We Built This Cat Tower

Taking a break from our regularly – although not so regularly – scheduled remodeling crud to bring you something fun-ish.

We built a cat tower!!!

It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for awhile, debating back and forth about the details of a cat tree – whether we buy or build and when. We do have scratcher boxes all over the house that we’re constantly tripping over (or maybe it’s just me being a total clutz.) Regardless, the cats seem to ignore them half the time, even when it is RIGHT THERE. Do they walk the extra foot to the scratch box? No. Instead, the little boogers opt to dig their claws into the carpeting. I am thankful they pretty much ignore the furniture but is it too much to ask to ignore the carpet as well? Apparently.

IMG_20170715_220410158

Now you might be wondering, why build a tower when you can purchase one? It’s way less labor intensive! First: they’re fracking expensive! $70+ and up! We bought one a few years back and it fell apart in under a year. Definitely wasn’t worth the price we paid for it. I love my cats and all but that’s just too much money. Particularly if we want more than one. Second: After finding a relatively simple plan from dadand.com turns out we had most of the materials we needed since the carpet guys were kind enough to leave us the excess off the roll.

Saturday was build day or at least day 1. A quick trip to Home Depot and then husband and stepson got right down to business.

 

In spite of initially proclaiming that the tower wasn’t epic enough (someone was watching too many cat mansion youtube videos), the kiddo got pretty excited once it was all put together. He couldn’t even wait for us to put carpeting on and started running around the house calling for the kitties.

IMG_20170716_111941028
Complete and ready for carpet!

Onto the fun part of carpeting and rope. The boys measured and cut and I got to attach everything.

IMG_20170718_112029080

The carpet was stapled on and the rope attached with hot glue. I also added staples in the back of the rope roughly every 4-6 inches for added measure.

IMG_20170718_144414354

2 1/2 days later it’s finally complete. Or at least it’s as finished as it’s going to get. I would have liked to have added more rope so that all the wood was covered, but then I’d have to go buy more as well as spend the time attaching it which required just a bit more effort than I was willing to give at that point.

 

It’s a little crooked in places and a little messy but it’s sturdy and really that’s all that matters right? There’s sweat in my bra, rug burns, and scrapes on both my knees, hot glue burns on both arms, hand cramps from stapling and a blister on my left hand of unknown origins. It was painful, tedious, and not quite as much fun as I imagined, but it was all worth it. The cats are in love with their new tower and they’ve pretty much stopped clawing the carpet. And while the kiddo wasn’t here to help us finish, I’m sure he’ll be just as thrilled as the cats are with the final product.

Project cost: About $60. We had leftover carpet and 2 x 4’s from previous projects. $15 for the MDF board, $15 for the glue gun and glue, $9 for 50-ft of 3/4 in. sisal rope. It would have been cheaper but our staple gun all but gave up the ghost halfway through our project. Tack on an extra $25 for staple gun and staples. As a finishing touch, we attached the string of a broken cat toy for their added entertainment.

For now, I rest. At least until the next project.

The Joys of Corner Beading

Okay ladies and gents, this week’s lesson is on corner beads! While it sounds like a super fun craft activity, corner beads are a staple in home building. Apparently they are used to protect the outside corners of your drywall. Now I grew up in the 80’s where people used plastic exterior corner guards so I didn’t even know that these existed until this year.

IMG_20170610_144149995

Vinyl corner beads seem to be the way to go nowadays so we jumped on board the trend train and a-wayyyy we went!

They’re actually quite easy to install, messy but easy. Whereas metal corner beads need to be nailed or screwed into the wall, vinyl ones can be set with spray adhesive. And the adhesive is nicely colored so you can see where to apply the corner beads after you spray. I think this goes without saying, but just in case, make sure you lay something down on the ground before you spray or do it outside so you don’t get sticky crap all over.

As you can tell, I’m absolutely winning at this spray thing. So proud of how awesomely terrible I am with aiming and spraying it on evenly.

Next on the list is to mud over the corner beads to hide them and then it’ll (hopefully) be time to paint.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash my hands again for the umpteenth time. Stupid sticky spray adhesive.

Until next time!

Wall Skimming 2.0: More lessons to learn

So 20 YouTube videos and 2 skimmed walls later, the hubby and I are total pros at this now. If only.
At this point, I’d say we’re semi-capable DIY-ers who are having lots of fun with our hands-on learning.

Here’s a list of things we’ve learned so far:

1. Consistency matters. There doesn’t seem to be a set formula for determining how much water to mix into the drywall mud i.e. 1/2 c. water to 1 g. of drywall joint compound. YouTube and DIY blogs have recommended the thickness be somewhere between mayonnaise and creamy peanut butter. Real talk here: I love that people are using condiments as a reference for mud thickness. I mean, how else are we supposed to gauge it right?

IMG_20170531_102828565
Looks about right.

 

The first time I think we made it a little too thick and it coated well but it made for difficult rolling. Round 2, I thinned out the mud more and while it rolled on quite easily, it did not coat well. Now they say you’re your own worst critic, but after all was said and done, it was quite obvious that it was an uneven coat with certain spots of the wall being more visible through the skim than others.

2. The second coat should be skimmed at 90 degrees to the first one. So since coat one was pulled vertically, coat two had to be done horizontally. Something we didn’t know to do the first time around. I guess it’s to fill in the gaps better or to get it more even? I’m still learning here!

3. Keep a spray bottle of water handy. The other thing we didn’t know our first time through is that the magic trowel should be wet. We used the spray bottle to keep the squeegee/trowel wet and for keeping the wall damp during pan refills.

Some sites recommend that a quick set compound is used rather than a pre-mixed one since it has a faster drying time but both the hubby and I felt like that was just an extra hassle and the time frame for the quick set compound was too tight to work in.

IMG_20170601_134047148
Dried skim-coat. Pre-sanding

Quite honestly, I’m still not 100% certain we’re doing it correctly. There seems to be quite a bit of texture on the walls even after a light sanding. The question now is, do we sand it down further, do a third skim-coat, or just paint it and hope for the best. With it taking approximately 2-2.5 hours for each coat, I’m not a particular fan of the third coat option, which leaves us with more sanding or throwing the towel in in favor of painting.

So many decisions and so little time!

Floor Money, Floor Life – Part 2

So. Floors. More specifically the carpeting. I apologize for the 4 million pictures on my last post but it was necessary to show exactly how things were.

It took us an extra week but we finally have gorgeous new flooring and carpeting. It was supposed to be a back to back install. Vinyl one day and carpet the second. Instead there was a slight weather-related hiccup with getting the carpet installed. 

Plans. Heh. Why do we even bother sometimes?

Carpet install day arrived, pouring rain and all. The installer team was concerned about delivering in the rain and us not having a space available (at the time) to cut the carpet indoors. We rescheduled for Saturday. 

Day three arrived with the prospect of carpet installation but sadly it ended with a no-show no-call. We were expecting a late afternoon/early evening arrival but apparently they got tied up on another job and it put them quite a bit behind schedule. Whatever happened to delay them so much during that day, we will never know. I will say that the company’s handling of the situation was professional and prompt, filing a ticket and calling us back quickly to reschedule with priority status for our new install day.

As promised, we were the first appointment for the following Saturday. The install team showed up at 9 and they were quick and efficient, even being kind enough to haul away all the old carpeting as well as leaving the extras for us at our request. (There will be cat tower building in our future. Hopefully sooner rather than later due to the hubby is threatening to turn the cats into Chinese food if they tear up the new carpet.)

Now we have beautiful, soft, new carpeting in both hallways and up the stairs. Another big upgrade from the dingy, worn down carpeting that came with the house.

(Yes the old stuff is quite dirty from the remodel but since they were going to yank it up and haul it away, we figured why bother vacuuming.)

The worst part of this whole flooring experience wasn’t the cancellation and install pushed back or even having my hardwood and laminate dreams dashed once we found out how bad the subfloor really was or the fact that the cost was at least 2.5x’s more than we had hoped for. The hardest part was getting everything prepped and ready for the installers to come out. Pulling up the carpeting itself was easy enough. Getting it rolled and stored out of the way, slightly more work but still not terrible. No. The worst part of this whole process – removing the tack strip and staples after the carpet was up. If you’ve never had to do this, I pray that you never will because staple pulling can be quite hellish.

I felt like one of those characters from Greek mythology who were forced to spend eternity doing labor. Specifically, the guy whose punishment consisted of rolling a huge boulder up a rather steep hill only to have it roll back down before he could reach the top and he’d have to start all over again. An eternity of useless effort and endless frustration. Except for me, it was every time I thought I cleared an area, I’d find more staples, as if they had magically reappeared just to torment me. Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. It’s not really quite as much of a soul sucking torment as all that but it was incredibly tedious and it most certainly made my knees and back ache. In the end though, the labor, the pain, the cost was worth it all. 

This is the kind of renovation I love, the kind I live for. Pretty new floors and carpet, picking out paint and trim which is next on our list. Not the crap of dry-walling uneven ceilings or the hazards of replacing light switches and outlets. If only things were always this way. One can dream right?

Lawncare 101: More Harsh Realities

There’s that old saying, “Sometimes you have to break it down before you can build it up again.” At least I think that’s how it goes. Anyway, I think I’ve mentioned how much I love/hate spring time. I mean, I love the growing part and everything getting green and pretty. Everything up to that point I could do without. Like our lawn. Our poor half dead yard at which I’ve been raking and digging and pulling weeds and dead crabgrass  – hence the uh, breaking part.

I mean, there’s been a lot of reseeding too but so far not a lot of results beyond a few sprouts. Out of all the things we’ve invested our money in, the yard has produced the least results. Every time I think I have a handle on things, I get thrown for a loop.

And with everything going on inside, combined with some very crazy spring weather, I have barely even touched the garden. Here it is mid-may and not a single thing has been planted and what weed pulling I’ve been able to do has been very sporadic. I feel a repeat of our first year coming on. img_20170516_125805750-e1494955393109.jpg

Now a few things survived the winter, which thankfully, is pretty mild compared to the midwest winters I grew up with. At this point, maybe I’ll just leave the garden be and focus on the lawn? Hmm… Maybe I just wasn’t meant to be one of those green thumb people? On the list of things I’d gladly hire a pro to handle, my yard is at the very top. Will I get the satisfaction of doing it myself and seeing all my hard work pay off? No. But I’m good with that.

One of these days I’ll have a pretty lawn and a nice garden I swear.. One of these days…

Floor Money, Floor Life – Part 1

One of the biggest hurdles in completing the front section of our house has been the floors. The majority of the house is carpeted, notable exceptions being the kitchen and bathrooms and a few small sections of linoleum near the exterior doors. A month-ish, maybe longer, into owning our new house we pulled up the linoleum and carpeting in the front hallway, partly due to the fact that it was peeling up at the corners and partly because we considered it just plain ugly.

So a month-ish, maybe longer, into owning our new house we pulled up the linoleum and carpeting in the front hallway, partly due to the fact that it was peeling up at the corners and partly because we considered it just plain ugly.

And it’s been that way for the better part of the 3 years we’ve lived here, that section of the house has had bare floors.

Being that our house is approximately 100 years old, I had hoped and prayed that there would be beautiful or at least salvageable wood floors underneath the carpet, even though what we had seen so far was slightly less than hopeful. But as we’ve learned thus far, what we hope for, plan for and what reality gives us are very different things. So we made a backup plan: we’d buy laminate flooring from the local big box home improvement store and lay it ourselves to save some extra money.

Then last month we pulled up the carpet in our future rec room, and all dreams and hopes were immediately dashed. While there was indeed wood flooring underneath, it was not in any kind of “nice hardwoods” salvageable condition.

We even found concrete used as a leveler between different sections of the house as shown by the pictures taken at floor level. Concrete??? What in the…..??? Why?? Just why???

In spite of that setback, we sallied forth with our plan to lay laminate and consulted with the flooring department at our local home improvement store, getting a rough cost estimate based on the size of the rooms and halls we wanted new flooring in.

While we really appreciate the effort they made, we eventually decided that it just wasn’t the best option for us. As with everything else in this house, nothing goes according to plan. With the condition of the floors, the added hiccup of concrete covered areas, and the floors not all being completely level or even the same heights, doing it ourselves just wasn’t realistic. As the big box store’s valiant effort, they really did try, but they simply weren’t able enough to handle all of the “what in the heck happened here?” stuff that had been discovered when we pulled back the carpet. Finding a flooring specialist who could better advise us on how to handle our uh…interesting… situation became our next priority. (Ah the endless questing. Did I just step into a real life MMO?)

 flooring specialist who could better guide and advise us on how to handle our uh…interesting… situation became our next priority.

Empire Today flooring was where it was at. As skeptical as I was going into it – their free estimates and tv commercials all seemed a little too good to be true – but I checked my doubts we called them anyway. And we were pleasantly surprised. It was a good experience. They were very helpful, informative, and communicative not only with helping us select the right products for our home but also with keeping us in the loop. In spite of all that we were still terrified they’d come out take one look at our floors and run for the hills. But no, they stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park so to speak, covering the subfloor and leveling the floor a bit more with wood.

IMG_20170504_101853096_HDR (1)

Final product: wood look vinyl planking. Both durable and flexible enough to cover the imperfections in the subfloor. I am super impressed not only with the appearance but I love that you can’t even tell how messed up the sub floor is by looking at it. Yes, there are still areas where you can feel the dips but that fact that they aren’t visible is a huge improvement over what previously existed.

My lunch is calling so I’ll sign off for now. Flooring part 2 still to come!

Skimming the Walls and Other Lessons in Drywall Mudding

Ah, wall skimming. Sometimes, it’s not enough to spackle the dents and holes in your walls. Sometimes, there are just too many to deal little marks and dents to deal with and trying to cover each one individually is just plain tedious.

I present for your viewing pleasure, Exhibit A (left side) the wall in our soon to be the rec room. This little beauty comes pretty much as is – minus a few attempts to spackle over the dents in the wall we have done nothing to it. Exhibit B (right side) is a wall in our hallway we have spackled again and again and then finally painted in hopes that some of that paint would cover the imperfections.

Sadly that was not the case. This is where skimming comes in. Now it’s been pointed out to us that there are two types of lighting – we’ll call them “every day” which is just your normal room lights and “up close and personal” flashlight or lamp light meant to look for imperfections. While both pictures were taken using “up close” lighting to really show off how bad it is, the imperfections on the walls are still quite visible in the overhead lighting of both areas.

So back to wall skimming. Frankly, neither of us are quite adept enough to go at it with just a hawk and trowel it so we used the roller method. A rolled on skim coat is like… the love child of painting and drywall mudding. It’s a little bit of both all rolled into one. Essentially you use a roller to paint on a thinned out coat of drywall joint compound and then pull out most of the texture with a rubber trowel.  Bucket of thinned drywall mud – check, trowel – check, roller & paint tray – check, spray bottle to keep the wall damp – check, rag for wiping – check.IMG_20170503_095736637

Skimming is my first real “solo” adventure since we’ve bought this house. (Painting doesn’t really count since I’ve done it countless times before.) My hubby has been doing the bulk of the work and while I’ve assisted with cutting or hanging drywall, I’ve not undertaken any project by myself up til now.

For my first time skimming EVER and my first solo project, I think I did alright. While the starting section was less than pretty, I found that it go progressively better as I went along and found my groove between rolling and pulling.

IMG_20170503_155412397_HDR

The walls will still need to be sanded down but after the first coat, our rec room is already looking much better. Total run time: 2 – 2.5 hours from prep to finish not including clean up. This week I’ll tackle the hallway and once we get the rest of our flooring put in we’ll be ready to paint! But more on that later 😉