My Favorite Cleaning Products

Posted by Lisa on October 18th, 2012

Hey guys!  I hope you all had a great week so far.  It’s almost Friday, so I thought I would share some of my favorite cleaning items!

Cleaning for the most part is a chore for John and I – I do like organizing so that counts as cleaning, right? I have tried keeping up with a daily cleaning list but after a first few days I get so proud that I cleaned for three days straight that I reward myself with some days off… haha!  Two places that are always clean are my kitchen and bathrooms.  Most of the cleaning products help me with those daily chores.


My favorite cleaning product by far is Dr. Bronners.  There is about 29,763 uses for this cleaner.  I love it for making my own counter top spray, foaming hand soap, and to remove stains from fabrics.  It’s extremely safe – you can even brush your teeth with it! – and that’s why I love using it, especially around the little one.  Dr. Bronner’s also comes in different scents.  I currently have the scent-free (labeled as Baby Mild), Tea Tree (good for disinfecting), and peppermint.  Seriously, you can make anything with this stuff – laundry detergent, shampoo, soaps, sprays, and disinfectants.

Another product I like is anything from the Method line, which is sold in a variety of stores, but I buy mine at Target.  I really like their Grapefruit counter top spray.  I usually make my own, but when the Method grapefruit is on sale, I usually pick up a bottle or two.  The smell is a great grapefruit scent and I love everything citrus, especially in the kitchen!  If you have granite counter tops, Method has a great daily granite cleaner as well.  It makes our faux granite/laminate super shiny and smells great too!

Nature’s Miracle is the product I use when there are stains from either animals or humans on the carpet.  If you have pets, you know they sometimes have accidents and they’re just too cute to be mad at.  Nature’s miracle helps kill the odor and removes the stains of whatever you pet has left on the carpet.

Dusting and polishing is super easy with Murphy’s Oil Soap wipes.  I like the wipes since they let me dust and polish in one step, which makes this dreaded chore done a lot quicker. When I have the time, I also use the original Murphy’s Oil Soap mixed with water to clean my cabinets – I love the way they look after they’ve been washed.

My favorite two items to clean the floors in our home are the Haan and my Dirt Devils (yes that is plural, I will explain).  I use the Haan floor steamer and sweeper on the hardwood floors and tiles.  I love using the Haan because it sanitizes the floors without any harsh chemicals.  Also, you reuse the cleaning pads and they can be washed in the washing machine.  In the kitchen I use the super lightweight Dirt Devil to clean under the cabinets and under the table every couple of days to pick up crumbs.  I also use it on our area rug in the living room.  On the stairs, I use a small handheld Dirt Devil to vacuum the carpets.  Upstairs, I use the traditional Dirt Devil vacuum for the bedrooms and closets.

So that’s it – just a few of my favorite cleaning products that help me get cleaning done quicker.  I do want to mention that I am not being compensated for any of these products, they’re really just my favorites!

Have any cleaning products you love and want to share!?

Posted in Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Lessons Learned #2: Hardwood Floor Installation

Posted by John on January 16th, 2012

Forgive me if it seems like I’m milking the hell out of this hardwood floor installation. This is probably my fourth post on the subject and I’m trying to write as much info as possible to make the job go smoothly for any readers that are considering trying it themselves. This post will serve as a must read before attempting a similar project.

Here’s a list of things you need to have before you install hardwood floors.

1. Tools
– A pneumatic floor nailer (or stapler).  Usually set to nail on an angle, these nail guns are an absolute essential item and you can’t install a floor without them.  Consider buying one or borrowing one from someone you know if the project will take you longer than one weekend.

– Rubber Hammer for the floor nailer.  They are usually given to you when you rent a floor nailer.  Make sure you get one.

– A pneumatic finish nailer. For your first row AND your last couple rows, you can’t use the angle nailer.  You can’t use it on the first row because the angle nailer will move the board too much.  You also can’t use the angle nailer on the last three or four rows because it simply won’t fit.  However, you CAN use a smaller finish nailer to angle nail the board.  Can you just use a hammer?  Of course you can. However, you’re going to be slower and you’ll have a harder time doing an angle nail on the last few boards.  Consider renting one of these as an investment in time savings.

– An air compressor.   Necessary for operating the above nail guns.

– A miter saw (aka a chop saw).  Also a necessity.

– A table saw.  Yep.  You need one of these for cuts around objects.  The last row is almost always a little more narrow than the rest, so you’ll need a table saw to rip it to a thinner dimension.

– A sharp miter saw blade with 40+ teeth.  The higher the number of teeth and the sharper the blade, the cleaner the cut.  If you use a dull blade, you’re liable to have a harder time cutting the boards.

– A circular saw.  You’ll only need this if you’re removing older boards.  If you find out that a board needs to be removed and it’s five rows deep, you’re going to need one of these.

– A pry bar.  I use this a lot when I’m putting a floor in.  It can help remove boards that get messed up and it helps tighten the last couple rows by squeezing and turning it between the last row and the baseboard.

– A good pair of wire cutters.  If you mishit the angle nailer, it can under-sink the nail.  You won’t be able to remove the nail by prying it out and you won’t be able to sink it deeper without messing up the board.  A good way to deal with these occassional hiccups is to just snip off the staple or nail with a pair of wire cutters.

– Shop Vac. A shop vacuum is always helpful after a floor install to help get up all the construction debris.

– A sharp pencil or a fine pen.  For marking the length of the last boards.

– Wood glue and scotch tape

– Wood putty. All the boards with face nails, need the nail holes filled. (See below)

– Stain pen. Any small shards of floor missing can be colored in with a stain pen to hide the mistakes. (See below)

2. A Game Plan

Before you put down that first board, you need to know how the work is going to proceed.  Have a realistic expectation of how long it will take you so you can plan tool or equipment rental properly.  It look Lisa and I about a full weekend to finish our 400 square foot family room and this isn’t the first time I’ve done this job.  Also worth considering is what floors you’re removing or replacing. Ripping out carpets is quick, but linoleum or older hardwood is slower and more laborious.

Make sure you check with a reference manual as well to get a proper perspective and instruction on how to run your floors (left to right or front to back) and how to get your first board down.  Our posts are just an example of what Lisa and I did and isn’t meant to be purely instructional.  We’re not going over every single detail.  You need to do your homework

It’s also important to consider how you’ll deal with obstacles like vent holes or bump outs in the wall.  We had to interface with our fireplace so we decided to frame it out in flooring first.IMG_2727-1024x682


3. Proper Workplace Setup

A properly setup work space will help reduce the amount of work time and provide for a more efficient installation. If someone is helping you, make sure you have assigned roles and you’re not tripping over one another. Good teamwork will go a long way with this job. For our family room, Lisa picked out and laid down the boards, while I hammered them into place and nailed them down.  We were able to get into a groove and really move through the job.

Make sure you setup as much equipment in the space as safely possible. I ALWAYS setup my miter saw in the room I’m working. If I left it in my basement or my garage, I’d have to stop and go down stairs every 5-10 minutes for cuts. That will wear you out very quickly.  Having it right there in the room adds sawdust, but it saves a ton of time.

Keep all your hand tools in one spot. If you use your pen once a row, keeping it in one spot throughout the job will prevent you from having to scour the room looking for it every ten minutes. Same goes for your hammer and pry bar.

4.  Dealing with Mistakes

No matter how careful you are, mistakes will happen.  Boards will get slight surface cracks on corners and splits that reveal unstained wood.  Those mistakes will be visible and can mar an otherwise perfect floor job.  Add to that visible nail holes on your first and last board rows.  The important thing about dealing with mistakes is knowing which boards can be saved with small repairs and which ones need to be removed.  Some boards will get damaged well after they’ve been installed and removing them isn’t even a practical choice.  If you think you can fix it and the damage is minor, leave the board in and keep moving with your install.  Don’t make cosmetic repairs until your done the whole floor if you can help it.

For small corner tear outs or minor cracks, there is an easy way to fix them permanently.  You can apply some wood glue into the crack, wipe off the excess glue and keep it secure with a piece of scotch tape if it’s hanging on for dear life.  You can even wrap the edge of the board in the scotch tape and bury it with the next board row.  Once the glue dries, you can use an exacto knife to score and remove the tape. You’ll never be able to tell.

For hiding the visible scratches and tear outs, I used a stain pen on our floor.  You can see this in action in the photos below.  I used a Red Mahogany stain pen even though my floors are stained Red Oak.  Why?  Because it seemed like it matches the color of my floor the best.IMG_2727-1024x682



For nail holes, I just used a Walnut colored wood putty.  The putty I bought is stain-able and will require a touch-up pen in order to be invisible.IMG_2734-1024x682


With Putty:

After Stain Pen:

From a few feet away:  They become completely invisible.  Obviously, the holes on the bottom right haven’t been done yet, so ignore those!

So that’s all I got on hardwood floors.  At least until we redo our home office!  Now onto finish some painting and trim.  Anyone else have off today?!

Posted in DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Family Room: Floored

Posted by John on January 10th, 2012

Well this has been one of the toughest weekends ever, but it was worth it. Lisa and I installed hardwood floors in our family room. We are extremely happy (and sore) with how it came out. For this post, since we already did a How-To on hardwood floor installation last week, I thought we’d just share with you some photos of our progress.

We started this job on Friday night. We spent a good hour or so and sealed off the room with plastic from floor to ceiling. Just like the floor removal in our vestibule, we were going to make a TON of sawdust and we wanted to prevent it from going all over the house. We even covered our fireplace. We’re not interested in having small combustible particles of oak getting in there. Just not a good idea.IMG_2697-1024x682



On Saturday we really got going. Starting at 9 am, the carpet got yanked. That removal was pretty straight forward. Luckily, I was able to enlist Lisa to help me through this whole project. Things that took awhile in the living room went quick in the family room due to her help!IMG_2700-1024x682


We followed the same basic procedure that we used in the living room with no surprises. When you work a room of this size, it’s helpful to have two people. While I was working the staple gun, Lisa was picking out boards and placing them in rows. Plus, we had our neighbors stop by and give us a hand for a little while. Under the guise that we were showing them how to install flooring, we managed to trick them into installing a couple rows AND they helped us clean up some of our debris. Jackpot. AND, they let us borrow a sweet work light. High five!IMG_2702-1024x682


At the end of the first day we had about half of the room done. Stopping around midnight, we were beat!! On Sunday, we got another early start and were able to finish up by 8pm. That left us a few hours to vacuum, wet swiffer and pull down tarps.IMG_2706-1024x682



At around 10pm Sunday night, after the house had been thoroughly cleaned, we settled in for our victory beer!IMG_2711-1024x682


On Monday, I did some quarter round molding and started to paint the walls in the family room. We’ll be posting on those projects later this week! We wanted to post for Monday, but we were so dead tired by the time we had finished the floors that it was hopeless!!

This project was exhausting! Have you ever worked a DIY project that you thought would kill you? Please share!

Posted in Flooring,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Finishing Up the Living Room Floor

Posted by John on January 4th, 2012

This is the second part of our hardwood floor installation.  This project was started on the Monday after Christmas and I left it as seen in yesterday’s post for a few days until I was able to get back to it last Friday.  There’s a LOT of hardwood flooring posts coming your way as we still have to start the family room floors and I’m planning on a “Lessons Learned” post at the very end to lay out all the little necessary tactics for making these type of jobs easier.

So here’s why we stopped for a couple days where we did (aside from the fact that it was nearly 10pm).  At this point I hit a major fork in the road on how to proceed.  The dining room floors have tongues that run toward the front of the house and the vestibule has tongues that run toward the back of the house. Now remember, this is relevant because I’m not leaving in the threshold, I’m removing it. If I left it in, this wouldn’t be an issue. IMHO, I think it will look better though if it looks like it was all installed during the build.



So after giving it some thought, I realized I had two basic strategies to mesh these floors together. The first option was to continue in from the dining room and modify each board as they intersect with the vestibule.  OR I could bring the vestibule towards the dining room and only modify the very last board.  The problem with the latter plan is it’s more risky.  If I get down to the last board and it’s in the middle of these two floors, there’s the chance it will be majorly wider or thinner than one board.  That would be horrible.  If this were a floor with varying widths, great, but it’s not.  The problem with the first option is it’s a lot more work as nearly every board against the vestibule will need to be sawed.  Yikes.

Because I had faith in the quality of the installation by the builder, I decided to bring the vestibule towards the dining room.  Here’s how I integrated these floors.

Part 3:  Removing the Vestibule Floor Boards

First and most importantly, I prepped the area with a solid wall of plastic tarps taped securely enough to prevent nearly all my dust from getting to the rest of the house.  A normal floor installation isn’t too dusty even with some cuts.  The dusty part is the removal of the floor boards.  That will create a TON of saw dust, so buckle up.

Here’s a shot of the vestibule floor before the work started.  You can see that horizontal board that acts as a threshold or a transition.  It get’s taken out.  IMG_2555-1024x682

Without the carpet:

Board popped.  This is where i learned which way the tongues were running.  You can’t tell until you see the board from the side.


Now I need to remove the last board from each row. I start by marking each board with a piece of painter’s tape near the edge. When I get to cutting, there’s going to be a soooo much saw dust on the floor that the blue tape makes it easier to keep track of what gets yanked. AND to make it easier on myself, I picked the longest board and left it in place. That’s a short cut that I can live with. The only reason we’re removing these boards is because they are all cut to the same length and we need to vary that so it doesn’t look like we added it.


To remove the boards, I used a circular saw with a new, sharp blade. I set the blade depth to 3/4″, which is the thickness of the floors and I make two passes through the board I’m removing being careful not to cut into the following board. Once those cuts are made, the center section can be cracked out with a pry bar or a hammer. If the center section pulls out OK, the un-nailed edge of the board will pull out with ease. To get the remaining section out, I used a thin chisel and hammered it down through the tongue, splitting it. If it splits, it pulls out easy.


After all the boards are out, you’ll need to vacuum! The rest of the way is easy going. I just added boards like I did in yesterday’s post until I had one board section left. The last board space was 1/16″ too short and had two tongues. Thus, my last boards needed to be cut to drop into that space. I used my table saw and it was fairly simple. If anyone wants to see what that looks like, let me know and I’ll modify a board and take some more photos. That last row of boards needs to be nailed in from the top because you don’t have access to the side of it. Oh and the 1/16″ is so small a difference that you can’t tell. I will need to go back with a stain pen to color up the edge I cut, but I’ll get to that later.



Plus, I have to add the quarter round piece, but I’ll get to that when we add it to the family room.

Overall, we’re very happy with them!

If anyone if considering this project and you have ANY questions, don’t hesitate to ask! 

Posted in Flooring,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Our Grand Plans

Posted by John on December 5th, 2011

This holiday season, between over eating and last minute gift shopping, Lisa and I are doing some pretty major upgrades around here.  A couple of them we’ve already posted about and you’ve probably already seen, but we thought we should clue you in on the big picture.  Here’s a list of everything we’re planning…

1.  Add chair rail molding to vestibule (how-to post here and odd angles post here)
2.  Enhancing our crown molding (this week)
3.  Caulking and filling nail holes
4.  Painting, painting, painting
5.  Adding hardwood floors to our living room and family room

We’re looking to do these projects to increase the value of our home, to improve the general look of the interior and because we really just have always wanted to do these upgrades since we moved in.  Among all these projects, of course, we’ll be showing you our holiday decorations and whatever else comes up

Most of the molding projects are nearly done, we’ll be showing the crown molding upgrade tomorrow.

The floors will be particularly challenging.  We have hardwood in the rooms adjoining the living room and the family room already and we want to tie the new floor into the old to make it look like it was always there.  That means ripping out some of the old hardwood.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Well, you’ll see soon enough.

Here’s a before view of our family room as of a couple weeks ago (it’s now in full Christmas mode…

and our living room…

So stick around and follow us via email (that box on the left) so you don’t miss a thing! 

Oh, and don’t mind those non functional tabs there on the left, we’re working on some functional upgrades.

Are you planning on any upgrades this holiday season?

Posted in Home Decor,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, , ,

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