Friday, September 26, 2014

Easy to Check-Off #1: Light Switches

My name is Amy, I am a type A personality, and I am an (almost) obsessive list maker.  Really though, it's not making the list that I like, instead it's checking things off the list.  I love finishing a task and getting to cross it out.  It's so bad that when I make a list, I have been known to put things on the list that I have already finished, just so that I can cross them off.  That's how you know you are in type A Crazy Town by the way.  Anyone with me?

Well, when it comes to my home to-do list, the items on my list are of all shapes and sizes.  Some will take months and a lot of cash, and others are quick and easy.  The first (long term) are those projects that you are really excited about for a long time after they are done, and the second kind are ones that are just nice to knock out.  Because you can.  Now.  (Hear the type A yet?)  So, we'll see if this turns into a recurring thing on the blog, but for now, I'm thinking through a few "Easy to Check-Off" projects that take very little time, and hopefully not too much cash. 

First up on the list- upgrading light switches.  Ok, stick with me here.  Just remember, "easy to check off", not "super life changing". :)

This was one on my list because our light switches were a bit of an eyesore.  They were that yellow plastic that someone had unsuccessfully painted, and half of the switch plates did not match the rest.  Did my husband notice?  No (not a type A).  Did I?  Oh yes.  

Ready for this ugly show?  Brace yourself.  (Que unnecessary dramatic music)


And the grossest of them all- the dining room dimmer switch:

For about $80, we were able to upgrade all the switches in our house with the nice flat rocker switches and new plates.  A big chunk of that cost was the dimmer switch, but I just couldn't leave it in it's ugliness. So, now they look something like this:


This is one of those updates that people probably won't notice, but it helps to create a nice clean look. 

I won't go into detail about how to wire them, as I am no home wiring expert, but we basically just cut the power, and hooked up the old switches the way the old ones were.  

I will say to make sure you take good notes before you head to the store about which are on/off switches, which are 3-way switches (which they sell in odd numbers... haven't figured that one out yet) or dimmers, and which have multiple switches on one plate, if you decide to change the switch/plate combo entirely like we did.   

We finished all of the switches upstairs in about an hour and a half, so not too much time invested there.  Most importantly, it is off the list! ;)

Any easy upgrades that you have crossed of the list?  Any of those 'why didn't I do it sooner' moments?

Have fun!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Page Added to the Blog

Hi Friends!

This is just a quick post to call out the new page I added to the blog.  You should see a tab at the top called "Our House".  Going to this page will give you a list of the projects we have done in our house so far, listed room by room.  This page will be updated regularly, so you can always look here if you are having trouble finding a particular post, this will hopefully make it easy for you!

Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Painting Woes

I think I have mentioned before on the blog that I received some really good advice from a very thrifty coworker regarding paint: buy the best paint you can afford.  There are ways to save money when decorating your home, but paint is not the place to be cheap.  Let me explain why I subscribe to this theory.

We moved into our house about 3 years ago, and the walls were butter yellow.  Fine for the look the previous homeowners were going for, but not my style.  So, before we even moved in a friend and I painted the main area of the house.  The only problem was, after going through the process of buying the house, I was not in the mood to spend more money!  I bought the cheapest paint that I could, reasoning that I would probably change my mind in a few years anyway (my childhood room was painted something like 5 times in my 20 years there), so did it really matter?  

It mattered the first time I tried to clean a spot off the wall.... and wiped off the paint.  I painted with the right finish (eggshell), which meant that it should have been ok to clean.  Then it started chipping and peeling away every time something would rest against it, even something light like a picture frame.  The last straw was this week when i came home to find a wreath, which was hung with a 3M hook, laying on the floor.  The hook was fine... the paint had peeled away from the wall!  This particular wreath was a gift specially made for me, in the best colors on earth- maroon and orange- because I love my Virginia Tech Hokies.  Now I am entering football season without proper team swag, which is truly unacceptable.  (Go Hokies!)

Here's the thing- three years later, I still like my paint color.  Go figure, the one time I'm not sick of it, and it falls off the walls on it's own!  Whether I like it or not, fresh paint is in my future.  

Since I have to paint anyway, I am taking the opportunity to tweak the colors just a little bit.   Why change if I like the colors?  It's not a big change, but it will help tie in the other colors in the house.  I have been reading lately about using a consistent color palate throughout the whole house, so I'm trying to give that a go.

Ok, let's cut the chatting and get down to some before and after photos, shall we?

In my house, the living room, entryway and main hallway are all connected, so they all get the same paint scheme.  I used two colors just to break it up.  Here's how it looked:



On the cards, here are the colors:
Before (I don't think the actual paint was Valspar):

Lyndhurst Castle Sand  Summerhouse Blue
Benjamin Moore Gray Owl and Colorado Gray

As you can see, it's not a huge change, but I think it works a lot better. After a long discussion with the sales rep, I went with Benjamin Moore's 'Ben' line of paint, and even though it is one of their less expensive options (remember, most expensive paint you can afford at the time, not most expensive in existence!), it looks really nice and I have already successfully cleaned a spot off the wall!  It did feel a little thinner than I am used to, and I was a little surprised that I needed 2 coats, so I am not sure sure how it would do with a really bold color.  The final product does look really nice!  Side note: I have also had good success in other rooms with Behr's Premium Plus Ultra paint.

I know I skipped right to the "after" photos, but here are a few tips to deal with less-than-high-quality paint:

- Your first step should be to wipe down the walls to make sure you have removed any dirt or oil- and this time, who cares if you rub the old paint off! :)

- Before you paint your new color on, lightly sand the walls in any place where you see bumps, drips, or chips in the old paint.  If the chips are deep, fill them now.  I used lightweight spackling to do this, although you may need something different if you have large areas to repair.

- Prime the walls with a good primer, focusing on any chipped areas to make sure you have 'sealed' them off. 

-I'm sure most of you know this, but if you have areas with high ceilings, you may not need a special pole to attach to your roller handle- most brooms and mops have a removable pole that will fit your roller. 

swiffer mop to the rescue!

- For what it's worth, I like using this tool for my edging, which saves me from taping.  There's definitely a learning curve to this thing, because if you dunk it in the paint the wrong way it will make more of a mess, but once you get the idea down, it is a definite time saver.

Total cost for this project: ~$80 for paint and supplies
Total time for this project: 8 hours plus drying time  

The kitchen is the next room on the list for paint (it was also painted with the bad paint), and it will be a more dramatic change, so stay tuned!