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Our New Forums are now LIVE

Posted by on November 2nd, 2014

Great news!  The newest addition to our website is now LIVE!  It’s the DIY forums and it’s waiting for you!

user forums

Let me answer a few questions you may have…

 

What are the DIY forums?

The DIY forums are a brand new area of this website where you can ask questions about your home projects, discuss projects from other people and show off your finished work.  More than that though, it’s a first step towards building a community of like-minded home improvers and DIYers.

Is it Free, what’s the catch?

Yes, it’s 100% free.  No catch.  Well, the catch is people need to actually use the forums in order for it to be successful.

How do I sign up?

In order to post anything in the forums, you’ll need to register and create an account.  You can do that by clicking here.

I’m already a newsletter subscriber, is this different?

Yes, this is separate from the newsletter.  You’ll need to register and create an account even if you are already a newsletter subscriber.

Ok, sounds good.  What do I do once I’m registered?

There is a New Members Intro discussion started.  Tell everyone a little bit about yourself.  You will also be able to build a social network-like profile complete with a description of yourself and a photo.  You’ll be able to add friends, chat, share status, etc.

What can I talk about on the forums?

Pretty much anything home improvement related.  Have a question about electrical, landscape, woodworking, cabinet building or general DIY?  Ask away.

 

I hope that answers any questions you may have!  Now go register!

Posted in Blogging,Forums. Tagged in ,

Survey Results 2014

Posted by on September 29th, 2014

In today’s post, I wanted to take a few minutes and share the results of the reader survey we ran a couple of weeks ago.  We received over 75 responses, which is not too shabby.  If you took a few minutes to take the survey, THANK YOU!  Your opinions are important and will help shape the direction of this blog going forward.

Let’s start with our readers.

We have a very large number of male readers compared to most home improvement blogs at 58%.  You also told me that 86% of you own your homes instead of renting.  I probably should’ve asked you what your ages were, but that’s probably more relevant to outside marketers and sponsored posts, which is not a large part of our blog income strategy.  Besides, if you like working on your house, who cares how old you are.

male female survey

own vs rent

The next question was about your level of interest.  Basically, are you a casual reader that simply enjoys seeing what we’re up to or are you reading with the intent of improving your home improvement skills.  Here’s what you said.

Level of Interest

In case you were wondering about that math, this is one of those questions where you were allowed to select both!  Otherwise, I need to go back to grade school.

Now we get into our content.  I wanted to know what sort of posts you enjoy reading and what posts you would like to see more often.  Not surprisingly, you said Carpentry was your first pick, followed by General Home Improvement, Cabinet Building, Design (which is surprising), and Adding Home Value.  I can tell you with some degree of confidence that this isn’t anything terribly different than what we’re already doing, so this post lineup shouldn’t change too much.  I’m a bit surprised by the Design category getting some attention, so I’ll make sure I put more emphasis on those posts when we get to them.

categories

The next big change to the site that I’ve been thinking about is a adding a forum where readers can post their own questions and projects.  I know you all have projects of your own and by offering a place to talk about them I think we’ll all get a ton of value out of it.  Since I knew everyone may not end up using the forum, I still wanted to gauge the general interest in the concept.

Here’s what you told me.

forum

Um, yeah.  I think this is probably a good idea.  I’ll be working on adding the forum, just as soon as I finish up our home office.

Another aspect of our blog that I’ve been exploring is adding a purchasable product.  If you’re a frequent reader of home improvement blogs, then this whole idea may sound strange and could potentially be a turn-off.  However, there could be a large enough percentage of readers that are interested in some sort of ebook or online course that it would be worth the effort.

Here’s the situation.  I could write 200 posts on the ins and outs of kitchen remodeling, home improvement, trim work, cabinets, built-ins, or whatever.  I could write this blog for ten years and if you took the time to sift through all those posts, you may read everything you would ever want on those topics.

OR

I could write an ebook where I put together a few hundred pages of my thoughts on how to remodel your next kitchen or build your own kitchen cabinet.  It would be in one package of text, one resource for you to hold onto.  Being able to read posts is great.  Being able to have a guide in your hands or on your tablet is valuable.

If you don’t like it.  You don’t have to buy it.  No problem.

Still.  I wanted to be sure there was enough interest upfront before I started something.  Around 2/3’s of you indicated that you’d be interested (the graph says 75%, but you get the idea).

Ok, cool.  I’ll get started.

product

I’d also like to find out what topic you think would be worth developing into a product.  Not surprisingly, Cabinet Construction was your first choice with Kitchen Renovation right behind it.  A number of you also gave me some helpful suggested topics.  Thanks for those!  If I don’t incorporate them into a product, then you can be sure I’ll try to cover them in a future post.

topics

 

The final question of the survey was an open invitation to write me a comment.  What do you like?  What do you hate?  What needs to get better?  Anything you wanted to say.

The most common response I got was regarding the look of the website.  Either the images aren’t big enough or the layout is awkward.  Some people have even emailed me to tell me they don’t think it looks good on a mobile device.  While I was considering a refresh at some point down the road, your feedback has convinced me that I need to make those updates sooner rather than later.

I also need to post more often.  I realize that once a week kind of comes across as lazy on my part.  I’m going to make an effort to post twice a week, but I’m still going to approach each post as an opportunity to deliver some sort of value to you.  If I don’t have anything worth saying, then I’m not going to hit publish.  I just don’t want to waste your time.

There are a couple other side projects I’m developing that have been consuming some of my free time.  I’m really looking forward to telling you about them when the time is right.  That extra time investment has eaten up some of my post writing time.  The biggest time consumer right now is the home office project.  Once that’s done I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Thanks for your help in making this a blog worth reading!

R,

John

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,

Blog Survey 2014 Tell Us Your Opinion

Posted by on September 11th, 2014

Last year around this time we ran our first ever reader blog survey.  The feedback we got from that effort was hugely helpful and we made a number of changes as a result.  Today and for the next couple weeks, we’ve opened up another survey.  Please take a minute and tell us what you like, what you don’t like or whatever is on your mind.  The results are anonymous, so you don’t have to worry about us finding out who you are.  Feel free to leave constructive criticism.  You should be able to see the survey below, but if you can’t you can take it by clicking on this link.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

blog survey 2014

 

 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

 

 

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,

Blogging 3 Years Later

Posted by on August 17th, 2014

Just last month, this blog of ours turned 3 years old.  If you’ve been reading our stuff this entire time, thanks a bunch.  Chances are however, you’re probably a new reader or you’re landing on this site for the first time and if so, welcome.  I decided to write a post about my experience with blogging for a couple of reasons.  The first reason: my approach to blogging has changed over the past few years and I firmly believe that it’s worth sharing the rationale behind those changes.  I know a number of my readers are bloggers and I hope they’ll benefit from this post.  The second reason is for all the readers that aren’t bloggers.  I want to tell you where this blog is headed.

blogging tips

Background:  I started blogging in 2011 for two main reasons.  I had developed enough home improvement and woodworking skills over nearly a decade that I could help people who were trying to add value and improve their homes.  I also heard that people were making money blogging and I thought I should give that a shot.  Seemed like the perfect combination of opportunities.  I loved talking about home projects and I could potentially make some money on the side.  Win-win.  The only problem was, when I first started out, I didn’t know how to do that.

The first two years.  When you’re first starting out, the easiest thing to do is follow the leader.  The best and most influential home improvement bloggers were all pretty much doing the same thing.  They were publishing great content.  In fact, they were publishing great content several times a week.  To be clear, I’m not just talking about Young House Love.  Everyone who was leading the pack seemed to be posting at least five times a week.   I think they all were doing that for a few reasons.  The more content, the more search hits, the more readers.   I don’t think that’s a bad strategy, at least at first.  When you are trying to get rolling, publishing a lot of content really can’t hurt.  Plus, if you really enjoy writing, then go ahead write the posts.

The underlying problem with my approach the first couple of years was my monetization strategy.  Most of the big time home improvement bloggers were making money from ad revenue and sponsored posts.  Those methods CAN be pretty lucrative IF you have a lot of traffic.  If you don’t have a lot of traffic, then no dice.  Ah, but more time and more posts will deliver more traffic.  More pins.  More time on pinterest.  More social engagement.  More tweets. More comments on popular blogs.  More guest posts. More.  More.  More.  If I just posted more often.  If I just get that one post that goes viral.  After two years and 300+ posts, I was starting to become skeptical of this whole traffic and ad based concept.  It works for some folks.  Wasn’t working for me.

Moreover, most of MY content is not terribly pinterest friendly.  The whole home blog scene tends to be dominated by women.  My content is more aimed at both men and women.  As a guy, I tend not to read blogs on a regular basis.  I’m assuming most guys don’t.  Even today, if I want to learn something new, I’ll google it.  If I land on a cool blog, I’ll try to remember it, but chances are I’m not going to pour a cup of coffee and read 15 posts in one sitting.  My wife will do that.

The past year.  Around July of last year, I bumped into a blogging niche that was taking a completely different approach to online publishing.  Lifestyle and income bloggers.  They were publishing LESS often, sometimes 4-5 times a month.  They had great traffic, but they weren’t using pinterest (if so, barely) to drive it and they were making more income in one month than some bloggers were making with their full-time jobs and their blogging gigs put together.  Sound cool?

What are they doing differently?  They’re publishing the same great content other bloggers are providing, but they’re also selling digital products on the side.  E-books, courses, consultations, you name it.  They have newsletter subscribers, not just RSS feed subscribers.  They have e-commerce sites, static sites, affiliate programs, podcasts.  It’s a whole other world of blog monetization.

Who are these bloggers?  Pat Flynn.  Derek Halpern.  Chris Ducker.  Ramit Sethi.  Melanie Duncan.  Many more.  Normal folks, that simply package their content in more ways than you may be accustomed to in the DIY and home improvement community.

Whats next.  Over the next several months and years, I’m going to continue to keep up the same posting schedule, the same content strategy and the same type of home improvement projects that you’ve come to expect.  I’m also going to be rolling out some new features that I think will help me deliver value to you, my reader.  I’m shooting to launch a new podcast before November and I’m thinking about adding a forum for more on-site conversation.  The goal with these two projects would simply be to grow the Our Home from Scratch community.

If you’re new to blogging or are considering starting your own, here are a few things I would consider adding to your to-do list.  Keep in mind, these are my own lessons learned.  At some point I was guilty of all of these infractions at one time or another.

1.  Start a Newsletter.  I started my first e-newsletter in December and I’m on pace to reach 1000 subscribers by the time next December rolls around.  How is this different than subscribing to posts in Bloglovin, Feedly or just an RSS subscription?  Newsletters are emails that you write to your subscribers telling them in your own words what’s going on.  You CAN use them to keep people in the loop on your latest posts, but you can also use them to remind them of giveaways, contests and downloads.  You can write unique content.  Have an idea for a post that you’d rather not publish?  It would probably make a great newsletter piece, plus it’s exclusive.  If you DO end up developing some sort of digital or physical product, it’s a great way of introducing it and offering sales information.  So start a newsletter.  I use Aweber for my newsletter service and so far so good.  Not sure who would ever subscribe to your newsletter?  Try offering something free in exchange for someone’s email address.

Just to put this in perspective.  My absolute biggest blogging regret was not starting an email newsletter on DAY 1.  Hands down.  When I started the newsletter, I wasn’t sure if I’d get a dozen subscribers in a year.  I’m getting 2 or 3 a day.  Some days I get a dozen.  I’ve had a Facebook page for my blog for nearly 3 years now.  I have under 400 likes.  Newsletters.  Do it.

2.  Only Post Valuable Content.  Don’t waste people’s time.  If you have nothing going on then don’t post.  You don’t NEED to post something just because you always post on a Tuesday or whatever.  If you take the time to write content that will provide value to people in one way or another, then you’ll readers will come back time and again.  But if you mail in a post and just talk about what you had for lunch (unless your blog is literally about your daily lunches) and waste people’s time, then they’re much less likely to pay you repeat visits.  I’m not talking about your blogging friends and real world friends that actually know you in real life.  I’m talking about people that read those 2 or 3 killer posts you wrote over the past year and you’re starting to grow on them.  Don’t blow it.  Oh and for the love of God, if you take a week or two off from blogging, you don’t need to apologize to your readers.  They’re not offended.  I promise.

3.  Don’t Make it a Chore.  Growing your blog takes time.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to churn out new, amazing posts every week.  If you feel like you HAVE to hit publish or your blog is going to sink, you’re going to get burned out.  Most people start blogs because they have something to say about a topic and they approach this new hobby with a fresh sense of optimism.  So very many of them will quit or get bored or become cynical over a lack of success.  If you’re blogging because you enjoy writing, then only write when you are going to enjoy it.  If you’re pissed off or in a hurry, then you’re going to make the process miserable.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Take your time.

4.  Be Known For One Thing.  When people land on your site, they decide within the first few seconds whether or not to look around or to move onto the next website.  People are a fickle bunch, no?  You need to grab their attention and immediately make it clear who you are and why they should read your content.  Chances are your content is diverse and you’re a complex person with skills, passions, hobbies and pictures of your pets.  That’s all great.  Let new readers figure that out after they’ve read a couple of posts.  Initially though, you need to hit them right in the eyes with who you are and what you’re awesome at.  Like a deer in headlights, if that’s what they’re looking for, you’re in luck.  So how do you do that?  Well, take my site for example.  I want people to know right away that this site is about home improvement and power tools.  Before they leave, I want them to think “Oh, this guy builds furniture.  This guys is good at home improvement.”  What do you want the people who land on your site to think?  Gear your site towards that goal.

 

 

Posted in Blogging,Lessons Learned. Tagged in ,,

Our Blog Should be Like a Mullet

Posted by on June 1st, 2014

When I first started blogging back in 2011, Lisa and I would cover more topics in our blog posts than we do today. A lot has changed since then. For starters, Lisa doesn’t write anymore. I’m also much more focused on home improvement and DIY projects specifically. Gone are the recipe posts and the occasional humor post. Probably for the best. At some point over the last few years I decided that sticking with this one niche topic would be better for our readers and frankly more satisfying than trying to cast a wider net. For the most part, it has been more enjoyable. In December we introduced our free email newsletter and started publishing wood working plans to try to build our following. Things got serious.

While this approach is all well and good, it can leave our blog a bit impersonal. Our posts are much more technical. I would prefer to make our blog more like a mullet. Not just business in front, but also a party in the back. My goal for this website is to build a community of people that not only enjoy reading my posts, but also contribute their own opinions and experiences.

In today’s post, I want to share some details of my life that I don’t often discuss on the blog and in the comments section I’d love to hear about you and your life.

What I do when I’m not blogging or working on the house.

For the most part, I’m usually trying to help Lisa around the house with the cleaning, laundry and taking care of our two girls. I used to cook more frequently after I graduated college, mostly because I had to. When I was 23 and 24 I was glued to the Food Network. I loved Oliver’s Twist and Good Eats. Nowadays, Lisa does 99% of the cooking, but I’ll try to do something one night a week or so. In case you missed that math, 1 night out of 7 equals 1%. Unfortunately, I find it much harder to cook if I’m actively working a home project like our office remodel.

What I do for fun.

When I have some genuine down time, I enjoy playing a first person shooter on our PS3. It’s setup in our sitting room. Lately I’ve been playing Battlefield 4. I didn’t pick-up the latest Call of Duty game. My video game time is usually 30 minutes or less so I prefer the run and gun type games that I can jump into and then quit. I never play the campaigns, just the multiplayer. I like to think I’m pretty good at it, too. Leave me your PS3 handle in the comments section and I’ll add you to my friends list, especially if you have BF4.

What TV I enjoy.

I HATE getting sucked into TV shows. It’s the worst. What I mean is… the shows that I get addicted to are usually so good that I end up binge watching them and they kill my evenings. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who. That’s pretty much the only regularly scheduled show that I watch. Otherwise I’m watching hockey or DVDs with our kids. I’ve managed to avoid watching Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and House of Cards. Lisa just started watching Mad Men.

Where I travel

I have a great full-time job (that I won’t get into) that enables me to travel very rarely. I’ve been to San Diego, Seattle, Japan, Ireland, Denmark, Canada and Germany (soon). In my personal travel I’ve been to Portugal, France, The Netherlands and Mexico. Would love to get to the UK, back to Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scotland. It’s hard to pick a favorite place. In the US, I love San Diego. Even wrote a travel post about it way, way back when. It’s hard to beat the East Coast though. Philly and NY food is pretty hard to beat in the sandwich, pizza and European ethnic food department.

Sports

I don’t do sports. I used to run and workout when I was younger, but I haven’t been to the gym in a long, long time. I would love to start running again on a regular basis. Not for competition, just for good health and for enjoyment. Just this week, I ran for the first time in maybe ten years. My legs are destroyed. It’s going to be at least 4 or 5 days before I can walk normally again. This summer, I’ve been thinking about learning how to hockey skate so I can play in a rec league next year. I can ice skate, but I can’t skate backwards, speed stop nor have I ever tried to skate with a stick and puck. Going to be interesting.

Hobbies

Is watching and talking about Doctor Who a hobby? No? Well, then blogging is my hobby. Lisa and I are also dabbling with some online business ventures. One of my goals is to add a membership section to this site beyond the email newsletter. I also started writing a book on kitchen remodeling. Hope to have it finished by the end of the summer.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me a little but about yourself.

Posted in Blogging,Life. Tagged in ,, ,

My Amazing Experience with Angie’s List

Posted by on February 25th, 2014

In this post you’ll learn:

-About my Amazing Experience with Angie’s List

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to work on our home office remodel.  I’ve got about 90% of the coffered ceiling framed out and I’ve applied for an electrical permit for the additional ceiling lights we’ll be adding.  I’m looking forward to shifting gears and actually doing some drywall work, which isn’t something I’ve had to do much of in our new house.  Am I any good at spackling or mudding walls?  I’m actually pretty good at it, so I hope I can share some tips on that subject if you’re interested learning.  Later this week, I’ll share some pictures of the ceiling work on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.

House1

Today, I want to do something a little different and share with you one of my all-time favorite remodeling stories.  Now just so we’re clear, I’m not being paid to write this post.  I’m sort of on the fence as to whether or not I should start doing sponsored posts or not.  I have yet to write one.  Anyway, that’s a discussion for another day.  Even though this isn’t a sponsored post and I’m not being compensated for it, I just added Angie’s List to my affiliate portfolio.  That means if you visit the Angie’s List website using my link AND THEN purchase a subscription to their service, I get a kickback at no additional charge to you.  Affiliate advertising is a good deal for bloggers and there’s way more money in affiliate advertising than banner or Google ads.  Anyway, just want to be above board with our readers on this stuff.

So back to my favorite remodeling story….

It’s 2008 and I’m getting married in under three months.  I’m living in a row house that has been about 50% gutted.  The kitchen is gone.  The upstairs bathroom is non-existent.  All of my personal belongings are covered in a thin haze of horse-hair plaster dust.  I was just informed by Philly’s License and Inspections Department that I need to have most of my remaining remodeling work completed by licensed and insured contractors.  Philly has a policy where contractors are the only ones permitted to perform electrical and plumbing work.  Homeowners are allowed to do some basic remodeling like window replacements, framing, drywall, etc.  Not a popular policy among DIYers as you can probably imagine.  So, being the rule follower, I acquiesced and attempted to hire a plumber and an electrician.  Lucky for me, I had just signed up for Angie’s List.  A few years prior, I had renovated the first half of the house and hired out some roof work.  I quickly realized that using the yellow pages to find a roofer was a misadventure I didn’t care to repeat.  Let’s just say I burned through some serious vacation time waiting for contractors to eventually not show up to give me quotes.  It was infuriating.   So by the time 2008 had rolled around, I had already become an Angie’s List subscriber.

Now here was the challenge before me.  I needed to identify affordable, competent and reliable contractors to finish the electrical and plumbing work so I could finish the house in time to have my beautiful bride move in after we got married.  These contractors would have to both show up AND give me a quote, which in the days before Angie’s List was… well… a crapshoot.  Oh, and after all of that, I still wanted to build my own kitchen cabinets.  Needless to say, time was a critical factor.

Here’s how I pulled it off…  On a Monday, I called three electricians and four plumbers I found in Angie’s List.  I told them all I wanted them to come by my house on Wednesday and give me a quote for some work I wasn’t permitted to do myself.  I intentionally gave them all different times so as to stagger their visits throughout the day.  Right away, in Philly, this is like asking for the Pope to swing by with a fresh cheesesteak.  A couple responded with something like… “Meh, maybe Wednesday will work.  We’ll see what we can do.”   Then, as if reading from a script, towards the end of the phone call, they would each ask me where I got their number.  Was this from a previous job?  Did you find my number on a bathroom wall?  Where did you hear about our business?

This is my favorite part.  I would tell them “Angie’s List” and then listen for that audible silence on the other end of the line.  That “Oh crap, I better show up and better give this dude a quote” kind of silence.  They would all commit to being at the house that Wednesday.  They know that if they didn’t show up or blew me off, I could go onto Angie’s List and leave them a bad review or indicate a no-show.  That’s not good for business.

Wednesday rolled around and I literally had a dozen contractors in the house tripping all over each other to scope out the job.  It was an Angie’s List miracle.  Oh and that whole staggering thing went out the window once the morning rush hour hit.  I had three electrical contractors in the house at the same time eyeing each other up.  I think it ended up working out in my favor.  They knew there was competition.

Each and every one of those contractors showed up and all but one gave me a written or verbal quote.  One contractor did decline to provide a quote, but showed up anyway and after viewing the work, told me he wasn’t interested in the job.  Hey, at least he told me.

I was thrilled.  I ended up hiring two awesome contractors that’d I’d recommend in a second.  Actually, I’m working on a Resources Page and I will provide their info to anyone in the Philly area who’s looking for some quality guys.

All the work ended up getting done fairly quickly, which left me in a great position to build my kitchen cabinets.

So that’s my Angie’s List story.  If I ever need anything done by a contractor, which is rare these days, the first place Lisa and I look is “the List.”  The membership fee is outrageously affordable.  It’s under $4 a month and the cost drops even further if you buy a whole year or two subscription.  Lisa and I have even used it to look up our prospective doctors and dentists.  Forget “in-network”… are they on the List?

For $4 a month, if you hire a contractor once a year, it pays for itself immediately.

Just so you know, I’m never going to recommend a product or a service that I haven’t used or don’t hold in high regard.

I hope you’re having a great week and I’ll be back later this week with a home office update.

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,,

Custom Woodworking Plans

Posted by on January 15th, 2014

Since we started releasing our free woodworking plans to our newsletter subscribers, I realized that not everyone may be interested in building projects that are exactly the same size as the units in our house.  Fair enough.  So, I decided to open up an Etsy shop and sell custom dimensioned versions of the projects we make available to our newsletter subscribers.  If someone wants to build one of our built-ins for example, but would prefer it taller or wider, no problem.  You can buy the plans online and specify what final dimensions you would like and in a few days we can email you a customized set of plans specifically for you.

We’re also selling the same plans that are available for free to our newsletter subscribers.  Why would I do that?  Well, for one thing, it’s an opportunity to try and leverage some of the work we’ve done so far.  It’s also a great way of establishing value to our readers and subscribers.

Here’s a link to our Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/OurHomefromScratch

This weekend, we’ll be back in our office finishing up our hardwood floors.  In our next post, we’ll be sharing some of the design process and layout options sized for our office.  We’ll get a chance to see what those ideas we considered actually look like in the space.

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,,

Our 2013 Blog Year in Review

Posted by on December 17th, 2013

Maybe this post is a week or so early, but with the holiday week fast approaching, I think it’s now or never.  I’m not sure how much time I’ll have next week for a wrap-up, plus I want to make some changes to our theme during my Christmas vacation.  I actually LOVE tweaking the html and css for our site.  Probably because it’s such a new thing for me and I get a kick out of it.  I’m sure it’ll get old eventually.  Over the holiday, I hope to add another set of plans for our subscribers and I’m shooting to add them by the end of next week.

Anyway, it’s always fun to look back on the year that was and take another look at the projects we attempted.  Key word here is “attempted.”

2013 Blog Year in Review

Let’s start with January…

ektorp popped screws

The first month of 2013, introduced our readers to our Master Bedroom and Sitting room.  You can actually get a tour of our whole house on the Home Tour page.  We bought an Ektorp couch from Ikea and upon opening the box, discovered it was broken.  Instead of returning it, I just fixed it.  Couches are heavy and I’m not a fan of returning heavy stuff.

prego lisa

We also got to hang out with Kristen from Popcorn on the Stove and met John and Sherry at a Young House Love book signing.

In February, we started off with a Wiggles Themed Birthday Party for our two year old.  Lisa made some graphics on Photoshop and we had a fun family party.

wiggles themed cookies

We finished up February by starting on our large built-in cabinet and also knocked out a custom wooden frame made from reclaimed lumber from a 200 year old barn.

reclaimed lumber frame

March was all about built-ins.  We did the bulk of the carpentry work for our large cabinet over the course of this month, including our tutorial video on building shaker cabinet doors.

inset shaker doors

I think April was our favorite month of 2013.  We added a daughter to our growing family and wrapped up our large built-in cabinet.  I guess the baby was slightly better than the cabinet.  ;)

baby hand

We put a wrap up post together for the built-in to make it easier to follow the flow of the build.

built-in cabinet

In May, we turned our attention to the outdoors and gave our mailbox an overhaul.  We also made our first attempt at a DIY concrete planter.

black concrete planter

mailbox flowerbed right

June was all about the garage.  In addition to giving it a good solid cleaning, in June, we bug proofed the windows and installed a pegboard over the workbench for added organization.

pegboard final

window with clear insulation

I’m happy to say that those windows are still bug proof!!  Big win.

July may not have been everyone’s favorite month since we did more than a few posts on website coding and WordPress theme design.  While I’m not going to bore you with details of coding again, I am thrilled that we were able to get away from our standard theme and design something custom tailored to our needs.  It’s always a work in-progress though and I’m continuing to make some tweaks here and there.

web design process

We also finally found some time to add UV window film to our front entrance.  Tricky to put up, but it’ll prevent our floors from getting sun damage.

installing uv window filters

In August, we spent some more time in the garage adding an electrical outlet and plumbing in some compressed air so I could move my compressor out of the garage and into the basement.  Love the extra space that move has given me.

compressed air in garage

finished outlet

In September, we finally re-epoxied our garage floor.  You could literally eat off it now (I still wouldn’t).  We also wrapped up our summer long garage improvement series by revealing the after photos.

garage floor epoxy after

organized garage

In October, we took it back inside and started design work on our custom media cabinet.  October was pretty much TV stand month as we only posted about the build of this piece.

50 inch side view

November saw the completion of the TV stand project.  This cabinet has only been around for a few weeks and we’re big fans of it so far.

build-a-tv-stand

In December, we kicked off our brand new newsletter and rolled out our next big project: our home office.  We also released our first set of woodworking plans to our newsletter subscribers.  Fun times.

Office-before

So that was our 2013.  Pretty exhausting if you ask me.

We’re super excited about 2014.  We’re really going to try to go crazy with this home office.  We’re going to be adding a lot more woodworking plans and possibly open an Etsy store for custom furniture designs similar to what we did in SketchUp for the TV stand.

Thanks for following along and we genuinely hope you learned something from our experiences this past year.  I mainly write these blog posts with the intention of passing along some of the experiences I’ve gained over the years so you can approach your own home improvement projects with more clarity and confidence.

All the best,

John and Lisa

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Instagram Christmas Ornament Party

Posted by on December 2nd, 2013

It’s that time of the year again around here.  Lisa is digging through our Christmas decor bins and dressing up the house.  While holiday decor isn’t really my thing, I do enjoy laughing at some of our older ornaments as we pull them out of the bins.  It’s a fun tradition.

Since we could use a break from the whole cabinet construction thing, we’re going to do something fun this holiday season.  We’re kicking off an Instagram Christmas Ornament Hashtag Party.  Here’s the theme: Weird or Funny Christmas Ornaments.

I’ll start..

weird-christmas-ornament-2013

If you’re not sure what that is, there’s nothing wrong with you.  I promise.  It’s Captain Kathryn Janeway from the TV series Star Trek Voyager.  My folks bought it for me back in Christmas of 1998.  Why I’ve kept it this long is the real question here.

So here’s how this Instagram party will work.  Take an instagram photo (or Twitter) of the weirdest, oddest or funniest Christmas ornament you own.  Use the hashtag #WeirdestOrnament2013 or #FunniestOrnament2013 when you post it.  You can also post it on our Facebook wall.

In a week or so, I’ll share the photos in a post.  Let’s keep it lighthearted and safe for work, if you know what I mean.  Okay?  Cool, have fun.

Posted in Blogging,Holiday,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Our New Weekly Newsletter

Posted by on November 27th, 2013

Wanted to check in with everyone before Thursday!  I forgot to mention in our media cabinet wrap up post that our total cost was approximately $155.  Originally, I had hoped to build it from leftover material from the bigger built-in, but I ended up needing more wood than I thought.  We’re happy with $155 considering it’s pretty much exactly what we were looking for and we probably would’ve had to have spent more than $200 to get something similar.

The other update I wanted to mention is our new weekly newsletter.    You may have noticed the opt-in form to the left of this post.  We’re primarily starting the newsletter as a way of keeping our readers more in the loop with our projects and posts.  As an incentive, to subscribe, we’re going to be including content that you may not see on the blog.  That content will include tips and tricks for DIY and carpentry projects.  We’re going to try and keep up with the newsletter broadcasts on a weekly or as-needed basis.  We promise not to spam.

The most compelling incentive we’re giving our readers to subscribe is coming soon.  In a few weeks, we’re going to start releasing our project plans for all of the woodworking projects we’ve done since the blog started in 2011.  The plans will include a full tutorial as well as a materials list.  Of course, the plans will be absolutely free to our subscribers.  If you’re 100% not interested in subscribing, but still want access to the plans, I’m going to sell them on Etsy as well.

I encourage all of our regular readers and new visitors to subscribe to our new, free newsletter.  There’s an opt-in form at the end of this post that you can use to subscribe as well as the form on the sidebar.

We’ll make it worth your while.  I promise.

Lisa and I hope all of our American friends have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!!  See you next week!

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