Happy Labor Day weekend to all of our American friends and hello to all of our readers wherever you are! I hope you’ve all been having a safe and enjoyable summer. As much as I love this time of year in New Jersey, I’m ready for slightly cooler weather. And football. And hockey. And Doctor Who Season 9.
In today’s post I’m going to briefly discuss the results of our reader survey and talk about what our plans are for the rest of this calendar year.
First, a big thank you to everyone who took a few minutes to take the survey and give us their feedback. My number one goal is to build a community of enthusiastic home improvers and DIYers and we’d be no where without your help. So a big high-five, guys.
This summer has been crazy. Life with three kids is hectic… add to that the occasional work trip, a full-time job, vacations, and it’s a wonder I can keep my head above water. I’ve got a few “extra-curricular” projects that I’ve been developing and they’ve been consuming a ton of my time as well. Consequently, my content creation for the blog has been slower than I’d like. This entire summer, I only finished one home improvement project, our shadow box trim. That’s major weak-sauce. I hope to pick up the pace again this fall.
One of the most striking results of the survey was in regards to the type of content you enjoy seeing on our site. The results were just about evenly split between the videos and tutorial style blog posts, with the free plans a close third. Awesome. Message received.
Going forward I’m going to commit to one post a week and ideally, one video a week as well. And by commit, I mean give it a good effort. I don’t want to waste your time, but I’m pretty sure we can find things to write and talk about.
Oh and since we’re talking about blog posts and videos, your favorite topic is woodworking, by far. No love for the landscaping posts! That’s good. I hate landscaping. Major PIA.
To Podcast or Not to Podcast
For some time now, I’ve been kicking around the idea of hosting a home improvement style podcast. It’s a fun medium… and boy can I talk. While you were generally receptive to that idea, with a little over half suggesting that you would listen to it, I’m going to pass. Home improvement is such a visual activity and video is a far more effective tool for teaching and learning new skills. Trying to discuss cabinet building and some other construction style topics on a podcast would be a challenge. There are some really good home improvement podcasts out there (check out Doug’s Thumb and Hammer Podcast, for example), but I think video will be better for what I’m trying to do here.
Ideally, I’d like to produce a more regular stream of videos so you can tune in weekly for new topics and discussions. I’ll probably start transitioning to a slightly different video format in the coming weeks to match that goal.
The other big idea I’ve been considering is an online kitchen cabinet and built-in course. Thanks to your feedback, this is definitely going to happen. I’m planning to start filming it next month with the goal of getting it available before the end of the year. My goal is to make it comprehensive and very detailed so you’ll know exactly how to build either your own set of kitchen cabinets or your own custom built-ins.
The format for the course will be video instruction with some added software tools. I’m probably going to make it a monthly subscription type website, but I’m still figuring that stuff out. I promise to make the course available early to all of our newsletter subscribers at a substantial discount.
Cabinet building is by far my favorite topic to discuss with folks and I think this will be a lot of fun.
Another change you’ll see soon is to our website. While I like this design, I’m going to make some updates to it to make it easier for new and current readers to explore and find content. I’ll also fix that annoying pop-up so you don’t see it as often.
I’ve got a LOT of work to do.
Have a great weekend!
In today’s post, you’ll learn
– How to Install Shadow Box Trim
It’s been a while since we’ve finished any home improvement projects and although, this latest one is pretty quick and simple, it feels great to wrap up another project nonetheless. Lisa and I had been planning on adding some sort of decor or charm to our front entry for some time now and we settled on shadow box trim since it looks great and won’t break the bank. Between paint and trim (both chair rail and base cap molding), we probably spend around $150.
To make this tutorial even easier, I put together a video for you to help demonstrate the process. Check it out:
(Click here if you don’t see the video to be redirected to YouTube)
Here’s what tools you’ll need for this shadow box molding project:
I wrote a how-to post for eHow.com, which will explain this whole process in written form along with an explanation for the angle cuts on the stairs. As soon as that article goes live, I’ll update this post with that link.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when you are thinking about installing shadow box trim. For starters, when you are trying to plan the layout and figure out how many boxes and how big each one should be, smaller walls should only get one box. Longer walls can get more than one, but try to get an odd number as odd numbers tend to look better, although we weren’t able to squeeze in odd numbers on our walls.
You’re also going to need some sort of top cap like a chair rail molding before you install the shadow box trim. Luckily, we have a post and a video on how to install chair rail, which you can check out first.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment on this post OR on the YouTube video.
If you think my shadow box trim looks good, do me a favor and share this post.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.
It’s that time of the year again. Time for me to take the pulse of my readers and make sure that the content I’m creating is keeping you interested and engaged. If you have ANY feedback whatsoever, now is a great time to let me know. I’m continuously looking to improve my brand and your opinion genuinely helps me achieve that goal.
Please take a minute or two and complete this survey.
Thanks for your feedback!
In today’s post, we’re talking to one of readers, Matt from Virginia. Matt recently finished his own fireplace built-ins using our Large Built-in Plans and we’re talking to him about his experience. There’s a few nuggets of wisdom here.
Matt ended up taking our free plans and making some modifications to the dimensions to accommodate his living room. Along the way he painted the fireplace, added floating shelves and mounted his flat screen tv.
Here’s what Matt’s living room looked like before the project:
Now here’s the after. Looks killer!
1. You based your cabinets on the Large Built-In cabinet plans. Did you have to make many changes to the design or the dimensions to get them to work in your space? Was that difficult to do?
I had to change the plans to accommodate two different sized cabinets. The left hand cabinet is 48″ with the right hand cabinet being 51″. It was not difficult to change the plans. A little time consuming to verify measurements and check over everything twice, but rather easy. Having the plans actually saved time, because I had something to reference and/or use as a guide.
2. What was the hardest part of the project?
Hardest part of the project was the amount of time it took to finish. The first problem was the plywood was cut to the wrong size at the big box store that I went to, so I had to further modify the plans versus returning the wood to the store. This only set me back and added additional time to the project. Secondly, I cut the face frame short on both cabinets – this proved to be challenging as it made hinge selection difficult. I ended up using 3/8″ hinges and hollowing out the sides of the cabinets to accommodate the hinge. Finally – I have never made inset doors. This for me was by far the hardest part of the project. By nature I am a perfectionist and getting the gap to line up without having a jointer or planer was very difficult. The gaps on the doors to this day are not a perfect 1/8″ all the way around
3. How long did it take you?
It took 8-9 months to finish the project. I worked mostly on weekends or in the mornings before work to get the project done. This was building the cabinets, painting the fireplace, running cables through the wall to mount the TV above the fireplace, installation of floating shelves and repainting the living room.
4. What kind of finishing process did you follow? What primer and paint?
I sprayed the finished using a HomeRight Finish Max Fine HVLP Paint Sprayer – Behr Premium Plus Paint in classic white and Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer. In total, it took two coats of primer and two coats of paint. The process also included tips from your site on painting cabinets. I used 150 girt and 220 grit sand paper initially on an orbital sander to get everything smooth prior to painting, with a light 220 grit sanding between coats of paint and primer. The top was stained with American General Java Gel Stain and finished in Min-Wax Polyurethane – I sprayed this from a can for a satin finish.
5. What are you using the cabinets for?
The cabinets are mostly for housing the cable box and electronics along with my kids puzzles and board games, pull-ups, etc.
6. What are future projects are you planning around your home?
Future projects are bathroom remodels – one which is already complete. I have two more bathrooms to finish out. The two remaining will get new floors, vanities, mirrors, etc.
7. If you had to do the project over again, what would you have done differently?
If I had to do the project over again, I would have used pocket holes to put the carcass of the cabinets together. I ended buying a dado blade set off of Ebay that came in handy, but I already had a pocket hole jig and that may have saved me some time. I would have also opted for overlay doors vs inset, as I think overlay doors would be more forgiving.
Great advice from Matt after his cabinet build. You can see the reflection in his countertops from across the room. Nice! Thanks for sharing your project with us, Matt.
In today’s post, I wanted to let you know about a new, free tool I’ve added to our Plans page, a Cabinet Door Calculator. It allows you to input the dimensions of a cabinet door opening and it outputs the dimensions of the individual parts to make that door.
If you’re thinking about replacing your current kitchen cabinet doors, this tool will take the trouble out of figuring out the dimensions for the door parts. You can select between Inset or Full Overlay doors and you can even adjust the number of doors you are building.
To get access to this free tool, you just need to subscribe to our free newsletter using the form below. As soon as you subscribe, you’ll receive an email with a link to the calculator and all my other woodworking plans.
This is the same type of calculator I’ve used for all of my cabinet projects including my home office remodel and both of our built-in projects. Actually, every time I’ve planned and built my own cabinets, I’ve used a spreadsheet like this one to make the project easier. It allows me to make minor changes to the design or dimensions without much of headache.
This tool will help with the planning, but if you want to see how to build the doors, you can watch how I’ve built a couple in two of my YouTube videos:
The spreadsheet includes instructions on how to use it, but if you have any questions, you can always email me (John(at)Ourhomefromscratch.com). Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and you’ll see the latest videos as they are released. At the moment, I’m planning on filming at least one more cabinet door instructional video.
This past Tuesday, the Philadelphia Region was slammed with a windy summer storm that knocked out our neighborhood’s electricity for days. We were without power until this past Saturday. No fun. Since we moved here from the city five years ago, we’ve lost our power maybe once a year and for never longer than a day or two. Even during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we didn’t lose our power.
During the storm last week, we were able to borrow a portable backup generator from a kind neighbor who had extras. Surprisingly, this was my first experience using any type of portable generator system. We kept it out in the back yard and ran a couple extension cords through a window to keep the fridge going and to do some laundry. That setup worked pretty well until it started raining. Turns out, generators are electrical devices and they don’t like getting wet. Go figure. Unable to effectively keep it dry, I had to turn it off and bring it inside the garage until the storm passed. This time of year with the heat and the humidity, it could rain everyday or every other day.
When it rained and we weren’t using the generator, we resorted to putting all of the refrigerator contents into a cooler packed with ice. We kept the freezer section closed, which supposedly will keep the food cold for up to 48 hours. We’ll see, I’ll let you know if I accidentally eat any spoiled meat.
A few of my neighbors that have portable generators also have an outlet on the outside of the house they can plug the generator into. This setup allows them to power the entire circuit breaker instead of running extension cords through a window. With the circuit breaker powered up, they can then choose which circuits to turn on. If you want lights and the refrigerator powered up, no problem. You can turn breakers on and off depending on what you’d like to power.
Here’s what that outlet and power cord looks like (thanks, Ed):
There are a couple drawbacks to this option. Since the plug is for a portable generator, it’s not designed to sit out in the rain so you’ll need to either safely cover it somehow or bring it in. Guess when your power is most likely to be knocked out? You guessed it, during a rainstorm. Once the storm is over though, you’re good to go.
The other issue is the size. You can get portable generators up to 17,500 Watts. If you want to power up your central air conditioner, you’ll probably need 17,500 Watts and for that size you’re looking at spending around $3k-$4k just for the unit.
The unit we borrowed from our neighbor was 3250 Watts and it was plenty big for a fridge and lights. You can get a decent sized portable generator for under $1000 no sweat.
The other option available is a whole house unit. This type of generator will sit permanently in one location and will be hard wired into a box next to the main breaker panel. They can run on propane or natural gas as opposed to gasoline, which is used on the portable generators. The whole house backup generators will monitor your circuit breaker for a power outage and then power themselves on automatically. You can then select which devices to provide power to. If you hook it up to a natural gas supply line in your home, you won’t ever need to run out during a storm and add fuel. Power goes out, generator kicks on and you’re back in business. They can be sized from 10,000 Watts on the low end up to 22,000+Watts on the higher end.
(20kW Home Standy Generator via Amazon.com affiliate link)
Obviously, the advantage here is a nearly uninterrupted power supply. If you get a generator big enough, you can keep the AC on. Since it’s designed to never be moved, it can take abuse from the weather and the elements. Some of them perform their own maintenance and will let you know if you need to change or add oil or call for a service appointment.
The big downside to this type of option is the price. The equipment costs around $4k and up not including installation costs, which I could handle.
The big question: Is it worth it? Can we get by with a $500 unit and just run some extension cords? If we install the outlet outside, am I okay with running out for gasoline every day or bringing it into the garage if it rains? This is one of those questions that everyone needs to answer on their own. What’s your pain threshold?
Today, I’m not a fan of no AC, frequent rainstorms and no lights. I’m also not a fan of paying $4k for something I may not need that often. So, we’ll see. Definitely doing something, just not sure which option yet.
What would you do? What would you do if the price wasn’t an option? Maybe I need to sell some more books!! 😉
Stay tuned, because you know I’m going to show you how to install this piece once I buy something.
Today I’m happy to announce that our new eBook, Renovate Your Kitchen the Smart Way is now available for purchase. You can check it out at www.KitchenRenovationBook.com.
KitchenRenovationBook.com is our new sales website and kitchen remodeling blog. I’ll be writing more kitchen remodel focused blog posts over on that site, so be sure to head over and read our blog section.
All of my eBook packages come with a 100% satisfaction guaranteed refund policy. If you buy the book and think it stinks (you won’t), I’ll give you all of your money back. No sweat. No hard feelings.
How many book stores will give you your money back if you don’t like a book you bought?
A couple other things worth noting…
You own the book and all updates or future revisions for life. When you purchase one of the products, you’re actually buying a membership for life to the KitchenRenovationBook.com website. You’ll be able to create a username and password to login and download your files. You’ll have access to those files for as long as I’m around. If I ever update the ebook, calculators, printables, or whatever, you’ll automatically have access to them. Free updates for life.
Right now there are three calculators in the Starter Package. If I decide to add a few more later on, you’ll be able to download those at no additional cost. You’re good to go. Maybe I’ll find some typos or expand the book down the road. Guess what? You get those updates too.
This is our first product launch ever and I’m very happy with the products. If you think this book will be helpful to someone you know, please share the link with them.
Actually, do me a favor and pin and share the living crap out of this post! Thanks!
Happy Monday! In today’s post, I wanted to share with you my 3 biggest successes during the renovation of my first home’s kitchen. Last week, I discussed my 3 biggest failures. If you haven’t read that post yet, it’s worth a read. Later this week, I’ll be launching my new ebook to my newsletter subscribers only. For a few short days, all of the products will be available at a discounted rate. Then I’m going to raise the prices and advertise to everyone else. If you want to get in on the lower prices, just sign-up for our free newsletter by filling out the form below. Keep in mind the prices will go up before the weekend (20 June 2015).
So let’s discuss those successes.
My 3 Biggest Kitchen Renovation Successes
1. I Saved a TON. How much is a ton? In this case, I probably saved anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. How was I able to do that? The biggest savings came from the kitchen cabinets. I built my own from scratch and gave them a custom look by adding crown molding and making the doors inset. My material costs were around $2,000 for the plywood, lumber and hardware. They weren’t perfect, but they really looked good. I don’t think you could tell they were home made unless I told you. Similarly priced cabinets from a cabinet shop or other supplier would’ve set me back well over $10,000. Not interested in building your own cabinets? No problem. Consider buying ready-to-assemble cabinets or see if you can find a local cabinet shop that will sell you unpainted cabinets. If you are seriously thinking about building your cabinets, hang in there. I’m going to build a course soon that will teach you how to do just that. In the mean time, you can read about two of our more popular cabinet builds to get a sense of what that process is like. Read about our home office cabinets or better yet, watch the build video. You can also read our TV cabinet build.
2. I Extended the Life of the House. The house was around 100 years old when I bought it. Much of the bones of the kitchen weren’t in great shape. The entire kitchen had paneling over furring strips. The walls weren’t insulated. The roof above the kitchen wasn’t insulated. The windows were broken. The door was a piece of crap. The electrical was sub-standard. The plumbing was on life support. You get the picture. The renovation required me to frame in a whole new interior structure, add insulation, new HVAC supply line, new plumbing as well as new windows and doors. Within a few weeks, the kitchen was the most modern part of the home. Aside from getting a beautiful looking space, that kitchen will help extend the life of the home by decades. It’s less likely to have an electrical fire. It’s less likely to have a roof leak. With all that added value, it’s going to be looked after by a new family or new families for a long, long time. Leaving the house in better shape than I found it is very satisfying.
3. I was Able to Sell the House in Two Days. After nearly seven years of living in my first home, it was time to move. My wife and I listed the home on a Monday morning and it was under contract before Thursday. The first people to walk through the place on Tuesday morning made us an offer. After a day of negotiations, we agreed to terms. We had to cancel a weekend full of showings and maybe we left a higher offer on the table, but we didn’t care. We were already under contract to build our current home so our focus was on getting a quick sale. I’m sure our buyers had a long list of reasons why they liked that house, which included things that we couldn’t control like location and their commutes, etc. But the things we could control, like the kitchen, we killed it.
Those are just a few of my successes from my first home’s kitchen renovation. In my new ebook, we discuss ways you can both save money and properly plan and execute your next kitchen remodel. It doesn’t matter if you’re a handy DIYer or completely hands-off. Knowing how to manage your kitchen renovation is the key to a successful remodel.
If you thought this post was helpful, do me a favor and share it on Facebook or Pinterest.
Thanks and hope to be emailing you soon!
If all goes according to plan, next week I’ll be launching my new ebook. The book is a guide on how to renovate your kitchen intelligently so your remodel goes smoothly and stays on budget. It’s pretty much an organized brain dump of everything I know about kitchens and planning renovations. It’s my best remodeling advice from my decade plus of working on houses. Sound good?
Over the next few weeks, as the book launches, I’m going to reflect back on some of the more important lessons I learned from previous kitchen renovation projects. I wrote the book with the intent of passing on those critical lessons to you so you can avoid my costly mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, my kitchen renovation experience has been positive. However, I still think it’s important to discuss my failures, especially if we can learn from them. After all, we often learn much more from our mistakes than our successes.
Before we dive into the post, you can actually listen the audio version of the ebook’s introduction by clicking right here (you can also right click and download the MP3 if you’d like).
Here are my 3 biggest kitchen renovation mistakes from my first home. Do your best to avoid them!!
1. I Avoided Using Contractors. This one was a whopper of a mistake. Back in 2008, I hated hiring contractors. I was perfectly capable of doing my own work and simply preferred to have complete control of all my home improvement projects. Unfortunately, I ended up working on a couple different houses at once and my kitchen renovation wasn’t progressing fast enough. I was saving money, but I was spinning my wheels. Towards the end of my kitchen remodel, my wedding was quickly approaching and I was forced to hire contractors for the electrical, plumbing and drywall in order to get the work done on time. It was surprisingly affordable and unbelievably quick. Both the electrician and the plumber were done in a day or two. The drywall crew needed around a week, which allowed me to break away and work on building my kitchen cabinets. All I kept thinking for weeks was, why didn’t I hire these guys sooner?
Key Takeaway: Hiring out contractors isn’t always a bad thing. This advice probably only applies to those folks that like to do EVERYTHING themselves (like me).
2. I Assumed the Wrong Appliance Size. When I designed the layout of my kitchen, I sized my own kitchen cabinets and appliances. I used Ikea’s free kitchen planning tool to figure out the cabinet and appliance locations and then used the results for a cabinet planner program. The cabinet planner software takes your cabinet sizes and spits out a material and cut lists (yep, built my own cabinets). After I bought all my material and appliances, I realized I made a BIG mistake. I had assumed that the width of my new stainless steel refrigerator would be the same as my old one. Whoops. I designed the kitchen layout and the cabinet dimensions around that smaller fridge. As I was building the cabinets, I realized that it wasn’t all going to fit. The cabinet layout needed to be modified and I ended up shrinking a 15″ wide pantry cabinet down to a barely usable 12″ to give the bigger fridge more room. Even with that adjustment, it was TIGHT.
If you’re reading this and thinking that you don’t need to worry about this since you’re going to use a kitchen designer and they’ll figure that out, be warned. If you don’t know the exact size of your appliances (typically just width), then you end up making assumptions. If you make the wrong assumption, you have to live with it. That may mean a smaller fridge or a couple smaller cabinets.
Key Takeaway: Make sure you have your appliance sizes identified OR be prepared to stick with whatever size assumptions you use when you design your kitchen.
3. I Didn’t Work with a Designer. This problem was more of an issue for selecting materials and not so much the kitchen layout. We knew we were going to have white cabinets. That was easy. We really liked a certain slab of granite we saw at a supplier. Great. So far so good. Then it was time to pick a backsplash and we whiffed. It took us months to find something we thought coordinated well with our cabinets, floor tile, room color and countertops and I still don’t love that backsplash (even though we haven’t lived there in five plus years). We could have done better. I don’t want to speak for Lisa, but I’m aesthetically challenged. If you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a decor blog and for good reason. I stink at picking out colors and coordinating multiple pieces. Not my thing. If I could go back and hire someone for a couple hundred bucks to make a tile selection, I would.
Key Takeaway: Consider hiring a kitchen designer to coordinate all of your material selections. In the ebook, I tell you what to look for if you decide to work with a designer.
In my next post, I’ll tell you about my 3 Biggest Successes from My Kitchen Renovation.
Don’t forget, if you have a kitchen renovation coming up and you’d like to get the ebook at a discount, sign-up for our free newsletter. You’ll be the first to know when the book is available. In addition to the ebook, there will also be packages available that include an audio version of the ebook, printables, excel calculators and even one-on-one coaching time with me. It’s going to be fun. Stay tuned.
As most of you probably know, our biggest home improvement project over the last year has been our home office remodel. It took us nearly a year to finish it!! The good folks over at Hometalk liked it so much that they asked us to curate a collection of our favorite home office makeovers. You can see that collection, by clicking on this link to be redirected to our Hometalk Home Office Board.
This collection features some home office remodels you may have already seen, but if you haven’t then you need to check them out. In addition to our own home office remodel, which you can check out here, you may spot Colette’s office makeover from her blog, Moving to the Country. Colette and I actually have the same courtland model from Ryan Homes so our offices are identical in size. Her office looks amazing and I’m pretty sure she was able to wrap hers up in well under a few months.
There’s also Chelsea’s office remodel from Two Twenty One. Pretty much looks like a catalog photo. Nice!
So head over to our Hometalk Home Office Board and have a look around. While you’re there, be sure to join their community and follow me. I don’t post all of my projects on Hometalk, but certainly the biggest and best ones.
That’s all for today!
Make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter. Big opportunity for our subscribers next week so stay tuned.
Hey! Thanks for stopping by. We're Lisa and John and this is our DIY and Home Improvement blog. Feel free to browse our DIY project gallery or our latest posts. You can read more here.
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