Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What a difference paint can make

The biggest reason I like painting is that I feel like I've done something when it's done.  
Hallway before painting
This was our hallway before painting.  The light blue paint made the ceiling look blue.  It was a long, blue cave.  I found a nice green and painted the hallway.  But, it turned out to look just like mint chocolate chip ice cream.  I couldn't actually bear to take a picture, so I didn't.  
Hallway after (2nd) painting
After having the green up for a week, my husband and I couldn't bear it.  So, I chalked the paint up as a  loss and went with a less expensive paint to go over it.  I had two different friends mention to me that friends of theirs had chosen greens that hadn't worked out.  Greens, I discovered, are tricky.  In some rooms, they can be great.  But, if the lighting isn't conducive, they can also be very unsettling.
Doorway Pre-Painting

Doorway after (2nd) Painting
Arch after painting
One friend passed on the advice that it's very important to consider how the paint colors of a room transition to the other rooms that can be seen from them.  The tan I chose had a similar tone to the blue of the dining room, so they go well together.

Now, on to the bathrooms (when I get well)!

When not to paint

I am sick.  Really sick.  I started getting sick on Sunday and by yesterday afternoon I knew I was really getting sick.  I couldn't get off the couch.  My husband is away, but my mom and girls are taking care of me.  

But, then there's me.  Sometimes I just get a bee in my bonnet.  

There's one spot in the living room behind the bookcase that needed painting.  So, crazy me, decided to move the books with the little energy I had and paint behind the bookcase.  Part of the reason I did it was because it has been intimidating to me.  When something is intimidating to me, I just make myself do it.  

I put the primer on last night and then in the middle of the night put the first coat of paint on.  I discovered that painting while you're sick is not a good idea.  I dropped a lot more on the floor and somehow my hands ended up covered in paint (which I discovered this morning).  It's quite funny really.  I have this dogged determination to get that room painted!  It's one of those moments when all I can do is laugh at myself.

My new advice to myself:  Don't paint when I'm sick.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Painting in Progress...

I am painting my way around my living room.  Each day I do a patch--prime, then paint the first coat, and then paint the second coat.  It's hard for my family to have things out of place so this way I only have to move part of the room at a time.  I'm hand brushing the walls because they're small sections and this lets pick up my painting quickly and set it down when my kids need me.  I'm also doing this because there are three large sets of curtains in the room and Only have room for 1 to hand dry at a time in our basement.  Which brings me to some random tricks I've figured out this time around to make this job doable.

1) HE washing machines wash drapes well on the delicate cycle.  I use Woolite.  They haven't shrunk.  I have never checked how much it costs to take drapes to a dry cleaners, but I'm sure it's quite expensive.  I've been very pleased with how my washing machine has done.  I do make sure to take all of the metal drapery hooks out before I wash the curtains.  

2) I have to take back what I said about Valspar.  It is now a THICK paint!  I painted with Valspar 5 years ago and it was quite a thin paint.  I talked to another friend who painted with it around the same time.  She agreed.  The Valspar I bought last week is a completely different paint.  I bought the lower of the Valspar paints.  (1 gallon of Eggshell was $26.97)  The next level up cost about $5 more per gallon.  

They (Lowe's) also now carry an allergy/asthma paint that is about $43/gallon.  The Lowe's employee told me that they say it has no smell, but it actually does have a slight ammonia smell.  If your house struggles with mold and mildew, then you'd want a paint like this which will resist it.  Home Depot does not have a similar paint.  Instead, they will add a small bottle of mildewcide to a gallon of paint to add the mold and mildew resistant properties to their BEHR paint.  The gal at Lowe's told me that if someone is sensitive to the smell of paint (I am learning that many people are), then the premium Olympic paint is actually better to use than the Valspar Asthma and Allergy paint.  Both do have 0-VOC and are supposed to not have any smell, but the Valspar has a slight ammonia smell.  The Olympic is going to be a thinner paint though, so you just have to be careful of splattering and not putting too much on your brush at one time.  

3) I can't wait to paint the bathrooms!  Finally-- flat walls.  Textured walls really are harder to paint!  It takes a lot more time to make sure you get paint in all the nooks and crannies.  The bathrooms and kitchen are the only rooms in this house with flat walls.  (The den has paneling which was also easier to paint than the textured walls.)  So, if your walls are all flat--lucky you!  I had no idea what a blessing this was at our other houses! (Sometimes I think it's good to be thankful that a room is easier to paint than it could be ;) ).  

4) I paint in a flurry.  I find that it's hard to get motivated once I stop.  Somehow starting a painting project can seem very daunting, but once I've started, it's much easier to press on.  So, I'm going to paint the living room and then press on to the bathrooms.  I will then go on to the basement, hopefully--which reminds me of one last financial tip I discovered!

5) Sherwin-Williams carries waterproofing UGL drylock (brand) paint for $40/gallon (with no price break on the 5 gallon).  They also carry their own waterproofing paint for a little less.  But, I was at Lowe's the other day buying paint and realized that they have two different UGL drylock paints--one is $23/gallon and the other is $27/gallon (the Extreme one).  Both are priced much lower than at Sherwin Williams.  I'm going to need some of this paint in the near future, so that was why I was comparing the prices.  You can't paint masonry walls that haven't been sealed with regular primer.  You need to paint them with a masonry paint--preferably one that is a waterproofing paint if the walls are basement walls or if the area is humid at all.

I'll post a picture when the painting is all done in the living room and a few of my work in progress so my painting approach will make more sense.  I'm sure it sounds pretty crazy the way I've described it!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A fun date suggestion: the Brandywine Valley

A few weeks ago, my husband and I headed up to the Brandywine Valley just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  We went to the Brandywine River Museum (http://www.brandywinemuseum.org/) and saw some beautiful art.  A few years ago, we saw an exhibit of Marc Brown's art (of Arthur fame) and was amazed to see the artwork that went into making his books.  So, this museum was another treat.  N.C. Wyeth illustrated classics such as Treasure Island and the Last of the Mohicans.  It was a neat museum and I suspect the grounds are much more beautiful in the spring and summer.  From there we went to lunch at Mushrooms in Chadds Ford, PA.  (http://www.brandywineriverantiques.com/mushrooms.html)  I highly recommend getting a bowl (not a cup or you'll regret it) of the mushroom soup.  Bread costs extra and it's not listed on the menu, but you'll want it and it's worth it.  I kept wishing I had bread as I ate the delicious soup and didn't learn until later that you had to order it.  If you want a sandwich, the Roast Beef (the "Mikewich") was excellent on a cold day.  

So, just a thought.  If you're looking for a day trip date, we enjoyed this one!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Choosing Paint: Sherwin Williams, Behr, or Valspar?

Painting can be a surprisingly expensive project.  I think paint is one of those things that you get what you pay for.  I've now painted with Glidden, Valspar (formerly American Signature), Olympic, Behr, and Sherwin Williams.  (I have not used the paints sold at Walmart which are also less expensive painting options.)

Sherwin Williams was a new one for me.  I couldn't find what color I wanted at Home Depot, so I thought about Sherwin Williams.  I remembered my sister in law buying some Sherwin Williams paint two years ago and several friends had given rave reviews to the paint.  There happened to be a 25% off coupon in the paper so I went to see their colors.  I picked two out that I liked and brought them home.  Cost wise--even with the coupon, the paint was about $12 more per gallon than Behr.  I took it home and started painting.

Verdict?  I loved the paint, but the color turned out to look just like the green from mint chocolate chip ice cream (the green kind) under the light.  It's been up for a week now and I cringe when I look at it.  It isn't soothing the way I had hoped.  That's the funny thing about paint.  You can look at it in one light and have it look very different in another.  

The great thing about paint is that you can change it!  

The great part about Sherwin Williams paint?  It paints amazingly well!  My sister in law made a great choice getting Sherwin Williams paint--it really is easier to paint with.   You definitely need two coats and not a smooth roller if you have textured walls like we do, but it paints much better than even Behr.  Do I think it's worth $25 more per gallon (regular price)?  No.  Part of the reason why is that it's a very expensive mistake if it turns out that you don't love the color (like me).  But, if you have the money to spend on it, it definitely is better paint and you'll be really happy with it.  The customer service at their stores is great.  The sales staff were very helpful at both of the stores I went to.  

My second favorite paint is Behr, but I've exhausted the color choices and not found one that I love for the hallway and living room.  So, I made a trip to Lowe's yesterday and loved the browns they had.  Seeing the green on the walls also made me realize I really wanted a brown or tan on the walls instead.  Valspar is good paint--not as good as Behr in my humble opinion, but good paint.  I took the paint cards home last night and held them up all along the hallway because we have this funky track lighting system in the hall that makes every wall look different.  I picked one out and I'm hopeful that it will be what we're looking for.  I also held it up next to the walls in all of the adjacent rooms to see if the color transition would be pleasing.  I like it.  

What makes a paint better than another? (in my very humble opinion)  One that doesn't splatter everywhere.  The best ones can cover in one coat if you need them to.  But, every paint I've used would be better with two.  One that stays on the brush.  One who's color stays even throughout the gallon when stirred.  I'm a painter who doesn't use drop cloths or tape, so I want to use a paint that stays on the walls and doesn't run.  When I use one of my less favorite paints, I am just more careful.  I always have a wet rag nearby to pick up any drops that land on the floor, door jams, or baseboards.  

So, today, I get to reprime the hallway and make another trip to Lowe's for paint.  I am hopeful that this time I will get it right!

PS If I haven't mentioned this before, but you are thinking about painting down the road...there are always rebates offered around Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day on paints.  I've noticed that they randomly offer them at other times of the year, but you have to keep an eye out for them!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cutting Down Trees

A few years ago, we had 2 large trees cut down at our home.  When the men left, no one spoke with me about the work they'd done.  I remember having no idea if anyone was coming back to grind the stump or not.  An hour later, a man arrived.  He ground the stump and then drove away.  He also left me with a big mess of sawdust to dispose of.  The men who cut the tree in the back did the same.  I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the yard.  (If anyone's curious, it was Harford Tree Removal--which I wouldn't recommend.)  The interesting part of the experience for me was that I had gotten two estimates and gone with the higher one.  I thought the company would do a better job.  I learned a lot from that experience.  And yes, if you're wondering if my husband and I made the decision together--we did!  But, I happened to meet with the men who came out to estimate the job and so I presented to my husband the estimates from both and we discussed them.

At our new house, we needed to have two very large trees removed (and stumps/surface roots ground).  I remembered a discussion among some members of the homeschooling email network I'm a part of about tree trimmers.  I had logged one of the gal's names in my mind in case I ever needed it.  When I realized we needed to get these two trees taken down, she was the first person I emailed.  She recommended a company called Clear Tree.  She told me they weren't the cheapest, but they'd do a good job.  That was what I wanted.  I called them for an estimate and someone came over.  The estimator wrote out exactly what they would do.  I clarified several things with them--1) if anything happened to the water line, they would be responsible. 2) they would clean everything up and not leave me a mess! 3) I asked him to itemize what we were asking to be done, so my husband could have the option of what he wanted to have done and what he didn't.

The men arrived this morning around 11 am and are still working away as we approach 4 p.m. (They didn't finish until 6 p.m.) Two trees are down in the back and the one in the front is also down.  They're grinding the stump of the one in front as I type away.  My husband cut down two trees last night and they took care of mulching all that he'd cut down from them.  They also cut down the rest of the tree trunk that he hadn't gotten to last night (what a blessing!).  I've watched as they've raked up the debris throughout the process.  I've had the doorbell ring 3 or 4 times each time they've had a question about where to put the wood.  The man who heads up the team talked with me about each tree and the yard before the team got started.  It's actually a blessing to be bothered sometimes!

I was very apprehensive about this endeavor before it got started.  Trimming trees and having them removed is a surprisingly expensive home repair project!  It's not unusual for several large trees to cost a few thousand dollars to remove.  Of course there's extenuating factors--being over power and utility lines, being near water lines, the difficulty of getting to the trees, etc.  Those factors all can make a tree cost more or less to get trimmed or removed.  There's also two ways of trimming trees.  You can have them topped off or thinned out.  Thinning out does less damage to the tree, but  topping off is the cheaper way of getting the job done.

In our case, it was important to get the trees removed.  One was blocking the drainage of water away from our house.  It also happened to be dying and has lost a lot of large limbs in recent years.  The second tree was a silver maple, which are notorious for burrowing holes through pipes (especially water lines).  Both the tree cutters and the water meter man have told me this.  The water meter man warned me of this four weeks ago when I interrogated him about the water meter on his most recent visit.  The meter man had encouraged me to put some root kill down the drain to go through the sewer pipes to clear out any roots that have started to grow.

As with all projects on this house, this project has pointed to another.  It turns out that the drainage pipes for the gutters had roots in them and were completely clogged.  This actually could explain a lot about why our sump pumps have been running so often.  I am relieved this project is done.  I miss the trees (I do love trees!).  But, I'm thankful to have a flat front yard that my kids won't trip over and that we can now use.  Our small backyard feels bigger and I look forward to working on it in the spring.

So that was our adventure yesterday!  As one last note, I think the biggest difference I now see in cutting trees is the aftermath of what happens once the tree is cut.  If you have to have a tree cut down, it isn't so bad to just get the tree cut down.  It's adding clean up, grinding roots up, and grinding up the stump (and whether they smooth the dirt down afterwards) that makes it a much more expensive project.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why I've Been Busy

This is a post I started writing two weeks ago, but lost track of, so please forgive my dating in the entry...

Yesterday at dinner, I told my mom that I felt like I hadn't gotten much done yesterday.  She told me to make a list and see if I had or if I hadn't.  She's right.  Making lists is one of the things I've been doing to help me remember that I am getting things done.  Sometimes it feels like I'm just treading water and it's quite frustrating.

Yesterday this is what I got done:
+ My mother in law came over to make a fax (after several attempts and reprinting the document darker), it got done.
+ Old fireplace insert and gas line were removed by HVAC man.
+ Homeschooled all 3 kids
+ Made pork tacos for dinner.
+ Got refund completed for gas insert we'd ordered.
+ Rescheduled dishwasher repairman when they cancelled on me.
+ Fixed church's website.
+ Painted remaining strip of paneling in den.
+ Followed up with homeschooling umbrella for my mother in law.
+ Followed up on the gym membership we've been trying for 3 months to cancel.
+ Changed all sheets and towels in the house.
+ Did 3 loads of laundry (but my mom folded them).

It also feels like there's always been someone at my house to come fix something.  When we call someone it isn't because I don't think my husband can fix it.  A few of them were projects we could do, but then we had to weigh the cost of the project and the amount of time we have to work with, schedules, and priorities (both of our regular days and how quickly the project needed to be taken care of).  A few of them were projects we simply couldn't do (ie. tune the piano).  I am always impressed by my husband all the things that he can fix.  I am so thankful for him.  I try to do my share to and help as much as I can.

It makes me feel good to realize what we've already tackled:
+ Fireplace insert removed; screens and grate purchased and fixed (one had to be split)
+ Leaves in yard cleared (done by a good friend's sons)
+ Several rooms painted
+ Den carpet cleaned
+ Extra water heater full of water (and being heated!) removed
+ Kitchen sewer pipe connected to main sewer pipe instead of french drain
+ Main water turn off valve replaced and pressure release valve put in
+ Hot Water baseboard leak fixed
+ Piano tuned
+ Stove backsplash replaced
+ Patio doors finished and caulked (batten strips still to be afixed)
+ Bathroom vanity mirrors: Trim fitted and caulked (quite a big project for me)
+ Baseboards fitted, finished, and afixed in dining room
+ Removed several trash cans full of trash, including a crib left in the backyard!
+ Replaced light fixtures in two bedrooms
+ Replaced outlets in den (done by good friends)
+ Waterproof windows that are cracked open and can't be closed

Amidst getting all of this and other things done, my mother in law moved into our other home.  My husband helped his brothers move everything in.  We've been helping her find her way around and find the things that she needs.

And then there was Christmas, New Year's, and a visit from my brother and his wife.

Putting it all down on paper (so to speak) by listing what we've done makes what we have left to do seem to be much less.  The burden lightens and it helps me understand why I feel so tired and drained right now.

Here's our list for the spring and rest of this year...
+ Trim and remove trees
+ Rock in moat and regrade to help yard drainage
+ Paint hallway, living room, and bathrooms (including baseboard heaters and vanity)
+ Remodel master bathroom
+ Replace back door

The reality of owning a house is that there are always projects and things to do.  Taking care of a house is ongoing.  For people like me, who want to take of things and be done with them, this can be very hard.

I know a young couple who is considering purchasing a townhome rather than a single family home.  There are definitely pros and cons to both--both in the short term and long term.  There are so many things to consider.  I hope that watching us and all of the things we've had to deal with haven't deterred them.  I realize that these projects we have on our plates will eventually calm down.  Really, they already are.  Over the last month, I've felt stretched emotionally and physically.  But, I hope I've grown too.  I've grown in understanding for others who have a lot of home repair.  I'm learning, hopefully, to live with things undone and yet to be done.  This is a must in life.  We try to control our lives and have everything done and put away, but the reality
is that life is messy.  It may not look messy, but it isn't all neat and ordered.  Life is unpredictable and we (I) have to cope with what comes each day--with the help of the Lord.  It is the Lord that gives us hope and courage to put one foot in front of the other.

Last Sunday our pastor spoke about troubles and how David didn't respond to his troubles--he didn't respond by trying to fix it all himself out of pride.  So often I do try to fix things on my own.  This house has reminded me over and over that I can't do that.  I have to wait on Him, rely on Him for strength, and wait for Him to put the pieces together.  I do need to do my part and actively put one foot in front of the other, but there is a balance between working and waiting.  I can only work because the Lord gives me strength.