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The Driveway Rocks

September 20, 2011   //  Posted in: Curb Appeal, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  44 responses
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Taking DIY to the extreme. Please check with your doctor before attempting this at home. And wear proper shoes, for god’s sake.

You’re going to think I’ve gone whack-o when I tell you how I just finished removing tons of asphalt from my driveway. By myself. With my bare hands.

Don't mess with a girl and her baby sledgehammer.

Well, the hands were gloved. And truthfully, in hindsight, it was pretty whack-o. But you should see my biceps.

Reducing the width of the parking area in my driveway has been a slow-but-steady project since Labor Day weekend, but the end is in sight. Grassy lawn is in my future. A better driveway, too. Improved curb appeal. Hallelujah.

As I’ve shown before, the driveway needs some work. That, and the house looked especially ghet-to last April without the porch railings or new storm door. (Mr. Silver Carport in the neighbor’s driveway doesn’t help either.) My driveway runs alongside the house but also offers extra parking space in the front yard. Room for three extra cars to be exact, meaning I have more asphalt than grass or garden.

Driveway badness.

No problem, one of my big goals of the summer was to have the driveway fully replaced; a little wrench was thrown in those plans when a team of city surveyors who worked on my street casually mentioned that the road, sidewalks, and driveway aprons were going to be repaired (hopefully) next spring. I changed my plans, not wanting to invest in asphalt that would be damaged and replaced (free) so soon.

What I could do in the interim though, is reduce the size of the driveway overall. Which is exactly what I did, and exactly why every muscle is so freaking sore.

In sort of the same fashion as when I planted the myrtle, I pried up the asphalt layer piece by piece (I like to compare it to ripping apart a cookie cake). The asphalt closest to the house was crumbling and thin and came up reasonably easy, which naturally led me to believe that the whole shebang would be done within a few days of light lifting. Foreshadowing.

Easy does it - wedging a shovel beneath the asphalt and using it as a lever did the heavy breakage.

In one short morning, I had removed a substantial chunk of driveway (and max-ed out the weight limit of the city-provided garbage can, meaning, I couldn’t move it myself anymore).

Good progress, yes, but now the garbage can is too heavy for me to wheel to the curb. And don't even ask me to pick up that random cardboard box that I filled to the brim.

I decided not to let capacity issues hold me up, figuring that I could keep loosening the asphalt, bagging it in smaller quantities, and testing out the strength of the city garbage men to see what they’d accept. Worst they could do is deny it, or maybe break the bags into a million pieces and leave me with a bigger mess.

Snapped this blurry picture and then hid from the garbage man.

Good news? They bit the bait.

Actually, one of those big ol’ machines that the city uses to pick up curbed couches did the biting. Best described as an arcade game claw that repels from the top of a dump truck, the asphalt-filled bags were removed in a swift 2-minute jobber, as if the driver spent his entire childhood dropping quarters hoping to win a stuffed animal at the fair. (Best job ever? Or best job ever.)

Fun facts: The Gap won the “Strong Bag” contest. Home Depot and Lowe’s were tied for second place. Best Practices? Paper bag, with two plastic bags on the outside. Radically strong + easy to carry.

Just like with the myrtle-planting project, there was a base of 3-6″ of coarse rock left to clean up. The rocks were by far the worst part of the clean-up process last time, so this time I left it up to friends on facebook and randoms on Craigslist to fight it out; afterall, I knew that underlay was valuable, salvageable, and something that pretty much anyone could have used for their own patio base, garden filler, drainage project, or whatnot. It was theirs for free… if they wanted to dig it.

Free rock, anyone?

I was pleasantly surprised by the response, happily allowing a reader of the blog and her family to come remove the rock for her own garden (thanks, Rebecca + fam!). I unfortunately wasn’t home to watch them sweat it out, but returned to a cleaned out space that was essentially ready for new soil. Which hasn’t been ordered. But is on my to-do list for todayyy. 

I gave a little foreshadowing earlier on about the ease of asphalt retrieval; the upper part of the driveway crumbled in my hand with minimal effort, as did the apron between the sidewalk and the road, but there was an angry little section about 70 sq. ft. in size that did. not. want. to. be. removed.

This was the only section that had also been doubly paved, interestingly. It had no cracks, no weeds poking through, and was a solid, thick mass that chipped away at my energy level for 3 days. Three exhausting days.

The final technique I tried seemed to work most efficiently. Strategy? Let’s just call it Shovel Butt Lever. Because I’m much too tired from hammering asphalt to think of a better name.

Use the shovel as a lever between the asphalt and the earth. Apply full body weight (sitting on the shovel handle) to lift the block an inch, so when you sledge it, it had some chance of giving way. That pile of asphalt to either side of me? Shovel butted.

Sit on shovel wedge, hammer your little heart out.

Don’t wimp out, keep on going. Like my rubber wellies? No idea why I slipped them on.

Sit on shovel wedge, hammer your little heart out.

Seriously, you’re almost done. But what happened to your protective eyewear? Probably launched it into the grass in muscular fury. And check out the pieces of asphalt in that RIDGID box – I’d like you to know that those are the size of my torso.

Sit on shovel wedge, hammer your little heart out.

Try not to get too wussy-ish when you get a dime-sized blister on the most crucial spot of your sledging hand; just ACE bandage the thing up and put on a man’s-size glove. Perfecto-mundo, even if I look like I have a disease.

Bandage up a wee little blister that is made to look like a broken fist, shove glove back on.

Can you say D-O-N-E? I actually tried to take a picture of me standing at the end of the cleared driveway smiling, but forgot that I had the camera zoomed in, and my face did not end up in the frame so much as other body parts, so you won’t be seeing those photos today.

The neighbor kindly gave me 4 large cardboard boxes that were on their way out to recycling, which were perfect little asphalt holders. Saved me an hour’s worth of bagging, that’s for sure.

Driveway clearing success. And lots of boxes for the garbage chomping machine.

Relieved? Relieved. Better driveway. Lots of sleep in my future. And lots of soil to distribute, once I place the order.

How does it look?

Fixing A Fussy Duvet

September 19, 2011   //  Posted in: Bedrooms, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses
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The IKEA duvet cover I bought a few years ago is admittedly not high quality. It’s cute though; white, with a pleated detailing across the top that takes it just a notch above total snooze-fest. Although ironically, its purpose is mostly for snooze-fest. The comforter should really be the star of the show (an exceptional king-size down find on Overstock shortly after I bought the house that has held up phenomenally for 2.5 years) but it’s really not; it’s all about duvet functionality right now.

Last you saw it reveling in my bedroom it was un-stuffed, left alone without the comforter insert (the next photo is from this post about that awesome stained wall and the lobsta’ tables). I left it like that all summer to serve as a solo coverlet on hot nights; just enough with the top sheet to keep a girl warm when there was a breeze, and light and small enough to shove into the corner and not have it take up an ungodly amount of space on the hottest of nights. I’ve mentioned I don’t have AC, right?

Shiplap wall, lobster tables, and the unfilled duvet cover. Wrinkly. Don't mind that.But just last week with the cooler weather, I brought the comforter back out, ready to wrap myself up like a taco (precisely the reason why I bought the largest, smushiest down blanket I could find).

But you see, a low quality duvet like this IKEA gem lacks things that other high-quality duvets come standard with. I think, at least. I’ve never owned a high-quality duvet either, but I don’t see many people griping about keeping their comforter insert correctly positioned within the duvet cover.

The IKEA duvet and down comforter combo did strange things; like not hold the comforter into the corners of the cover. And not have a zipper or tie to keep the comforter from, you know, falling out of the end of the cover slowly every night. None of this seemed like a hard fix, and I was dead-set on making the duvet-comforter combo the best it could be.

First things first: Corners.

To connect the corners of the comforter to the inside corners of the duvet, I decided to custom-make some ties out of a nylon rope I had laying around; I considered ribbons, t-shirt strips, and buying some new fabric to cut, but this was free, on-hand, and was strong. Oh, and couldn’t be seen through the white duvet, which wasn’t the case for the colored ribbons.

I cut the rope into 9″-10″ pieces. It doesn’t lay straight because it had been coiled up tightly. Not a game changer, just looks funky.

Nylon rope cut into 9"-10" piecesAnd because I wanted to avoid fraying, I dipped each piece into a candle flame to seal the ends.

Playing with fire. Singeing the ends of the rope, trying to avoid singeing my fingers.Once I had cured all of the 9″-10″ pieces of rope, I folded each piece in half and carefully sewed the folded end to each corner of the comforter (knowing full well that if I ever decided to go without a duvet, they’ll be like fun little corner tassels, ha).

Sewn rope in place on the corner of the comforter.Sewing over the folded end felt like it would add strength to the stitching; the sewing machine had two pieces of rope to bite onto, and even if one piece of rope loosened, it would still be held taut in place by the other half of the rope. Little course in ropes management, that’s what you just had.

I did the same on each of the inside four corners of the duvet, folding each piece of rope in half and carefully sewing the folded end to each corner (white rope, white thread, all purposeful to minimize being able to see it through the duvet).

The four ends (remember: two ropes folded) were knotted together simply, and seemed to hold much better than a bow considering the slipperiness of the nylon rope. Strong, yet still easy to pull apart for cleaning.

The corner of the duvet knotted to the corner of the comforter. Secured in place for eternity.From here forward, thy comforter shall not leave thy corner of the duvet. Hallelujah.

Except there was one other thing to tackle.

Why would a company not add ties to a duvet cover with an enormous opening?You tell me why a company wouldn’t add a closure to a duvet cover with an enormous opening?

It’s fine. I can do that myself. It’s a good thing that some previously bought article of clothing came with an extra two buttons. Clear, you know, to blend right in.

Clear buttons and a sewing needle that took me two days to find.I’d also like a palm reading, por favor.

Instead of traditional ties (which I imagine un-tying every night magically), I opted to make a couple little no-scissors-involved button holes along the opening where the comforter goes into the duvet.

You can kind of see a sneak-peek of those loop holes (also made of white nylon rope) in that photo two above, but here’s a better shot including the clear button in place. Both were sewn into the inside edge of the opening to minimize the chances of being seen.

Duvet loop and button closure. The finished piece is secure, and doesn’t (yet) appear to be tearing, pulling strangely, or unhooking itself.

Button and hook closure on the open end of the duvet.The corners are staying put realllly nicely too; it’s nice to sleep and not feel like you’re not fighting comforter corners inside a duvet… while the comforter’s trying to crawl out the end and onto the floor in the middle of the night.

Problem solved.

A Primer In Pegboard Preparation

September 16, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Office Space, Tools   //  By: Emily   //  14 responses
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I have this half-fleshed-out plan to use a pegboard in the office as an alternative to using the more expected cork board, whiteboard, or chalk board for utility.

Remember, I’m only half-way there and in foreign, holey waters. And that’s not to be confused with holy water. Just confused, period.

Lots of pegboard holes to paint. Lots of confusion.I’ve seen the material used in several very cool organizational applications recently, some of which I’d love to share here eventually, but I’m taking that inspiration and figuring out a way to make it work in a non-workbench setting. The plan in my mind would be for it to be installed above the desk, overhanging each edge to serve as a multi-functional office piece-slash-backdrop for wall decor.

Think: 2′ x 8′ in dimension. Extending right in front of your face while you sit and work.

First things first: Find pegboard.

My searches for second-hand pegboard led me to believe that almost all previously used pegboard was dirty and overpriced, so I decided to buy new. At Lowe’s. It was notably less expensive than the boards sold at Home Depot, and (in my local stores at least) also came in a not-already-finished-in-white option, which is only important because I wasn’t sure if the glossier, pre-finished white would be harder to paint. And I wanted to paint it. Plus, the pre-finished variety cost more.

One factoid: It was surprising to learn how economical it is to buy pegboard in sheets so big that that you imagine only having been able to find them at Sam’s Club. I was going to buy two 2’x4′ panels for a total of $9 and match them up in the center, but a single uncut 4’x8′ panel of pegboard cost $10. Do some math. That’s almost twice as much pegboard for $1 extra. And, once I had the friendly guys at Lowe’s cut the board right down the middle length-wise, I had two 2’x8′ pegboards, which is just what I wanted, and seamless too, and also fit easily into the back of the Jeep without being forced all bendy. Plus, now we’ve got this whole bonus sheet of pegboard for another project (we’re thinking basement or garage traditional, practical storage in due time).

Big ol' piece of pegboard. Half of the 4'x8' sheet, equivalent to $5. Next: How the heck do you paint pegboard?

Yes, so the plain, unfinished board needed something. I was glad to be working with a clean surface, which I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten second-hand. I was mostly concerned about how I would properly prime and paint it thoroughly.

Q-tips covered in paint, maybe that would get me into each of the little holes easily?

Holes. Lots of holes. A traditional paintbrush definitely wasn’t going to do because those holes were bound to get clogged like teenage pores (sorry for forcing that visual), and I couldn’t quite see myself hand-painting 3,220 individual holes with an artists brush (because in all honesty, I’d lose interest after the first 100 and the next 3,120 would end up looking like a kindergarten class took over the job).

Yeah, basic math tells me that there really are 3,220 holes in my single 2’x8′ sheet. Wow.

The better answer? The paint sprayer. It was something that neither Pete or I had never used before, but was high on my list of tools-to-try. Pete claims to have bought it on the cheap at Harbor Freight many, many moons ago, but never took it out of the box or had a reason to use it. Until now. When I came home with a lot of pegboard. And told him I planned to paint it. The gun is no high-quality model, but it’s perfect for my little test.

Harbor Freight spray gun. Let's see how this baby rolls.I’m working through another project that you’re bound to see next week that required me to search out and purchase a gallon of high-adhesion primer, so I figured I should try it out on the pegboard too; after all, I would definitely need the paint to adhere nicely to the board.

Smart Prime, a high-adhesion primer.Setting the pegboard on cement blocks and recycled cardboard signs from our garage sale kept the edge of the board out of the grass, and leaning it against a set of sawhorses let me operate the sprayer in an upright position. It was a breezy day and I pulled everything into the center of the yard, including the pancake compressor via extension cords so I didn’t accidentally spray down the house. Or deck. Or the tomatoes.

Spray gun painting setup. The spray gun itself worked pretty easily right from the get-go. In hindsight, we should have practiced with the settings of the gun beforehand with water in the tank, but we learned gradually as we went on what intensity and direction the paint was spraying. The primer didn’t require much dilution; only about 1 oz. of water was added to thin it out well enough to achieve an even stream. I was being sensitive to the fact that the formula was high-adhesion – I didn’t want to chance weakening it.

I was clearly very focused in this photo, even though I sort of look like I’m sleeping. Or bored. A surprise shot by Pete out of my line of sight, since I’m usually the one workin’ the camera. Thanks dude.

Spray priming the pegboard.Remember, this was just primer that we were applying before we pick paint colors, so as long as it was reasonably even, not drippy or gunky, I was a happy girl. A little unevenness could be resolved with the topcoat.

Spray priming the pegboard. After the pegboard had been coated, I also spray primed some of the boards that would serve as the frame for the piece in the office.

Spray priming the pegboard and some of the framing that will mount the board to the wall.Best of all, the whole filling 3,220 holes issue seems to have resolved itself. The spray did just what I hoped for, gently lining the inside of each peg hole. Perfect staging for the next step… paint.

Filled pegboard holes, woot!

And that is that for now. I’m in the paint-color-picking process, and hope to have this baby wrapped early next week. Because a girl’s in serious need of some office utility space.

Before I pick a color and finish, do you have any recommendations on what type of paint I should go for? Oil-based? High-gloss? Something uber-durable like cabinetry paint?