Our Current House
And now for a fourth chapter of The Sandbox Chronicles. Just kidding. It’s time for some toilet talk. Remember the almond toilet that came with our master bedroom (which we recently switched out for a taller and cleaner-looking white one)? Well, for a while the old almond guy – who looks oddly white in this picture below – just sat in our entryway. What, is that weird?
The reason? We decided to try our hand at Craigslisting it. Once John found out it was an over $1300 (!!!) toilet by Kohler (more on that here) he was convinced we could get some money for it from someone in search of an upscale almond toilet. You’d be amazed what people buy on Craigslist by the way. And a few days later… we sold it! For $80! The nicest family (a man with two young boys and a baby girl) came over to grab it after work one night last week. I know it’s nerdy, but it felt so good to know that our old john was going to a loving home. Haha. The funniest part was that when they all left with the toilet and we were waving at the window with Clara (she requires that we wave at everyone walking away from our house) she said “I go in car too!” Yup, the girl apparently liked the toilet and the new family so much that she wanted to leave with them.
Although we were initially looking at the $80 that we made on the sale of the old “fancy toilet” as a nice little credit towards our new one (which was $88), a few days later we heard about a sweet local family (a single mother named Chevelle with six children) that Habitat For Humanity is helping out. And we learned that for an $100 donation we could buy them a toilet for their new soon-to-be-built house.
So we happily put our $80 Craigslist profit plus twenty bucks of our own into an $100 toilet donation for Chevelle’s family. If anyone else feels like helping them out – here’s the link. Habitat is such a great organization. We’re fans. But anyway, now that we’ve covered the subject of used (and new) toilets, let’s get on to the whole door trimming thing.
You probably remember us mentioning that the bottom of our bathroom door needed to be trimmed so it would open all the way instead of getting caught on an air vent in the floor.
Not only was it annoying that the door wouldn’t fully open due to grinding up against the vent, but we also couldn’t have a bath mat because the bottom of the door would just wad it up and push into it since it couldn’t just pass over even the thinnest options. Which meant wet puddles on the floor outside the tub every day. Which just happens to be right in front of the toilet. Do you know how gross it is to go to the bathroom with your feet in puddles? Granted they’re clean bathwater puddles, but still – your brain can go to a dark place. And if you have socks on and you walk into the bathroom: wet socks. The worst.
So this week’s bathroom door-trimming update is also this week’s Dude Get On That Already challenge, because… dude…. how have we not gotten on this sooner?
To remedy this situation, we cut down the door. It really wasn’t bad at all. First we removed the door by removing the hinge screws to slowly release it (two people = the best way to do something like this to avoid the door slamming down to the ground and scaring the bejeesus out of you).
Then John and I carried the door out to the patio where we had set up the table saw. John pushed the door against the guide next to the blade as I pushed the door slowly into the blade to get a nice clean cut off the bottom. Update: Matt very kindly taught us a safer way to cut down a door, so read about that here. Safety first!
We probably took between half an inch and a third of an inch off since it was such a tight fit before and we wanted to make sure it would clear the vent on the floor and the future bath mat that we’d be adding to solve the whole puddle problem.
Then I sanded the bottom of the door to clean up any roughness before we rehung it (since once we rehung it we’d have a hard a$$ time getting sandpaper under it to smooth that area out).
Then we rehung the door about a half-hour later by using the same screws that we removed from the hinges.
Oh happy day! We cleared the vent! Still have to do some quick paint touch ups along the bottom lip, but it’s looking pretty good.
Then I took a minute to add a doorstop on the bottom right edge of the door so the towel hooks on the back of the door wouldn’t slam open into the art that’s hanging on that side wall.
So now our bathroom to-do list looks like this:
paint the walls so they have some contrast replace the boob light paint the cream trim white hang some bathroom-friendly art craigslist the toilet and replace it with a classic white one do something to add privacy to the window nix the ugly and cluttered showerhead caddy remove the door so we can shave the bottom (and add a door stopper so it doesn’t squash the art)
- finally get a bath mat
- replace the border tile around the room (maybe in phase 2?)
- move the blue pendant light to hang centered in front of the window (phase 2?)
- replace the floor tile down, just to break things up since there’s so much of it (definitely phase 2)
John and I are still discussing when we’ll tackle things like cutting out that border tile and replacing it (along with rehanging the light to be centered on the window) so we’ll keep you posted if it’s right around the corner, and will be back with a full budget breakdown for all of Phase One if we decide to hold off on that other stuff for a little while. But enough about us. What about you guys? Have you sold any secondhand toilets? Bought any new ones? Cut down any doors?
Psst- To follow this bathroom sprucing project from the start, check out this planning post, this painting post, this light-swapping post, this art and trim-painting post, this toilet-updating post, and this window frosting and shampoo wrangling post.
Yes, just when you thought the sandbox-citement was over – it continues. We chatted all about how we built the base of the box here and how we made the lid with a locking system that secures it to the fence here – but it still wasn’t done. That’s the funny thing about DIY in general – you might expect a kitchen reno to run across 35+ posts and to last four months, but you never think that something like a simple sandbox will be a three part process. On the other hand, sometimes projects that we think will be really complicated end up being no sweat and we wonder why we put them off so long – so I guess it all balances out in the end. Anyway, when we last left our heroine, she was enjoying her freshly completed box – cover and all.
But the next day, as we disposed of all of the empty play sand bags and put two extra ones in the car to return them, Sherry noticed this warning on the back of the bags.
To anyone having trouble reading it, it says: This product contains small amounts of crystalline silica, a common mineral found in natural sands and stones. Excessive inhalation of respirable silica dust may cause cancer and lung disease. Avoid breathing dust. Wear approved respirator in dusty area.
Cancer and lung disease? Wear approved respirators? Isn’t this labeled “play sand” and meant for sand boxes with children who sit in that dusty mess and pour it everywhere? With red flag officially raised, we turned to the Internet to see why the heck a bag of something meant for children would have a warning that it can “cause cancer and lung disease.” Soon enough, Sherry came across a string of articles (like this one and this one and this one and this one) indicating that the type of play sand that we bought may not be the ideal option to have our daughter romping around in (not to mention that Clara left her first play session with clothes and hands covered in a white chalky dust which retroactively freaked us out).
Although we all may have played in sand as children and we’re perfectly healthy (or are we? I guess there’s still time to find out, haha) the way sand is manufactured and where it’s found can change. So if you grew up playing in river or beach sand, which may have been more common than manufactured “silica or tremolite” sand, that would explain why the newer sand containing that potentially dangerous stuff is an issue today. Here’s a screen grab from WebMD with a particularly helpful summary that we found:
So we decided to make a sandbox switcheroo – just so we wouldn’t have to think twice about letting Clara play in there for hours on end for years to come. And frankly, our alternative rocks.
I’ll pause to record a point in my “rock pun” column.
I don’t know why I didn’t think about this before – my sister actually had a rock box for her kids a while back (they’re now tweens/teens and are way too cool for it) but they loved it back in the day. Obviously it’s NOT a good solution for kiddos who still put things in their mouth. Clara did that until about a year old, but now routinely plays with rocks and pea gravel wherever she can find it without ever trying to suck it down (true story: at Home Depot there’s an outdoor planting bed with pea gravel and she loves it more than the playground). Clara’s also less likely to leave covered in rocks and track them all over the house than she was with sand. So I started the not-so-fun task of digging out all of the sand (and hauling it in the wheelbarrow to be dumped in the woods far behind our house – the very back of our almost-an-acre property).
I wouldn’t put it on the top of my “most awesome DIY tasks ever” list, but it wasn’t that bad. Although it was kinda sad to see it all empty and barren when I was through. Pardon the tree’s muddled shadow in this pic (it looks like some sand is still lurking but we swept that baby dry).
Then we turned that frown upside down by dumping in what I will now call my inaugural bag of pebbles. Things were looking up!
But upon closer examination, things were also looking kinda dirty.
Now, I realize it seems kinda prissy to be surprised that rocks are dirty (“Gasp! And water’s wet?! The horror!”). And if we didn’t mind Clara getting a bit dirty, well, we wouldn’t be making a outdoor play box now would we? But the pebbles were all covered in a sort of gritty dust that just kinda bothered me. I felt lazy just dumping them in so dirty when I could easily remedy the problem, so I decided to give the rocks a quick bath in my wheelbarrow.
I felt kinda silly doing this at first, but when I drained my first batch and saw how much dirty water was coming out it didn’t feel like my efforts were worthless at all.
But enough rock washing. Let’s get rockin’ and rollin’ onto the finished product.
Remember the lid is secured to the fence with metal hardware to keep things safe (more on that here).
I used around 20 bags to fill the whole box to the point where it was pretty much level with the ground around it – meaning Clara didn’t have a big step on either side, and she’d have a few inches of depth to really dig into. Oh and the bags of rocks were actually cheaper than the bags of sand at Home Depot. They were around $2.50 a pop, so it was just under $50 to fill our 25 square foot box up. Not free but worth the peace of mind for us. If only we had seen the warning on the sand before opening it, we could have actually saved money filling things up with rocks from the start. Oh well, live and learn.
We also took this opportunity to mulch around the sandbox, er, rock box (excuse me) so everything would look a bit cleaner when we presented it to Clara (she was with her grandparents the afternoon we made the change).
So how did Clara react to the change? See for yourself.
Honestly we expected a bigger “Where the sand go?!” reaction, but I guess it’s probably best that rocks instantly erased any memory or care for the old stuff.
All she cared about is that she could get her dig on.
Which actually was reassuring to see, since I worried the chunkier rocks might be harder to dig and scoop, but she’s had no problem – even with the flimsy dollar store shovel we got her. Plus she can scoop rocks with a shovel but also pick them up with her hands (not true with sand) so she seems to have a lot of fun with that. For example, she likes filling the front part of her truck with one rock carefully shoved through the window at a time. It’s the little things, right?
And luckily the rocks have proved to be less messy than the sand. Yeah, we may occasionally need a bath afterward – but the sand involved a rigorous pre-going-back-into-the-house-dust-off that the rocks have yet to require. Upgrade!
But in the end, as long as Clara is having fun – who cares how messy she gets? Oh and see those white things around the sandbox that sort of look like rocks? It sort of looks like there was lot of rock fling-age going on, but they’re just white petals dropped by our dogwood. We may be jinking ourselves, but so far Clara has been happy to keep the rocks in her rock box since we explained that’s their home and it’s where they need to stay for her to play with them.
Rock on, Beansie. Rock on.
So that’s the long circuitous story – told Hunger Games style, as a trilogy – about…
Have you guys ever done something and then decided to tweak or redo it in the final hour? Do some projects that you think will take forever end up being easier than you thought and then later you tackle some project that you assume will be super simple and that’s the one that randomly ends up being a bit more involved? Ah DIY, you’re a fickle creature, but we can’t help loving you.
Psst- Speaking of things you don’t always get right on the first try, we’re over here chatting about picking paint colors.
Ready for the next chapter of our sandbox project? If you’re not, I can tell you one person who definitely was. Her name rhymes with Blara.
Here’s where we left off. Box built (more on that here) and awaiting sand. But in need of a cover first.
Having looked at a bunch of other DIY sandbox covers (like the awesome ones from Dana Made It, Small & Friendly, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Dover Projects) and based on our own experiences, we compiled a mental list of what we wanted (and didn’t want) out of our cover. Our checklist was something like this:
- Should primarily keep out natural debris (leaves, acorns, etc) and animal “debris” (from neighborhood cats, birds flying by, etc).
- Should help keep water out, but we weren’t going to be crazy about making it completely airtight.
- Should be sturdy – so no tarps that could fly off or other plastic that might warp. Wood felt like our best bet.
- Shouldn’t be too heavy. If lifting it were a burden, we might be less inclined to use it.
So this is what we came up with. It doesn’t make much sense in it’s pre-constructed phase, but I promise it’ll all come together a bit later.
The concept for it was born from the fact that plywood was the cheapest way to cover such a big area (a 5 x 5 ft square, essentially) but my experience with plywood outdoors is that it can warp. So we decided to buy two 2 x 4″ plywood sheets with a frame of 1 x 8″ boards around it – both to add stability and to make it large enough to do the job. Plus since it’s right off of our patio we wanted it to look clean and finished and not like a plank of wood tossed haphazardly over a box.
Oh, and since one big 25 square foot cover threatened to be quite heavy – we decided to build it in two interlocking pieces. So here’s the frame for one side (I attached the frame boards using my Kreg jig). Hey look – it’s a C for Clara.
After building both frames and screwing the plywood to it from the underside, I stained both pieces with the same Behr waterproof Deck Stain in a “Natural” color that I used for the sandbox itself. It came out a bit streakier than I would’ve liked, but in my continued efforts to not stress about a sandbox I let it be (will Clara care about a less-than-perfect stain job? I certain hope not). Oh, and you’ll notice that one side has the board kinda dangling off the side. That’s a middle piece that I added to cover up some of the seam between the two sides. It’ll make more sense when you see it all in place in a few pics.
We could’ve just let the cover sit freely on the top of the box, but I opted to attach it with some hinges so that we wouldn’t have to carry the whole thing every time Clara wanted to play.
Plus, this meant the cover could rest against the fence rather than having to be stored somewhere else on the patio while the sandbox is in use. So I attached the other half of the hinge right to the top of the box itself.
While we’re on the subject of hardware, we also attached a matching handle on each side of the cover for easy grabbing. They actually polished things off a lot. Note to self: add hardware to stuff, it makes it look legit.
Here it is with the cover finished and attached, but I realize it’s a bit hard to see given the tree shadows…
…so let’s momentarily skip ahead to some pictures I took later in the day when the sun was starting to set. It’s not as pretty looking, but there aren’t those blotchy shadows going on. As for rain collecting on those panels, we’re going to see how it goes, but there are a couple of seams and cracks that should let it drain out well. So far (with very small rains) it has been fine. But if we have a gully washer and it’s an issue we’ll alter it with some drainage holes and report back!
And now you can see how each side can swing open to reveal the sandbox beneath.
Ta-dah! Oh and you’ll notice that the rain barrel has a fully fused plastic top on it (so there’s no danger of Clara somehow climbing on top of it and falling into water). Sometimes from pics of the side, folks assume that a rain barrel is topless, but it’s closed and has very small mesh circles where the water filters through (to keep mosquitoes out).
And on the subject of child safety, you may be thinking the same thing we thought – “Ack! What if Clara pulls the cover down on herself?!” So we installed a little safety latch to keep that from happening. It’s a bit of a contraption (again, me over-complicating things) but it’s basically an eye-hook screwed into the underside of the cover with a piece of chain attached via carabiner. When the cover is closed it sits hidden under the box, but when resting against the fence we can hang the chain over a hook we screwed into the fence post.
These may look dainty, but they’re actually nice and heavy duty. We tugged on them more than a few times just to be sure they’re really in there. So when the sandbox cover is open and locked in this position, it’s not going anywhere. It’s especially nice that the hinges rotate more than 90 degrees since the cover can lean back on the fence for more security (if it were frozen in the air at a 90 degree angle we’d worry it might be more apt to fall closed, but when leaning back against the fence and hooked into place, it’s nice and secure). So now that we’ve covered how the cover works, I’m going to rewind to a time when there wasn’t sand yet in the box. A much sunnier, distractingly shadow-y time.
Even though I showed you a few extra bags of play sand that we had sitting around from last year, I still bought about 15 more because I knew it would take a lot to fill it up and give a decent amount depth for Clara to really get her dig on.
I call this picture “the inaugural sand” – my sand box equivalent to a ceremonial cornerstone or symbolic spike that connected the railroads. But it’s really just the first bag I dumped in there.
As I dumped bag after bag of sand, Clara stood patiently waiting for her cue to play. Patience isn’t always her strongest virtue, but I have to give her props for being a very calm lady in waiting this day. Look at her all poised and ready with her bucket and her shovel.
20 bags of sand later – we gave Clara the go ahead.
And the rest is history.
Think she likes it?
We’re just as happy about it. The location is perfect for letting her play in a contained area (the patio is fully fenced in) while allowing us to sit outside and try to get some work done in a nearby chair. Plus, it’s pretty shaded most of the day too.
I must admit, in addition to be a bit more complex than I had set out to make it – it also was a bit more expensive than I had prepared myself for. Both wood and sand really add up quickly, but after looking up other wood sandboxes (many which didn’t even come with a cover and were $180 or more, like this one from Target) I felt a lot better. Plus sandboxes don’t come with sand, so that’s always an added expense. Here’s our budget breakdown:
- Wood for 5 x 5′ box: $17
- Wood for 5 x 5′ cover: $38
- Stain: $22
- Weed block: $0 (leftover from last year)
- Hinges, handles & safety hardware: $21
- Sand: $48 (thanks to some leftover bags from last year)
- TOTAL: $146
Clara happily digging around for hours on end: priceless. And so ends the two-part saga that was…
OR DOES IT? Just when we thought our sandbox adventures had come to a close, something else happened. And it resulted in a little sandbox remix. More details tomorrow (we just have to edit the pics and write the post up). Then it’s really over. Whew. Who knew a simple sandbox would turn into a trilogy? In the meantime, have you added hardware to anything that suddenly felt more legit? I’m telling you, it’s a thing.