This Handy Homeowner Girl Needs Some Help!

23 02 2010

All you handy homeowners out there, I have a question for you.  I’ve found in the last few months that my shower doesn’t get very hot unless I’ve run water somewhere else in the house for a while – like, if I run the dishwasher or washing machine, I can get a nice hot shower.  But if the shower is the first thing I run, it only stays lukewarm.  And since I feel like I haven’t been warm since October, this makes me a bit miserable.

I don’t remember it always being this way, and I’m wondering if it’s something to do with my hot water heater, or maybe something else. Or if I just have to live with it.  Has this happened to anyone else?  Suggestions? Help!


How to Repair a Hole in the Wall

8 02 2010

Although I’m not painting my guest room today, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to clear out the room and repair some of the holes in the walls that I’ve caused with pictures or shelves.  Once I’d taken all the pictures down, and removed my shelves, I pulled out any nails I could easily remove.  Anything that was really stuck in there, I used the end of the hammer to pull out.  I unscrewed the two bars that held up my floating shelves, and unscrewed the drywall anchors.  There were two that I couldn’t get out, either by unscrewing or with pliers, so I used my utility knife to cut off the edge sticking out from the wall and then repaired those holes as below.

The hole I had to fix

First, I prepared the wall by rubbing a sandpaper block over it to remove any rough edges. 

You don't have to use a sandpaper block, but this is what I had on hand


Much better!

Next, I got out my spackle and putty knife.  I use DryDex Spackle with a dry time indicator – that basically means that the spackle is pink in the can, and then once it dries on the wall and is ready for further sanding, it turns white.  Great for the amateur repair artist like me, because there’s no guesswork.

DryDex - love this stuff!

I took a little bit of spackle out of the can with my knife and wiped it into the hole (kind of like icing a cake, but you can be a little firmer with your touch since it’s a wall). 

A little dab'll do ya

The object is to get spackle into and around the hole to create a smooth surface.  With small nail holes, it’s very easy – wipe the spackle in, and then run the edge of the putty knife almost flush against the wall to remove excess.

Time to apply the spackle

But for these slightly larger holes, it didn’t work that easily.  I applied a little bit more spackle and ran the edge of the putty knife over it to get a mostly smooth finish.  Because I would later use the sandpaper again, I wasn’t worried about it being perfect.

A good start, but I still needed to apply a bit more and wipe off the excess


Then, it was time to wait for it to dry.

*Almost* entirely dry. I'm a little impatient.

Once it was dry, I rubbed the sandpaper block over the spot to smooth it out. 

Time to smooth it out

And voila, finished!

Now it's ready for paint!

From what I’ve seen, this size of hole is about the largest you can fix without needing to get mesh tape to give the spackle something else to hold on to.


8 02 2010

As the week progressed last week, talk of a major snowstorm heading our way heated up, which led me to wonder, wait, didn’t I move to the beach, where the joke is that it NEVER snows?!? 

But I digress.

Whether or not a storm happens, when one is predicted, it’s important for any handy homeowner girl to get prepared.  I knew the storm was to hit over the weekend (initial predictions were for it to start at 4pm on Friday and go through 7pm on Saturday), so Thursday night I headed to the grocery store. 

I probably should have gone Wednesday, because everyone had snow fever and was buying groceries like they’d be locked in their homes for the next month!  I did manage to get everything I needed and get out of there without ramming anyone with my cart and I was glad to have all my staples in case I got snowed in.

But how else could I prepare? 

First, I had to make sure I had the essential snow management items – I put my shovel outside by the front door, so I wouldn’t have to be trying to open the shed door against a foot of snow on Saturday morning.  I also put my salt back in the front closet temporarily to fight any post-storm ice.  When I was in for the night on Friday, I made sure to park my car further back on my driveway (it made shoveling easier the last time) and put all of my windshield wipers up – this keeps them from freezing to the windshield and maybe tearing when scraping the car off.  I knew where all my relevant clothing was, from long underwear and ski socks to my hat, gloves, coat and boots.

Friday afternoon, I also made sure to run all of my errands.  I have been taking a ceramics class on Saturday afternoons (which was cancelled), and I like to head to Target afterwards and pick up a Starbucks frappuccino.  Okay, so it’s not a blizzard necessity, but I grabbed one anyway, so that I wouldn’t feel slighted about missing it.  Then, I headed to Lowe’s for some paint for the guest room.  I’d finally decided on a color, and thought it might be a good idea to have an indoor project planned for the weekend while I was stuck inside.  It was funny to see people racing me to the door of Lowe’s because they thought I was there for a shovel – and the only one they had left was a metal one more for digging than shoveling! 

I also made sure to hit the ATM so I had enough cash – it seems like a silly thing to make sure of because it’s not like I’d be ordering a pizza or anything, but I felt in case we were really slammed and I needed to call someone to plow me out, it would be good to be able to pay him.  I just wanted to be prepared.

Something else I should have gotten was logs for the fire – there were a number of power outages with this storm, so it would have been good to have the ability to light a fire if my power went out.  But I didn’t think of that until I was already at home.  After I’d already driven the 20 minutes back to the main spot for shopping.  Twice.

Snuggled up at home with the pup, we awaited the storm.  At 4pm, nothing.  Same thing until 9, when the first flakes started to fall.  It didn’t seem to be sticking much at first, so I thought, watch, the weathermen have gotten this wrong.  But by 11, we had two inches already and I wasn’t feeling so good about having to go to bed without being able to take shoveling a few inches at a time.

This was what we woke up to Saturday morning

I got up at 9 to a winter wonderland. While we at the shore were fortunate to not get that much snow (I haven’t seen the overall totals, but I think it’s about 18 inches, maybe a bit more), we had a foot of snow on the ground when I got up.  I prayed that my neighbors with a snowblower would take pity on me, but I bundled up and got started.  The snow was heavy, sitting on a layer of slushy ice, and it was brutal shoveling.  Because it was so heavy, I took my time with shoveling.  I started by making a path for the pup on the deck and a little bit of the yard so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by white (he still was a little – he has stubby legs).  Then I shoveled off my front stoop and sidewalk.  Because of the way my car was parked, and my neighbor’s cars, the front of my driveway was like a wind tunnel – there were deep drifts, but some of the snow was fairly low.  So I managed that and brushing off my car before I needed to take a break.

Because the snow was wet and heavy and it was so windy, it stuck to EVERYTHING

It looked so pretty, but it was hard to shovel!

My poor car - see how the wind created these weird snow drifts?

Shoveling is a hard thing to do, and more of a serious workout than some people realize, so I made sure to drink a lot of water and some juice to keep my energy up and keep from getting overheated.  Taking a couple of breaks helped too, though I couldn’t let my muscles stiffen up too much, or I wouldn’t have gotten back out there!  After about a half hour, I headed out again and managed to shovel a good part of the rest of my driveway.  The main issue after a while was running out of places to put the snow as I shoveled it, so I ended up building these huge piles of snow, which was exhausting.  I would take short breaks outside to push some of the lighter snow along the cleared parts towards a larger pile and then pile it on top.  It made the shoveling more manageable. 

I had a lot of extra shoveling to do because of the way the plows came through

LONG drivway. Little car

I took another break and knew at that point that if I didn’t finish up the driveway, I’d never be able to get it all done.  I live on a cul de sac, so when the plows went through, they didn’t get very close to the edge of the street.  That meant that I had about seven feet in front of my driveway that I also needed to shovel, in case there was an emergency.  And not only was this the snow that had fallen, but mixed into it was the heavier, icy snow that the plow had turned up.  It was fairly brutal, but I finally managed it and knew I was done for.  I figured any shoveling after that would be easier, as long as I kept an eye on how much was falling and kept on top of it.

It's quite the pile of snow in front of my house. You could almost sled down it!

I ended up covered with most of this snow yesterday when I put the garbage out. Which still hasn't been collected

The snow on the trees didn't last too long, but it was nice while it did!

I decided to nix the painting project for the weekend because I was so exhausted, and ended up watching some tv and drinking hot chocolate.  When I went out for another round of shoveling around 4 (I’d finished the first set of shoveling around 1), I had just cleared the sidewalk when my neighbor came out to say that they’d be happy to use the snowblower to finish digging me out.  I wanted to ask where they’d been all morning while I was shoveling, but I appreciated being able to stop for the day.  I did clear off my car one more time and gratefully went back inside to relax again.  We were very lucky not to lose power here, and once my neighbor plowed me out this morning, the driveway and sidewalk snow melted under the sun (though it’s only 28 degrees).  The trees are also melting, though they looked very beautiful and mysterious yesterday covered in snow.  According to the snowfall totals I’ve seen, we ended up with about 18 inches of snow.

At least somebody was having fun in the snow! Who says bassets can't jump?

I’m also feeling every muscle in my body today from the shoveling, so while I started on my guest room, I’ve decided to take my time with it and paint next weekend.  Although, because I’ve cleared everything out but the bed and dresser, and it’s sitting in the hallway and my office, we’ll see how long that lasts…

Coat Closet Makeover

1 02 2010

Happy 2010!  It was a very busy end to the year, which found me staying at my parents’ house for four out of five weeks because of Christmas, my 30th birthday, and some travel, and therefore, not doing much of my usual homeowner duties. 

Now that we’re into the doldrums portion of the year, where the days are cold and mostly grey, with nothing like Christmas to look forward to, it’s time for my home projects to start up again in earnest.  I mentioned a few things towards the end of last year that I planned to work on, but something new came up this weekend instead.

I’m a big believer in fixing what bugs you.  I remember working on an organizational challenge a few years ago that began with walking through my living space and picking the things that really bothered me.  Things like ugly light switches, chips in the wall paint, loose wallpaper corners, that type of thing – the stuff that makes you say things you don’t mean, like “I hate this house!” whenever you’re having a bad day and stumble on them.

I finally came to that point this weekend with my downstairs coat closet.  I normally grab whatever I need out of there and quickly shut the door, so I don’t have to see the clutter and disaster within.  It was one of the places in the house that still harbors a weird “former occupant” smell too, which even overpowered the little air freshener I put in there.  It was a dumping ground for coats, hats, scarves, gloves, unused hockey skates, dog food, tv tray tables, sketch pads, a piece of carpet, a mop, vacuum, two pairs of boots, a pair of old sneakers, some never used ski goggles, and more.  I just hated it, but I mostly pretend it’s not there or important to clean out.

But Saturday night, as I was thumbing through my files looking for ideas to improve my guest room, I found this article from the November issue of Real Simple:

Ah, so pretty

I remember totally loving this closet when I read the article, and thinking, hey, I could do that (and I did it for less than half of the $375 price tag they quote in the article)! 

So when I needed a Sunday project, I decided that the closet would be a good start.  I’m almost embarrassed to show you the before pictures of my closet, which was stuffed to the gills, but it looks so much nicer now – and I ‘m sure that I’m not the only one with cluttered spots in their homes!

Well, here it is, the official before picture - no straightening up for the photo either!

To "save space" I hung all my scarves with my coats. Which just made the hanging items bulkier

The bottom of the closet wasn't any better - it was all about out of sight, out of mind

I ended up just tossing all my hats and gloves on the shelf because I had no where else to put them

To start, I made a list of what I wanted and needed, even before I cleaned out the closet (just in case I was too tired to start on the closet itself once I’d run my errands – I’m still feeling the jet lag these days!).  I really liked the shelving unit that they’d used in the closet in the article, and I love love love baskets of any kind, so I put those items on my list.  I also decided to get a basket for the top shelf – things just look neater when you have somewhere to put them. 

I also liked that in the article, they’d painted the inside of the closet a fun color – I never would have thought to do that otherwise!  Since I plan to paint the center wall of my living area an accent color, I figured that I would pick the color I wanted and then use that for the inside of the closet as well.  And since the entire inside of the closet was a bit grody, I also decided to get some matte white paint to freshen up the trim, the shelf and the ceiling.

I started at Target and found two wonderful stackable shelves from ClosetMaid for $19.99 each.  It wasn’t exactly like the piece in the article, but I thought it was a fairly economical alternative (I can’t find them online, but they were in the store).  I checked out the baskets there as well, but they didn’t have enough to fill the six shelves I would end up with, so I next headed to Michaels.  By sheer coincidence, Michaels was having a 40% off sale on their baskets, so I was in heaven.  I love the dark brown baskets, but they didn’t have six of these, so I settled for alternating dark with light baskets.  They only had five in the size I wanted, so I decided to leave the bottom shelf free for my skates – yes, even though I’ve never ever used them in about 10 years of owning them. 

I also picked up some dark brown soft round baskets for my bathrooms – I saw another great decorating idea recently, where someone used these baskets to store new rolls of toilet paper.  It frees up any under the sink storage areas for other things (those are also spots I need to work on in the next few months) and looks pretty in the house.  It’s a silly little thing, but I was so thrilled with them, along with the dark basket I bought for my laundry items to sit on top of my stackable washer-dryer.

Baskets Galore!

Then, it was on to Lowes for paint and supplies. I picked up some samples for my guest room overhaul, which I’m planning to work on over the next few months, since that’s another room that drives me crazy.  I also got my paint for the closet, and then it was off to work!

I started by emptying out the entire closet and deciding what could be relocated.  I realized that the tv tray tables haven’t been used since I moved in, but could always be useful, so I put those up in the attic.  Also to the attic went a Christmas box that had been holding a laughable number of gloves and hats and the piece of carpet I’d been keeping in there. 

The closet makeover article I’d read mentioned that not all coats need to be in the coat closet, so I relocated any of my spring/fall coats to an upstairs closet and put all of my winter coats on the same type of hanger – fortunately, I had those already.  I went through my hats, gloves and scarves, as well as coats, and put anything I didn’t want anymore in a bag to go to goodwill.  Next, I realized that I could fit my ironing board next to my washer-dryer in the bathroom and that it made more sense to keep all of the laundry-related items together.  So I got rid of the two extra mops that I no longer use (since I love my Shark steam mop!) and put the ironing board behind my drying rack in the bathroom.  The iron and accessories were also relocated to the bathroom, while my sketch pad was moved to the upstairs closet with all my other sketch pads.  Salt for melting ice/snow went into the shed, my trunk cover went back out to the car, and the boots I don’t often wear went into my upstairs closet. 

Finally empty!

There's actually a lot of space in this closet, but you can see I also had to contend with my alarm box

Maybe I was just trying to cover up the grody-ness with all my clutter

I learned that while sometimes I still have the energy to paint at the end of the day, it’s not always a good idea when I don’t have a big spotlight to shine on the project.  I only have a small light in my closet, and between that and a flashlight, it was a bit of a struggle to finish up the painting.  But I managed to get it done – two coats of the blue and the white matte paint, and the closet looked great.

Painting done! So much better already

You’ll see from the pictures that I have a gross eyesore in the closet too – the home of one of my two filters.  I learned from watching countless hours of HGTV that if you want an architectural feature to disappear, paint it the same color as the surrounding walls. So I painted it blue along with the walls and aside from still being in the way, it does blend MUCH better than before!

Next, I put together the shelving units, which should be attached to a stud if they’re going to be stacked.  I don’t have one in the closet, but I can attach the top unit to the wood holding up the shelf, and plan to do that later today for safety.  I sorted the remaining items into baskets and was surprised to find I had a TON of room in the closet now!  Once the paint was dry, I easily put the shelving units back in the closet with their baskets, tucked the dog food behind the filter box and the vacuum at the back of the closet too, hung up my winter coats and extra hangers for guests, put my snow boots in a basket on the top shelf, snuck in my mop, and even had enough room to put away a “project box” (which contains the crocheted quilt I’m working on) on the top shelf!

The after!

The after!

No more clutter!

I’m so pleased with it that I want to get to work making over ALL my closets, but one step at a time.  My next project is to paint the accent wall, now that I have the paint to do it – I was watching Sabrina Soto yesterday on Get it Sold, and she said that if you have a center wall in an open-plan floor, it’s a good idea to paint it a darker color (in the same family as the rest of the paint) to give the room depth.  So I’m glad I’m thinking like a designer!