Friday, February 27, 2015

If you build it...

To add some unique furniture to our Living Room and prevent it from looking like an IKEA catalog, David decided to build his own coffee table. He based his design off of a DIY project he saw on HGTV.

The instructions and necessary materials can be found here.

David got the reclaimed wood from Second Chance. He picked pieces that had saw marks on them and were a little worn so that it would have a vintage look. Wood today does not have saw marks because they are cut with a machine.

David got all of the wood pieces for all of these projects at different times. Second Chance does not always have the 10 inch wide wood boards so it was difficult to obtain all of the pieces.We had to go back a few times to check to see if it was in stock. In the beginning, David was able to negotiate the price, but later on not so much. I think reclaimed wood has become more popular and so it's harder to come by.

Marks from the Saw.

David sanded the wood and stained it after he built the table. 

Letting the stain dry.

The coffee table turned out well! It has a nice area for storage underneath and is on wheels so it can be moved easily.

David also built a shelf to go above our TV. He screwed in metal IKEA shelf brackets with masonry screws. It's important to make sure it's bolted in there good because the wood is heavy. He cut a groove down the middle and slipped the wood in the hollow bracket. This holds it pretty well.

Wood mounted in the metal brackets.
 This piece of wood has an jagged edge giving it some texture.

Jagged edges.

Shelf before painting and molding.
The Shelf today...a little crowded with stuff.

To complete the set, David built a small side table. The nice thing about building your own furniture is that you can customize it. David made the side table very narrow so that it wouldn't take up too much space and could fit right next to our couch. He also added a shelf for handy storage. One thing David had to be careful of was to give the stain a lot of time to dry. When we brought the side table inside after a few days of drying on the porch we put a towel between the table and the couch just in case. I didn't want any stain on our beige couch!

Side table drying.

 The stain on the side table is a little darker than the coffee table.

Side table next to our couch.

Although the reclaimed wood furniture style is a little masculine, I like it. All of these pieces match the reclaimed wood in the middle of the brick wall which helps ties the room together. These handmade pieces beat IKEA furniture any day!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Living Without Central Heat on the Coldest Week of the Year

Most of the time it’s great being a homeowner! You can make all of the changes you want, it’s a smart investment and you get to build up equity.

But then are those inevitable times that it’s nerve-racking to be a homeowner because something is bound to go wrong and you are responsible for getting it fixed and footing the bill.

On Monday night, our heater wasn’t kicking in. David said it was an issue with the pilot light on our boiler. The sensor was either too dirty or old to register the flame from the pilot light. Since it didn't sense a flame, it shut down. This is a safety feature so that gas won't leak out. David tried to clean the sensor, but couldn't reach it, so he decided to remove it and unfortunately, the igniter broker.

David was able to temporarily fix it by duct tapping the igniter back together, but the tape would melt and we would be back to square one. That night we ran our space heater and planned to try to replace the piece the next day.

The fix was going to be more complicated then we originally thought. David drove around from store to store looking for a replacement igniter, but no store carried it. We would have to order it. In addition, we had an issue with the gas leaking out, so that would also need to be addressed. We would need some professional help, so we planned to have a family friend that works on HVAC systems come look at it the next day.

Again we slept with space heaters. Of course our heater would break on the coldest week of the year! Baltimore was experiencing record lows with sub-zero wind-chills. I mean it was colder here than it was in Alaska! Not only did we want to not freeze, but the bigger concern was that our pipes might burst. Pipes were bursting in houses that had heat, so we decided it would be best to shut our water off to minimize the damage if a pipe did burst. When we were home, we kept the water on upstairs so we could shower and use the bathroom, but at night and when we were at work, we shut the water off completely. I had David show me where the valve was to shut off the water so that I would be prepared in case anything ever happened.

We decided to give up on our first floor bathroom for the time being and shut off the water to this area at all times. This bathroom is an addition that was built on to the house and is not insulated well. Even on days when we run the heat, it is pretty cold back there. David hung a curtain in the hallway that leads to the bathroom to help keep the cold out. It got seriously cold back there….so cold that the toilet water ended up freezing!

Our bathroom and back hallway quarantined.

We strategically placed our three space heaters near water sources to prevent pipes from freezing. We had a big one that we used on the first floor and two smaller ones upstairs. We had to run space heaters even when we were not home to prevent freezing. We placed them in the middle of the room so that it would be safe.

I can't complain too much because our house was pretty comfortable; the coldest it got was 59 degrees. At least we had electricity so we could run the heaters! We would move a space heater to the room we were hanging out in so that it was around 65 degrees. We also used lots of blankets, heating pads and put hot water in jars next to us (an old Merino heating solution).

We had our boiler looked at on Wednesday and then ordered the correct ignitor piece but it would be a few days before it could be fixed. It wasn't until Saturday afternoon that we were able to have the piece replaced. It took a couple of hours for the professionals to fix it because the gas was still leaking too much.

But alas they figured out a solution and our radiators started heating up again! It sucks that we had to shell out a lot of money to get the boiler working, but that's homeownership. I'm a little afraid to see what our BGE bill will be this month since we blasted space heaters for 5 days. We are hoping this fix will last until we are ready to install central AC/heat in our house. For now, I am just happy to have a warm home.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Boy in the Cupboard Under the Stairs

One thing our home is majorly lacking is storage. We have a large unfinished basement that is great for storage. But as far as storage on the main floor goes, well there is none.

David came up with a solution to our storage needs on the first floor. He had this idea to install drawers into a wall in our living room. The area below the stairs landing has a little cupboard space that is accessible in the basement. The plan was to cut a hole in the drywall so that we could access the cupboard from the living room.


This idea seemed quite innovative and practical, but building drawers that would fit perfectly in the wall would be a difficult tasks. So instead of building drawers, David found a small dresser that was only $7 at Second Chance that he planned to insert into the wall. I wasn't sure how this would pan out, but David was confident.

Dresser from Second Chance.

Outline for the hole.

I came over one day to find David sitting in the cupboard with a hole in the wall. (Side note: Coming home to randoms holes in the wall will be a reoccurring theme of this blog).

I give you the boy in the cupboard under the stairs.

He cut a hole in the wall in to match the dimensions of the dresser. David attached wooden legs to the bottom of the dresser so that it would sit high enough and be level. Then he propped the dresser up in the cupboard so that it would be flush with the wall and screwed it into the laths (horizontal strips of wood nailed to studs, found in old homes) and at the bottom.

Inside view where the dresser is attached to the laths.

It actually worked! David added metal drywall corner beads to the edges of the drywall around the dresser to reinforce the wall and protect it from chipping or cracking. Then he plastered over the metal to blend it in with drywall.

Before drywall repairs.

I think it was a bit challenging for David to get the drawers to match up perfectly with the wall, but after some maneuvering it turned out pretty darn good. And now we have some storage in our living room without taking up more space!

Perfect fit.
These drawers are great for hats, gloves, scarves and even Stevie's doggie food.

Storage drawers!

Here's what the drawers look like today next to the exposed brick wall and with the wall painted. We also upgraded the hardware for a more modern look.

Drawers today!