Two Doors Down

As usual, summer is our time to tackle outdoor projects.  During the week, I add and keep up plants, build walkways, and pull weeds.  Weekends are Ben’s time to knock out the heavy lifting projects, like installing new windows, siding, and rebuilding the front deck while I help in any possible way.  So far, we’ve constructed a cover for the south-facing front deck, to make it usable and enjoyable in blazing heat and sunshine.  Before we can go any further with that, we have to replace the sliding doors.  The old sets are original to the house and barely function.  Sliding each door takes far more effort than it should, the screens are gone, and the panes are fogged up.


When renovating, every step feels like a huge victory, so having easy to open, see through doors is a thrilling luxury.


Two down, one to go.


Followed up by the rest of the pool house windows, that are waiting in the only looking/getting worse pool house.


But, after windows, we can work on siding, then the interior.  And you know what that means?  The giant warehouse room filled with building supplies and tools can start looking better, perhaps even become usable.  What an original idea, no?

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.

Green = Green: Free Stump Coffee Table

You may be right!  I may be crazy.  But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.  To quote my longtime BFF (not really) Billy Joel.

Often times, I’m not actively searching for specific items.  However, if I see something that I can’t stop thinking about, I feel compelled to get it.  Such is the case of this giant slice of starting to rot cottonwood.


At 43 inches in diameter and 12 inches tall, this thing is massive, not to mention heavy.  Ben thought I was crazy, but loaded the beast up for me.

The affair started innocently, as I drove past the chopped up remains of a 25 foot tall dead trunk.  After a few days, I decided to ask by leaving a note with my name and number.  Instead of being the crazy woman knocking on the door, demanding a piece of wood.  A few hours later, a sweet gal called me back saying I could definitely take what I wanted.  Sa-weet.  I dropped by to pick out the piece and chatted for another one and a half hours.  I guess she didn’t think I was crazy.

Back to the wood.  This old cottonwood had died years ago.  The stump finally fell over.  Which means this thing has real character.  After a thorough sanding to get the surface splinter free and as flat as possible, I dug sawdust out of the bug trails.


To get all dust and debris off and out of cracks, I lugged out the air compressor and a spray gun.  Worked like a charm to get the gunk out.  Then I gave the sides one coat of polycrylic.  For added smoothness, I applied three coats to the top, sanding between layers.  Sanding between coats is always important, but even more so on an unfinished piece of wood.

At 12 inches tall and somewhat uneven (notice a raised chunk toward the front in the photo below), I attached three steel casters.  Not only do the casters add a few inches in height, it makes this two hundred pound slab mobile.


I bought four, but after talking it over with Ben and looking at the base, three worked better.  Despite an uneven base, after flipping it over, the top was almost perfectly level.  As the old saying goes, “Almost only counts in horseshoes and casters.”  Under $6.00 each at Home Depot, these 300 pound rated wheels are heavy-duty.


Four 2 1/2 inch long screws and washers keep the wheels in place.


With the piece sanded, clean, sealed, and wheeled, all we had left was to bring it inside.  Basically I made a heaftier version of this stump and put it inside my house.  Feast your eyes on our new, rustic meets industrial coffee table.


Adding the heavy (both in weight and appearance) table has helped ground the room.


I’m keeping the old table.  Because I love it and it could work well in our bedroom seating area.


This hulking piece was fun to work on and now has a fun story.


And character in spades.


One side has a giant crack along with a woodpecker hole.



Some of the chainsaw marks are still noticeable on the top.


Despite several rounds of sanding with 50 grit paper, the top isn’t completely smooth.  I mean, you won’t get slivers if you run our hand across the top.  Though it is far from your typical glossy mahogany furniture.


You can feel bumps, divots, and a few rough patches.



For a hot second, we considered screwing the crack back together.  Clearly, we decided against that.  It could have worked.  Or it could have made the split even bigger.


Overall, this was a quick, easy, and inexpensive project.  Free stump + a few hours of sanding + 1 quart of polycrylic + three steel casters = my love in coffee table form.


Based on the 17 photos, some very similar, in this post, I think it’s safe to say I’m smitten.  What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of cool furniture?

Big Ass Benches

We’ve got scrap piles for days.  Seemingly of anything and everything.  Including a few beams we didn’t use for our deck, walkways, or stairs.  To use a few up, Ben built what we’ve dubbed ‘Big Ass Benches.’


They’re huge at 8 feet long and weigh at least 150 pounds each.  Two fill in the space by the waterfall, around the fire pit.


To build these behemoths, Ben cut an 8 foot piece for the seat and two 3 foot tall sections for arms.  Scraps of 2 by 4 work as cleats and 2 by 6 boards for the backs.


Long screws go through the sides and into the seat.


Back boards connect to a small chunk of wood.


Along with the two in the back, we’ve got another on the front landing.


It functions as a bench (duh!) and a railing, keeping people away from the far edge and steep drop to the driveway.

Green = Green: Reclaimed Wood

Hey everyone!  Glad to see you here today.  Did you have a good weekend?  We’ve spent most of our last two (including Memorial Day) working on a back yard deck.  If you’re thinking, “Wait, I thought you were going to have a concrete patio back there?” you’d be right.


That was the plan up until a few weeks ago, but our plans are kinda fluid.  If our original plan won’t work, we find a better project, or a kick butt deal, we’re willing to switch things up.  Heck, that’s how we ended up with wood countertops at our last house.

When Ben stumbled into the deal of the century, we couldn’t say no.  You see, a commercial building in town was in the process of being demolished.  Outside sat a giant stack of glulam beams, originally used to support the roof.


Ben called around until he found the guy responsible for these dudes and asked what the heck deal was.  Well, they were destined for landfill.  Landfill, not on our watch!  Instead Ben cut these giants down, hauled ’em home, and we’re building a deck now.  But they’re not deck ready in their original condition.


Purple paint, screw and nail holes, and gouges from the not super concerned excavator operator need some attention.


But, the mud pit we call a back yard is slowly becoming a user-friendly, dirt free space.  Here’s where we are today:


Nineteen beams in place, seven to go.  Each beam is 5 1/4 inches thick, 19 1/4 inches wide, 15 or 16 feet long, and weighs about 300 pounds each.  In a word, massive.  Admittedly, I’m of little help moving these bad mamba jambas.  It’s quite comical, actually.  Ben summons his Hulk powers while I’m all Captain America, pre experimental serum.  However, I can fetch tools, pull nails, and help decide which side of each beam looks better.


The deck sits about six inches off the ground with a slight cantilever off the ends.


Before we can put each beam in place, we’ve got to pull out all nails and screws, sand off the paint, and smooth the grooves from the demo.  Damage from the removal gives each beam some rustic character.


Even though the sides have a some pitting, the tops are super smooth.  I’ve carefully and scientifically measured the tripping hazard of each side, not yet stubbed a toe or fallen.


Of course we’re still not done.  Seven more beams until we’re at the desired width.


Then we’ll use a large sander (likely a rented one for hardwood floors) to go over the top, smoothing everything.  Oh, we’ll have the fun task of cutting all the ends to make a clean, straight edge, too.  Normal skill saws don’t even come close to cutting through.


We’ll seal the virgin wood with a mid-toned stain, for a little depth and color.  And we’ll have to build stairs to this little rock landing.  No more mudslides, thank you.


Despite not being done, we’re already enjoying using the deck.  For waterfall sitting, of course.


Once we’ve finished the deck, we’ll cover the rest of the muddy areas with plastic, crushed limestone, and add some plants.  Because we need greenery.  I’m thinking a shady little hosta/bleeding heart/lily of the valley bed outside of the bedroom windows.  And build a pergola.  And add a gas fire pit.  And cover the house in new siding.  Yes, we’ve got big plans for this summer.

What do you think of the newest addition?  We’re smitten with him so far.  Anyone else building a deck?  Or adding greenery to a yard?