The last time my husband and I updated our fireplace was last year when we were living in our townhome. We gave that fireplace a facelift with some fresh tile, paint and a new marble hearth. We were only able to enjoy it for a couple of months before renting to our tenants but I still love the way it came out! You can read about that DIY Project Here.
The fireplace in our current home is much different. It’s covered in brick, much larger and is used for real fires instead of gas. (One day randomly, a women who used to live in our home when she was 4 years old dropped by and told me the story about how her dad built the house and fireplace. She said the fireplace looked similar to how she remembered it over 60 years ago!) I know this meant it needed a bit of an upgrade. 😊 We wanted to keep this project as inexpensive as possible since we had (still have actually) many other projects to complete throughout the house.
A quick paint job, an updated mantel and some decor items was what I was envisioning. But there was a little more to this project than just that. We bought our house knowing there was a leak in the fireplace/chimney and had that fixed right away. But what we didn’t know was that the leak had been there for years and years causing moisture ants to take up residence behind the wall.
Luckily we discovered the ants because my husband wanted to add an outlet above the fireplace for our TV which meant removing the drywall and rewiring the electrical outlet close by. When he removed the drywall, we discovered the most disgusting amount of ants hidden behind the wall where the leak used to be (way more than in the photo even!). He used a shock vac to vacuum all the ants up and then we left the drywall off for a couple of days to ensure everything was completely dry and no longer leaking.
Yikes! After that mess my husband added an electrical outlet to the center of the wall, added new drywall, learned how to do knockdown texture and then painted everything. He is incredible! From there him and my father-in-law used pine boards to extend the mantel, taking inspiration from this blogto make it look a bit more modern. I found these Wood Sheets on Amazon which we used to cover the seams on the ends for a perfect match.
And just like that..it’s 2021! Wow, what a year 2020 was. To me, this past year flew by because many of my memories blend together (staying home each day, teaching online, Zoom meetings, lots of Netflix shows, more Zoom meetings, walks with my pup, mixed in with a couple of weekend trips with my close friends). And although it was definitely challenging, I still have many positive moments and experiences from 2020 to reflect back on. One significant event that stands out is we bought a house in November!
My husband Tommy and I have lived in our current neighborhood the past 5 years. We have loved the location so much that we decided to buy a little fixer upper right down the street (I literally walked to the open house). Throughout those 5 years, we made small changes to our townhouse to make it feel more like us. We began to realize just how much we love DIY projects and decided we wanted to take on more! But before we could begin any new project in our new home, we had to get our townhouse ready to be rented out. This made for a couple of insane weeks. Packing, moving, painting, cleaning, townhouse tours, tenant screening…all while having just one week to get our new home painted and livable. I blinked and somehow we did it.
But anyway, with this blog post I wanted to put together a list of everything we did in our townhouse to look back and reflect on. Many of the DIY projects were very simple but I think made a big difference. A little paint goes a long way! If you are thinking about tackling your first DIY home project, maybe this list will give you some inspiration.
Painted kitchen cabinets, extended to ceiling with crown molding and added hardware
My husband and I decided to redo the fireplace when we were putting in our new floors. This was our first tile project and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!
Tile: The first step was to remove the hearth and surrounding beige tile. My husband used a sawzall to do this and was pretty proud of himself when the hearth came out in one piece. (Don’t mind the huge red wine stain on the carpet – I knocked over a full glass a couple of days before this photo was taken and decided to just leave it there since we were tearing out the carpet anyway)
One easy thing we did once Tommy took off the old tile was clean the fireplace glass! I just used windex. It’s crazy how much better this alone makes it look.
Next it was time to cut, measure and nail on the cement board. Tommy found the best way to cut cement board is to score it, then snap it. He used a diamond bit to drill through and then installed with flat head nails so the tile could go over smoothly. After the cement board was up, we measured and created a template of the fireplace using tape on the floor so we would know exactly where to cut each piece.
Then it was time to cut the tile! We used a large wet saw rented from a nearby rental equipment store (also took a break for a bomb lunch).
I used a lot of adhesive to put the tile on (probably too much but again, first time doing this). The tape around the fireplace helped ensure no glue got on and made for an easy clean up.
After a couple days, we applied a grout sealer/cleaner, let it dry then started grouting (applying the sealer before helped ensure the grout didn’t stick to the tile and makes it easier to clean off after). We made sure to use unsanded grout, since the lines are narrow and we didn’t want to scratch the tile.
Then after it dried for about 20 minutes, we cleaned it off and used the same sealer from before to seal the grout lines. Next it was time to tackle the hearth and fireplace surroundings.
Hearth: We decided to do a large marble slab to match the herringbone tile for the fireplace hearth. We designed and cut the template ourselves to save money and had this custom piece made for our fireplace. We splurged on real marble but we love how it came out! Hearth Cost: $250
Materials: My husband built and painted the mantel surroundings using scrap trim pieces + paint we had on hand. We removed our top corner insert, gave it a fresh coat of paint and secured it back on.
Over the summer something very exciting happened, my mom became a homeowner! She has been living in her townhouse the past 6 years and decided she was ready to invest in some property and have a place for herself that she can truly call home. In June she asked her landlord if he would be willing to sell her the property and the next thing she knows it’s officially hers!
Since the transition happened over the summer during quarantine, it was the perfect time to take on a new DIY project and upgrade my moms space. We didn’t do too much. In fact, the only things we did were:
New floors and baseboard
Painted all walls and ceiling
New light fixtures
Upgraded and rearranged furniture
It’s incredible what new floors and a little paint can do. My mom gave me free rein and told me she trusted me to pick out everything so this made the project even more fun!
There was this awkward trim that ran all along the downstairs walls and this was the first thing to go (it was nailed in the middle and basically cut the walls in half). The walls were covered in a shiny bright white paint so we went with all new paint throughout. We used Sherwin Williams Eider White in flat for the all over color and Sherwin Williams Slate Tile in flat for the accent wall.
Side note: Make sure you double check your paint and get the correct finish! We order another gallon of the Eider White, used it for touch ups and then I noticed something just didn’t look right. Well the galloon was in a satin finish instead of a flat! So there were these random shiny patches throughout. 😂 We ended up having to repaint over the shiny areas. Again, always double check so you don’t make the same mistake.
For the floors we decided on Lifeproof Luxury Vinyl Plank in Fresh Oak. I used this same product in our home (just in a darker color) so it was easy for my husband and my dad to install them at my moms place.
Then it was time for the most fun part, decorating! My mom and I mostly used Wayfair for larger pieces and then got a lot of the little things from places like Target, Ikea, Home Goods, etc. We are both extremely indecisive (I can’t even tell you how long it took us to pick out that credenza lol) but this just meant spending more time together until my mom found everything she loved. We had so much fun shopping and working on this project together.
I am so incredibly proud of my mom and proud of how hard she worked to get to this place of owning and remodeling her home! (Also real estate in and around the Seattle, WA area is no joke). She is absolutely amazing and proves it’s never too late to accomplish your goals and dreams.
Like many, I have always loved the show Fixer Upper. Basically anything Joanna Gains does I love, and when I discovered what a shiplap wall was I knew I wanted this in my home.
Luckily my husband is up for any home improvement project idea I throw at him and was ready to tackle this one. It was pretty easy and straight forward and we were finished within a day. Below are photos of the the walls before; plain, boring, ready for some shiplap! (Also, see if you can spot my dog Edgar in the photo above. I caught him sitting in his favorite spot behind the couch next to the window ☺️)
We went to Home Depot looking for the cheapest wood option, found some thinunderlayment($12 a sheet) and asked the employee to rip each sheet into 6 in wide planks. My husband used his nail gun to attach each board to the wall. We started with the longest board on top and then cut the lengths to fill in and create a staggered looking pattern. We taped two pennies together and used these as spacers between each board as they were nailed to the wall.
**One thing to note, the employee at Home Depot did not rip each sheet exactly 6 in. wide, so half way through our project we nailed on a board that was 6.5 in., causing the corner where the two boards meet to be misaligned. I recommend double checking that each sheet is ripped the correct length or ripping the boards yourself so it is exact. (My husband wanted to redo this whole project because of the misalignment but I talked him into leaving it – I still love it!)
After the boards were nailed to the wall, we added trim, used putty to spackle the nail holes and then used a sprayer to paint the boards white. This tied everything together (we also replaced our floors, trim and bathroom door which are shown in the after photos). Below you can see the corner where the boards don’t align – maybe one day we will fix it!
This whole bathroom makeover idea started when my husband tore out our old carpet and replaced it with Luxury Vinyl Plank. We replaced the floors in the upstairs hallway, the stairs and the entire downstairs, including our small guest bathroom.
To install the vinyl plank flooring in the guest bathroom, my husband had to remove the toilet and the old pedestal sink. Once the sink was out, he was adamant about replacing it with something else, and kept saying it didn’t feel right to put back after we had finished installing the floors. So…bring on the half bath remodel!
The first step was tile. I had always loved the classic look of white subway tile and decided this would be an inexpensive way to elevate and upgrade the entire space. Plus, I thought it would be a fun project to do while we were in quarantine and I was excited to learn a new skill. I ordered everything needed, watched this Youtube Videoand went for it! I am thrilled with the results and want to share a few important elements that really helped with this project.
1. Ledger Board. A ledger board is used to support the primary row of tile at the base. This makes it very easy to start tiling and to make sure everything is even and level. My husband measured how high our baseboard would be and nailed in the ledger board there.
2. Tile Template. There is probably a simple math equation I could have used to determine where to cut the end tiles and ensure even spacing but I am a visual person. Instead, I created a template of three rows since I wanted the tiles staggered. I measured out the length of the wall then taped that length on the floor. From there I arranged the tiles out to both ends of the tape so I would know where to make the end cuts.
3. Right Size Tile Spacers. I ordered the Horseshoe Spacers and couldn’t recommend them enough. I went with a smaller grout line (1/16 in.) since the subway tile already has grooves on the sides and felt like this helped hide some imperfections.
4. Paper towels. A little obvious but having lots of paper towels available and ready helped tremendously when I accidentally spilled mortar (on the tile, floor, all over my hands) and I was able to quickly clean it up each time before it dried.
I definitely recommend tiling yourself for anyone who is interested in doing some home improvements (it’s not as hard or daunting as people say, plus you will save a bunch of $$$)! After the tile was dry, grouted, cleaned and sealed, it was time to put everything back and add the finishing touches. Below is a price breakdown of what was spent for this makeover.
Tile: Some of these products we already had on hand when we retiled our fireplace (will share a blog post on that later!).
24 hour wet saw rental $50 (renting a saw meant having to work faster, which pushed us to finish tiling in one day)
Total cost for all tile + materials: $242
Flooring: As stated earlier, we decided to continue the vinyl floors in the bathroom to make it easier to install and to have the entry way flow. This also helped us save some money. We used LifeProof Tupelo Oakvinyl flooring.
Bathroom Accessories: Paintings – My husband lived in New Orleans for a couple months when we first started long distance dating about 7 years ago. He found these colorful painting at a street market and I thought this would be the perfect place to hang them
Bathroom Vanity + Faucet: I found a beautiful brand new monarch blue bathroom vanity on Offer Up for $200. You can find it on Wayfair(original price is around $530). I purchased the Glacier Bay Bathroom Faucet in Matte Gold to match the vanity, $60.
I couldn’t be happier with the way this half bath turn out! Beautiful, affordable, updated and fun to complete. Now, on to the next project. 🙂
If you are a parent trying to teach your child at home while still taking care of your house/pets/husband/wife/chores/meals/career/etc ..this learning at home thing is probably both new and challenging.Or if you are a teacher learning about new technology/answering emails all day/staying up late worrying about your students-are they safe? are they happy?/doing everything you can to stay connected to them..this learning at home thing is probably new and challenging for you as well. Just know, we got this!
I feel fortunate to work in a school district that is doing what they can to make things as smooth as possible for both teachers and families at home. Last week, our superintendent helped deliver over 1,000 Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots to students so they would have access to technology at home. Breakfast and lunch became available each day for families through a rolling pickup line. Teachers were provided with online professional development trainings through webinars, Zoom meetings and self-paced online lessons.
And although this is all so amazing (and I’m sure many other districts across the country are doing similar things), it doesn’t even begin to take away from the anxiety, the uneasiness and the stress that I know many parents, teachers and most importantly our students are feeling on a daily basis.
One of my second graders (7 + 8 year olds) sent this to me today in a GoogleDocs for our daily writing activity (I removed the name for privacy):
“I feel not good because the corona virus is not stopping and we can’t go walking outside because it is cold and it used to be way hotter. But know it is cold and yesterday me and NAME got to met him in google hangout he said other people were coming but they did not join so it was just me and NAME we did it because my dad told me that NAME is feeling lonely so we did it.”
This just makes me so sad. This is why I am doing whatever I can to make sure ALL my students still feel connected to their teachers and to our classmates. I am also very lucky to have an amazing team of 2nd grade teachers who I work with.
Here are some resources we are using to help connect our students and help our families with At Home Learning:
Zoom This is similar to Skype (anyone remember Skype?) where you can host/join a video chat with multiple people at once. It can be used to record and teach students a lesson (using video and/or sound), to share your computer screen with others, with powerpoint presentations, etc. My second grade team and I have been using Zoom to collaborate and plan weekly resources for our students and provide daily parent support. Parents – your child could use Zoom to share their work with their teacher/classmates. They could also use this to connect to friends and family members living in different household such as grandparents, uncles, etc.
Padlet My team and I created a shared 2nd Grade Padlet where our students can upload photos of themselves while learning at home. We are using this website as a way to see each other and to stay connected. The kids can also comment on their classmates photos. All teachers need to do to incorporate this with their class is create an account (free) and share the link with the students. I absolutely LOVE checking this each day to see what the kids are up to (and they also love when teachers share photos of what they are doing at home).
FlipGrid I just discovered this site and I love it! I plan to post weekly videos where my students can watch and then respond back to me by creating their own videos/messages at home. The kids can also view, comment and respond to each other. It’s free to sign up, and you can make your account private so only the students and families who have the code can view and record.
GoogleSlides Each week, we create a new GoogleSlides Presentation to send out to families with specific links and resources for each subject that the kids can access from home. Below are two examples from GoogleSlides.
At Home Learning Calendar This is used as a resource for students to check off items that they complete. This also helps parents know what their child can do at home each day. I use this editable Learning Calendar Template from TeachinginRoom6. Below is an example of the calendar I sent out to families on Monday.
Lunch Time Doodle I came across this site featuring famous author, Mo Willems, where every weekday at 1 pm he will be sharing a video to help learners draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing. This could be an excellent “brain break” or lunch time activity or really anytime activity your students/child can do at home! There is also a step by step activity page on the left side of the website families can download and use as a directed drawing.
GoogleClassroom My Second Grade team and I use a shared GoogleClassroom to store all our uploaded documents/worksheets, directions, links and resources. If you are an educator, I highly recommend setting up a GoogleClassroom for your students! Everything is all in one place, kids can turn in assignments and you can give them instant feedback.
Animal PostCards I shared this idea on a previous blog post but wanted to share again. I plan on mailing these animal postcards to each student, surprising them with a little message and telling them how much I miss them. Also, a former colleague of mine had an amazing idea – the kids can do a research project on the animal they get in the mail. Then they can present their animal through Zoom/FlipGrid and share on GoogleClassroom (Thank you Cassandra for this idea!). Parents – you could have your child write postcards to their family members/friends and mail them out!
These are some of the main resources I’ve started to implement with my second graders since my school closure on March 16th. We are all still learning how to navigate this new at home learning lifestyle caused by the coronavirus, but it doesn’t mean we have to do this alone. If you are a teacher looking for online resources or looking for ways to stay connected to your students, please reach out! If you are a parent who needs some support or guidance with at home learning, I am happy to help! Or if you are implementing something at home with your students/with your kids that is working well, please share! I would love to collaborate with you as we navigate this uncharted territory together. Remember, we got this!