Category Archives for Home Improvement

How to Install DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting

Ever since I added board and batten to my condo’s entryway a couple years back, I’ve been a little obsessed with wainscoting. That project made a huge difference to my entryway; ever since, I’ve been convinced that wainscoting can transform a room.

Enter the living room in my new house. It needed some transformation.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

In the living room's defense, I hadn't tried to decorate it at all. Instead, I had been using it as a mini-workshop for smaller projects. But at some point, it needs function like a living room, so here we are. The living room remodel project officially begins!

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Since, as mentioned above, I'm currently a little obsessed with wainscoting, it seemed like the obvious first step. As for the type of wainscoting, plywood strips were both cheaper and easier than traditional wainscoting panels, so I went with that. I love how it turned out!

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

How to Install Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting
Materials
  • 1/4" Plywood, Ripped Into Strips- See details below
  • Construction Adhesive- I used the Titebond brand, since I found it on sale at Menards, but Liquid Nails or any other brand will do just fine.
  • Brad Nail Gun and Nails- This is not optional for this project.  If you try to hammer the nails in by hand, you'll be putting up wainscoting all year. Get a nail gun. I have this awesome electric one, which is perfect for a project like this, since it doesn't require an air compressor.
  • Wood Filler
  • Paintable Caulk
  • Electrical Spacers
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Some Notes About Plywood

I purchased basic "underlayment" from Home Depot, and had it cut in-store into 6" strips. The panel saw they use chews up the "bad" side of the plywood quite a bit when it cuts (see photo below,) but I've found that the other side is just fine, and is all that shows anyway. I do a light sanding before I attach any of the boards to the wall just to be extra careful.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

As for getting it cut- I call my Home Depot Pro Desk in advance and tell them what I want done. I've done this twice now (see plywood floor project here,) and both times they told me to order the plywood online, and they'll grab the order when it comes through and have it cut as I've specified. Then I can come pick up the order when I have a chance. I find this is an excellent system. The plywood is ready when I arrive, and I don't have to feel guilty for monopolizing the employee's or panel saw's time, since they did it at a more convenient/less busy time. 

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The Process
Step 1: Determine Measurements

So here’s the thing: I don’t like skimpy wainscoting. If you google “wainscoting height,” the internet will tell you to aim for 1/3 the total height of the room.

I think that looks dinky. Obviously, this is not a commonly held opinion, since designers everywhere have agreed that 1/3 the height of the room is the way to go. But regardless of expert opinions, this is my house, and I’m the one who has to live in it.

So I made taller wainscoting. I aimed for noticeably less than half the height of the room, since the internet told me that “cuts the room in half.” My pieces were ultimately each 39” long, which combined with the baseboards put me at about 47” high. My walls are 9 feet tall, so this is noticeably less than half, but significantly more than 1/3 of the wall.

You’ll want to do what looks best to you. Don't forget to consider light switches and other features that you might want the wainscoting to avoid. I actually completely forgot about this, and ended up trimming an inch and a half off of each board with a Dremel (yes, after I had attached them to the wall,) to clear the molding. Don't my make mistakes.

Step 2: Cut Boards to Size

I worked on one section at a time, cutting the boards I needed for that section, then coming upstairs and applying them to the wall. As mentioned above, my designated board length was 39”, but there were various places where I needed to cut the boards shorter (under the windows and bookshelves.)

Since I had Home Depot cut make the strips, I just had to cut them to length using my miter saw. As mentioned above, the panel saw at Home Depot did quite a number on the edges of the boards, so I also smoothed them out using my orbital sander.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap
Step 3: Attach Boards to Wall

Once I had an entire section of boards cut, I started attaching them to the wall. I put a liberal amount of construction adhesive on the back a panel:

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Then I placed it on the wall. For the first panel, I used a level to make sure it was perfectly vertical. After that, I just used 1/8” tile spacers to space the boards.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Others on the internet mentioned using nickels as spacers. While I think this would be fine for horizontal shiplap, the nickels were slippery, and just fell out of the vertical spacers. Since I had tile spacers left over from my kitchen backsplash, they were an easier solution.

Once the board was spaced properly, I nailed it in place with my brad nail gun. I did about 4-5 nails per board to ensure the entire board was flush with the wall. Then I'd move onto the next board.

Electrical Outlets

There are some snazzy ideas out there for making sure you cut the hole for any electrical outlets in the correct spot. But for these little boards, I just used guess and check. I put the board next to the outlet and estimate the correct heights:

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Then guess how centered the outlet will be on my board.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

To cut out the hole, I drilled holes in two corners of my rectangle:

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Then cut out the rectangle with my jigsaw.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

I usually had to do a bit of adjustment, but it was typically small.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap
Step 4: Complete All Wall Sections

Section by section, I attached boards to the wall. For any strange corners or molding, I cut the boards as best I could to match using my jigsaw.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap
Step 5: Add Molding

Using construction adhesive and brad nails, I attached molding to the top of the boards. I am not a molding pro by any means; I always end up covering gaps with caulk when I'm done.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap
Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap
Step 6: Paint

I include painting prep in this step too! Since I sanded all the boards before putting them on the wall, my only prep was to fill the brad nail holes with wood filler, and any gaps in the molding or between the wood and trim with caulk. Then I got to paint!

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap
Step 7: Add Electrical Spacers and Replace Electrical Covers

If you add the electrical covers back onto your outlets without adding spacers, your outlets will be recessed into wall, looking something like this:

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

To eliminate the gap, I added electrical spacers to push the outlet forward. Note that before I did any work, I went to my circuit breaker panel and cut electricity to the outlets. If you are unsure how to do this, check out my Breaker Box Basics post!

The electrical spacers look like this:

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

To use them, you fold up the appropriate number of spacers. I just guessed what the right number of spacers was, then added more as needed.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

The spacers are placed on the screw between the metal plate and the box that's inside your wall:

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Once spacers have been added to both the top and bottom screws, the cover plate can reinstalled.

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Don't forget to turn the power back on once you've finished all of the outlets! 

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

I love the way it turned out!

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

I think the wainscoting looks so classy! And I had enough plywood left over to put some over the fireplace, too, which was an unexpected win!

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

Have you ever added wainscoting to your home? How did it turn out? I think it's such an achievable DIY project that can completely transform a room!

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

If you love the way my living room is looking so far, go ahead and check out how I accomplished those burlap walls, as well as my DIY curtain rods! And if you loved the wainscoting specifically, save it to Pinterest so you can find it again later!

Love shiplap? Check out this DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting, a timeless way to add shiplap to a room! #HomeImprovement #DIYShiplap

How to Paint a Brass Fireplace Insert

Lets talk about my fireplace.

Want an easy fireplace update? Learn how to spray paint that brass insert with this full DIY tutorial! #FireplaceUpdate #HomeImprovement

Dated, right? But when I first looked at it, I couldn't figure out why I didn't like it. It's a large, gorgeous fireplace. What's not to like? Did I secretly want whitewashed brick? It's all the rage on Pinterest these days.

But here's the thing: my fireplace is 100 years old. Throwing a DIY whitewash onto an original feature of a 100 year old house just didn't seem right, plus I wasn't totally sure I'd love the result. So whitewashing was out.

But I eventually figured it out. The brass. The brass was what was dating my fireplace. And that brass, I could fix.

Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

How to Update a Brass Fireplace Insert
Materials
Get Started!

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Step 1: Prep the Room

This is, by far, the most time consuming part. I had just refinished the floors, plus I was planning to paint the walls later, so I covered my entire living room floor with plastic dropcloths. Then, I covered the fireplace surround with them as well. The end result looked like this:

Want an easy fireplace update? Learn how to spray paint that brass insert with this full DIY tutorial! #FireplaceUpdate #HomeImprovement

I highly recommend covering your entire floor with dropcloth, even if you're not planning any other projects in the near future. Spray paint travels. Here's what the drop cloth looked like after I spray painted:

Want an easy fireplace update? Learn how to spray paint that brass insert with this full DIY tutorial! #FireplaceUpdate #HomeImprovement

Do you see all the random black particles? This was in the opposite direction of the fireplace. Also, I'd recommend keeping any pets out of the area if you can. My cat proceeded to walk right through all of this shortly after I'd painted, then go take a nap on the white rug in the next room... Thanks, cat.

Ideally, the drop cloths would be secured with painters tape, but I ran out of that halfway through, and started using packing tape instead. It worked just fine.

Additionally, since my glass doors were easily removable (they just screwed off,) I took them off, and covered the inside of the fireplace with plastic as well.

Step 2: Spray Paint

Using the high-heat spray paint, paint the insert. To be extra sure I didn't get any paint on the brick, I inserted an old plastic folder between the brick and the brass.

Want an easy fireplace update? Learn how to spray paint that brass insert with this full DIY tutorial! #FireplaceUpdate #HomeImprovement

As I worked my way around the brass insert, the folder moved with me. It was quite covered in spray paint by the time I was done.

The spray paint I used said to re-coat in a few minutes, so by the time I had finished the first coat, it was time to do the second. I only did two coats, since that seemed to be enough, and I was a little worried about running out of spray paint. The can was emptying quickly.

Want an easy fireplace update? Learn how to spray paint that brass insert with this full DIY tutorial! #FireplaceUpdate #HomeImprovement
Step 3: Remove Plastic and Admire

Doesn't it look so much better? Who knew such a simple project could change the whole look of the fireplace?

Want an easy fireplace update? Learn how to spray paint that brass insert with this full DIY tutorial! #FireplaceUpdate #HomeImprovement

I love it, and I can't wait for the entire living room to be done so I can see how it works with the space. I think it'll really complement the whole neutral look I'm going for. Next up: painting the tile in front of the fireplace. Stay tuned!

Like this? Save it to Pinterest!
Want an easy fireplace update? Learn how to spray paint that brass insert with this full DIY tutorial! #FireplaceUpdate #HomeImprovement

How to Hang DIY Burlap Wallpaper

I love Houzz. It's my favorite place for planning out my home. Pinterest is great for learning how to do projects, but Houzz is really where I get the most inspiration.

So of course, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my living room, I browsed Houzz. After saving about 10 pictures of vastly different living rooms, I came across this:

I loved the walls; specifically the contrast between the burlap-y texture and the wainscoting. Now, since this was professionally done with a designer and everything, I guarantee this look was accomplished using real shiplap and custom burlap wallpaper.

I am not that fancy. I took one look at this photo and decided I could accomplish this with some plywood and budget craft store burlap. If you're interested in how I did the wainscoting, stay tuned, I'll be posting about that soon!

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

How to Turn Burlap into Wallpaper
Materials:
  • Burlap
  • Cornstarch
  • Water
  • Pushpins
  • Burlap-Colored Nail Polish
Get Started!

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Step 1: Make the "Glue"

I attached the burlap to my wall using a cornstarch/water mixture. There is a right way and a wrong way to make this mixture. FYI, I made it the wrong way for the majority of this project. When I figured out the right way, I felt dumb. Very dumb.

Wrong Way:

Boil four cups of water. Add 1/2 cup of cornstarch. Whisk. Whisk some more. When it's still super lumpy, take out the hand mixer and beat for a minute or two. It will still be lumpy. Strain out the lumps. Use the strained super-watery liquid.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse
Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse
Right Way:

Boil four cups of water. In large bowl, add 1/2 cup of cornstarch. Then, (very) slowly add the boiling water to the cornstarch, whisking as you go. Be happy about your nice, lump-free glue.

Step 2: Prep the Burlap

Measure the first space, and cut your burlap appropriately. I have a whole post on how to cut burlap (as done by the nice people at Joanns; I watched carefully!) over here, go check it out!

Then, using pushpins, pin the burlap into place. It will be saggy and generally poor-looking. That's okay. If you have plaster walls like me, pushing the pushpin into place will be difficult, but not impossible. You can do it!

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse
Step 3: Glue on Burlap

I used a thick 3-inch paintbrush to brush the glue onto the burlap. I typically started in the top left hand corner and worked my way down and across. The key is to always move your brush in the same two directions, else you'll create air bubbles under the burlap.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

You might notice above that my burlap has creases where it was folded. I didn't worry about this, instead making sure to brush those flat as I applied the glue. In some places, a discoloration was still visible after the glue dried, even though the burlap was flat against the wall. Washing the burlap before you start could help, but I didn't try that so I'm not going to guarantee it as a solution.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

I started from the top-right corner this time, since that's where the corner of the room was!

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse
Cutting Around Obstructions

Since burlap is see through, I waited until I had the burlap on the wall to cut holes for outlets or switches. I cut the hole once I glued the burlap close enough to the hole that I could tell exactly where it would be.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

Using scissors, I then cut the hole in the burlap.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse
Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse
Step 4: Finishing Touches

I intentionally cut my burlap a little longer than necessary to make sure I always had enough to cover the entire space.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

After the burlap was dry, I cut the extra burlap off with a rotary cutter.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

Finally, I tried to disguise the seams between two pieces of burlap. In some places, the paint was visible beneath the seams, making them even more obvious than they already were. I went through and painted these with a burlap-colored paint.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

Then I was done! But I have one more thing to talk about before I show you all the pretty pictures...

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse
Dealing with Seams

As you probably noticed in the pictures above, the seams are 100% noticeable in my final product. As I went through this project, I tried 3-4 different ways of gluing the pieces together. The seams were equally prominent no matter my method, so I'm not going to detail the different things I tried.

So knowing that, this project is really best in rooms where there won't be that many visible seams. One nice thing about my living room is that it has multiple doors, huge windows, built ins, and a giant fireplace. Because of that, there are really only two places with obvious seams (both are visible in the photo above.) It will be easy for me to put artwork/decor pieces up that will distract from the seams.

If you're thinking of doing this project in a room with many large stretches of wall (and therefore many seams,) it might be worth considering if you can find larger pieces of burlap than what is sold in craft stores. I'm not sure if that's possible, but it's worth researching.

Final Thoughts

Overall, even with the visible seams, I am thrilled with how this project turned out. I was really nervous before I started, because putting burlap on the walls seemed like a crazy idea. But it really adds interest and character to the room, which I love.

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

The other thing I love about this project was that it was cheap. Really cheap. Paint is cheap too, but at $2 a yard for the burlap, this only cost me around $30. A gallon of quality paint is well over that amount, so this option was a money-saver as well as an interest-adder!

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

The final plus about this project? It's super easy to remove. I can easily pull the burlap down anytime, and some quick soap and water will get the rest of the starch off the wall. Win!

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

I love the way it turned out, and am so happy I was brave enough to try this project. If you like it too, go ahead and save it to Pinterest so that other people can find it too!

Ever thought about hanging burlap on your walls? Check out this post on how to turn burlap into unique and beautiful wallpaper! #WallTreatments #Farmhouse

How to Reset a Circuit Breaker

You're cheerfully cooking breakfast in the kitchen. You've got some muffins in the convection oven, toast in the toaster, and are about to cook some pancakes on the electric griddle when suddenly the power goes out. Do you know what to do?

Overdrawing power from a circuit is a common mistake in residential homes. Luckily, your circuit breaker kicks in and turns off the power before you can do any serious damage to your home. When that happens, the circuit breaker needs to be reset in order to restore power to the circuit. That's what I'd like to talk about today.

Note: If you know absolutely nothing about circuit breakers and the circuit breaker panel, I'd highly recommend reading my other post, "Breaker Box Basics," before tackling this one!

Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

How to Reset a Circuit Breaker
Step 1: Turn Off All Appliances/Electronics in the Room

Obviously, they seem off because they're not currently receiving power. But, actually put their switches in the off position, so that when you get the power back on, they don't immediately turn back on.

Step 2: Identify the Tripped Breaker

The inside of your circuit breaker panel should look something like this:

Know how to reset your circuit breaker in an emergency with this straightforward tutorial. #HomeImprovement

In the above picture, all of the circuits are on and providing power except for the one labeled "Up Air Conditioner" on the left side, which is turned off. You'll notice that all the circuits in a column point the same way for "on." When you trip a breaker, the switch for that circuit flips to the "off" position. 

Know how to reset your circuit breaker in an emergency with this straightforward tutorial. #HomeImprovement

In the above photo, I tripped the breaker for the circuit labeled "receptacles" and circled in pink.

Identifying the tripped circuit in my circuit breaker is pretty easy; the switch flips all the way to the other side, making it stand out from the other circuits. This might not be the case in your circuit breaker. Some circuit breakers only flip half-way, or in some cases, barely move at all.

If it's not obvious what circuit tripped, look for labels around your circuit breaker. If you lost power in the kitchen, is one of the circuits labeled "kitchen?" That would be a good place to start.

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Step 3: Turn the Circuit Off

My circuit breaker flips the switch entirely to the off position, but most circuit breakers don't. Once you've identified the tripped circuit, flip the switch entirely to the off position.

Step 4: Turn the Circuit On

Once the circuit breaker is entirely turned off, it can be turned back on. At this point, you should have power. Take care not to use as many appliances as you were before, so that the circuit doesn't trip again.

If the circuit does trip shortly/immediately after you reset it, and you were using fewer appliances, this is indicative of a larger wiring problem. Time to call the electrician!

In Conclusion...

I hope this helped you be a bit more prepared to deal with a tripped circuit breaker (or deal with your current tripped breaker; I see you googlers 🙂 It's a simple process, but one we don't really need to know until something happens. If you found this informative, and or think all of your friends should be able to reset tripped breakers, go ahead and pin this to Pinterest so you can find it later!

Know how to reset your circuit breaker in an emergency with this straightforward tutorial. #HomeImprovement

Breaker Box Basics: What You Should Know

Electrical work is scary. When things go wrong, or you want to add an outlet or a light or something, almost everyone you know says “hire a pro.” I’m not going to dispute that at all, actually. If/when you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be really dangerous. But there are some simple and common electrical situations that are really easy to deal with, and, to me at least, paying someone a couple hundred dollars to do these things for you is absurd.

I plan to do a whole series of simple and common home electrical projects, but today, I just want to start with the simple facts about electrical panels that every homeowner should know.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

What is a Circuit Breaker Panel?

The circuit breaker panel, also sometimes called the "breaker box", is where the main outside electrical power connects to all the different wires that feed the electricity in your house. It looks like this: 

Own a home? Here are the things you should absolutely know about your circuit breaker panel! #homeownership #homeimprovement

Note: My breaker box is located in my unfinished basement, so you can see all the wires leaving the box to feed power to my house. If your breaker box is located in a finished area, these might not be visible.

Own a home? Here are the things you should absolutely know about your circuit breaker panel! #homeownership #homeimprovement

On the inside, there are a bunch of switches. The large switch on top controls power to the entire house. In the case of some major electrical emergency, you can cut power to the entire house by flipping that big top switch.

(Not so) Fun Sidenote: In Texas, it's common for breaker boxes to be on the outside of the house. Robbers know this, and frequently will find the breaker box and flip the big switch to cut power to the house (and therefore any security systems and cameras) before approaching. While monitored security systems will call the homeowner when this happens (which will eventually lead to a 911 call), un-monitored systems are off for good. This happened to my parents just a couple weeks ago.

Each small switch controls power to some subset of your home. For example, there might be a switch labeled "Living Room." That switch probably controls all the lights and outlets in the living room, although you might want to do some testing to make sure. I'll be doing another post on how to test switches to see what they control, so stay tuned!

The power supplied by each separate switch is generally called a "circuit." I'm sure this is not the most official definition of a circuit, but it was the best I could come up with. You might have heard someone say something like "all the outlets and lights in the living room are on the same circuit," which for the purposes of the typical homeowner basically means the power is supplied by the same switch.

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Where is My Circuit Breaker Panel?

The location of the breaker box differs in every home. Mine is in my basement, but sometimes they can be in laundry rooms, hallways, and even outside! Look around, I promise you have a box somewhere! Note that in my pictures above, you can see wires. If your circuit breaker panel is in a finished area, it's likely the wires will be hidden by walls, and the box will be embedded in the wall itself. For example, in my old condo, the breaker box was located in the laundry area. The box was embedded in the wall, and all that was visible when it was closed was the grey front panel.

One extra note I should add: if your house is old and the wiring hasn't been updated, you may have a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker panel. I won't pretend to know anything about fuses, but if you open the box and don't see switches, you probably are working with fuses.

How Do I Use My Circuit Breaker Panel?

When you open the panel, you'll see something like this:

Own a home? Here are the things you should absolutely know about your circuit breaker panel! #homeownership #homeimprovement

To turn off (or on) power to a section of your house, you simply flip the appropriate switch. Why might you want to turn off the power? Here are some common scenarios:

  • Resetting a breaker- If you draw more power than your circuit allows, the breaker will automatically shut itself off. You'll need to switch it back on. I'll talk more about this later.
  • Installing a new light fixture or ceiling fan- Anytime you're working with power, you'll want to make sure you've turned the circuit off for safety reasons.
  • Turning off certain circuits to save money when on vacation- Last summer I went on vacation for two weeks. Despite the fact I was gone, I paid $15 to power my house in that time. No idea what used the bulk of that power, but I promised myself I'd shut off any unnecessary circuits before I leave this year.

If you're feeling nervous right not, because electricity and all, know that at this point nothing easily accessible can hurt you. While there are some very dangerous wires inside the box, you'd have to take off the entire top panel (by unscrewing all the visible screws) to access those. All the switches you see are intended to be used by a novice homeowner. 

How Much Power Can a Circuit Handle?

The amount of power that can be handled on a single circuit varies depending on the circuit. Luckily, the each switch is labeled with the amount of power that circuit can handle. We measure electrical current using amps.

Own a home? Here are the things you should absolutely know about your circuit breaker panel! #homeownership #homeimprovement

In the above picture, most of the circuits are 20 amp circuits, including the "lights" circuit I circled in pink. This is pretty standard for residential homes in the US; most are either 15 or 20 amp circuits. 

Circuits requiring larger amperage are typically for major home appliances that draw large amounts of power. Above, you'll see my dryer is on a 30 amp circuit, and takes up two spaces in the panel. Other appliances that draw large amperage and take extra space are typically electrical ovens/ranges, air conditioners, and hot water heaters.

If you're wondering why this matters, or really what an "amp" even really means, for the general homeowner, not a whole lot. What you really need to know is that 20 amp circuits can handle more power than 15 amp circuits, which means you can plug more things in without problems. If you have 15 amp circuits, that is still plenty for typical usage, but you might need to be a bit more careful using multiple high-power small appliances at the same time on the same circuit (things like space heaters, convection ovens, hair dryers, etc.)

If you do end up overdrawing power from a circuit, it's not a huge deal. We call this "tripping" a circuit breaker, and in essence, the circuit turns itself off. It's easily fixed by unplugging your appliances, walking to the circuit breaker, and flipping the switch back on. I'll be writing a more detailed post on this soon, so stay tuned!

If You Do Nothing Else...

This post had a lot of information in it, especially if you've absolutely never thought about the electricity in your house before. What, where, and how to use a circuit breaker panel are essential things to know if you don't want to pay $200 to an electrician the next time you try to run a space heater and a hair dryer at the same time. But since that day is (hopefully!) not today, there's one thing I want you to do. If you have no idea where your breaker box is, I challenge you to get up and search your home until you find it. You never know when you're going to need to use it.

And finally, if you learned something reading this post, go ahead and save the image below to Pinterest. That way, not only will you know exactly how to find this post next time you're considering an electrical project, but your friends can benefit from this information too!

Own a home? Here are the things you should absolutely know about your circuit breaker panel! #homeownership #homeimprovement

Refinishing Hardwood Floors: 5 Reasons Not to DIY

I just finished the second portion of the floor refinishing project in my house. To recap a bit, the floors in my house were severely damaged, with deep gorges, many stains, and the finish straight up worn away in many places. I suspect they’ve never been refinished or re-coated in the 108 year history of the house.

Since I’m DIY-ing this, and I need a place to put my furniture while I refinish the floors, I decided to do the house in stages. I started small, with the front room, which is a very small room that took about 3 hours to sand. That project was completed a couple months back (and if you want to see how I dealt with a bad sander that day, click here!) This time, I was conquering a much larger section of the house: the living and dining rooms.

I wised up a bit: I intentionally planned this project for when my dad was in town, so I’d have a helper. We went to a different rental place, in hopes of getting a better sander than I had last time. I thought it would go faster, and that I’d do a better job.

I was wrong.

My floors look better than they started, for sure. But they're not the beautiful, flawless works of art that pros are able to produce. And I thought about this a lot. I researched. I planned. And I’d done it before!

So I thought I’d let you know why this project is so difficult to do well, from two generally handy, but relatively inexperienced in refinishing people, so that you can make an informed decision on your own floors.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

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5 Reasons Not to Refinish Hardwood Floors Yourself
1) Something Will Go Wrong

Sanders are temperamental. The first sander I rented had an uneven drum, so only half the sander was touching the floor as I worked. This resulted in some super clogged sandpaper:

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

And a floor that looked like this after the first sweep with the sander:

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

Not quite the even, flawlessly sanded floor I was hoping for.

I panicked a bit, but eventually figured it out.

This time I went somewhere else in hopes of getting a better sander. But 30 minutes in, the sandpaper kept exploding off the belt.

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

We went through 4 different sandpaper belts in the span of 30 minutes trying to figure out what was wrong. Eventually, after driving back to the rental center, we learned the instructions the rental guy had given us for installing the sandpaper were incorrect, resulting in the sandpaper explosions.

2) Pros Have Better Equipment

The sander that you rent will be a nice, heavy 110 volt machine that plugs into a typical household outlet. But the pros use even bigger, more powerful 220 volt machines that take off wood and finish faster.

If you think the rental sander is probably good enough, you’re half right. It will get the job done. But it will take a lot more effort on your part, and more than one pass with the sander to take off all the finish. To give you an idea, here’s what my living room floor looked like after my very best effort. I passed over each spot with the 36 grit sandpaper, incredibly slowly, applying pressure, four separate times. Then the 60 grit sandpaper, twice. Finally the 100 grit sandpaper, which I only did once.

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

Despite all of this, there are still finish marks on the floor. The end result will be blotchy because I couldn’t get the wood to an even color. Admittedly, my floor is over 100 years old, and pretty warped. It might be way easier to do an even sanding job on a newer floor that hasn’t had 100 years to move around and become uneven. I wouldn’t know.

My father, who is noticeably stronger than me, fared a bit better in the dining room. But, still, not a pro level. See the blotches?

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

And that’s just the sander. They have access to better finishes, too. Do you really think the polyurethane you can buy at Home Depot is really the strongest floor finish on the market? Of course not. The stuff the pros use is significantly stronger, and of course, exponentially more difficult to apply.

3) Sanding Floors is Physically Exhausting

Theoretically, you’re just pushing a big, wheeled machine around. And maybe, if you get a machine that has a lever to raise and lower the drum, that will be the case. But the sander I rented this time used a rocking motion to raise and lower the drum. That meant that to keep the drum in contact with the floor, not only did I have to push the machine forward, but I needed to be pushing the machine into the floor, else it would rock backward and the drum would lift off and barely sand the floor.

The sander is heavy. After a couple hours of this, I was exhausted, and my arms felt like they were about to fall off.

4) You Will Make a Giant Mess

Both my sander and edger had remarkably good dust collection systems. Despite this, there was still an obvious layer of dust coating everything, including in the rooms I didn’t sand, when I was done. Pros will be meticulous about cleaning up their messes, and have the tools and routines to make that easy. This is especially important in a floor refinishing job, where sawdust getting into a drying finish can destroy it.

To give you an idea of the dust, when I finished sanding my floor, I went over it three separate times with a vacuum cleaner before applying finish, because that’s what it took for me to be confident there wasn’t anymore sawdust on the floor.

5) Pros Will Do a Better Job

This last reason is more an accumulation of everything above. Pros will do a noticeably better job at refinishing your floors than you will. They have better equipment, better products and more experience. While this can be said about almost any DIY task, the difference between a pro job and an amateur job is particularly obvious with hardwood floors.

So, Should You Ever DIY Refinishing Hardwood Floors?

If the floors in your house are truly in terrible condition- the finish has worn down entirely in places…

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

There are holes and giant gouges...

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

Or there are clear stains from damaged portions...

Don't refinish your hardwood floors without reading this first! Includes all the reasons my DIY refinish job did not turn out well. #RefinishingHardwoodFloors #Flooring

And your house is not worth much money (for a house; $100,000 or less) then go for it. My reasoning here is that the cost of hiring a pro to refinish your floors will not be recouped when you sell your house. And if the wood floors are truly in terrible condition, the sell-ability of the house will increase even with a mediocre job.

But if you live in a nice house, one that is valued well above $100,000, hire someone. While I found it difficult to leave large gouges in the floor like many websites claimed I might do, there are many minor imperfections in places that a pro would have done perfectly. All in all, a pro will do a significantly better job than you, and if your house is truly a valuable investment, it’s worth hiring someone.

Still Thinking of DIY-ing Your Floors?

Cool, me too; I still have another two rooms to do. I’ll be rooting for you. And if you’re looking for all the resources you can get your hands on, check out my other two posts: 8 Tips for Refinishing Hardwood Floors, and What to Do if You Get a Bad Floor Sander.

Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes; I still have another two rooms to refinish, after all!

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6 Miter Saw Safety Tips for Beginners

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!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

6 Important Miter Saw Safety Tips

Note: I have this Ryobi miter saw, which I absolutely love! If you're looking for a quality budget miter saw that can do pretty much everything (sliding, compound, single bevel,) I'd check it out!

1) Keep your hands 6 inches away from the blade.

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.

2) Push, don't pull, a sliding miter saw.
Scared of your miter saw? Check out these important miter saw safety tips specifically geared at beginners! #PowerTools

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!

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3) Don't raise the blade until it's come to a complete stop.

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.

4) Keep the blade lowered and the saw unplugged when not in use.
Scared of your miter saw? Check out these important miter saw safety tips specifically geared at beginners! #PowerTools

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!

5) Secure your miter saw to a table or base.
Scared of your miter saw? Check out these important miter saw safety tips specifically geared at beginners! #PowerTools

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!

6) Wear eye and ear protection.

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!

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3 Things to Do When You Fail at a DIY Project

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.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

1) Take A Break

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 fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

Here it is, not opening.

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.

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2. Brainstorm Ways to Make It Better

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.

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

It looks great from the kitchen side.

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

But the laundry room side? Not so much. 

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

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.

Can't Think of Ideas? Ask the Internet!

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.

Absolutely Convinced Your Project is Hopeless? Take It Down/Throw It 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:

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse
3. That List You Brainstormed? Do Those Things Later, When You're Not Tired and Drained.

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.

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7 Circular Saw Safety Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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!

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Word You Should Know

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.

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7 Circular Saw Safety Mistakes
1) You're Placing the Saw Upright, Not on It's Side
Oh no, I am definitely guilty of making some of these Circular Saw mistakes! Take a look to make sure you're operating your circular saw power tool safely and effectively! #HomeImprovement #DIY #PowerTools #Safety #AButterflyHouse
Oh no, I am definitely guilty of making some of these Circular Saw mistakes! Take a look to make sure you're operating your circular saw power tool safely and effectively! #HomeImprovement #DIY #PowerTools #Safety #AButterflyHouse

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.

2) When Carrying the Saw, Your Finger Is on the Trigger

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.

3) You’re Supporting Your Piece on Both Sides

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.

4) You’re Standing Directly Behind Your Saw/Cut

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.

5) You're Cutting with Dull Blades

This increases the likelihood of kickback. Enough said.

6) You're Setting the Saw Depth Too Deep
Oh no, I am definitely guilty of making some of these Circular Saw mistakes! Take a look to make sure you're operating your circular saw power tool safely and effectively! #HomeImprovement #DIY #PowerTools #Safety #AButterflyHouse

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.

Oh no, I am definitely guilty of making some of these Circular Saw mistakes! Take a look to make sure you're operating your circular saw power tool safely and effectively! #HomeImprovement #DIY #PowerTools #Safety #AButterflyHouse

The appropriate saw depth is 1/4" more than the piece you're cutting. Any deeper, and you're setting is too deep!

7) You're Wearing Gloves

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!

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8 Tips You Should Know Before Refinishing Hardwood Floors

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!

Super useful tips to make refinishing your hardwood floors just a tad bit easier! #hardwoodfloors #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.) I only recommend products that I personally use and love, and any support helps keep this little blog going!

1. Keep Moving

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.

2. Watch Out For the Cord

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.

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3. Sand With the Grain

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.

Super useful tips to make refinishing your hardwood floors just a tad bit easier! #hardwoodfloors #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

See all those little lines?? That was from the belt sander. Now imagine that on your floor. Not cool.

Sand with the grain.

4. Weird Floor Pattern? Don't Stain.

Take a look at my floor:

Super useful tips to make refinishing your hardwood floors just a tad bit easier! #hardwoodfloors #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

Hopefully it's obvious this is a "before" photo...

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!

6. Get a Friend

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.

7. Buy Extra Sandpaper

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.

8. Refrigerate Your Flooring Finish Applicator
Super useful tips to make refinishing your hardwood floors just a tad bit easier! #hardwoodfloors #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

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. 

Super useful tips to make refinishing your hardwood floors just a tad bit easier! #hardwoodfloors #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

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!

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Super useful tips to make refinishing your hardwood floors just a tad bit easier! #hardwoodfloors #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse
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