Friday, January 1, 2016

Demolishing the walkway

Alright, back to the walkway.  So before we get to anything else, first step was removing the old walkway.

Jon really wanted to have a go at the walkway because he hated it to see what we were working with, so he just went at it with a sledgehammer.

Turns out, it was a thick 4" slab.  You can see there were little slate pieces embedded in it, and we did our best to selvage those.  This progress took several hours...

And we had a lot of walkway to go.

Enter power equipment, stage right.


So we were already expecting we'd need to rent this guy, so it was an easy decision to drop $200 for a day to use it. Compared to the cost of back surgery, seemed like a steal.

To test out it's skills, Jon went and quickly popped out a few stumps from a landscaped area that we had ripped out earlier this year.  Easy peasy.

 
Then we started on the big area.  The concrete stairs.  It was a big section, so the kids each had a turn with Jon while he worked on coercing the stairs out of there.


This was a family affair, after all.



Once the stairs were out, he dug a hole for the new stairs base material and moved on.


The next sections would be up on the hill, so he took a break from the walkway, and started pulling stumps out of the sinkhole.

News went from good to bad.   While the stumps came out easily, he found an adjoining section that was about 10 food down and 10 foot wide. 

Feeling nervous about even parking the excavator on it, he called it quits.  We're going to have to hire someone to pull out everything on that side of the lawn :(

 Once we were down with the sinkhole, Jon started his way up the hill. He attempted to get to the lower steps, but that proved to be too tippy ( he said see saw the panic on my face and knew to stop, thank goodness) and we moved on.

Once at top, the excavator made quick work of the steps. With a little pounding, he was able to split them in smaller pieces for us to move around.
 

With that, the demo was complete! While $200 is quite a chunk of change, we were quite happy with the success we had demoing the front walkway.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Eve's Room is Finished!

So if you haven't been following along, we worked on our Eve's room from November last year to this August.  We finished up the construction and passed inspection... so it's time to surprise Eve with some new big girl furniture!

It was fairly sparse in her room before -


But with the addition of a bookshelf, a desk, and a whole lot of decor... we have a big girl's room!  My goals were storage and wall art, since those were lacking big time, and I think I hit my mark.


I tried to go with this color scheme (which is really the first time I've really tried for a 'scheme)


The desk we built came out great. 

Everything on the desk we got new except the eraser :)  Markers, crayons, pencils, notepad, scissors and lamp were all from Walmart.  The pink caddie and journal were from Burlington Coat Factory.  The striped pail from Target and the green mason jar Micheal's. Have I mentioned we shopped everywhere? At 9 months pregnant, shopping sure was exhausting!

I loved some fabric I found at Joanns, it fit the colors so well, that I decided to wrap the shelf with it.  On the shelf I added a letter tray and a school year organizer.


This cool little caddy was about $10, but I really liked it.  It spins!

The little reading nook turned out great too.  The rocking chair was from my Great Grandma, and my Mom made the cover for it waaaay back when Eve was a baby.  We found a really nice glider and ottoman on the side of the road from our neighbors (much like our recliner), so those replaced the rocking chair in my room...  giving it a home in Eve's room.

The book art I drew up using sharpies.  If I were going for a  "single" theme in her room I'd say it'd be Reading-Nature-French (single - ha!), since those are the things she enjoys the most...  so that little picture pretty much sums them all up
 

The 'E' &  Eiffel tower were from Burlington Coat factory and the glass nature jar from Micheal's clearance.   The stones were leftover from filling our sand/water (okay, rock/water) table and the tree bookend came from our backyard :)

I love the glass jar a lot, as it adds to the organization I was going for.  We didn't fill the whole thing up with pebbles, as the rest of the space is for rocks, shells, pine cones and whatever else Eve considers treasure. A big step towards organization. 

The princess piggy bank we owned already.  The top book on the puzzles there is one of those 'secret box' books from Micheal's as well, and that's for the notes from her friends that she wants to keep.


The woven basket is from TJ Maxx, and the mushrooms came from and sewing kit Eve had already  made.  I'm totally loving the bottom 'toy bin' for the miscellaneous stuffed animals, pillows and doll blankets. The woven basket is for holding her stock of library books. 

A little backstory on this bookcase -

Because this was all going to be a surprise for Eve, we had to keep Eve (and the boys) out of the house until we had set it all up.  My Mom offered to watch the kids for a few hours Friday night while we assembled the bookcase, bed and set up staging everything.  We still had to cut and paint the back beadboard we had picked up last minute (totally worth it, I love the look!) and we also had to get a few more things from the stores.  All this was pushing it time wise to begin with, but the real kicker was how long it took to get the bookshelf together. Low and behold it took hours to assemble it.

My Mom had done the painting and sealing for me (thanks Mom!), so I had given her the pieces mostly separate - the shelves/support assembly, base, top rail, and sides.  The first problem, we left the top rail at her house, so we actually needed to head back to meet her to give us those halfway through the build.

The second problem was that she had sealed the sides of the shelves recently, and they really really stuck to the sides of the recently sealed bookcase.  It was so difficult for Jon and myself to get them into position, it took at least an hour, maybe two.  Once they were it though, it was just a few pocket screws and they were done.  So my advice... don't paint the sides of the shelves... and wait a few days to assemble so everything is cured.

And then we had another tough time when it was time to seat the beadboard into the back of the bookself (which was recessed nicely).  Pounding finishing nails was difficult with a curved bookshelf, and when I switched to using the nailgun, I had several nails blow out the side, I think because the hard board was so hard.

Finally, I switched to pre-drilling holes (broke a bit, of course) for the finishing nails in the hardboard, and nailing them in by hand. By that time, my Mom had put the kids to bed.  So it wasn't until the next day that we actually got to reveal it to the kids.



Thankfully, most everything else went a lot more smoothly.  Moving over to the other side of the room...


I finally put in a cushion for Eve's bench.  It had been on the todo list for a LONG time.  I'm not sold on the colors, but it's progress!  I  actually didn't even bother sewing the cover on the cushion.  I wrapped it like a present and just used safety pins to keep it in place.  It's holding so well, I'm not sure I'll ever sew it.  The pillows I quickly whipped up.  Underneath I have a little box for Eve's crafts and bigger box for Eve's lego friends.  ++organization!


One other detail we were hoping to fill in - wall decor.  I went the DIY route and made a lot of it.  Good or bad, at least it's done.  The ballerina over her bed was all painted with acrylic.


The canvas over by the bench is fabric stretched over a canvas.  I used iron on adhesive on the fabric letters to adhere them.



Given the extra time now that the kids were staying overnight, the extra time gave me the opportunity to add in a few more details.


I still had loads of oracal 631 vinyl left over from our wall art in our last apartment, so I got to decorating with both old and new stickers.


Poor sad tree now.  I'll find a home for it someday...

The birds from our old apartment went up in both of the kids rooms.



A star made it on Eve's American Girl doll chest.  My Mom repainted from gold to white it to match the new room and added some adorable trim on the doors. Jon got a mirror from Joann's and with some 3M poster strips, stuck it to the door.  Awesome little details made this thing look so polished.


While we were at it, we gave the boys a little something for their door. 


The little grids on the back of the paper made for a cutting art graphic super quick.


And speaking of something for the boys...  we decided to get presents for all of kids to give as a surprise.  Eli got a toolbox stocked with tools, Isaac an ocarina, and Eve a sleeping bag.


Here's the side with the new window:
Before
Really need to take a picture with our new camera to capture the light correctly
 And the new doorway.


I had a hard time balancing the lighting for these photos.  If I get a chance I'll try with our new camera, but let me assure you, the new window and recessed lights are a world of difference.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Walkway go time!

Back in one of my first posts of the spring, I highlighted our walkway as something I really wanted to get done this summer. Things were looking grim getting it done this year when we still hadn't made any progress well into the fall.


But, like other years, we've decided to race winter, and see if we can sneak one more project in before snow flies.  Like we don't have enough stress :D

One of the big issues I had trying to get this project going was having time to plan.  Pregnant + work + homeschooling + finishing Eve's room = NO TIME. 

Buy, funny enough, having our baby girl actually gave me a lot more time to plan this thing out.  People kept saying how busy I'd be after the baby was born, but thanks to maternity leave, and an ample amount of time nursing, I've been able to squeak in some computer time.  (Mind you, doing anything that involved walking around was a challenge for a while.)

Let me tell you, there was a lot of planning on this project.  First off, we needed to rent tools and equipment.  Second, we needed materials delivered.  Third we needed to know how much materials to order almost exactly, as landscaping companies return policies are bad. 


That, and I had no idea how to make steps.  Or anything landscaping, in general.  It's hard to plan if you don't even have an end goal in mind, so I really had to learn a lot on this one. I'm gonna be a contractor by the time I get done with this house.  I'm learning all there is to know.

We did some [creepy] driving around local neighborhoods, and it seemed like the most common way to make steps with pavers around here was using granite blocks.  Still not satisfied, I googled, and googled and tried to fine anything I liked and thought we could DIY.

First off, I found that retaining wall blocks may be the inexpensive step option we wanted, as they looked okay and would be easy enough for us to move around.  But those would require some sort of tread, which would potentially raise the price up.

Here's a few pictures of what I came up with as options.  

Solid Granite steps:
Image via http://www.labriepropertymaintenance.com/2012/05/24/walkway-retaining-wall-granite-steps-and-brick-headwall-kingston-nh/
Solid Bluestone/poured concrete treads:
Image via http://www.omistonework.com/walkway-pictures.html
 Wood / Railroad ties
Image viahttp://www.ushostmaster.com/northern-office/railroad-tie-wall-2.htm

To move through these options...  granite has a great New England style I could enjoy, but they seemed like an unlikely option for us.  They're pricey ($130 x 11 = $1300),  heavy (hard to move DIY style), and wouldn't work as freestanding stairs.  Plus, I do see a lot of heaved granite steps around our area, and I'm hoping to avoid heaving issues.

Pouring concrete slabs in place was another option, but so similar to what we have.  Aesthetically, we were wanted something that would add a little more value to the house, and doesn't scream "this is the first time we've pour concrete!"  Still, a good fallback if we just couldn't find anything we liked that we could afford.

And wood would pretty much what we have now.  While we could do a better job, and fix the spacing issue, it really wouldn't make me feel confident that our new walkway wouldn't settle like the old one did.  One option we considered was to just throw some stone in the sinking part of the steps, which would be very doable... but maintenance would be hard (our kids love to play in rocks!).  And I really don't like to walk on rocks much.

So, all those options were out.  Here's the next batch of options I was considering.

 Retaining wall caps:
Image via http://hoehnenlandscaping.com/hardscape/gallery/brick-walkways-stone-patios
  Natural Stone pieces:

 Paver Treads
Image via http://www.mypatiodesign.com/Pictures-Photos-Block-Paver-Entrance-Steps.html

My favorite of these three would be natural stone.  However, I was finding it to be pricey, hard to plan for and I was a little worried they would become too slippery when wet.  Plus, we had already gotten the Holland pavers for the walkway part, and I wasn't sure how well the look would tie together with natural stone steps.

Which leaves us with two options, retaining wall caps and pavers.  I found the style okay, but it was our best option. So I dug into researching my options for retaining walls, wall caps and pavers.  And what I found surprised me.  I really didn't like almost all of the paver steps I saw, until I saw this picture in a retaining wall block book (Sorry for the poor quality, I scanned it in)


 Paired with my ideal walkway look, I could see us making it work.



So after a lot of back and forth talking to a local landscape materials dealer, looking through books, deciding which blocks to use and how much we're going to be paying..... we had our plan. 

We couldn't find any border stone (also called a solider course) around here that really matched the image above, but we decided to go with the closest cost effect solution we could find locally - Genest Acadia blocks.
 

All this plan depended on retaining wall blocks, and funny enough, I really don't like the look of typical retaining wall blocks.  They seem so uniform and lack character.  However I found a mix of 3" and 6" highland stone to be really nice and natural looking.  We were hoping that we'd do a little more retaining wall work in the future as well, so we thought it'd be nice to have both match.  So we used those...


sort of...

They were fairly expensive, so we actually bought a lot of filler blocks from home depot to keep costs down.  You wouldn't really see any stagger in the steps up the walkway, so we didn't really need to have the expensive blocks.  It saved us several hundred dollars, and we're hoping it doesn't effect the look too much.  We actually made a several money saving decisions with the retaining wall blocks, as I'm sure I'll step through in a later post.

You can see why the home depot is about $7 cheaper.  If this were holding back a wall of death, I think I'd go for the nice thick name brand block.  For a 6" step, I think home-cheapo will do.


Once we had a plan, I calculated materials and we started gathering them up. We used our minivan to pick up blocks from a few different places locally, one being the actual Genest company, since it was close enough.

We ordered 7 cu yards of hard pack (also called road base or 3/4" pack) to fill our steps and as a base material for the walkway, and we were all super excited to watch it get delivered.



Nothing like creeping out a delivery guy!