbor’s fence is temporary and can be removed before you show your house.

Here's the space at the back of my yard to close up

Here's the space at the back of my yard to close up

And here's the space at the front!

And here's the space at the front!

We started at Lowe’s by looking at the different panels and making a final decision about which ones would look best and be most cost effective.  We figured that we would need three panels, four posts, four post tops, aluminum screws, brackets, stakes, something to mix the concrete in, PVC glue to attach the fence post tops, string to help with leveling the posts and five smaller panels for the front opening.  We had gotten a post-hole digger the day before at a flea market – these can run about $45, but we managed to get a brand new one for $20.  And I certainly can recommend it – it would have taken us MUCH longer to dig the holes with a small shovel.  To get our other supplies, we got help from a Lowe’s representative, who also managed to arrange for us to receive the materials this morning because they’d had a cancellation on another delivery.  Since both my parents and I drive MINIs, it makes transporting materials for big projects challenging, if not impossible!

Shortly, the materials had arrived and we were ready to get started!

Three panels, hanging out against my neighbors' fence

Three panels, hanging out against my neighbors' fence

Three of the four fence posts

Three of the four fence posts

Fence post tops, screws, string, brackets, glue for the fence posts, and the basin to mix concrete!

Fence post tops, screws, string, brackets, glue for the fence posts, and the basin to mix concrete!

Looks like small bags, but each one of these babies is 40 pounds!

Looks like small bags, but each one of these babies is 40 pounds!

This was another two-person job for me, so I had help (and direction!) from my dad.  Fortunately, because otherwise, I would still be fenceless.  Or in a very big mess.  To start, we lined up where the first fence post would go and placed a plastic stake in the ground in its place.  We tied a piece of string to this and extended it to around where the last post would go, so that we had a straight line to use to line up our fence panels and posts.

We needed a straight line for the fence

We needed a straight line for the fence

Each of the posts were eight feet long, so we had to dig post holes that would be two feet deep to accommodate them. We started at the end of the yard (so that we wouldn’t find out at the last minute that we hadn’t allotted for enough space!) and alternated digging the first hole.  We were fortunate not to run into any big rocks or roots, though the soil did become progressively more clay-like and compacted with each hole.  Using both a small spade and a larger heavy  pole tool, with a tapered end (take one guess who lent us that tool – yup, the nosy neighbor!), we were able to loosen up the soil enough to dig it out with the post hole digger.  One of the reasons I thought it was so useful that we used the post hole digger is because it created just the right size hole and made it straight, so that we had to do very little leveling when the posts were in. It made a big job so much easier!

Two feet is a deep hole, but at least it wasn't four feet!

Two feet is a deep hole, but at least it wasn't four feet!

Once the first two holes were dug (and we had used the actual panels to measure the distance between each hole), it was time to mix up some concrete.

Mixin' up the concrete

Mixin' up the concrete

I’d never worked with concrete before, so I didn’t know that there were different types, though likely if I’d thought about it long enough I would have assumed as much.  The type that we were using had a number of rocks in it, which made it thicker and will hopefully keep the posts more secure in the ground.

All mixed up!

All mixed up!

But because it was so thick, pouring it into the holes first and then trying to push the posts down as far as they needed to be in the ground wasn’t an option.  So instead, once my dad had mixed up the concrete, we put the posts into the holes and my dad checked that they were level.

The first post, prior to concrete, hanging out with the post hole digger

The first post, prior to concrete, hanging out with the post hole digger

To keep them level, I scooped in concrete on the side that needed to be better supported first, then each subsequent side.

Adding concrete to the holes

Adding concrete to the holes

We used the tapered pole tool to tamp down the concrete into the hole and make sure it was filled.  After smoothing out the top of the concrete, I wiped off the excess splatter from the posts before it dried.

All filled and smoothed!

All filled and smoothed!

Then, it was on to the next two holes to repeat the process.  Concrete needs 5-6 days to fully cure, but we should be able to install the panels tomorrow.  I asked my dad whether rain would affect the concrete’s drying time, and he said it won’t, but a hot and humid day can make it take longer – I hope those are over until next year!

Posts are ready for their panels!

Posts are ready for their panels!

Once we’d gotten these four posts in, it was time to install the shorter staked panels along the front of the yard.  We again ran a string line from the neighbors’ fence to my deck to make sure the fencing was straight, and started at the fence line with the first panel.  The panels came with brackets that could be attached to each other, so we attached the five panels to each other, and the final panel to my deck.  Eventually, I’ll have to get an L-bracket to secure it to my neighbors’ fence as well (it’s wooden).

Front fence looks good!

Front fence looks good!

Once this fence was installed, we were both wiped out and ready for a rest.  But then came the worst part of any home improvement project – the clean-up.  After the end of a project, I always want to sit back and look at my hard work, feeling satisfied.  But there’s always something to clean up!  After my dad watered down the concrete and dumping that with the stone by the side of my house, I used the basin to scoop up the dirt and put it in the corner flowerbed in my yard.  I obviously couldn’t get it all, but I raked it around to loosen up the grass a little, so hopefully a good rainstorm will clean it all up.  The rest of the clean-up was as simple as putting some things away, before tossing all my clothes into the washing machine – definitely wear clothes that you don’t mind permanently dirty-ing, because although I was lucky to wash all the concrete out of my jeans, I wasn’t so sure that I was going to manage it! And although I didn’t feel too tired out while we were working, now that I’ve sat down for a little while, I can certainly feel muscles I didn’t know I’d used stiffening up!

Part II of installing a fence will be about attaching the panels, which should be easy compared to the post hole digging and installation.





Let’s Paint! Part III – Prepping & Painting

4 09 2009

So finally, let’s paint!  Once you’ve got all of your painting supplies, it’s time to find some time to dedicate to painting.  I painted at night after work and on the weekends, which worked great for me.  However, I do recommend that if you’re painting a room a dark color at night, wait to put away all of your supplies until you’ve seen it in the light of day.  You may just spot a section of the wall that could use another coat!

Paint always looks different at night than it does in other lights

Paint always looks different at night than it does in other lights

But before you get out your paintbrushes and rollers, you’ll want to prep the walls.  Some people wash the walls, and in the “cat room,” as I like to refer to the guest room, I did have to do that.  But at the minimum, you will want to lightly dust the walls to get rid of any cobwebs in an older house or drywall dust in a newer one.  In a newer house, you may be lucky enough to have no nicks or scratches in the walls.  But in a house that is previously owned, there is likely to be nail holes, gouges from furniture moves, etc.  In that case, you’ll want to get some spackle and a putty knife, along with some sandpaper (I used a sandpaper block for ease).  I found some spacklel that starts out hot pink, and becomes white as it dries, so that you know when it’s ready to paint over.  Spackling is best for smaller repairs, so if you recently punched a hole in your wall because, say, the electrician overcharged you, you’re going to need to do a little bit of a larger repair.

But for smaller holes, spackling is pretty easy – I’ll describe how I’ve done it, but I plan to detail it with pictures (and maybe video!) in a future post.  I started by running the sandpaper block over the hole to get rid of any excess roughness that might stick out and interfere with the smoothness of the final repair.  Wipe away any dust created and use your putty knife to apply the spackle. For holes from hanging pictures, you won’t need that much spackle, maybe the equivalent of a dime (use more spackle for larger holes and don’t be afraid to use too much – you can always wipe it away).  Use the putty knife to wipe the spackle into the hole, and then, after wiping any excess off the knife and back into the container, run the edge of the knife over the hole, to level off the spackle with the wall.  Then, if you’re using pink spackle like me, wait for it to turn white and dry.  Even if you’re not using pink spackle, you’ve got to wait for it to dry!  If you need to, you can repeat the process for a second coat of spackle.  Once it dries, use your sandpaper block to make sure that it’s level with the wall.  Wipe it with a damp cloth again to make sure that the paint will go over it without having any dirt or dust stick to it, and then, you’re almost ready to paint!

Make sure to put on some old clothes and keep these as your “painting clothes” – it’s like having to put something down to cover the floor: no matter how careful you are, you will likely get paint on yourself at some stage.  If you have furniture in the room, move it as far away from the walls as you can, and cover it with a drop cloth.  In a smaller room, you may have to do one wall at a time, moving furniture as you go.  Remove all of the outlet covers and switchplates, as well as any vents – a word of caution here: be very, very careful when removing switchplates and outlet covers.  Because there are live wires behind here, there is always the possibility for electrocution (especially since you’re using a metal screwdriver to remove them).  I got a little jolt replacing a switchplate in my kitchen a few months ago(which, on a side note, likely requires a professional fix as it’s now stopped working but the fuse hasn’t blown), so just be mindful that you’re still dealing with electricity.

Can you tell this room was crying out for a paint job?

Can you tell this room was crying out for a paint job?

Once you’ve got the walls as bare as possible, cover the floor and get out your paint can (if you’re using a primer, just follow these directions for the first coat of primer, then start with your paint once it dries).  I put my paint can on top of a piece of cardboard to give it a little stability and protect the floor from any paint seepage.  When you bought your paint, the store should have given you a wooden stirrer to mix up the paint that has settled on the way home.  They should also have given you a little tool, like a tiny can opener, that will help you to open the paint lid.  If they didn’t, a flat head screwdriver works well in a pinch.  Stir the paint around with the wooden stirrer, put the liner in your paint pail, and break out the brushes!  I always start with “cutting in,” which is painting around the edges of the room – this includes going around the switches and outlets.  The purpose of this is to give you a nice edge so that you’re not rolling paint right up to the edge.  You’ll also want to cut in at the corners of the room too. 

Once you’ve cut in the whole room (or just the wall you plan to work on), get out the paint tray, liner and rollers.  I like to fill the tray well with quite a bit of paint (though certainly not to the top!) and roll my roller in it until it’s evenly coated.  You want to make sure to roll off as much of the excess paint as you can so that you’re not dripping paint, but you still want to have enough paint on the roller so you’re not constantly reapplying it.  All the home shows that I’ve watched recommend that you roll in a “w,” but I found my own rhythm and methods and I’m sure you will too.  If you’re rolling a darker color, keep an eye on the wall as you go – rollers will often miss some wall imperfections, so you’ll want to make sure that those get covered, or you’ll end up like me, always looking at the few white dots on my bedroom wall. 

After you’ve finished your first coat, you’ve got to let it dry before doing the second.  I did at least two coats of paint in every room of the house, but it’s up to you how many coats you think are necessary.  Generally, if you’re painting a whole room (instead of just one wall at a time), the paint on the first wall you painted will have already dried by the time you finish the last wall, so you can just keep going.  But some of that will depend on the time of year that you’re painting – I was working in late September/early October, so the humidity was low and it was nice and cool – great painting conditions! 

When you’ve finally painted enough coats that you’re satisfied with the color (always keeping in mind that paint dries darker than it is applied), it’s time for clean up.  If you’re using acrylic paint (which is what I used and recommend), cleaning is easy.  Throw out the tray and pail liners and rinse your brushes and rollers in the sink.  I dried mine on the counter on a paper towel, but quickly learned that the absorbent paper towels would soak in the tinted water from the rollers (remember I said I could never get them fully clean?) and almost ended up staining my light countertops.  So you may want to throw a piece of cardboard under there, or dry them outside if you can.  When the paint in your room is all dry, take up your drop cloths, move your furniture back, and enjoy your hard work!

I'm happy with this lovely little corner of my office

I'm happy with this lovely little corner of my office





Let’s Paint! Part II – Painting Supplies

1 09 2009

Once you’ve chosen your colors, it’s time to head back to the hardware/paint store and pick up your paint and supplies.  When I painted my townhouse, I went to my local Lowe’s, but there can be a lot of benefit to going to a store specializing in paint – if you’re working on a special project (such as any faux finish) or if you want to talk to an expert about how many coats of paint you might need or what primers they recommend, it’s best to check out a paint store.  The people who work there are experts and in my experience, are always helpful – when I painted my bedroom at my parents’ house with a faux finish a few years ago, my local paint store was invaluable.

Here's how the faux finish turned out - thanks to help from my local paint store!

Here's how the faux finish turned out - thanks to help from my local paint store!

But for this last painting whirlwind, I headed to Lowe’s and started at the paint counter. I handed over my paint samples and told them how much paint I wanted and then headed to the other aisles to pick up my supplies while my paint was being mixed.

And here’s where I’ll insert two words of caution – 1) Before you go to pick up your paint, decide which rooms you’re going to paint and buy the paint AS NEEDED.  I bought all of my paint at once which was mostly not a problem because I painted almost my entire house in a two-week period.  However, the two bathrooms ended up being projects that I put off and that meant my paint wasn’t as in good shape after sitting in a closet for about six months.  Although it worked out fine, I definitely recommend deciding how much time and energy you have for painting, and then prioritizing the paint jobs accordingly.  2) Once you’ve decided which rooms you’re painting, know the dimensions of the rooms!  In fact, it helps to have this written down somewhere anyway and keep it with you whenever you’re home shopping (or maybe all the time).  It’s frustrating to be out somewhere thinking, I could pick up those blinds today, if only I knew the dimensions of the windows!  And even when you think you’ll just remember, you never do – I’ve found when it comes to my house, I’ve always got so much on my mind that I never remember the little details! 

The size of your room will have an impact on how much paint you need, as will the type of mouldings you have, and how many windows and doors – for a paint calculator, check out Lowe’s.  I guesstimated the amount of paint I would need, with some input from my parents and the Lowe’s paint people, and for the most part, I was spot on.  However, I really had to stretch the last of the paint in my kitchen, so especially when you’re dealing with paint mixed on the spot, you don’t want to end up having to get it re-mixed and hoping that there aren’t any slight color variations.  Plus, it’s nice to have paint left over that you can use for touch ups (like the time I accidentally got red hair dye on the wall in the bathroom and only painting over it was going to make it better).

So let’s use my bedroom as an example – it’s 15 x 11.5 feet. I have two windows (one is smaller than the other), one bedroom door, and two closets with sliding doors.  I got two gallons of paint and did three coats (remember, I was painting it a dark eggplant color, so to get the coverage I needed, I needed more paint).  In this case, or in the case of covering up a dark colored wall (like I had to do in the living room to paint light blue over dark red), it’s advisable to get a tinted primer.  These aren’t sold on their own at Lowe’s, but need to be mixed.  Pick up the primer you want to use, and then talk to the painting experts about tinting it – this helps to alleviate the need for endless coats of paint. You don’t have to use a primer if you don’t want to – I did downstairs, but not in my bedroom – but be prepared to have to put in extra time painting multiple coats if you don’t.

So besides primer and paint, what else did I need?
– 2 paintbrushes: I got two so that if I painted one room and wanted to move on to the next, I could rinse one paintbrush and leave it to dry while using the other one.
– Paint roller & roller 3-pack: I got the three pack roller for the same reason that I got two paintbrushes – it’s easier to clean and let one dry while you’re using another one.  Plus, I never seem to be able to get them super clean, so I used one for darker paint and the other for the lighter paint.  As for rollers, some people use the roller on the end of an extension arm always (like you may have seen on some home shows). I just used the roller as is, got up on my stepladder to paint the top of the room, and it worked great for me.
– Stepladder: Unless you’re ridiculously tall (and I’m 5’9″), this will come in handy on a regular basis.  But a word of caution – a LOT of home accidents happen on stepladders, and I almost fell off of mine while painting a room (despite being cautious) so always be careful.
– Paint tray & liners: Having a paint tray is a necessity if you’re going to be using a roller, and I’ve found the liners make clean-up so much easier – no washing paint trays!
– The HANDy paint pail and liners: This was one of my best purchases thanks to a recommendation from my dad – with these, you pour the paint into the liner (keeping the pail clean for easy clean-up) and you can hook the handle right over your hand as you’re painting.  The best part? There’s a magnet inside the pail to grab onto your paint brush so you can move around easily without losing the paint brush in paint or having to hold it in your other hand.
– Drop cloths of some kind: This can take any form really, as long as you have something big to cover the floor or the section of the floor you’re working near.  In my case, I was doing most of my painting before the new carpet was put in, so I wasn’t too concerned about getting paint on the floor.  I still put a drop cloth (I’d gotten a few from uHaul when I was moving) under my paint can and rolling tray, as well as over any furniture I couldn’t move far enough away, so that any spills would be soaked into that instead of the carpet.  But I can’t emphasize enough how important covering the floor is – even if you’re careful, flecks of paint always fly off of rollers and if you’re clumsy like me, you’re likely to bump into your can of paint at least once, no matter how careful you are.  So cover the floors!!
– Extension pole: Depending on what you’re painting, you may need an extension pole.  My stairway ceiling went from the first floor to the top of the second floor, so short of building scaffolding or hiring professionals, an extension pole attached to my roller was the next best thing. 

I definitely needed an extension rod for my roller to paint this!

I definitely needed an extension rod for my roller to paint this!

As you can see from that picture, a roller with an extension pole worked great to paint this part of the hallway.  However, you can’t roll right up to the ceiling – so what’s a girl to do?  I used a paint edger.  Some people might recommend these for edging every room, but I’ve found that they soak a little bit of paint in, which then ends up on the ceiling.  This was still the case when I edged the hallway, but I had to put my perfectionist tendencies aside, realize that most people never look to the top of my hallway anyway, and know that unless I wanted it professionally done, I would have to deal with the less-than-perfect look.  Since I can reach the top of the walls in the rest of the house with a step ladder, I chose to cut in those myself instead. 

Up close - not so pretty

Up close - not so pretty

But from far away, you almost can't tell that it's not perfect!

But from far away, you almost can't tell that it's not perfect!

That covers all of the supplies I picked up before painting.  Some people also like to use blue tape or masking tape to give them a sharp edge when painting, but I’m not a big fan.  I’ve found that no matter how well I press it down when painting, some of the paint always bleeds through.  I’m a careful painter, so I can cut in and create a straight line myself with minimal trouble.  I did use blue tape in my kitchen though, when I needed to create a false boundary between my kitchen and dining room, ending the blue paint and starting the tan.  On a flat surface, which the wall was, it worked great.

In the next post, I’ll finally get into prepping the walls and painting!