Updating a 60s Bathroom – Prepping for Shower/Tub Paint!

Just a fair warning that this is going to be a rather long post, but I want to include as much info (and pictures!) as possible.

This post is also completely about my experience prepping the shower/tub for paint. No painting actually occurs in this post, that’ll be the next one!

So the hall bathroom upstairs is primarily used by tenants when I rent the bedrooms out. Well, I found myself without any tenants in October. Usually I have at least 1 person living at my house at any given time. So, I used the opportunity for a much-needed bathroom makeover.

Everything is original to the house, except I believe the tile surround (but I could be wrong because the same tile is behind the vanity), the sink countertop, and the sink/shower faucets. Peach tub, beige tile, pink/purple vanity. Weird mosaic peach colored flooring.

If you look closely you can see the remnants of wallpaper between the mirrors above the vanity.

And then these weird polka dotty accent tiles?

And gawd, that light fixture!!

Oh yeah, and the peach toilet.

The vanity is super short, but it’s solid. So I plan on making new doors and raising it up to normal counter height. The counter top is Corian (like every other counter in the house – kitchen and 3 bathrooms). I don’t plan on replacing it since it’s in good condition. The faucets are too. The countertop looks slightly purple to me, but that may just be a trick of the eye with the pink vanity below.

All the little ceramic soap dishes, tooth brush holders, and towel rods are going bye bye. I was lucky enough to be able to save some tiles behind the vanity to place in the holes left behind.

Bye bye soap dish in shower!

It was stubborn.

Bye bye, weird shower towel rod thing.

Replaced the tiles here. The tiles are actually 4.25″ which isn’t the standard square tile size anymore. But like I said above, I was able to salvage quite a few from demoing behind the vanity.

And I thought I was done patching tiles. But then I went to go remove the caulk and the whole bottom row just fell off. Luckily no tiles broke. I almost cried. I guess the caulk was the only thing holding the tiles in place.

Some more caulk removed around the tub.

Here I had to cut and replace some tiles. Instead of baseboards (on the right), there was a row of tiles that extended underneath the tub tile surround.

And that plastic caulk remover tool pictured above was absolutely useless. I ended up buying a 5-in-1 scraper tool to remove the caulking.

I couldn’t get the edging piece completely flat against the wall without breaking it (I know because I already broke one, and I have a very limited supply of the bull nose pieces). So that one bull nose sticks out a tiny bit, but honestly you can’t tell unless you’re really looking for it.

This is the reason I think the tile surround was replaced at some point. If you look closely, the tile hangs over the tub quite a bit. Or maybe they made a mistake, not sure. Who knows.

And then I had more tiles come off 😭

Unfortunately the caulk also existed in the corners of the shower surround. Those two corners sucked. But it is imperative to remove ALL caulk before painting. I researched this heavily, because I really didn’t want to remove the caulk in the corners, but the paint will not stick to caulk. Assume all caulk in a shower is silicone and remove it. It’s a pain, it sucks, but the success of painting a shower hinges on proper prep work.

And I lost more tiles 😂 I guess it’s a blessing in disguise, because if they came off that easily, obviously they weren’t firmly attached to the wall.

Got all the tiles back in place. I used Gorilla construction adhesive instead of mortar because it was quick and easy. The tiles obviously lasted a while just being held in place by caulk, so I’m not concerned.

Also, it is so obvious in these photos when I was working during the day and at night. The night photos are super orange-y!

After grouting. I used Red Devil Grout in white. This tube worked well for grouting the tiles with existing grout. Just went right over with the tube, smushed it in with my finger and wiped off with a damp towel.

I figured this used to be an old 3-hole faucet shower, because they had this remodel plate Escutcheon (I learned a new word).

I was going to keep the remodel plate, because I was just sick of patching tiles. At that point I was starting to feel like just replacing the whole tile surround would be easier (but not cheaper). However, since I do plan on renting the rooms out again, I wasn’t about to spend a whole bunch more money.

After re-reading the paint instructions, I realized I had to remove the shower fixtures. So since I had the remodel plate off anyway…

And yep, it was covering a huge gaping hole in the wall. So I removed the tile closest to the studs. Again, thank goodness I was able to salvage a bunch of the tiles behind the vanity.

And there’s an even bigger gaping hole. Had to buy a whole 3×5 foot sheet of cement board just for this little section. I had some pieces of regular drywall that would have fit, but it’s so close to the actual shower valve and I already know water has gotten behind the shower wall before (hence the whole bottom row of tiles falling off), so I wanted to err on the side of caution there.

Cement board in.

Tiles in! And my handy dandy grout tube came in, well, handy again.

I actually used mortar behind these tiles. Lowe’s only sold 7/16″ cement board instead of 1/2″ (well, they had a 4×8 sheet but a 3×5 was already way more than I needed), so I had to build the mortar up a little bit to make the tiles level with the surrounding tiles.

So the next day, after work, I finally got to cleaning the shower and tub. I wanted the grout and mortar to set a bit before I started scrubbing and throwing chemicals at it.

Scrubbed everything with Tilex (what I had on hand), rinsed, scrubbed with comet, rinsed, then scrubbed with Limaway, and yep, you guessed it, rinsed. After that I broke out the mouse sander. I *thought* I had bought 400 grit sanding pads for this, but I couldn’t find them anywhere, so the finest I had was 240. I used the 240. I’ve read some bloggers using 80 grit, so I think it’ll be fine. I rinsed one last time and let it sit over night.

Oh yeah, totally rinsed everything with toilet water, because I took the shower handle off and had turned the water off to the sink a few weeks ago. The toilet was my only choice! Luckily my last roommate was super super clean.

Way more prep work than I ever imagined. Guess other bloggers don’t have tiles just falling down when they remove the grout. 😂

Stay tuned for the next post where I actually paint!

Giving Life to an Old Desk

Hey guys! Long time, I know. I’ve been busy with house projects, and too lazy to write up a post.

So, I’ve been trying to furnish the bedrooms I rent out, to make it easier to rent them out when I have a vacancy. Of which I have 3 (I rent 3 rooms out). I’m all cleaned out at the moment! Must be the holidays, who knows.

So I have this old desk that has just been sitting in my entry way, collecting junk as these things do. I have a dresser under the TV in that room that I intend on giving new life to in one of my rental rooms, but need to make over this desk first!

It’s one of those assembly required pieces. I honestly don’t know where it came from, but it’s been with me for at least 5 years. It moved with me to Alabama back in 2013. It has the scars from Jax when he was a teething puppy (the front left corner).

Anyway, I took this baby apart and sanded all the pieces. I’m a fan of proper prep work, even if I hate it with a passion.

Since most of the assembly hardware was plastic painted to look like metal, I decided to drill some pocket holes to re-assemble it. I only have a Kreg mini jig for jobs like this, but if I find myself using it more often, I might spring for one of the big boys.

Since this desk doesn’t provide much storage, I decided to add a shelf to put baskets on.

I used 2x2s for the frame and cut the old desk top to fit in the center.

Once that was done and everything sanded down, I broke out the paint sprayer and some primer!

And it rained so I didn’t get to paint anymore that day.

But I assembled the new top! 1x4s assembled with pocket hole screws.

Then I sanded it down really good with 220 grit sand paper. I also sanded the edges so they’re not as sharp. Gotta look out for my (furry) babies! And my clumsy butt.

I also mixed up some Oops paint I got at Lowe’s to make a light gray for the body.

I don’t use plastic storage containers for my food anymore, so they work great for mixing paint!

I stained the top with Minwax Dark Walnut. Just one coat. I also used the wood conditioner before staining to make a more even stain.

I have very limited work space, so garbage cans it is!

I also decided to whitewash the top a tiny bit. I just used some white paint I had lying around, added some water til it was really runny. Took brush and brush in a very light coat and immediately wiped it off with a lint free cloth.

While the top was drying, I sprayed the gray paint on the body. When everything dried, gave the whole thing 2 coats of Minwax Polyacrylic in Satin (only 2 because that’s all that was left in the can).

I also cut another piece to fit in the middle, where the keyboard drawer used to be. And added some happy fun shelf liner to the drawer bottoms.

And then after attaching the drawer pulls and drawer slides, here it is!

The only issue I had was the left side piece on the right drawer. If you look closely you can see a line down the middle. These 2 pieces are really the only mdf pieces on the desk (the rest is wood), so that split down the center when I screwed in (even using self-tapping screws). Anyway, lesson learned there.

So what do you think, how did it turn out?

Replacing Drawer Fronts on Dovetailed Drawers

Let’s start with a before and after. I know everyone loves those!


I had bought a set of used ugly old orange (“golden”) oak cabinets off of Craigslist over a year ago. I saw the potential in these solid oak cabinets. I got a whole kitchen full for $300, but my dad bought the uppers from me ($150) for his laundry room. I only needed the base cabinets, so I got 153 linear inches (combined width of all of the base cabinets) of solid oak cabinets for $150. Not bad. Plus some came with some cool cabinet/drawer organizers/pull-outs.

I kind of moved the cabinets around and reconfigured until I had the layout I liked. The cabinets meshed surprisingly well with the old 60s era corner cabinet that was original to the house (if you remember from my drain pipe disaster, I had to toss most of my other cabinets). The corner cabinet houses the rotary trash can thing, instead of a useless lazy susan. I love this thing. My current issue is finding doors for it, so I may just rig up a curtain for it for now.

The cabinets were in great shape, so I knew I could just reface them eventually. I actually ended up painting them because I couldn’t stand the orange color directly next to the white of the kitchen!

In my naive DIY days (who am I kidding, I am still in my naive DIY days, just slightly less naive), when I bought these cabinets, I didn’t realize that the drawer fronts were actually dovetailed directly TO the drawer box. Meaning, I couldn’t just take the handle off and pop the drawer front off and replace it. So this post is for all of you out there who have the same dilemma and aren’t sure how to proceed.

I came across this website with a quick little how to, so that spawned this project.

The first, and probably most annoying, step is to trim the existing front so that it is flush with the drawer box. I used a circular saw set at 3/4″ depth (slightly more than the thickness of the drawer front). You can probably keep the default depth if you remove the drawer slides first. I kept the drawer slides on because I was hopeful that I wouldn’t have to adjust them, but of course I wasn’t that lucky.

Here is the top drawer all trimmed up. It was actually helpful to keep the drawer pull on while cutting, so you can hold onto it and keep the box stable while you cut.


As you can see, I wasn’t lucky with the drawer slides. I need the drawer front to be flush with the cabinet frame.

This is actually the point where I was at a fork in the road. The way I see it, you have two options, use the front of the drawer as the front, or use the back of the drawer as the front. The front is obviously a lot thicker (my thickness actually measures at 1″) and with this being so thick, likely the screws that come with the drawer pulls won’t be long enough to go through 1″ (for the box) and then another 3/4″ for the new drawer front. That’s where my mind was going at least.

So let’s get to the weird drawer slides these old oak cabinets have. They are fully functional, haven’t had any issues whatsoever. I wanted to keep them due to their functionality and not wanting to spend money on new slides, plus the hassle of installing new slides.

So the drawer boxes themselves actually have a groove cut out to fit the slides. Below is a photo of the groove without the slide in it.

Now here is a photo of the drawer with the slide in the groove:


That’s all well and good, but the issue is that the groove only extends so far to the front of the box. Meaning, the groove does not go all the way through the front. You can see that in this photo:20180816_193602787043546-1.jpg

I have no way of re-creating that groove to push the slide further up, which is needed to make the front flush with the cabinet frame. Not only that, but I wouldn’t be able to reverse the box (i.e. back would be new front), because I wouldn’t be able to slide the drawer slide into the groove from the other end.

So here is where I stopped and thought. For some reason it never occurred to me (at that moment) to just tap the slide with a hammer and see if it made its own groove in the wood. Instead, I decided to buy new slides for the drawers.

I installed the new slides on the top drawer. This is where I learned that the difference in measurement between the cabinet frame and the drawer box is greater than 1″, meaning the slides attached to the drawer will not align with the slides on the cabinet frame. The width of the drawer box is 11.25″ and the width of the cabinet is 12.5″, leaving me with 1.25″ leftover. I was not about to take these slides off and put the old ones back on, so I attached a 1/4″ piece of scrap to one side of the drawer box to bring the total width to 11.5″.

It was a pain. Super annoying. I hate installing new drawer slides. Especially in a cramped, 15″ wide base cabinet. 10/10 do not recommend.

But here we are:

This is what it looks like with the back now the front:

And yes, I changed my mind on my drawer handles. I am in LOVE with these black matte handles. Goodbye, stainless handles!

After the PITA that was the drawer slide installation for the top drawer, I sat down and thought about the other slides. And that’s when I had the brilliant idea to tap them with a hammer.

So I took the second drawer (and just so you know, I just randomly, instinctively typed “droor”, even having typed drawer at least 10 times before that instance in this post), which looked like this before I mutilated it with a circular saw:





And here is a close up of the top:


This is where I used my trusty hammer to pound that slide in:


And… oops, went to far. It’s all good though, the front will be covered by the new drawer front.

Backing the slide up a little bit…


I left it at 1/4″ from the front. Then I popped a screw in the only hole on the slide, just to keep it from sliding back out over time.


I repeated the same process with the last drawer. Test fitting the drawers, and we’re in business!


But of course I ran into another issue…

The “drawer fronts” that I have were actually meant to be doors (as seen by the concealed hinge holes), so the recessed panel won’t allow me to keep the new front flush against the old front.

Here is the actual door/drawer for reference:


And then here is a “real” drawer front. You can see that the back is not recessed, so this would allow the new front to be flush with the drawer box.


So I need to be a little creative here… plywood to the rescue!

Well, actually, I found a piece of 1/4″ x 6 x 2 poplar in the craft wood section of Lowe’s for ~$3.


I didn’t have any scrap plywood on hand or I would have used that. I cut the poplar board to size to fit in the recessed panel.


I attached with some smaller leftover cabinet hinge screws (<1/2″), just to hold in place and also to not penetrate the thin recessed panel.

Actually, I say that, but I did bad math and slightly penetrated the drawer fronts *face palm*.

I need to give these drawer fronts a top coat of paint anyway, so I’ll patch and sand those little areas before I do that.

Earlier I mentioned the issue with using the thick (1″) old front as the front of the drawer box. The screws that came with the hardware are 1 1/2″ long. The drawer box front is 1″ and the recessed panel on the new front is about 1/2″ total (with the poplar). This brings us to 1 1/2″. I tried matching screws at Lowe’s, but whatever screws these pulls came with don’t match up. I remember coming across a review on Amazon when I was deciding on buying the pulls, and the reviewer mentioned that they drilled through the back of the drawer front to recess the screw. So I found a drill bit that was slightly larger than the head of the handle screws and screwed through the back of the front of the drawer box (sorry, wish they had more descriptive names for these parts of a drawer!). This enabled me to recess the screw in the box, so it could reach all the way through the draw front and catch on the handle. Hope that made sense. I forgot to photograph this part!

And since everyone also loves a price breakdown (in addition to before and after photos). Just for this cabinet, the total cost to makeover was ~$48:

  • Drawer fronts/doors: $15 (I am able to find these at a local cabinet warehouse for $5/piece, from their scratch and dent section)
  • Handles are $3.10/piece = $9.30
  • 1/4″ Poplar board = $3.50
  • Drawer slides for top drawer = $20 (this includes the rear-mounting bracket since this is a face-frame cabinet)
  • I already had the paint and painting supplies on hand, so I didn’t include that here

And here is that before and after one last time 🙂


Now guess what I’ll be working on next?

Yeah, this orange glory of an island!


Same thing, I have all of the doors/drawer fronts already. This project will require some veneer for the cabinet frame since some spots aren’t too pretty. I’ll update with photos when I’m finished!

Filed Under: DIY

Keto Italian Rainbow Cookies!

One of my favorite desserts to make around the holidays are Italian Rainbow Cookies. I grew up in NJ and it was rare to not have several plates of these from the bakery hanging around during the holidays.

I missed them dearly, being in Florida, and decided to make them on my own. I’m pretty good at making the regular sugar-laden version.

I mean, look at these beautiful things:

So the other day I was trying to figure out how to ketofy these delicious treats. I know there is sugar free raspberry jam out there, and a sugar free chocolate coating is not outside the realm of possibility. I figured the hardest part would be finding a cake recipe that would work well in this particular situation.

In the ultra carby version of these cookies, the almond flavor comes from almond paste (but I always used almond filling instead). So I researched how almond paste was made, and guess what? Almond flour (or ground almonds), sugar, almond extract, and an egg white. Hmm. Sounds pretty close to almost any low carb cake recipe (minus the sugar), right?

I figured a pound cake recipe would be dense enough for the layers. A too “cakey” cake will crumble when assembling the layers. First try, I made RuledMe’s pound cake recipe, subbing the lemon extract with almond extract.

And it worked amazingly! I think the only thing I’d change is using powdered erythritol in the cake instead of granulated.

For the first pass, I didn’t color the layers. Kind of a waste if the cookies didn’t turn out, plus I wasn’t planning on bringing them anywhere (except maybe the whole bowl to my bed and binge some Netflix).

Keto Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe:


RuledMe Pound Cake Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 cup unsaltes butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups erythritol (I used Anthony’s, but for the future I’d use a powdered form)
  • 1/2 tbsp of powdered stevia
  • 8 whole eggs, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract (add more for a stronger almond taste)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I omitted because I used salted butter)
  • 5 oz sugar free apricot jam
  • 5 oz sugar free raspberry jam (or you could use 10 oz of raspberry and no apricot)
  • 6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1-2 tbsp powdered erythritol
  • 1/2 tsp stevia powder
  • 2 oz cocoa butter
  • heavy cream


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine erythritol, stevia, and softened butter, mixing with a hand mixer until creamy.
  • Add in softened cream cheese and mix until combined.
  • Add in eggs and extracts and blend until smooth.
  • In a medium size bowl, combine almond flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture until smooth.
  • Divide up the batter into 3 equal amounts and add desired food coloring.
  • Line 3 10×13 sheet pans with parchment paper, pour colored batter into each pan, and smooth out.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until firm.
  • Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool. Careful because the cakes may crack, they’re not as flexible as their wheat flour counterpart would be.

Assembling the Cookies:

  • Once the cakes have cooled, add 5 oz of each jam to a microwave safe dish and microwave 30-60 seconds or until jam is easily spreadable (could also do this on the stove)
  • Place the first layer (usually green) on a larger pan or large cutting board.
  • Spread raspberry jam on cake until smooth
  • Add second cake (usually white/uncolored), careful not to crack the cake
  • Spread apricot jam (or second layer of raspberry) on cake until smooth
  • Add 3rd cake layer. Try to line the layers up as close to possible. It’s okay if jam oozes out the side, but don’t squish the layers down.
  • Put the assembled cake in the fridge for a couple hours or until the jam is stiff.
  • Once cold, remove cake from fridge and trim the sides until all sides are smooth.
  • Now for the chocolate. I used a basic chocolate coating recipe, but feel free to use any chocolate coating/ganache you want.
  • Combine the chocolate and cocoa butter in a microwave safe bowl, heating in 30 second increments until melted. Stir in erythritol/stevia until combined. I added heavy cream to make the mixture a little creamer and easier to spread. The consistency of the unsweetened chocolate bar will be the same when it hardens, which makes the cookies harder to slice. Be cautious when adding the heavy cream, because the mixture may seize (get clumpy). Usually this is combatted by adding warm cream.
  • Spread chocolate on top and sides of assembled, trimmed cake.
  • Return to fridge for another couple hours, until the chocolate has hardened.
  • Remove from fridge and slice cake to make your cookies!
  • Store the cookies in the fridge. They will keep up to a week if ingredients were fresh, but doubt they’ll last that long!

Enjoy your cookies, guys!

Driveway and Garage Update!

I just realized I never shared the after picture of the driveway!

Here is what the house looked like before the driveway:

And then during the framing:

And now with the actual driveway in:

The grass has grown back since the driveway was installed. It’s actually grown back with a vengeance. I plan on doing some landscaping eventually, probably after hurricane season passes so I don’t have to worry about newly planted palms getting uprooted.

Now onto the garage!

The house came equipped with a one car carport. There is not enough side yard to make it a 2 car, unfortunately, but I’ll work with what I’ve got.

The contractor I had working on the garage did good work for me… until he didn’t (more on that later). We started the conversion in January (yes, 7 months ago). He started by framing in the sides:

And then here is the inside:

He had assured me I wouldn’t need a permit for this, since the wall wasn’t load bearing. At the time I trusted his judgement, so I didn’t investigate further. Plus, we got sidetracked with the driveway.

Around the time the driveway was being framed, I though about the garage and decided to call the city inspector just in case. I already had a permit for the driveway installation and didn’t want to get dinged for the garage when he came out to inspect the driveway, so I just wanted to check. Well, turns out I did need a permit, and an engineered drawing with the engineer/architect’s seal.

I had an architect come over, and I figured since I was hiring him anyway, that I would have him draw up plans to bring the garage out to the roofline (just to give me some extra storage space). He did, and my contractor assured me it would work with the low headroom in the garage, that I just needed a low headroom conversion kit. Yeah, this was before I realized this guy had no idea what he was talking about. He was a “yes” man. He said yes to everything, regardless of whether he could actually do it. I think he just thought he’d figure it out as he went… who knows.

So, the inspector approved the plans for the garage, and between a contractor, an architect, and a city inspector, no one realized that that pink concrete beam (situated at 7’1″) would leave no room for a door track or a garage door opener track with a 7′ tall door (which, stupid me, I had already purchased on the advice of my contractor), even with a low headroom track. I only found this out after my contractor left me hanging for 2 months (yes, in the middle of hurricane season, building an effing garage) to go do another job. This is what he left me with:

Never mind that the opening for the garage door was actually 3 inches too small.

I only found this part out (and that the garage door wouldn’t fit there) when I had four different garage door companies tell me it wouldn’t fit, that it wouldn’t work. But hey, if I removed the front framing and framed inside the pink concrete, it would work perfectly! *facepalm*

That should have been my last straw with my contractor. I knew I wanted an actual garage door company to do the door install at this point. But he said he’d remove what he did free of charge because he messed up. So when he didn’t show up again, I started calling around for other help. My dad helped me frame in where the garage door should have gone initially, and I had my brother remove the framing in the front.

I bet my neighbors think I’m an idiot.

I had started taking some of the framing down, and here my dad and brother are helping me (re) frame the garage:

And here is the garage with the door re-framed and the front framing completely removed.

The reason for the asymmetry on the framing is that the left side of the concrete actually gives 8″ of room on the inside, so I wanted to have equal depth on each side of the garage on the inside. But wasn’t until I started measuring for stucco that I realized that concrete beam on top of the door would be off center, but you wouldn’t be able to tell once the stucco was done and painted.

So now here I am with the door installed (YAY):

I have completely fired that old contractor. I have a new guy prepping the house for stucco and he said he can match the brick out front so you’d never know the difference (plus the “brick” is actually stucco 😂 I never knew, fooled me!).

One thing I wish I’d done differently (obviously aside from all the mistakes I made here), is to have painted the inside of the garage before having the door and tracks installed. Cleaning the walls and ceiling to prep for paint and then painting is not going to be easy with the tracks in the way! But hey, you live and you learn. That’s been my motto for the last 7 months.

No, my color of choice is not pink, but I still have several things to do before I can paint. Obviously #1 is stucco, but I’m also replacing the windows with impact windows, so then I can remove the shutters. It’ll be much easier to paint without the shutters in the way! So maybe I’ll actually say RIP to the pink before the end of 2018! One can only hope.

Oh, and I obviously have a lot of scrap lumber now (mostly 2x6s). Any suggestions on what to build with these? I was thinking those dimensional lumber chairs I’ve seen floating around Pinterest… just modified to use 2x6s. Opinions welcome!

Before I sign off, figured I’d make a list of mistakes/lessons learned:

  • When hiring a contractor, check to see if they are licensed. If not and you are okay with this, get references and check them. Get photos of past projects to see the work. Some past customers are proud and happy to show off the work if done well (and sometimes if not done well), so definitely make sure you ask to see prior projects. If the contractor is on good terms with their customers, they will be more than happy to contact to show prior work done.
  • This one should be obvious, but don’t pay your contractor until all work is completed and passes inspection (if applicable). Don’t give half (or any) up front. A good contractor should be able to fund themselves until a project is completed.
  • If a contractor repeatedly shows up late, look for someone else. Consistent tardiness shows a lack of time management. If they can’t manage their time, what other problems are hiding up their sleeves?
  • DO YOUR RESEARCH. For instance, I should have done my research on how to install a garage door. If I had, I would have caught a lot of these issues before they had arisen. Do your research, so that you are able to ask intelligent questions and make sure everything is done correctly.
  • Make sure you contact the inspector’s office for confirmation on whether or not you need a permit. Licensed contractors can pull permits for things like window/door replacement or roofing, but it is your responsibility to make sure that a permit is required in certain circumstances. If, like in my case, a contractor assured you one is not required, double-check with the permitting office.
  • Make sure you know the local codes! If you are unsure material requirements, again, check with the permitting office! They will be more than happy to assist you.
  • I’m sure there are more lessons I learned here and I will update accordingly.

Doesn’t that garage door look great?? 🤓

Patio Progress

If you’ve been following my Instagram page, you’ll have seen that I’ve been working on the patio. It’s definitely been a labor of love, but it’s amazing seeing what a little (okay, a lot of) hard work can do!

Here’s what the patio looked like right before Hurricane Irma last year:

Penny says hi. She likes to hang out in the weeds, apparently.

So I had faded reddish pavers lined with tacky, cheap edging stones. The edging stones were discolored… from weathering, mold, I don’t really know but I ripped those babies out. The pavers themselves were likely never sealed so they were faded from the sun. The screened porch has the same pavers on the floor, so you can clearly see the difference in color of the two.

The patio was also a really annoying, zig-zag, step shape. No rhyme or reason. Well, I guess part of the reason was to go around the paper tree that used to be there (out of the picture to the left of the hose in the first picture).

You can see part of the chattahoochee deck in the second photo. This is the pool deck, circa the 70s. Not sure how this became popular, but the same can also be said for popcorn ceilings (shudder). Basically it’s just pea pebbles coated in epoxy and spread in a ~1/4″ layer on top of a concrete slab.

Here’s a look at the patio facing the pool and the rest of the back yard.

The chattahoochee is not too visually unappealing, but it’s been somewhat neglected over the years. There are clearly spots that have degraded and the pebbles just end up everywhere, including in the pool. The edges have cracked off, especially in places where roots and weeds have gotten to. I remember pulling a section of weeds in which the roots imbedded themselves in between the stones and so when I yanked the weeds out, I yanked a chunk of epoxy stone with it. Oops.

I resealed it with Eagle Chattahoochee Sealer about 6 months ago, but it’s clear that the sealer may not last more than a year in the Florida sun, so at that point I’ll try to replace it with something else. More on that later.

So back to the red pavers. Here is what I was visualizing to go around the existing paver patio:

The first thing I had to do was remove those ugly edging stones. Some were concreted to the actual pavers. Actually the whole outside edge of the patio was concreted into the dirt, I guess to prevent the edge from shifting/sinking. Obviously that didn’t work because I had plenty of low spots to fix.

Part of what I wanted to do was square the patio out so it was no longer a zig zag shape. I also wanted to minimize the amount of pavers I wasted, so I tried to use the already cut pavers strategically. It was definitely like a game of Tetris. And because of the concrete on the bottom of the outside stones, it was pretty difficult to get it all completely level, so there are some low spots, but still SO much better than it was before.

So you saw my inspiration photos above. I had also seen some similar projects people had done with 12 and 16″ pavers but I really wanted to use the 20″ (or larger pavers). Problem was, the distance from the existing patio to the house was 43″ and I had planned on using 2-3″ between the pavers as “grout lines” to fill with pebbles. I didn’t want to go larger than 3″. But the math didn’t add up right for 2-3″ plus the size of the pavers. So I had to remove the top row and shrink it 3″ (bringing the distance to 46″) to make it work out. I also had the edge of the exterior stair well to contend with… I wanted the width of the “L” shape to be the same on both sides, if that makes sense.

After the patio was finally squared out, I got to work leveling the L shape around the patio. 30+ bags of paver base, some landscape fabric, and a lot of sweat later…

I also put some plastic paver retainers around the patio before putting the pebbles down. This just squares the patio out a little more, but probably wasn’t necessary.

After leveling, I started laying my pavers down. I ended up needed 2 1/4 inches between each paver, and I needed somthing to space them out while laying them. A normal 2×4 wouldn’t work. Luckily I had some deconstructed pallet pieces lying around and used two of those screwed together, magically giving me 2 1/4 inches. Use what works!

The 20″ pavers are HEAVY. I could only get 2 in the wheelbarrow at a time (and don’t get me started on the wheelbarrow I bought), so it was still pushable for me. Needless to say it took quite a while to lay all 28 pavers. Plus I needed to level each paver as I laid it down or it wouldn’t match up with the one next to it, so additional paver base was used for that. I wanted to minimize any high spots because once the pebbles went in, it would be noticeable.

After the pavers were all laid out, it was time to seal the pavers. I bought Eagle wet look paver sealer and applied 2 coats to each paver. The sealer makes the pavers slightly darker in color, but also prevents rain/water from soaking in and staining them. Once the sealer was dry, I started pouring the pebbles in between. I used mini Mexican beach pebbles for in between the pavers and regular MBP for the back corner where the sewer pipe clean out is.

I’m thinking of making a wooden hose holder/planter to plop over it so it looks more stream lined.

That’s where I’m at now. My next step is to dye the red pavers to tone down the red a little. I’ve gotten some Behr Concrete Dye to do this, bought several different samples and tested on scrap pavers.

I’m thinking a combo of colors is what I’ll have to do to get the color I want… but until then, at least I’ve gotten a better looking patio!

Here’s one last before and after (so far) for you guys:

New Floors!

Hey guys, I’m gonna show you my new floors today! I actually got them installed right before Christmas, so I’m a little late presenting them now.

After the drain pipe disaster, I was left with floors that looked like this:

Not pretty, I know. I waited a little while (read: months) before I took the plunge to redo the floors.

The first thing I did was call around to contractors, see who could install when, how much they charged, etc. I ended up choosing someone who charged $3.25/sqft for install, and that included everything, even the grout. He was available for a week just before Christmas, and no one else I called was available until the end of February. He came with good recommendations, so I hired him.

But the problem was, he said it would take about a week just for installation, not removal of the previous floor. So, I did some research on how to remove a glue-down engineered wood floor and decided to do that part myself (well, really pay my brother to do the intensive labor).

So, now to the floor demo. This part sucked, and I didn’t even do the hard parts. I had my brother do that. The difficult part was removing the wood planks because (OF COURSE) this was a glue-down engineered wood floor. If you do any research on this, glue-down floors are the most difficult to remove.

I initially read about renting a floor scraper from Home Depot:

Image result for home depot floor scraper rental

I actually went to the rental center to rent this machine, but the associate told me with the glue down flooring, I would most likely snap the blade (and of course have to pay for it). So he pointed me to a Makita demolition hammer, and provided a chisel with it. Kind of like a mini jack hammer.

Image result for home depot makita demolition hammer rental

I wasn’t too sure about this but I had a limited time frame to tear the floor up before my tile guy was going to be laying the new floor. I had a weekend to demo the floor and the tile guy was coming bright and early Monday morning.

So thank goodness my brother was willing to operate this bad boy. I paid him for his time – this was really labor intensive. We ended up having to buy a pair of vibration dampening gloves, which he told me made a world of difference. He ripped up half the floor on Friday and the other half on Saturday. Sunday was reserved for renting the floor scraper to scrape all the glue that was left over.

Here he is more than half way through floor removal:

He had to tie a shirt around his head to keep the sweat out of his eyes and then one around his knee because it kept rubbing on the hammer as he was ripped each plank up.

The next day was glue removal, so I returned the demolition hammer to HD and then rented the floor scraper for 4 hours. You can only rent for 4 hours or a whole day (or a week if you desire), so I wanted to get it done in 4 hours.

Before I rented the floor scraper, I checked the user manual through the HD rental center website. The manual actually describes several different blades that you can use, and there is one that resembles a fork that supposedly would have worked to rip the planks up, but I guess HD only had one blade.

A word of caution, READ the user manual. It tells you exactly what way the blade should be oriented depending on what type of subfloor you have. Do NOT trust the word of the associate at the rental center. I did that, and we spent 2 hours using the blade on the wrong side before we were like, “wait a minute…”. The blade needs to be oriented a certain way depending on if your subfloor is concrete (like mine) or wood.

So, because we were misinformed on the blade orientation, it took us longer than 4 hours to do this. In addition, there are 2 bolts holding the blade in place. I assume HD must have lost a bolt at some point because they replaced one with a round head bolt instead of the jack screw. This round head bolt (not the official name, I’m not really sure what it’s called) was the opposite type of allen key (I can’t remember which was metric and which wasn’t) AND it was stripped, so it was very difficult to replace the blade. Make sure you check the reliability of the bolts before placing the blade in!

Due to these two major issues, I asked the associate to only charge me for the 4 hours (I believe I had it for 5 total hours, 1 of those hours being travel time to and from the store). He was accommodating, for that I am grateful.

So now to the tile!

I knew from the get-go that I wanted 6×36 wood-like porcelain tile planks. I wanted some that were ever so slightly gray to give a beachy feel. Imagine my surprise when I found this tile at Lowe’s!

Product Image 3

Original price was $2.98/sqft. Now, that’s still reasonable and I wouldn’t have minded paying that price. I generally browse Lowe’s website on a weekly (who am I kidding, daily) basis, and I kept coming back to see if they had a sale on tile, which they sometimes do. I was in luck, this particular tile was on sale for $1.98/sqft! And with a 10% off coupon on top of that I was business!

Now I’m going to express my frustration with Lowe’s. I ordered 700 sqft of this tile. I did my research, I knew to make sure all boxes were from the same dye lot number, just in case there was any variation in the dye. I ordered the tile from a store about 35 minutes away from me (when my local one is literally a mile up the road) because that was the only one that had over 1,000 tiles in stock. I paid the delivery fee for the tile. I called to make sure they would check the dye lots on my order, I was assured that they do that anyway and if they didn’t have all one lot number they would call me to advise. Okay, that would work for me.

So when the delivery came (a day late, mind you, without even a phone call), I checked the first layer on the pallet and signed the delivery notification from the driver. 50 boxes of tile, I wasn’t about to check through all of them at that point. Later on I went through them, and sure enough, there were different dye lots. The first 38 boxes (on the bottom) were one lot number. Then the next 12 boxes were made up of five different lots! Looked to me like they ran out of the one lot, then threw in a bunch of boxes that were old stock. Two of those boxes even had different designs on them, like they were super old stock.

So naturally, I was upset. I thought I did everything right and still ended up SOL. So, I called the store up and talked to a flooring associate. They were able to locate 14 boxes of one single lot that was about 9 numbers (say one lot was 34563, 9 numbers off would be 34572) off from the lot I had 38 boxes of. Pretty close. I was running the tile underneath the kitchen cabinets, so my tile guy could just use the lot with less boxes under there and no one would know the difference.

The associate said he would set the tile aside for me to pick up the next day. So after lugging 12 boxes of tile into my car and driving 35 minutes to Lowe’s, I ended up having to wait TWO HOURS because the associate who set the tile aside apparently didn’t inform anyone and he was unreachable at the time. Figures. Eventually someone found the tile I needed. I was annoyed and upset and every other descriptive word you can think of that should go there.

For my trouble I was going to ask for a discount, but the lady at customer service, who was there with me through the whole ordeal, told me they’d be giving me an extra 10% off the whole tile order. So two hours of my (frustrated, pissed off) time ended up saving me over $125, so I guess it was worth it in the end. Do I ever want to go through that again? Absolutely not.

Okay, my rant is over.

Now to the good part. Here the tile is installed (before grout):

And after grout:

The tape on the floor is to mark a walkway as I was applying the grout sealer. I used this grout sealer. Only did one coat, probably should have done two. I applied with a foam paint brush taped to the end of a painting pole, so I wouldn’t have to be on my hands and knees the whole time. Worked pretty well. The sealer seems to be working so far, but we shall see.

The only issue I have now that the floors are installed are the stairs going down:

As is obvious from the photo, I didn’t have the stairs replaced. I don’t really think tile on stairs looks good, at all. So my plan is to strip the stairs and re-stain them. I probably won’t try to match the tile, just do a brown that brings out the knotty colors in the tile.

And, as a little aside before I finish up this post, the tile thickness was a little less the the top lip at the stairs. My tile guy was awesome and somehow tilted the tile up to meet the stair lip, seamlessly. You can’t tell at all that he had to do that.

So there you have it! Yay tile floors.

Filed Under: DIY

My Way or the Driveway?

So my house only came equipped with a one-car carport and single-wide driveway.

I have 3 roommates (4 including my brother), so the (lack of) driveway situation was just not working out. I also felt bad about my roommates parking in front of my neighbors’ houses, even though no one complained and assured me it was fine.

But, as many of you may know, installing a driveway is not cheap, so I needed to wait until I saved enough money to get one installed.

Eventually that day came, and that’s when I started prepping. The crater in my front yard is where a birds of paradise used to be. It was unfortunately smack dab in the center of where the driveway will be laid. And it was also too large to transplant to where the island will be with the half-circle driveway.

So it was removed. Thanks to my landscaping friend with a big truck, chains, and some shovels. And now it sits at my neighbor’s house across the street, because he requested it when he saw I was getting ready to remove it. Wish I had gotten a video of that baby coming out of the ground! And being pulled into my neighbor’s driveway. It was definitely a sight to see.

And then came the front yard removal… my contractor came with a bobcat to tear up any vegetation. He also had to re-route some sprinklers. And while he had the bobcat there I had him remove the stupid mound/hump behind my pool, but that’s a post for another day.

So I have had a front dirt (instead of yard) for a few weeks (…months). My contractor had some other jobs to finish up and I had to do permit paperwork so it worked out.

Here it is all framed out:

Now we just have pre-pour inspection and then we can get some concrete in!

Now for the real question: why DO we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?

Filed Under: DIY

Kitchen Soffit Removal

The long and windy tale of the kitchen soffit removal… don’t say you weren’t warned.

My kitchen renovation began with removing the wallpaper and painting the cabinets. I had solid wood cabinets, but the doors were flat. Both boxes and doors (though doors were particle board type material) were covered with the same faux wood look veneer that was obviously from the 60s/70s era.

Here are some photos from the listing before I bought the house:

You can clearly see the soffit above the cabinets and the veneer on the cabinets. And the wallpaper, don’t forget the wallpaper.

The first project was removing the wallpaper from the whole main floor (living room, dining room, kitchen), which is detailed here.

Then came the wall removal around the kitchen to open everything up. I unfortunately don’t have any photos of that process (lost lots of photos when I got a new phone). Make sure when you are thinking about removing any walls in your home that they are NOT load bearing. Also check with your local permitting office in case you need a permit for wall removal. Generally non-load bearing walls will not require a permit, but it’s always good to check just in case. Load-bearing walls require the installation of a load-bearing beam – and the distributed loads need to be carefully calculated by a structural engineer (permitting office may not issue a permit without this step).

Luckily, my walls were not load-bearing, so it was just demolition (I actually paid a friend to do the demo part) and then patching up. My dad works pretty close to my house, so he came over during lunch breaks to patch my ceiling and walls where the walls were removed.

Back to the soffit…

This is what my kitchen looked like after we removed the wallpaper, surrounding kitchen walls; and you can see where we cut the counter tops to remove the cook top so I could put my new gas range in.

The circle hole was actually originally covered up by a clock on the wall. I believe the hole was cut out at some point to rig up the florescent light above the sink. I say rigged up because there were electrical splices everywhere… definitely not to code. You can also see some hanging wires in the foreground that weren’t quite moved around after the wall was removed. The square hole was where my dad and I cut in to peak through behind the soffit.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky to have just empty space behind the soffit. There were quite a few electrical wires and water/drain pipes. I knew the house had been re-plumbed for incoming water so most of the copper pipes in the soffit were not in use, but I wasn’t 100% sure. So, for the time being, we patched the holes back up, and only removed the soffit portion above the sink, hoping that would give a little more of an open feeling.

Yes, I did have several places where there was no flooring, so I just cut some plywood (not shown) for the time being to make the floor level and threw an area rug over it. You can see that in the photo below:

It worked fine… until the drain pipe behind my sink cracked and I had to rip up my floors. I was planning on doing it eventually, partly because the engineered wood flooring I had had was no longer being manufactured and I had a really tough time trying to find a match.

You can also see the line in the upper left corner on the ceiling… that’s from where the old wall was. (And I also had recessed LEDs installed… the little circle hole in the ceiling was from the previous tiny light fixture.)

The cabinets in the photo are not painted yet. I had removed the veneer and then was left with adhesive that just did not want to be removed. So I took a palm sander. To all the cabinet frames. Yes, it sucked. Yes, there was dust everywhere.

I also want to highlight the table that was being used as a make-shift island. Got that baby for $50 off craigslist.

$50 for that table! Solid wood and look at those legs! I plan on refinishing it eventually… the chairs actually are from another dining set. I just gave the table to my parents.

Back to the soffit again…

You can kind of see the recessed soffit above the sink in these photos. These are the primed and painted cabinet boxes, but I hadn’t gotten around to putting the doors back up yet.

We left that little side wall to the right of the french doors to put the thermostat (I switched mine out with a Nest), light switches, and outlets.

In the second photo in the very back you can see a whole mess on the wall… that was from ripping the cabinet above the stove out and placing a slide in range (this was just a cook top and the tall cabinet on the left is where the old (SMALL) oven was). I figured if I was replacing the stove I might as well go gas (my water heater and new dryer are gas), so I had a plumber come and install a gas line. That was not cheap. But I love my gas range.

The cabinets for the island: I got a whole kitchen full of solid oak cabinets off of craigslist for $300. All those cabinets in the island plus another 9″ base and 18″ base (in the corner underneath the green sheet) and then uppers as well. I gave the uppers to my dad for his laundry room re-do. I haven’t gotten around to painting those cabinets yet, as you can see.

So after seeing the mess behind the soffit, I was resigned to just keeping it and trying to disguise it. And thus the great soffit disguise Pinterest search began…

I liked the look of the clean lines and molding from Chris at White Wood.

This photo below no longer has a working blog, unfortunately. But it still looks great!

Use crown molding and cabinet trim to make soffit look custom. Cabinets are Ikea Lidingo.

And this amazing DIY post by Fisherman’s Wife! I love the clean white lines, the glass tile backsplash, and of course those wood counter tops! Fantastic makeover of a dated kitchen.

Disguising the soffit wall above the cabinets. I have wanted to do some kind of molding, but wasn't sure how to deal with how the soffit comes out farther than the cabinet. This looks like a great way to do it!

Unfortunately my soffit stuck out about 1.5″ to 2.5″ depending on which cabinet and then the height of the gap between the soffit and cabinets also varied, so standard molding was going to be difficult. I bought several samples of cove moldings, as I thought that would make the “softest” transition between the gap.

I would have been content (note: not happy) with the soffit disguise, but all that wasted space up there really bothered me.

But of course, the 57 year old cast iron pipe in the kitchen had different plans for me. Once I realized exactly where my leak was coming from (i.e. the kitchen vs. the laundry room), I called a plumber. He had to knock into the block wall to replace the pipe, but of course the damage had already been done. My whole east wall of cabinets were water damaged and moldy, and don’t even get me started on how nasty the dry wall was…

I knew I needed the drywall replaced as soon as possible, so I had a contractor come to replace the drywall. But I figured if everything was going to be removed, I might as well just go with my original plan and demo the soffit and remove that little half wall that I had the thermostat and outlets on (the contractor moved all these to other walls).

The demo didn’t take terribly long, but he had to cut lots of furring strips to slip wires through because both of the walls on the L-shape were concrete blocks with furring strips running vertically to act as studs to put up drywall and attach cabinets. Most of the old copper plumbing he was able to just cut out. The electrical lines created the most problems. I actually had to fire this contractor because he showed up 2-3 hours later than promised every day and he over charged me. So I ended up with a kitchen that looked like this for a while…

I figured the rest of the drywall could be installed after I got the new floor installed. And that would also give me time to find a more reliable contractor. So, with the help of my brothers and my dad, we removed the base cabinets and everything else in the kitchen. I disposed the damaged cabinets. I kept the tall (old oven) cabinet because that’s where I had put a shelf to hold the microwave and was acting as a pantry. My carport was full the brim with cabinets and counter top pieces for several weeks.

Once the floor was installed, I had my new contractor come to move the rest of the electrical and plumbing and then install the rest of the drywall.

And look what he found in the block wall when patching it up!

An old glass Pepsi bottle! It was really cool up until I was informed that construction workers would use soda bottles to pee in and then stick them in the walls. So yay, crystallized pee circa 1960.

Anyway, here is where we were after appliances and base cabinets were re-installed:

Ignoring all of the clutter and mess, look how open it is! I toyed with the idea of open shelving instead of re-installing the upper cabinets, but I have several roommates and since we all have our own stuff, I needed all the extra storage I could get. However, I did move the cabinets to the ceiling so I can install a shelf below the cabinets, like in the following photos:

Extend your cabinet with this inventive shelving

I like the open shelf below the cupboards & like the style hardware on the cabinets and drawers

So here is where I am currently at:

As you can see, I have a lot of mismatched cabinets… and a lot of clutter. I will get it all cleaned up eventually. And yes, I like onions, as is evidenced by the plethora of onions in the hanging baskets over the island. My 7 year old onion-hating self would cry (ha, see what I did there? … I hate cutting onions).

I will go over in detail how I obtained all of those mismatched cabinets and what I plan to do with them in a future post. For now, it functions, and that’s the most important part.



Filed Under: DIY

Keto Hot Chocolate

Well, the winter storm is upon all of us on the east coast. It’s currently in the 30s in Florida – north Florida even got snow on Tuesday!! Once it drops below 60 (who am I kidding, 70) degrees, we Floridians retreat to the warmth. However, we also don’t like to turn on the heat since the cold doesn’t last more than a few days. So, bundling up and making hot drinks is the way to go! Also, dogs. Preferably the snuggly kind.

This meme accurately depicts how we feel about the cold:

So it’s midnight on a Thursday evening and I’m watching Netflix, freezing in my bed with the pups and suddenly think about hot cocoa. I look up a few recipes on Pinterest. Basically, a cup of milk, some sugar, 2 teaspoons of cocoa, and vanilla extract, and you have a cup of hot chocolate.

Here are the ingredients I used to make it keto/low carb:

  • 3/4 cup of nut milk (almond, coconut… I used a plant-based milk I just bought from the store)
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp Torani sugar free vanilla syrup
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender (I used my Ninja) and blend. Transfer to a mug and nuke in the microwave until desired temperature is reached. I microwaved for a minute, stirred, and then microwaved for another minute to get it piping hot. You can play around with the ingredients to your desired taste/sweetness.

Cheers, and stay warm everyone!