DIY Stencils In Word

DIY Wall lettering

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Word art stencils are one of my favorite frugal decor hacks. I have used this trick all over my house to personalize and decorate.  I am going to give you instructions to do it yourself. But if you feel overwhelmed I have included a sample file at the end of the post.

Continue reading “DIY Stencils In Word”

Fixer Upper:  The Deck is Done

Deck

[pinterest]

The deck, screened porch and gazebo were in pretty rough shape when we bought this house two years ago.

Day 4 - screened porch

screened porch

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Since then, David has redone the screened porch (added trim, installed screen, repaired wood, cleaned and painted the floor), and more recently, spruced up the deck and gazebo by replacing wood, filling in gaps and staining the surface.

Screened Porch 19

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

He completed the final task on the deck to-do list when he stained the deck boards this past weekend.  It was a pretty easy project that yielded great results.

He had already power washed the decking a couple of weeks ago.  Power washing removed any mildew and dirt on the decking.  He allowed the wood to completely dry before applying the stain.

Before staining, he used the leaf blower to remove all the leaves, sticks and acorns from the deck.  Then he sprayed on a coat of latex semi-transparent deck stain.  After the first coat, he went over a couple of spots again to minimize any streaks.

David used a semi-transparent stain which is mostly clear.  It allows you to see the wood through the stain.  You can also use an opaque stain.  But keep in mind that opaque stain is more like paint and hides the wood grain.  Also, the opaque stain requires more maintenance.  Instead of just wearing off like the semi-transparent stain, it peels.  Your deck will end up with painted parts and unpainted parts and ridges around the parts that have peeled.  Regardless of which you choose, both stains will need to be re-applied every couple of years.

Deck

Deck

Deck

Deck

Deck

Deck

Deck

Deck

Deck

Deck

So that’s it for the outside areas.  They’re done!

The House Search is On!

house front view

[pinterest]

The fixer upper is almost finished – just a few odds and ends are left.  We’re on schedule and entering the next phase – the search!

I have mixed feelings about the search.  It’s fun looking at houses but it’s also stressful because what we’re looking for is always so hard to find.  I spend a lot of time worrying that we won’t be able to find anything.

To recap, we purchased the fixer upper on November 18, 2013 – almost two years ago.  It was a government-owned property so there were rules we agreed to when we purchased it.  A few of those include:

  1. We must live in the property as our primary residence for at least one year.
  2. We can’t purchase another government owned property as a primary residence for two years.

In addition, to qualify for tax benefits on the sale proceeds, we must live in the property as our primary residence for at least two years.  The rules specify that we can’t sell the house until the two years have passed – that means we can’t have a contract for sale on the house until the day after the two year mark.

Because of those rules and the fact that there aren’t a lot of houses being sold in the winter, we decided to wait to put the house on the market until early spring. In the meantime, we’re getting the house ready to show while we start the house search.

We’ve considered a lot of ideas for what we want in the next phase, but we ended up making a pretty extreme decision (at least it seems extreme to me).  We want to buy something really cheap with cash and then fix it up as we can afford it.  The result would be no mortgage.

Here’s what we’re doing to accomplish that goal:

  1. Our realtor set up an automated email notification that alerts us when properties come on the market that meet our criteria. We also receive a notification if one of the properties changes in any way – like a lower price.
  2. We scrutinize each and every one of the properties. We read the description, look at and analyze the photos, check the map to find out where it’s located and what the surroundings are.  We also check the crime map.
  3. When we come across a property that’s a possibility, we drive by the house to see if it is indeed something that could work. If it is, we set up a showing.  If not, we mark it as a no.
  4. As we look at a property, we take our own photos, draw a floor plan and run an estimate of what it would cost to fix the property. That determines the next step.  Sometimes we look at it again.
  5. Once we find the right property, we’ll proceed with an offer. We’re hoping that we’ll find that right property after our house sells or that it will be cheap enough that we can go ahead and purchase it in advance and work on it a little bit before we move in.

In case you’re wondering what we’re looking for, we’re not exactly sure.  But when we’re evaluating properties, we are hoping for:

  1. at least an acre of land.
  2. privacy –not in a subdivision like we are now.
  3. a house that needs fixed up but has good bones and a floor plan we can work with. We can fix or change anything as long as it has good bones and the price is right.
  4. a shop or at least a spot to build one.
  5. a two car garage. If it doesn’t have one, we need space to build one.

You might summarize by saying we’re looking for a nice piece of land with a crummy house we can fix up.

We’ve looked at two houses so far and driven by several.  The first house we looked at was very cheap and situated on 1.7 acres.  It had potential but after we ran the numbers and played around with the floor plan of the house, we realized the property was still overpriced and the house really needed to be torn down instead of remodeled.  The house had no windows, foundation damage, standing water in the basement (on top of the trash), roof issues, etc.

Real Estate

Real Estate

The second property was beautiful but the house was a mess.  And it was overpriced.  We ran the numbers and realized that even though it was a beautiful property and a great location, we couldn’t fix the house. It needed too much and it didn’t have good bones.

The House Search is On!

The House Search is On!

The House Search is On!

The House Search is On!

The House Search is On!

The House Search is On!

By the way, when we run the numbers, we’re not necessarily considering only our budget.  We’re also considering the value of the property and whether the purchase price and improvements make sense.  In the case of the first property, the numbers could work – but not for us.  With the second property, the numbers didn’t add up for any budget.

So that’s an update on what’s going on with the fixer upper.  We’ll keep you posted.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

[pinterest]

I noticed David hauling boards to the back yard so I asked what was going on.  He was working on the gazebo.  Before I had time to get shoes on and camera in hand, he had already started removing boards.  That man does not let the grass grow under his feet!

So here’s what’s going on.  We’ve gone back and forth about whether to leave the gazebo or remove it.  It’s a little odd and it blocks the view of the backyard  when you’re sitting out there.  But it’s a decent entertaining area and the grandkids love it.  So when all else failed, we asked our realtor/friend’s opinion.  He was in the neighborhood so he stopped by to take a look and refresh his memory.  His vote was that we keep it and do a little work to it.

So that’s what David was doing.  Here’s what he’s already completed:

Cleaned out under the gazebo. Because the edges were open, some folks in the past have thrown trash and old boards in there.  David cleaned it all out.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the JungleRemoved a bad board on the top rail of the gazebo and replaced it.

Added extra boards to the sides to enclose the area under the gazebo.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper - Gazebo 11

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the JungleAdded two stones in front of the deck as a step. The step down from the deck to the ground was a little high.  I asked for steps.  David found these rocks instead and I think they’re perfect.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the JunglePlanted a small bush in the corner.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

I’m not sure what else David has planned but I’ll keep you posted.

David also cleaned out the “jungle” this past weekend.  At the very back of our yard, there’s a fenced area that runs the width of the yard and about 8 to 10 feet deep.  We’re pretty sure that in the past they used this area as a garden.  But now there are too many trees and no sunshine so it doesn’t work as a garden.  We would have taken down the fence to incorporate this area into the yard but the inside fence is chain link and the outside fence is wire.  It was easier and cheaper to leave it.

However, over the summer, it filled up with weeds and grass and was a big mess.  Rather than try to deal with it then, David waited until the plants had started to die back.  It made it a lot easier to clean out.  Now it’s nice and tidy.  The grandkids like going back there, too.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

A couple of weeks ago David painted the screened porch floor.  It was pretty rough looking but he was waiting for a good opportunity to paint it.  He didn’t want it to be too hot or too cold and he also needed a time when we wouldn’t need to go out there.  He finally got it done and the floor looks a lot better.

Day 4 - screened porch

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

He also noticed that the screened porch door was sagging so he added a support.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

And, finally, he re-painted the hand rail out front.  It was in pretty bad shape.

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

While our realtor/friend was here, he walked through the house to give his opinion on what else needed done to have the house ready to sell.  There are a few things we have to do to the house – fix a couple of screens, paint a couple of closets, etc. but mostly it was adding pictures to the walls.  We don’t like a lot of things on the walls so we haven’t hung up many pictures.  But to make the house look better for a potential buyer, Matt suggested we add some art work.  We’ll be doing that in the near future.

So that’s it for this time.  As always, let us know if you have any questions.

Oh, one last thing.  If this gazebo was in your back yard, how would you use it?

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

Fixer Upper Update: Decks, Doors & the Jungle

The Benefits of Having Kid-Friendly Knick Knacks

knick knacks

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Knick knacks are not my favorite things and I don’t have many of them.  Yes, they add warmth to a décor but they also add expense and work (dusting, you know!).  But my current home has two build-in bookshelves in the dining room and they aren’t big enough to hold anything useful.  So I put knick knacks on them – but not just any knick knacks.  Because I have young grandchildren, I specifically chose knick knacks I thought would look good but would also be fun to play with.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

In the upper left corner is a bug made out of metal and wood.  I thought the kids would love that but they only play with it occasionally.  The friendship candle is fragile but they don’t play with it.  They occasionally swipe the little candle but that’s it.  The orange pumpkin is seasonal and they do play with it.  The two drawer unit is a BIG hit.  They play with it all the time.

The Benefits of Having Kid-Friendly Knick Knacks

The second bug is in the upper right hand corner.  They don’t play with it much.  The clock is semi-fragile but they don’t play with it much.  They LOVE the box.  I’m never sure what treasures I’ll find in it.

The Benefits of Having Kid-Friendly Knick Knacks

The yellow container has shells.  They play with those a lot.  And they like the candle.  The lower left is a container of drift wood.  The middle bottom shelf is a starfish and in the basket on the right are some bamboo balls.  They love everything in this photo.

Knick Knacks 3

The upper left is a handprint of my first grandchild, Ivy.  The container on the second shelf is rocks.  And the blue birdhouse was painted by Ivy.  They love everything here except the sign on the top shelf.  They don’t care about it.  They LOVE the rocks and the apples (there’s a red one, too).  I wasn’t sure about the apples when I bought them but they love them!!!

Knick Knacks 4

In this photo is the second apple, a lonely bird (the other bit the dust) and more shells.  They love all of these, too.  Calvin likes to take the shells container to the coffee table and play with the shells there.

Knick Knacks 5

I used to have decorative bamboo balls in these baskets but Calvin liked picking the texture off so I put those away and filled the baskets with stray toys.

Benefits of Having Kid-Friendly Knick Knacks.

I also have a bowl of fake apples on my kitchen table.  I thought they would look cool but the kids love playing with those.

And on the coffee table is a wooden monkey bowl that used to have decorative balls but now has toys.

Benefits of Having Kid-Friendly Knick Knacks.

On the shelves in my bedroom, I have photos, a couple of wooden rabbits and a small photo album.  They like that stuff, too.

There are lots of benefits to having kid-friendly knick knacks, including:

  1. If they get broken, it doesn’t matter.
  2. It gives the kids non-toy options to play with.
  3. The special “toys” create memories for the kids.

What kind of knick knacks do you have? Do you remember any knick knacks from your childhood?

Fixer Upper Update:  What’s Next?!

Fixer Upper - Front View

[pinterest]

It’s hard to believe that almost two years have passed since we purchased the fixer upper.  It’s been a lot of work but the house looks awesome now – much different than the mess it was when we first purchased it.  In case you’ve forgotten, here are a few photos of how it’s changed.

House

Living Room
Living Room – Before
Living Room - Fixer Upper
Living Room – Now
dining room
Dining Room Before
Fixer Upper Dining Room
Dinner Room Now
Bathroom
Main Bathroom Before
Main Bathroom Fixer Upper
Main Bathroom – Now
House - kitchen
Kitchen – before
The Benefits of Uncluttered Kitchen Counters
Kitchen – Now
front bedroom - before
Front Bedroom – Before
Front Bedroom Fixer Upper
Front Bedroom  Now
House - Calvin's room after
Back Bedroom – Before
Back Bedroom - Fixer Upper
Back Bedroom After
House - master bedroom before
Master Bedroom – Before
Fixer Upper -  Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom – After
Fixer Upper Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom Now
bathroom
Master Bathroom Before
Master Bathroom Fixer Upper
Master Bathroom Now
House - office before
Office – Before
Fixer Upper Office
Office Now

But there’s still a little bit of work to be done.  In case you’re curious, here’s our to-do list:

  1. Paint the screened porch floor.
  2. Fix a section of screen where it was pushed out.
  3. Clean up the “garden” area at the back of the yard.
  4. Paint a few closets including front closet, back bedroom closet, pantry and microwave closet.
  5. Get a screen for one of the windows in the living room.
  6. Clean up the office. The room is done – I just haven’t had a chance to put it back together.
  7. Add some covers to the bolts on the base of the main toilet.
  8. Fix the screen in the balcony door of the master bedroom.
  9. Touch up the paint on the back door where the dog scratched it.
  10. Organize the basement.

I think that’s it – mainly little stuff.  As we get closer to putting the house on the market, we’ll thoroughly clean everything and do a little staging.  Our tentative plan is to put the house on the market in the spring.

In the meantime, we’re in the process of figuring out what we want to do next.  First we have to figure out where we want to live.  We always planned to move to the country, but now that we have grandchildren, that plan is out.  We want to be close to our kids and grandkids so we’re looking for a place that’s in town but with a country feel.  I can tell you that that’s not an easy thing to find – especially in our price range.

And that’s another thing.  Since we’re getting older and closer to retirement (10 years or so), we want to be mortgage debt free.  That’s probably going to mean that our next home will be a fixer upper and possibly something a little outside the box.  Yes, I’m scared!

So that’s where we’re at with the fixer upper and our future plans.  Stay tuned for more updates as we move forward with our plans.

Fixer Upper Update: Garage Steps Facelift

Garage Steps

[pinterest]

The fixer upper isn’t quite finished but we’re working on small projects now – odds & ends that make it look even better.

Our latest project was the garage steps.  David painted the steps and installed vinyl stair treads on the steps to:

  • Cover chips on the stairs;
  • Reduce dirt tracked into the house;
  • Improve safety;
  • Look good.

This was an easy project that anyone could do on their stairs.  These are the steps he followed:

  1. Purchase vinyl stair treads from your local home improvement store. He purchased ours from Home Depot for $3 per tread.
  2. Clean the steps.
  3. Paint the steps. The treads didn’t cover the entire step so he painted the areas not covered by the treads.
  4. Install the treads using a thin coat of rubber baseboard adhesive.
  5. Our stairs had square edges instead of rounded edges (aka rounded nose) so he also stretched and stapled the treads under the steps so make them fit tight around the edge.
  6. Wait about 24 hours for the glue to dry.

He also purchased a $6 rug to place at the bottom of the steps.  He notched out the edges so it fit tight.  This rug also minimizes the amount of dirt tracked into the house and improves the appearance of the stairs.

So that’s it.  A little bit a time and a little bit of money and a huge improvement in the look of the garage steps.

Garage Steps
What the steps looked like before anything was done to them.

Garage Facelift

Garage Steps

Garage Steps

Garage Steps

They look a little better, don’t they?!