Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pinspiration to Reality - DIY Coffered Ceiling

A long time ago, even before we started building the house, I would spend time online, figuring out the details of the house.  I loved looking at Houzz for all the beautiful homes and ideas it showcased.  It was often the place Jay and I could be found after the kids were in bed, figuring out how the staircase would work or what we wanted the kitchen to look like or a whole bunch of other things we needed to figure out.  It was actually a lot of fun to hear what he liked and what he didn't.  One time I stumbled upon a coffered ceiling (some people refer to these as box beam ceilings.  It is only a regional difference in name referring to the same thing) unlike any other and I pinned it on Pinterest.  It was stunning!  I knew that ceiling was going to be in my house!  It was written into the plans and I eagerly anticipated seeing it come to life.

Pinned Image
This is the photo I found on Houzz and pinned
Knowing that we would be building a coffered ceiling and not wanting to worry about finding a stud in which to attach the coffered ceiling, we covered the ceiling with OSB.  This allowed us to nail wherever we wanted, knowing we would always hit wood.  The OSB was then covered with drywall.

Even before the drywall began, I drew out the ceiling plan on the floor.  It is much easier to measure and mark on the floor then to measure and mark on the ceiling.  Then we just used a laser level later on to transfer those marks to the ceiling.  Easy peasy!!

After the walls and ceiling had the drywall in place, we were sure to build bulkheads around the exterior of the living room to define the area of the coffered ceiling as well as define the living room area itself (plus hide some heating ducts).  Our main floor is an open concept plan so this was a great way to separate the rooms without adding walls.  Instead of using wood to create the framing for the bulkheads, we used metal angle brackets.  They were simply long piece of  "L" shaped aluminum.  It was easy to attach them where we wanted.  We needed to add small pieces of 2x4's for strength and backing for drywall but it was much easier doing it this way than using all wood.  I did most, if not all, the framing of the bulkheads in the living room by myself, it was that easy.

Once that was done and the drywall was installed on the bulkheads, 2x6s were attached to the ceiling in the location of the "beams".  These would create the base for the coffered ceiling detail and is the wood to which all other pieces were attached.

After the 2x6s were in place, we used cardboard to figure out the depth we wanted the beams to be. 

Once that was determined, we removed the cardboard (obviously!) and went to work adding all the MDF to the sides of the 2x6s, creating the sides of the beams.  Additional MDF was added to create the bottom of the beams.  Then extra pieces were added on the sides to create inset areas similar to what is found on our fireplace.  Mr.W got us started, putting on the first piece or two with Jay.  Then Jay and I did the longer pieces and then Jay left me to do the rest of the ceiling by myself.  Mr.W thinks that since I come up with these great ideas, I should be the one to make them.  (Read that to say: I come up with all these intricate, takes-a-lot-of-work-and-are-a-pain-to-do-but-look-really-good details so he "lets" me do them!)

The most time-consuming and frustrating part was to follow.  Panel moulding was installed in each inset area on the sides of the beams.  I did about 1/2 of it on my own one evening before Mr.W (the builder/carpenter we hired to make sure we build the house right) gave me a couple of tips on how to do it even better the next day.  The second half of the job looked so much tidier and tighter.  After filling and painting, they practically look the same but I am much happier about the job I did on the second day.

Once all the wood work was done and all the nail holes were filled and sanded and the rest of the MDF edges sanded, the ceiling was given a good coat of paint.  And, voila!  The coffered ceiling I imagined since before we started building the house!  It really is spectacular and worth every minute of work it took!  This is our forever house, Lord willing, and we wanted to take the time to make it special.  We think we accomplished just that!

There, now if I can build a coffered ceiling, you can, too!  It really isn't that hard - just takes a lot of patience!  What do you think?  Did we accomplish what we set out to do and make a coffered ceiling just as nice as the one that inspired me?

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Monday, January 14, 2013

The Makings of a Traditional Fireplace - Mantle, Surround and Hearth

This is a DIY project to the max!  We even built the house the fireplace is in!  :)

Raising the chimney chase walls themselves, way back in June of 2012

Framing out the fireplace opening

Fireplace is newly installed
The decision to have a wood-burning fireplace in our new home was a no-brainer.  I love the sound of a fire crackling in the hearth, I love the warmth the fire gives and I love the coziness it provides to a room.  We did bat around the idea of a gas fireplace for a little while but when we learned that a wood-burning fireplace would not increase the cost of insurance for our house one little bit, wood-burning it was.  Then it came time to figure out what kind of fireplace we needed and wanted.  Jay wanted it to be a source of heat for the house and it needed to be efficient and put out a lot of BTU's.  He told me which companies to pick from, I picked the ones I think looked the prettiest from those companies and then he ultimately chose the one that would be the best for our home.  Then it was time to figure out what the mantle, surround and hearth was to look like.  I knew I wanted a traditional look and feel to the fireplace.  I am not much for a modern look, preferring the comfort of traditional styling.  I scoured the web for inspiration photos and sent them off to Mr.W to give him the idea of what I wanted (for those of you visiting for the first time, Mr.W is our carpenter/builder guy we have hired to help us build our home.  He works alongside us most days making sure the house gets built right.)  I still have those photos attached to that email but since I didn't record their source, I won't share them with you.  Then came time to frame out the fireplace opening.

Before any work started on the actual surround, Mr.W drew out his idea on the wall.  I was so excited after seeing that drawing!  Not only did the drawing help us to agree on the design, it also gave Mr.W a reference point once the building of the surround began.  Once that was done, Mr.W adding back framing here and there to make sure there was something to nail the MDF to when making the actual surround.

Then came time to cut the MDF.  What a dusty process!  He added pieces here and there and the surround started to take shape.  Along the way, we talked together about how we wanted it to look, what size mouldings to use and numerous other little details that would affect the final outcome.  While Mr.W did the majority of the wood work on the surround, I did add most of the panel moulding on the surround myself. 

Then it was time to paint.  Obviously, that was preceded by lots of sanding of the MDF and filling of all the nail holes.  Then I painted a few coats of Distant Grey by Benjamin Moore, the same white we are using on all the trim in the house.  I added Floetrol to the paint to increase the working time and hopefully avoid brush marks.  Though it looks pretty good from a distance, I will still go over a couple areas again just to get it a little smoother.  Once it was all painted, it was time to add the stone.

I had seen this stone months earlier at Costco and thought it could be a nice fit for the house but wasn't sure on the price.  I told Jay about it and we decided to think about it a little.  Once we determined it was not only a good look but a fantastic price, I went back 1-2 weeks later to get some and it was all gone!  Ack!  I wanted that stone.  So, we decided to keep our eyes open elsewhere but nothing jumped out at me.  Then, a long while later, while at Costco, they had the stone in stock again!  So, we quickly did a mental calculation and popped a bunch of (very heavy) boxes in the cart.  I was giddy! 

It was my job to do the stone work on the surround and I was quite okay with that.  This stone comes in long rectangle strips made up of a bunch of little stone pieces glued together.  Since the pieces are all different colors full of shades of greys, whites, pinks, oranges, browns and beiges, I pulled out all the pieces from the many boxes we bought and laid them out on the floor.  Then I picked all my favorite pieces based on the color composition.  I then arranged those pieces into the approximate shape I needed, marking which parts of the stone I would keep and which parts I didn't want.  It took a little time initially but once it came time to cut the stone, it was much quicker for having figured it all out beforehand.  The rest of the uncut stone I will repack and return to Costco.  (They have a fantastic return policy!)

The stone cuts really well with a wet tile saw but you sure do get wet! 

I started at the bottom of the surround and cut those pieces.  Once both sides had their pieces cut, I mortared them in place. 

Since we were attaching the stone to cement board, there was no need for lathe.  We just used mortar applied to the surround and back buttered on each stone to set them in place.  I did the sides up to where the fireplace starts to curve. 

Then I went back to cutting and dry-fitting each stone in place.  Whoever had the idea of a curved fireplace is a little insane!  It takes so much longer to cut one curved piece of stone than many straight pieces.  And if you know anything about tile saws, you cannot cut a curved shape.  It takes lots of kerf cuts and some grinding with a rotary tool and lots and lots and lots of patience!  BUT I did a fantastic job, if I do say so myself!  I eventually had all those pieces of stone cut and mortared in place and the result is beautiful!

Then came the whole "what color tile for the hearth" debate.  I was quite sure the dark grey tile was what I wanted.  I saw it in stock at the local hardware store, walked by it many times each morning when I had to pick up something or other and finally thought that was the one I wanted.  It looked perfect with the stone, drawing out the grey.  But once I had the stone in place and finished cutting most of the tile, something looked off.  I took a photo and didn't like what I saw. 

I couldn't change the stone - it was mortared in place.  I refused to change the flooring since it is the most perfect floor ever so it was the tile that needed to change.  Thankfully Mr.W suggested I paint the walls before doing anything else.  I did that and suddenly the tile worked. 

There was some suggestions to paint the front of the hearth white but after some photoshopping and some photos, it was dark all the way. 

I finished cutting the last few remaining tiles and then mortared those in place, leaving 1/8" space in between for grout.  The grout ended up being a little lighter than I expected but I like it anyway!

Some of you may see that the mantle is quite tall.  I have a hard time reaching the mantle while standing on the floor.  The fireplace required a certain amount of non-combustible material around it.  That is the stone.  But I really loved the look of a large and chunky mantle.  Yes, I know that it will be a bit of a challenge to reach the mantle for decorating or a challenge to find stuff to put up there but I love the look and am so glad we did it this way.  A smaller, shorter mantle just would not have done this room justice!  And besides, even without any decor up there, it looks stunning!

This fireplace has been the best investment ever!  It throws a lot of heat and is our primary heat source while building.  True, our geothermal is all hooked up but if we turn it on during construction, we void the warranty.  So, until we move in, it is this fireplace and 2 small space heaters that are keeping a 2-storey house (3600 square feet) at a comfortable 60F.

I look forward to adding our new leather sectional to this room and hanging out with the whole family!  We just gotta finish this room (and the rest of the house) first!

Thanks for stopping by!  I would love to hear what you think of our work. 

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"Mommy, I Need You"

My little baby girl is almost 4 years old.  But for another month, she is still 3.  A fully toilet-trained 3-year old that still needs a little help cleaning up herself after having used the toilet.  In this house we currently live in, I have tried to teach her to use the upstairs bathroom so that I don't have to run downstairs to help her.  Doesn't always happen but this house is small enough that I can hear her no matter which bathroom she uses. 

Not quite the same story at the new house.  At the new house, we have only one toilet working right now.  It is upstairs in the kid's bathroom.  It is in the second half of the kid's bathroom so it is behind 2 closed doors.  Most of the work we are doing right now is happening on the main floor of the house.  But this new house is much bigger than the old house and her voice is much quieter behind 2 closed doors and up a long flight of stairs and down a hall.  I don't always hear her when she calls.  But what has surprised me more than anything is how she refuses to ask her daddy for help.  I find it amusing some of the time, annoying other times and downright confusing the rest of the time.

Before we had the toilet installed in the new house, we had to use the toilet in the house trailer.  That caused a huge problem because there was no way I could hear her calling from inside a completely different building.  She learned to tell me she needed to use the bathroom so I could go with her.  However, there were numerous occasions when she didn't tell me she had to use the washroom and so her siblings would come tell me she was calling for me so I would arrive to help her, often finding her in tears.  I would apologize profusely and hold her close, assuring her I loved her, even if I didn't come right away.

One day I was cutting stone with the wet tile saw.  It makes a lot of noise so I was wearing ear protection.  I have a hard enough time hearing the kids right next to me when I am using noisy tools, never mind the one calling from the upstairs bathroom behind 2 closed doors.  And the whole time I was working on the stone, Jay was working in the laundry room doing some quiet thing.  Ari knew all this.  She knew what we were doing and where we were working but she still insisted on calling for me.  Eventually Pepe, my 9-year old, told me that Ari had been calling "for like 5 minutes already".  Oh, did I feel bad.  I asked Jay to go help her and, of course, she was crying that I never came.  She felt abandoned.  And I felt incompetent, like I had failed her.  I was certainly annoyed that time. 

This past week I had to leave the house to go get something - I was gone for probably 5 minutes or a little more.  As soon as I walk back in the house, I hear Ari calling for my help.   I was completely bewildered.  I wasn't even in the house and she was calling for me.  She didn't once think I wasn't going to come.  She didn't once consider calling her daddy.  She just kept calling and calling, even though I wasn't even in the house.  Jay was in the kitchen, working quietly.  I was mostly bewildered that time with a bit of amusement and annoyance thrown in.  It really spoke to my heart - this little girl NEEDS her mom.  Her dad won't do.  Her sisters or brothers won't do.  Only her mom can fulfill that place in her heart.  She needs help, she calls her mom, no questions asked.  And, in her mind, her mom always comes, no matter if her mom is at the top of the ladder wearing eye and ear protection nailing together a coffered ceiling while her dad is in the room next to her - no matter if her mom isn't even in the area - her mom always comes.  I let her down frequently.  I don't always hear her.  She has cried many tears because I don't always come immediately.  How it does my heart good to know that she still calls for me, even after failing her so often.

But is it also a fantastic reminder that I can always call on my Heavenly Father and he always hears.  His ears are never covered.  The noise around him is not so great that he cannot hear me.  My cries are never too faint for him to hear.  He never steps out of the house or out of my life.  He always hears when I call and comes immediately. 

Psalm 18:6 says 

"But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears."

Throughout this building process, many trials have come our way.  Things have been hard.  Roadblocks have been thrown in our path.  More so lately it seems that it takes more from us to finish this work, finish this house.  But I am so thankful that through it all, no matter where we are or what happens, no matter how loud the noise is around us, we can call on our Father to help us and he always hears our cries.  He always comes and helps us, no matter what.  And that is a promise I will hold firm to as we continue on this journey.  And maybe, just maybe, Ari will remember that she can call on her daddy for help, too!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sneak Peek - The Kitchen

This week work continued in the kitchen.  The double crown was installed as well as the light valance.  I also worked on the countertops more getting them closer to being sealed.  But work on the countertop was paused so I could tile the backsplash!  So here are a few pictures of the kitchen so far.  Certainly still work to be done but getting closer!  I also painted various other areas of the house and Jason started installing flooring in the pantry.  The hearth is complete on the fireplace so I will show you the end result next week.  Without any further ado, here are kitchen pictures so far!  Let me know what you think.

Backsplash behind stove


All of these pictures are of the uppers right now as the lower cabinets are still without their doors/drawers until the countertops are finished.  I am certainly loving it so far!  It is a dream coming true!  (And I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures - I forgot my camera at home so these are done with Jay's cell.  With the huge blizzard we had last night, I knew I wouldn't get back there today to take better pics.)
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