Stair Recap

So it's been brought to my attention that the pictures I posted in the Stair Reveal look green. My stairs aren't green! Promise!! So I took more pictures in broad daylight.  But I figure if I'm going to post more photos, I might as well give you one easily referenceable (it's a word!) post about how I took this:

And turned it into this:

For 200$ ish. Minus the baseboards- but I'd say that probably only added about 20$ to the total materials bill.

So- first things first. As you can see in those horrific "before" photos, the stairs were covered in lino on the risers and treads, and the stringers were covered in carpet. Gross. So the first order of business was to tear off the carpet, and then the lino.

As you can see, both came up relatively easily- thank heavens. The most painful part of the tear down was pulling all the staples from the carpet out of the stringers. We also ripped up all the "baseboards". Which left us with this beauty:

There is a bit of lino left there because there was some tacky residue left behind on the stairs and it was like walking on human flypaper- and that made getting up the stairs rather unpleasant. Next step was fixing the nosings edges, as our stairs were builder-grade and meant to be carpeted. Which means they were built out of several layers of press board and had no smooth edges. So we went to Home Depot and gathered our supplies. We ended up returning with this:

A gallon bucket, a roll of dry sheathing, a 3L jug of white glue, hemlock trim, two dollar store paintbrushes, a caulking gun, PL400 construction ashiesive, paintable caulk (not pictured), brown caulk (not pictured), 1" smooth finishing nails, a roll of paintable wall liner (not pictured), a can of MinWax wood stain in Special Walnut, and a can of MinWax Oil-Modified Waterbased Polyurethane in Satin.  That's it- that's ALL we used on the stairs except for paint. And baseboard, but that was another project.

So first things first- we used the hemlock trim to rectify the gross edges of the nosings. We'd determined prior to visiting Home Depot that we needed 1.5" wide trim, so all we needed to do was cut it to length,  pre-nail some finishing nails, apply some construction adhesive to the back, and nail it into place. Which gave us this:

As you can clearly see- the top tread in that picture has yet to receive it's new face, and the bottom one had the trim applied. It made such a difference in the look of the stairs already, covering those nasty edges. Having now finished the stairs I can confidently say that I am extremely glad we didn't skip this step! Our stairs have such a nice clean profile to them because of that trim- the whole look would be ruined without it.

Next it was on to applying the paper. This wasn't difficult, although hindsight is 20/20 and having done it once if I were to do it again I'd take a lot more care in applying the paper. Just make sure there's no holes, it's well adhered to the tread, and it's as smooth as you can get it.  We followed the basic instructions given by Rachael of Lovely Crafty Home. All this step required was to rip the dry sheathing into chunks the night before (really helpful on stairs where you don't want to be hauling a big bolt of paper up and down), and to mix a 3 to 1 solution of water to white glue in the big bucket.

I apologize, I don't have any actions shots of this happening- glue filled hands and cameras don't mix. But there is no technique to this- just a method. Working down the staircase, and ever other tread (again so you can get up/down the stairs while it dries, and it's a lot easier to wrap the nosings if you can see under them) grab a chunk of balled up paper, dunk it in the glue mix, squeeze it out, and then smooth it on to tread. Use your dollar store paint brush to add more glue mixture and help you smooth. Try and get straight edged pieces from the edges of the roll along the back of your riser and the sides of your stringers, and marry them as closely as possible. If you're lucky and do this very carefully you can probably avoid the issue we had with a gap- but I'll discuss how we dealt with that later. Wrap large pieces around from the top of your tread to the underside of the nosing, and make sure it's well stuck. It doesn't matter how pretty the underside of your nosing is- nobody ever sees them. And once you've let them dry for a good 12 hours you're left with this:

Ah. I can't tell you the relief I felt when the paper was down and looked good!! So happy!! At this point we took a break from the stairs to paint the walls. The paper held up incredibly well to this, but we did end up tearing it in a few places. We went wrong in our attempt to fix these spots- what we should have done (again with the 20/20 hindsight!) was stain stairs first, including the areas where the paper was curling up, and THEN glued them back down. However we didn't- we tried to glue them down first with straight glue. Which resulted in the stain not adhering to the patches.

Applying the stain was easy- we used one of the dollar store brushes we'd used for the glueing to swirl the stain on. Remember- this isn't wood. There's no grain. So a circular motion seemed to give us the best coverage and colour distribution. The Lovely Crafty Home guide states that the stain never really absorbs into the paper, however I think we used a different paper than she did- our stain dried. We ended up putting two coats on our paper to get the depth of colour we wanted. Once dry we  decided to camouflage the areas that weren't accepting stain by stippling on some Raw Umber Folkart acrylic paint (procured from Michaels). At first I was really worried- it seemed incredibly obvious to me. However once it'd dried it was already blending together well, and the poly removed the only thing you could notice: the different sheen.

Poly was the final step for the treads! So simple a child could do it- simply stir up the poly, and paint a thin coat on the treads and around the nosings. Once again working every second stair if you need to get up or down them, however the MinWax Oil-Modified Waterbased Poly we used has a drying time of 2 hours- and they really are completely dry once that's up. So if you can lock yourself out of your upper floor for two hours, save the time and poly every stair! We did 3 coats before starting in on painting the stringers, risers, and installing the baseboards- but I'm slowly working up to putting 12 coats of poly on in total. At the time of writing this, I'm halfway there at 6.

The stringers were filled and primed (due to a few big knots) before being painted. The risers had glue left over from the lino that refused to be moved (apparently a different kind than was used on the treads.) It was bumpy and uneven, so we spackled the risers leading from the main floor, but left the rest as it was a big time suck and those are the only risers anyone's going to stand staring at. Then we covered them all in this stuff:

Paintable flat wallpaper! At just under eighteen dollars a roll it was by far the cheapest option, with the easiest instal. I simply measured the height of the riser, cut an overly long length of paper, measured the height on to it, cut it out, dry fit it, and then used wallpaper adhesive to glue it in tight. The excess length I trimmed using an xacto knife.

 Once that had dried I was still left with a bit of a gap between the paper and the stringers (one can only get so precise when freehanding with an xacto knife!) so I turned to my old buddy paintable caulk and filled the gap before painting the paper and the stringers in Kilz Pro-X untinted semi-gloss.

On the left you can see the gap left between the primed stringer and the wallpaper, and on the right you can see how nicely the paintable caulk hides my mess! So once all the extraneous elements were painted out in matching white, all that was left was the afore-mentioned gap between the papered treads and the stringers and risers. Remember how I said I wish we'd taken a bit more care when putting down the paper? This is why.

See the top? We couldn't get a clean edge while painting because we weren't careful about putting straight edge pieces tight against the stringers and risers. We fixed it by taping off the painted areas and using exterior brown caulking to fill it in. CAREFUL! Exterior caulk is not water-based, nor is it water clean up. I ended up having to run to Home Depot to get some special cleaner to get this stuff off my Mom's hands. It also helped to tap the still-damp caulk into place when it pulled away with the tap a tad. Again- I was really worried about how obvious it seemed until I waited for it to be dry and lightly sanded each tread with ultra fine grit sandpaper and then applied another coat of poly. It's amazing how everything blends together when it has the same sheen to it!

I was finally done! Here's a few pictures of the finished product:

That last photo shows you a close up of the finished tread treatment- including areas with the raw umber paint patch and brown caulk. Can't tell can you?! And just as a reminder where we started:

Pretty big improvement- don't you think?! Everyone whose walked into the house since the update has been floored (pun completely intended!) by the transformation. And for a little over 200$  and a can of paint? Not half bad if I do say so myself!

I hope I've inspired you to try a creative solution to something in your house that's bugging you. And if anyone has any questions about the process or wants more information- please don't hesitate to ask in the comments! I'm more than willing to help!


Mirror Mirror On the Wall

Something I've been kind of gaga over for a bit now is railroaded stripes. I know they're all over Pinterest and the rest of the internet, but I've had a thing for them long before Pinterest came on my radar. Pinterest just re-affirmed to me my good taste ;)

I've never done horizontal stripes before though, and I was terrified to do it wrong. Math and measurement are not my forte. You know that pin that says "This is how I see math word problems: If I have four apples and you have six oranges how many pancakes will fit on the roof? 10 because aliens don't wear hats."? That's me. So my original plan was to do stripes when my Mom was here in a small area so they wouldn't be to time consuming. This was my inspiration:

Via Remodelaholic
Via BetterHomes
My entryway would have been perfect for stripes. See?

That back wall was screaming for some interest. However- I have a bit of a thing about entryways: they NEED a mirror. Nothing bothers me more than standing in an entryway needing to check my makeup (I swear I'm not as high maintenance as that makes me sound) and having nowhere to do so. Entries and exists need mirrors! And I have another bit of a thing: I hate it when people hang something on a wall with stripes. I don't like my stripes interrupted. The stripes themselves to me are the artwork for that wall. So together that kind of put the kibosh on my striped wall- because there is nowhere else in that entry for a mirror. The wall you can't see that faces the front door there is a big double closet- so that wasn't going to work out.

PINTEREST TO THE RESCUE!! I know, I don't seem to have an original idea in my head do I? But I adore looking at Pinterest, and while a lot of the things I pin are just for inspiration or cause I like the look but will never actually use- sometimes I strike upon a gem that I can feel in my bones NEEDS to happen in my house! (Like the brown paper flooring.) And this was one of them.

Via ApartmentTherapy
This is apparently an image from InStyle Magazine February 2008, featured on ApartmentTherapy. I've just recently started following Apartment Therapy on a regular basis (thanks to Flipboard on my iPhone), and in February 2008 I was living in Toronto working as a part-time babysitter and full time student. Were it not for Pinterest I would NEVER have found this image. But as soon as I saw it I knew it- THIS was the solution for my entryway!!

And when things are meant to be, they're meant to be. Once my Mom and I had painted the entryway and livingroom I was describing my plan to her over tea and perusing the flyers for that week- and I saw that XSCargo (like an overstock store) had full-length mirrors on sale. And upon measuring the wall and referencing the measurements in the ad- they were the same! Hallelujah!!

Unfortunately, we didn't get to XSCargo (to much other stuff going on- baseboards, staining stairs, HomeSense shopping, etc.) until the next week- at which point they were OFF sale- however, I still walked out of there with 5 of these babies for 7.50$ a piece. So 37.50$ for them all! (I used a calculator for that, don't worry.)

So I gleefully brought them home, ripped the little cardboard corners off, and attempted to put one in. PROBLEM! XSCargo lied! (Shocking, I know- you should be able to trust the measurements given in a discount overstock store's flyer!) The mirrors turned out to in fact be 1/2 an inch bigger than the space I wanted them to fit. But again- my mother was there with words of wisdom: "Just sand them down!"

So I did! This was not a pleasant process however- those frames, though they look like wood- are some kind of plastic. They DID sand down relatively easily, however they produced a buttload of dust and were difficult to keep stable. Slowly but surely, I sanded each one down a quarter of an inch on either short end. I figured it doesn't matter if the ends aren't finished- they'll be butting up against the wall.

So once that very tedious job was over (if you decide to attempt this please wear protective eyewear and a mask! You don't want to inhale plastic dust!) I wiped them all down (see comment re: dust) and got to installing! Well- after I'd loudly yelled through the house "HUBS! I need you to come measure and do math for me!" and had Hubsbeast measure the height of the wall, measure the width of the mirrors, and divide it up for me.

I just attached the mirrors to the wall using 3M picture hanging strips. The small (or they call them medium- I've never actually seen smaller ones) size. Two on the upper side, one in the middle on the bottom- just like the package says. (EDIT: about a week after installing the mirrors, they all came crashing down. 3M strips were not enough! The top mirror broke, so I had to buy a replacement and sand it down again, and this time installed them with 3M Heavy-Duty 2lb per inch velcro. Between the 5 mirrors I used the entire roll- which I cut up into 1 inch squares. They are now firmly up there!) Then Hubs helped support the mirror while I lined up the bottom with my marks on the wall, and pushed in when I told him. I then touched up the paint on the wall and the trim that I destroyed while shoving the mirrors in. DONE!

I love it!! It does exactly what I wanted it to: add interest to the small space, add a bit of drama, and give me a mirror (in multiple) by that door! Every time I walk by it I can't help looking at it. It also has the unintended but very nice effect that if I'm standing in the living room looking at myself, one of the gaps hits exactly at my torso. Fat day friendly!!

Now I just need to instal a door stop to keep the doorknob from going THROUGH my beautiful new mirrors, and my chrome treebranch coat tree I got from Zone a few years ago and the front entrance will be finished! And I'll still get my railroaded painted stripes at some point. I'm thinking maybe in the mud room by the back entrance...


Affordable Bay Window Curtain Rod

Before my Mama left she helped me dress the window in the livingroom she helped me transform. Although I'm not sure I ever showed you my new livingroom!! Here it is- before we did the windows. Note the new baseboards and the beautiful new gray walls. I still haven't put anything up yet on the walls, and we need a chair in here- but the hard elements are there!!

Pretty isn't it?! I don't really have a proper before picture- before I knew it we'd pulled the room apart and it was being transformed. But here's a snapshot I took the night we moved in:

Peach walls, awful floral drapes, mini blinds that I'm pretty sure had been chewed by the previous owners dogs, and our stuff scattered around. By time my Mom got there I'd gotten the boxes unpacked and my stuff sorted out- but the rest was pretty much the same.

Something that's always bugged me was undressed windows. I never understood it when my friends moved into a new rental and refused to put up curtains or blinds- to me, my own window dressings were one of the things that turned somewhere into mine. And now that the rest of the room was all prettied up there was no way I was putting those grody mini blinds and floral curtains back up. But have you ever priced out curtain rods for a bay window?! Spensive!

A while ago I found this tutorial via Pinterest on how to make a curtain rod with EMT conduit. After looking at it my Mom was pretty sure we could modify it to create a bay window rod- so we went to Home Depot to collect our supplies! It cost us approximately 55$, however the lowest- priced bay window rod I could find was 80$, and I wasn't fond of the style.

We followed the tutorial exactly, except that in the corners we cut two dowels at a 22.5 degree angle (because that's the angle of my bay- your milage may vary) and glued them together. So instead of finials, we had the dowels bridging the gap. For the finials we took two knobs off my kitchen drawers (which are getting new hardware when we redo the kitchen). We then sprayed the whole shebang with Krylon spray paint in Steel. Then we put it up! You can't even see the dowel corners because the curtains cover it. Voila!

Pretty good eh? The red grommet- top curtains are from Bouclair, and so are the faux-wood chocolate blinds we put in the windows. (Bouclair will cut your blinds to size for you for free!)

I love my new curtains and blinds!! I think they really bring the whole space together. Now I just need to get around to putting something on the walls!


Stair Reveal!!

They're DONE!!!

We finally did it! We got them done!! Just three hours before I had to drop my Mommy off at the airport for her to fly home :( I'm going to miss her so much- there's no way I could have ever done this without her and it was so great to have her here to troubleshoot and share the workload and even just chat with while we worked. I felt really badly that we were working until the 11th hour, but I treated her to a gel manicure afterwards so hopefully she'll forgive me.

So last time I told you about the stairs we'd just papered them. And then we took a break from them to paint and do baseboards. Well- I say "we" lightly. I was a support trade- my Mom did almost all the painting, and she did the bulk of the baseboard cuts since my proficiency with a mitre saw was nil. I ran around getting pencils and remembering numbers and doing what I could to try and help it go smoothly.

So once all that was done we finally got around to staining the stairs. First we tried to fix some spots that got a bit ripped up while we did the walls.

The stairs with patches on them. 
Hard learned lesson: straight glue does not absorb stain. We tried to glue some patches down with straight white glue- which worked- but then when we stained the patches were painfully obvious, because the stain wouldn't absorb. I'll admit it: there's no pictures because I was freaking out- it's not something I wanted commemorated. But once again my Mom came to the rescue: she suggested that if we stippled on some acrylic paint in a similar colour nobody would be the wiser. So we stopped at Michaels and picked up some Folkart paint in Raw Umber and stippled it on. You really can't tell. Crisis averted.

Stained stairs with paint used to blend in some of the patches. Can you tell where?

The stain was applied using one of the dollar store brushes we used to apply the glue and paper in the first place. Once it was on and looking even we went ahead and applied 3 coats of poly. We used the MinWax Oil-Modified Waterbased Poly- and it's working really well. It doesn't smell bad and it's super easy to clean up.

Once that was done my Mom primed the stringers on the stairs. We opted to prime them first because they were full of uneven bits and knots- and even with them sanded down to bare wood and the holes filled we were worried they'd bleed through. So she primed while I painted trim in the livingroom.

Then it was on with the baseboards and the risers!! Mom attached baseboard while I cut and attached paintable wallpaper to plywood risers.

While looking for riser options we considered getting panelling and cutting it to size- but it was expensive!! 30$ for one sheet that would only get us four risers. And we'd need a saw to cut it. Then I remembered seeing a post on Pinterest about how someone had used textured paintable wallpaper to cover up their risers. I loved the idea, but Hubs is what some would call stringent in his desire for no "frillies". And something told me that no matter how much I liked the look of it, if I put herringbone or damask on the risers he'd have my head. But! I found this:

It's flat wallpaper that is meant to go over paneling! How great is that?! But I discovered that installing wallpaper on risers is not the same as installing it on the wall. Even though the paper is pre-glued, it was impossible to use it that way because the paper because very floppy and impossible to work with at the angle I was trying to work at. So I instead opted to use wallpaper paste in a bucket.

My basic method was measure; measure; cut; dryfit and trim; paste in place. First I measured the height of the riser and subtracted an eighth of an inch to give myself some wiggle room. I'm going to say it one more time: nobody stares under your stair nosings! (That said- if I know you in real life and I find you with your head under my stair nosings we will have words!) I then measured a line on the paper and marked it with a pencil lightly. I cut that out with scissors- I was able to get three risers per wallpaper width. I then popped the length in and dry fit it in place. This gave me a bit of overhang on each end, which I pushed into the corner with my putty knife and then trimmed it with an xacto knife. Once I was happy with the fit I just pulled out half the paper, pasted behind it, fit it back in place, and then did the other side. In!

Except that no matter how nicely I trimmed the paper, there was still a gap at either end.

No matter. That's what paintable caulk was invented for. A little in the corners and we were good to go!

Finally- we could paint it all! Two coats of Kilz Pro-X untinted semi-glass paint later we were ALMOST done!! (I know- these things don't seem like they'll ever die, do they?) The truth of the matter is that 99% of our efforts on these stairs were because we did NOT have paint-grade anything on the stairs. So we spent untold amounts of time just getting up to the point where we could paint!

Last step: caulk. There was a gap between the stringers and the paper treatment- and no matter what we did we couldn't close it. When the paper dries, it shrinks. So we decided the best solution would be caulk. They sell brown caulk for windows and doors at Home Depot- so we got a tube of that.

Much better. And once the additional coats of poly are on and the sheen is the same- you can't even tell. After I dropped my Mommy off at the airport (and cried all the way home! I may be 24- but I still need my Mommy!!) I came home and pulled all the tape off, sanded down all the stairs very lightly, and put on another coat of poly.

Ready? You're going to lay an egg when you see the difference.

Can you believe they're even the same stairs?!

Isn't the difference incredible?! I have blog worthy stairs!! No more lino and carpet!! I can't believe we got it done- but we did! And they look fantastic if I do say so myself. What do you think?! A big thank you again to my Mommy- I couldn't have done it without her and I'd have torn my hair out even attempting it. I'm going to miss her so so much! Christmas can't come fast enough.


Wax on, Wax off.

So many people are asking for an update on the stairs. It's coming! I promise. They're so so close to being finished- but they're just not quite there yet. So in the meantime I'm going to tell you about a little thing I discovered at Home Depot the other day- Fill Sticks.

I've recently been toying with the idea of ousting the first piece of furniture I ever bought myself- my Ikea coffee table. From what I can tell they no longer sell the model- but I did/do love it- it's basically a big chunky box with a glass top, and the ends pull out to reveal drawers. I bought it for 150$ and it saved my butt in my tiny 385 sq. ft. apartment- I refused to buy anything that didn't have built in storage.

And while I still love the functionality of it- let's face it- Ikea furniture was not made to be moved twice, once across the country. My basic rule with Ikea furniture is that I won't buy it unless I'm okay with leaving it behind when we move, or it can be easily moved without being dismantled- our Expedit media unit got left behind for my cousin when we left our apartment for that very reason. My little Ikea coffee table was beginning to show it's age.

Every edge on it was worn away. We are not of the "keep your feet off the table" variety- we plunk our tootsies on the table while watching TV, doing homework while I was in school (I cannot work at a desk!), or drinking a beer. And you could really tell. I'm all for the distressed look in some places- but the clean lines of this table do not lend themselves to shabby chic.

So I'd begun to keep my eyes out for a replacement. To be totally honest, the proportions of this coffee table are to small for this room- I'd like something bigger. But I'm not prepared to give up my storage so the right coffee table really needs to come along.

Then while at Home Depot I discovered something called a Fill Stick. It's basically coloured furniture wax in a crayon. It looks like this:

I bought one in black- thinking that I could extend the life of the table a bit by improving on it's look. It was worth a shot and the 7$. The application is really easy- just rub it on the spot you want to camouflage, and then wipe off the excess with a tissue. That's all! And what a difference it made!

It made it look brand new!! No more worn edges!!  The upper edges were pretty bad- but the drawer corners were even worse. But look at the difference!

That's the exact same corner, just rubbed over with fill stick. Great isn't it?

So for 7$ I've managed to give my little Ikea coffee table new life- at least till I find something bigger and better- at which point it'll get retired into the basement and Hubsbeast's man cave.

Next post will be about how my Mom made me a custom bay window curtain rod, and hung my living room drapes! Then the stair reveal!


Gimme that Base!

Sunday was a grueling day- but an extremely productive one. Mama and I rented a miter saw from Home Depot (I swear I'm not sponsored by them- there just happens to be one down the street and so far Rona hasn't given me the products or the service I need to make the extra 10 minute drive. A Lowes is opening up 2 minutes away from the house in October- so we'll see then if my preferences change.)

We cut baseboards. All. Day.

The baseboards themselves we bought earlier in the week while they were on sale- 45 cents a linear foot down from 75 cents! Booyah! They were exactly what we wanted and since we had a LARGE set of interconnected areas to do- we struck while the iron was hot. We'll buy the same ones for the rest of the house as we do those rooms.

The saw rental was supposed to be 36$ for the day, but there was a mixup and we ended up getting it for 24$ for 24 hours- worth every penny! We actually started cutting around 1pm on Sunday, and finished at 9pm- eight hours of cutting. It felt like forever.

I can't take much credit- I have the math skills of a gnat, and that makes doing anything more complicated than 45 or 22.5 degree cuts extremely challenging. My talented Mama figured out all the annoying cuts for the stairs- it was like a very annoying jigsaw puzzle. Don't ask me how she did it cause I have no idea. All I know is that if I ever need the baseboards replaced on stairs again- we're hiring a pro. Not that my Mom didn't do a good job- she did an amazing job! It was just so time consuming and exhausting.

So we got all the cuts done in our 24 hours! Yay!! For a reminder- this is what we started with:

The only thing that remains of that photo is the stair railing. The paint colour is gone, the ugly lino is gone (I bet you can't wait to see what's there to replace it!) and the horrible unfinished window casing being used as baseboard is gone. ALL GONE!

But I'm not going to show you the stairs yet because they're not QUITE finished and I want to do a big reveal when they are. So instead I show you the wall where I will eventually instal an electric fireplace:

Ignore the white patch on the left- we had to cover up a boo boo there. It'll get paint when we do touch ups.

Aren't they gorgeous!? Now THAT is baseboard! Today we pre-painted the pieces using our Semi-Gloss Kilz Pro-X paint, then pre-drilled most of the way through and installed into the studs with 1.5 inch finishing nails. Then we patched the holes with drywall compound and caulked the edges with AlexPlus paintable caulking in bright white. They still need to be painted to cover the nails- but they're IN! I can't believe it- on Sunday I never thought we'd get them done- and now they're installed!!

I'm beside myself I'm so happy. There were three big things we hated about this house (obviously not enough to not buy it- but still rather large things): the back yard, the baseboards, and the stairs. By the end of this week one of those will be completely off the list- and the other- the baseboards- will be well on it's way out as well! Hubsbeast is working slowly on the back yard- it's his project, not mine.

AH! So happy that the craptastic trim is gone!! Next time I post it'll be about staining and polying the stairs.

So what do you think? Improvement?