Two summers ago, my dad bought a miter saw for the first time in his 70-ish year existence. I was shocked; how could my very handy, son of a legit woodworker father never have used a miter saw? The one single tool that I had coveted for years, but didn’t have the space for, my dad had done without for his entire life. Apparently, owning a table saw negates the need for every other tool ever, I guess?
When I went to visit him, I promptly realized he was using the miter saw wrong! Pointing this out, and promptly pulling up five websites that agreed with me was one of my proudest daughter moments ever, not going to lie. But I realized, if my super-handy dad could make mistakes using a miter saw, there were probably plenty of beginner power-tool users who needed a quick miter saw safety guide.
So without further ado, here are six of the most important miter saw safety tips!
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This is the number one safety rule for miter saws, in my opinion. Miter saws are pretty safe, for saws at least. Given that they're relatively stationary and have automatic blade guards, it's almost difficult to inadvertently cut yourself. The one way to do so? Put your hand in the path of the blade. Keep your hands 6 inches away from the blade at all time, and you'll eliminate the easiest route to injury.
This is the mistake my dad was making when he first bought his miter saw. When using a sliding miter saw, you should be sliding the blade away from you. See picture above!
Safety-wise, if the blade is embedded in the wood, it's not cutting your hand. Pretty simple. But this tip is also good practice when woodworking. If you bring the blade back up before it has completely stopped spinning, it will cut just a little bit more off your project on its way up, leading to a less accurate cut.
A couple years back, I took a construction class. My instructor, understandably, was a bit of a safety fanatic, if it's possible to be too fanatic about safety. He was very insistent that your saw should be locked in the "down" position, and unplugged when not in use. His reasoning? If a kid (your own, a neighbor's) wandered into your shop or garage unattended, it would be near impossible for them to injure themselves if the saw was locked and unplugged. Unlocked and plugged in? Comically easy for an unknowing person to injure themselves.
My saw has a little knob to lock it in the lowered position. Yours should too! Check the owner's manual if you're not sure where to find it!
For first month or so after I got my miter saw, I didn't have it bolted to my workbench. Anytime I cut a particularly large or thick piece of wood, the saw would have a tendency to wiggle around a bit as I cut. I got lucky and never got injured. But it definitely could've ended badly, and I'm so glad that my saw is now safely bolted to my workbench!
You know you should do this. You know that sawdust can bother your eyes, and that long-term, the noise from miter saws can help deteriorate your hearing. But right now, those might seem minor. I get it. But here's the thing: if your saw hits a knot in the wood, a large piece of wood could go ricocheting across the room - or straight into your eye. Wear eye and ear protection.
I hope these six miter saw safety tips help keep you and your family healthy and safe, and that you feel more confident using a miter saw after reading! If you have questions, let me know, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
So I have this room.
It’s very sunny and pretty and dreamy. It’s kind of why I bought the house. Sitting in it makes me happy. Except there’s no furniture or anything interesting in the room at all at the moment, so sometimes I just go stand in there for a minute, staring out the windows and enjoying the sun. Is that weird?
Regardless, in my attempt to make this room functional, I’ve decided to add curtains. However, do you see how many windows there are? So many windows = lots of curtains. Except I don’t have $300 to blow on curtains, so I’ve spent the past two weeks experimenting with cheap curtains options. Aka, sheets and drop cloths.
While I eventually came up with something both pretty and functional, there was a whole lot of failure first, primarily with the drop cloths. So I decided to write this post to share with you all things the “Easy Drop Cloth DIY Curtains!!” Pinterest gurus don’t tell you.
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You’re probably thinking, “yeah, but not that much,” which is exactly what I thought before I started. No. They shrink an absurd amount. Here is the exact same 9’ x 12’ drop cloth, cut in half to fit in comfortably in my washer. The left side has been bleached and washed, the right side was about to go in.
10 inches. The left half shrunk almost 10 inches in the wash. That is a considerable amount, and will definitely make these curtains shorter then you wanted if you have tall ceilings.
Take a look a this drop cloth. It is supposed to be 9 feet long, aka 108 inches. We’re a good 3 inches short.
I could get mad at Harbor Freight (where I bought the drop cloths) about this, but some googling and review reading seems to show this is a pretty common complaint among drop cloth purchasers, no matter the brand. And of the three that I used, only one cloth was the full length of 108 inches.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I will always, always pick function over pretty. You can buy the prettiest desk, or drawer organizer, or curtain in the world, but if it doesn’t function well, you won’t use it, or you’ll try use it and end up with a giant ugly mess. How an item functions is 100% the most important thing I consider before I buy or make something, and in my humble opinion, should be for everyone.
Drop cloths take effort to make look pretty. All those pretty pictures of drop cloth curtains you see on the internet were after a blogger spent 30 minutes arranging them *just so*. That is not something you’re going to want to do every single time you open and close your curtains. So, if you plan on actually using your curtains for privacy and to block light, be aware they will look much less attractive with regular use.
Or at least, not reliably. I think I’ve read six or seven different blog posts about bleaching drop cloths. In every single one, there were mixed results in the comments section, with some people getting a perfectly white cloth, while others ended up with something even uglier than they started with. Maybe this depends on the drop cloth makeup (100% cotton seems to help) or the bleach used, or maybe it’s based on whether you have a magic fairy waving her wand at your washing machine as you bleach your drop cloths.
I don’t know. What I do know, is that my drop cloths were supposedly 100% cotton, I used a ton of bleach, and left my drop cloths soaking in the washing machine overnight. They got lighter, for sure. But not white. If I wanted a cream color, they’d be perfect. But when I tried hanging them in my space, they just seemed dingy compared to the white trim and blush walls.
I’m not saying you can’t get your drop cloths white. I’m just saying it’s an unreliable process that depends on a bunch of different factors, so if you were hoping to get 6 uniformly white panels to make into curtains, start praying.
Drop cloths are intended to soak up moisture. That’s the point. So if you intend for your drop cloth curtains to live outdoors, know that they will mildew. Washing them frequently could help, and there may be products that help the drop cloths resist this, but it will not be the simple “hang up and be done” project you were hoping for.
You can see right through drop cloths – even the heavy duty ones. If you were hoping for curtains that darken your room or block people from seeing shadows in your house at night, these are not it. You’ll need to layer the drop cloth with another fabric to make them opaque enough for privacy or room-darkening.
So, lets say you’ve decided to go through with drop cloth curtains. You’ll plan on one 9’ x 12’ drop cloth per panel, either to account for shrinkage when washed, or to fold in half to have a thicker 9’ x 6’ panel. Harbor Freight, a discount tool supply store with bargain prices, sells 9’ x 12’ drop cloths for $15.99. Even with the 20% off coupon that Harbor Freight distributes, you’re looking at $30 for a pair of curtains.
Ikea curtains come in two, longer-than-normal lengths: 98” and 118.” They have a pretty robust selection of 98” curtains for under $30, with at least one of those being blackout curtains. If you need longer, you can get 118” curtains for $40. As a result, if you’re going with drop cloth curtains to save money, know that you’re not saving much if there’s an Ikea style that suits your room.
Maybe, if you were using your curtains in an indoor area with 8 foots ceilings, where they won't be regularly opened and closed, don't really need to block much light, and you don't mind hemming the curtains so they're all the same length, drop cloth curtains could be an easy, economical choice. Alternatively, I used drop cloths as liners for the curtains in my office - they actually turned out pretty nice, adding volume and privacy to the budget sheets I ended up going with. I'll be posting about that on Thursday, so stay tuned...
I don’t want to imply that drop cloths should never be used as curtains – I just wanted to make you aware of some of difficulties they come with them. Just remember the issues above, and make sure your plan will work despite those things. You don’t want to get home, wash your drop cloths, and then find that they’re too short to use but can’t be returned!
I hate hanging curtain rods. I think this comes from when I was living in this super old house in San Jose. One day, I was just minding my own business in my bedroom, when the curtain rod next to my bed suddenly crashed to the floor. All that remained on the wall were two gaping holes in the plaster where screws apparently used to be.
After a significant amount of googling, multiple phone calls to my father, and $20 in different sized molly bolts purchased at Home Depot, I managed to rehang the curtain rod. It was a giant hassle, and not a terribly pleasant introduction to hanging things on plaster walls.
So when I was faced with an entire room of windows to curtain in my future office, all I could feel was dread. Three different curtain rods, each with three brackets, into plaster walls. I wanted to cry. But since there was no curtain fairy around my house to hang curtain rods for me, I eventually found my fake positive attitude and did it myself.
It went super smoothly, and mid-way through I realized it’s actually easier to hang curtain rods on plaster walls than drywall. So I decided to write this nice post about my super successful curtain rod hanging method, and why hanging curtain rods on plaster walls is actually awesome!
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The curtain+curtain rod combo is heavy enough that in an ideal situations, your brackets would go into wood. In the typical, recently-built house, this means getting your screws through the drywall and into a stud. However, studs are only found every 16-24 inches, so it’s unlikely there would be one everywhere you want to put a bracket. To make up for this, we put molly bolts into the wall to support the screw in lieu of a stud. In a house with drywall, you’re going to need molly bolts for most of your brackets. These typically come with the curtain rod, for the record.
However, in older houses with plaster walls, the plaster is supported by lath, strips of wood that look like this:
While I wouldn’t trust this wood to support super heavy things (like a TV), it’s more than enough for some curtains. Meaning: if you drill your holes and hit lath, you don’t need a molly bolt! You put your screw straight into the lath and trust it to hold up your curtain rods.
Now, you won’t always hit lath, so you’ll still need to use a couple molly bolt for the occasional screw. But that is much preferable than for every single screw/bracket.
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I was hanging my curtains 100 inches above the ground. I marked where that was, then put my bracket up and marked where the holes should go.
If you're hanging your curtains high and wide like everyone says to do, make sure there is enough space for the finial (ball thing at end). Mine was dangerously close to hitting the wall.
I drilled the top hole first (check your instructions for the drill bit size, mine was 3/16”,) noting if I hit lath or not. I’ve found that plaster really dulls my drill bits, to the point where they struggle to go through wood after being used on plaster. As a result, it’s super obvious when I hit lath, because my drill bit resists moving further. If there’s not lath, my drill bit suddenly lurches into the wall when I finish drilling through the plaster.
Of the 18 holes I drilled to install my three curtain rods, I hit lath fifteen times, and was required to use a molly bolt on the other three holes.
I’ve written two different instructions based on if you encounter lath or not, read what you need!
If you hit lath, you can add your screw directly into the wall. I didn’t screw the screw in all the way, so that I could take the hanger on and off to drill the second hole. Once the lower screw and bracket were in place, I tightened this top screw.
Molly bolts are typically provided with the curtain rod. They look like this:
Take one and insert it into the hole you’ve already drilled. You’ll need to gently hammer it into place. If, even after hammering, it doesn’t fit (aka, the bolt crushes instead of sliding into the hole) grab a drill bit slightly larger than the one you were using, and enlarge the hole. Be careful! The hole doesn’t need to be huge, just a little bit larger, so that a molly bolt will fit when you hammer.
I don’t tighten the screw all the way yet, so that I can still add/remove the bracket to mark and drill the second hole.
I then placed my bracket on the first screw, and marked where my second hole should go. It typically was a little different from where I first marked in step 1, which was totally okay. It’s why I always did this step to double check before I drilled the second hole.
See steps 2 and 3 based on if you hit lath or plaster. Note that when you add the screw this time, you should be holding the bracket in place.
I had three support brackets per rod.
Most just screw in.
Tighten the screws on the brackets to secure the rod in place!
I’d been dreading hanging up these curtain rods for weeks, but it was done in less than two hours! Hanging (light) things on plaster walls is not nearly as difficult as I was imagining; the lath makes things so much easier! I’m almost looking forward to hanging the curtains the curtains in the living room (well, not dreading, at least.) If you haven’t already, check out my super cute curtain tiebacks! The hearts make them perfect for Valentine's Day, but if you have a a pink room like I do, they're great year round.
You’ve failed at a DIY project before, right? I certainly have, and truthfully, I think everybody has at some point, as evidenced by the abundance of #pinterestfail and #nailedit posts in the world. We get a good laugh out of those posts, as well as a nice feel-good feeling of “at least our projects aren’t that bad.”
But what about when that happens to you on a DIY project you’ve invested a significant amount of time and money into? It’s not so funny then. In fact, it’s more this sickening feeling in your stomach competing with complete despair in your head, and the absolute wish to just break down and cry for 30 minutes.
I would know. I’ve been there. A lot. And I have some tips for how to deal with it.
If you’ve spent a long time working on a project, and it looks terrible at the end, you’re going to be frustrated. You are going to want to be done. You will want to walk away and not think about this problem for a couple weeks. And that’s okay. Give into that impulse. You will feel so much better and motivated after you’ve forgotten how awful this process was in the first place.
About two months ago, I mounted my new microwave above the stove in my kitchen. The kitchen was a complete remodel that I totally planned myself. Since I installed it completely alone, the microwave was particularly difficult- it probably took me three hours, and most of that was stacking hardback books on the stove to slowly raise the microwave into place and then fighting with the microwave to get it on the bracket. By the end, I was exhausted, sweaty, and sore, and never, ever wanted to mount a microwave again.
But, after completing the install, low and behold, the cabinet next to the microwave did not open.
I’m pretty sure I can fix this (at least a little) by taking the microwave down and reinstalling the cabinet door so that it opens the opposite way. But do you think I was going to do that the night I installed the microwave? Absolutely not.
In fact, two weeks later, my dad came to visit. He offered to help me fix it then. I still said no, because I was not ready to face re-mounting that microwave. I know it will be easier with two people. But I had not yet forgotten the trauma.
We have plans to fix it at Christmas. I think I’ll be ready.
I’ve screwed up a lot of projects. In fact, before writing this post, I tried to brainstorm a list. I keep adding to that list, because apparently I’ve screwed up so many things that I can’t remember them all. But, you know what all of those screw-ups have in common? They could be fixed. Some way, some how, I could make it better.
Take the doorway I closed up in the laundry room during my kitchen remodel.
It looks great from the kitchen side.
But the laundry room side? Not so much.
There is a giant bump where the new drywall starts. It’s been so long since since I’ve done this project that I don’t even remember why I couldn’t get the drywall flat. Regardless, it’s unattractive, and for awhile, I wasn’t sure what I could do to fix it.
But now I have some ideas. I could do something called a “skim coat,” adding watered down joint compound to the wall until things are even. Or I could add board and batten, but be creative about where I put certain pieces.
I’m not totally sure what I’ll do. I’ll handle it when it comes time to remodel (or just plain “model”) the laundry room. But I have ideas, and that’s the important thing.
Brainstorming didn’t go well? That’s okay. Is there a DIY forum you read a lot? Post your problem there! Or google it- someone may have had a similar problem before. Still stuck? Feel free to shoot me an email (with pictures, pictures are great!) or ask in the comments below! I’d love to help out.
This is sad and depressing to do, but it’s okay. Keep in mind that you probably learned a whole bunch of things during the DIY project (especially since it was a major failure), and so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
And for what it's worth, yes, I have completely, hopelessly failed at projects. This sad, flopping board at the bottom of my closet is all that remains of what was going to be a built-in closet dresser thing:
This goes right along with “take a break.” Now is not the time to run around fixing your DIY project (unless it’s something urgent, like heating or plumbing, in which case, pros are great.) Fix it after you’ve had a bit of a break, and are motivated to re-tackle it. I typically wait about a month or so, when I’ve forgotten how difficult the project was in the first place, and am tired of looking at it in its sad, failure state.
Failing a project sucks. Failing at a project that you’ve put days, weeks, or months into is devastating. But it’s going to be okay. Take a break, brainstorm some “fix-it” ideas, make a plan, and conquer it later. Someday it will be what you dreamed of, I promise.
Back when I was younger and had an abundance of spare time, I took a construction class at the local community college. Before being allowed to operate any new power tool, we had a chapter to read, an hour and half lecture, and a quiz to ensure we knew the safety rules. I suppose this was understandable, given that we probably could’ve sued the school if any of us accidentally chopped off a limb.
While for the most part, the quizzes were easy with obvious answers (You should wear eye protection, true or false?) on every quiz there were at least a couple of questions specific to that tool that I wouldn’t have known had I not listened to the lecture. For this post, I attempted to put together the circular saw safety mistakes I see people make the most, in hopes that it might save at least a couple people a trip to the hospital!
In this article, I'm going to talk a lot about "kickback." This is when the saw suddenly moves backwards toward you while you are attempting to saw. This is super dangerous, in that it can fly into you and cause blunt force trauma, or worse, fly into you and cut you with the spinning blade. Many (but not all) of the circular saw safety mistakes below are specifically for avoiding kickback.
The instructor in my construction class was quite adamant that he knew multiple people who’d lost toes from this mistake. They’d put the saw down before it had stopped moving, or it somehow got switched on after being placed on the ground. The saw took off, running over their toes. Place the saw on its side, and you’ll avoid this problem entirely.
I feel like this one is obvious once you think about it, but not something we ever stop and actually think about. If your finger is on the trigger and you trip and fall, you might press the trigger and start the saw, which would probably have bad consequences. Find another way to carry your saw.
This seems like a good idea. If your piece is supported and clamped on both sides, then nothing will fall to the floor when you’re done cutting. I suppose that logic is technically correct, but you’ll rarely be able to finish cutting without encountering kickback. The two pieces sag toward the middle as you finish the cut, pinching the blade and causing kickback.
If kickback occurs, the saw will fly right into you. Stand a little to the left or right, therefore if kickback occurs, you wont be directly hit by the saw.
This increases the likelihood of kickback. Enough said.
This is bad for a couple reasons: A) The more saw that needs to go through the wood, the harder the saw has to work. The harder the saw has to work, the more likely it is to kickback. Keeping the saw at the appropriate depth therefore reduces kickback. B) The deeper the saw, the more the blade will be exposed. This increases the likelihood that it will come in contact with a human appendage.
The appropriate saw depth is 1/4" more than the piece you're cutting. Any deeper, and you're setting is too deep!
Yes, wood has splinters, and gloves seem like a good idea. But they increase the risk of your hands getting caught in the saw, so they are a big no-no when operating any power tool.
I hope there was at least one thing on this list you learned about operating a circular saw, and the circular saw safety mistakes people commonly make. If so, make sure to subscribe to my email list; I plan to do a whole sequence of posts for all sorts of power tools, so make sure you don’t miss out!
Lets talk about hardwood floors. When they’re well taken care of, they’re beautiful. But if they haven’t been protected or refinished in their 100 year existence, well...
The floors in my house are/were in terrible shape. Water stains that go all the way to the wood? Check. Warped wood that has created noticeable bumps in the floor? Check. Weird gray spots where the finish has completely rubbed away? Check. Someone was going to have to refinish these floors, and since I am philosophically opposed to hiring people, it was going to have to be me.
I decided to do things room by room, because I have furniture and no real place to move all of the furniture at once. Plus, refinishing the floors of my entire house seemed incredibly intimidating, and this project was scary enough as it was. I started with the sunroom/future office, which was nice and small and achievable. Also, the majority of the floor was going to be covered by a nice rug, so if I screwed up too badly, I probably wouldn’t have to look at it.
I learned a couple things along the way, and fully expect that the next chunk (the living and dining rooms, to be completed in a couple months) will go much smoother. I thought I’d share a couple tips I’d learned along the way!
No matter what. Shoe fall off? Keep moving. Trip over the cord? Keep moving. An important looking screw falls out of the sander? Keep moving. You can’t ruin your floors too badly if you follow this one single rule.
The biggest danger in sanding your own floors is to stop moving and accidentally sand a hole/divot into your floor. The drum sander is super powerful, and it will do that in seconds. Thus, if the sander is on, you are moving. Embrace this fact, and everything will turn out okay.
The cord is large, long, and unwieldy. It is your biggest barrier to following tip (or really, necessity) #1. Pretty sure I tripped over it at least 5 times, and had to keep moving. Have a plan for keeping it out of the way.
The drum sander will sand marks into the floor. No matter how many grits you use or how high you go, the marks are inevitable. They will be almost invisible if you sand in the direction of the grain, as the grain will disguise any leftover marks. But if you sand perpendicular to the grain they will be super, super obvious if you add any stain.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a table I refinished. I sanded all the paint off with a belt sander, and wasn’t super discriminatory about which direction I sanded.
See all those little lines?? That was from the belt sander. Now imagine that on your floor. Not cool.
Sand with the grain.
Take a look at my floor:
Cool pattern, right? It’s the first thing everybody comments on when they walk into the house. All my hardwood floors make this cool square pattern, and it’s definitely a conversation piece. But it makes refinishing the floors much more difficult, since the grain pattern isn’t always facing the same direction. Because of this, I can’t always be sanding with the grain.
As mentioned in #3, this will result in a bunch of small marks from the drum sander appearing on my floor. And since sanding in a square shape seems super difficult, I’m going to have to deal with it.
The solution?? Don’t apply stain. Any stain on my floor will highlight the marks. Since I wanted a bit more color on my floors than the pale oak it was after sanding, I opted for an oil polyurethane with a “traditional autumn tone.” So far, no obvious marks!
The sander I rented from Menards had definitely seen some wear and tear- only half of the drum actually contacted/sanded the floor. I wrote a whole post about how I dealt with it; go take a look if you’re worried it might happen to you!
The drum sander is heavy. Like, 95 pounds heavy claims the manual. There was absolutely no way I could have lifted it into the car myself; I actually ended up building a ramp and rolling the sander up it into the car, which was not that much fun either. I highly recommend finding a friend, if for no other reason than getting the sander in and out of your car.
While there are published guidelines on how much sandpaper to buy (1 sheet lasts about 250 square feet,) if your sander is a little more worn down, or you have a particularly thick/sticky finish, you may run through it faster. Instead of having to run back to the store mid-sanding, purchase more than you think you need, especially of the lower grits. Then, if you don’t use it, you can return the sandpaper to the store when you’re returning the sander.
I suppose if you’re using water-based polyurethane, it’s not that big of a deal to wash out your applicator after each coat. But if you’re using oil-based polyurethane, that stuff is tricky to clean. It must be washed using mineral spirits, which are expensive, plus it feels super wasteful to basically be pouring them down the drain.
One way around this is to put your applicator in a gallon sized baggie, and then into the fridge. This keeps the applicator from drying out, and then allows you to reuse it (without washing!) multiple hours later for your next coat.
If you’re considering refinishing your own floors, don’t be scared! Keep moving, and you’ll be okay. Hopefully the rest of the tips will help make things easier. If you end up refinishing your floors, I’d love to see a before and after! Let me know how it goes!
Who here is terrified of the idea of refinishing their own wood floors? *Raises hand.* Me!!! Everyone talks about how harsh a drum sander is, how it can quickly and easy sand waves into your floor, and if the drum sander you rent is bad, it’s almost impossible to get even floors. Real reassuring, there.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but people say these things for a reason. I was one of those people who got a bad drum sander. I didn’t know what to do, and I definitely stood in the room panicking multiple times. But I kept going and figured it out. Here’s how I made it work.
I noticed almost immediately that my sander wasn’t sanding the entire length of the drum. When I finished the first row, it was quite apparent that the sanded portion was considerably less than the width of the drum.
I did not inspect my drum before starting, but even if I did, I probably wouldn’t have been able to identify the damage. If you look at the drum of the sander and see that it is clearly damaged, that’s a pretty bad sign.
While this doesn’t speak to the condition of the drum itself, it’s a strong sign that this sander has been worked hard. A screw I couldn’t identify fell out mid-sanding. More concerning was when the bolt holding the lift/lower level (the handle that lifts and lowers the drum off the floor) fell out completely, making it impossible for me to lift the drum off the floor. This could have led to a severely dented area, but I turned off the sander and kept moving until the drum had come to a complete stop.
Very quickly after I started sanding my 36 grit sandpaper became clogged on one side. The fact that the sandpaper wasn’t uniformly clogged was indicative that only half the sandpaper was touching the floor.
If you were lucky/skilled enough to identify a damaged drum before leaving the rental center, gold stars for you! Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, but don’t rent it. See if the store has another one, or go to another store in the area.
If you’re like most of us and didn’t realize your sander was bad until you started sanding, that’s okay. Go slowly. Give the sander multiple opportunities to sand the same area. When I finished a row, and moved over to start the next row, I only moved over about two inches. I wanted the sander to overlap where it had just sanded, and since I knew my sander was only partially sanding the floor, I didn’t move as much as I would have if I’d had a fully working sander.
If your sander is only partially sanding the floor, you’re going to need more sandpaper. Since your sandpaper is being heavily used on one half, and not used at all on the other half, you will clog the used half of the sandpaper much faster.
Special Tip: If your sander is only using half the sandpaper, flip it around after one half gets clogged! That way, you get to save a little money by using the other half of the sandpaper.
I recommend doing your research in advance, and purchase sandpaper online that matches the machine you will be renting. It will be cheaper, and you’ll therefore be less inclined to skimp on the sandpaper. Alternatively, you could pay store prices and purchase significantly more than you think you need, then return any unused sandpaper when you return the machine.
If you’re reading this with a half-sanded floor in the other room, know that it will be okay. Go slowly, get lots of sandpaper, and breathe. It will be okay. If you need a little reassurance, here’s what my floors looked like mid-first coat, when I was absolutely panicking:
The sander clearly wasn't sanding evenly, and the sandpaper was so clogged that it was leaving marks on my floor. I was terrified!
And here’s what they looked like when I was done:
Good luck! And if you need a little more reassurance, go ahead and tell me about your struggles in the comments below!
So a few weekends ago, two of my former California roommates came to visit me in Missouri. We had a nice weekend full of craft shows, coffee shops, and Harry Potter Trivia games (based on the books, of course.) But they also volunteered to help me paint my sunroom/future office, so after a nice trip to Home Depot (where the paint took forever to be mixed, so we invented an awesome game to entertain ourselves), we got started.
As I'm pouring paint into the paint tray, Brittany (California friend 1) picks up a paintbrush and casually catches all of the paint sliding down the side of paint can in this snazzy swoop-y motion. When I look at her all impressed, she goes "Oh yeah, didn't you know, my Dad used to paint houses. That's how he put himself through college."
Well, okay then. Show me everything you know. Turns out, it wasn't that much. It's not like Brittany painted professionally. But together, we realized some things that made the whole process go faster. Here were our key takeaways:
For our first coat, Brittany and I both started painting at ground level. This resulted in inefficiency at the end, when both of us needed to be painting up high. For the second coat, Brittany started and stayed on the ladder, while I painted everything at ground level. We finished our respective parts at exactly the same time, and no person was ever standing around waiting for the ladder.
The room I was painting had not one, but two sets of french doors, as well as eight windows. Eight! To make it all go faster, I didn't bother putting down painters tape, or being extra careful as I painted. I used a small brush and painted quickly, then when I was done, scraped the dry paint off the window with a scraper. Much faster.
Since Brittany was visiting from California, I loaned her some painting clothes to wear. However, it was a little chilly, so she opted to wear one of her long-sleeved shirts underneath the t-shirt I gave her. Since she liked her shirt (at least a little,) and didn't want to ruin it with paint, she turned it inside out just in case a bit of paint got on it. Maybe that's an obvious tip, but I thought it was a brilliant idea, and decided to share with everyone else!
The trim in the future-office was super grimy, flaky, and overall unacceptable. I knew I'd be painting it eventually too. What I should have done (and admittedly didn't) was prime all the trim and walls at the same time. Then I wouldn't have had to be careful not to paint the walls while painting primer on the trim, which would have made one coat at least a little easier to paint.
If you've read any other "painting tips" articles, you'll know that you should be purchasing nice paintbrushes. Most people recommend the Purdy brand. But if you haven't looked at the prices yet, you're in for a shock. Purdy paintbrushes tend to cost $10 and up for the typical brush.
Now, I highly recommend splurging and getting a couple of these paintbrushes for your final coats. They do a better job, and are easier to use. However, if at any point you are using an oil-based primer, or doing a furniture project with oil based stain, get some cheap-o brushes. Oil-based products are difficult to clean, requiring mineral spirits instead of water. Given that primer gets covered up by your final coat, and stain gets wiped off, erasing any texture marks, I prefer to use cheap brushes that I can throw away after applying the oil-based product.
If you live by a Menards, they regularly have paintbrushes that are free after rebate. Otherwise, Harbor Freight has a decent selection of cheap brushes.
I hope these five tips make your painting go at least a little easier. While my sunroom has been painted, I have at least three more rooms that will need a new paint job in the coming months. I'll definitely be keeping these things in mind, and adding any more tips I discover on the job!
This past week I've been hanging out with my dad in rural Wisconsin, where the days are cold and the internet is scarce. As a result, I've been watching a fair amount of HGTV. And all the house hunting couples on HGTV, in addition to being faker than particleboard furniture, have a clearly defined list of (somewhat ridiculous and extravagant) things they want in their home. A playroom, a pool, a view, 6 bedrooms, 2 master suites.... the list goes on.
This was not me when I was searching for a home. My mindset was more along the lines of "Is it under $150,000, and structurally sound? Cool, sold." But what really made me pick my house out of all the other old, cheap, structurally sound houses was this one single room.
Look at the (multiple sets of) french doors! And the sun! So much sun, all the time! I was in love. I decided immediately that this would ultimately be my office, because clearly I'd want to be in this room all the time, and therefore would get plenty of work done.. I'll let you know how that turns out.
But before I could make this into the productivity haven of my dreams, I needed to get rid of the wallpaper. Because not only was it unattractive on its own, it was also peeling off pretty much everywhere, which, as you might be aware, is not okay.
I started by putting plastic sheeting on the floor, for the singular reason of being able to do this at the end:
World's easiest cleanup. I folded up the plastic, and tossed the whole thing straight into the trash. The five minutes of taping down the plastic before starting was sooo worth it.
I then mixed some hot water and fabric softener in a spray bottle. The internet was contradictory about how much the mixture should be of each, so I didn't bother measuring, and aimed for 50-75% water and the rest fabric softener.
I also purchased this snazzy paper tiger thing from Amazon, that other people raved about:
Once I had all my tools, I was ready to start. I scored my walls with the paper tiger thing, then sprayed with the laundry detergent. Before I tell you all about how this was stupid and got me nowhere, lets talk a little about the composition of wallpaper.
Wallpaper, at least, the stuff on my walls, has two main layers: A thick waterproof decorative layer that is what you see on your wall, and a paper layer that contains the adhesive that sticks the wallpaper to the wall. Your goal, as the wallpaper remover, is to unstick the paper adhesive layer from the wall to pull off the wallpaper. The paper adhesive layer will peel off easily if you can get your adhesive solvent (the laundry detergent/hot water mixture, in my case) to that layer. However, the waterproof layer makes it awfully difficult to get any sort of solvent to the paper adhesive layer. That's where the paper tiger comes in. It pokes little holes in the top decorative layer so that your solvent can get through to the lower layer.
In the above picture, the paper adhesive layer is the light brown stuff you see on the wall. The waterproof layer is the blue layer that is still on or peeling off the wall. You can see in the picture how my solvent went through the decorative layer at all the places where I scored with the paper tiger. And guess what: right at those wet places, the adhesive layer was super easy to pull off. Everywhere else, where the paper adhesive layer was still dry? Impossible.
Because the paper tiger couldn't be everywhere, it didn't make taking down the wallpaper super easy. In some situations, which I'll cover later in this post, it might be helpful and make the job easier, but this is not a tool that will solve all your wallpaper woes. Additionally, it damaged the drywall behind the wallpaper:
I'm not too concerned about the damage- it will be behind a bookshelf in this room. However, it did nothing to raise my opinion of the Paper Tiger...
I only ended up using the following things:
- Spray Bottle (to hold solvent)
- Fabric Softener (to make solvent)
- Water (to make solvent)
- Ladder (to reach the high spots)
- Plastic Sheeting (to make cleanup easy)
There is absolutely no need to poke holes in the top layer if you can simply pull it off, which is what I ended up doing. On most pieces, it was peeling off already somewhere, so I typically started there, but on pieces where there was no peeling, the corner of the piece typically lifted off pretty easily. Each piece typically came off in a giant sheet if I went slowly.
I then took my spray bottle and saturated the remaining layer with solvent.
The solvent needs a couple seconds to work, so I typically waited 30 seconds to a minute before returning to the piece to peel off the lower layer. During this time, I usually went and pulled off the top layer to the next piece.
Once the solvent has had time to work, the paper adhesive layer comes off easily. It was a little harder to keep as one big strip than the decorative layer, but still doable if I went slowly. On any paper bits that remained, I carefully rubbed with the pad of my finger to remove the remaining paper, as I noticed my nails could gorge the wet drywall.
Using this method, it took me a little under 4 hours to remove all the wallpaper in the room! Now, admittedly, it was a small room, with many windows, but I still think this was faster and more efficient than using the Paper Tiger throughout. However, you might need to use the Paper Tiger or some other type of scoring device (maybe one that doesn't hurt the drywall?) if your wallpaper is in better condition than mine, and the top layer doesn't peel off.
When I was done, my room looked like this:
I'm so excited to paint and decorate! If you want to see how the room turns out, make sure you're following me on Pinterest and Instagram!
If I asked most people to name the major home improvement stores in the United States, I'd probably hear Home Depot, Lowes, and if they live in the Midwest, Menards. But they have an often overlooked competitor that I'd like to talk about today!
Harbor Freight is a low-cost tool supply store that is located throughout the continental United States. They have locations in most medium-large size cities and towns, so there's likely to be a store somewhere near you. They specializes in affordable tools and supplies- meaning things like saws, sanders, sandpaper, measuring tools, clamps, etc. They don't sell raw material, like lumber, plywood, or nails and screws.
In addition to having super low prices, Harbor Freight has a coupon based sales strategy. In addition to the coupons sent out in their monthly mailer, coupons can be found in DIY magazines and the ad sections of newspapers, as well as struggleville.net if you don't have access to any of the other sources.
If you've never heard of them, and you're wondering why, there are a couple reasons. First of all, the trade off for such low prices is that the items are of lower quality. As a result, bloggers hesitate to recommend them. Additionally, Harbor Freight doesn't have an affiliate program, so for internet DIY-ers, they would be recommending an inferior product for absolutely no personal gain. However, I think that Harbor Freight is a great way to save money when you don't need something super high quality, so I wanted to ensure you guys have the best information on how to shop there.
Important Note 2: While the Harbor Freight links are not affiliate links (I just like Harbor Freight,) some of the other links are, meaning I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I don't recommend anything that I don't use and love!
If you walk into Harbor Freight without at least two coupons in hand, you're doing something wrong. There are three different types of coupons available, and two of the three can be used on anything:
When I go into Harbor Freight, I typically have a freebie coupon, a 20% off coupon, and any item specific coupons I intend to use. Unfortunately, you can't use more than one coupon on the same item. However, if you only intend to purchase one item, say some sanding blocks, you can use the 20% off coupon on the sanding blocks, pick up a tape measure, and use a freebie coupon on the tape measure. Thus, even if you're only purchasing one item, you should always have two coupons!
I've mentioned the freebies a lot, because I swear, they're things that are actually useful. The following are my very favorite freebies, although they have more that I'm sure are worthwhile as well. To see the full list of freebies, plus current coupons for each, click here.
So as mentioned earlier, one of the cons of Harbor Freight is that the items are lower quality than you'd find at other stores. Here's a list of items I've purchased and had a good experience with.
Now, I know I've raved about Harbor Freight for most of this post, but I have purchased things that were complete busts. Here's the items from Harbor Freight that were completely useless.
Clearly, there are some great deals to be had at Harbor Freight. There are also some things (I'm talking about you, calculator-ruining batteries) that you should absolutely never, ever buy. I hope this guide gave you an idea of what those things are! If you have any questions about a Harbor Freight item, feel free to ask in the comments below, or shoot me an email. I'd love to hear from you!