Posted by John on February 27th, 2014
In this post you will learn
-A unique approach to framing out a coffered ceiling
Over the last few evenings, I’ve managed to squeeze in some office work. Not the typical office work one would expect, but the kind where I’m screwing 2×6′s to my ceiling. THAT sort of office work. As of today, the coffered ceiling framing is in place. Once I get the go-ahead from my local township to start the electrical work, I’ll be pulling cable through the walls.
Here’s how the office looks right now.
When the wiring is done, all of that wood will get covered in drywall and then wrapped in crown molding. If you’re new to our site, we’re going for a unique, drywalled coffered ceiling instead of one made from all hardwood. The framing wood method SHOULD end up being cheaper than an all-hardwood approach, but I’ll let you know once the room is all wrapped up.
Ultimately, depending on how this ceiling turns out, we’re looking to add a coffered ceiling in our family room and kitchen space. This is a warm-up of sorts for us. The family room and kitchen ceiling is about four times as large.
So let me rewind this project a bit and show you how this ceiling took shape.
We started with the soffit we’re installing above the built-ins. Aren’t soffits old fashioned? They certainly can be, but we’re hoping it gives our built-ins a bigger look. TBD. The soffits are just two 2×4 frames that we fastened to the wall. They extend out as far as the future cabinets taking into account that they’ll get covered in drywall.
So the soffits are JUST for the cabinets. With the framing for that completed, it was time to turn our attention to the coffered ceiling frame. I started by fastening a 2×6 at the top of the wall all the way around the room. The 2×6 was butted up against the ceiling.
To the 2×6, I nailed a 2″ wide strip of 2x wood to the very top and very bottom of the 2×6. This left a middle channel on the 2×6 that was 2.5″ wide. That’s the same width as a 2×3.
With this channel in place all the way around the room, I then used a chalk string to snap chalk lines to mark where the ceiling joists were located.
Knowing exactly where the joists are located makes fastening the longer beams to them much, MUCH easier than trying to guess or use a stud finder at a later point.
Next, I built two long “I-beams” that consisted of a 2×6 on the top and bottom with a 2×3 on edge sandwiched in the middle. I used construction adhesive (aka liquid nail) and my pneumatic nail gun to build them. These two long beams spanned the length of the entire room and were intentionally run perpendicular to the ceiling joists. I made the middle 2×3 section longer by a couple inches so it could be inserted into the channel that went around the room. It made installing these beams crazy easy. The beams just rested in the channel until I screwed them into the ceiling joists.
This whole channel system made the work a little heavier than I’d like, but it enabled me to put all that wood up by myself. I also used my SketchUp drawing to mark exactly where the beams needed to be located. Considering how hard it looks, this was surprisingly simple to do.
So what are the key takeaways from this post that you can use on your own project?
- Chalk lines are your friend
- Don’t be afraid to try a different approach to a common project
What home improvement project is next on your radar? Are you thinking about taking a different approach with a certain aspect of it?
Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,ceiling, coffered ceiling, home office
Posted by John on February 20th, 2014
As promised, I’m back with another post on adding value to our home. If you’re new to our site, here’s what we’ve covered so far in this short series. Oh and definitely check out our new “Start Here” page.
1. How I Doubled my First Home’s Value (Free Newsletter Subscribers Only)
Today I’m going to share with you 6 Ways I’m Planning on Adding MORE Value to my Current Home. Before I get started, I want to stress that if you’re a DIYer, all of these upgrades are achievable with a little know-how and a LOT of hard work. You can be sure we’ll be sharing with you all of our experiences with these projects as we go along. Our blog’s motto is just like voting… visit early and visit often.
Let’s get started.
1. Killer Spaces. When you walk into our home for the first time, I want you to be impressed. Not just, “Hey, nice house,” but “Holy crap, this place is AWESOME.” Actually, I want people to say that in EVERY room in our house. How am I going to achieve that? By adding custom touches through trim, paint and other woodwork. Basically, what we did in our dining room with the wainscoting is what we’d like to do in every space. That doesn’t mean I need to spend months of work or thousands of dollars all over the house, but it means I need to put some level of thought and effort into these spaces.
2. Finished Basement. Right now our basement is unfinished. It’s where I do most of my carpentry and cabinet building. There’s a lot of construction material down there and all of my power tools. My neighbor summed it up nicely during one recent visit when he said “Oh, so it’s pretty much Home Depot down here.” Consequently, Lisa has prohibited me from sharing any photos of it in its current state. I’m thinking we add a bathroom and a bedroom down there as well as a pantry, a sweet common area with a bar and a pool table. Unfortunately, this is going to be expensive, but I can make this addition much more affordable by doing it in stages. I can frame it out and then a few months later I can do the electrical. Maybe a few months later, do the plumbing. You get the idea.
3. Deck AND Patio. Double trouble. Our house doesn’t have anything in the back, other than our shed. Now it’s a really nice shed, but I can’t exactly relax in it with a drink on summer evenings. So, what to do? I’m personally a fan of patios and they seem to add more value than a comparably built deck, but they are mad expensive. Moreover, I can build my own deck, but I’ll probably die of extreme exhaustion if I attempt a large patio build. What makes our property especially patio-unfriendly is the drop off. The back door has a good four foot drop and then the yard slopes away from the house with about a 6-inch drop for every foot of run. It eventually levels out, but it’s probably 20 feet out before it does that. So in order for me to add a patio, I’d have to level out that land or bring in a ton of dirt and stone and bring the dirt up to the door. Either way, it would easily be a $20k to $30k job if I paid someone to do it and I just don’t think it would be worth me attempting it. SO. We’re probably going to build a nice, large, high-end deck ourselves. THEN, we’ll add a small stone patio (i.e., small enough for me to build) further out in the yard where we can sit around a nice fire.
4. More Hardwood. In our last post, our biggest value adder to date has been our new hardwood floors in our living room, office and family room. I’d LOVE to replace our builder grade carpeting in our upstairs bedrooms with the same hardwood. I may have to win the lottery first, but it’s definitely a goal I’d like to achieve. Honestly, this job intimidates me more than any project I’ve worked on to date. It took me two full days each time I installed hardwood floors in those other rooms. So if I repeat that in my upstairs, I’m looking at like ten days of pure laborious hell. Plus, I’d be moving furniture out of some rooms then moving them back. Ugh. I may opt to pay someone to do it. TBD.
5. Luxury Master Bath. Our master bathroom is nice. It’s big, it’s got a nicer soaker tub and if we decided to move tomorrow, I’d be happy to show it to a prospective buyer. BUT, it’s super plain and could use some luxury elements to lift its value. I’d like to resurface the whole space. New tile, new claw foot tub, larger shower with overhead shower heads. Again, by doing all the work myself, I’m only looking at material costs. It’s lower down on our totem pole of projects compared to the deck and the basement, but it’d be nice to get done.
6. More Landscaping. More bushes, shrubs, flowers, trees, plants, etc. Outdoor work is HARD. REALLY hard. I absolutely hate doing it, but it makes such a big impact, that it’s worth the effort. We’d really like to add some ‘islands’ of interest in our yard with some more plants. Throw in some landscape lighting that up-lights those areas and we’ve immediately given our outdoors a boost. I’ll give you a good two weeks notice before I start, that way you can buy stock in Advil. I’m going to need a lot of it.
So that list is exhausting. I’m glad I enjoy working on my home, or else this list would read like a prison sentence. Honestly though, I’m literally looking at 5-10 years of hard labor in this list alone. :)
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
I would love to hear from you now. How are YOU planning on adding value to your home in the years ahead??
Posted in DIY Projects,Uncategorized. Tagged in ,home, home improvement, value
Posted by John on February 18th, 2014
In this post you’ll learn:
-What Detailed Design is all about
-How to use existing products to dimension your own projects
It’s been nearly two weeks since our last home office post, so it’s time for an update. We just completed the detailed design work and we’re going to be getting started later this week with the actual building. I’m pretty pumped about starting. Really looking forward to building some coffered ceilings and cabinets!
Let’s do a quick recap of where we are in the build process. Nearly a month ago we kicked off the room re-design with a discussion on the Home Remodeling Process. We started with the Concept Design stage where we listed all of our requirements for the space and made some rough designs of built-in and cabinet options using SketchUp. We finished the Concept Design stage with a couple major accomplishments: 1.) We picked a furniture layout and 2.) We picked a coffered ceiling design. That’s it. That’s all we really needed to do there.
Here’s a quick picture of where we left off last time…
So now it’s time for some Detailed Design work. What’s involved with the detailed design work? Good question. We’re going to take those rough ideas we came up with during the Concept Design stage and we’re going to add all the detail. Were you expecting something else?
What sort of detail? That’s a better question. Here’s a list of everything I need to have answered before I’m done with the detailed design work and can start buying material.
1. Large built-in cabinet dimensions: How wide to make the stiles and rails. Length of all the cabinet pieces. Door or face frame designs. How high to make the cabinet. How high to tie it into the coffered ceiling. What sort of cabinet construction method. Cut sheets. Material list. If drawers, which drawer slides, etc.
2. Coffered ceiling: How will I actually build this thing. How much lumber. Where will the lights go. How many lights. What size/design crown molding.
3. Work desk: How much space will we need. What sort of leg room. What color to make the desks.
4. Filing Cabinet: How big should the drawers be. What kind of drawer hardware. How big are filing cabinet folders.
Get the idea? I need to nail down the specifics of nearly everything that gets assembled. That means I need to think about all that stuff and in my head or on paper I need to know the process or the steps I’m going to take to get the room finished. Admittedly, that’s not something I can explain in great detail in a couple posts. It takes a LOT of experience to design a functional cabinet from start to finish and then tie it into a desk and ceiling work. Is it hard to figure all that out? Not really and it’s fairly easy stuff to learn, just time consuming.
The key point I’d like to stress here is that if you aren’t prepared for even one build detail, it can bite you. If I just winged the coffered ceiling or the cabinets, I may get lucky and end up with a quality piece of work, but chances are I’d make mistakes or end up re-doing something. Putting all these details down on paper is really the goal here.
So let’s dive in a little deeper here so I can illustrate how I wound up with the details for each of these main four areas.
Dimensioning the Cabinets
Let’s start with the built-in design. First thing I did once I nailed down the overall dimensions, which includes the height, width and depth of the cabinets, I went to work on figuring out how big to make each individual piece. I used the SketchUp model I started with and drew some lines and rectangles on the face of the cabinet until I had something that looked like a cabinet. I stuck with common dimensions for all the parts. So, the rails and stiles are all 2″ or 2.5″. I didn’t intentionally make something 2-17/32″ or something. Keep it simple. Here’s what the front of the bottom built-in cabinet looks like with the drawer front drawn on and the doors.
You don’t need to be a SketchUp expert to come up with something like this. If you want more info on how to dimension a cabinet, I suggest you read our series on our Custom TV stand.
Now let’s talk about the coffered ceiling. The original design included three drywall boxes across the width of the room and four across the length. I assumed the drywall should be 8″ wide, just because I thought it looked good. Then I got to thinking about how I was going to actually construct these coffered ceiling beams and I realized that my initial layout was flawed and that maybe getting 8″ wasn’t quite as plug and play as I’d like it. So, I made some changes. I came up with a layout that worked for the room, but more importantly, it’s something I can make from regular 2x’s and some drywall. I ended up with 3 boxes across by 3 the other way. It’s slightly more rectangular than I’d like, but it’s going to be much faster to build.
Here’s the original ceiling layout:
Here’s the current one:
It’s not a huge change, but the top one would take me much longer to build. I’ll get more into the details of the finished coffered ceiling design when I actually show you what the framing looks like. It’ll be much easier to explain a photo than to try to describe my idea.
Onto the work desk. When you design something simple like a desk, it’s easier to start with existing models. So, instead of reinventing the wheel, I just looked inside a Pottery Barn catalog and wrote down the dimensions of one of their desks. Their desks have a depth of 23″. Okay. So does mine… now. Better to use a reference than to guess at something like that.
As for the filing cabinet, I measured the dimensions of a folder we use in our current filing cabinet. Now when I design the drawer size for the new unit, I know it needs to accommodate a drawer that can hold one of those folders. That’s how I came up with my drawer sizes for the third cabinet.
So after all that detailed design work, my finished product is a list of materials I need to take to my local building supplier. I’m having them deliver all the long pieces, since it’s easier. I’ll pick out the poplar boards for the cabinets myself.
In our next Home Office post, we’re going to start framing out the coffered ceiling.
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Posted in Design,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,design, furniture
Posted by John on February 13th, 2014
Happy Snow Day to all of my East coast friends! If you’re keeping count, this is something like the 11th winter storm we’ve had this season. I’m honestly not complaining, though. We’ve got a couple little kids that haven’t seen much snow since they’ve been born. So this year has been fun, but yes, I’m ready for spring.
If you subscribe to our newsletter, this past week you would’ve gotten a list of 7 Ways I Doubled my First Home’s Value. If you would like to see that list, just subscribe to our newsletter by using the opt-in form to the left of this post.
In today’s post, I want to share with you 4 ways we added value to our current home. Next week, I’ll share with you several ways we’re going to add more value in the future.
Some things to keep in mind before you read this list… We haven’t had our home appraised since we moved in 3 1/2 years ago, so we’re assuming that these projects have added value, but we absolutely can’t be sure until we either get it re-appraised or sell it. That wasn’t the case with our first home, which I had both appraised on multiple occasions AND we sold it.
4 Ways We Added Value to Our Current Home
1. Removed All the Carpet and Added Hardwood.
When we first bought our home, we had the builder install wall to wall carpet in our family room, living room and office not to mention all the upstairs bedrooms. Within several months of moving in, we ripped out the carpet in our living room and family room and just recently added hardwood in our future office. This is probably the biggest home improvement we’ve accomplished to date. Very few buyers would prefer wall-to-wall carpet over hardwood, so this is one of those projects, where we can’t go wrong.
2. Added Traditional Features
Our dining room was majorly boring. Lisa wants to keep with the colonial look of our home and add some traditional elements to enhance the character of some of the spaces. The dining room was an easy place to start since we barely use it and the work wasn’t all that intrusive. We went with a traditional raised panel wainscoting and we’re super happy with the results. While I can’t be sure if a project like this truly adds monetary value, it can’t hurt. If nothing else, it makes the house more attractive.
3. Improved the Curb Appeal
Since we’ve been in this house, it seems like half of our home improvement projects have been to the exterior. We’ve added a shed, upgraded our flower beds, added landscape lighting and drip irrigation system so we can set it and forget it as well as a host of other curb appeal projects. In terms of adding value, the landscape lights really weren’t all that expensive and add a ton of interest.
4. Custom Furniture and Trim
This is one of our more recent upgrades. We built two custom furniture pieces that we don’t plan on taking with us. They’re built-in to the wall, so unless future buyers hate them, they’re staying. Custom pieces CAN add a lot of value, just look at your average home magazine and you can see that higher end homes have custom furniture all over the place. In addition to those cabinets, we’ve added chair rail molding in our vestibule as well as some extra trim to our crown molding to make them look bigger.
So that’s a quick summary of some of the value adding projects we’ve done since we’ve been in our new home. Keep in mind that ALL of these projects were done by Lisa and I and they are ALL doable by your average DIYer. If you don’t yet have some of those DIY, planning or power tool skills developed yet, then please stick around. The goal of this blog is to help you improve your DIY knowledge and skill set. And again, subscribe to our free newsletter for more exclusive content.
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In our next post I’ll share with you several ways we’re going to be adding MORE value with our future projects.
Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,home improvement, money, value
Posted by John on February 6th, 2014
In this post you’ll learn about:
- Two different types of coffered ceiling options and the pros and cons of each
- How to design the layout of the coffered ceiling boxes using Excel and SketchUp
In between shoveling out from snow storms and salting our sidewalk, we’ve been winding down the concept development portion of our home office renovation. So far we’ve installed hardwood flooring and picked our furniture layout. The only thing left before we move into the detailed design work is the coffered ceiling.
Let’s start with the coffered ceiling concept design options.
Option 1: Wood
(via This Old House)
This is the most common approach I’ve encountered. It’s done with three pieces of wood and some crown molding. The advantage is it’s not very labor intensive and there are a ton of tutorials out there to illustrate the build process. The big disadvantage I see to this look is the cost. You’re looking at several hundred dollars worth of pine or poplar on the ceiling.
Option 2: Drywall
This is the approach we’re opting for in our home office. It’s a little less common and we love the high end look. The pros: It should end up being less expensive than using an all-wood design since drywall is fairly cheap. We’ll still need 2x lumber underneath the drywall, but we would probably need that in both options. The cons for this approach is the joint compound. It’s going to take some time and effort to spackle or mud and sand all those seams. Plus it’s overhead work, which means it’s going to be uncomfortable.
Let’s take a quick look at how to layout something like this in a room. We’ll use our office as an example. To make this process easier I drew an outline of the room’s ceiling in SketchUp, just like in our furniture layout post. Instead of 3D, I just drew a 2D perimeter drawing of the room.
With the room outline drawn, the next thing I did was try to deconstruct what was going on in that last picture. It appears as though the coffered ceiling boxes are wide pieces of drywall and around the room there is a half-wide piece. Again, just guessing at that by looking at the Houzz.com photo.
Next, I assumed that the wide drywall is 8″ and the more narrow drywall around the room is 4″. Now I’m going to use MS Excel to calculate how big the boxes should be and how many I should make. You can just do this part with a pencil, paper and calculator, but I prefer Excel since I can make changes on the fly with little effort. (If you want to see a video on using Excel for this type of work, check out our video here).
In Sketchup, I drew a 4″ wide box out from all the walls to mimic the photo. Then I measured how wide and long the room was with the 4″ box added. I entered the room width in inches into the first Excel cell. Then I entered what I think the drywall width is, which I’m assuming is 8″. The picture of the office has three ceiling boxes, so let’s start with that too. Next I calculate how much ceiling the width of the drywall takes up, which is 2*8″ = 16″ since you can see in the photo that there are two full 8″ wide pieces in the middle of the room. I subtract 16″ from the room width, 123″ – 16″ = 107″. I then divide the 107″ by how many boxes I have, which again, in this case is 3. That leaves me with about 35 5/8″ or so of ceiling space for each box. I repeat this process for the length of the room with the goal to try and keep the boxes close to looking like squares and not rectangles. I do that by adjusting the number of boxes so the box widths are within a few inches of each other.
Ok. So now I know my dimensions of the boxes and the drywall. I can go back to SketchUp and draw out those boxes. I’ve extruded them to give them a 3D look and here’s what I end up with.
I then imported this ceiling model into my office layout drawing.
Here’s a closer view of how the ceiling meets the built-ins. I still have to make some adjustments to the built-in design to make sure it all plays nice together.
Each one of those boxes will have a full size crown molding installed in it. The perimeter of the room will also have some crown molding wrapped around it. Either most or all of those boxes will also have small can lights, for which I’ll need to pull a permit. I still need to figure out HOW to install all these boxes too. All I did here was dimension them to get the look we want.
So that’s pretty much the end of the concept design portion of our home office. Next I need to shift gears and dimension the cabinets.