Quick heads up: For everyone asking about our book’s out-of-stock issues on amazon.com – it’s back in stock (with before-Christmas delivery available!). Whew.
While our sunroom mojo was still running on high from accomplishing our most daring painting task to date, I quickly followed up with two small electrical updates to the room. The first is seemingly minor, but to us makes a world of difference in making a room feel new: updating outlets. It’s something that was especially helpful in a room like our sunroom where the off-white outlets just look dirty against the white trim.
A basic new outlet and cover plate can run you as little as $2-3 so it’s not a pricey update – even for an outlet-riddled room like ours (there were nine in here). And the task of replacing them is pretty straightforward too. Maybe a bit tedious, but certainly not backbreaking. So I actually put together a little graphic tutorial for easy reference if anyone else wanted to update some outlets in their home. I’m not a trained electrician so I can’t say this is an expert how-to or that it’ll work for every home out there, but so far it has served us quite well.
Switching out all 9 outlets – plus two switches – took me a little over an hour. But it made the room feel a couple decades newer to our eyes (we’ve heard of folks who spray paint their outlet covers but you can’t spray the actual outlets so in our world it was worth the $25 that we spent to update all of the covers and the outlets themselves in one long-lasting fell swoop). Oh and for anyone looking to sell, this is one of those things that’s pretty straightforward and inexpensive but is actually good for resale (it makes the whole room feel updated and even more crisp when it’s combined with fresh paint on the walls).
Now on to my less successful electrical project in the room: adding a light to the ceiling fan.
This room has no lights in it. So just as it’s sun-filled during the day, it’s pitch dark at night. So when my mom enlightened me that they sell kits to add lights to existing ceiling fans we immediately had our game plan in mind (which included this vintage-ish Ceiling Fan Light Kit found at Home Depot).
I was pretty stoked about the price of the add-on light fixture ($20) and the schoolhouse style was pretty decent too. So in my excitement I kinda sorta might’ve skipped over the directions and started taking the fan apart to see how it connected (after turning the power off to the room). It was quickly apparent that this colorful mess of wires didn’t match up with the simple black and white wires that the light kit came with.
Convinced I had purchased the wrong kind of light kit, I returned it to the store and brought a picture of my wire situation to show the lighting lady at the store in hopes that she could point me in the direction of a kit that worked for my fan.
Well, after a short discussion (that uncomfortably involved the word “nipple” a lot) she informed that I did in fact have the right kit, I just wasn’t following instructions correctly (oops). Apparently I was supposed to pop out the small cover on the bottom of the fan (see below)…
…and connect the black and white wires on the kit to the two corresponding wires in the fan. I just had missed them because they were wrapped up in a plastic bag which, had I looked more closely, was labeled “for light.” Duh.
With renewed confidence I started piecing the light and fan together. I started by screwing the light fixture’s, um, nipple into the fan cover…
…and securing it in place with a nut.
Then – in what promised to be the easiest electrical connection I’d ever done – I simply plugged the wires from the light into the ones on the fan (blue into black was correct according to the instruction I had finally cracked open).
Certain I had done things right this time, I twisted the fan cover back into place and flipped the power back on.
And nothing happened. The fan would turn on, but not the light. I pulled the chain a few times to make sure it had switched on. I flipped the switch at the wall back and forth. I disconnected and reconnected the wires a couple of times.
After some Googling I found a few other things to try. First was buying another kit from the store, just in case the one I had gotten was a bum one. Nope, still didn’t work. Then I saw somewhere that I should try hardwiring it by exposing the wires (i.e. cutting off the provided plugs) but that didn’t make it any better.
So after all those attempts (and a couple of extra trips to the home improvement store) I’ve determined that the issue is not with my light or with my fan – it’s at my ceiling. I must be one of the lucky homeowners where the original fan installer opted not to connect the wires for the light up there, figuring they weren’t going to be used since he was just installing a fan without a light kit.
So this is where Sherry and I officially called the project a bust. Sure I could buy a taller ladder or rent a scaffold to help me access the wiring that’s 12 feet up in the air, but that seemed a bit extreme for what we assumed would be a quick and easy (and inexpensive) project. So for now, here’s our solution:
Yup, it’s a floor lamp stolen from the bedroom (since we noticed that we never turn it on in there thanks to an overhead light along with two bedside lamps). Not quite as elegant of a fix as true overhead light would have been – and who knows if we’ll properly wire things down the line – but for now it works.
What sort of electrical adventures have you guys been up to lately? Did anything go super easily (cough-outlets-cough)? Or did something turn out so hot (cough-stupidfan-cough)?
Putting a dressed up frame around a plain builder mirror is one of the easiest ways to upgrade a bathroom, especially if you’re working with the tile and not doing a total gut job (which we thankfully are in this room since the classic b&w tile is in great shape). It’s actually kind of crazy that we haven’t really tackled this yet (well, we sorta did it here I guess, but this mirror has been naked for the last two years since we moved in).
There are companies out there, like Mirror Mate, who can make it super easy for you – but like the true DIY addicts that we are, we opted to try our hand at making this guy from scratch. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward task, despite the challenge of not having much space around our mirror to actually attach anything. But we’ll get to that later…
We opted for a super simple frame. After considering some more ornate moldings or window trim, we decided a flat chunky piece of wood would be best (and it’d match the chunky shelf nearby without competing too much with other more interesting items like our patterned window shade or the new vanity knobs). So first we picked up some 1 x 3″ pieces of pine in the lengths that we needed (I believe our total cost was $14). I was too distracted by the cutie in the cart to save my receipt.
I used my miter saw to cut my corners on an angle, but if you are miter-saw-less you can also do a simpler frame that’s kind of like this chalkboard frame that we built instead.
Another challenge of this project was to make the frame rest over the plastic clips that hold the mirror to the wall. No challenge that a little routing couldn’t handle, right? So first I marked where I need to notch out the wood so that the clips would rest inside and the wood could lay flush against the mirror. I decided to be generous with my notches so I’d have some wiggle room when placing the mirror, which is why they’re about twice as tall and twice as wide as the clips themselves.
If you rolled your eyes at the word “router” and said “well great, I don’t own no stinkin’ router” – you’re in luck. My router broke so I didn’t have one at my disposal either. So here’s the really simple (but not quite as pretty) way to get those notches:
- I used a Dremel to make small grooves on all sides of my marked notch, just so I’d get a relatively clean edge. This step is TOTALLY OPTIONAL. I only did it because I’m particular. So if you don’t have a router OR a Dremel you’re still ok.
- Use a small drill bit to make some not-too-deep pilot holes, fairly close together (see, if all you have is a drill you’re cool).
- Follow up by going into each pilot hole with a much bigger bit so the holes begin to run into one another.
- Use a flathead screwdriver and hammer to gently chip or pry away any chunks the drill didn’t get.
Again, not the prettiest result. But for a simple shallow notch like this (which won’t be seen by anyone but the plastic clip itself) it does the job. Oh, and this one goes along the bottom of the frame which is why my notch won’t be seen even though it goes all the way to the edge of the wood.
Once all of my notches (four in total) were made, I used my Kreg Jig to make pocket holes and then join my corners together.
And ta-dah, my constructed frame:
Before painting it, we brought it inside to make sure it fit and looked square and everything. This picture below gives you a better sense of how my unpretty notches will fit up against the clips (while still not being visible to anyone once the frame is in place).
Fast forward about a day and I primed and painted the frame white (Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore in semi-gloss, using a small foam roller for a smooth result). While we were at it, we also painted the previously-grey-washed shelf in the background so everything would match (which Sherry mentioned in this post).
I’ve seen other folks do this project where they simply use some heavy duty caulk or construction adhesive to straight up stick their frame to the mirror itself. But since my last attempt at gluing something to a mirror made me wary of that trick, I wanted to rely on a few strong & secure screws instead. So when we measured and cut our frame we made sure it overlapped the top edge of the mirror (the only edge without a wall, the counter, or some tile in its way). That meant I could drive a couple of screws through the frame and into the wall without being anywhere near the mirror to make sure the frame wouldn’t come crashing down on us. The whole contraption was pretty light, so it didn’t have to be too heavy duty.
And then just to make sure the bottom of the frame didn’t flap out or anything, we put a couple of dots of silicone caulk between the frame and the mirror just to hold it in place (we taped the frame down along the bottom until the caulk dried so it would hold it firmly for the long haul).
That was a few days ago and we’ve since removed the tape and even given Clara a few baths in there and it’s still holding strong. Whew.
When all was
said and done caulked and dried, we just filled those two screw holes with wood putty and painted them so they weren’t obvious. Then it looked a little something like this.
Isn’t it such a cleaner and more finished look than this before-the-frame shot?
Even for a not-very-fancy frame, we’re pretty darn pleased with how it polished off that big unpolished beast in the room. And weirdly enough, in person it makes the room feel taller since it somehow draws your eye up more than the frameless mirror used to. Which is a nice balanced look since we have an extra tall shower curtain on the other side of the room.
So blammo. New mirror frame for a total of $14 and about three hours of time if you count all the building, chipping out notches, priming, and painting.
And since that officially wraps up the last project on this portion of our bathroom upgrade, shall we do a quick budget breakdown? I think we shall.
The total mini-update came in well under our mental budget of $200 (which is mainly just a random low number that we throw out when we don’t feel like calculating a specific budget and we’re not doing anything major like replacing tile).
- New light fixture: $61 (from Joss & Main)
- Shelf: $6
- Paint (a quart of Elephant Gray by Benjamin Moore): $24
- Fish art: $30 (from Joss & Main)
- Knobs: $17 (from Hobby Lobby)
- Window shade: $16 for yard of the fabric we used from Mary Jo’s (although we only used $8 worth, so Sherry has leftovers)
- Window frosting: $0 (leftover from other project)
- Mirror frame: $14
- Shadowbox: Already made
- Accessories: Already owned
- TOTAL: $168
*(if you didn’t already have a shadowbox, window frosting, and some accessories, you might spend an additional $30-40 for a total of 200-ish beans)
If we had to pick the stars of the room, though, it’d totally be the window fabric paired with the fish art. Both just wake things up and made us feel good about going pretty neutral on everything else.
So there you have it. We can officially close the books on this bathroom for now. Although there’s still another untouched bathroom on the to-do list (I’m talking ’bout you, guest bathroom).
And now, much like The Talking Dead takes a fond look back at each zombie who is killed (please tell me you guys watch that), we shall take a fond look back at the bathroom that greeted us when we moved in back in 2010 (sorry about the bad lighting, Sherry grabbed the picture right as we pulled up in the moving truck before we carried in about five million boxes).
I have to say, I think this room’s $168 upgrade is one of my favorite inexpensive room redos that we’ve done here. Doesn’t the after shot almost feel like it could be a completely new bathroom even though we worked with the original 1960′s tile?
What under-$200 upgrades are you guys doing around the house? Is anyone else making mirror frames or floating shelves or other semi-straightforward projects for the loo? Sidenote: I think Sherry’s favorite line in our entire book was “who doesn’t enjoy a gussied loo?.” So there you have it, a window into my quirky wife’s soul and a post about framing our bathroom mirror.
So. My basement workshop. I owned up to how messy it was a few months ago.
Then building Clara’s dollhouse prompted me to tidy it up a smidge – as in, look you can actually see some of the floor.
And then the deck happened and it all went to crap again. A big sawdusty, scrap wood cluttered pile of it.
But I made a promise to myself that once the deck was done I was going to take care of this issue once and for all. And I’m happy to report that after many hours, many calls, and some serious scrap-wood-carrying, some major progress has been made.
My secret? The Bagster. I walked by it enough times at Home Depot that I just decided to buy it and give it a try (so if this sounds like a Bagster ad, I promise it isn’t).
The clutter was starting to give me anxiety and get in the way of doing new projects so it just. had. to. go. Bagster is basically a dumpster – just a cheaper, smaller, baggier form of one. So yes, after months of trying to decide how best to reuse or recycle my scrap wood pile, I just:
- kept the stuff that I thought would be useful for future projects
- gave everything else that I could to anyone else who would take it (free-scrap-wood ads on freecycle and craigslist worked for some of it, as well as contacting the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and a local wood-collection/pallet place – but there were still tons of scraps that no one wanted – even for free)
- finally set my eco-induced guilt aside and decided to just Bagster the stuff that no one else would take (some of it was old and rotted anyway)
The bag itself was a $29 purchase and once folded it out, it promised to hold 3 cubic yards and up to 3,300 lbs. Assuming you don’t want their big trash truck on your driveway, you have to put the bag within 16 feet of the street (either on your yard or driveway) so that the truck’s crane can still reach it.
I have to admit, we both thought it looked kinda small once it was all folded out. We started to wonder if it would even hold all of the old rotting pallets that we wanted to get rid off, let alone my leftover deck scraps.
It certainly didn’t help when our first piece of scrap (the rotting railing to our old balcony) was nearly too long to fit.
But the railing fit and from there we just started piling other scrap in. By the end of the afternoon, the bag was pretty much at capacity. But the yellow straps could still touch (which are the rules) so I wasn’t worried about them rejecting my bag for pick-up. Although I was a bit worried that it would break when they tried to pick it up and I’d have wood scraps spilled across my driveway…
Once it was full I logged onto the Bagster website to schedule my pick-up. You tell them the first weekday it’s ready and they promise to send a truck within three business days. The pick-up fee differs depending on where you live, but for our county it was around $100. But thanks to a $20 off coupon code I found by Googling, our cost was only around $80 (not including the $29 for the original bag purchase). But compared to the $300 – $400 estimates that I got for a traditional dumpster, paying around 110 beans felt like a steal (I couldn’t have even rented a truck for the afternoon and paid the dumping fee for all that wood for that price). Plus, look at the awesome curb appeal (not).
Thankfully less than 48 hours after filling the bag, this big green Waste Management truck pulled up to take the eyesore away. We didn’t have to be home for the pick-up (the guy didn’t say a word to me), but I’m glad we were so I could capture the excitement / witness the potential disaster of wood raining down on us from a ripped bag.
Out came the truck’s crane and the gentleman hooked up its strap to the two yellow handles on my bag.
And then up it went! No ripping whatsoever. It was awesome to see our car-sized container of wood get hoisted up like it was full of foam.
I managed to capture a little bit of the “action” on video. If you listen really carefully you might even be able to hear me holding my breath as it becomes airborne.
This was both literally and metaphorically a huge weight lifted off of me. Some of those rotten pallets (left outside for over a year by the old owners) have been taking up usable space in my basement for a while, and it’s downright invigorating just to have them out of my way. In fact, this may just be the beginning of a little basement organization / makeover project I’ve been dying to get to. Does anyone smell a man cave? Update: And by man cave I mean place-I-can-cut-wood-and-blast-manly-music (no lounge chair and TV or anything…).
Have you guys tried out The Bagster? Did it look super small at first (until you packed it to the gills)? Do you have another preferred method of removing renovation or project messes from your house? Sometimes we wish we had a big truck for these random occasions, but then we remember we’d have to pay for it, insure it, and gas it up (a daunting concept for us since we actually get a lot of our reno budget from only having to insure/gas one small car). We’ve decided the ideal situation would be a rich neighbor with a nice big truck that they’re happy to loan us in return for homemade cookies. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
Psst- You can see how we celebrated Burger’s sixth birthday (and how Sherry invented a new food: the cheese popsicle) over on Young House Life.