Friday, May 22, 2015

Project Sundays 5-10 & 5-17-15


Now that we've finally got that railing out of the way, it's time to start on our next project, which is to fix up the two raised garden-beds in the front of the house. And by "fix", I mean "completely re-do from scratch". You see, the previous owner of the house left us this:

A friend of mine described it as "A masterpiece. No finer landscaping has ever been done..." So yeah, we had to start from scratch. The first step was to sit down and get very overwhelmed. We've never done any real landscaping before, and this is sort of a big project to take on. We found some tutorials and a youtube video, and decided that it was time to get started. We decided to start on just the left side and see how it went before committing to doing the entire yard. Also, the left side was a lot worse, and needed fixing more desperately.

I yanked out that ugly-ass plastic liner and chopped it up with a sawzall so that I could throw it out. Then it was time for the daunting task of removing every single one of the pavers that were already in the ground. We saved them all, of course, and we'll reuse them when we're ready to re-build the wall.

After everything was neatly stacked on the porch, it was time to start digging. At this point, we took a break and went to the hardware store (a pattern in our lives) to pick up some supplies. We got some marking paint, pea-gravel and landscaping cloth. When we got home, we marked out the line where that we wanted to dig to, and then... then it started raining. 

We got a little bit of trenching done, but the ground was getting muddy and gross. So uh, we took another break. But it was a productive break, we went down into the basement and did a lot of demo work. Some previous owner had put up some really shitty studding, that at this point, wasn't even holding anything up anymore. Our house flooded last summer, and I guess the ugly paneling that was in the basement had to get ripped down, so all we were left with were these weird studs. We spent a couple of hours with a friend ripping down the studs and removing the falling drop-ceiling tiles. It was a productive afternoon, and we got a lot done.

At this point, we left to go back to the apartment and get cleaned up. It was Mother's Day, and we were taking our moms out to a fancy-ass dinner. Okay, we went for pizza, but everyone had a good time and it was a lot of fun.



We started out strong this weekend! We got to the house and worked on finishing up the trench for the left garden bed. We were going to dig down to about 2-3", but got a bit carried away, and dug to about 4-5" instead. But I've been told that this is good, as you want your first course of bricks in a retaining wall to be as deep into the ground as possible so as to provide a stable base to build up on.
I had purchased an expensive tamper to squish down the trenched ground into something resembling a flat plane, and it turned out to be exactly the tool we needed (good thing too, it wasn't cheap).

The next step was to lay out all of the bricks (or pavers) in a row to check on how flat the round is, and if the stones sit where we want them to, and a million other little finicky details. Like I said, it's super important to get this first row perfect, because you're going to be putting 2 or more rows on top of it, and you want them to look good, and not to fall over. Once we determined that yeah, it looked good, it was time to move all of the bricks and use our landscaping cloth.

I cut the cloth into sections with a utility knife, and laid it out about half-way across the trench, so that it would be covered by the bottom course of bricks. The cloth serves a few different purposes, but it mainly prevents weeds from growing up in between the layers of bricks. While we were doing all of this, some of our friends stopped by and got busy moving all of the bricks from the right-side retaining wall onto our porch, and in the time it took us to lay out 1 course of bricks to our satisfaction, they even managed to trench out the whole right side! Needless to say, hubs and I felt like we weren't getting nearly as much work done as them! But it all looks pretty damned good, if I do say so myself.

Here you can see the left-side bed with its first course of bricks, and the right-side bed all trenched out! This all took us about 5 hours of work in the hot sun, so we decided that it was time to call it a day. We're not going to be having a Project Sunday next weekend, and I've been a bit under the weather, so I don't know when we'll have a chance to come back and finish this up, but I'm hoping that it'll be soon! I want this project to be done with already!

Also, we're having the house painted right now, and I can't wait to show you some shots of the interior (which also needs some fixing up and some TLC), and to give you guys an over-view of some of the inside projects that we're going to be taking on!

So stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Project Sunday 5-3-15

We spent a long day yesterday working on the house. We've decided that the projects for this Spring/Summer are going to be working on the front exterior, so... railings, and flower beds and tree trimming and such. We're making progress, and getting things checked off the list, so check out:

Railings pt. 2

Again, I'm calling this post pt. 2, but as we've already discussed, I think this should really be pts. 3 & 4 (possibly even 5?). Meh, whatever, it's done, so does it really matter how long it took... (two weeks, if anyone out there is counting).
Anyway, when we last left our heroes, they had successfully installed the anchors that would hold the posts that would hold the railings. The next step was to attach special L brackets to the house where we wanted to put the railings. This turned out to be a bit more tricky than we had guessed.

Last time we installed a railing, we did so on a brick-exterior house. So installing the L brackets was as simple as drilling into the brick and screwing the brackets into place. Okay, so it was a good work-out, but it wasn't difficult. This time we were attaching the railings to a house with vinyl siding with squishy squishy foam underneath. The problem? If we attached the brackets and tried to tighten them up, we would crush the siding. Not so good.

The solution? Ask at the local mom-and-pop hardware store. The guy gave us a look for about 0.5 seconds, and then took us to the right aisle to find these little plastic plugs that were exactly what we needed. (If you have a little mom-and-pop hardware store in your area, I highly recommend going there for questions like these. Don't get me wrong, I do love my big-box stores, but I feel like they're mostly for when I already know what item I need to get. If I want to ask what type of item I need for a particular project, I have much better luck at the little local places).

After our trip to the hardware store, we headed back to the house and drilled some large holes in the siding that we fitted our little plasticy plugs into.

This will give us something to tighten against, so that we don't squish the siding.

Once that was done, we could actually go ahead and instal the L brackets! Finally! This was taking a lot longer than I had expected, and at this point we had already been working on this easy afternoon project for a couple of days. I'm writing this up fairly well after the fact, so I don't actually remember how long this took us, but I think it was at least three days total.

The bracket that we will eventually attach the railings to!

Now that we'd installed the anchors and the brackets, it was finally time to put in the damned railings! Huzzah! That part actually went fairly quickly, and I'm sorry to say that I don't really have any pictures of it. It was late in the day, and I was tired, and I just wanted to be done with the damned thing, so I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do. Sorry. My bad. Here's one shot of the first part of the last railing. Yeah, think about that.

You can see both of the columns, plus the brackets attached to the house, if you look really closely. At this point, we realized that it was like, 4pm and hot out, and we hadn't had any lunch yet. So we took a break to go get some fries, and came back to install the very last piece of railing.

Here it is, finally finished!

As a bonus, in this last picture you can see the sorry state of our front garden beds, which are, indecently, our next project! So, I think that's going to be it for right now. I know that I took a long time to write this blog post, and as a result, I probably forgot some important details of the project (which has been done for about 2 weeks at this point). We're currently working on those garden beds, and I'm going to try to write up my posts about those a little more often, so that I can give you guys all of the really boring details you love!

Stay tuned for more "DIY Summer 2015"!