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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    Really strange and super exciting to go on Facebook and see your bathroom in a @betterhomesandgardens post. Thanks for sharing in the Baths with Stylish Color Combinations post. ūüėÄ I don't know how or why it's 66 degrees at the end of January in Montana, but I'm not complaining. I guess by weekend weather will be back to normal. Houston, we have counter tops! #ohakitchenreno

Reclaimed State Art

Recently, a few friends and I have created a few wooden things together.  Cribbage boards and now large state art.  After seeing our bedroom wall, my friend really wanted to use the same wood to make a large Montana piece.


The process was pretty easy, so I thought it’d be fun to share. ¬†To make the template, he propped up a handheld projector loaded up with a Montana silhouette. ¬†We taped Kraft paper to the wall, traced the outline, and cut it out. ¬†After arranging four planks, I used a Sharpie to transfer the shape to the boards. ¬†Using some of our scrap cabinet poplar, we secured the pieces together with screws from the back.


Then, with his jigsaw, he cut along the lines.  Tight turns are impossible to go completely around, so he worked in from the other side.  Cutting took out a few small chunks, but after a round of edge sanding with 220 grit paper, everything looked normal.


Each state is 41 inches wide by 21 tall.  I popped it on the mantel to see what I thought.


I like it there, but I had intended for it to hang over the bench in our bedroom, like this:


Not sure where it’ll land yet. ¬†Originally, my friend wanted to hang his over a sofa. ¬†After discussing other uses, (adding hooks for jewelry for his wife) I tossed out the idea of creating a coat rack. ¬†By adding simple knobs or hooks at staggered heights, it could be art and storage. ¬†Now he’s undecided on where his will go. ¬†At any rate, we had fun and have something to show for it.

Blank Slate

We’ve been busting our butts to knock out as much of the kitchen as possible. ¬†After installing the ceiling planks, we turned our attention to the floors. ¬†First, we had to take out the majority of the cabinets. ¬†Everything except the kitchen sink, to keep things functional as long as possible.


With cabinet out-of-the-way, Ben used a rented tool to help pry up the tile.


Removing the tile was necessary for a few reasons. ¬†The most basic is cosmetic; having never liked the look and wide grout lines, we didn’t want to work around it. ¬†Secondly, the tile went around the cabinets, which is a problem because we’re slightly shifting the island.


Most importantly, the tile was installed over plywood.  Our subfloor starts with a layer of plywood with particle board over that, and then another layer of thin plywood.  All glued like a sandwich.  In wet areas, this can cause shifting and settling as water seeps under.  Which happened around the sink and fridge.  In fact, we discovered an area of prolonged exposure that rotted completely through to the basement.  To fix the area, Ben cut out the problem hole and some surrounding wood.


Adding a few braces to the exposed joists and topping it with new sub floor fixes it quickly.


What wasn’t quick was removing was prying up the top layer of plywood to get a smooth base. ¬†Pulling up the tile and sub floor took a full two days.


Sucky, but totally worth it to properly install our new tile.  Ahh, a blank slate to start adding to.


It was interesting pulling up the top layer as it revealed the old kitchen layout.  Part of the kitchen (where the fridge and office were) was added along with the pool house.


There’s an area of particle board, then a filler strip where the exterior wall once was, and then the addition. ¬†I’m guessing the stove went along this wall, based on the patched vent hole.


With the floors even and clean, we started laying Hardie Backer board.


Three and a half hours and 35 sheets later, we finished and let it dry.


Finally, the fun part Рtile!  After laying out a row of staggered brick pattern, I made an 11th hour change and tried out herringbone.  With such a long area (29 feet from the door to the family room) it looked better to have a pattern that looked the same from every wall.  Rather than a brick pattern from one side and lines from another.


We used the same slate tile from the bathroom because we loved it so much. ¬†It’s beautiful, easy to work with, gets a great anti slip rating, and we can carry it into the pool house. ¬†Hopefully grout will happen in the next few days.


In addition to finishing the floors, we also needed to get the ceiling painted before cabinets can go in.  Tongue and groove is a pain to paint with a brush and roller.  I know this after painting the bathroom.  And that was roughly 1/10 of the size.  To speed up the process, we masked off the windows, both doors, and the floors to get spraying.  Ben uses this sprayer  at work often, so he tackled the painting while I looked for light areas.


Once the primer dried, we painted the ceiling with Sherwin Williams Snowbound in a satin finish. ¬†Here’s the room before paint:


And right after:


The paint haze in the room was crazy. ¬†Which makes it really important to wear a vapor mask. ¬†After all that, here’s what the kitchen looks like:


A bare shell, ready to fill with cabinets, appliances, and all of our kitchen essentials.


We’ve officially passed the deconstruction and are on the construction side. ¬†Although we will have to do a little more demo to replace the door.


But, that’s going to wait until we get back to a functioning kitchen. ¬†You know, a room with a sink. ¬†Speaking of sinks, this custom-made beauty arrived last week.


Love at first sight. ¬†It’s 36 by 25 and 9 inches deep. ¬†The makers also crafted a strainer basket, so that was a fun bonus. ¬†So excited to get that stunner in and wash some dishes. ¬†Until then, we’re washing our dishes in the laundry tub.


The washer makes a great drying rack.  :)

Wrecking Ball

We sure know how to holiday around here. ¬†As a Christmas gift to each other, we’re tackling the kitchen remodel. ¬†Tuesday evening, Ben removed the bay of 2 feet deep pantry cabinets. ¬†He was able to get each one out fully intact, so they’re in the garage, waiting for a new home.


Christmas Eve morning, we picked up 10,000 pounds of slate tile for the kitchen and pool house.   After Ben and a friend unloaded it all, the remodel literally started with a bang.  Ben was itching to knock out this wall.  Unlike our last kitchen remodel, this wall is not load bearing, thanks to free span trusses.


All the planning and ideas of how this would look still didn’t prepare us for the result. ¬†It’s amazing how open everything is! ¬†We could host a cooking show in here now. ¬†Okay, not right now. ¬†Maybe once we’re finished.


Over the weekend, we installed pine tongue and groove ceiling planks.  Keeping the kitchen functional as long as possible is our goal, so the ceiling was something we could work on without interrupting anything else.


Replacing the large flourescent light with 6 inch cans and LED bulbs has really changed the mood of the room.


Soft light radiates down, rather than the surgical light before.  After finishing the ceiling, we started emptying and removing cabinets.  Instead of this:


We’ve got this:


Fridge in the dining room.  Clutter all over the counters until we get more bins to pack everything away.


A wonderfully large opening connecting the rooms.


And loads more work ahead of us.


Next up, removing upper cabinets, spraying the ceiling white, and then out with everything else.

Green = Green: Winterizing

Making our homes as energy-efficient as possible has always been a priority of ours. ¬†In our last house, Ben replaced every window, added a layer of rigid insulation under the siding, and 22 bags of cellulose insulation to the attic. ¬†Paired with a geothermal system, the average monthly heating/cooling bill came in around $30. ¬†The guy that serviced the¬†geothermal system couldn’t believe the bills were that low, even with the high-efficiency unit.¬†Front of House

When we moved in this house, we knew we wanted to do the same. ¬† It’s taken longer, but we have¬†replaced every window with¬†energy-efficient triple pane vinyl windows.


After each window install, we seal cracks with Great Stuff expanding foam.


This compressed foam fills in cracks around windows, going right around shims.


Before replacing the basement windows, we had box elders crawling all over.  It was really gross.  When removing the old windows, we saw the problem.  Absolutely zero insulation around the windows.  Not even fiberglass batting chunks.


Since sealing the gaps, we’ve had maybe 5% of bugs in the basement. ¬†That’s a win-win situation; prevent drafts and keep creepy crawlies out.

Our first fall here, Ben crawled around the attic, blowing in 100 or so bags of cellulose.  For the house wrapping, we were able to get a good deal on used rigid foam panels on Craigslist.


Unlike fiberglass batting, rigid foam doesn’t lose R value over time. ¬†By getting used panels, we saved at least a thousand dollars and some space in the landfill. ¬†With the windows and siding in poor condition, we knew we needed to replace everything. ¬†It made the most sense to super insulate while we were in the process. ¬†Wrapping the house with 4 inches of rigid insulation took some time, but we’re already reaping the benefits.

Though we’re just beginning these cold months, we’ve already noticed the house holds heat longer. ¬†Last year, we had a fire burning constantly. ¬†If we didn’t, the furnace ran almost constantly. ¬†Now, without a fire, the furnace kicks on several¬†times a day. ¬†With a fire, it comes on maybe three times. ¬†Even the extremities of the house feel warmer. ¬†To the extent that I refuse to put our thick winter comforter on for fear we’ll roast to death.

I know insulation and house guts like plumbing and electrical are some of the least exciting projects, but they are very necessary.

Kitchen Cabinets, Part 1

During our last kitchen renovation, I shared how we built our cabinets. ¬†Over the weekend, Ben built every drawer, 9 total, for the island. ¬†We’ve made a few changes while building our new cabinets, so I’m giving the scoop now. ¬†To get as much detail as possible, I’m sharing how he built the boxes and drawers now. ¬†Once we finish the fronts, I’ll discuss the materials and process for those.

As he finished each drawer, I sanded the tops and sides smooth for clear coat. ¬†Four days later, here’s our island, ready for install.


The right stack are for either side of the stove. ¬†On the left are the shorter cabinets the cook top will rest on. ¬†Originally, we planned to put the trash under the sink again, but started discussing and agreed it is better under the stove. ¬†With a half width drawer under, if someone is cooking, it’s easy enough to scoot to the side to throw something away. ¬†At the sink, you have to step all the way over, stopping what you are doing. ¬†So, that’s why there’s only one drawer in the lower box.

Our bathroom vanity was a trial run of sorts for the kitchen cabinet process.  All boxes are constructed with 3/4 inch thick, double-sided melamine coated particle board.  Melamine is ideal for wet or potentially wet areas such as kitchens.  Box assembly is otherwise the same as before.

One big change we made is the drawer material. ¬†Last time we used 3/4 inch plywood. ¬†It’s sturdy, but everything we can get now is a lower grade. ¬†Low grade plywood warps easier, which can skew the drawer. ¬†We also didn’t want to fill ugly edges. ¬†This time around, we went with 3/4 inch thick poplar for the sides and 1/2 inch double-sided melamine for drawer bottoms. ¬†Using a dado¬†bit in the table saw, Ben cut a 1/2 inch wide by 3/8 inch deep groove a half-inch from the bottom.

Kitchen-Drawer-Assembly-GroovesHe repeated this process for both sides and the front.  The backs are an inch shorter and are glued directly to the drawer base.  A bead of glue inside the groove holds the base in place.  Each side slips in over, nailing the corners for added strength.


After the three sides are in place, Ben runs a line of glue on the base and side corners before sliding the back in. ¬†A few more nails and the drawer is assembled. ¬†That’s when I get to start working. ¬†I used 220 grit paper to sand the top edges and sides smooths, paying extra attention to the joints. ¬†Before sealing, I quickly vacuum off dust. ¬†To keep the melamine base clean, I taped off the edges before applying two coats of clear water based poly.


One really great advantage of building our own cabinets is tailoring them to our needs.  For instance, the drawer heights are perfect for us.  We always prefer three drawers over a shorter stack of four.

Before we start building drawers, I measure a bunch of items to decide the minimum height for each drawer.  I tell Ben what I need the usable space to be.  To accommodate tall pots, leaving a little breathing room, our bottom drawer inside space is 11 inches tall.  Our top drawer can be no shorter than 4 1/2 inches inside to store our spice drawers.  Middle drawers are always the remaining space.  Knowing my measurements and that the bottom and glides take up 1 inch, Ben knows where to attach the glides.


Another big difference this go around are the drawer glides. ¬†Last time, we didn’t want to sacrifice drawer height, so we used side mount glides. ¬†With a bigger kitchen, we are less concerned about that and chose Blum soft close, under mount glides.

Comparatively,¬†these puppies are not cheap. ¬†About $17 per pair versus $6 for the same size. ¬†We made our island deeper than standard, 31 inches, to leave space between the cooktop and bar. ¬†Longer pairs cost $45 each. ¬†That’s 405 dollars in drawer glides for just the island! ¬†Even with the price tag, after using these in the bathroom, neither of us would go back to the old style. ¬†These are the cats pajamas. ¬†Seriously, full extension, 100 pound heavy-duty rating, quiet, and smooth.


With the slide installed, he secures clips to the under side of each drawer. ¬†That’s the orange thing you see in the above photo.


These clips are the only thing physically holding the drawer to the glide.


Did I mention these glides are tucked completely underneath, hidden out of sight.


That’s all we can do on cabinets until we get everything set in the kitchen. ¬†Then we add the face frames, drawer fronts, and hardware. ¬†We’re nailing down those details soon.

We also made unexpected progress on the countertops over the weekend. ¬†Hoping to get pricing and see our options, we popped in a local marble and granite supplier. ¬†I said I preferred a dark, matte to satin finish stone. ¬†The owner showed us really beautiful leathered granite and a gorgeous soap stone remnant pile. ¬†After talking it over with him, he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: 100 bucks for six soap stone pieces. ¬†Three are more than enough for our kitchen, so we loaded it up that day. ¬†Because soap stone is on the soft side, it’s easy to cut and polish at home. ¬†Ben’s no stranger to working with stone counters, so we’re thrilled. ¬†Right now, the slabs are stacked together, with the backs facing out. ¬†But, I can’t wait to share more!

Our rule is to have everything on site and ready for install before anything gets ripped out. ¬†Slowly, things are coming in. ¬†Flooring, a new door, and the sink should arrive soon. ¬†It can’t get here soon enough. ¬†Almost daily, Ben threatens to tear things out.


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