A simple deck switch in Illinois

In Illinois Sarah is enjoying outdoor living. She and her husband Steve made what turned out to be a simple change to improve their enjoyment of one of their favourite outdoor spots.

I’ve mentioned several times that Steve and I like to spend a lot of time on our deck. We designed and built it the summer of 2013. Then two years later we cleaned and sealed it.

We have gotten so much use out of it, whether it is just Steve and mefr or one of the several the birthday parties, 4th of July parties and girl’s night that we have had on the deck.

As much as we have used the deck, Steve had noticed that it could be improved. When we designed it we had two sets of steps: one directed towards a door of the house that we use often and one directed towards our garden.

However, after a few years of use Steve pointed out that we could really improve the flow if we moved the steps. What first seemed like a huge undertaking was really a quick change up. Thankfully the steps were built independently of the deck so after removing several deck screws the whole set of steps easily moved.

Then taking a few screws out of the railing and using a circular saw to cut it down we were easily able to replace it where we had removed the steps. Thankfully Steve has really good vision, because when he mentioned doing this I thought it was going to be a whole day of work and honestly it took less than an hour!

Moving the steps to a longer side did bring up a small issue. The stairs were narrower than the opening. Steve and I both felt that some tall planters would guide people towards the stairs and a railing wouldn’t be needed.

We found these planters at Lowe’s. To fill them we wanted something permanent that would look nice in the winter so we also purchased these bushes. Then we bought petunias and verbena for color during the summer. We could not be happier with how they turned out. (And yes that is Blitz’s very own baby pool in the background.)

Also I had to divide and move my mums around to fill in where the steps had been. We still need to decide what material and where we want a walkway but overall we are thrilled with the changes.

The deck just feels like it makes more sense this way and we sure like to spend time sitting out there and enjoying each other’s company.

Do you have a gathering spot at your house? Ever had a project that just wasn’t working and you made the decision to rework it? What flowers would you use to fill those big pots?

What a great switch, Sarah. I’m impressed that it was such an easy change for you. The planters are a good solution.

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Solar panels four years later

Solar panel array

Four years ago on April 25, 2014, we powered up our solar panels and began feeding electricity back to the provincial grid.

Every spring, I like to look at our numbers and compare how we’ve done with past years. Here are our previous annual summaries:

We don’t track how many kilowatts we generate, so all of my calculations are financial.

Over four years, we’ve made a total of $17,469.28.

Our initial investment in the panels was $40,727.16, so I guess you could say we still have awhile before we’re truly ahead (based on this year’s numbers, our total payback period will be just under 8 1/2 years).

However, we already feel like we’re ahead every year because we consistently generate more power than we consume.

Last year, we paid $2,594.40 for electricity, and we earned $4,855.15–$2,260.75 in “profit.”

The amount of power we produce is very much determined by the weather, so we see a lot of fluctuation month-by-month and year-by-year. Last year we made more than $300 more than the year before. Here is the comparison over the last four years.

Solar panel income over the last four years

Obviously solar panels are a big investment. Knowing that we’re going to be at the farm for a long time, it’s a choice that made financial sense for us.

And now that we have Ellie, I feel even more strongly about the environmental reasons that we chose to install our solar panels. I want to do my part of create a healthy world for her and set an example of taking personal responsibility for the planet.

For all of the details on our solar panels, you can see previous posts about Going Solar here.

Looking back at Home Goals 2017

Thanks everyone for your good wishes on our new addition. We’re excited–and I will admit I’m still a bit nervous about this whole baby thing too. We had our pre-natal class this weekend, which was informative and encouraging, and I have (yet another) ultrasound this morning (this baby is going to have supersonic hearing after all of our scans). Overall, we’re feeling pretty good about where we’re at.

As you can see, 2017 was quite a year for us. Today I’m taking a minute to look back at the year that was from a personal, professional and farm point of view.

After thinking and planning for quite awhile, I took a leave of absence from my communications job at the end of August to spend some extra time with family and see if I could build my own communications consulting company. I love working from home and love working for myself. I’m still working on building my client base, but I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.

The timing for my leave turned out to be very fortunate, as at the start of July we found out we were going to have a baby and at the end of September Matt was diagnosed with an ocular melanoma. It’s been so helpful to have a more flexible schedule for appointments and most importantly to have the mental space to process and reflect on all of the changes in our lives.

Along with all of that, we’ve replaced both our cars–my 14-year-old girl finally died and Matt’s year-old car was written off after he was hit by a driver who ran a red light. Matt ended up with a broken arm courtesy of the airbag, which derailed some of my plans for projects around the farm, but was a small hardship when he could have been much more seriously hurt.

Amongst all of these changes and challenges, the farm has been our constant and our refuge. 2017 marked five years at the farm, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It gives both of us peace to be here, and also gives us an outlet when we need to distract ourselves with tractor therapy, digging in the dirt, painting something or just walking the property.

I have a feeling we’re going to be saying, “What a year!” for the next while (perhaps the rest of our lives?) as we watch this baby grow, adjust to our new family reality and continue with life on the farm.

As many of us do at the start of the year, I like to take a moment to look back and reflect on the year past. Beyond all of the personal changes in our lives, I also started 2017 with my usual list of Home Goals I wanted to accomplish at the farm over the year.

Looking back, we didn’t do too bad.

My office

Turquoise craft room

I was very happy to finish the final bedroom at the farm and finally unpack all of our moving boxes–only five years after moving in. Reupholstering my grandmother’s vintage slipper chair is a project I’m still very proud of. What I called my office ended up being more of a craft room and it was such a great space for creativity.

I say “was” because my office ended up seeing another makeover just a few months later when I decided to turn it into the baby’s room. I’m finding other spaces to be creative around the house, and I love how the baby’s room is coming together. I’ll be sharing all of those details soon.

Clean up the pond shore

Red sky over the pond at sunset

The pond shore was my one and only outdoor land clearing goal for the year (and we have plenty of spaces that I want to clear). Mid-year, I gave up on it happening, but then an enthusiastic nephew and a generous husband went to work over a few weekends, and we made more progress than I ever expected.

There’s still more to go, which might be difficult as I don’t think the baby will be as helpful as our teenage nephew, but Matt and I may be able to divide and conquer on this one. And regardless, every time I look out the kitchen window or walk past the pond with Baxter (which happens at least once a day), I’m grateful for the improved view and access to the water.

While I had planned to focus just on the pond shore, I did give the area right behind the house a bit of attention, and cleaned up (most of) the jungle that’s been there since we moved in.

New lawn

Vegetable garden

Green tomatoes growing in the garden

At the start of last year, I said I was going to add rhubarb (check), a second row of berries (check–ended up being blackberries) and maybe some more grapes (check). I also put in four blueberry plants to try. As usual, I’m crossing my fingers that everyone survives the winter and bears fruit this year.

My biggest goal was keeping the weeds under control. I can’t say I was successful in that. I tried to find some old hay bales for a deep mulch but didn’t have any success. And in terms of weeding by hand, most of the season, I didn’t feel like weeding, and I gave into that feeling… a lot.

We capped off the year by covering two of the quadrants with tarps, and my tentative plan for the coming year is to leave the tarps in place. This will decrease the garden size by not quite half, which might just be manageable in our new reality.

Flower gardens

Garden in bloom in June

The flower gardens got some half-hearted attention this year. I can’t say I met my goal of keeping them weeded and filled with beautiful flowers, but I did get in them a few times and they didn’t look too scraggly most of the time (I don’t think).

Basement

Uh, yeah. I still have empty picture frames leaning against the basement walls waiting for art. I didn’t get to this in the first half of the year, and, since I left my job, I’ve been careful about spending money on extras, even inexpensive posters. So we go yet another year with some unfinished areas in the basement.

However, I did finally share the transformation of the basement TV area and all of the details on how we decorated it. I love this space so much and am so proud of us for doing it ourselves.

Basement TV area

New barn cat

Our barncat Ralph

After talking to a few people, we decided not to add a new barn cat to our family. Ralph has things under control and she’s content. She doesn’t need company, and I’m not confident that expecting her to train a young cat would work. So Ralphie gets to be mistress of the barn. She can live out her years in peace, and we will take our chances with adopting a new cat when we need it and hope that the newbie lives up to Ralph’s high standard.

Extras

As always, a few extra projects sneak into every year. I can call another room completely finished–the guest room–after refinishing a vintage metal bedframe. Spoiler alert, the guest room has since seen a few more changes as it’s become guest room/sewing room as I’ve given my office over to baby.

Antique brass metal bed frame

The living room also saw a few tweaks with a new mirror on the mantel and new pillows on the couch. I’ll be sharing our new coffee table soon too.

How to mix and match throw pillows

So around the house, 2017 was a mix. Which is okay and pretty normal for us.

We had enough abnormal in the year that I’m grateful that projects and the farm are such a refuge for us.

How was 2017 for you? What was your big accomplishment for the year?

How to build a simple toolbox from scrap wood – Free plan

When I was working with my contractor father, every job, big or small, would inevitably start the same way. “You might as well go get the toolbox. Otherwise we’ll spend all our time running back and forth for tools.”

Within a few months of Matt and I moving into our first house, my Dad gifted me with a toolbox of my own.

How to build a simple toolbox

Like most DIYers, our tools are in a variety of places, and we endeavour to have hammers, wrenches, tape measures and whatever else we might need wherever we might need them. However, no matter where we’re working and how I try to spread tools around, we usually end up needing the toolbox as well.

(I might think a screwdriver and a pair of pliers will be sufficient, but the universe usually laughs at my overconfidence.)

After Sarah in Illinois got a glimpse of my toolbox in a post a few weeks ago, I thought I should share it here. It’s an indispensable part of my DIY life.

How to build a simple toolbox

The idea of this toolbox is not to hold every single one of our tools. The idea is to hold the basic tools needed for most jobs. Limiting the number means that the toolbox stays relatively light, so I can easily carry it to wherever I’m working. (When I once complained that the box was too heavy, my Dad’s helpful response was, “You’ve got too much in it, honey. You don’t need all that stuff.”)

There’s a main area that holds the bulk of the tools. (And yes, there are two hammers here, because Matt and I each have our own.)

How to build a simple toolbox

My Dad added a partition on the one side that makes a spot for blades–a couple of utility knives and a large and small hacksaw.

How to build a simple toolbox

On one end, a “pocket” holds a chisel, pencils, crayons and earplugs. How many times have you found yourself pencil-less in the middle of a job? Just me?

How to build a simple toolbox

And finally a bar on one side of the box holds screwdrivers. This bar is one of my favourite features. It keeps the screwdrivers out of the jumble of the rest of the tools in the bottom of the box and makes it easy to find the one I need.

How to build a simple toolbox

I like that this toolbox is open. I don’t have to deal with latches or trays. I can simply reach in and grab what I need. Plus, if I know I’m going to need more wrenches or sockets or another tool that doesn’t normally live in the toolbox, I can easily toss in the case, and carry it to the worksite.

Here’s what I have in my basic toolbox:

  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Speed square
  • Pliers (regular, needle-nosed, side cutters, adjustable)
  • Vicegrips
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Electrical tape
  • Stubby screwdrivers (slotted, Robertson red and green, Phillips)
  • Nailsets
  • Awl
  • Screwdrivers (Robertson, Phillips and slotted in various sizes–12 in total)
  • Trowels (medium and small)
  • Chisel
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Earplugs
  • Hacksaws (large and small with spare blades)
  • Utility knives (two with spare blades)

If you’re interested in a building a toolbox like this for yourself, I’ve sketched a plan that you can download. Since this is built using scrap wood, adjust it for what best meets your needs.

How do you store your tools? Anyone else have a DIY toolbox? What are your indispensable tools?

How to live with your kitchen until you’re ready to renovate

Ugh, our kitchen. Our poor, poor kitchen. I’m so excited for the day that we finally renovate this room. However, I’m a bit scared too because I feel like we’re going to uncover so many issues when we pull everything apart.

One of the hinges on our cabinet doors had come loose (not unusual, all of our cabinets are falling apart).

Cabinet hinge with stripped screws

Repairing a stripped screw hole with toothpicks and glue

As I was putting it back together last week (wood glue + toothpicks = repaired), I was thinking about how we’ve lived with this kitchen for 5 years and will continue to do so for awhile yet.

Kitchens are important rooms. We spend a lot of time in them, so we want them to look nice and work well. But they’re also expensive and disruptive to renovate.

As a result, many of us live with lackluster kitchens, waiting until that magical day when we pull out the sledgehammer and start to forge the kitchen of our dreams.

For me, I hate to invest time or money into a space that I know I’m going to gut, even if that gut isn’t going to happen for 5 years or more. However, there are a few things that we’ve done in our kitchen that have made it more liveable, more functional and more attractive.

I thought I’d share them today in case they help someone else living in a similar kitchen situation. And I’d love to hear your ideas too for making a less than ideal kitchen work for you.

Paint

Between cabinets and appliances, wall space in a kitchen is often minimal, so giving your walls a fresh coat of paint is quick and inexpensive. With our open concept main floor, painting the kitchen, living room and hall the same colour made the spaces cohesive and the light colour that we chose brightened up the rooms a bit.

Painting cabinets is another update that can have a big impact. I did this in our first house and it was a great transformation. However, it was also a bigger job than I expected, so I was in no hurry to do it again–especially since our cabinets are falling apart and I feel like paint will not help the situation.

Hardware

Updating cabinet hardware can be another quick way to inject some style and personality into your kitchen. I spray painted our hardware for a mini update. The results have been mixed. The paint has chipped off some of the handles, but others have held up pretty well.

What is this?

The nice thing about a hardware update is if you truly love the handles or knobs that you choose, you can easily reinstall them in a new kitchen down the road.

Lighting

Just because you don’t have your dream kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t have your dream lights. I loved the idea of a pair of schoolhouse style pendants over the island, so I went and bought them.

We only had one light fixture in the kitchen and it wasn’t positioned quite right, but I didn’t let that stop me. I put up one of the lights anyway. Maybe a single, randomly located pendant looked a bit weird, but it made me happier than the boob light that was there before.

A year or so later when we had an electrician in for some other work, I had him move the first light and install a second. The electrician’s labour was relatively inexpensive.

School house pendant lights over the kitchen island

Even if you’re planning on reconfiguring your kitchen down the road and will need to move lights again, the investment in an electrician is not that significant. And assuming you still love your lights, you can reuse them.

Island

The biggest addition to our kitchen has been the island. I bought the doors at Habitat for Humanity and we DIYed the countertop. Having a cabinet maker build the boxes was still a bit of an investment, but worth it for us for the storage and prep space we gained.

Kitchen island painted white with wood countertop

I can’t imagine working in the kitchen without having this extra space. And I’m hoping that we can reuse the island in our future kitchen.

Accessories

Just because a kitchen is a utilitarian space doesn’t mean you can’t decorate it. Accessories can add function to the room as well as style. A long towel bar on the end of the island gives us a space to hang oven mitts and towels within easy reach. Plus pretty towels inject some personality and colour. We also removed a wine rack that was above the fridge (we don’t drink much wine and I can’t reach the space anyways) and put a fun country rooster and our kitchen scale on display.

Organization

No matter what your kitchen looks like or how large it is, keeping things organized can dramatically improve how you feel about the space.

In adding the island we were able to add storage for a few key things: cookie sheets, cutting boards and cookbooks. Our kitchen is lacking in drawers, so we also added hidden drawer to the island.

The few drawers that we do have are too small for most organizers, but I found a plastic organizer that I could cut to size with a utility knife, so I was able to keep our cutlery sorted.

Narrow cookie sheet shelves in island

Making a kitchen work until you can do a full reno is about trade offs. What can you live with and what can’t you? How many repairs are you willing to do? How much money are you comfortable spending, knowing that whatever you add may end up in a dumpster? For us DIYers, how much time and effort are you willing to invest knowing that you may be ripping out your hard work down the road?

For me, I think I’ve found a balance that is tolerable.

What are your tips for holding a kitchen together? How do you feel about mini renovations to tide you over until the big one? Have you made any improvements to your kitchen that have made a difference in how it works or looks?

Denise at Happy Haute Home (who often comments on my posts) recently renovated her kitchen for the One Room Challenge. While it’s a much grander space than ours, she embraced a very similar philosophy to mine. She shared her tips for how to update a kitchen on various budgets in her reveal post.

Looking for sander suggestions

Attention. Vicarious tool shopping opportunity ahead. Sarah in Illinois needs your help selecting her new sander. Our sander is one of the few tools that I’ve bought for myself, rather than getting a hand-me-down. Like Sarah’s last sander, I bought it quickly without much research. But it’s also one of my most used tools, so I’m very interested to hear your suggestions of what sander or brand you recommend.

Since most of my summer has been spent out in the yard and garden, I was really excited the other day to have a chance to spend a few minutes on a project in the wood shop. I actually have to admit I am looking forward to cold winter months because I will have more time to spend out there.

However, when I grabbed one of my most used tools and found it had finally died, I decided it was time to do a little research and add a replacement to my Christmas wish list.

I need a new electric hand sander.

(Honesty here: I am not being sponsored by anyone to write this. The following is my opinion on my experiences. And a note from Julia: Links are not affiliate links.)

For years I had a DeWalt hand sander. Actually I had two: a 1/4 sheet palm sander and a random orbit sander. I used them and used them until they literally fell apart in my hands. I found this picture from years ago when I was sanding wood siding on my old house.

At some point, I needed a sander and ran to town and found something inexpensive to use to get me by. That’s how I ended up with a Skil.

This sander lasted much longer than I ever expected, but I was never happy with the hook and loop attachment for the sandpaper. Many times it flung the paper off in the middle of use. I know that hook and loop attachment seems to common with most sanders, but I actually prefer using adhesive backed paper.

Steve and I have had very good luck with Hitachi brand tools. We now have a compound miter saw, portable chop saw, cordless drill and 9 inch grinder all Hitachi brand, and we couldn’t be happier with the longevity and strength of these tools. So naturally I looked first at Hitachi. I was thrilled to see they still make a 1/4 sheet hand sander. They also have two options for orbital sanders that both have hook and loop attachment. DeWalt has a similar option.

So here is the reason for this post: I want to hear from other people with actual experience. What hand sander do you use? What brands have you had luck with? Which ones would you not recommend? How do you feel about hook and loop attachment versus adhesive back versus 1/4 sheet that is held on with clamps?

Finally, the reason I was out in the wood shop the other day: Our small town is having a scarecrow contest. There are many scarecrows all over town and I decided to add one at work. (The sander was needed for that mega-wrench he is holding!)

I was late getting him ready, so I didn’t get to enter the contest, but it is still fun to decorate and join the fall spirit around town. Here is the link to the contest entries if you would like to see the fantastic scarecrows.

I am so glad to live in a town that is so friendly and has such great community spirit.

What a great community building project, Sarah. I love seeing people’s creativity with their scarecrows.

We have a random orbit sander made by Mastercraft (I think it’s Canadian Tire’s brand). I bought it very much like you bought your Skil–quickly and cheaply. But I’ve been pretty happy with it. It is hook and loop, and I’ve had no issues with the pads staying attached. The sawdust bag sometimes slips off, which can be a bit annoying, but usually I just leave it off and accept the dust. It’s a bit big for my hands–usually I’m for gender equality, but tools made for smaller hands would be a very good thing. Just don’t make them pink.

Now over to everyone else. What sander(s) do you recommend?

How to rescreen a screen door

Fresh country air is one of the best parts of summer living on the farm. But summer on the farm also means bugs, so screens are an absolute necessity. Sarah in Illinois is here today to share how she fixed her screen door after it had a few too many encounters with a puppy who was enthusiastic to enjoy the country air in person dog.

I don’t think you can live in the country without a screen door. Unfortunately screen doors and young energetic dogs don’t mix. Blitz gets so excited to head outside that he pushes the door open with his big paws.

The screen became damaged enough that I decided that it was time to try my hand at re-screening a door.

I started with buying a screen replacement kit at our closest home improvement store. It comes with a large roll of screen, a roll of spline and a spline tool. The only other tools that I needed were a utility knife and pick.

I started by removing the damaged screen and using the pick I pried all of the old spline out of the grooves.

I compared my old spline to the new spline. My only concern was making sure that they were the same diameter. If the newer spline was too large it wouldn’t fit in the groove, if it was too small, it wouldn’t stay in place. Thankfully, it was close enough to work well.

After all of the spline was removed and I cleaned the door, I was ready to start putting the new screen in place.

I carefully centered the screen over the opening and laid the spline over the groove. Working with just one side I used the spline tool, which is basically a handle and a roller, and pushed the spline down into the groove. It was a tight fit, but not too tight, just enough that I knew that it wasn’t coming out.

I worked my way around all four sides pulling slightly on the screen to keep it taut.

At the corners I had to use the pick again to squish the spline down tight where the spline tool couldn’t reach.

Once I felt that the screen was in securely and pulled tight, I trimmed the excess screen off with a razor blade.

In the case of our door, there were two separate screen areas so I repeated everything on the second half of the door.

I was then ready to rehang the door.

I was nervous tackling this project because I was worried that it would never look like it did when the door was new. But honestly, this was such an easy project and cost me less than $10 for the kit.

Now we’re ready for this guy’s next adventure.

Well done, Sarah. It looks really professional. We love having the windows open in the summer, but I’m realizing a few of our screens are in need of repairs. We’ve found ourselves chasing moths or even the occasional mosquito in the house. In the past, I’ve patched a hole. Rescreening sounds pretty easy and straightforward. Plus I’m ensured of not missing any holes.

Home Goals 2017 mid-year report

Hello July. Holy moly we’re already halfway through the year.

Halfway through the year means it’s time to take a look at how we’re doing on Home Goals 2017.

July also means summer vacation. I’m going to be taking a brief blogging break this week in favour of spending some time working on more of these Home Goals.

Office

The first room makeover of the year and the last bedroom to be redone. In case it’s not clear from all of the posts I’ve done about this room–including last week’s video tour–I’m loving this room.

China cabinet storage in the office

Pond shore

The pond shore was my one and only property clean-up goal this spring. However, between time, weather and then a broken arm, it didn’t happen. Argh. Expect to see this on the 2018 home goals list.

Instead of the pond shore, we tackled some other property clean-up. Matt and I burned an overgrown area behind the driveshed–but then I never cleared the rocks that we uncovered, so we haven’t been able to mow it, and it’s almost as overgrown as usual now. I’ve ever so slowly been tackling the jungle behind the house. So property clean-up hasn’t been a total skip this year. It just hasn’t been focused in the area I had hoped.

Cleaning up brush with fire

Vegetable Garden

The vegetable garden is off to a slow start, but a good one. The new blueberries, blackberries and grapes that I added are all doing well. The year-old grapes even seem to have recovered from their infestation.

I’m later than I would like on planting, so everything is pretty small still. Plus, so far I haven’t had any luck finding straw for our deep mulch experiment, so the battle against the weeds is being waged by hand. But between me and weeds, we’re even. I can’t say they’re winning yet, so I’m counting that as a win for me.

Weedy potatoes

Flower gardens

The flower gardens have been getting a bit more attention this year than they did last year. As a result, they’re–surprise, surprise–looking better than they did last year. The peonies were stunning, and we’re moving on to lily season.

I’ve added a couple of new plants–an astilbe and a white lilac–which will bring more blooms to our very green beds. Everything needs a good haircut–deadheading the spent blossoms and shaping up some of the very bushy bushes–so that’s the next to-do on the list.

Pink peony

Basement

I was really excited to share the basement TV area a little while ago. There are two more spaces in the basement that I’m hoping to show to you before the year’s out. They just need some art, some styling and a major tidy. Organizing the basement is tops on Matt’s list for the summer, so between the two of us, we may finish the rest of this space yet.

Basement TV area

New barn cat

We’ve decided that the best thing for Ralph for now is for her to continue to enjoy her days in peace and relative solitude. Our best girl is queen of the farm and doesn’t need a sidekick. So we will continue to be a one barncat farm for the foreseeable future.

Our barncat Ralph

Coop

This final task is a new addition for this year’s Home Goals courtesy of Matt. He is determined to have some hens to eat ticks next year, so that means we’re taking down the old coop and building a new one. I have lots of ideas about how to build the coop, but I haven’t entirely worked out all of the details of this project. I expect this one will take a little while. I guess I know what we’re doing this summer.

Old chicken coop

In fact, we’re getting a little start on the coop this week. With my few days off work, and Matt now on summer holidays, there will be gardening, weeding, organizing, cooping and cat scratching. Somewhere in there, there may be some relaxing too.

As part of my holiday, I’m taking the rest of the week off the blog too. I’ll be back next week with more news from the farm.

How are you doing on your projects so far this year?

Basement TV area before and after

This reveal has been a loooooong time coming. The seventh post I ever wrote for this blog was “Basement reno begins” –that was more than five years ago. A few weeks after writing that post I shared a to-do list, the plans and then celebrated when we finished demo. Five years ago this week, we had fixed the wiring, reframed the exterior walls and received new spray foam insulation.

Now, I’m finally ready to share with you the TV area. You’ve seen snippets of this along the way, and we’ve been using this room for the past four and a half years. But there were a few missing elements that have finally come together, so I’m ready to show it off.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane first, shall we?

This is what we saw the first time we visited the house. A gross cluttered basement with a random dude sitting in a chair (just kidding, that’s our real estate agent taking a break with one of the books that was left behind). Please note the ceiling fixture that was installed as a wall sconce (there’s a matching one just out of the picture on the right) and the giant woodstove.

TV area before

Somehow, we saw past all of this and bought the place. After several trips to the dump, we ended up with a cleared, if not clean slate. This angle shows you the half wall leading into the laundry room (which we removed) and the doorway to Matt’s office (which we moved).

Basement before

On the other side of the room, we have the woodstove, the matching pair to the ceiling sconce and you can get a glimpse of the ceiling fan, which was recessed into the ceiling so that it didn’t decapitate anyone. In my caption on this photo originally, I wrote “Picture a large, comfy sectional couch where the woodstove is and a big TV on the wall opposite the staircase.”

The main room before

Uh-huh. It’s a good thing I had a clear vision. We needed something to get us through the next six plus months of work.

We started demo. Byebye half wall. Hello new doorway. Byebye exterior drywall. Why are you still there ceiling sconces?

Basement demo in progress

Then we reframed the walls so that they were deep enough for more insulation, removed the ceiling drywall so that we could fix bad wiring and finally got rid of those ceiling sconces. I’m still proud that I was able to replace the ceiling fan with a fifth potlight and put them all on the same switch. Me! I did that.

The partially gutted basement

We hauled the woodstove up the stairs with a rope tied to the back of my Dad’s truck, our mason patched the hole from the chimney, and we left a little message on the concrete.

Matt + Julia 2012

With spray foam insulation complete, we started to approach the putting it back together stage. What followed were six months of drywall. So much drywall.

Installing drywall in the basement

Then finally paint.

Trim and carpet. (The crush to get the trim installed before the carpet arrived was tight).

Painting trim

Our new couch arrived just before Christmas 2012, and the basement was habitable.

Decor-Rest sectional couch with chaise

We’ve made tweaks (obviously) since then. Want to see what it looks like now?

Basement TV area

I have another post coming up that goes into all of the details on the finished space. But until then, here are a couple more before and afters for you.

Basement before

Basement TV area after

The main room before

Basement TV area after

This is by far our most significant renovation. I love that we saw the potential of the space, stuck with it through all of the hard work and created a hangout area that works perfectly for us. The fact that we did almost all of it by ourselves makes me very proud.

Wet, but waterproof

Things are a bit wet around here. We’ve had rain on and off for about two weeks. And last week, the rain was pretty steady.

Rainy weather forecast

The ground is completely saturated.

Had this been a year ago, we would have been soggy inside as well as out. Our big (and expensive) project last summer was waterproofing our basement. However, when I last reported on the project back at the start of September, we had just found puddles in two of the rooms that we waterproofed. We were so disappointed.

After talking it over with our contractors, we decided to go with a wait and see strategy.

So this extremely wet spring is our test.

And I’m pleased to say that our basement is passing.

I don’t know what was up last fall, but this spring, when we’re basically immersed in a bog, inside of the house is nice and dry.

Phew.

The sump pump has been running fairly regularly for about a month. Over the weekend, it was running about every one and a half minutes.

Water discharging from the sump pump

You may remember that we elected to waterproof from the inside. There are a couple of little “hatches” where we can access the weeping tile that the contractors laid around the foundation. Checking them out, we found water in the pipes. But the pipe is doing its job and funneling the water to the sump pump.

Water in the weeping tile in the basement

I’m so relieved that everything is working the way it’s supposed to and that we have a dry house this spring.

How’s the weather where you are? Have you had any water issues this spring?