Category Archives: renovation

How to Install a Tile Backsplash
(Good News: It’s Easier Than You Might Think!)

Before installing the backsplash in our kitchen I had never in my life tiled a single thing. But how hard can it be? I reasoned. I mean, people have been tiling for thousands of years! And all of those people couldn’t have been geniuses. But then as I watched YouTube videos and read how-to posts with all their steps and warnings of pitfalls, I grew increasingly worried that tiling was a job best left to professionals. No! my inner adventurer called out. And so my can-do, DIY spirit kicked in and I decided to tackle the job on my own. And you know what? It’s not as hard as you might think! Now that I’ve mastered the art of tiling (because, you know, I’ve done it once so now I’m an expert), I’m going to share the process with you. Continue reading

Farmhouse Fabulous: New Flooring for the Kitchen

When I work on a DIY project – like, say, installing new Pergo laminate flooring in the kitchen – my mind wanders during the easier parts of the work. For instance, while ripping up the old vinyl tiles in the kitchen I thought up punny things I could say about the new flooring. I may have said a couple of my punny sentences out loud and chuckled to myself. That’s one of the things I love about DIY projects – that my hands are busy creating something beautiful while my mind is off on tangents all its own. Multi-tasking for the mind!

But enough about my mental quirks. You’re here for house updates, not to learn about my inner workings, right? Continue reading

One Thing Leads to Another: The Curse of Renovations

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, long before HGTV and the utter ubiquity of home and design shows, makeovers were relegated to daytime talk shows. Oprah or Sally Jesse or Ricki would host a group of guests who were sartorially challenged or stuck in the past. They’d bring the guests out and hear their tales of wardrobe woe for the first half of the show and then usher them offstage so that a team of stylists could transform them. In the final minutes of the episode the hosts would welcome their newly dapper guests back to the stage with some sort of flourish – standing next to a split screen of a “before” photo or breaking through a big printed copy of their old look a la a football player. The audiences would cheer and whistle and the guests would announce their happiness in their newfound beauty. But then what happened when the guests got home?

Even as a kid watching these shows, I used to think about how the lucky ladies and gents who walked away from the makeovers must have felt when they got home. When they took their new outfits out of the wardrobe bags and hung them next to their own clothes, it surely must have made everything look old, tattered and out of style. I can imagine them saying, “Well, I can never wear those again!” as they swept their hands across the contents of their closets. They might even look around their entire home and say, “I never knew this place looked so awful!” It wasn’t until they saw how good they good look that they recognized how bad everything was.

Renovating an old house is a lot like that. Every time one project is finished it makes it glaringly obvious that the old things around it are going to need some work too.

Sure, finishing a project like tiling the backsplash or stripping the painted fireplace can feel like a monumental achievement. But that sense of accomplishment is short lived. I’ll stand back and survey my handiwork, straining all the while to pat myself on the back, and be filled with a sense of pride in a job (usually pretty well) done. And then my attention will almost immediately dart to something adjacent to the finished project that is now begging for attention.

When we finished the fireplace, for instance, I noted the tile that needed to be replaced and the trim that needed repainting and the built-ins that needed to be replaced. As happy as I was that the fireplace project was finished, it merely opened the door to the projects around the corner.

And so it goes with the kitchen backsplash. Now that the tile is up and the grout is in, I’m noticing all the little things that need to be updated in order to really finish the kitchen. It started with the window. With the cabinets painted and the backsplash installed, it’s now glaringly obvious that the window needs a new finish. When the cabinets were old, dark and beat up and the wall was in no better shape, the window above the kitchen sink looked fine. But now that everything else is looking so polished, the window appears shabby.

As an act of pure torture, er, I mean planning, I sat down and made a list of all the little loose ends that need to be tied up in the kitchen.

  • Refinish the window
  • Install new flooring
  • Install wood trim around tile
  • Replace faucet
  • Replace outlets, switches and plates
  • Paint remaining walls
  • Replace toe kick
  • Install under cabinet lighting

Some of this stuff I knew would require repair or replacement in advance of the kitchen project. For instance, I knew that I’d want to replace the flooring and faucet before even one dab of paint was applied to the cabinets. Others didn’t make themselves apparent until just this past weekend. The outlets and switches, for example. They’re in fine working order and their off white color seemed just fine when the walls were painted. Now that wall is covered in white subway tile, however, the off white outlets stand out in a displeasing way. It’s never ending, I tell you!

Considering this growing list of projects for this one room, I should have the whole house in tip top shape sometime around 2030.

Before & After: A New Backsplash to Brighten Up the Kitchen

With all my posts about planning for the bathroom project, you’d think that I would have spent this past weekend working in that room. Well, you’d be wrong. A funny thing happened on the way to the hardware store. When I went to buy the hex tile for the bathroom floor I happened upon the perfect white subway tile for the kitchen backsplash. With our friend’s advice about finishing one room before moving on to the next echoing in my mind, I decided to buy the subway tile and finish the backsplash before doing any work in the bathroom. Continue reading

A New Vintage Look for an Old Bathroom

Vintage Style Bathroom on This American House - white pedestal sink, hex tile flooring and more

The Delbert Meier House was built in 1917. At that time the bathroom would have been pretty simple – a toilet, a bathtub, a pedestal sink and a built-in medicine cabinet. There was also a built-in closet that covered the entire west wall. At some point in the house’s 100 year history the bathroom was reconfigured. The tub and shower replaced the closet, the toilet was moved where the shower had been and the pedestal sink was replaced with large vanity. Oh, and the medicine cabinet (assuming that the plans we found for it were actually included with this house) was pulled out and the wall closed in. Continue reading