Archive for November, 2011

November 17, 2011

Tips for Designing on a Budget

by Cait

Since I’ve scored some great deals recently I thought I’d share a few tips on what Robert and I do when we’re trying to stick to a budget. This could probably be broken up into a several posts, but I figure I’ll at least lay the groundwork here, and expand on things if anyone has questions. Also, these tips probably won’t work for everyone, it’s just what we do.

1) Determine how much you have to spend – In the case of our guest bathroom our budget is roughly $2000-2500. It’s best to determine the budget before you start a project, but in the case of our guest bath that wasn’t really an option. After a pipe burst in the wall we found black mold while trying to repair the pipe, so we pretty much jumped headlong into demolishing things and never looked back. Which is basically the reason it sat for six months while we saved up to redo it. Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote about the Guest Bath budget a while back before we started hardcore crunching numbers.

    “…we’re hoping that when it’s all said and done we’re under $5,000. To me that seems like a huge jump from $485, but Robert points out that we have to redo all four walls, the ceiling, insulation, the floor (and parts of the subfloor), some of the electrical, and all of the plumbing (inside the walls as well as moving the toilet and shifting the sink over). I know all of that is going to add up to a lot more than I was expecting, but hopefully it will still end up being a lot less than $5,000.”

2) Research – Figure out what it is you want to do. Search on Pinterest, read blogs (in addition to all my blog friends’ blogs I sometimes troll sources like Apartment Therapy, Decor Pad, Design*Sponge, Desire to Inspire, Fresh Home Ideas, and Houzz), flip through books & magazines, ask your friends, ask your mom (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – my mom is creative, resourceful, thrifty, well-informed, eco conscious and hilarious. She is the perfect person to bounce ideas off of, and often picks out design elements that I never would have considered.), bounce ideas off your blog friends by email. Whatever works best for you.

3) Measure – Take some basic measurements of the space before you start shopping. Better to know ahead of time that you have 96 inches to play with instead of falling in love with a 103 inch sofa and not being able to fit it in the room. The same goes for tubs, sinks and shower arms. If your bathroom is 76×93 inches, you probably don’t have room for both a garden tub and a stand up shower. Consider having your smartie husband do the math for things like square feet to avoid trying to remember algebra to make him feel included.

image from Home Depot

4) Price It Out  – Now that you know how much you have to spend and what you want to do, start estimating how much the material costs are going to be. Loving white shaker cabinets with honed carrara marble counters? Shop around to figure out what the average price is at the usual suspects – Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ikea, and any regional chains you might have. This is also a good time to start adding the prices of everything you want to see how it fits into your budget. (Robert created a spread sheet for the guest bathroom because he’s a big nerd we like to be organized.) It might work out that there is a way to get those honed marble counters and still stay within your budget, but sometimes you have to get creative.

5) Consider Your Options – This gets its own step because this is where you somtimes have to get creative. Once you’ve figured out how much things typically cost see if there is a way to make it work for you. Maybe Ikea cabinets paired with marble from a local outlet is the best option, maybe it’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore cabinets retrofitted to work in your kitchen & countertops you splurged on, and maybe it’s a less expensive countertop for the majority of the kitchen and a marble remnant topping an island. If your heart is set on something there is usually a way to make it work, or at least there is an agreeable compromise until you can pull the trigger and go for it. (We pretty much hated the crumbling tile in the guest bath from the moment we moved in, but we made it work for a while with a coat of paint, a new mirror, shower head and spa-like shower curtain. A full bathroom redo was simply not possible with our budget when we first moved in.)

6) Shop Around – Be sure to check out local places, ask around (friends, relatives, other bloggers close by) if you aren’t sure where to start. Most of our best deals came from a local home renovation outlet and our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Also check online at places like Amazon, eBay, Overstock, Craigslist, Freecycle. Thrift stores and salvage yards are great, too, and I’ve heard some cities have a “Love it or Leave it” section at their local garbage dump. We aren’t lucky enough to have that here, but Robert and I aren’t strangers to the occasional curb-shopping-on-trash-night episode (that’s where our yellow Art Room chair & front porch bench came from, as well as a few other pieces). Read sale ads, search for coupons (online and in the newspaper), consider asking family members for gift cards for holidays or birthdays, ask stores to price match, and haggle if you have to.

7) Buy – This part is probably obvious – when you find what you want for a price you’re willing to pay- buy it! Hypotheically, if you find 351 glossy white 3×6 subway tiles at your local ReStore, consider looking like a crackhead sitting on the floor counting them all to makes sure there are enough. Also hypothetically, it’s good to know how many of something you need before you start looking around, to avoid making math errors while hurredly counting tiles.

A few other tips:

  • Make a design board to see how purchases work together. I’ve made several variations of our guest bathroom plan, it helps make sure everything looks cohesive.
  • Keep an updated list of purchases (including where you bought it from and prices) to help keep yourself on track. Keeping receipts is good too if the places accept returns.

What about y’all? Any tips of your own? What works for you when trying to stick to a budget? I’d love to hear any tips you have!

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November 11, 2011

Why My ReStore Kicks Your ReStore’s Butt

by Cait

I understand that this post will make all of you absolutely hate me (Jami already called me a hooker).

351 subway tiles, 4 sheets of octagon-dot: $19

And now that I’m not doing my crackhead impression feverishly counting tiles and lugging them around the store like a crazy person, I realize we only needed about 220 tiles. (Crackhead math = forgetting to subtract the window.) So basically that’s our entire shower surround for $11.

I’m starting to feel like our $63 floor tile is expensive (and it was the least expensive option).

Happy (Veteran’s Day) Friday!

A few more of our ReStore deals: TubReclaimed Wood, Back Porch Fan  

November 10, 2011

Handling It

by Cait

This post goes out anyone (else) who has ever gone completely bat-shit crazy during a reno. I have been searching for the perfect handles for the guest bathroom since April.

I shared the photo above in July, but what I didn’t share was what I went though to find them.

The top left are the handles I have plans for, the bottom right are ones that are destined for our Etsy shop (unless someone sees something they like), the top right I’m not sure what to do with (the metal ones will probably end up on Etsy or some various project), and the bottom left are miscellaneous ones that came with some of the other ones I ordered.

one of our Etsy bottle stoppers, along with the stainless stoppers we use

These arrived today (for $15 with a boat load of other plumbing junk we’ll never use) and I was hoping they would work with the handle that arrived last week (the ones in this post; which I forgot to show with all the others). They don’t look right together, but the ones above are starting to grow on me, so we’ll probably use them for the outdoor shower.

I did find what I think I’m looking to use in the hall bathroom though. I Googled “1950s faucet” and ran across this post on Retro Renovation which led me to, where I found some American Standard cross handles that look like they will match the one I already have. $18.99. Sold.

for the hall bath (I saw these escutcheons for $11.99 at Ace today, mine were 3 for $18)

While I’m being honest, here is the rest of my escutcheon haul:

bottom right from Period Bath and the rest of them came with handles

I scored some great deals on all of this, especially when you consider how much there is. Now I’m just trying to pair things down.

Have you gone through an equally long search looking for the perfect touch of a project?

November 9, 2011

Mini Bathroom Overhaul: Update

by Cait

As an ademdum to my post Monday, I bought these handles (mostly for the one the arrow is pointing to) but the photo somehow didn’t make it in the post.

Sadly the handle is 7/8″ bigger than the ones I was tempted to buy (and I need a 5/8″ diverter index button, any suggestions?) I have some more handles on their way though, so fingers crossed those work out (if so, it’s about half as expensive as the ones I was considering). Otherwise I think we’ll be going the ceramic cross handle route in this bathroom as well.

In other news, I bought this shower head for about a tenth of it’s retail value, and I have a 15″ chrome shower arm on its way as well.

Basically, the plan is to distract people who may use the bathroom with the shiny chromeness. “Please don’t look at the slight spider cracking in our 56 year old yellow tile. Pay no attention to the fact that the floor looks like someone may have glue indoor-outdoor carpet down as somepoint. Look at this shiny showerhead instead. Ok great. Thanks.”

Aside from this new (sexy) vent fan, we have spent less than $100 on the hall bathroom so far.

We’re making some progress with the guest bath. After the 4th day (technically) of working on it, I don’t want to break out in hives just looking at it. And Robert only fell through the subfloor once (it’s only a 4-6″ drop, he’s fine), so I’d call that a success. Sidenote: He said “this is what was supporting your bath” right before he fell through the floor. Because that’s not scary at all. It’s not like water is heavy or anything.

Last night we mainly we gathered up three contractor bags of busted tile, drywall & gross old insulation, and removed screws and nails that didn’t come out with the drywall from the studs. We also remeasured the room to better estimate supply costs and we gained about 4 inches in each direction (though some of that will go away again with drywall and tile). My Michael Graves dust pan that my mom gave me before I left for college also bit the dust (pun intended). It seems it had somewhat of a design flaw in that it didn’t hold up as well to screws, nails, broken tile, etc as certain Y chromosomes may have expected. </sarcasm> I’m officially adding the price of that and a new broom to the renovation costs.

The next steps for the guest bath are something along the lines of:
1) Brace the walls better (studs shouldn’t move when you remove drywall nails… right?)
2) Move plumbing for toilet, possibly sink, and contemplate second shower head
3) Insulate
4) Drywall/greenboard/cement board*
5) Squeal and bounce excitedly as more supplies arrive**

* I’m going to keep calling it “drywall”, but we’re probably using GP DensArmor or something along those lines. I’m going to let Robert figure that one out, just like he’s going to have to figure out how many 3×6 subway tiles we need.
** The timing of that last one really depends on shipping.

 Tonight we’re going to be doing a lot of measuring and list making, then we’ll stock up on supplies for the next steps.

What is everyone else up to project-wise these days? I’d love to hear about it!

November 8, 2011

Guest Bath Redux: It’s Happening Again

by Cait

I got jealous of everyone else in Blogland drywalling, so yesterday I threw down the challenge to Robert. I think he got into the spirit of it (or he’s excited about his new respirator), because this morning he said “I may clear the bathroom before you get home.” To which I replied “Ok, make sure to take pictures!”

We’re picking up where we left off in May, so if you don’t hear from us for awhile, you might want to send the bloodhounds.

November 7, 2011

Preparing for a Mini Bathroom Overhaul

by Cait

Hey y’all. I promise we’re not dead, just busy. (But alive and well on The Twitter). Lately we haven’t done much around the house. I laid peel&stick vinyl plank flooring in the kitchen last weekend (not the one that just ended; yes I owe you a post), decided I want to paint the master bedroom ceiling, bought a drain plug for the hall bath, and promptly decided we need to fix this hot mess. (Because, you know, we need another project.)

yes, that is a hole cover commonly seen on kitchen sinks

So then I ordered three of these (for less than half the price I found them locally, even with shipping).

 from Amazon

Which I’m thinking about pairing with these (and the chrome version of this, since we love the one for the guest bath).

However, that plan requires messing with this.

So of course none of this can happen until we finish the guest bath, because old houses + old plumbing = we need a place to shower.

We’re also thinking about installing the toilet we bought for the guest bath in this bathroom (and buying another of the same toilet for in there if we like it), but again old houses + old plumbing = we need a place to pee.

For those of you keeping track at home:

  • Guest bath – Still demoed.
  • Guest room – Still being used as a staging area.
  • Kitchen- Impromptu $80 new floor.
  • Guest room & living room floor – Still needs to be laid.
  • Master Bedroom – Want to paint ceiling.
  • Art Room closet – Still not sure we love the color, haven’t hidden cords or added shelving.
  • New interior doors – Still hanging out in the shed.
  • I have a lot of packages coming in the mail (exciting!)
  • We’re going to have plenty of handles to make more bottle stoppers for our Etsy shop.
  • Plus everything else on the to-do list.


November 2, 2011

A Clarification

by Cait

In case this post comes across the wrong way, please accept this festive image by way of apology. And let me be the first to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Unless you’re Canadian, then I’m probably the last.

Also: This is not a direct response to any commenters yesterday. Everything is fine between the commenteres and me, the response just made me think, and want to clarify!

I know my succinct post yesterday was received a couple of different ways, so I want to clear a few things up. For starters, I know that the first paragraph of the post may seem to detract from the message Shannan is trying to spread. Also, I understand that the fact that I said I donated the money we didn’t spend on Halloween candy may have been somewhat controversial. I’d like to say that I wasn’t trying to guilt trip anyone about buying candy, I was simply employing one of the persuasive essay tactics they taught me in 4th grade during FCAT prep – using statistics. Granted, they later taught about how that sort of thing can backfire because the reader may have an opposing viewpoint on your controversial topic. (Not that a lot of 4th graders talk about how a large amount of candy sickens them, or providing water for developing countries.)

Getting back to the point – my decision to donate to Shannan’s cause came after my decision not to hand out candy. I wasn’t judging anyone. Robert and I are certainly not saints when it comes to making donations or not buying frivolous things (one look at my sidebar wishlist will tell you that). As with most things in life, it’s a work in progress. I saw the $2.3 billion statistic a few days before Halloween, and probably would have bought candy anyway. It was only after driving through picture-perfect suburbia after work on Halloween, and seeing kids jump out of shiny SUVs in costume, that I decided I didn’t want to be a part of that this year. Does that mean I didn’t feel a little guilty about leaving the light off? No. Does that mean Robert and I won’t take our future kids trick-or-treating? Not necessarily. Not handing out candy wasn’t done in protest, and I would have donated even if I had handed out candy. I didn’t expected anyone to make the correlation between our not handing out candy and donating so families could have clean water.

I probably should have phrased things as “It’s shocking that Americans will shell out $7-10 on Halloween candy, but most won’t donate the same amount for children to have clean water.” Or maybe not that exact phrasing, because even that sounds a little judge-y.

Moving on from the Halloween topic, the past few years I’ve gotten exceedingly cranky around the holidays. (You can see some of that in this post from last year.) This is mostly because of all of the shopping and marketing that revolves around holidays. As a result of that, I started trying to include the option to donate to a charity rather than giving us gifts when I make wish lists for birthdays or Christmas. What I don’t stress enough is that I love gifts, but I don’t want someone to buy us something just to give us a gift. We don’t need anything! Robert and I are so fortunate in what we have, and while I love useful gifts (socks, tools, things I was going to buy anyway), I love it even more when I see our local humane society rebuild their kennels after the fire they had a few years ago. I love hearing that there is new research being done on diseases that claimed the lives of people I care about.

All of this to say, if you are stumped for gift ideas this holiday season, would you consider making a donation in the name of a loved one? You can tailor your donation specifically to the person, something that will be meaningful to them. Some of Robert’s  and my favorite charities include the Humane Society, the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the American Lung Association,  just to name a few. There are great ideas for kids, too. When I was in elementary school my parents gave me a packet that explained how they had adopted a manatee in my name. (I think mine was Merlin.) My elementary school adopted one, too. I think the purchase of the plush manatee I had (I’m pretty sure his tag said Hugh Manatee, but I called him Howie) also gave a small donation to saving manatees. Our local zoo has a similar adoption program, and it’s closer to home, so kids could visit their animal. Toys for Tots and the program that some bookstores have where you can buy a book for a child who may go without are also fantastic. We bought presents for a less fortunate family one Christmas when I was growing up, and the book program I mentioned a few times, and it was always memorable. It’s so much fun for kids to give someone else a copy of a favorite book or toy, and it teaches a great lesson.

If you do not like the strictly-donation route you could consider it in addition to a small gift, or maybe make an effort to shop for local or fair trade products when shopping this holiday season.

Hope this did not come across as judgemental. I’m triyng to work on being informative and encouraging without being pushy. I think Jane at The Borrowed Abode is very good at making that distinction. She is a small business advocate, makes an effort to shop locally when possible, and tries to only buy things that are fair trade. She’s also planning a mostly local/small business wedding, with with lots of other eco-friendly decisions. So if you aren’t familar with her fantastic blog, be sure to check that out.

November 1, 2011

Give Life

by Cait

Did you know that Americans spent $2.3 billion dollars on Halloween candy this year? Just the idea of that much candy sickens me. But this is bigger than my dislike of Halloween. It’s bigger than my fear of whether or not this fits with what I normally blog about. It’s bigger than my personal viewpoints on religion, too.

Shannan at Flowerpatch Farmgirl is trying to raise $10,000 to build a well for a village in Africa. I donated the money I would have spent on Halloween candy. You can help, too. Click the image below or go here.