We love DIY; that’s for real. (You know that already, because this blog.) But every now and then, we’ll run into a project where we find ourselves spiraling downhill, wasting time and arguing way, way more than the, uh, normal amount. Accusations fly, something will inevitably shatter in to pieces, frustrations grow, and pretty soon you’re wondering if it’s 5 o’clock because I could use a beer right about now!
And at some point along the way, you remember to cut your losses and move on.
On a side note, I had an amusing conversation with a friend this past weekend; she’s always said that she gets a kick out of the quirky banter between me and Scott – and by ‘quirky banter,’ I really mean strong, opinionated disagreements. (It’s out of love, really!) These two are a stubborn bunch, but can I just say? I appreciate the way that Scott challenges me. Most of the time.
In this particular case, I’m talking about our doors. Remember when it took us a day to install just one? (Which, by the way, swings beautifully!) But then we still had four more to go? Excited to just get on with our lives – and gain a bit of privacy while we were at it, let’s be honest here – we decided to just hire it out. This decision, of course, came at the price of a bit of ‘quirky banter,’ in which we weighed the pros and cons of cost vs. time, our current growing list of would-love-to-dos and can we afford it?
But! If you figure that it takes us a day to install one, well, the math checks out that it would take us a good four days to finish the job. Not to mention that one of the doors needed to be shaved down, one of the doorways needed to be raised and another one needed a couple more 2x4s installed for a perfect fit. All of that sounded like our idea of a terrible time, and after a handful of phone calls and quotes (some outrageous, some so-so), we found Harry. He charged by the door (as opposed to the high hourly rates we’d been receiving), was ridiculously fair, and he had every last door installed in half a day.
We’re still far from being finished, but man, Harry was worth every single, shiny penny.
What are the jobs you’ve found yourself saying no! to DIY?
Well, the vertical surfaces, anyway! (We’ll get to the porch floor soon.)
As I mentioned yesterday, the weekend was a full blown DIY party, paint-stained pants, cold beers and all. (Although, that depends on your idea of a party?) The concrete work began Thursday night and was dry by Saturday morning, and while Scott and his dad focused on building new exterior stairs – which you’ll notice are there, but not quite finished yet! – his mom and I got to work on giving the front porch a fresh coat of paint. Or, it’s first ever coat of paint!
For this project, we worked alongside Ace Hardware, having just launched their in-store Paint Studios; all their colors are displayed beautifully and in our case, the Valspar line was arranged by mood (calm, serene, ooh, aah!). We knew we needed a good, clean white – nothing too bright, nothing too blue and definitely nothing too yellow.
While Valspar has a vast selection of whites, we found ourselves gravitating towards the white choices for Clark + Kensington, and we ultimately landed on Designer White (as it’s described on the swatch, a cool white with a pale shade of gray). In our case, however, we had it color matched using Valspar Aspire in a satin finish, their exterior paint line. And because our porch is weathered pressure treated wood, we also opted to pick up the Prep-Step Primer to prevent any bleed through whatsoever. (We have a handful of sappy knots and the color of the wood is pretty dark; better safe than sorry – especially with the amount of work we were about to put in!)
I’m not going to sugar coat it – this porch was a beast. But my goodness, what a difference it has made! Let me fast forward for just a moment:
But you know there’s more to the story than just a few coats and calling it done, right? For starters, the columns on our porch are just typical 6x6s, so to give them a little more oomph, we first trimmed them out with plastic molding where they meet with the metal sheeting:
Below on the right, you can see how they look now. On the left, you’ll see our neighbor’s column, which was also trimmed out (as are a few other houses on our street, all of which were used for inspiration):
And now, let’s jump back even more – back to the priming. In the end, we’re so happy we decided to prime first, even if it was the worst job ever. I used a small foam roller and an angled brush, and Scott’s mom did as much cutting in with another angled brush (by the way, she is a trooper – thank you a thousand times over, Ann!). With both of us working non-stop, this took us a good seven hours. Every time we thought we had coated every single surface with the primer – nope! (Spoiler alert: we got the job done!) Regardless of the self-induced torture, we do think the primer helped to seal in some of those tougher knots while eliminating an extra coat of Designer White. Note: We also used wood putty on some of the deeper cracks in our columns, although the Aspire paint filled in a lot of the hairline cracks really well.
Sunday morning, the Vargo parents headed back to Cincinnati, but Scott and I were determined to finish the porch painting. With the primer out of the way, I told Scott, there’s not a chance in hell I’ll brush and roll that porch one more time! The thought alone made me want to run for cover, and so, we spent a good hour (or two?) taping and sheeting off our house. And our fence. And, yeah, the grass. I did roll the columns (just so we didn’t have to also tape off the porch ceiling!), but aside from that, it was paint sprayer time!
We knew our sprayer would waste some paint – which is to be expected – but especially since we’d be spraying through slatted railing and lattice. But, no matter! It was worth every bit of not having to pick up an angled brush and cut, cut, cut. All in all, we used 3 gallons of the Valspar Aspire, and it took around 1 and a half hours to coat every last bit.
This has got to be one of the most satisfying and instantly transformative changes we’ve made to our entire home – we were (are) so happy, we couldn’t (can’t!) stop smiling! Once we were done, we toasted drinks, sat on our new porch chairs and watched the pups play in the yard for the rest of the day. Note: The stairs are thisclose to completion; we just need to finish up that banister, and we’ll circle back around once we can finish it up. But hey, how ’bout that concrete?
Our tape lines weren’t perfect along the porch floor or the 2×4 directly beneath it, but any of the raw wood you see left – with the exception of the stair stringers/risers, which will also be Designer White – will be covered with deck paint. We’re leaning towards a medium gray (to hide dirt), but overall, we’ll be keeping things light and lively on the front porch.
As for our thoughts on the Valspar Aspire, we are fans. Truly, we’d pick it up again in a heartbeat. It took one coat with the paint sprayer, and it covered so, so well. (Although if we were to cut and roll the entire porch, it would likely take two coats, simply because a sprayer is able to provide an even, thick coat in one shot.) The satin finish is the perfect sheen for exterior use (I had waffled between satin and semi-gloss and had second guessed my decision at one point, but I’m thrilled I stuck with my gut!), and we were impressed with how well it covered!
Of course paint can transform just about anything, but you guys. Look! Just last week, we were looking like this:
And now? This!
But wait! Remember this?
So much better. (So, so, so much better!)
We’ve come a long way on the exterior in just one weekend, but we are so looking forward to what’s to come! Here are the items on our short list:
• Swap out the old outdoor lights for new ones (they’ve arrived, and we can’t wait to install!)
• Paint the front door
• Paint the porch floor
• Finish the staircase hand rail
• Paint the staircase – that is, once the pressure treated wood has dried (boo)
• Top the downstairs cinder blocks with limestone caps
• Install a path from the pavement to the side of our home, alongside the garden
• Sod / grass seed
Oh, and there’s a pretty big one, too: Build a fence. Our neighbor to the south has a gorgeous cedar fence that we’d like to mimic on the opposite side (it’s currently raggedy, old chain link), but we’re working on receiving a few quotes. These two? We’re not building that ourselves. (We’d rather garden!)
We’re excited to be collaborating with Ace Hardware as a part of their Ace Blogger Panel! Ace has provided us with compensation and the materials necessary to complete this project (hey, thanks, Ace!), and all opinions are our own. Cute puppies are an added bonus.
Although it’s Wednesday, we still feel as though we’re coming off of a DIY hangover; this past weekend, we put on our DIY-party-pants, and we hit it hard. Scott’s parents planned to visit us for one full day of help, and still being fresh off the headache of baseboard installation (and miraculously living to tell the tale!), we moved the fiesta outside, an area that we’re eternally apologizing to our neighbors for.
We have big goals for the front, and in typical Scott + Kim fashion, one project idea will quickly snowball into another project idea that’ll easily require a handful of mini projects to prep for the initial larger project idea. (Got it? We know, you know.) Over the course of the weekend, we made a ton of progress, made huge messes and – again, in our typical fashion – haven’t quite wrapped up every last bit, but we’re getting there!
And one of those mini projects (that turned out to be not so mini) that was needed to prep for the larger project? New concrete!
But let’s back up. Scott and his dad wanted to tackle the building of new stairs that would lead up to our front porch, but about a week before their visit, we spent a little more time looking at the state of the stairs – which, at first, was just to get our shopping list in order. Of course, this had us realizing that eek! These stairs are in worse shape than we thought, but as we looked closer, we noticed, gah! If we’re going to do this right, we need a whole new concrete pad. This, naturally, was followed by foul language and a slew of phone calls to contractors that were never returned.
Below, you can see that our stairs all slope downwards to the left, but if you look at the base of the stairs, you’ll see the bigger problem – they weren’t even built on top of the pavement in the first place! Nope, they simply land on uneven dirt and gravel.
We’d discussed pouring a new concrete pad down the road, but with it now becoming a necessity to have, you know, level ground for the soon-to-be new stairs, it got bumped to the top of our list. After all, there were more than a few issues with the concrete in the first place. For starters, the shape makes no sense…
… A poor gutter situation (which has since been corrected as well!) caused cracks along the cinder blocks that lead down into the garden unit, not to mention, there are also a handful of missing cinder blocks…
… And cosmetically, the whole thing was full of cracks. (Which we found out was almost entirely due to the fact that there was no drainage allowance built into the large concrete pad in the first place!)
With Scott’s parents coming to visit in just a few short days and not a single returned phone call from a masonry contractor, we figured that the stairs could still be built – just not installed. (You can’t bring these two down!) But! On an evening trip to the grocery, we found ourselves behind a pick-up truck with the words “We Do Concrete!” followed by a number. We called it immediately, told the driver we were right behind him, and since he had wrapped up his day, he agreed to follow us back to our house and provide a quote. Hip, hip!
Not only was his quote extremely fair, but because the job was so small, he was able to squeeze us in the next day. (And he was super professional, very tidy and an all-around good guy! A unicorn pony, for sure. If you’re looking for someone in the Chicagoland area, send us an email, and I’ll fill you in!) The Thursday before the weekend, he dug up all the old concrete and framed in a new wider path – a path that would accommodate our soon-to-be stairs and curve nicely along the front yard, too:
Friday evening, the concrete was poured, feathered and lined for drainage ability (which would prevent future cracking). All said and done, the job took around 4 hours.
We asked our guy if he thought we were loony to add a personal touch – would it be weird if we added a puppy paw? Or two? He laughed, said it was perfectly safe for those cushy paw pads, and he even stuck around to make sure none of us fell into the fresh pavement. (We didn’t, although I’m not saying there wasn’t an incident later in the evening, in which one CC took a flying leap from the porch into the almost dry concrete. Nope, I’m not saying it.)
Bright and early Saturday morning, he came back to take away the temporary frame, and we were ready to get started on building stairs! We had ourselves a fresh slate! Side note: The stairs aren’t finished – yet. More on that once we can call it ‘done’!
Where the pavement meets up with the cinder blocks will eventually be the start of our garden bed; it’ll curve around to the right and in front of our lattice. (We cannot wait to get going on that!) In front of the garden, we’d like to lay a flagstone or paver walkway that will lead around to the other sidewalk, and we’ll fill in the very front with fresh grass.
Ooh, and look! The garden unit has a full wall of cinder blocks! We’ll be topping those with limestone caps to finish it off nicely. (Aaand installing new lights – downstairs and up!)
But our absolute favorite part? These sweet puppy prints. CC’s tiny paw is on the left, and Jack’s big brother imprint is the right, and yeah, they’re far from perfect. (Perfect from far?) Never mind, we love them so.
With the pavement laid in record time (it was a miracle, we tell you!), Scott and his dad worked on the front stairs while his mom and I prepped the patio for painting – and omg, you guys. The view from our front porch is much, much better! We’ll get into that – tomorrow!
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