Home Improvement

Again? Already?!?

If you had told me 10 months ago that I’d be doing deck construction again less than a year later, I would’ve punched you in the face.

Okay, not literally. I’m not the punching type. But I would’ve thrown you a look that said “I would be punching you in the face right now if I were the punching type.”

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the process of building a deck in the heat of summer… I just wasn’t really looking forward to doing it again so soon. But at least it wasn’t an entire deck this time. It was more of a patch job. Remember this puppy?

That’s the hole leftover from the big tree that we had to remove. The tree guys were nice enough to disassemble the bench that surrounded it (okay, technically they had to demolish it to remove the tree). Only downside is that it left us with this pretty pile of bench scrap.

A pretty pile that was also not very conducive to deck enjoyment. Tetanus, anyone?

Rather than rebuild the bench, we decided it would make the deck more functional to just cover the hole so we could place a table on a centered spot out there (if the hole stayed it would squish the outdoor dining area over in a not-as-centered-and-more-cramped way. My biggest worry was trying to find deck boards that were the same width as the existing who-knows-how-old decking. I even attempted to salvage some full boards from the scrap pile, but I came up three short.

So I headed off to Lowe’s to get my supplies and (with an old scrap piece of board in hand) quickly discovered they were a standard width that I could buy right off the shelf. Score! So into my car I packed:

First up, I cut my 2 x 8s to the width of the hole and secured them with the hangers, using some decking nails that we had leftover from last summer.

I probably only needed to do one joist (the space was just a little over three feet wide) but the tree guys had cut the stump down at a weird angle so I couldn’t put a joist right across the middle – so this ended up being my weird spacing. As long as it keeps the deck boards from falling, it’s cool by me.

For stability and appearance reasons, I knew I wanted my new boards to extend beyond the hole. That way my patch-job would looked a smidge more natural and the new boards could rest on an existing joist at either end for even more stability. So that decision involved cutting back some of the other planks to lay in my fresh new boards and camouflage the hole.

To do this, I broke out my Dremel Sawmax and cut a deep slice. It wasn’t deep enough to go all the way through, but it was enough to make the board snap right where I wanted it (hence the slightly rough edge you see above).

This process saved me from having to pry up the entire length of each board. Instead, I just had to pry the sections that I wanted to remove.

When it came time to fit the new board, I just laid it across the space and marked it with a pen. No measuring tape needed.

Then using the stairs as a makeshift sawhorse, I cut each board down with my circular saw.

Then it was just a matter of putting my puzzle pieces together as I went.

Well, that and screwing them down. I was thankful that I had kept all of my leftover screws from last summer (maybe the universe knew I’d be doing deck-work sooner than I thought?). It saved me a few bucks and most of all it saved me from doing one of those annoying extra trips to the store because I forgot to grab something.

So here she be. Certainly not the prettiest home improvement “after” but the mismatched boards are at least an improvement over a gaping hole. Oh, and don’t mind that weird long board on the bottom left. One of the old boards cracked while I was prying it up so I had to patch a little more than originally planned.

We’re hoping that once the whole deck gets a good cleaning / stripping / restaining the new boards will blend right in with the old ones. Or maybe I should say that hopefully the old boards will look newer and they’ll all fit right in.

But for now, we’re just enjoying being able to have people over without worrying that someone’s about to fall through the deck. Check out Sherry’s chair bravely sitting right where the old hole used to be (she took this photo, which is why she’s missing).

So next on the deck to-do list is to give the whole thing a deep cleaning/stripping and then stain & seal it to hopefully bring back some like-new glory. And eventually we’d love to open up the back of the deck by adding extra wide stairs that lead down to the backyard. Sort of like this. Maybe from the thick post that’s in front of Sherry’s left elbow to the thick post that’s in front of the pot of herbs in the photo below? But that’ll probably be a “Phase Two” thing for us down the line.

Is anyone else tackling a project they didn’t foresee in their future? Something that was a pleasant (or maybe not so pleasant) surprise? As much as I didn’t enjoy having a deck to-do on my list again, I definitely appreciated the fact that this one only took me one afternoon to complete.



Blinds-ed By The Light

Our house gets really nice sunlight – especially upstairs and especially in the afternoon when the sun hits the front of the house directly. We love it for everything from hanging out to taking photos. And Burger, well, he loves it for just about anything: napping, grooming, sniffing things, more napping.

But the beams of sunlight streaming in also highlighted a shortcoming of this house: no window blinds. I think we took it for granted that the bedrooms in our last house came with nice white faux wood blinds, so it was kind of a shock the first night when we realized we had nothing for privacy or to keep the light from creeping in early the next morning.

So after way too many nights of undressing in the dark and waking up at the crack of dawn, we finally went out and bought a stack of these puppies. They’re Home Depot’s in-stock faux wood blinds. We splurged slightly on the “premium” version because they had wider slats (which means less window obstruction when they’re open) and they also promised better light blocking and had a break-away cord for added kid safety (no loops, just pulls, and the pulls break away under the weight of a child). Fortunately it was only a small upcharge, since dressing 11 windows quickly added up to over $350 (and that was with a coupon). Gulp.

But they were a necessary evil that each room needed (especially the bedrooms and bathrooms where a certain amount of privacy is not just appreciated, it’s expected). I say “evil” because we don’t consider them to be exceptionally pretty – even if they are an upgrade from vinyl blinds – but the function trumps any gripes that we have about form. And once you layer in some curtains the windows end up looking pretty great.

Installation was a bit tedious, but straightforward thanks to some good instructions. Having to hang eleven blinds and then make a few adjustments turned into a bit of a time suck (this project took about 6 hours total, broken up over two days) but it’s beyond nice to have privacy and early-morning-darkness in the bedrooms and bathrooms again.

Hanging them basically involved screwing two brackets into the side of the window frame, and then sliding the blind into place.

We were lucky that our windows were all standard sizes, so Home Depot had them on the shelf (they offer free cutting services if needed – but we were glad we didn’t have to stand there while they cut down 11 blinds for us). I did get to customize them for our house by adjusting the length, which I did after each one was hung. I just removed the bottom slat, cut the strings that held all of the extraneous slats that we wanted to remove, and then reattached the base slat to the shortened strings and tied that to hold it in place (this post shows that step in more detail if you’d like extra photos/info).

One new issue that we never encountered when installing these before was that the side pieces of trim that came with each set of blinds needed to be shorter to fit against our window frames for some reason.

So I broke out my miter saw to give each of them (all 22!) a trim so they’d sit flush against the window and still attach correctly at the corner. The pieces of scrap wood in this picture are just blocking that I used to keep the trim in place without risking my fingers.

Much better.

They just snap together, so shortening them on the end didn’t interfere with how they attach.

Then all that was left was to enjoy some privacy and some light control. They’re still looking pretty basic because we don’t have curtains hung in most of our rooms yet.

Although we do have them in Clara’s room…

We also hung the curtains that Sherry sewed for our last dining room in the guest room.

We owe you guys photos of how each room is looking these days, so Sherry’s planning to shoot some pictures for you this weekend and write a “one month in” post for Monday. And speaking of the lady wife, we were just talking about how the first few months in a house always feel like you’re bleeding money. Seriously, someone get us a tourniquet. So although this is our third house and we should know how this goes by now (addressing all those do-this-first items just seem to add up) we still find ourselves walking out of Home Depot saying things like “Over $300?! Are these blinds made of gold?!”

P.S. Since Google Reader is breaking up with all of us in four short days (aka: closing down forever) we’ve been forced to find a new reader, so we’ve converted over to Feedly (it imported all of our favorite blogs really easily and we liked its clean layout) but we’ve also heard good things about Bloglovin. So this is just a little “remember the milk” reminder, except it’s “remember to switch readers because Google’s about to dump us all.”