Tips for putting down MULCH!

It’s officially summer-time (yay!).  Which means time for… backyard livin’!  I don’t know about you but I am always very self conscious about my backyard when I have people over.  I find myself on my hands and knees 10 minutes before the guests arrive picking out weeds.  I have quite a few garden beds now, that are very tedious to maintain.  It’s frustrating, because I will weed and spend hours picking them out and then I turn around and they are all back!  This is why, I decided to put down mulch!  Mulch is a great (or so I hear) natural weed preventer.  Not to mention it’s a great way to brighten up your garden (especially if you pick a bold color like RED).   Mulch is a pretty easy job.  I did this one all by myself.  I did make some mistakes though (what else is new) so below I have some tips for first-time mulchers and amateur gardeners like myself.

218786389_fd21e4e571_oDo:
-Weed before putting down the mulch.  If you were in a situation like I was (AKA totally overgrown garden beds), it will help to use a weed killer, which will kill them and loosen up the roots.  If you go this route, spray and wait at least an hour (the longer the better) and wear gloves (REALLY- you should always wear gloves when gardening).
-Put down Preen*, which helps to PREVENT future weeds.  It’s pretty easy to use, just spread it and then water it.  Read the directions on the back for the total 411 but it’s pretty self explanatory and easy.
-Wait at least an hour before putting down the mulch.
-Re weed once you put the mulch down and get anything you might have missed.

Don’t:
-Don’t bother investing in rubber mulch.  It’s QUADRUPLE the price, and yes the color is guaranteed for longer (about 11 years longer as a matter of a fact), you still are going to have to replace it due to weather damage and erosion.  So unless you live in California or in a bubble, go with normal mulch.
-Think weeds will never grow back.  Be prepared to still have do a little bit of weeding.

Hindsight:
-Don’t mulch before a rainstorm.  I made that mistake (of course I did) and it SMELLS!
-Buy extra!  I feel like this should be my blog’s motto because I am always running out of supplies before I finish my project.  If that doesn’t show you how cheap I am — not sure what does.
Oh and in case you were wondering, here’s 1 of the flower beds after the mulch.  I picked red because , well, I like to make a statement.

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*(Disclaimer, I was not paid by Preen to promote their product.  To be completely honest, it seems like they have little to no competitors and have monopolized the weed preventing market so I am not sure if there are any other products to use  but if there are I am sure they work the same.  But as always, don’t take my word for it). 

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The Bar Is Opened!

Our memorial day weekend was spent replacing the floor in our basement.  When I say ‘our’ and ‘we’ I mean, my boyfriend and his dad.  This project is way to advanced for little ol’ me.

Background: When we moved in, the basement was in shambles.  From flooding, the floor had rotted (it was ply-wood with tile on top, not to water resistant) and it had become a storage area for junk.  But, this basement, in it’s glory was absolutely amazing.  My grandfather was a mason worker and he had crafted a bar (see below) that was so unique and because of that we decided to restore the basement to it’s former glory.

Since I wasn’t skilled enough to participate in most of this project (expect picking out the floor and decorating of course), this is just going to be a before & after post.  But, if you are interested in how the tile was taken up, sub floor and floor were put down, feel free to shoot me a request in the comments!

 

BEFORE:
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AFTER:
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Tips:

1. We put down a sub floor (like this) over the old concrete.  This cushions the floor, evens it out and protects the wood panel if there is any type of flooding (it is a basement after all!)
2. We used tongue and groove flooring.  We were originally going to go with a stick and peel (because it is easy to replace) but this looks nicer, has no gaps and wasn’t too much more money.  This is the flooring we used.

Hindsight:

Be prepared to mess up! During this, from taking out the tiles — our stairs actually collapsed.  It was an easy (and needed) fix, but don’t be shocked when something goes wrong.

Disclaimer: We saved a lot of money by having someone who actually knew what they were doing help (my boyfriend’s father).  If you don’t have anyone like that to help out– seriously take some time to educate yourself on the process, get the right tools and find the right materials.  If you really screw it up, you would wind up with a costlier mess on your hands than if you just hired someone from the beginning. 

 

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Easy (yet costly) Backyard Facelift

The backyard got a much needed facelift and we replaced our old dingy tin shed (which God bless it because it lasted a few decades and housed quite a few raccoons and other critters towards the end), with a brand new Rubbermaid (or as I like to call them– Playskool) Shed.

This isn’t really a tutorial, but just a confession that even when you are doing it yourself– you are going to have splurge once in a while.  Although the shed was pretty expensive, we considered it an investment and a cost we had to make.  We did decide to downsize the shed from 8×10 to 7×7 to save a few bucks.

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But look how much of a difference it makes!!  The shed we picked out is a Rubbermaid Roughneck XL*.  We love it! Easy to put together,  water tight, has (tinted) skylights to let light in.  The assembly took about 1/2 a day.  It’s a follow the instructions type of thing, follow them and you’ll do it right the first time.  Ignore them and you probably will wind up having to start all over (SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE FELLAS!)

*Yes, I know the shed is discontinued.  I did a lot of research before purchasing and wound up buying it from Ebay where they FREIGHT shipped it to my house for free.   Loews and Home Depot had similar models but I would have had to rent a truck or pay for shipping and I would have spent more.

NOTE: (I was not paid by Rubbermaid to promote their product, nor did I receive this shed or any similar gift, for free.  BUT if you are a representative from Rubbermaid, feel free to send me free products).

 

 

Pinterest Inspired: China Cabinet Book Case

I was cleaning out an old china cabinet, that probably weighs about 1,000 lbs, trying to figure out how the heck I was going to get rid of it.  Staring at the solid wood,  10 foot tall cabinet, I realized… it’s not going anywhere.

TIME FOR PLAN B: I started thinking of what I could do with it.  As a 25 year old, I don’t have too much china or antiques that deserve to be showcased.  But I do have one collection that deserves to be showcased… my books.

I decided to make it a book shelf, but thought that it might be stale to just have books in there…. not too visually appealing.  So I decided to make my book collection something to admire… by color coordinating them! I got this idea from Pinterest and it was actually pretty easy(but totally time consuming).  Check out the finished product!

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Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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A little bit of paint makes everything better

One of the things I am really learning while going through this DIY journey is that, if it ain’t broke but it looks like crap, paint it!  Painting gives a nice refresh to old and worn walls, doors and furniture.  We’ve done some painting for before– so I went into this project with confience, perhaps too much confidence. Project for last Saturday: tool/garden shed door.

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As you can see, this door needed a lot of work. The paint was peeling off and the door had several small nicks in the wood.  Not to mention, it was dirty as hell.   We also decided to put in a new door knob.  My project is most likely a little more intense than a normal ‘paint job refresher.’

Here’s the tools.

1. sandpaper

2. All-purpose cleaner (I am not brand advocate here but to be honest, I just used Windex)

3. roller

4. roller tray

5. roller cover

6. paint brush (medium size)

7. paint tray cover (but really, tinfoil to line the roller tray works just as well).

8. keyed entry door knob

9. painter’s tape (which I did not use as you will see below).

STEPS:

1. First, I cleaned the door.  Sounds easy, but to be honest it took a lot of paper towels and Windex to get that bad boy clean.  Also, if you are doing an outdoor project like myself– make sure you shoo away any bugs in the surrounding area so you don’t have to worry about a fly becoming a part of your freshly painted door.

2. Next, I sanded the door down.  Just a little bit to smooth out the rough edges and to remove any peeling paint.  HINT: If you are sanding, hook up the paper to something sturdy, like a block of wood.  Will make your job much easier and the finished product will look much nicer.

3. NON-OPTIONAL STEP THAT I SKIPPED. Apply painter’s tape around the edges. If the door is similar, make sure it is applied AROUND the glass or else you will regret it… trust me. (see below)

3. Once the door is clean and smooth, paint away!   Start with the roller and cover all the big areas first.  Use the brush to fill in the gaps.

4. Let it dry

5. Apply second coat if necessary. (Which I have yet to do because I ran out of paint, as always)

6. OPTIONAL STEP: change the door knob.  If the door knob is old, it won’t go with your fresh new door. Door knobs are reasonably priced, so I suggest replacing it.  Hopefuly you can just switch out the hardware by unscrewing and placing the new one in it’s place. But if you are working on a super old door like mine, the shape of the hole may need to be widened to accommodate the bigger knob.  For this job, you will need a power drill with a borring attachment or you can use a hole saw (which is difficult to do with an existing hole so check out this advice and not mine).

(ALMOST) FINISHED PRODUCT:

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As you may or may not be able to tell, i skipped the painters tape so wound up with a lot of paint all of the window.  IF this happens to you, scrap it off with a credit card.  It is time consuming and tedious so just use painters tape.

FINISHED PRODUCT:

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HINDSIGHT:

-No matter how much of an ‘expert painter’ you are, use painters tape.  Because you will get paint someplace you didn’t want it and you will regret it.  Make sure to think about every area you might get paint.  If you are painting a door like the project above then put tape on the floor underneath the door!

-Buy extra paint… ‘just enough’ probably won’t be enough.  In this example, I was using leftover paint which happened to be enough for one coat only.  I am going have to eventually buy more paint and do another round because it can use a second coat.

Good luck painting and have fun!! Leave your experiences in the comments!

  

 

Mason work is not as easy as you think…

If you live in the north east, you know it’s been a  brutal winter.  So after the snow finally melted we were, like everybody else, relieved.  Except when one day I am running down the porch to go to work and the concrete stairs just crumble at my feet.  Uh-oh.  I smell a  lawsuit. Especially because my town has a ‘no street mailbox rule’ meaning every mail person has to walk all the way up my driveway up the porch to leave the mail at a box by the door.

So In the spirit of  embracing the DIY lifestyle and trying to accomplish all of the to-do list on our own, my boyfriend and I made a date for the upcoming weekend to repair it.

We prepped ourselves by watching a YouTube video and reading a few articles. It seemed simple.  My dad even lent us the supplies, so it was virtually free to repair them ourselves.  And, it was pretty easy.  Not saying we did a stellar job, but it was easy enough to do ourselves.

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of pictures… BUT word to the wise: don’t mix iphones and cement, it will end in tragedy.

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Here’s the tools.
1. A chisel, or an old screwdriver which will pretty much achieve the same result

2.Patch cement (PATCH cement)

3. A brick trowel or two

Which looks something like this.

Which looks something like this.

4. An empty pail

5. Water

6. A sponge (car wash sponge is ideal)

Here’s the steps.

1. Take out (if they are still loosely lodged in there) the loose bricks

2. Clean off the bricks.  Take a chisel and just beat the crap out of the brick until the excess cement comes off.  It’s pretty stress relieving after a while.

3. Get yourself a pail (or if you are us, an empty cat litter container) and mix the cement by following the directions on the bag (usually just add some water and mix, pretty simple.)

4. Lay the bricks out and devise a plan to where they are going.  Try to put them back where they were.  We lined them up in order so we didn’t get confused.

5. Lather up the freshly cleaned bricks with concrete.  I mean lather them up.  This was Berto’s job, and he pretty much just covered those babies with cement all over the bottom sides (not the part that will be visible, just the part you are trying to stick).  Put some more cement where you are going to lay the brick.  Then when you place the brick in, you goop more into the seams.  Really push it in there.

OPTIONAL STEP: When you run out of cement because you are an amateur and have to run to the hardware store… don’t accidentally buy the wrong cement.  Seriously, buy PATCH cement and not normal cement because normal cement has rocks in it and it’s not for this type of job.   Buy PATCH cement.  We learned our lesson, the normal cement works but it’s definitely not as pretty, or the same color as patch cement.

6. Let them dry.  Go binge watch on Netflix as a reward or something.

7. Clean off the bricks.  Maybe this should be done before you let them dry fully, because once it’s dried, it’s pretty hard to get the cement off of there.  See finished product below.

Finished product.

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You can say it, go on.  It looks like crap.  Hey, this is what DIY is really like.  you win some, you lose some.  At least they are sturdy again and we don’t have to worry about the mail person slipping and breaking their neck.

 

HINDSIGHT:

1. Pick a sunny, warm day to do this type of work. It was cloudy and chilly when we did it and it made us rush and takes longer to dry.

2. If this is a permanent fix, put some serious effort into cleaning the brick once you are done.  Or else it’s going to look like an amateur job.  Once again, see above.

3. Buy plenty of patch cement in advance so you don’t have to worry about running out to buy more and having two different colors of cement (I seriously can’t stress this enough).

4. Mix a little at a time, there is really no good way to dispose of the leftovers, expect by chucking the pail you used to mix it in.

5. If you seriously have few handy skills and need this job to be just right, consult a professional.  After the process we found out it would have only cost from $50-$100 to have it fixed, and if we had to buy all the tools for the job we would have broke even.

6. If you seriously plan on doing it yourself, please don’t  use the above as your only guide.   As a disclaimer, I claim no responsibility if your brick stairs come out anything like mine.. or worse!

 

Happy brick laying

 

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