What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas


Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Monday, December 22, 2008

Beeswax Hangies

Christmas gifts need not be expensive and many can easily be made even if you aren't a crafty type of person. Pure beeswax is one of my favourite crafting mediums. I love the smell! I also like how I can use it for so many crafting projects. Not only does it smell good when you are working with it, it acts as a natural air freshener.

Beeswax Hangie

Beeswax hangies can be used year round as this one is or they can be used as ornaments for Christmas decorating. Traditionally beeswax hangies used year round are made in polar bear, moose or deer shapes but you can use whatever shape you want. These hangies are about one of the easiest craft projects you can make. The materials needed are minimal and you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to shapes.

If you look closely you will see white spotting and a cloudy film on the beeswax. This is normal and should be left as is. The white spotting is called the bloom. It does not have any impact other than visual. When your hangies are first made there will be no bloom but they will develop it over time. I like the rustic, natural look of the bloom so leave it as is. If you don't like the look of the bloom then gently wipe off using a soft cloth or gently heat the surface with a blow dryer.

Supplies

You want pure beeswax for this project. This is beeswax that has been filtered and is free from any colourants. Beeswax like honey should be bought locally if possible. I buy mine from a bee keeper as well as online from a fairly local supplier. Beeswax will come in 1 or 5 lb blocks. I prefer the 1 lb blocks as they are easier to use without cutting. Expect to pay about $6 per lb for pure beeswax but depending on your location you might be able to find it a bit cheaper. You can use candy or soapmaking molds, silicone molds or even decorative non-stick baking molds as the wax.

Materials:

beeswax
#1 wick
tin can
sauce pot
shallow mold

Method:

Cut wick into 3 inch pieces. Place about 3 inches of water in a saucepan. Place the beeswax in a large tin can. Place the tin can in the saucepan. Bring the water to a boil the reduce to simmer until the wax is melted. Slowly pour the wax into the mold being careful to not over fill. Fold wicks in half. Place wick at the top of the hangie as it is cooling. Hold wick until wax cools enough the wick doesn't move by itself. Allow to cool completely. Pop the hangie out of the mold and enjoy :)


Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Decorative Boxes

The craft section of the dollar stores can be a mecca for craft supplies for gifts. I honestly cannot believe some of the craft items available for only $1. With very little cash outlay you can easily get the items needed to complete several customized gift items. Don't let the words craft or DIY scare you either because the following way to finish decorative boxes require so little effort that a child could easily make them.


I came across oblong (about 8" long) wood decorative boxes at our local dollar store. They are made using two types of wood so even if simply given a clear coat the result is subtle beauty. Pictured is an unfinished and finished oblong box. They have hinged lids with brass coloured hinges and clasp. These boxes are idea for gift giving as is but are perfect packaging a pen and pencil set, necklace or watch. Simple wrap a hand tied bow around the box and add a tag for gift giving letting the beauty of the box serve as gift wrapping.

I finished one of the boxes using spray satin varathane for a durable low luster sheen. One spray can will be enough to finish 4 to 6 boxes. Home Hardware (Canada) and other home improvement stores sell small packets (similar in size to ketchup packets) of stain for about 69¢ each. One packet will be enough to stain at least 2 boxes. Total cost per box will cost about $2.50 but they look like you spent so much more and you can customize them for the receiver's tastes.

Materials

1 oblong hinged wood box
1 spray can Flecto® Varathane clear
stain (optional)
fine grade sandpaper

Method

Lightly sand the box with fine grade sandpaper. Stain if desired. Allow the stain to dry 24 hours. Lightly sand. Wipe to remove any dust. Spray with clear varathane using a sweeping motion for even application. Allow to dry. Lightly sand and and wipe. Spray again then repeat for at least three coats of finish. Allow to dry thoroughly. Your box is now ready to be used as desired.


Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Decorative Wood Boxes

I love crafts so generally have several projects on the go at one time. Aside of textiles one of my favourite mediums to work with is paint. Several years ago I discovered thin unfinished band boxes suitable for decorative painting or decoupaging. At that time they weren't exactly cheap. A couple of years ago I rediscovered unfinished boxes at of all places a dollar store! These are not the wood boxes of the past!

Decorative Wood Boxes

Pictured are two wood boxes purchased at a dollar store for $1. The hexagon box is unfinished to show you what the finished box looked like when I bought it. The boxes are about 6" in length, 4" wide and 3" deep. They come with hinged lids and a small clasp. The hinges and clasp are brass coloured. The pressed raised design in the centre is recessed and leaves a lot of ways to finish it.

I wanted a quilted look for the finished box so painted the raised design with acrylic craft paints that are also available at dollar stores. I used tole painting a type of folk art for the inside panel. When the inside panel was dry, I used 3 coats of water based urethane to finish the box. There is still plenty of time to make up a few of these decorative wood boxes for gift giving.

The most expensive part of this project is the water based urethane but you can easily finish four or more boxes using one small can. You can use either spray or brush on urethane in satin or gloss finish. You will need a few bottles of Crafter's Acrylic paint in various colours but at $1 a piece for a 55 ml (2 oz) bottle they will last for several crafting projects and can be used on a wide variety of surfaces. Don't let the shading scare you either. It is rather easy simply by applying the base coat of paint then stroking on a little white while the base coat is still damp using a semi dry brush. Artists brushes are also available at the dollar stores.

I hope you like this inexpensive gift idea and have a lot of fun creating these cute decorative boxes. They are perfect for gift giving as is or filled with something special. Another way you can gift these boxes is to create a kit with everything needed to finish the box for the crafter on your list.

Materials Needed

decorative hinged wood box
Crafter's Acrylic paint (variety of colours)
sheet fine grade sandpaper
artist brush(es)
½" sponge brush (only if using brush on finish)
Flecto® Varathane
newspaper to protect surface




Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Slippers Revisited


Slippers in Progress

Christmas is drawing near but there is still time to knit up a pair or two of slippers. Pictured are one pair ready to be sewed up and another pair just started. The pattern can be found here. These slippers are quick and inexpensive to knit. An experienced knitter will be able to do a adult pair of these in two days or less. A less experienced knitter will still have time to make at least one pair of adult slippers. Total cost for each pair of slippers should be about $3 if you are buying new yarn but this is a really good project for using up some of the yarn stash that ever knitter has.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Homemade Christmas Gifts


It's only nine days until Christmas but it is not too late to make a few homemade gifts from the heart for gift giving. I've been busy with getting knitted items ready. Starting tomorrow I will be adding a post a day that highlight some low cost homemade, last minute items you can make for gift giving. I hope you find some of these posts useful.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Analyze Your Energy Consumption

When I was growing up we heated with two radiant natural gas heaters on the main floor. Heat rose to the upstairs through a vent in the floor. During the winter months the bedroom windows were iced over and many a morning a scorched by toosh sitting on one of the heaters to warm up enough to get dressed. When we got married we lived in an apartment where heat and electricity was provided but the seeds of being energy efficient had already been firmly implanted. We were young when we bought our first home that was heated with wood as was our next home. The next house we bought was heated by forced gas as was the next one. This house and likely our last is also heated by forced gas.

When we moved here in 2007 we were a lot wiser as far as saving energy and resources. The design of the house meant it would be cheaper to heat The first thing I did was set up a file to track our electric, gas and water usage. Within days the caulk guns were in high gear and most of the lights had been changed out for compact fluorescent bulbs. All of our major appliances are higher end EnergyStar® rated so there would be no further savings that way. The computer and laptop are also energy efficient so short of leaving them off, there would be no further savings. The house itself is brick with the main living area on the lower level mainly below ground. The lower walls are 12 inch thick for most of the living space. The windows are older Dashwood® double pane and are in good condition. The furnace is a Clare MegaSave I that has a secondary heat exchanger that saw very little use other than in the fall as the former owner shut down the house to vacation in the sunny south during the winter. The hot water tank is a 40 gal standard gas tank that while older would not warrant changing out because of its condition. We also have a gas fireplace, gas dryer and gas outdoor grill. We put plastic up on the upper level sunporch that serves as an excellent windbreak on that upper level wall.

I spent some time on the PowerSaverPlus website today. This is an excellent online resource for users of HydrOne in Ontario, Canada. Through a series of questions this calculator determines your annual cost of energy use by appliances and gives you a comparison of how your home energy use is in relation to similar homes in your area. The nice thing about this calculator is it takes into consideration both your electricity and natural gas usage. Other energy sources such as wood and heating oil can also be factored in. The site then analyzes how you are using the energy resources and give you tips as to where you can save more money. The tips include an estimated cost to complete that recommendation as well as the projected savings so you can focus on those modifications that will have the greatest impact on reducing your energy consumption. You can calculate the pay back period for the modification from this information. A surprising number of the tips cost nothing other than effort to put into action.

Note: The following two graphs courtesy of PowerSaverPlus are from the energy analysis I did for our house today.

Monthly Energy Cost Comparison

The calculator assesses your energy usage base on the information you give it. For best results you will need the last 12 months for electricity and gas bills. The electric bill will give you a kWh and an adjusted kWh number. Use the adjusted kWh as that is what Hydro One determines you use. Enter each month into the calculator. Now look at the natural gas bill and it will give you an amount of gas you used in cubic metres. Enter each month of that into the calculator. When both sets of numbers have been entered press next then go to the section for appliances and fill that out. The last section is for tips or you can hit report. The report will give you this graph and the following graph but on the home page when you log in again you will see a pie chart of your energy usage breakdown and a linear chart for similar home comparison in dollars.

The monthly energy cost compares your energy usage to similar homes in your area. As you can see we (pink) use a fair amount less energy than similar homes (purple) in our area. On the home page our comparison chart shows we are just over the half way mark by about $20 of what others use in our area. That means we are basically using half the electricity and natural gas than others are using. This data does have to be used as only a guideline. Houses differ in energy usage based on location, insulation and how well they are sealed as well as the personal comfort levels of the residents. Identical houses can vastly differ in all these factors even if they are side by side. So this chart is best used to note the trends.

First we are well under others most months for energy use but look at January to March. When others were decreasing their overall energy use ours was increasing. I'm still trying to figure out why and can't recall anything major that would have caused the increase overall energy use. One explanation with us being in a rural area is the metres were estimated instead of being read resulting in a bit of catch-up that skews the graph.

Annual Cost Appliances

The annual cost of energy use by appliances is a very useful graph. At a glance is gives you a visual as to where you are using the most energy. That is where you should put the greatest effort to reduce. However, when answering the questions it doesn't give you the options to indicate how long a particular appliance is on. For example it would appear our AC costs are second to heating but that is not the case. This past summer our AC was on for about a total of 5 days because we only put it on when the heat and humidity levels get too uncomfortable. Our main living space is mainly below ground so is naturally cool in the summer greatly reducing the need for using the AC. I also think the computer energy usage is not accurate as they are both very energy efficient and one is only used occasionally. Something that isn't showing in the energy usage is the hot boxes - satellite receivers, adapters, router, and those types of things that are plugged in all the time using energy 24/7.

At the end of the analysis I printed off the 8 page report for our energy files. We are at the point where there is very little major to do to reduce our energy consumption. There are several minor things to do that will save energy. We will be focusing on the following points for energy reduction over the next couple of weeks. You will notice that some of the most commonly recommended tips are not on the list. That is because they have already been completed or in some cases as the dryer vent the recommendations have been exceeded. Other things like air sealing is an ongoing process that you need to be doing year round.

  1. turn computer off at night - This really is not going to save us much but if it ends up being 10¢ per day for the computer, router and satellite box in energy savings it would be an annual savings of $36.50.
  2. seal air leaks in ducts - This is an inexpensive, DIY task that has the potential to save $70 to $117 per year. It pays for itself in well under one heating season
  3. install heat traps in hot water tank - This is another inexpensive, DIY project that can save $45 to $75 per year. It pays for itself in about 3.5 years.
  4. install low flow shower heads - This is a very inexpensive, DIY project that can save $13 to $22 per year in energy savings but at the same time they save on the amount of water used.
These types of energy calculators are extremely beneficial. While they cannot possibly give you a 100% analysis, they can give you a fairly good idea of where your energy dollars are going. At the same time they can give you tips for how to improve your energy consumption. There is no charge for the service either so you can update and reassess your progress as often as you would like.


Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to Make Your Own Scrolling Blog Background

Every blogger wants his or her blog to stand out from the crowd. This means stepping away from the generic blog templates that get you started. A couple of weeks ago I was surfing blogs and noticed a few scrolling type blog designs made by The Cutest Blog on the Block. The many designs were indeed cute and placing the backgrounds on the blog involved only the of a simple script. Adding the background in this method meant you would not lose any of your sidebar information which was a real plus. However, I saw two immediate problems for me. First I wanted to create and use my own designs and second by using one of their designs the script pointed to their Photobucket Album which meant if they closed that album the background would immediately disappear. So I wanted control of where the background was. With all this in mind I set about making new backgrounds for my blogs with the exception of my cooking blog that is using one of their designs temporarily [now my own © design].

I'm always looking for ways to use Photoshop® so as soon as I saw their backgrounds, I knew I could easily make my own. Making your own scrolling background and customized headers are easily done using Photoshop®, Photoshop Elements® or Paint Shop Pro®. This technique can also be used to create custom made backgrounds and elements for digital scrapbooking. I'm going to give you the basics of what I did so you can see how easy it is along with the script needed to install the background in Blogger. Their instructions said you set your template to Minima but I got my backgrounds to work using Rounders 2.

Background

Note: This background is © Garden Gnome and is for illustration purposes only. Please do not copy.

The first thing I did was to determine the necessary sizes by opening one of their backgrounds. After that I was on my own. Note that creating the background uses layers so when saving save as .psd file for later modification and as a .jpg for using as the background.

Create a new image 1450 x 1100 pixels. This will be your main background. Fill this layer with white. Create a new layer. Fill this layer with a pattern of your choice from the pattern selector. In this case I used a basket weave pattern. Create a new layer and fill this layer with the colour of your choice. I used a red that I liked using the colour picker. When you decide on the colour you want write the colour code down so you can co-ordinate other elements on your background, header and blog. Adjust the opacity on this layer to get the effect you want. Create a new layer and click on gradient overlay. Draw the gradient from top to bottom and adjust the opacity to get the effect you like. Leave the image open and create a second image 795 x 1100 pixels. This will be the panel where your header, posts and sidebar appear. Fill this layer with the colour or pattern of your choice. In this case I chose white and adjusted the opacity to the desired effect. Save this image as a .psd file for further modification. Merge the layers then use the move tool and drag the image onto the maid background. Centre the panel. Add a drop shadow to the centre panel adjusting as desired. Using the line tool create a line 20 pixels wide spanning the entire length of the centre panel. Fill with desired colour. Bevel and emboss as desired. Duplicate this layer. Use the move tool to move the duplicated layer to the other side of the panel. At this point you can now add any further embellishments you desire using additional layers. I chose not to add any but if you check out my personal blog you can see how I added a ribbon I made and use that as a guideline for placement. Other embellishments such as flowers, buttons and etc. can be found on a lot of scrapbooking websites or you can make your own using the shape tool.

Very important: Save your file as a .psd for Photoshop® and Photoshop Elements® or as a .psp for Paint Shop Pro®. This will preserve the layers so you can later modify any layer you choose to create a new background. Save the file again as a .jpg for uploading to a photo hosting website. If using Photobucket, upload the image at the 1 meg setting.

To install your background, upload it to a photo hosting site such as Photobucket. Copy the url location. Paste the location into the following script and save. Open the layout tab of your blog in Blogger. In the top header section, click on add a gadget. Click on html/javascript. Copy and paste the script into the box. Click save then preview to see your new, custom made background then click save.

Here's the code you need to install the background on Blogger:



Header

Now that you have made a custom background you can make a custom header. This is also very easy to do. Create a new image 700 x 300 pixels. You can leave this transparent if you want to use the background colour of your blog. If left transparent, the final header should be saved as a .gif and uploaded to a photo hosting site then placed on your blog using the header tool on your layout and the url. This will preserve the transparency on Blogger. In this case I used the colour of my blog background that came from the lightest pantone of the red. To get to the pantone I put the colour code of the red into the colour selector then clicked custom to bring up pantone. The border was created using stoke with the red I wanted. Then I duplicated the layer and used the marquee tool to outline the inner section and deleted that on one layer. This created the red frame. Then I inversed the selection to work on the frame and used the bevel and emboss style to create the raised effect. To get the vellum effect I created a new layer and used the marquee tool to create a smaller rectangle. I filled that with white. Then I used a fuzzball brush to go around the edges and added a drop shadow. I used the font brush script to write the title of my blog then beveled and embossed it and added a light drop shadow. Save the file as either a .psd or .psp as well as .jpg.

To install the header: Go to layouts, page elements for your blog and click on header. Click on add picture from your computer or you can choose from url if you uploaded to a photo hosting website. Click on your header file .jpg. In a couple of seconds you should see your header. Under placement click instead of title and description then click save. Hit preview to see how your new blog header looks. The blog header background will still be present around the image. There are three ways of dealing with this. The first is the easiest by just leaving as is. The second method is to go into layout then html and expand widgets. Change the background colour as desired. The third method is to delete the header background

I hope you found this method useful for creating your own uniquely designed backgrounds and headers for your blogs. If you use this method please leave a comment with your url so I can see what you came up with.


Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Friday, November 14, 2008

The Dryer Vent Dilimna

If you have been following this blog you will know that we bought this house in 2007 so last winter was our first winter in this home. All of our renovations for this home are reflective of the importance of saving energy. As with the other homes we have owned the first priority was sealing to make the house more energy efficient. In today's economy this is even more important in terms of energy savings but this is not the only reason. It is very important to do whatever we can to reduce our carbon footprint.

Our laundry room is in between the family room and furnace room on the lower level of the house. Last winter I noticed that our gas dryer was abnormally cold when not in use. Since our dryer was less than a year old and an energy efficient model I knew the problem had to be the dryer vent. The dryer vent is not exactly in a convenient location but once we remove the brush it will be fine. Upon investigation we found an old dryer vent cover that was very brittle with half of the cover missing and the flap barely working. This vent cover obviously needed to be replaced but we wanted to do an energy efficient replacement.

A quick online search showed us that there were energy efficient vent covers on the market. We opted for the Broan® EcoVent because of its design and the fact that it was Canadian made. Our winters are cold so we felt that a Canadian company understood the problem that normal vent covers tend to be drafty. At the same time while some are designed to keep rodents and larger insects out, smaller insects can still get in.

Pictured is the Broan® EcoVent as compared to a normal dryer vent cover (1, 2, 3). The first thing you will notice is the size. The EcoVent is larger because it is insulated and the plastic is heavier! That means there is a lowered conduction of cold air from the vent cover to the duct. The second thing you will notice is the ball (1, 3). The floating ball check valve creates an airtight seal with no back draft. When the dryer is turned on the exhausting air will cause the ball to float up, opening the vent so the air can exhaust outdoors. When the dryer is finished exhausting the ball will fall back into its resting position preventing air leakage. Unlike other vent covers the Broan® EcoVent is noiseless even in strong winds so you won't hear any flapping either. We also opted to change out the existing vent pipe for a thicker walled one (4) meant to go with the Broan® EcoVent but this was optional.

The first step for preparation was removing the remaining vent cover and the existing vent pipe. This was actually a bit more work than anticipated. We used a large flat head screw driver to bend the pipe on the outside and on the inside then tapped it out. We were left with a clean opening outside and inside.

After the old vent cover and vent pipe were removed we cleaned up the old caulk from the outside wall. Inside there was very little clean-up but you may find a bit more clean-up if you decide to do this project. There should be no caulk on the inside wall around the vent exit. The reason for this is practical both in terms of access and redecorating. Instead the vent cover should be properly caulked on the outside making it airtight.

Our installation was on an existing concrete wall just above grade. Now ideally with our snowfall this is not the best location however, this is in a very protected location that has very little snow accumulation. In locations where snowfall could be a problem the dryer vent should be located at least 3 feet above ground level. My husband drilled pilot holes in the concrete (5). The vent pipe was put into the vent cover, secured with self tapping screws and then sealed with caulk. Then a heavy bead of concrete caulk was placed around the inside perimeter of the vent cover (6). The vent cover was attached to the vent opening using concrete anchors (7).

The installation resulted in a clean and neat outside appearance. In our location it really wouldn't have mattered what the installation looked like but really if you are going to do it, do it right. Make it look neat and tidy even if you are the only one who will ever see it. On a scale of 1 to 10 this project would rate a 10 as far as easy installation for anyone with the proper tools. In respect to energy savings this project would rate a 9 or a 10 depending on the location.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Remember

I come from a strong military family with ancestors that were instrumental in shaping the history of Canada. I grew up surrounded by relatives who had fought for this country. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice and while they are no longer here they live forever in our memories. If this video does not bring tears to your eyes, nothing will. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we honour our fallen with 2 minutes silence from shore to shore of our great nation, Canada. Please join our nation in showing our respect and how thankful we are for enjoying the freedom they fought so hard for.



Remembrance Day Tribute
courtesy of
Global TV Edmonton


Garden Gnome
©2006-2008

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Updating

I'm have been in the process of updating all of my blogs. This blog is the youngest so is last to be updated but not so much for that reason as much as I really am struggling for the look I want for this blog. The only thing I know is I will make a custom design using Photo Shop CS based on scrapbooking techniques. So over the course of the next few days you will be seeing a lot of strange things going on mainly because I really am flying by the seat of my pants here. I will post updates of the progress and let you know when the update is complete. Thanks in advance for understanding a putting up with the mess.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Monday, October 13, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving

-----
Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Easy Embossing for Srapbooking, Crafts and More

The holiday season is drawing near so I thought I would share an easy and low cost way of doing embossing. Embossing is an elegant way of accenting scrapbooking pages or elements, creating custom picture frames and so much more. The main problem with embossing is if you check the craft stores you can spend a lot of money on embossing equipment. If you don't do a lot of embossing there is absolutely no need to spend a lot. Let me show you how.

Materials

For this project you will need a sheet of cardstock that will make two greeting cards. The method I'm using does work better for lighter colours although I have had success with dark colours as well using a stronger light source. You will need a stencil of choice. For best results choose one that is not too delicate. One of the cheapest places to find stencils is a dollar store. If you can't find a stencil you like then find a picture online and create a stencil by printing on a sheet of acetate then cut out the pattern. You will also need painters or scotch tape and a ball point stick pen with the lid. Optional materials are make-up applicators and acid free artist's chalk.

Cutting

A paper cutter is one of those things every crafter needs. It comes in handy for so many things. I have a Fiskars® flatbed rotary cutter with three cutting blades and a scoring blade. The scale makes it easy to cut the paper to the right size. In this case I cut the 8.5" x 11" sheet of cardstock in half as pictured forming two 8.5" x 5.5" pieces. To score I took one of the smaller rectangles then placed it against the guide with the 8.5" side facing me then used the scoring blade to form the score.

Taped

When you score the paper there will be an indent. Tape your stencil onto a light source like a window using the painter's or scotch tape. Place the cardstock you just cut over the stencil with the indent facing you and centre align as desired. In this case I decided to use a solar border along the edge of the card. At this point you are working on the inside of the card or inside of whatever you are embossing. Before starting to emboss be sure the good side that you want is facing away from you. Leave one bottom corner loose so you can lift up a bit to see how the embossing is going.

Take the ball point pen with the lid on and carefully use the end to trace the stencil. Pay attention to the lines as you want to make a good indent. Use a bit of pressure but a lot of pressure is not needed. Go over the stencil markings a couple of times to get a good indent. Carefully lift up the lower corner and you will see what embossing will look like. Check for any missing parts and go over the stencil again if necessary. Remember the back of the work is facing you. Once you are happy with the embossing, remove the cardstock from the light source.

Finished

The embossed finish can be left as is for a subtle yet elegant look. This is a really pretty effect for greeting cards and scrapbooking embellishments. Use it along edgings or around frames. What I like doing is using a sponge make-up applicator to highlight the embossing using chalking. Chalking is a very subtle effect that highlights the embossed surfaces by adding a hint of colour while deepening the shadows. To apply the chalk rub a sponge applicator over the chalk then use a tight circular motion to rub over the embossing. Continue applying chalk in this fashion until you get the desired effect.

Pictured is the finished card with embossing and calking in a pale blue. Versing can be added inside prior to embossing or you can hand write it in after embossing. Similarly the front of the card can be detailed more if desired. Just be sure when you are embossing to work with the inside facing you.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

House Centipede Control

I wrote about our first encounters with creepy crawlies shortly after moving into this house. Every house brings its problems as far as pests go. The house I grew up in backed onto a river and had a dirt floor basement. Oh how I hated that basement. Mice were normal inhabitants and it seemed there was nothing my Mom could do to rid the house of them. But we also had other lovelies like muskrat, snapping turtles, skunks and snakes not only on the property but they would find a way into that basement. Our first apartment as a married couple was brand new and blissfully pest free except for the occasional fly or mosquito. After several apartments all for the most part relatively pest free we bought our first house that aside from the occasional spider, flies and mosquitoes was also pest free. Our second house was on a crawspace so while insects weren't a huge problem in the house itself they were likely in the crawlspace. The third house introduced us to the joys of earwigs! The fourth house took away the earwings and gave us mice, a bumble bee hive as well as a snake nest in the crawlspace. This house continues with rodent concerns (voles, field mice), a return of earwigs, sow bugs, spiders, black ants, centipedes and millipedes, skunks, raccoons, possums and rabbits.


Dead Centipede!
April 9, 2008

Most concerning are the centipedes because they are horrid looking despite being harmless to humans. If they bite which is highly unlikely it is no worse than a bee sting. My philosophy for insect control rests with elimination followed by prevention. In order to do this you really need to know your pest. Unfortunately, the centipedes have continued to invade or more likely we are seeing the babies that have not been able to get out of the house. The problem is the centipedes appear when least expected usually when I'm holding a full cup of coffee! So I decided to do a bit of research to see exactly what I was up against.

The House Centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) lives its entire life cycle in buildings usually on the ground level where it preys on other insects like spiders, cockroaches, termites, silverfish, ants and bedbugs. It reaches a length of 1 to 2 inches and has 15 pairs of legs that allow it to run at lightening fast speeds across floors and ceilings as well as climb walls. These menacing looking critters can live up to five years in a house. They lay their eggs in the spring. Newly hatched centipedes have 4 pairs of legs, gaining new pairs of legs with the first molt and two pairs with each successive molt. House centipedes are predators and therefore when you see them in the house they are a good indicator of other insects being present whether or not you can see them. So House centipedes are actually beneficial inside the house.

Elimination: The first rule of thumb when trying to control centipedes is to remove any clutter or hiding spots then look for signs their prey. Remove their prey and habitat, the house centipedes will move on. Aside from spiders that tend to construct webs where there is a draft, other insects may not give a clue as to how they are getting in so start with spiders. Every time you see a spider web mark that spot, remove the web and caulk. Use a pesticide with a residual effect (eg. Hot Shot® Ant Killer Plus or Spider Killer, kills up to 3 months) along cracks, crevices and baseboard. Make sure you treat all rooms and behind all furniture as this will assist you in investigative measures at the next step. A surprising number of insects can get in the house via the tiny cracks around removable window screens. Use a residual spray both inside and out on all window and door frames. Don't forget to keep doors especially patio door screens closed to prevent insects from getting in the house. Spray all outside entry points with a residual spray (eg. Raid Outdoor Ant & Roach, 4 week residual effect) such as but not limited to any wires or pipes that go through the house wall as well as where the house sits on the sill. This will effectively kill off those insects such as termites or ants that may be using wires and plumbing as a port of entry. Leave as is for 4 to 5 days then caulk well for a permanent solution.

Investigative measures: After spraying indoors with a residual spray you will need to take investigative measures. This means checking the perimeter of every room in your house at least daily for the next week. Use a post-it note to mark any location where you find dead insects. Clean up any dead insects to remove the food source for those insects that feed off of decomposing insects. Continue checking any areas where you find dead insects while also checking for new locations.

Insects are seldom found hovering near their port of entry. Centipedes will commonly be found near drains in the kitchen or bathrooms because they need moisture not because that is where their food supply is or that's how they got in. Spiders will be found near cracks because the draft helps cool their egg sack. Carpenter ants will be found in wood that has had moisture problems. The problem is if you see one insect you can be sure his bothers, sisters and all other relatives are happily living in your home as well. You should only need to use a residual spray once in the house with the exception of window and door frames that are being opened provided you continued prevention. The residual spray accomplishes three things. First it kills off those insects present in the house and continues killing them off for a period of time. Second, the residual effect will often kill invading insects quite close to where they are entering the house so that is the area you should focus on first for sealing. Third, a residual spray will give you a time frame within which time you should be able to seal all entry points. That means if you discover a problem in the winter when getting outdoors to seal with caulk would be difficult a residual spray will buy you enough time for the weather to start warming so you can seal.

Prevention: No house or building will ever be 100% insect free but with preventative measures they should be relative pest free. Ok, so you have done your initial elimination and investigation so now it is onto prevention.

  • habitats: Any moisture problems such as dripping taps inside or outside, standing water, damp laundry on floors and similar should be fixed. Hang any damp clothes on a rack off the floor if they cannot be washed immediately. Inside keep rooms clutter free and clean! Clutter provides a wonderful pest habitat allowing them to reproduce without you even knowing they are there except for an occasional sighting. Remove centipede habitats such as decaying mulch, English ivy, and decaying clippings to create a 5 foot barrier around your home. Correct any moisture problems such as faulty drainpipes or standing water near the house foundation.
  • food source: Centipedes will not go after your food supply but they do prey on other insects that will enjoy a free food handout. All dried foods (sugars, flours, pastas, cereals and etc) should be stored in glass, metal or plastic containers. Be warned that some of these foods can introduce insects to your home so I go as far as to isolate new purchases right away to prevent any introduce insect invasion from spreading. Also be warned that a determined rodent can chew through plastic so if rodents are a problem use glass or metal containers. Keep your counters and floors squeaky clean. If you have windows at ground level as our main living area has, keep all food in the fridge and off the counters or keep the windows shut if you have problems with rodents, skunks and etc. Vacuuming regularly will remove any eggs insects have deposited as well as dead insect carcasses other insects feed on or catch the occasional insect that got through your defenses. Again, keep your home clutter free! Silverfish are prey for centipedes and earwigs. They feed off of glues in book bindings and magazines as well as photos, sugar, hair and dandruff. So if you have a large population of silverfish in your home hiding in those stacks of paper clutter in your basement, you will likely have a healthy population of house centipedes and/or earwigs. Store these types of food sources in sealed cabinets or plastic bins. Eliminate the silverfish and you eliminate the centipedes.
  • keep them out: Caulk any entry points regardless of how small they appear. Careful caulking using a high quality (20 year plus) caulk will help keep pests out. Use weather stripping on screens to prevent spiders and other creepy crawlies from getting underneath. Continually check for any cracks especially in the spring and fall months. Seal any cracks that you find immediately. Keep a constant look-out for any signs of re-infestation so you can nib those in the bud before they become a problem.
Using these methods we have almost entirely rid our house of centipedes. They no longer see our house as a friendly place to hunker down because both their prey and habitat have been eliminated. We are still checking for cracks and other points of entry on a regular basis. We still see the occasional centipede but that's to be expected until the house is fully sealed and given the fact that we have likely sealed a few centipedes from getting out.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Increasing Our Recycling Efforts

Much of the focus at home and on this blog has been focused on our recent kitchen renovations. With the completion of the renovations I will now begin focusing on other homemaking issues. The weather is quickly becoming much cooler so those high heating bills are just around the corner. I will be sharing some ways to save on those heating costs. The holidays are also just around the corner so I will be sharing some homemade gifts that I'm making. I will also be sharing what I'm doing on the homemaking front as well as anything else home related that strikes my fancy.

We are very conscious when shopping to avoid over packaging and as much as possible we avoid those kinds of containers that cannot be recycled in our area if they cannot be reused for another purpose. We don't use near the commercially canned or boxed foods that others do because a large portion of pantry foods are home canned in re-usable mason jars or home frozen. This in itself greatly reduced the amount that goes into the recycle bin. The other day I was checking out our recycle bins. There were filled! Granted we have had a fair amount of company but still I surprised. We have two 3 foot high recycle bins, a normal small blue bin and a smaller green bin. Most things are accepted except aluminum pans, foil, sour cream and similar containers, and plastic grocery bags. Our recycles are picked up every two weeks. Recycling is good but reducing is better so now I'm on a mission to reduce our recyclables!

Coffee to Go

Picking up a cup of coffee on the way to the office, work or school. They stop by coffee shops on their breaks or lunch hour to buy coffee. And all that coffee comes in disposable cups! Anyone who travels or lives in rural areas already know the negatives of inconsiderate drivers who toss their empty coffee cups out the window!

Disposable coffee cups are not made from recyclable paper but rather 100% bleached virgin paperboard (reference). The paperboard is coated with polyethylene to help retain heat and prevent leakage. However the polyethylene prevents the cups from being recycled so all disposable coffee cups end up in landfills. As the cups decompose in the landfills they release methane, a greenhouse gas. Starbucks® alone used over 2.3 billion cups in their stores in 2006 so you can imagine how many cups are used when all coffee shops are considered and that isn't even taking into account the coffee shops that are still using styrofoam coffee cups or the plastic lids.

When I was working on my undergrad degree the university began encouraging a re-usable coffee mug with a lid. It was a simple mug with the university logo on one side and the recycle symbol on the other side. It became a statement for anyone concerned about environmental issues to fasten these mugs to their backpacks. The university cafeterias gave a discount if you used your mug. Well that mug saw me through the rest of my undergrad as well as my graduate years and it is still my favourite mug.

Tim Hortons® came out with larger, insulated plastic 500 ml (16 oz) travel mugs designed to fit into the cup holders in vehicles. Now travel mugs are widely available. They are insulated to keep drinks either hot or cold. They are convenient and dishwasher safe. We have several stainless steel, insulated travel mugs. We very seldom buy coffee in disposable cups and despite the larger (25+) get togethers we host on a regular basis, I simply refuse to use disposable coffee cups in our home. Those pictured are from two of my husband's friend who picked him up very early Sunday morning for three fun filled days of golfing. I got their cups which given the weather might have been a better deal. Coffee is cheaper and just as fast to make at home when compared to coffee from the coffee shop but what some might not know is coffee shops will gladly refill your travel mug. The only thing is you might have to get out and go in instead of sitting in line at their drive through but just look at that as a little extra exercise.

Bottled Water

We had a water cooler with the blue* 5 gallon jugs for a number of years bought when chemical spills threatened the municipal water supply. We sold the cooler when we moved to our last house and what I've noticed is our consumption of bottled water has increased. Part of this is because we are drinking more water. Part is our use is our emergency preparedness plan. Part is because bottled water is convenient to take in the car or on the boat and part is because bottled water is often on sale here for $2.99 for 24 - 500 ml bottles. At 12¢ each this is quite a savings over the 99¢ or more price tag at variety stores or gas stations when travelling. Is this false frugality?

Statistics Canada reported that 1.5 billion litres of bottled water were produced for consumption in 2003. By 2006, 3 in 10 households reported drinking bottled water. They found a correlation between bottled water consumption, income and education. Those in higher income brackets consumed more bottled water as did those with some post-secondary education although those with a university education consumed less bottled water. Americans consume 28 billion bottles of water annually with 80 per cent of those bottles ending up in the landfill. In the US producing the bottles for water created 1.5 million tons of CO2 in 2006 which is low in comparison the oil used by the rest of the food and beverage industry. On Aug 18, 2008 London City Council (London, Ontario) voted 15-3 to ban bottled water on city premises including city owned buildings, arenas and community centres (read more here).

I looked at those figures and decided no more using bottle water unless absolutely necessary which with careful planning there should not be a need. The only reason we use water bottles at home is to prevent any insects getting into the water overnight or when we are outdoors. I bought 2 re-usable 500 ml water bottles. They have been very well received so I am going to buy more so that we have 8 total. In researching the disposable water bottle environmental impact I came across the issue of BPA (Bisphenol A)**. We will continue using our water bottles for home use but I will be careful to buy BPA-free water bottles for the ones we will be using for traveling or on the boat.

I knew about BPA because the grandbabies were using formula so there was an issue with the bottles and they had to change. BPA is in some but not all polycarbonate plastics. If there is a 7 or PC within the recycle symbol on the bottom of the bottle they may or may not contain BPA. I rushed to check our bottles and sure enough they have PC with the recycle symbol. We are using these bottles for water only as are many people. One very well known brand that made re-useable water bottles popular is Nalgene. Older Nalgene water bottles also contain BPA. The current recommendations for any water bottle that may contain BPA are:
  1. Do not clean with harsh detergents (eg. dishwasher detergent).
  2. Do not expose to high heat (eg. dishwasher, heated liquids, leaving in car on hot day).
  3. Do not use for high acid liquids (eg. orange juice).
  4. Hand wash using mild soap, rinse with clear water.
  5. If you notice any signs of cracking as hard plastics will as they age, discard

* known to contain BPA
** watch for a more extensive post on BPA that will cover other sources of environmental exposure

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kitchen Renovation Restrictions

There are always restrictions imposed on any renovation project ranging from financial to physical space to bylaws and permits. I mentioned several times that we had a few restrictions for our kitchen renovation. After seeing the following pictures you will have a better idea of the restrictions we faced for this renovation. The major one was we really had to work within the space we had because there was no option for expansion without major and I do mean major renovations. The kitchen is on the lower level that is earth bermed so most of the kitchen is below grade. The window is at ground level and the patio doors are below grade. The patio doors lead to a covered patio below the upper level enclosed sunporch. The patio leads into the yard that ends at the water's edge. There is a lovely view of the water from both the kitchen window and patio doors as well as the large window in the family room. The second restriction was the wood ceiling, one of the selling features for this house. Honestly they are gorgeous! The third restriction was this house has a very cottage-like feel so we wanted to keep that feel meaning some materials simply wouldn't work well for the look. The property is waterfront and a good portion of our entertaining involves water activities. On weekends it is common for us to host one or more family and friend get togethers numbering 30 or more guests so the kitchen really has to perform but at the same time it has to have that cottage look and feel.

Family Room

We have a large family room with wood as the overpowering element. Not shown to the right is a large couch and to the left by the television is the dining table. On an angle and behind the love seat and chair shown is a empty space then my desk tucked beside the stairwell. From my desk going off the family room from right to left - under the stairwell is a large 10' x 10' walk-in pantry, our huge master bedroom, bathroom, laundry room. Off the laundry room is the furnace room. Off the master bedroom is the space under the front porch that we are going to insulate and finish for storage. The massive natural fireplace was converted to a gas fireplace by the previous owner. We are going to replace this fireplace with something not quite so fussy looking. The fireplace throws off enough heat to heat the house in the event the power is out.

Visually the room is very textural. Note especially the wood ceiling. It continues into the kitchen. Anything during the kitchen renovation that would affect the ceiling would have the potential of being quite costly. Since the ceiling was a selling feature, we were not prepared to change it.

View 1

This view is taken from the corner of the family room in front of the couch. It shows the only common wall between the family room and kitchen. This is an outside wall with patio doors and large picture window. Of note is the thickness of the lower level walls measuring about 18 - inches from inside to outside. This is the only wall on the lower level that is fully exposed although it is well protected to reduce any effects from direct winds. The other walls are earth bermed.

The kitchen is on the other side of the stairs leading to the entrance which technically is the only room on that level. Stairs from the entrance lead to the upper level consisting of a games room, a large room we aren't sure what we are doing with yet, an office, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Dividing the kitchen from the family room is the breakfast bar.

View 2

This view was taken from in front of the television. It shows how the ceiling from the family room continues into the kitchen. Removing or replacing the cabinets would have affected the ceiling. The expanse of wood in the family room and kitchen on ceiling, walls and cabinets does make the two rooms darker so lights are needed especially on cloudy days. Very little direct sunlight finds its way into the lower level. The wood continues up the stairwell and surrounds the entrance. The banister is heavy wood in keeping with the rest of the house. It forms a focal point for the entry and is quite visible from the two upper level main rooms.

The renovation really brightened up the kitchen while keeping that all important cottage look. There were so many choices and I actually fell in love with a beautiful shades of sea green glass tile that would have looked beautiful with the painted wall. The immediate problem was that tile would tie us into that colour for quite some time. I was flipping through a cottage design magazine when I spotted just the tile that would look great in our kitchen. Armed with the picture we went shopping. We are quite pleased with the results and our ability to work within the restrictions.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kitchen Renovations - Finishing Touches

Finishing touches are very important when completing any renovation project. These are the little details that can make a huge difference! Not only do they make the project look finished some of them will keep your project looking good for years to come. So always pay particular attention to those finishing touches. Take your time even if it means the project will take a bit longer.

Grout Sealing

Two houses ago our then brother-in-law installed ceramic tile flooring in our kitchen. He said not to bother with sealing the grout and to only wash the floor with a vinegar solution. We took his advice but I still think that sealing the grout ads that extra level of protection. When we bought this house there was already ceramic tiles on the kitchen floor. It is a gorgeous floor although I don't care for the high gloss shine as it tends to be very slippery when wet. Since the kitchen opens onto the back patio getting wet is a real possibility. The first thing I did was wash the floor good then seal the grout with three coats of TileLab® SurfaceGard® Penetrating Sealer. This sealer provides maximum protection and has a 20 year guarantee. My primary concern was protecting the floor against any water damage. The grout is a deep beige so it hides dirt a bit. Protecting against staining was secondary but aesthetically important.

The countertop will see heavy use so protecting it from water damage is critical. Stain prevention is also very important. I used the same grout sealer for the countertop using a squeeze bottle brush applicator to apply three coats. Application is not difficult but with smaller tiles it is a fair amount of work. After filling the applicator bottle you twist the bottom part of the brush to open then remove the cap. Turn the bottle and hold similar to a pencil. Go over the grout lines then wipe away any excess from the tile after 10 minutes. Remove any haze after an hour with a rough cloth. Repeat if necessary after 2 - 3 hours dry time. I will be keeping a close eye on the grout lines. While they should not need any further sealing after three coats, if I think they need another coat I will apply it.

Caulking

I watch a fair amount of HGTV for renovation ideas and tips. One thing that Mike Holmes stresses whenever a tiling is the importance of caulking. He says that any time a joint is grout only it will eventually crack. Caulking is one more level to help prevent water damage.

The kitchen countertop presents several joints where water could eventually get through and cause damage. The joint shown is between the countertop and high cabinet (pictured below). Sealing this joint seals out the possibility of water seeping down between the countertop and cabinet. At the same time caulking provides a nice finished look. Once the caulking was dried any film on the cabinet was rubbed off.

I ran a bead of caulking on all joints whether tile to tile or tile to another surface. This simply ensures watertight joints. The stove is a slide-in model which leaves a very, very narrow gap between the lip of the stove and the countertop. Water really would not do much damage as the floor below is finished however food spills could get down this gap. A normal range or slide-in stove could easily be pulled out to clean any spills but ours has a down-draft system so it really doesn't just slide in. It has to be disconnected and lifted up and over the down-draft system. This would be a major pain just to clean up any spills. I ran a bead of caulking around this gap as well.

I used Weather Shield® 20 year durability acrylic caulk that stays flexible. This is a low odour, water clean-up, interior/exterior paintable caulk. It is easy to work with and performs nicely. This is my caulk of choice for most caulking projects. A caulk tool gives a nice finish to the bead while ensuring the caulk is pushed tightly into the joint.

Shelf Edging

There were built-in appliances in the kitchen when we moved in. In their time they were high-end appliances but through age and neglect they were unusable. We would have removed them anyway as we had new, energy efficient appliances with the exception of the dishwasher that we bought to replace the one here.

Pictured is the cabinet we removed the built-in oven from. We put shelves in and planned on having doors made to match the rest of the cabinet doors. However, we have had so many compliments over the open storage we decided to leave it open. What was missing was the wood trim to finish off the shelf edges. We bought a length of 1" x 2" popular, cut to fit then finished the pieces to match the cabinet. The bottom trim had to be cut down to ½" x ½". The shelves will see heavy use so each piece of trim was glued and nailed with the exception of the bottom trim that was only glued.

Window Trim

Natural light in the kitchen is not an issue however I don't think a kitchen can ever be too bright. The large, deep set kitchen window is at ground level. We have an amazing view of the water making the placement of the sink under the window even more desirable. Adjacent to the wall with the window is the common wall to the kitchen and family room but patio doors with an expanded view of the water take up much of that wall in the kitchen portion. We have wonderful critters like raccoons and skunks. There is absolutely no way to get to either the window or patio door to close them in the event of a roaming skunk so we are careful to keep foods off the counter when the screens are open.

Almost immediately upon laying the tile around the window frame we came to the conclusion the trim was the wrong colour. It was initially painted the middle shade of the paint chip to match the patio door frame and common wall of the family room. The pale sea green created a visual divider forcing the eyes to stop there before looking through the window. After the tile was grouted we painted this trim with the same melamine paint used on the tile edge. It had been tinted to match the tile. The end result was the window now flows nicely into the outdoor view. It also has a cleaner look so I'm glad we decided to paint this trim.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kitchen Renovation Update - Tiling Edge Problem

I mentioned the tiling edge problem in my last update. Unfortunately the big box store didn't tell us there was an edging for the tile. The general consensus from the home improvement store was to use the trim that meant we would be lifting all the edging tiles, applying the edging, thin-set then re-grouting. I was seriously sickened at this thought. My husband picked up the trim, left it in the car for the day to find it had more curves than a slinky! We decided to do a small test stretch on the breaksfast island.

The problem was there were no matching bull nose trim for this tile. We had decided this was the tile we wanted so planned on doing a wood edging. However, the fridge put a kibosh to that plan. We simply did not have the play for an additional ½ inch on the fridge size if we wanted to get into the freezer compartment. If anything we wanted to gain a little space on that side of the breakfast island. The fridge is about 18 months old so the prospect of replacing it was not over appealing. So we went onto plan B that did not come about without presenting its problems resulting in raising the height of the finished counter top by ⅞ inch so the tile edge would fit over the dishwasher and the unfinished edge of the tiles showing. My husband thought the grout would cover the tile edges and it did for some but still most of the edges were dark, interfering with the visual continuity and simply just didn't look right. I immediately thought of painting them.

My husband checked at the hardware store and the lumber store. Both said the tile edges could not be painted because paint would not stick to the tile. By now we were both frustrated and irritated. He bought a heavy duty ripper and set about making a groove under the top edging tiles on the breakfast bar along the short end consisting of 6 tiles. He cut the edging so only about ⅛ inch of the bottom would go into the groove then ran a bead of silicone along the cut portion of the plastic edging and pressed it into the groove. This was plan A suggested by the lumber store. The next morning the silicone was still not set up! At the same time my husband hated the look. The trim interfered with the continuity and according to him looked cheap. He was also concerned that the edging would not standup to the wear and tear of daily use.

By the time he got home that night the silicone still had not set up so clearly that idea was not going to work. We resigned ourselves to the fact the tiles would have to be removed in order to use the trim but we still were not satisfied with the look of the trim. After dinner he set about starting to remove the edging tiles on the breakfast bar. He had the short end removed along with almost 3 feet of one long end raised when our neighbour stopped by to see our progress. He immediately said why not just paint them? We explained the problem but he said it could be done. My husband stopped raising the tiles and after a nice visit with our neighbour I went online to search. I found several references that said ceramic tile can be painted using a special primer and enamel. I printed off one so my husband could take it to the paint store the next day.

This is a long established business with about as much paint knowledge as you can get! This was duh moment number one as in why didn't we think of this first? He took a piece of the tile with him to explain the problem along with the printed recommendations. Without even reading the recommendations they immediately said, you need melamine paint. This was duh moment number two! I've worked with melamine paint before so why didn't I think of it? The nice thing is this is a very durable, scrubable enamel paint that results in a gorgeous finish. It is oil based so is not water clean-up. They tinted it to match the tile which is slightly off white.

I used this paint for the cabinets and countertops in our third house. We were visiting friends just after they had decorated their kitchen. Their countertop was a gorgeous shade of deep teal, a perfect match for their wall colour and border. I commented on it to find that they had painted the countertop! I got all the details then painted the countertop in our third home to reflect the country blue tones in the newly installed ceramic tile floor. [I'll be posting an entry on painting laminate countertops when we get to the laundry room as that is what I'm planning to do.]

The solution was not for the faint of heart. We had to re-attach the tiles then grout before proceeding. Using a small (¼ inch) sable, angle artist brush the edge of each exposed tile was tediously painted. I was careful to not get paint on the grout. Then the paint was allowed to dry for 24 hours. The results were amazing after the first coat of paint so that was quite encouraging! The process was repeated then allowed to dry for another 24 hours before putting a third and final coat of the paint on the edges. The whole process was time consuming and tedious but not overly difficult.

If you recall from the previous update, we had decided to paint the trim around the window. Even though it was the middle colour in the paint chip used for family room that shares a common wall in the kitchen, the pale sea green trim just didn't look right against tile around the window. I used the same melamine paint for this trim as well. It took three coats but I'm quite pleased with the results. This simple change makes the window trim flow into the tiles keeping the visual continuity but it also has slightly better reflective properties.

The kitchen is starting to look more like a kitchen and less like a work zone. The edging looked quite nice after one coat of paint. A small bowl of pure vanilla kept the paint odour in check. I lost the drawer under the sink and the panel where the old sink was is not quite usable because it would hit the stove. We still have to put a handle on that to keep the look of the kitchen. We had to cut the drawer (bottom right) to fit the pipes but surprisingly did not lose a lot in terms of storage. The corner cabinet is going to be maximized for storage so I will write about that when completed.

An end is in sight as far as the tiling goes. However, there is still a lot of finishing touches. I'm really a detail person so tend to be very nit picky about the finishing touches. At the same time I'm the one who tends to do these extras. My husband will say something to the effect of "How should we finish this?" I come up with the how to and unless it involves lifting or heavy work, I make it happen myself. So there are still things like caulking, painting, grout sealing and cabinet trim, all in progress at various stages. Once all that is completed, I will do a final cleaning of all surfaces, put the cartridges back into the stove, put things away and the kitchen will be finally finished.

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Kitchen Continued

We have finally made a lot of progress in the kitchen but it has not been without a lot of headaches and frustration. It was 2 weeks without a fully functional kitchen. Even though I had a temporary kitchen set up and alternate means of cooking it was still stressful. The kitchen technically will not be fully functional until the final clean-up is completed after the grout lines have been sealed. Until then it is still a work in progress.

Stove Re-installed

The stove (1) is a JennAir® downdraft system. To protect the cartridges, we removed them for the renovation. The centre slot is the downdraft vent that with the help of a powerful fan located under the stove and hidden by the front panel vents the stove when cooking or indoor grilling. The front panel also provides access to the grease cup. A smaller fan keeps the stove vented when baking or cleaning the oven. The stove cannot be simply slid into place. The large fan unit sits up about 10 inches meaning the stove has to be lifted up and over this unit for installation. Let me tell you, re-installing the stove was not quite as easy as you would think. It proved to be very frustrating. We had to make height adjustments because we had raised the counter by a total of ⅞ inch. The stove had to sit just perfectly in the opening and there was no room for adjustments.

Any DIY project should look like it was done by a professional. Although watching HGTV some professionals don't always do a professional job. There was no bull nose tile or finishing tile for the tile we wanted so we decided to do simple edging. The problem was the edge of the tiles were not finished and that showed (2). We planned to carefully paint the edges only to find out that paint would not adhere well and there is a special edging for this type of tile. This is why you should get your advice and supplies from a knowledgeable home improvement store instead of the big box stores. We saved a lot of money on the tile but they neglected to tell us about the edging that is ideally installed along with the tile. Anyway we have two solutions both that set us back. The first recommendation is to remove the grout along the seams, clean out the seams then cut the edging to fit and affix with silicone. We have done a test strip on the breakfast island. It looks great but we want to make sure the silicone holds. The second alternative is to remove all the edging pieces, tack the edging strips into place then glue the pieces in place and re-grout. By now I'm about to pull my hair out! Oh and my husband found an awesome deal on ceramic tiles for the entrance when he was picking up the edging strips. That will be our next project so do check for posts on that. Hopefully it goes smoother than the kitchen!

Sink

We bought a Moen® single bowl sink (3), the largest that would fit the space. It is deeper than my old one and a half bowl sink. The first thing we had to do to install the sink was tidy up the edges of the opening. This wasn't difficult and it is better to have pare down a little than find you are shy of support underneath. The sink was set in place to ensure a good fit then removed while the necessary plumbing was done.

What is surprising is that sinks are really not supported by a lot of material in terms of width given how much a filled sink can hold. The width of the sink rim resting on the countertop is only about ⅜ inch all around. That means you need strong countertop that is protected from water damage.

Drain & Water Lines

If you recall our house is older and somethings were not done quite right. We were forced into working within the space we had for this renovation because we cannot add on in any direction and removing the cabinets would have affected the adjoining family room wood ceiling that flows through to the kitchen. We decided to leave the existing drain in the adjoining cabinet then attach to it (4,5). There was two reasons why we did this. First moving the drain by less than 2 feet would mean removing the cabinet floors and going though cement as we are below ground level. It would also mean moving the water lines for sink, dishwasher and refrigerator. Second it would eliminate all three drawers in that cabinet rather than eliminating one. Instead we drilled through the cabinet wall to make the connections. We included a nice slope as well as the mandatory P trap to ensure no future plumbing problems.

We gained space in the original cabinet with the plumbing as well. Removal of the drain lines for the two sinks as well as cleaning up the lines moving them towards the back of the cabinet left plenty of room to install removable shelves for access to plumbing if need be. I will make a separate post on this solution later as well as a post on all the problems we ran into during this renovation.

Caulking

A little water is capable of doing a horrendous amount of damage. It can cause the press board used in laminate countertops to swell. It can cause molding and rot as well. Any time there is the potential of water damage during the normal use of a room and that basically means all rooms because even condensation can cause water damage, all possible measures to prevent water damage should be taken.

It is critical to seal the area around the sink and the space between the sink and countertop. We used a heavy bead of latex caulk (20 yr durability, weather shield) to fill the underside of the sink lip (6). This is my caulk of choice when possible. The sink was then put in the opening and pushed down tight to form a good seal. The sink was then secured with the included anchors and connected to the drain.

Testing

The faucet (7) was connected using flex hose. This is a little more expensive but it is ready to go so all you have to do is twist to connect. There's no soldering or cutting pipes so it really is worth the extra expense. The sink was ready to test.We used 1.5" ABS piping for the drain. This included using ABS solvent cement that take 1 minute to set up. It is rather smelly but it does work nicely. Application is by dry fitting the ABS joints then applying a generous amount of the cement to one piece of ABS then use a twisting action to fit the piece into the joint and allow to set up.

Once the cement has set up the drain can be tested. We let it set up for a good hour before running water through. Clean-up for the caulk was left to the following day simply to allow the caulk to set up firmly. This caulk come off of ceramic tile and stainless steal nicely using a bit of light abrasion. A heavy textured tea towel works nicely for this purpose.

At Day's End

Sunday was a very, very long and frustrating day. We didn't get as much accomplished as we wanted and we discovered a couple of fundamental flaws aka let's do a bit of backtracking. The new drain system (9) worked well so we are pleased. We have to camouflage the wood to raise the stove (10) likely with dark brown paint. There is a lot of I'm being picky for the grout seams, the tile edging and caulking around the window to do. Wherever two different surfaces meet we will be caulking because that is what Mike Holmes says to do. We are also painting the final small remainder of the window frame white. We are looking at another good week of the kitchen not being fully functional.

Ok, we are so close yet so far. An average DIYer would likely leave the project as is out of sheer frustration but we aren't going to do that. That edging has to go on even if it means removing the edging row of tiles and re-installing. So that is where we are as of today. We've tried a couple of solutions but so far things are leaning towards removing and re-installing the edging tiles.

Will this kitchen renovation ever end? I'm so looking forward to our next project, the entrance hall but first I would like the kitchen completed!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008