Friday, September 30, 2011

Playing With Electricity

Kids, don't try this at home ;)

Ok, seriously though, I've been doing this bathroom renovation and trying to do the majority of it myself. I realize my husband is a VERY handy man, but he is also really busy, so I didn't want to ask him to do everything on this project. I wanted to be able to say that I did most of it myself, not giving up at the first sign of frustration and caving and asking my husband to do it.

So, I did it. Sanded, stained, applied poly, primed, painted and now it was time to swap out my light switches, receptacles and light fixture. It was time to play with electricity.  I wanted to switch out my old creme colored receptacles and switches for new white ones.

I've read Thrifty Decor Chicks post about installing a dimmer switch, and by golly, if she can do it so can I. I was bound and determined to get this thing done.

I started by going to the breaker box. Of course, NOTHING was labeled properly. I finally found the switch that turned off my light in the bathroom and decided to go for it. You would think that the light and receptacle would be on the same breaker right? Wrong. NEVER assume that. Luckily I had the good sense enough to plug something into the recep even after the light went out to make DOUBLE sure that there was no juice going to the outlet. There was. I freaked a little and my heart skipped a beat.

I could just see myself fried to smithereens on the floor when my 12 year old came home.

So, I left the recep alone and decided to just proceed with the light. This actually worked in my favor because I was able to plug a lamp in to give me light while working.

I unscrewed the light switch and pulled it out from the wall. Scared to death to touch it. Doesn't help that my husband was posting photos on my Facebook wall like this:

Yep.  That's my man.  Anyhow, you basically have two options with the wire.  You can stick it in this TEENY hole in the back, or curl it around the sides.  Mine were stuck into the back, and as much as I pulled, and pulled, I couldn't get the old wires out.  Even after hitting the "release" button it still wouldn't work for me.  Finally I just snipped the wires with wire clippers and then trimmed them back.  I ended up putting the new one on and just curling it around the screws.  With the light switch both wires were the same color so it didn't matter which one went on which side.

It took me WAY longer than expected.  I sweat.  A lot.  Yes, I was freaked out.  No, it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.

I was done for the day on that one.  The next day I decided to take a stab at the receptacle.  Took me a while but I finally found the breaker for that one as well.  Flipped the breaker off and just went at it.  This one took me about twenty minutes because, after all I'm a professional now at this stuff.
Here is the "Before" shot

After I got the recep off here is what you are left with, ground wire (copper), white wire and black wire

This one is a bit trickier just because you have to make sure the white and black go to their specified side, but still, it wasn't difficult.
Again, I twisted my wire instead of going through the holes.  Much easier in my opinion
Oh also, FYI the wire trimmers have this nifty little hole on it that makes twisting the wire a snap.  Wish I would have figured that out yesterday.  Oh well, live and learn (and watch YouTube).
All done! SO much prettier!
Since I got that recep done in such a snap I decided to tackle the light fixture.  After all, Julie is now a master electrician right?  This light fixture should obviously be a snap.  It wasn't.  It took over an hour of grunting, cussing, sweating and crying to get the thing on.  My first problem came when I couldn't figure out how to get the mounting bracket into the junction box, once I figured that out, the wires would not go into the wire nut properly and kept falling out.  Oh, and NOWHERE in the directions does it tell you that you need at least four hands to get this done properly.  There were times I was using my toes to pick up a screwdriver off the sink while my hands held the light in place and I'm standing precariously on a step-stool on one foot.

But I did it people.  It looks SO MUCH BETTER.
Before.  I should have donated it, but I think I did someone a favor by tossing the ugly thing.

After.  My pretty new light fixture. (yes, it's an awful photo)
There are several things I learned this week.  First off a whole new vocabulary with words like mounting bracket, junction box, breaker, wire nut, wire release, ground, and so many more.  Second, guy jobs suck.  Seriously.  They are not really that fun.  I'm ready to go back to picking out decorative towels and arranging flowers, because this crap is just grunt work.

However this project has been my Everest, my lobster from Julie and Julia, my obstacle that I had to get over to continue, and I'm pretty darn proud of myself for completing it!

Now its time to go hang some photos....

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Half Bath Redo

A while ago I got the brilliant idea to stain my half bath vanity cabinets a darker color, and to paint my den cabinets white. Then I could decide which I liked better for my kitchen, dark or white.

My half bath was actually one of the best looking rooms in the house, the cabinets had the least wear and tear and the paint job was much fresher than any of the other rooms. Seriously there are probably about a thousand projects that should of taken higher priority than this. However since it was the cheapest project and a test on how I will handle the rest of the house, it was actually the perfect place to begin.

I've had this idea in my head for a while and finally I came home last week and my wonderful husband had taken everything out of the bathroom and started sanding the cabinets for me. We taped a tarp over the door and brought in his shop vac and reversed the air flow to eliminate a lot of the dust from getting in my house. It worked pretty well. The dust stayed mostly on us and in the bathroom!

Once we got down to nearly raw wood (we weren't extremely particular because we are going darker), we cleaned up and vacuumed all the dust off the cabinets.

Oh, and I'm SOOO putting shelving paper on those shelves.  They are disgusting, I know.

The next day we began staining.

If you know me well, you know I have trouble making a decision. I sat in Home Depot Sunday morning with a can of Ebony and a can of Jacobean stain for about 45 minutes while surfing the net on my iPhone at what these colors actually looked like completed. I finally went with the Jacobean and came home, because the people at Home Depot were starting to think I was weird.

So we stained.

We stained more. And more....finally four coats in they just were NOT getting any darker. I wasn't happy. It was not my vision, but I sighed and figured I'd just live with it.  They did look a TON better than the old color, but still not my vision.

My wonderful mother in law (who knows a LOT about staining) told me not do do anything else until she came over with some of her stuff. I wasn't certain we could fix the cabinets, because they are pretty cheap pine plywood (seriously the edges of these cabinets are NUTS people...they just soak up the color like crazy).

Anyhow, she came over with a couple other options for color. She took one look at my cabinets and said "those aren't very dark."  She confirmed EXACTLY what I was feeling.  (It's so good to have her opinion, she is such a great lady).  She had a gel stain (Java) that she got from Woodcraft and she said I should put that on top. I tried it on the back of the cabinet and I LOVED it. It just gave it that richness that the Jacobean was lacking. So, I started staining....AGAIN. Gave all the cabinets backs, fronts and built in's in the bathroom another coat of the gel stain and it turned out just about perfect.

I may need ONE more coat on the cabinet fronts. For some reason the base is taking the color better than the cabinet doors, and I don't want it to be mis-matched. The flash doesn't help, but it really does look gorgeous.

I'm SO over staining and ready to move on to painting my bathroom, putting down new baseboards and getting the decorations back in there. I almost have my paint color picked out. That was a funny story in itself. Proves how brilliantly crazy that I am.

Thrifty Decor Chick
has the most gorgeous colored walls I've ever seen in her stairway, and that is the color I'm wanting to go with. She got the color at Porter Paints. So I found the place up in Edmond that sells the paint and went up there. The color is discontinued but they still had a swatch of it and said they could match it for $32 a gallon. Uh, yeah, I can't pay that it's WAAAAY out of my budget. Of course since it was discontinued they didn't have a swatch they could let me take. So I took the swatch around their store and found one similar to it that would work, grabbed that swatch and plan to try and color match it at Home Depot later this week.

I told you I'm nuts.

I think I've decided though that painting my kitchen will be a LOT easier than staining. I'm getting this vision for it. White cabinets with a black glaze in the cracks, dark granite or poured concrete counters...oil rubbed bronze pulls....dark espresso beams across the ceiling with some canned lighting. Farmhouse table with a bench in the dinette area, with dark hardwood floors. Are you seeing my vision?

Anyhow, stick with me, the full reveal will be coming soon!
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