Five tips to tackle a new DIY

This week I am going to spray paint the mudroom. Honestly, I’m a bit intimidated. I’ve never used a paint sprayer before, and painting a whole room seems like a big place to start. Plus I’m really proud of the mudroom and I don’t want to mess it up.

But I feel like a sprayer will give me the best finish (provided I do it well) and be fast. If it ends up not going well, I’m reminding myself that most of the walls will eventually be hidden behind coats, cabinets, a bench, mirror and more.

As I prepare to tackle this new-to-me DIY, I thought I’d share some of the ways I make a project like this less intimidating. I’d love to hear your tips as well.

Research

Take some time to figure out the best way to approach your project. I started by investigating the options for painting the V-groove panelling. Was there a really fluffy roller that would work? (Answer: Maybe, but the finish might end up a bit goopy. And I’d still have to do a lot of cutting in that would take a lot of time and also maybe not give me the finish I’m looking for.)

Once I settled on spraying, I called the rental store and booked the sprayer. I have since watched a lot of YouTube videos for the exact sprayer model that I will be using as well as other paint sprayers. I want to understand how they work and the proper technique.

YouTube, online tutorials, a manual, professional advice–there are lots of resources to help you tackle whatever you’re looking to do. You’re not in this alone.

Take your time

I am not a fan of jumping right into a project. I like to plan and think things through. I gave myself a week to reserve the sprayer, prep the mudroom, gather materials (more on this below) and learn as much as I can about paint spraying.

For spray-day, I’ve also tried to give myself as much time as possible. I’m picking the sprayer up first thing in the morning, and my Mom is booked to pick Ellie up from preschool, so I don’t have the pressure of a ticking clock when I’m painting.

Taking your time may mean booking time off work or having childcare lined up. Clearing your schedule means you can focus on your project and feel less stress.

Gather your tools and materials

When you’re taking on a new project, you may not know exactly how everything is going to go and exactly what you’ll need. Having your tools and materials ready can make things go more smoothly and ensure you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Maybe you’re going to try some plumbing. Have a bucket and extra towels, along with your full toolbox and any specific plumbing tools (wrenches in multiple sizes, a roll of teflon tape, etc).

I have my paint ready to go. I also have extra buckets, rolls of masking tape, sheets of paper and plastic and PPE.

Enlist help

Two heads are better than one. Many hands make light work. There’s truth in these sayings. Even if your helper doesn’t know what they’re doing either, sometimes it’s easier to figure things out together.

One of my friends suggested meeting up this week. I invited her to help me mask the mudroom–yes, I’m that kind of a friend. As she is also that kind of a friend, she said yes. A second pair of hands will make putting up the plastic to protect the cedar ceiling much easier.

Friend, family, neighbour, partner–lots of people are willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Focus on the reward

I am so excited to have the mudroom painted. Not for the painting itself, but for what comes next. Storage, hooks, decorating–all of the fun stuff. The thought of getting to the fun stuff motivates me to get through the painting.

Plus, if the spraying works out, I’ll have a new skill to add to my DIY repertoire.

Other rewards of DIY are saving money, finishing a space, fixing a problem, beautifying your home.

DIY can be intimidating. But like anything there’s a learning curve. Each project I tackle builds my confidence for the next one and the one after that.

If you’re thinking of trying something at your house, go for it. With a bit of preparation, you can make it happen.

How do you prepare for a new-to-you project? What’s a DIY skill you’ve learned? Is there a project that you’re nervous about tackling? Any tips for spray painting?

Mudroom door in Knoxville Gray

We had our first snowfall. We’ve had flurries, but yesterday there was finally enough snow to stick on the ground for a few hours. The time for outdoor work is coming to an end, and I’m glad that I crossed painting the mudroom door off my list a few weeks ago.

I chose a grey-turquoise, Knoxville Gray from Benjamin Moore. In pictures it looked like a nice, dark, saturated, not too bright turquoise. On the BM website, it looks grey. (And on a dim snowy day it looks quite blue.)

As I started to paint, I was questioning my choice. It was grey.

I had nice weather. It was a preschool day, so I had time.

I. Was. Painting. The. Door.

I envisioned speeding into town to get the can retinted to more blue, more green, more colour.

And then it started to dry. And it wasn’t grey. It wasn’t blue. It wasn’t green. It was the perfect nice, dark, saturated, not too bright turquoise.

Phew.

Next up, painting the rest of the mudroom (an inside job that will hopefully begin this week).

Who else has questioned their colour choice mid-paint job? Do you have any outdoor projects you’re trying to finish? Have you had any snow yet?

Staining the mudroom stairs

The mudroom stairs are done, and I’m really happy with how they turned out.

For a refresher, we have a tile floor in the new mudroom. There are two stairs up to the landing that leads into the kitchen, and each step is also tile.

Our contractor and I debated how to finish the edge of the stairs. On its own, tile doesn’t have an attractive edge. I didn’t want a rubber or metal nosing–too industrial or institutional. We also had to contend with the risers, which I did not want tiled.

Our contractor suggested wood and had his stair guy fabricate risers and nosings out of maple. They are beautiful. But they needed some kind of finish to protect them from scuffs and dirt and marks–this is a mudroom after all.

I tested a variety of stains. I wanted something that was a similar tone to the cedar on the ceiling. I also tested a grey with the idea of making the wood blend with the tile.

A commenter on my last post advised that maple “does not take a stain well and the stain often looks un-even.” He was right. Most of the samples did not look good at all.

The grey wasn’t bad, but I felt like the maple deserved to be highlighted. I know the trend is to have continuous flooring, not broken up by other materials, but the nosings are such a beautiful wood. I didn’t want to hide it under a grey wash.

The “Natural” stain was pretty subtle, but added a bit of brightness to the wood. So that’s what I went with.

I gave the stairs a good sanding, as they had gotten a bit dirty over the last few months. I taped off the the tile and baseboards. And I applied the stain.

After letting the stain dry, I then covered it with four coats of varathane, sanding lightly between each coat. I want as much protection on these stairs as possible.

The finish turned out really well. The colour is not an exact match to the cedar, but it’s close and I think it highlights the maple nicely. The surface seems pretty durable and is holding up to being stepped on multiple times a day, sometimes with shoes on.

I also feel really good crossing this task off my mudroom to-do list. Progress may be small and slow, but it’s progress.

Have you been able to cross anything off your to-do list recently? Do you have mixed flooring at your house? How do you mix tile and wood?

What needs to be done to finish the mudroom and garage

As I mentioned in last week’s post, our missing door arrived for the mudroom, our contractor finished the trim and a bunch of other little tasks, we passed our final inspection and our contractors have left the building. Now, the garage and mudroom are my project. Which feels fun.

Mudroom

I always intended to be the one to finish off the mudroom, so I’m excited to get out my paint roller and complete this space. Here’s what’s on my list.

Sand ceiling. The cedar planked ceiling is going to be staying natural. I love the tone. The lumber mill said that as long as the boards don’t receive direct sunlight, they should hold their colour and not turn grey. But some of the boards were marked for their length with chalk. So I had to sand 7s off a couple of boards.

Finish stairs. The risers and nosing on the stairs are wood. It’s a beautiful maple, and it needs to be protected from dirt and footprints. I’d like them to have a similar tone to the cedar ceiling–I’d rather not introduce another colour to the mudroom. Though I am also going to test a grey that will blend with the floor tiles. I feel like the wood is so beautiful that it can be a bit of a feature.

Patch & caulk walls. The V-groove planks were not a true tongue and groove, so our contractors had to face nail the planks in a few (a lot of) places. I’m about halfway through patching all of the holes. I also have to caulk all of the corners and a few joints in the trim.

Paint. There is always so much prep to get to this point. The walls, trim and hookboards are all going to be painted the same colour as the rest of our main floor, Abalone from Benjamin Moore at 75%.

Paint the door. I’m going to make the door a pop of colour both in and out. I’ve chosen a grey-turquoise, and I’m excited to see how it looks.

What’s not happening yet. I am not planning on putting any built-in storage in the mudroom yet. I have an idea of what I want, but we’re going to live with the space for a little while and see what works best for us. I’ll be moving in some dressers, hooks, a bench, mirror and some art to decorate the space a bit and make it functional for now.

Garage

For the garage, there are a couple of things that I didn’t think about at the start of the project (like how much dirt would be dug up from the addition that then needed to be levelled and seeded). These are more the niggly little details that are a little less fun.

Spread top soil & seed. Ellie and I have spread a lot of grass seed already this year. However, we didn’t go right up to the edge of the garage, as work was still in progress. Now that the scaffolding and ladders have gone away, we have to finish it off.

Make a step. The step from the mudroom to the driveway is a bit high. It will eventually be corrected, but a simple step of some kind would be helpful in the meantime. It would also be easier to shovel snow off a patio slab than the gravel.

Restack firewood. Oh the woodpile. It took me two days to move the firewood out of the way for the addition. Now I need to restack it all.

What’s not happening yet. We will not be paving the driveway this year. I want to let the gravel settle for a while first. I also need to figure out a steps-patio-garden solution for the living room patio door, mudroom door and flowerbed around our well. I’ve placed a pair of benches and table there for now to see if I like a little seating area in this spot. I am going to be setting up a workbench and moving some tools from the driveshed to the garage. I’m enjoying thinking about a functional work space in the garage and what projects I’m going to tackle.

We’ve been using the mudroom and garage every day even though they’re not fully finished yet. We’re parking our car in the garage and going in and out through the mudroom. I’m loving having these two spaces, and I’m excited to finish them off.

How do you decide what you leave to professionals and what you take on yourself in a renovation? What finish would you choose for the mudroom stairs? What part of a home project is hardest for you to finish? What DIYs are fun or less fun for you?

We have door

I so wish I could say, “We have doors!” in this garage/mudroom update. But all I have to keep it singular. After waiting four months for the doors to arrive, we have to wait a bit more.

Our contractor came with the doors last week. But, the door between the mudroom and garage was wrong. Argh.

It swung the wrong way.

Going all the way back to my initial scribbles, I always had the door swinging into the garage and toward the back wall. Our official blueprints show this configuration. Our contractors and I also discussed the door swings a couple of times.

The door that showed up last week swung into the garage but toward the front. That meant that I’d have to walk around the door every time I wanted to go in or out of the garage.

I’m not willing to compromise, so our contractor scrambled to find a fix.

I’ve been told the right door should arrive this week. However, after a four-month wait for a 6-8 week order, I’m not entirely confident.

On the topic of doors we do have some things to celebrate though.

The garage doors are in (this happened a couple of weeks ago). I’m happy with the simple profile I chose, and best of all, I’m happy with how the colour looks with our board and batten siding. Phew. We are still waiting on the decorative handles and hinges to give them a carriage house look.

The person door that was correct is beautiful. This door leads from the mudroom directly outside. I chose to have a big window in this door, and I’m so glad that I did. The view through the glass and the light coming into the mudroom is better than I hoped.

I’m thinking it’s going to even more lovely once it’s a deep smokey blue-green.

The other high point of the week is that the contractor finished all of the trim in the mudroom (aside from the casing for the missing door).

I chose to use the same baseboard that we used in the basement. Ultimately, I’d like to change all of the baseboards upstairs to this trim.

Rather than going with the matching profile for the door casing, I decided to use a simple flat stock instead. With the panelled walls, I felt like trim would be too busy for me–even though the basement casing is very simple. I asked for a butt joint with a little overhang on the top piece, which appears a bit rustic to me.

Some more flatstock finished off the top of the walls where they meet the cedar plank ceiling.

The room is looking so much more finished. Just ignore the sheet of plywood over the one doorway.

What reno mix-ups have you experienced? Anyone else enjoy the power of trim? Who else is a fan of windows in doors?

Renovations and the art of compromise

I recently said to my Mom that I feel like I haven’t compromised on the garage and mudroom reno. I did exactly what I wanted, and it’s turned out great.

Not so great for the bank account, but it does feel great to get what I want.

Renovating our first house, I was always thinking about resale. It was our starter house. We weren’t going to be there that long. We didn’t want to spend very much money.

It was a very different experience to move to the farm and think only about ourselves and what we wanted for the long-term. We’re still thrifty, but it’s all for us.

(On the topic of thriftiness, when Chris Loves Julia shared their budgeting philosophy it was an ah-ha for me. Allocating a budget to a project gives you freedom to spend that budget. Splurge in some places. Save in others. For me, this releases me from the “renovate for the least amount of money possible” philosophy.)

When it came to the garage and mudroom, I decided that I didn’t want to have any regrets (and we’d saved the money to make it possible to approach the project like this). We’re only doing this once. It has to last for Ellie and me for a long time. It’s a space we’re going to use every day. I want to like it every day.

So we added on. The pool would have made a comfortable two car garage. Or a generous single car garage with a big mudroom. It wouldn’t do both. But I wanted a two-car garage, and I wanted it to be big. Extra space on the side for recycling bins. Ten foot doors, so I didn’t feel squeezed driving in.

I wanted a big mudroom with details–heated floors, paneled walls and ceiling. A wide opening to the kitchen that matched the one in the living room–meaning a beam to raise the header.

Of course, with any reno, I realized once I thought about it that there have been compromises.

I decided not to go with the expensive overlay garage doors. I still love that style, but our doors are just fine. I chose another tile rather than waiting for my back-ordered first choice.

Certain things that may seem like compromises are just how I do things, and I’m not sure they’d change even if I had a bigger budget.

I don’t like to spend a lot on light fixtures. In fact, when I was shopping I sorted the light fixtures by price from low to high and stopped looking when I hit $200. Fortunately, I had already found fixtures that I really liked (for less than that).

I patched the drywall in the living room and kitchen myself, and I’m handling all the painting myself. I like DIY.

I thrifted a mirror and have some hand-me-down dressers that I’m planning on refinishing for the mudroom. I like reusing and repurposing.

I’m not finishing the mudroom with built-ins and cabinetry yet. Nor am I paving the driveway this year. I always planned to phase this project slightly to give the budget a break–and figure out exactly what I want.

Renovations are about a lot of different things. Better function in your home. Prettier appearance. Budget. Resale. It’s important to think about what matters most to you. That helps to guide the decisions–and compromises–as you go through the project.

What compromises have you made when renovating? How do you budget for home improvements? Have you renovated for resale? Or for yourself?

Mudroom update

We’ve talked about tile for the mudroom. We’ve talked about paneling for the walls and ceiling. Do you want to see it in real life?

Here is the new mudroom in its current state.

We are two doors, some trim and paint away from being done with the mudroom and garage. Sooooclose.

(I feel like I’ve been saying that for a while).

But I can see it coming together, and it’s all looking so good.

I went with a mid-grey porcelain tile. You may recall my biggest criteria with the tile was maintenance. I will not be cleaning this floor every day, and the tile need to hide all of the dirt that comes with a farm. We also chose a dark grey grout for the same reason.

The tiles are 12×24 and installed in a brick, running-bond, offset pattern. This is my second choice tile. My first choice had more variation in tones and the veining, but it was back-ordered, and I didn’t want to wait. When I picked up my order, I was pleasantly surprised to find tiles were more varied than I expected, based on the single sample tile I selected from.

The floor in the main area of the mudroom (the lower level) is heated, so yay to warm boots.

The risers and nosings on the stairs are faced with beautiful maple. I didn’t want a metal or rubber or tile edge on the stairs, so our contractor worked with me to come up with a solution and then he had his stair supplier fabricate the pieces. They are absolutely lovely. I will be protecting them with a stain and varathane.

The walls are the V-groove panelling, which I also love. It adds so much character to this room. My contractors did not love the panelling so much. Strapping the walls so that they were perfectly level took a lot of shims and a lot of time. (The new walls that they built were fine. The original wall backing onto the living room was c-r-o-o-k-e-d.)

One surprise with this V-groove is it’s not a true tongue and groove. Each board has a very small overlap, so my contractors ended up having to face nail each piece in a few spots. Lots of tiny holes for me to patch.

The ceiling is a really, really special feature. This is cedar V-groove that I found at a local supplier. I will be leaving this natural, as I love the tone so much.

For the lights, I ended up going with three flush mounts. My original plan was for two barn style pendants in the main mudroom area and a flush mount on the landing, but my Mom convinced me to go with one type of light for the whole room.

I chose the exterior lights first, and then picked the matching flush mounts. They look a bit rustic, a bit industrial, fairly casual, and I’m really happy with them.

I feel like I could change the title of this post to the mudroom is lovely. I truly love everything so much.

Hopefully doors arrive this week. Once they’re in, trim can be installed. Then the contractors will be done, and I’ll paint and we can start to use this lovely room.

Odds & sods

When we first moved to the farm, a row of forsythia bushes beside the driveshed were covered in blooms at the beginning of April. Since then, I’ve measured the progress of spring by the forsythia.

The forsythia flowers arrived last week–the most flowers we’ve had in years. Unfortunately, right after they arrived, snow returned. So I’m not sure that forsythia is my best measure of spring this year.

Here are some other things that caught my attention this month.

Have house prices gone crazy where you are too? Farmhouse sells for $1,115,000 over asking

I haven’t been able to listen to music since before Matt died. The other week I found this song. I still cry, but I love it.

Mesmerizing

I went waaaay back in my recipe archives to make this pasta last week, and it was so good. (I omitted the pepper and added tomatoes, artichokes and spinach to up the veggie quotient).

Mudroom inspiration for coloured cabinets and large-scale rough stone tiles.

Sources: Hali MacDonald in House & Home (left), Jeffrey Dungan (right)

We’re finishing off April by picking the mudroom tile and paying taxes (worse than snow in the spring). We have a bunch of outdoor projects underway here, so I’m hoping that warm, sunny days return soon.

How was April for you? What signs of spring have you been seeing? Are you cooking any retro recipes?

Picking a mudroom floor

Last week I was talking about the exterior of the garage. Today I’m moving inside to talk about the mudroom. Specifically the floor.

In my original plans, we were going to do a concrete floor. I liked the idea of colouring and stamping it to look like tile. But I liked that it would be one solid surface with no grout to clean.

Our contractor and I both called a bunch of concrete installers, and we couldn’t find anyone to do the mudroom floor. The space is too small, and there would be extra charges for a partial load of concrete. Heating the floor wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I thought.

Change of plans. We’re going with tile, grey grout and a really, really, really good sealer.

Now I have to pick a tile.

My mudroom plan is to plank the walls and ceiling. The walls will be painted a light greige, taupe colour. Fairly neutral. Not white. Hide dirt.

Source: Sarah Richardson

The ceiling will be wood.

Source: Style at Home

So what do we do with the floor?

Let’s start with the two floors above.

The first mudroom by Sarah Richardson appeals to me the most. The floor is light, but close to the colour of dirt. I’d go with a grey grout over the white because… dirt. The tile looks a bit peachy in the picture, but I like the idea of something more brown-toned rather than grey. I’m worried grey tile might clash with the taupe walls. The tiles are a mix of sizes and the rough edges feel rustic.

In the second photo, we see slate, a common choice for mudrooms. For me, it feels a bit dark. Our mudroom will have a window in the door and that is the only natural light that will come into the room.

The other common material choice is brick. It feels a bit trendy these days, though some would say it’s timeless. It’s definitely rustic and durable. For me, I feel like the brick would start to feel too busy. There would be a lot of grout lines and tones of red. I’ve learned that I get tired of strong colours and patterns eventually. And I don’t want to get tired of this floor. Though a non-red brick might be an option.

Source: Brooks & Falotico

Ellie and I went tile shopping a few weeks ago, but nothing jumped out at me. (Unprompted, she chose red brick.)

What would you do? What would you want for a mudroom floor?

Barn board hook board

It could have been the paint fumes, the sleep deprivation or four hours spent in the two by nine foot front hall closet, but once the brainwave hit, I couldn’t get it out of my head. “What this closet really needs is some barn board!”

Barnboard hook board

So I made my way out of the closet, out of the paint fumes and out to the barn… where surprisingly it’s more difficult than you might expect to find barn board. Don’t get me wrong. We have plenty of barn board. It’s just that most of it is attached to the barn.

I found one piece that was just lying there waiting for a woman on a mission. He was close to the right length, beautifully weathered, lovely tones of grey, knots and a ragged edge. I told him he was a contender.

And then, on the far side of the barn, stacked amongst some giant planks and a very long log, I saw it. Perhaps not quite as weathered as his predecessor, slightly more brown than grey, the exact right length, not too many knots but a couple of rusty nails, one ragged edge that even had a few worm holes… a truly authentic barn board… right down to the… is that? … yep… it is… manure that was caked on the one side.

And that is how I found myself standing in the driveway on Sunday afternoon in November, brush in hand, cleanser close by, hose spewing frigid water, scrubbing a piece of wood as I frantically rehearsed responses in my mind for what I would say when Matt came out to ask me “What the heck are you doing?”

I didn’t think my new-found philosophy of interior design that every room–closets included–needs an element of something rustic would be met with the same enthusiasm I was currently experiencing.

I picked up my dripping–but now clean–board and strolled as nonchalantly as possible back to the house. I studiously avoided looking at the dining room window where I knew my husband was sitting at the table working.

I carefully propped my board by the front door to dry while I returned to my closet, preparing my hooks for hanging, sweeping the floor, killing time until the husband disappeared somewhere, and I quickly scuttled outside and retrieved my still damp board.

I held it up to the wall and it was perfect. It was going to make the closet.

I screwed it in place, attached the hooks and felt completely validated in my new decorating philosophy. My enthusiasm was so great that despite its dampness I started grabbing coats and hanging them up.

Wrought iron hooks on a barn board backer

It was at about this time that Matt reappeared and peaked around the corner to check out the closet.

I shifted my feet. I avoided direct eye contact. I did not say anything.

And he said, “It looks good, woman. But what about that board up there?”

I followed the direction of his gaze.

He was looking not at my beautiful barn board, but instead at a plywood support I had screwed together to hold up the eight foot shelf that couldn’t quite span the whole nine foot length of the closet. He was concerned that it wasn’t painted the same as the rest of the wood in the closet.

He didn’t even seem to notice the barn board. There was no admiration. There was no disgust. I feel a bit gypped by the lack of reaction.

Sigh.

I am consoled by the fact that every time I open the closet doors, I know exactly what the best part of the closet is.