Concrete Countertop

I knew way back when I first moved in that I was going to attempt concrete countertops. I just wasn’t sure where or how until a few months down the road. I’d purchased all of the tools that I was going to need at Home Depot. I’d done my homework, but honestly there weren’t a lot of DIY attempts of this to refer to.

There were videos of what seemed like professionals doing poured concrete countertops and there were videos of others doing what is referred to as skim coating. Since my countertops were in okay shape, and because a friend of mine told me that my floors might not be able to withstand the weight of poured concrete countertops, I opted for skim coating.

I decided to test this out on my kitchen island before attempting the entire kitchen. I had purchased a laminate kitchen island countertop from a Craigslist ad. It didn’t match my house, but I knew that when I bought it that I was going to be covering it up. I was wondering how I was going to do the rounded edges, but it ended up not being a big deal at all!

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The first step was to use deglosser. This is the same stuff that I have also used on my kitchen cabinets and staircase banisters. You’ll want to wear gloves when using this stuff. It doesn’t smell like it could take the skin off of your hands, but I bet that it would. It’s the consistency and color of milk. I use a sponge and wipe, wipe, wipe. Once it’s dry, you can take a little bit of warm water and wipe some more.

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The next step was to sand the laminate countertop. Scratch it up really well. I used 100 Grit. Once sanded, wipe the dust off.

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You can see the scratches really well in this picture:

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Now comes the fun part! I used Henry brand FeatherFinish. The instructions call for 2 parts powder to 1 part water, or was it the other way around? You guys, I think I followed the mixing instructions backwards for the first layer!

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Other posts all mention how it dries quickly and to make small batches because otherwise it will dry before you’re able to apply it all. Mine was not like that. I did add a bit more powder because it didn’t seem like it was thick enough. When I poured it on, it was the consistency of pudding.

Oh Hi, Kelly! Kelly came over to help and honestly I think she did most of the spreading while I tried to learn how to use a selfie stick.

5:58 pm

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After spreading and spreading and spreading, it was clear that the consistency of the concrete was nothing like what other folks had been mentioning in their DIY concrete countertop posts. We had plennnnnnty of time to spread it around before it dried.

6:26 pm

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7:59 pm

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8:48 pm

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9:24 pm

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10:00 pm

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10:44 pm

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There was really nothing left to do until the concrete dried, so I cranked the heat in the house up to 80 degrees and went to bed.

DAY 2

7:40 am (I hadn’t changed the chalkboard sign yet)

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There was a damp spot that was a bit thicker so it hadn’t yet dried all the way. I sanded around it and then became obsessed with getting that spot to dry.

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I used a finer 220 grit sandpaper on the concrete than what I had used on the laminate. I didn’t want to tear the concrete apart, I just wanted to level out the high spots before we put on another layer.

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There was a lot of dust. I sanded for about an hour!

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Here’s a good look at how the edges turned out after the first layer of skim coat:

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10:09 am and that damp spot just would not dry. I decided to take matters into my own hands.

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I tried sanding it lightly to thin it down a bit, too.

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I was a little concerned, but knew that this was going to be an awesome lesson learned that I could share with all of you, in case you came across the same predicament. I tried to find other DIY posts that had already had this issue and didn’t find help anywhere.

Kelly had come back by now for our Day 2 layer of skim coating and we decided that we needed to just continue with layer 2 even if there was still a damp area from layer 1.

This is when the “A-Ha” moment happened. As I referred back to the instructions on the concrete box, I realized that I had mixed it differently (incorrectly) the day before. This time, it was true that we needed to work with small batches because the drying time was fairly quick.

12:23 pm

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12:34 pm

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Just a few hours after having put the second layer on, I was already able to start sanding! That is MUCH different than what we were dealing with on Day 1 when I had mixed the concrete incorrectly.

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With the correct consistency, I was also able to use my finger to mold the edges nicely! This was like using play dough vs. using pudding. I’m sure you can imagine the difference in how this allowed us to work along the edges…

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3:10 pm

I am done sanding and this is the end of Day 2 skim coating my kitchen island!

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I plan to stain and seal it, too. Until then, I’m using sidewalk chalk on it like a great big notepad!

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Dishwasher Replacement: Plumbing and Electrical in one!

You know how when you’re renovating you get zoned in on one particular task at a time. I’d been working on the staircase for so long that I started to not even notice all of work that needed to still be completed in the kitchen. Before I could focus on the countertops, I needed to get a new matching dishwasher.

Before I could get a dishwasher, I needed to understand what I was getting myself into. I retreated to YouTube videos to learn everything I was going to need to know. Seemed easy enough…

I purchased my dishwasher and it was going to be delivered the next day. Since they were going to be taking my old dishwasher away, that meant I had to hurry up and get it uninstalled. Eek. I wasn’t prepared to have to learn this so fast!

I unscrewed it from the countertop and started pulling it out but it was jammed. I watched a few more YouTube videos before I found one that showed me everything I needed to see. I was jammed because the water hadn’t yet been disconnected and the copper tubing was blocking the dishwasher from sliding out.

  1. shut the power off
  2. shut the water off
  3. get a flashlight (I used my phone)
  4. disconnect the copper piping and be prepared for water to leak out (I had to run to get a towel and when I had returned the water was leaking all over my phone, shit!)
  5. pull the dishwasher all of the way out
  6. disconnect the power
  7. disconnect the big clear hose thing
  8. carry your old dishwasher out of the house!
  9. clean the grossness from the floor

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When I got home the next day, my new dishwasher was sitting in my living room.

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I took the kiddos to baseball practice and hurried home, excited to see if I could redo what I had undone with the old dishwasher the night before. I couldn’t find the instructions anywhere in the box. Oh well, I figured I could figure it out without the instructions. Once the dishwasher was out of the box…

  1. connect the big clear hose thing
  2. connect the power
  3. adjust the legs so that the dishwasher is the correct height
  4. push the dishwasher into the space
  5. connect the copper piping
  6. screw the dishwasher to the counter
  7. turn the water back on
  8. press start
  9. wonder why the dishwasher doesn’t turn on
  10. remember that the power is still turned off, turn the power back on
  11. press start
  12. after 10 minutes of running the dishwasher, check the inside and find the soaking wet instructions

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Like all of the other projects…once it is complete, I become obsessed with staring at whatever eye sore is closest. As you can see, the countertops have yet to be replaced and now that the dishwasher is in, the countertops are next!

 

It’s a Happy and Organized Closet!

When we moved into this house, the entryway closet had an oak-colored, hollow core bifold door. The door did not open and close without effort because it wasn’t installed properly and it also took up valuable space when it was opened. Lastly, as much as I like to think that my boys and I would actually use hangers…the truth is that we will not.

I’d pinned a bunch of ideas on closet organization but hadn’t yet gotten around to buying the lumber and starting this project until one day when I was driving home from the grocery store. I found a discarded Ikea desk on somebody’s curb. I pulled over and tried to fit the desk into my car, on top of the groceries, but it wouldn’t fit.

I hurried home, left the groceries on the floor in the garage and grabbed my drill and drill bits. I brought ALL of my drill bits because I knew Ikea furniture uses “interesting” hardware. Also, for some reason I felt like I needed to hurry. As if somebody else wanted a broken Ikea desk more than I did?

It was partially buried in snow and ice. Once I’d yanked it from the snow pile, I dismantled it and hauled it home. I took my ugly bifold door down, removed the rod and unused hangers from the closet and got building.

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The top of the desk was cut to fit the entire inside parameter of the closet, to be used as the bench. The legs of the desk were cut to fit both edges and a middle piece for extra support. I screwed it all down and then patched the screw holes with wall putty.

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I trimmed the bench for a more finished look and added a wider shelf to the area above. The coat rack is an old piece of floor board from a farm house that I had. The hooks were a gift from my mom that I was saving for this area. I thought about adding the pallet wall look to the inside, but I didn’t have enough wood and was thinking that for resale value that might not be the best idea.

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I ended up painting the inside of the closet a dark green and painting the bench and shelf white to match the staircase railings and trim. I also hung a curtain above the closet. The curtain is for decorative purposes only. Now, I don’t have a closet door banging up against my table and we have an easy dumping ground for jackets and gear – plus storage for gloves, hats and scarves that go unused half of the year!

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When this project was complete, I did what I do when every project is complete. I stare at the thing that I don’t like about it. The trim for this closet is butting up to white trim from when I redid the staircase (you can see this in pictures above). It took a few weeks or maybe even a few months?…but I finally tackled painting the trim (and wallpapering the wall).

Now, the entryway closet, and the entire area around it, is perfect!

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*The wallpaper is just stick on and comes off very easily for resale.

 

 

 

Staircase from Hell Turned Stairway to Heaven

Okay folks! This project was by far the worst and the most satisfying – once it was done.

I don’t have a picture of the stairs back when they were carpeted. All of the carpet was removed the day that I moved in and I remember the guys asking me if I wanted the carpet removed from the stairs as well. I thought about it for a moment and decided that the dirt from having two boys going up and down over time was going to be gross.

Once the carpet was removed I saw that the treads did not meet the wall. There was a 1.5″ – 2″ gap on both sides.

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My next hurdle (that I didn’t know was going to be a hurdle) was that my stair treads had a bull nose. The bull nose made it impossible to use my flooring on the stairs because there was no way to put a flat plank around a bull nose. I did a lot of research on this and found that there are tons of people scratching their heads over the same thing! You may be wondering why I didn’t just pull my treads off. I couldn’t. I tried. I literally could not have removed them without a bobcat. Those babies were on for life.

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I found a product called Cap A Tread that fits like a slip cover over bull nose stair treads. This product comes in colors that match up to most laminate flooring, but it is very expensive! I kept this in the back of my mind, but decided that I was going to just cut the bull nose off of my stair treads instead. Once the bull nose was cut off of one of the stair treads, I screwed a new riser on and put my laminate wood flooring over the tread.  This new riser and laminate flooring on the tread were measured and cut to go all of the way to the wall, covering up the gap! The overall look of this was janky though. 😦

It looked like a really crappy DIY job. I was back to considering Cap A Tread, which was going to cost me ~$45/step. I have 12 steps.

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Eureka! I had a new game plan! I bought new stair treads to put right on top of the existing treads. I left the old bull nose and cut these new Pine (~$10 each) treads to fit. If you can picture it, that left TWO bull nose stair treads showing. Not good. But, I had new risers, too. The risers are tall enough to cover the old stair tread. I had to double up on the risers…

Each step has two layers of pine risers. The first riser (that isn’t visible) was needed to create an even surface for the visible riser. Without it, the old bull nose bumped the top part of the visible riser out and the bottom part of the visible riser (where your foot would kick) was slanted in.

The hole you see cut into the bottom step is for an air vent.

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Once the steps were cut to fit and screwed on tightly, it was time to patch the screw holes and any little gaps where the treads and risers meet one another. I also filled in any small gaps along the edges of the walls. Do you see how this job is turning into a time suck – and a bit of a money pit? I literally loved and hated this project. The rewards were great, but the effort was much more than I had bargained for.

You’re mostly seeing one flight of stairs throughout this post, but this is a split entry, so everything that I’m showing you, I’m actually doing on two sets of staircases.

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My big lesson learned when patching the screws didn’t come until later. There was one screw that was not flush with the stair tread. I just couldn’t get the bugger to screw in any further. I thought that the patch would cover it up and nobody would ever see it. Maybe? Nope. Get your screws in all of the way, folks. Your eye will never not see the little blemish that I thought would be masked. You’ll see…

After the stairs were patched and dried, I sanded them and vacuumed and wiped them clean. It was time to stain. Finally! I read a bunch of DIY/How-To tips for this before I started. One of them mentioned that you can be a little sloppy because you’re going to be painting the risers and along the edges anyway. If I had to do it again, I’d be a little less sloppy here. I was going to be painting with white paint.

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This dark stain took a few layers of white paint to cover up my sloppiness. Are you wondering how we got up the steps? We took great leaps for quite a while! 😀

The dark board that you’re seeing on the top is a panel of the flooring from upstairs vs. a pine riser. There isn’t any particular reason that I did this. It was part of my earlier trial and error solutions and I just never replaced it with pine because it fit snug and seemed fine, plus I knew I was going to be painting it. It truly isn’t a big deal and looks just like the other risers now that they’re all painted.

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One of the most frustrating things for me was the amount of time that was needed for the stain to dry, plus needing to use the stairs. I read on one blog that they locked the front door and only used the patio door while the stairs were under construction. That wasn’t really an option because it was winter here in MN…or was it? After a few weeks, I got so impatient that I actually took that advice. We trudged through the snow up the deck and into the house for a few weeks. Bwahaha! Of course, this only resolved the issue on one of the staircases. There wasn’t an option like that for the stairs leading to the basement – unless we would have climbed through a window. 😀

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After 3-4 layers of stain, it was time to make them shine! I thought I knew it all when it came to polyurethane, but I received an impromptu lesson from the old man at Ace. First, I told him that it was going to be used on a staircase. He pointed me to a poly that was going to be less slippery. That was something that I hadn’t thought of! Next, he said, “If your husband thinks he’s going to be doing you a favor by shaking the can before you open it and you don’t stop him before he’s shaken the can, you will need to let it then sit overnight before you use it.” (old men think all ladies have a husband?)

If you shake a can of poly, what you’re really doing is creating air bubbles and a little bit of foam. If you try and use your can of poly with bubbles and foam in it, you will be spreading that onto your stairs. Don’t shake your poly can folks. Just use your stir stick and stir the poly around slowly before using.

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I applied 3 layers of poly.

This project is sucking the life out of me. My friends don’t even ask me what I’m doing anymore. They all know what I’m going to say. I started the steps in early January. This picture was taken on FEBRUARY 21st! Of course if this was the only thing that I was doing, it wouldn’t have taken so long, but I have a day job and my staircase is my after work/weekend job.

Here was my life:

One weekend cutting off bull head and scratching my own head about how in the world to do this project.

One weekend buying new treads and risers, cutting, screwing, filling in screw heads and gaps.

One weekend sanding, wiping and putting on a first layer of stain.

One weekend putting on a second layer of stain.

One weekend painting risers and putting on a third layer of stain.

One weekend painting a second coat on the risers and putting on a first layer of poly.

One weekend touching up paint and putting on another layer of poly.

One weekend staring at the finished staircases. (remember I did two of them, even though you’re only seeing one).

Once the steps were finished, they were a little noisy and a little slippery. I contemplated a runner or little stick on rug things. I purchased a runner at first, but it was really sloppy looking – and there wasn’t one that was going to be long enough to go all of the way from the top to the bottom without me having to deal with hiding a seam.

I found these little things instead and they came in a pack of 13 for under $100, including shipping.

Sold!

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Overall, I spend about $250. That includes the new treads, risers, stain and little rug things. If you recall, the Cap A Treads were ~$45 each (and I have 12 steps). That would have been $540 and I still would have needed to purchase the rug things. So, the Cap A Tread option would have been $640.

By spending a bit more on blood, sweat and tears, I saved approximately  $390.00. Would I do it again? Not anytime soon…

Ta-Da!!!

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Stain:

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Poly:

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Ready to Ship Carpet Stair Treads

Cap A Tread (I did not use this product, but I do mention it)

Thank you everyone for the encouragement along the way!

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