Category Archives for Home Improvement

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!

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!

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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Refinishing Wood Floors: 3 Things To Do When You Get a Bad Sander

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.

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!

How to Know if Your Sander is Bad
1) It Only Sands Half the Floor
Refinishing your wood floors not going well? Same. Come see how I made a bad sander work! #diy #diyprojects #HomeImprovement #WoodFloors #AButterflyHouse

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.

2) There Are Dents, Tears and Unevenness in the Sanding 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.

3) The Screws Are Loose Or Falling Out

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.

4) The Sandpaper is Clogging In One Space Only
Refinishing your wood floors not going well? Same. Come see how I made a bad sander work! #diy #diyprojects #HomeImprovement #WoodFloors #AButterflyHouse

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.

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What To Do With Your Bad Sander
1) Don't Rent It

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.

2) Go Slowly

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.

3) Get Extra Sandpaper

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.

Refinishing your wood floors not going well? Same. Come see how I made a bad sander work! #diy #diyprojects #HomeImprovement #WoodFloors #AButterflyHouse

I clogged the left side of the sandpaper, then flipped it around and used the right half!

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.

Breathe... It's Going to Be Okay

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:

Refinishing your wood floors not going well? Same. Come see how I made a bad sander work! #diy #diyprojects #HomeImprovement #WoodFloors #AButterflyHouse

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:

Refinishing your wood floors not going well? Same. Come see how I made a bad sander work! #diy #diyprojects #HomeImprovement #WoodFloors #AButterflyHouse

Good luck! And if you need a little more reassurance, go ahead and tell me about your struggles in the comments below!

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Refinishing your wood floors not going well? Same. Come see how I made a bad sander work! #diy #diyprojects #HomeImprovement #WoodFloors #AButterflyHouse
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5 Tips for Painting a Room

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:

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. Always Have Someone On the Ladder

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.

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2. Painting Around Windows? Don't Worry About Tape!
Painting a room can be so time consuming- check out this list of 5 tips that will make painting go faster and easier! #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #PaintingTips #DIY

Before scraping!

Painting a room can be so time consuming- check out this list of 5 tips that will make painting go faster and easier! #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #PaintingTips #DIY

After scraping!

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.

3. Like Your Shirt? Turn It Inside Out.

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!

4. Prime Trim at the Same Time as the Walls!

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.

Painting a room can be so time consuming- check out this list of 5 tips that will make painting go faster and easier! #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #PaintingTips #DIY
5. Know When To Splurge On Tools.

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.

Last Thoughts

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!

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Painting a room can be so time consuming- check out this list of 5 tips that will make painting go faster and easier! #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #PaintingTips #DIY

Removing Wallpaper Quickly | My Super Easy Method

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.

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo
This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

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.

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

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!

Prep Work

I started by putting plastic sheeting on the floor, for the singular reason of being able to do this at the end:

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

Easiest cleanup ever!

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:

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

Spoiler alert: This thing sucked.

What Didn't Work

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.

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

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:

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

See all those holes in a line? That's from the paper tiger.

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...

What Did Work
(aka, the Four Hour Method)

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)

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Step 1: Peel Off Top Layer

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.

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

The top layer came off super easily!

Step 2: Saturate the Paper Adhesive Layer with Solvent

I then took my spray bottle and saturated the remaining layer with solvent. 

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

The two pieces on the right have been sprayed with solvent, while the three pieces on the left have only had the top layer removed.

Step 3: Wait One Minute

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.

Step 4: Pull Off Paper Adhesive Layer

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.

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

The lower layer can also be removed in a big strip if fully saturated!

Step 5: Repeat Throughout Room!

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:

This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo
This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo
This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

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!

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This is such a great method for quickly and easily removing wallpaper from your wall, plus it requires no extra tools! #AButterflyHouse #Wallpaper #WallpaperRemoval #DIY #DIYProjects #HowTo

Budget Kitchen Remodel: How I Kept It Under $10,000

It is a really freeing feeling to be able to start a major remodel project with the knowledge that no matter what you do, no matter how much you screw up, you cannot make the room any worse than how it started. That was my kitchen.

There were no appliances, save a smelly dishwasher and some mini-fridge/toaster oven things I brought in so I wouldn't starve in the meantime. There was no hardware on any of the cabinetry, the drawers didn't operate smoothly, and the 1/2" plywood shelves in the cabinets were moldy and sagging. 

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

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!

The floor consisted of grey peel and stick tile, which I suppose matched the grey laminate countertops. The room was lit by a single light bulb screwed into the ceiling. No cover or anything. Just a light bulb. The overall atmosphere was dark and dull, and I could not imagine anyone wanting to spend a second in that room.

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

The kitchen needed help, obviously. And some new appliances. But here's the thing: I paid less than $100,000 for this house. Experts (aka, the internet) suggests you not pay more than 10-15% of the value of the house for a kitchen remodel. This house is in a small rural town in the Midwest; I am well aware that I am unlikely to recover remodel costs when I sell the house. Therefore, this remodel needed to be as inexpensive as possible. I was aiming for under $10,000, including appliances and cabinets.

That budget meant I was doing everything myself. The plan. The demolition. The installation. Running utilities. Everything. It took four months. 

The Plan

I started by drawing considering different layouts of the kitchen. The gas line led to the empty wall across from the sink, and a circuit labeled "fridge" supplied an outlet next to the gas line, so I suspect the prior owners kept the stove and fridge on that empty wall (see below!)

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

But as a kitchen layout goes, that seemed awful. No workspace or storage next to the stove. No counter space to put down things from the fridge. Need an oven mitt? Have fun running across the kitchen. Getting ingredients out of the fridge? Good luck finding a place to put them. I didn't want to move the gas line, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed inevitable.

After I'd drawn about 10 to-scale drawings on graph paper, I finally came up with a layout I could live with. I'd close up the door to the laundry room (and make a new door in the hallway,) line that wall with the stove and cabinets, and place the fridge to the left of the exterior door. See below.

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget
Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

The hand-drawn layout above is a top-down drawing of the base cabinets; I have a similar drawing for the wall cabinets. This was my final base cabinet drawing where I used Ikea cabinets. I have similar drawings with Home Depot's entry line of cabinets, but I ultimately went with Ikea due to the flexibility of choices. The Ikea cabinets were more expensive, but I was able to put drawers exactly where I wanted them, which seemed worth the trade-off.

Note that if you go with Ikea for cabinets, they offer a free in-home measuring service (well, the cost is deducted from your final total,) as well as free in-store consultations to help you plan your kitchen. I am an overconfident idiot who didn't want to drive 90 minutes into the store, so I didn't take them up on these offers, and instead ordered everything online. I missed things, like the rails needed to hang the cabinets and the toekick pieces and a few other things, and ended up driving into St. Louis to purchase them anyway. Don't make my mistakes. Take advantage of their free services.

After determining my layout, I waited a couple days before actually ordering the cabinets and appliances. This was to give me an opportunity to think of reasons this layout wouldn't work. For example, on day 2, I realized that there was a HVAC vent right where I wanted to put the stove. This is really obvious in the photograph I labeled above, but not so obvious if you're just looking at the paper drawn layout. As a result, I ordered a separate cook top and electric oven instead of a range combo so that there would be room for the air to vent. Also: don't forget about your doorway size. I didn't think of this at all, but got lucky that my 30 inch fridge fit through the 30 inch doorway.

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The Major Purchases

Finally (aka, about a week after I moved into the house,) I ordered the cabinets and appliances. I got the appliances from Lowes, and was able to hit their 4th of July appliance sale (40% off, plus $200 in rebates, plus an additional 10% off coupon that I had from changing my address.) The only thing was that I ordered an LG Suite of appliances that were special order only, so they didn't come in for a month and a half. This was actually fine, as it gave me time to demo the old kitchen and get the cabinets installed before the appliances arrived. 

If you're curious, I ordered this cooktop, this oven, this microwave, this fridge, and this dishwasher for a total of $3656 (which does not include the $200 rebate I received later.) I picked LG primarily because of the fridge: I only had 30 inches of space and this was one of the few french door refrigerators that was only 30 inches wide. If you're curious about how I feel about any of the appliances, feel free to ask in the comments!

As mentioned above, I got my cabinets from Ikea. I purchased during their big "kitchen event," which is basically a 15% rebate on your purchases. This was nice, in that when I returned to Ikea to purchase all the things I initially forgot, I was able to use my rebate instead of more money. However, I'm not actually convinced this is that great of a deal, because when I returned to Ikea after the kitchen event was over, a number of items were less expensive than when I priced them in July. I didn't go through and compare item by item, so this isn't scientific data by any means, but if you're considering a major purchase, maybe track prices for a while before you buy.

And just to be thorough, I ordered 14 cabinets and a sink from Ikea, which totaled $3095. That does not include the rebate, which I used primarily on accessories for cabinet installation (the rails and toekick pieces). I installed the cabinets myself; if you're curious about how that went, click here

The Prep

The cabinets took about three weeks to come in from the time I ordered them. While this seems annoying, it meant I had time to prep my kitchen for their arrival. Before the cabinets arrived I closed up the laundry room door/ opened a new doorway for the laundry room, installed a new electrical circuit (and ran the wire) for the electric oven, tore out the old cabinets and countertop, removed the peel and stick flooring from the floor, and installed a new plywood floor.

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

You'll note that I did not write a post on how to add a new circuit to your circuit breaker. That is because I am not at all qualified to be giving anyone serious electrical advice (although if you want some basics, click here.) I was super nervous that I was going to accidentally burn my house down, or electrocute myself, or something else dramatic (and if you do any of these things, I cannot be held responsible,) but guys, it was actually really not that hard. I did a bunch of research (I'm talking 4-5 hours worth) before I started, so I had a decent idea of what to do and what not to touch. It probably took me between 2 and 3 hours to actually run the wire, and most of that was spent wrangling the Romex into the right places.

The internet will tell you to hire someone. Maybe they're right. But my philosophy is that you'll never learn a new skill unless you take chances (make mistakes, and get messy!) 

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

For the record, the new electrical circuit I ran (the orange Romex on the left side of the photo) remained off until I connected the Romex to the oven.

The other thing I did before the cabinets arrived was move the gas line. I told you the electrical line was easy, right? Well, the gas line was not. Theoretically, gas lines are simple. Screw connecting pieces together until you end up where you want to be. It's a simple process. However, the stakes are high, and if you don't tighten the pipes enough, you'll have a gas leak, and then maybe your house will blow up*, and that seems bad.

*This sentence comes from the fear portion of my brain. My dad, a chemical engineer who spent the majority of his career at an industrial gas company, says that residential gas lines are barely pressurized at all, and it would take a leak in a basement at least a couple days to really be dangerous. I repeated this to myself throughout the entire project.

So, the throughout entire gas line project I was paranoid I would under-tighten the pipes. Therefore, I was thorough in my tightening. This was miserable. I am neither large nor strong. It took every ounce of effort I had to get those pipes tight enough. Mid-project, I promised myself that if there was a leak when I was done, I would hire someone to come fix it, because there was no way I was going to do this again. Lucky for me, when the gas company guy came out to turn on the gas after I was done, he assured me there were no leaks. Thank god.

The Installation

Once the cabinets arrived and were installed, things started picking up. I purchased and installed my butcherblock countertops. I got them from Menards for a couple reasons, the first being that Ikea doesn't seem to have the solid butcherblock selection that they used to. There wasn't any in stock when I was looking. Additionally, the Menards butcherblock is 1.5" thick, costing $160 for an 8 foot length. This is less expensive than Home Depot, Lowes, and Ikea, and for thicker countertop. 

I was able to purchase the countertops during Menards 11% rebate sale (which they seem to have pretty regularly,) and therefore got $50 back. However, the countertops went on sale for around $130 a piece a couple weeks later, which was a way better deal. Super frustrating, no?

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

The appliances arrived shortly after I got the countertops (and this awesome pull-out towel rack) installed. When I ordered them, I didn't think much about installation, other than "I'll install them." Big mistake. Installing appliances is an involved process. Who knew? The fridge had to be connected to the water line. The oven had to be hooked up to the electrical line. The cooktop had to be connected to the gas. The dishwasher had to be hooked up to water and to the drain line. The microwave had to be mounted. I pretty much needed a full day for each of these.

The Finishing Touches

I finally, finally, got to the part of the project I was actually comfortable completing. If you were thinking this whole time "Oh, Lindsay's handy, she knew how to do all of this; I could never do this." No. I had no idea what I was doing. I had never opened a wall before. I had never even changed an electrical outlet, let alone installed a circuit. I had never worked with any sort of pipe. I had never installed appliances. I had never done any of this. But I got through it. And finally, I got to do the pretty stuff, the things I had done before.

First up was the backsplash. The walls were weird, but whatever, I was so happy to be doing something I knew how to do I didn't care. I then created a mini-mudroom out of a corner of the room to help organize my primary entrance. Finally, I made a seating area out of the leftover butcherblock, which I was so, so excited to have!

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget
The Cost

I did the best I could to track every cost I had, but disclaimer here: there were probably a few small things that I bought in town that slipped through the radar (wood filler, the occasional 2x4, etc.) Additionally, all the costs below are pre-rebate. Regardless, here is my best estimate of the costs I incurred transforming my kitchen!

Project/Item
Cost

Appliances

$3656

$3095

$567

$263

Cabinet Hardware

$64

Electrical Circuit

$229

Kitchen Faucet

$206

$42

Appliance Installation Supplies

$65

Roman Window Shade

$29

Gas Line

$47

Cabinet Extension Project

$111

$62

Bar

$46

$33

$165

$82

Blinds

$17

Ceiling Light

$130

Light Above the Sink

$10

$25

$73

Total
$9017

I manged to come in almost $1000 dollars under budget, which is fantastic, especially since I wasn't tracking super closely during the project- I basically just threw all the receipts in a folder, and tried to limit my expenses as much as I could!

I am super, super excited to share the final reveal with you! Click on over to see it!

Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

Make sure you're following me on Pinterest and Instagram so you don't miss out on any other room remodels! I'll be sure to post about them!

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Need to remodel a kitchen on a budget? See how I completely DIY remodeled my kitchen, cabinets and appliances included, for under $10,000. #AButterflyHouse #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenRemodel #BeforeandAfter #DIY #DIYProjects #Budget

The Ultimate Guide to Harbor Freight

Important Note 1: This is NOT a sponsored post. I just think Harbor Freight can save you a bunch of money, and I wanted you to know!

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!

What is Harbor Freight?

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.

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The Basics

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're doing all your shopping at Home Depot and Lowes, you're wasting money. Come see how Harbor Freight can help you save, what you should be buying, and what tools you should avoid! #AButterflyHouse #savingmoney #powertools #tools #budget

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:

  • Freebie Coupons- Harbor Freight has a number of items that they offer "free with any purchase." And if you're thinking they're items nobody would want, think again. Even non-DIYers need tape measures and basic screwdrivers. 
  • % Off Coupons- Every Harbor Freight mailer typically has at least one 20% off a single item coupon. Occasionally I'll see 25% off coupons that are only good on a specific day. Unfortunately you can only use one of these coupons per purchase.
  • Item Coupons- These coupons give a specific item at a specific price.

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!

The Freebies
If you're doing all your shopping at Home Depot and Lowes, you're wasting money. Come see how Harbor Freight can help you save, what you should be buying, and what tools you should avoid! #AButterflyHouse #savingmoney #powertools #tools #budget

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.

  • Tape Measure- It's a tape measure. It works. I have no idea why anyone would ever purchase a tape measure when you can get this one for free.
  • 6 Pieces Screwdriver Set- Basic screwdrivers. I'm always losing screwdrivers. I feel a heck of a lot less sad about that when they're free.
  • 7 Function Digital Multimeter- A few years back my dad told me to pick this up as my freebie next time I was at Harbor Freight. I literally had no idea what it was or how to use it. Three years later, all I really know how to do with it is test my outlets for power, but that sole use has made the multimeter invaluable to me.
  • Microfiber Cloths- These things are super low quality microfiber, but they're free rags, so I still find them useful.
  • Electronic Fly Swatter- This is the only device I can actually manage to kill flies with. Super great. The only downside is it doesn't come with batteries, so you will have to purchase those.
  • Big Blue Flashlight- Harbor Freight actually has two freebie flashlights. I like the blue one better simply because it's bigger and it hangs!
  • 40" x 50" Moving Blanket- I use this as a dropcloth. I used to use the plastic blue tarps (also freebies,) however dried paint would flake off and make a mess, plus the plastic didn't fold easily. I therefore switched to the moving blankets, although they are a little smaller.
Items Worth Buying
If you're doing all your shopping at Home Depot and Lowes, you're wasting money. Come see how Harbor Freight can help you save, what you should be buying, and what tools you should avoid! #AButterflyHouse #savingmoney #powertools #tools #budget

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.

  • Pittsburgh 7 in. Rafter Angle Square- This is amazing. I’m not totally sure who or what exactly this is intended for (roofers is some capacity?) but for the average DIY-er, it’s great. I use it constantly to check if my angles are square, to make sure I’m drawing a perpendicular line, and when I need to draw an angle for a cut. Also, it’s a piece of plastic, so Harbor Freight couldn’t really screw it up. $4.
  • 10 pc Foam Brush Kit- Do not be fooled. These are crap. They will ultimately fall apart. But- they are super cheap, and will probably make it through an hour’s worth of staining. Which is exactly what you need them to do, and then you throw them out, because nobody ever wants to clean up stain or any other sort of oil-based product. In fact, cleaning the brushes is probably more expensive than the actual brush itself, because mineral spirits are way more pricy than these things.
  • Sandpaper Sponges- Harbor Freight sells a variety of different sizes and grits, so pick what works for your project. In general, these are awesome for getting into nooks and crannies that a sander wont be able to reach. Additionally, it’s nice to have something to hold on to, since I don’t own any sort of sanding block for hand sanding. Each one actually lasts a surprisingly long time, and I use them pretty frequently.
  • Clamps- They're cheap and they work. Why pay the big bucks when you can get something effective for less?
  • Sisal Rope- I used this to make my Farmhouse Doormat project, and it was perfect. It's hard to mess up rope.
  • Levels- If you're doing any project that requires leveling over a long distance (installing shelves or cabinets, for example), save yourself money and purchase your levels from Harbor Freight.
  • Hardwood Dolly- This is essential for anyone who purchases thrift store or yard sale furniture. As a single girl who is not inclined to ask for help, it was my secret to moving heavy pieces from the car into the house. Super useful.
  • Wire Strippers- This one is actually surprising, because wire strippers are easy to mess up. They need to be super precise to accurately strip wires of insulation without damaging the wire inside. Regardless, Harbor Freight has actually done a decent job with these wire strippers; they strip the wire quickly and effectively without any extra damage.
Items to Avoid

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.

  • Sandpaper: It seems great. Ten pieces, for around four dollars! Compared to Home Depot, where you pay more for half that amount, it seems like a bargain. And it’s sandpaper, right? What could go wrong? Everything. This stuff rips so easily that you will spend more time replacing the paper on your sander than you will actually sanding. I never went through and collected data to see which one was cheaper, but I would be willing to bet that the four sheets of higher quality Home Depot 3M Sandpaper will actually sand more of your project than the ten sheets of Harbor Freight Sandpaper would.
  • DrillMaster ¼ Sheet Orbital Palm Sander- Back when this still worked, I would sand. And sand. And sand. And even with a low grit number, it seemed like no progress was made. I knew some palm sanders worked, because in some of the wood shops I worked in, I would use nicer palm sanders and sanding would happen. So I sat around and wondered what was wrong with me and my projects at home, because clearly this sander shook a bit or something, so why was nothing sanding? I never quite figured it out, so one day, when this sander turned off mid-sanding and refused to turn back on, I went and got a nice sander (this one, actually) and never looked back. 
  • Batteries- The batteries at Harbor Freight are super cheap and therefore super tempting. Resist. I once bought (or got as a freebie) some AAA batteries to keep in my classroom for kids who needed them for their graphing calculators. The very first day I gave some out, they leaked in a calculator. That $100+ calculator never turned back on. Just say no.

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!

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How I Closed the Space Above My Cabinets

I've mentioned a couple times before how crazy my walls are, like when I opened a wall or tiled my backsplash. In summary, sometimes they're drywall, sometimes they're plaster, sometimes they're drywall on plaster- you never know. As a result, my walls look funny. They're wavy, joint compound is visible in weird spots, they change width randomly, things like that. Because of this, I was super excited about the idea of extending my cabinets to the ceiling. Less visible wall = prettier house.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

I was also super nervous about this project. It seems simple: cut up MDF and attach it above the cabinets. Done. But then there was the trim, and the caulk, and the paint, and it just seemed like so much work. So I procrastinated. For over a month, if you were wondering. 

But then it all worked out, because guess who appeared? My dad! I'd put a cape on him if I could, because he's kind of a hero in that I'm not sure this blog would exist without his long-distance DIY consultations. But for this project, I had him in person! The best part about this: he said if I closed up the area above the sink in this project, he could bring down electricity from the attic and add a recessed light! Win!

And so with that, we got started!

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

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The Cabinet Extension Project
Materials

- Two 4' x 8' pieces of MDF
- Eight pieces of 7 foot trim, two different types
- Caulk
- Six 1" x 2" furring strips
- Construction Adhesive
- Brad Nails
- Paint and Primer

Get Started!

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Step 1: Add Furring Strips Above Cabinets

The MDF pieces need to be secured to something. Since that something won't be seen, I used furring strips, AKA, the cheapest wood on the market. I attached the strips to the tops of the cabinets and the ceiling using construction adhesive and brad nails. Since the pieces were so light, I didn't worry about attaching them to the ceiling joists; the construction adhesive alone was more than enough to hold them up.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

I used a scrap piece of MDF to determine how far back to place the furring strips, and ensure the ceiling furring strips were aligned with the lower ones.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel
Step 2: (Optional) Configure Any Lighting

As mentioned above, my dad brought down electricity from the attic to power a recessed light over the sink. I'm not going to go into detail about how he did that, but if you have someone with the electrical skills to add lights for you, it's an awesome improvement!

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

The Romex wiring got hidden behind the MDF when I closed up the space, hence why the light had to be installed first!

Step 3: Cut and Attach MDF

I had Lowes cut my MDF pieces to be 12 1/2" x 8' long. While the distance between my cabinets and ceiling was 12 1/2" in some places, it was shorter in others, so in addition to cutting the MDF to the correct length using my miter saw, I also had to cut the pieces lengthwise so they fit between the cabinets and ceiling perfectly.

I used my circular saw to make the longer cuts. In order to make the cuts as accurate and straight as possible, I used this nifty jig developed by Kreg that helps keep my circular saw going in a perfectly straight line. I love it; if you don't have a table saw and regularly need to make long, accurate cuts with your circular saw, I highly recommend getting one.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

I attached the MDF to the furring strips with brad nails and construction adhesive. The weight of the MDF pieces was mostly held by the cabinets, so I didn't feel I needed to use screws to keep the pieces in place.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

For the space over the corner cabinets, I installed the MDF on either side first. I did not bevel those cuts, instead cutting them as normal.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

Then I cut a piece to fit the space left. This piece had a 45 degree bevel on each end.

Step 4: Add Trim

I added trim on both the top and bottom of the MDF pieces in order to hide any gaps resulting from the fact my ceiling wasn't perfectly level. I secured the pieces with construction adhesive and brad nails.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel
Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

If your corners aren't perfect, don't fret. You'll add caulk on the next step, which hides any gaps, and does a great job of making work look professional.

Step 5: Caulk All Gaps

Caulk is like my secret super power. Suddenly projects that were looking a little wonky look 100% better after caulk is added to any gaps. On this project, I went through and added caulk to all corners, the space in between the trim and MDF, and anywhere else I could see a gap. It makes everything so much better, so if you were thinking of skipping this step, don't!

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

I also added wood filler to any holes created by the brad nails so that they wouldn't be visible after painting.

Step 6: Prime and Paint

Something to know about MDF: it is thirsty! I think this is some snazzy slang term used by high schoolers, but what I actually mean by it is that the MDF will quickly soak up any paint you add. If you paint the MDF without priming first, you will need 4-5 coats. Because of this, I highly recommend priming before you add any paint. I did two coats of Zinsser Primer before painting.

Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel
Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel

I am so excited that this is done! Plus, I absolutely love the light above the sink! If you think this is cool too, go ahead and save this post to Pinterest so you can find it later!

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Ever wanted to make your kitchen seem taller and classier? See this complete tutorial on how to close up the area above your kitchen cabinets! #DIY #DIYProjects #HomeImprovement #Kitchen #KitchenProjects #KitchenRemodel
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