Category Archives: Home improvement DYI

Retaining wall in a day, Really!

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When we purchased our home 11 years ago, the back yard was a barren wasteland.  There was no plant life, only a pit of red clay.  Many people have the luxury of planting their yards immediately after moving in.   The mechanic and I did not have that luxury.  We had major erosion problems.  We live in a neighborhood where each neighbor’s yard sits progressively higher than the next.  The yard to the right has rain runoff into our yard, and our yard erodes onto the property to the left of us.  You get the picture.  We kept putting topsoil dressing on our yard to only have it wash off into our “lower neighbor’s” yard.  This is the solution that I came up with, which caused much moaning and groaning from the mechanic.  I had just undergone some minor surgery and could not help lift the 50lbs bags for this project; however, I did dig the ditch.

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It was a long, deep ditch too.  I needed the bottom of the ditch to be level with my neighbor’s yard. Clay-type soil is often baked into a hard crust, and is difficult to break apart with a shovel.

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I was extremely nervous.  I was not positive that my “concrete retaining wall” idea would work, and the mechanic had just started putting the bags in. I did not let the anxiety show on my face.

 

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We decided to place the first layer of concrete bags on their sides to help hold the loose soil. The mechanic loved it when I decided we needed two more rows of concrete bags placed on top of that bottom row.

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Once all the bags were in place, I watered the wall daily for four days.  I could hardly wait to rip the paper off of the concrete.  I even got a bit impatient waiting on the top row to harden.  I poked a hole large enough to fit the water hose nozzle in and filled each bag with water.  Looking back, I should have been more patient.  You can see the holes that were made in the concrete.   If I do this again, I will continue to water all the bags daily, until they are all hard.  The wall didn’t need to be pretty because it does not show.  My planting beds are in front and the fence is behind it.  RESULTS?  We had torrential downpours since this wall went in, and we no longer lose topsoil in our neighbors yard.  The retaining wall works!  This makes me breathe a sigh of relief because I don’t have an issue with the mechanic.

Shiplap without the cost!

 

 

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Faux shiplap walls

 

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To create faux shiplap:

Mr. Mechanic and I started by purchasing two 4-x-8  plywood sheets from Lowe’s.  We needed to shiplap a 6×6 wall and one board would have left us two shiplap boards short. (Now I have extra boards for my next shiplap project.) The plywood we purchased is sized at 96 inches  by 48 inches and cost $13.48 for each sheet.  By cutting the plywood into 6 inch wide planks we knew that we could get 8 boards per plywood sheet!  The nice folks at Lowe’s cut these boards into 6 inch wide strips for us! The plywood we chose is pre-primed and looks pink!  Check out the plywood link to see exactly what we purchased.  If you’re a military family like us, don’t forget to get your 10% military discount at Lowe’s.

 

 

 

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The planks have splintered edges on the cut sides, so we hand sanded them smooth.  When we tried to use an orbital, power-sander it caused it to splinter the edges more.  Hand sanding seemed to leave a smoother edge anyway.  I can’t stress enough how important this step was.  We got frustrated later, in the painting stage, when any splinters or rough edges showed up because of our lack of sanding. We did not have to sand the surfaces of the boards on this particular plywood. All of this sanding may sound labor intensive, but it went quickly; I got to spend some “quality” time with the mechanic.

We used a stud finder to find and mark our wall studs.  I drew a pencil line from top to bottom where the studs were. We wanted to make sure that all of our nails would go into a stud.

 

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You can pre-paint all your boards but you would also need to pre-paint your wall too because the wall will show through a little bit. We decided to paint and install the planks at the same time.  We used Valspar Signature paint from Lowe’s.  We painted the only the  bottom edge of a plank, making sure to get off any excess paint drips immediately.

 

Making sure that our plank was level, we nailed it to the studs. (the pencil marks for our studs was our guide to help us see where our studs were.) We used nails near the top and bottom of each board to help prevent any warping at a later time. We used a nail gun but you can nail it by hand too.  At this point, I would finish painting the plank, making sure to fully paint the top edge of the plank too.  Small seams will make it where the wall shows through.  We made sure the seams that were showing were painted the same as the planks.  To help achieve this, while painting my top edge and face of my planks, I also painted the wall above the plank about an inch.

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Mr. Mechanic and I used nickels to provide us even spacing between the planks.  This spacing is necessary to achieve the shiplap appearance.  Be careful not to let paint build up between the spaces. I even used some folded sheets of paper to wipe out any excess paint from the seams.

 

 

 

 

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We continue up the wall, attaching and painting as we went. When we got to the light fixture, Mr. Mechanic removed it.

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Using a jigsaw, he cut out the spot where the light fixture goes.  Mr. Mechanic used the face plate of the light fixture as a pattern.  He to drew on the round shape that needed to be cut out.  There might be better ways to do this, but it worked the first time for us!  I figured that if I HAD to cut the board in half to get it around the light fixture, that it would be OK.  I would just fill in the cut above the fixture with spackling compound.  But Mr. Mechanic  was able to make the circle without cutting above it.  “Jeeze-O-Man”, I said. (wiping the sweat from my brow.)

Perfect fit; I do my happy dance!

 

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Once all the planks were installed, we decided to finish off our edges of shiplap by installing some trim. We used inside corner wall panel molding that we purchased at Lowe’s, but you can really use any kind of molding that you like.

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You are left with lots of tiny holes where the nails went. We filled them with lightweight spackling. You only need to use your finger to fill the tiny spots.

 

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Once all the holes are filled, apply another coat of paint on the whole surface.  I actually used two more coats of paint to achieve the finish that I was looking for.  I also painted the trim two coats.

 

 

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Looks like real shiplap to me!

 

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I love how the faux shiplap dressed up this bathroom.

Note: see how I refinished these vinyl (Thermafoil) cabinets in this blog under “Thermafoil cabinet makeovers”

 

 

 

Thrift store mirror make-over

 

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I picked up these mirrors at a thrift store for five dollars each.

 

 

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They were heavy and the frames appeared solid and in great shape.  For ten dollars , I was ready to risk refinishing them.  I thought they would be beautiful above my double vanity in my master bath.  Diamonds in the ruff.

 

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The mirror frames had ornate carvings that I thought were plastered.  Much to my surprise, they were solid wood.  I had to get through a layer of cream, gold and burnt orange paint to find the wood.

1. My first mistake was not covering the mirror glass.

2. My second mistake was not covering my face with a mask.  (Old paint can contain lead paint)

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After sanding a bit, and I thought that I was being very careful not to touch the glass, I saw that I was bumping the glass mirror.  This caused scratches in the mirror!!  So, I taped around the edges with some painter’s tape.

3. My third mistake was not covering the WHOLE mirror.

 

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I was planning on painting these frames but I loved the distressed look that was slowly being revealed.  I sprayed on cleaner and went to work with a toothbrush to thoroughly clean all the crevices and remove the loose paint particles.

 

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I was happy with the looks of the mirror.  I sanded some areas down to expose the wood while leaving other areas with various colors still showing.  To seal the frames I put on two coats of clear finish coat.

RANT:

verb (used without object) to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave:

See all my scratches around the edges of the mirror? Ugghh, I felt so stupid and angry at myself.  I knew this mirror would have to go to Over The Mountain Glass to be repaired because those bitty scratches would drive me crazy.  This bargain of mine was going to cost me after all, and all because of my lack of foresight. Oh, I thought I was safe by covering my other mirror with tape.  Remember mistake number 3?  When I was sanding with the rotary sander I actually bumped the mirror BEYOND the tape.  Both mirrors had to be replaced.  This was a $130.oo mistake.  By the way, the original mirrors were in almost perfect condition when I got them. JEEEZZE-O-Man was I sick!

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I had the mirrors replaced in the frames that I refinished because those small scratches would drive me CRAZY. (my husband was real happy about that)   I was certain that they would look beautiful above my cabinets that I had just refinished. (see my tutorial on how I refinished ALL of my Thermafoil /vinyl cabinets both in the kitchen and my bathrooms) This project was not without it’s disappointments’ however,  I love this shabby chic look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Removing a glued wall mirror

I was bored with my “contractor grade” mirror above the double vanity in my master bathroom.  I found two mirrors at the thrift store (five dollars each..yoohoo!) that I wanted to switch for the one larger mirror.  This tutorial will show you step by step what I did to remove the mirror and repair the wall.

 

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I bought a large roll of duck tape and started taping.  I also covered my vanity with a drop cloth to protect it throughout the project.

 

 

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This was probably overkill on the Duck tape but I’m overly cautious.  I was so afraid of breaking the mirror. I can’t afford  seven years of bad luck.
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I would recommend using goggles and gloves.  I used Mr. Mechanic’s help for this part of the project. The mirror was too heavy to handle alone.   We started pushing in  wood shims to help “pry” the mirror while gently pulling the mirror from the wall. You could hear it tearing loose from the paper on the drywall.  This process took about a minute and there was no breakage or chipping of the mirror. (I’m going to sale the old mirror on Craigslist to recoup some of my project money)

 

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SPECIAL NOTE: My sister just called me on the phone to ask me what a shim was. She edits my blog and gives me feedback to insure that I keep everything easy to understand. Shims are thin strips or wedges of wood, metal or plastic. They are used for driving into crevices or to help with leveling something.  As you gently lift the mirror from the wall, push these shims behind it. Ultimately. I was trying to create a gap between the mirror and the wall to help me pry the mirror off the wall. The shims help to keep that gap until the whole mirror is loose.

 

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We were able to gently scrape some of the old adhesive patches off with a putty knife.

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With some of the more thinner patches  we cut through the 1st layer of the drywall, using a small blade to outline the old adhesive.  It made it easier to remove the old adhesive that was permanently attached to the first layer of the drywall. It also helped minimalize damage to the drywall. Any damages have to be repaired if they aren’t going to be covered by a mirror.
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Now I filled all the holes and thinner patches with joint compound that I purchased at Lowes. Wait for it to dry thoroughly.
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Once dried, lightly sand all the patches with 150 grit sandpaper until the patches feel (rub over them with your hands) like they blend with the wall. Now primer paint all your patches.  I use KILZ brand primer for all my priming needs.

Note: Once I primed my patches, I noticed a couple of them that I needed to patch again.  Sometimes you won’t notice some of the divots until they have a coat of primer on them.  You just have to patch them again.  ARRGH! !

 

 

 

 

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My wall had an orange peel texture.  The patches are smooth and they will be noticeable once I put my paint on. I purchased some spray wall texture from Lowe’s. This is the brand that I love.  It’s not cheap but worth the money spent to help blend in those smooth patches.  This wall texture has three different settings on the can so you can choose how large you want your texture to be.  Just try and match what is already on the wall.  It is a bit messy.  So cover your surfaces and clean up overspray quickly.  Before I started spraying the texture on the wall, I practiced spraying on piece of cardboard.

 

 

 

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Once my texture was dry (about 30 minutes) I lightly sanded the whole surface.  Next, I primed the texture spray.  These textured spots can appear duller in sheen if you skip this step.  You might end up having to put on more coats of finish paint to achieve a good, overall sheen on your finished paint job.  Primer is cheaper than paint so I didn’t skip this step.  Finally, I rolled on a couple of finish coats of paint.

 

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My wall turned out beautiful and I hung up my two mirrors.  These mirrors are hanging by wires attached to the frames.  They cover more wall than I expected but I KNOW the walls still look perfect behind them. Heh, heh.  I love this new look too.