Saturday, February 9, 2008

Organic Lawn Care: Part 1

One of the big things we wanted to do was transition our lawn to an all organic care lawn. Why? Because there is just something wrong with using chemicals that go directly into your soil and indirectly into our water. Why use a chemical that is bad enough that you are not supposed to walk on the grass for a day or two? Luckily enough, there are a lot of options now to keep an organic lawn looking great.

First we bought this excellent book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual. It explains a lot about specific programs depending on your grass and area of the country. It's first recommendation is that you get a soil sample analysis. All you need is something to dig into your soil, and a plastic bag for each area of your lawn. For $20 per sample, Texas A&M Soil Laboratory will analyze your soil chemicals and give information on organic matter in your lawn. If you don't want the organic composition, it's only $10. Take a trowel and get some dirt about 4-6 inches deep, take about 5 samples in each area and combine the soil in a baggie. Send it off and await the results. When we get them back, we'll explain what we will do with the results.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Modern House Numbers

We looked high and low for some good looking house numbers to put up. Neutra font numbers are pretty good looking, and are commonly used in Eichler houses. However, DWR wants $75 for EACH LETTER! So much for the whole Within Reach part of their name.

Lo and behold, I heard people talking online about some modern looking numbers you could find at Home Depot. For $7. Well that was an easy decision.

I figured I would throw something together that would make a pleasing, modern backdrop for the letters. Plus it would reduce the number of holes I'd have to make in the mortar. So while I was as Home Depot, I picked up a 11"x14" sheet of Lexan plastic. I used some 220 grit sandpaper on both sides only swiping in 1 direction. This not only makes the letters stand out, but it back lights the numbers very well when the porch light is on. For less than $50 total, I'd say it made a good difference. You can check out more picts at our Picasa page.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Theater Room: Cork Flooring

After all of the jackhammering and dust, we are getting to the fun part. As part of the theater room project, we took out the red ceramic tile floors (see below), and are in the process of replacing them with a floating cork floor.

These are 1'x3' prefinished glueless planks that have a "tongue" and "groove" on each side so they can snap and lock together.

We chose cork mostly because of its mid-century look and environmental friendliness. As opposed to most wood floors, cork is a sustainable product. Cork comes from cork oak trees. The bark is peeled from the trees, and it grows back within 10 years without causing any harm to the tree. These trees live to be 200 years old.

There are 3 layers that make up the floor. The first layer is a 7 mil vapor resistant plastic that lays directly on top of the concrete slab. This is to prevent moisture from getting into the floors from the cement. Next we layed the cork underlayment. It not only smooths out the unevenness of the floor and makes it easier to walk on, but it also helps deaden the sound; perfect for a media room. Now we are putting on the cork planks.

After we finish, we will have a better idea of the furniture we will purchase to fill our new room. Stay tuned for future theater room projects: molding, lighting, speakers, and more!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Theater Room: Painting

Another couple weeks have gone by and the room is finally starting to look better. Getting some paint on the walls has really motivated us to keep working on the room. We had to cover up a hole in the ceiling where there was a light fixture. We'll be putting in recessed cans, but we're waiting until it's not 130 degrees in the attic. You can slightly see the outline of the patch on the ceiling, but wouldn't notice it unless it was pointed out.

We also textured the front wall which had wallpaper on it. I tried to peel it in a corner and it was on good, so we just left the wallpaper and primed over it. The texture matches about 90%, it is a little more defined as there is not 5 coats of paint over it like the rest of the walls. You won't notice it anyway once the projector screen is over it since it will cover about 80% of the wall.

The bookcase is our favorite part of the room. We thought it would be cool to face it the same color as the room, but leave the inside white. We used some new flat enamel paint which not only looks nice, but wears well. We used foam brushes on the bookcase to get rid of any texture that brushes would leave.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Theater Room: Demolition

The next room on the slate is the media room. It was previously a library room with about 25 feet of built-in bookcases. We like them, hate the color, but knew we wouldn't use the room considering we already have a nice living room with a fireplace and a nice outside view. Plus I needed a place to put my projector and this room fit perfect.

First I had to cut the bookshelves in half since they were so tall we couldn't tip them over to get them out of the room. 30 minutes with the circular saw and they were history. Check out the sweet wallpaper behind them!

The next step was getting rid of the ceramic tile. We purchased a Dewalt SDS Hammer Drill with a spade bit and went to work on the floor. The hammer made easy work of the tile, however a good amount of thinset was still on the floor. No big deal, or so I thought.

The next 7 days or so after work were spent chiseling up the thinset. I HATE that crap! At least we knew it was doing a good job. We still have some work to do cleaning it up since it needs to be perfectly flat for our floor(which we'll show later).

Once again, check out our Picasa page for some more pictures!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The master bedroom

Our first project was to redo the master bedroom. It was a rather dark color, which doesn't really fit with our ideas for a light toned bedroom. We decided to do a visual and electrical upgrade of the room. Check out the before and after pictures on my Picasa album.

Since all of the outlets and switches were painted dark blue and the wiring is aluminum in the house, we replaced all of the receptacles with CO/ALR devices. This prevents arcing between the copper and aluminum wire which potentially could cause a fire. We figured for a few dollars more we could have a safe connection at all of the receptacles and switches, along with making the room look nicer.

We also replaced the vent and return covers. The return vent was actually sagging and letting air from the room escape directly into the attic, so I resealed the vent and also screwed it into the attic floor boards.

We painted the room a light gray to keep a nice cool feel without darkening the room. I think it was quite the improvement for a low cost.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Changing the Lights

With the cost of electricity in Texas overly high, our first todo was to swap out nearly all of the light bulbs in the house with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. We removed nearly 30 light bulbs totaling about 3000W. Went to Home Depot and spent about $40 in CFL's along with some that we've used previously. I also Freecycled the 28 light bulbs for someone else to use.

For instance, in our main living room the previous owner had 6 - 150W bulbs going, and we switched to 6 - 23W bulbs giving out about the same lumens. With rates around 15c/kWh, we are saving around 11 cents per hour in lighting costs for that one room, not counting the amount of money we save due to heat savings. Not a bad savings for a pretty small initial investment.

Some people say that CFL's are actually doing more harm to the environment since they contain mercury. Since there is an IKEA nearby which recycles CFLs, that part is easy to solve for us. It would be nice to see more retailers or government bodies to give more options to recycle the lights. You can also go to Earth 911 to see recycling sites and other general information. On another note, it is nice to see IKEA taking a proactive approach to conservation, with their program to try to force people to use their reusable bags.