Saturday, November 16, 2013

Vinegar is Amazing.

Me + Vinegar = BFF's for life.  I've recently discovered the amazing cleaning powers of vinegar.  Not only is it affordable, it's safe and natural to use around pets and wee ones.  Vinegar (and baking soda) is also a natural deodorizer, which will help take any lingering scents out of fabrics or rugs.  Oh, and it gets the job done.  Let's discuss, shall we?

My kitchen rug is something that I sought long and hard for; after weeks of searching for the perfect rug, I finally stumbled across this one at TJ-Maxx for only $25.  It was perfect pattern 'n hue.

And then one day my darling husband spilled an entire container of oil and vinegar dressing on it.  I tried my hardest to clean up the spill to avoid a stain, but it was too coveted rug was tarnished.

After a few weeks of feeling a rush of sadness and disappointment every time I looked at my once-flawless rug, I decided I needed to try to remove the stain.  Carpet cleaners and other stain-removing products aren't always affordable, and I'm pretty sure I've never found a product that actually does much to alleviate a stain, so I decided to take a different route: Vinegar.  I've heard all of the hoopla about the awesome cleaning powers of vinegar and baking soda, so why not give it a try on my rug?  I'm was sure the stain could get any worse, so it was worth a shot.  Here's what I did, and here are the results:

1. Gather your cleaning supplies.  I used white vinegar, baking soda, and a tooth brush.  That's it, folks.

2. Create a paste by adding a 'smidge of vinegar to a small bowl of baking soda.  The result will be foamy, fizzy goodness. #3rdgradescienceflashback

3. Generously apply the paste to the stain, using the toothbrush to work it in.

4. Allow the paste to dry completely.  I let mine dry for 24 hours.

5. Vacuum the rug to remove all of the dried paste.  This is where I was impressed.  The stain was practically gone!  It's not perfect, but it's definitely an improvement.  I've heard of people attacking a difficult stain more than once to remove it entirely, so I may go back at it one more time.  Check this out:

Since I was so impressed with the results, I decided to tackle another nasty job with some good 'ol fashioned vinegar: My nasty microwave.  Low and behold, vinegar came through again!

Here are some close-ups of my icky microwave before I cleaned it:

Oh hey, filthy microwave
 First of all, I have no shame in admitting how dirty the inside of my microwave was.  It's a microwave - messes happen.  But anyone who has ever cleaned a microwave knows how stubborn that baked-on grime can be.  I'm also not a huge fan of filling the inside of a food-friendly space with nasty chemicals...enter vinegar.  Here's how this trick works:

1. Combine 1 cup of hot water with 1 cup of white vinegar in a microwave-safe measuring cup.

(Prior to adding the cup of vinegar)
2. Place the mixture in the center of the microwave, microwaving it for 8 to 10 minutes (you want it to boil).  I only did 8 minutes and the mixture was boiling.

Apparently I measured slightly less than 2 cups...something I didn't realize until writing this post.
3. CAREFULLY remove the mixture using oven mitts or pot holders.  Chris commented on how the house smelled like "Easter eggs".  It did, but the smell dissipated within half an hour.

4. Using a damp rag, wipe the inside of microwave until it's clean.  I kid you not, this took me less than 5 minutes to do!  I washed the glass plate by hand in the sink, and the gunk came off of that really easily too.  Voila:

So fresh and so clean, clean.

And while I don't have photos of this, I also removed stains from my porcelain kitchen sink by filling the bottom with a couple inches of hot water and vinegar.  I let the mixture sit in the sink for about 15 minutes, then I drained the sink and the stains were gone!  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between me and vinegar...

So there you have it!  Three cleaning projects made EASY using a safe and cheap product.  As long as you don't mind your house smelling like "Easter eggs" for about 20 minutes, vinegar should work wonders on some of your toughest stains.  Good luck!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nightmare on Squirrel Street

All Hallows’ Eve is upon us, so in honor of one of our favorite holidays here’s a spooktacular tutorial on how to create some super hair-raising floating ghosts on the cheap.  Seriously, they’re so spooky we had to relocate them to avoid causing traffic accidents/offending our neighbors…yeah, they’re that good.

 The materials are very simple and easy to locate, and you probably already have some of them lying around your house.  Here’s what you’ll need to make your own spine-chilling ghost decoration:
·         (1) plastic candy pail – we got ours from the dollar store and opted for the clear, glow-in-
                the-dark option (instead of the traditional orange) so it wouldn’t show through our sheet
·         (1) wire hanger – FINALLY they’re good for something…
·         (2) Styrofoam balls
·         (1) old white sheet, or about 2-3 yards of bleached muslin (we used muslin)
·         2-3 yards of white cheesecloth
·         Durable rope or twine – we found black to blend-in with the trees/night the best
·         (2) safety pins/staples
·         (1) carabiner (optional) – we used one to effortlessly hang each ghost
·         You also need: metal snips, pliers, duct tape, and a drill
*Try to use store coupons (Michael’s, Joann’s, etc.) to save on purchased materials, like muslin, cheese cloth, and foam balls – you can easily save 40-50% just by downloading an app or clipping a few coupons!

The plastic candy pail will be the head of your ghost.  In order to keep the painted-on face from showing through my fabric, I quickly shot my pail with some white spray paint.  You could also stick some duct tape over the face if you don’t have any spray paint (I did this on one of our ghosts and it worked just as good as the spray paint).  Remove the plastic handle from the candy pail and turn it upside down. 

 Using the handle holes as a guide, drill a hole through each side of the pail; you’ll be threading your wire hanger (the ghost arms) through these holes.  You may not need to do this on pails that don’t have a lip/rim, but the ones that I purchased need the extra holes. 

 Then, use a slighter larger drill bit to carefully drill a hole in the bottom center of the bucket.  I emphasize carefully here as I cracked one of our buckets by pressing too hard with the drill – take your time to avoid cracking the plastic.  This will be where you’ll thread your twine through to hang the ghost.

Ignore the water...a random rain cloud found my bucket while the spray paint was drying outside.
Now, cut a section of rope/twine (at whatever length you’d like for your ghost to hang at) and thread it through the hole on the top (originally the bottom) of the bucket.  Tie a knot at one end to keep it from coming all the way through the bucket, and a loop on the other end for hanging the ghost.

  Using snips and pliers cut a section from your wire hanger and thread it through your handle holes.  These will be your ghost’s arms, so feel free to bend them in any which way you’d like.  Next, stick a Styrofoam ball on each end of your hanger arms; this will give the arms a nice rounded finish.  You may not need to, but I used some duct tape to secure the balls to the hanger so they wouldn’t fall off in the event of a blustery fall day.

Weird looking, I know.
 Now it’s time to make your prop look like a real ghost! Find the center of your muslin or sheet, and cut a small hole in the fabric.  Take the looped end of your rope and thread it through the hole, draping the sheet over your bucket-with-arms.  Then, find the center of your cheesecloth and part the weave to create a hole (you don’t need to cut it).  Thread your rope through the hole and drape the cheesecloth over the muslin/sheet.  The cheesecloth will add some much needed texture and dimension to your otherwise bland ghost.  I found that if the cheesecloth was longer than the sheet, the ghost looked exceptionally wispy and phantom-like.

Hole cut in the center of a sheet of muslin.

You can part the weave of the cheese cloth instead of cutting it.

Getting there...
Now your creation should really look like a scary specter.  To make it just a little bit more perfect, take a small bunch of muslin and cheesecloth under each arm and safety pin/staple it together.  Not only does this define the arms more, but it also secures your fabric from blowing around/off the ghost.

Pick out the best spot for your ghosts to haunt – we decided to hang our ghosts from a tree in our front yard, but you might also hang them in your house, from your porch, etc.  Remember when you tied a loop at the end of the rope?  Clip a carabiner onto the loop, and then wrap the rope around a tree branch (or what have you), clipping the carabiner back onto the rope.  If you don’t have any carabiners lying around, you can simply tie the rope to a tree branch or hook.  We found that it was really easy to hang/un-hang the ghosts with a carabiner, but use whatever method you like to hang your eerie spirit. 
To go the extra mile and really showcase your new Halloween decoration, you can put a spotlight on or under your ghosts.  We had a red floodlight in our Christmas decoration box that we used to illuminate our tree ghosts…they went from frightening to chilling with the flick of a switch.  In fact, our ghosts ended up looking so eerily realistic, we decided to take them down from our tree.  It’s not so much that they looked too ghostlike, but more so that they looked like small people/children draped in sheets hanging from our tree…they were honestly a little unsettling (even we were creeped out by them) and we didn’t want it to come across as tasteless to our neighbors.  We also live on a corner that sees a handful of traffic accidents each year and didn’t want to encourage more accidents with our disturbing distraction.  Perhaps if we lived somewhere tucked back from the public eye instead of on a busy corner with lots of passersby?  For some reason the ghosts seem less offensive when hanging in our garden or on the front porch, so we decided to let them haunt-away in those places instead. 

There you have it – a cheap ‘n easy DIY Halloween prop, unnerving enough to distract even the toughest of tough guys.  Happy Haunting...

Homeward Bound: Becket's Big Adventure

It’s been a couple of months since we’ve adopted her, but we thought we should formerly introduce you to the newest member of our household!  Behold, our sweet Becket Bean:

Isn’t she precious?  We’ve nicknamed her Bean since she’s quite boisterous and bounces around like a jumping bean.  She’s also tiny (compared to Roon), like a little bean.  She’s fearless and loves hanging out with the spiders in the basement; she’s a piglet and would eat herself silly if we let her; she enjoys hanging out with Chris while he works on house stuff; she’s a cuddle bug, which pleases her mama; and she’s vocal and likes to howl at things that she does not agree with.  She’s Rooney’s opposite, a yin and yang scenario.  We love her.  

A beach babe already.
 Ms. Becket is a rescue pup that we adopted from MAS Rescue (the same amazing organization that we adopted Rooney from), and she’s not only Roon’s adopted sis…she also happens to be his biological sister!  Whaaa?  Here’s the story on Becket’s journey to us:
It all started out somewhere in the strange and somewhat distant land known as West Virginia, where two adorable Plott-Foxhound puppies were dumped at a shelter.  Enter MAS Rescue, who saved the pups and plopped them into a happy foster home.  MAS named the puppies Fiona and Beck.  Fiona got adopted first by a couple who renamed her Becket.  A few weeks later, Beck was adopted by yours truly…spoiler alert, we renamed him Rooney.
We always knew Rooney had a sister – we still have his original adoption ad with a video of the two of them playing together as puppies (my heart melts just thinking about it).  About a year after we adopted him, Rooney’s foster mom ended up pet-sitting a few times for the couple that adopted Becket and emailed us a picture of her just for fun.  I had fun showing my coworkers and family how much they looked alike, all the while feeling a little sad that they had to get split apart from each other.  I liked to tell myself that if she were still available when we adopted Roon, we totally would’ve adopted them as a pair.  Not sure if it would’ve played out that way, but I liked to think so.
For the past year we’ve debated adopting another dog, weighing the pros and cons, but never quite feeling “ready”.  Here’s a look inside our thought process:

  • Rooney would have a constant companion and playmate to keep him company whenever we’re not with him
  • Adopting a rescue is incredibly fulfilling for us – we longed to save another pup and provide them with the same love and companionship that we give Rooney
  • We travel a lot and take Rooney with us most of the time – it would be harder to do this with two dogs
  • Boarding and vet bills become more expensive with two dogs
  • Would we get as lucky as we did with Rooney?  Would we end up with a misbehaved dog that would destroy our house?
  • We still don’t have a fence.
We knew that we’d adopt another dog eventually, and the one thing that we were sure of was that we wanted to adopt an adult rescue dog, preferably slightly younger than Rooney but not a puppy.  Puppies are hard work, and with my new job I knew I couldn’t come home for lunch every day to clean up accidents and play with a puppy like I did with Rooney.  The other reason we wanted an adult dog was because they generally have a harder time getting adopted; most people are seduced by the adorable faces of puppies and tend to forget about the older dogs who need just as much (if not more) love and affection.  So we decided to wait and assumed that when Rooney was a little older, we’d find ourselves another pup to share our home with. 
And then came of moment of absolute fate.  On my lunch break one day I was skimming through my Facebook newsfeed and came across a photo posted by MAS that looked incredibly familiar.  Staring back at me was a dog that very much resembled my Roon, with a caption that encouraged the adoption of “adult dogs like Becket”.  My immediate reaction was audible and I’m glad I had my office door shut.  I had so many questions, the most obvious being “Why was Becket back up for adoption?? Wasn’t she already adopted?”  Immediately I called Chris, who had the same initial reaction as I did.  We didn’t even have to discuss it - every con about adopting a second dog that we had considered suddenly didn’t matter and adopting Becket felt 110% “right”.  I frantically commented on the photo in an attempt to call dibs on her, and then immediately sent an email to Rooney’s foster mom (who also happened to be Becket’s foster mom...again).  By that afternoon we were approved to adopt Becket, and we picked her up a couple of days later.

Tiny like a bean!
We found out that the couple who had adopted her split up, and they didn’t feel the lifestyle change was fair for Becket so they gave her back to the rescue group.  It was an unfortunate situation, but I’m happy with the outcome for obvious reasons.  Rooney, however, was not too pleased with the acquisition of the Bean and gave zero poops about the fact that they once shared a womb…

Butt in face.
The first few days with Becket were incredibly trying, mostly due to Rooney’s initial intolerance of her.  From the moment we adopted Becket, she’s been a dream – no accidents, well-behaved, listens to us.  I had anticipated that Rooney would have some sort of jealousy issue, especially since he was spoiled rotten for 2 years, never having to share his toys, yard, or chaise-lounge with any dog other than himself.  He became a complete jerk when Becket came home…he avoided us, growled at Becket, and picked a fight with just about every other dog he came in contact with.  Thankfully, this only lasted about a week and he eventually came to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going anywhere and he was going to have to share his space (and chaise) with her.  Now they’re BFF’s (thank goodness) and love wrestling, playing, and even cuddling together.  Here’s how to melt my heart:

I can’t help but attribute all of this to fate – everything happens for a reason, and Becket was destined to be a part of our squirrely family.  So now you know the story of Beansie’s big adventure!  If you’re considering adopting an animal into your life, please consider adopting from organizations like MAS Rescue – there are so many rescue animals that deserve happy homes and a good life!!  Rescue animals come in all shapes, sizes, breeds, and personalities so there’s a rescue animal for any lifestyle.  Our dogs have enriched our lives and make us incredibly happy!  If you can, please support your local rescue groups by donating food, toys, or other supplies!  If you contact them, they’ll let you know what sort of donations they need the most (i.e., outstanding vet bills).  Speaking of ways to support your local rescue organization, I recently attended a PaintNite fundraising event for MAS Rescue – check out this lovely portrait of Becket that I painted:

We had lots of pictures of Rooney in the house and needed to dedicate some wall space to Becket.
I'll leave you with this heartwarming quote that I found on the interwebs: "Saving one dog may not change the world, but surely for that one dog the world will change forever".  Now go give your fur babies a big cozy love hug.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shady Business: Ombre Staircase Renovation

Sometimes I just can't contain myself when it comes to design decisions.  There are some projects that should retain the classic mantra of "less is more".  Then there are projects that are bursting with so much potential, it's just freaking ridiculous.  And then you have me.  And a staircase.  Little 'ol me and a plain-Jane staircase.  I think you know where this is going by now.

Ombre. Need I discuss why this concept is amazing for a staircase?  No, hombre, I do not.

I feel that decorating a space doesn't have to come solely from material items.  In fact, much of our basement space's decor will come primarily from design features that we've implemented throughout the renovation process.  With white walls and ceilings, there is an incredible amount of potential to be had with the finishing details.  For instance, the beam across the ceiling will be accentuated with a few coats of stunning dark teal paint.  Oh and the doors?  They'll be a hip 'n sunny yellow.  Then of course, there's our fantastic ombre staircase.  Without a single piece of furniture, throw pillow, or tchotchke, our basement will already have loads of interest and character.  Since we opted to avoid a fully "finished" basement space (i.e., fully drywalled, insulation, flooring, etc), we wanted the space to have enough character to distract from the fact that it's still a cool, unfinished space with spider tenants (I asked them nicely, and they still refuse to move out).  I'd say we're on the right track.  On to the staircase:

The first stage of my uh-mazing staircase transformation was to revive the original oak steps.  Using a palm sander, I lightly sanded away 60 years of grime, stains, and yuck.  Since the steps had some extensive wear and tear, I didn't sand them down to the clean grain.  Once the steps were sanded, I vacuumed and wiped them off with a tack cloth to remove any lingering dust and debris.  Then it was time to a 1950s-Cape-Cod-architecture-loving sort of way.  Using a foam brush, I carefully applied one coat of Minwax PolyShades in Mission Oak to the oak steps.  This product is amazing for refinishing furniture since it's the perfect cocktail of stain and poly-finish, so we figured it might work for the steps - sort of a "kill two birds with one stone" thought.  By comparing swatches, we thought Mission Oak looked pretty similar in color to the oak hardwood that we have throughout the house, but it actually came out much darker than we anticipated.  Much, much darker.  But I have to remind myself that this is a basement space, so perfection is not critical.  In fact, I've grown rather fond of the darker hue of the steps; it's sort of svelte and fancy.  Since PolyShades is not recommended for floors, I knew I had to apply some polyurethane over top of each step.  Before I did that, I lightly sanded the steps with steel wool and cleaned them off with a tack-cloth - when applying polyurethane it's critical to lightly sand between coats, otherwise your coats may peel overtime.  Then, using a clean foam brush, we applied two coats of polyurethane to the steps. 

I allowed the freshly redone steps to dry for a few days before walking on them, because quite frankly, a irreversible footprint on one of my pretty steps would haunt me forever.

Before I ventured off on my exciting stair-painting endeavor, I needed to do the necessary prep work.  Remember – prep work is key to ensuring snag-free productivity and having a fabulous final product.  Since it had been a couple of weeks since we refinished the steps, I wiped down the face of each step (where I will be painting) and swept any debris or dog hair from the steps themselves.  Next I ran a strip of Frog Tape over the top of each step where they meet the surfaces I planned on painting.  I specifically used Frog Tape since we’ve found that it is noticeably more gentile on surfaces and creates crisper paint lines than Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape.  Frog Tape is a ‘smidge more expensive than Scotch Blue, but we find that it’s much higher quality – plus, can you really resist green tape with a super cute frog staring back at you from the label?  We can’t.

With the steps cleaned and prepped, I was ready to round-up my supplies.  I gathered all of my paint – six colors in all!  I had a total of five test pots and 1 quart of the darkest color (for the bottom steps as well as the ceiling beam).  Instead of using multiple brushes or having to rewash brushes every time I changed colors, I opted to purchase a few sponge brushes – this way, I can throw them away when I’m through with them and not have to wash any brushes.  We decided to paint the ceiling beam the same color as the darkest color of our staircase gradient, so for that color I decided to use a brush as it will work better for applying paint to the beam.  Next I gave all of my paint pots a good shake since they had been sitting around the basement for a few weeks.  Finally, I grabbed a wet rag to wipe up any paint drips that I might make (this is something Chris always pesters me to have…but I drip paint a lot, so he’s allowed to nag me about it).  

Let’s talk paint.  Since we had anticipated using small amounts of paint in many hues, I knew I wanted to purchase test pots of paint instead of quarts.  Not only are the test pots cheap, but they’re just the right amount of paint needed for the job.  We decided that the ceiling beam should somehow tie in to the color scheme, so we decided that it should be painted the same color as the darkest hue of the gradient – since we’d need more paint to accommodate the ceiling beam, we purchased a quart-size of the darkest shade instead of a test pot.  As for the paint brand, we strayed from our go-to Behr this time around (gasp).  For whatever reason, Home Depot only offers test pots in a flat finish, and since steps can see all kinds of dirt I wanted the surface to be cleanable; flat finish is not a surface that can be easily wiped clean.  So I decided to investigate the test pots at Lowes and discovered that they sell their Valspar test pots in a satin finish.  Seeing as how I’m a satin kind of gal, I was very pleased with this discovery.  I also took great appreciation in the Valspar paint chip display at Lowes – there seemed to be more order to their display, and I found it much easier to find a wide spread of gradients without having to match up any chips to create an on-the-fly ombre spectrum.  And unlike the options at Home Depot, I actually found a blue selection at Lowes that I really, really fancied…because there is such a thing as the perfect “cozy-bluey-tealish-blue”.  So if you’re in the market for some ombre stairs, I’d recommend checking out the Valspar color options at Lowes since they come in a great array of hues in the preferred satin finish.  Bonus: Since I hate it when paint colors aren’t noted in design photos, here are the names of all six paint colors that we used to paint our ombre staircase:

Okay, back to the good stuff – making my ombre dream a reality.  With 6 shades of blue and 12 steps to paint, my wizard mathematical calculation skills indicated that each shade in the ombre gradient needed to be 2 steps “wide”.  I wanted the bottom of the staircase to be the darkest of the spectrum, with the paint color fading to the lightest shade at the top of the staircase.  I also knew that it would be easier to start at the top of the steps and work my way down, so I grabbed my lightest blue and got my paint on.  Using a new sponge brush for each hue, I worked my way down to the bottom step.  By the time I finished painting the bottom step, the top steps were dry enough to receive their second coat; I climbed back up my beautiful ombre mountain of steps and worked my way down by applying the second coat, being ultra-careful not to bump any freshly-painted steps with my knees or feet.
Then I stood back and observed my handy work.  I elicited some sort of audible squeal of excitement, which luckily only attracted the attention of my dog.  

Even Roon thinks it looks awesome.

Check out the beam! It's the same color as the darkest steps.
Even though the steps are colorfully decorated, I’m not quite done with the staircase yet.  Here are my final things to cross off on the basement staircase-to-do list:

-          Clean and sand the entire staircase
-          Remove sanding dust from the steps
-          Apply new finish to steps and railing
-          Apply two coats of polyurethane to steps and railing
-          Clean steps again, prep for paint
-          Paint ombre colors on the face of the steps (yay!)
-          Replace missing balusters/spindles
-          Reinstall step molding
-          Paint the balusters/spindles, railing, and side of staircase in white semi-gloss
-          Reinstall and paint the wall railing at the top of the steps

So I’ve finally shared my favorite basement renovation task with you, and hopefully I didn’t talk it up too much.  I’m still really excited about it, and I like to think that somebody out there on the world-wide interwebz will find some inspiration within this post.  I received lots of interest regarding this project, so I just want to take a moment to say THANK YOUUUU TO ALL OF MY READERS – your interest in stalking my renovation projects keeps my paws typing away.  I love to inspire others to tackle DIY projects themselves by sharing what we encounter on the never-ending path to our perfect nest.  Thank you for all of your support, encouraging words, and funny side notes – I truly appreciate your readership. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Candy Paint Job

It’s not uncommon for me to have visions of grandeur.  Though you may think that I carry out most of my kooky ideas, I think you’d be surprised how many of my creative plans don’t make it past the blueprint stage.  In all honesty, I’m usually too deflated to want to share what my plans were in situations where we couldn’t make them happen.  Call me bitter because I am.

The plan for our basement floor was exciting.  Since the walls of our newly renovated laundry/entertainment space are all white, I wanted to add some drama to other elements of the space; one of those elements included the floors.  My plan was to paint wide gray and white stripes on the basement concrete floor.  I loved it, the hubs rolled his eyes.  As we worked closer and closer towards painting the floor, I was met with more and more resistance from my general contractor (husband).  Bottom line, I really wanted striped floors.  I still do, but my ever-wise husband talked some sense into me and made me surrender to plain ‘ol stripe-less floors.  Here are the main reasons why we opted to skip the striped floors:

1.       Measuring, taping, and painting stripes are not simple or quick tasks.  Granted, I’m a proponent of “nothing worth having is ever easy”, but our other reasons for skipping the stripes made this first point have more weight in our final decision.

2.       Since stripes would be painted on top of our first two coats of paint (i.e., we would paint white stripes over the solid gray floor), the stripes would be slightly raised, meaning the floor would not be completely smooth.  Now I’m not worried about tripping over a stripe, but if something were to drag across the floor it could chip the clean edge of a stripe.  We would always live in fear of someone sliding a chair across the floor and destroying our laborious paint job…not something we want to worry about in a utility space.

3.       Once we refill the space with the washer/dryer, laundry table, laundry bin, linen storage, desk, chairs, entertainment center, rugs, etc…we may not even see the stripes!  Given the size of the space and the amount of stuff we have to fill it with, there will be little visible floor space leftover.  If you can’t see ‘em, would painting stripes even be worth it??  This was the reason that ultimately changed my mind.

4.       I need to keep the hubs happy.  Though we agree on most of our design details, there are some instances where we just are feelin’ the same vibe.  You can probably guess that striped basement floors are an example of our occasional difference in design opinion.  Aesthetically he wouldn’t mind the stripes, but he doesn’t feel it’s worth the time and effort.  For as many decisions that he lets me get away with in the rest of the house, I think it’s important to hear him out and compromise when he feels strongly enough to outwardly disagree with me.  

5.       Last but not least, the option to paint stripes will always be present.  So if I get the I-absolutely-need-to-have-stripes-on-my-basement-floor bug ever again, it’s doable.  

So there you have it – plain jane floor it is.  After lots of research we settled on a product that had great reviews which boasted durability and DIY-friendliness .  We opted for a product called U-Coat-It.  We purchased this product directly through the manufacturer, and had it shipped to us.  Home Depot and Lowes sell kits of 2-part epoxy floor paint (which is stronger than 1-part epoxy), but the reviews were terrible.  Price wise, U-Coat-It was double the price of the Behr or Rustoleum epoxy kits, but the reviews were incredibly positive and encouraging.  Plus they include absolutely everything in the paint kit for you, right down to the 5-gallon bucket needed to mix the paint solution, as well as safety glasses and gloves to keep you safe 'n clean.  We really didn't want to go through the hassle of painting the floor with the cheaper kits, only to find it chipping and peeling a few weeks later, so we bit the bullet and opted for the pricier, but better-backed product.

When it came to colors, we didn’t want white because we weren’t going for sterile hospital look, so we knew we wanted to pick a grey hue.  U-Coat-It offers two grey options: light grey and medium grey (oddly enough, dark grey isn’t an option?)  We went with medium grey since it gave off a warmer vibe. 

But before we could paint the floor we had to clean it.  This was probably the most tedious portion of the floor transformation.  First we swept the floor and picked up fine dust with a shop vac.  Next we needed to mop to remove decades of sediment, grease, rust, and other miscellaneous grime.  To mop, we used a bucked of warm water with some Simple Green and really went to town with scrubbing the floor.  We used a mop as well as a stiff bristled brush to do this.  The amount of crud on the floor pretty much made traditional mopping impossible (i.e., changing the dirty bucket water for clean water, etc), so as one of us scrubbed the floor, the other followed suit with the shop vac to soak up the excess water and dirt.  We repeated this process three times.  Yes, three times.  Unfortunately, the floor was that filthy.

Once the floor was clean, we needed to better prepare the surface of the concrete for optimal paint adhesion.  Many products suggest a concrete etching product to do this, but U-Coat-It recommended washing it with muriatic acid.  The muriatic acid does not etch the surface of the concrete, but instead neutralizes the alkalinity of the surface - a chemist's picnic.  An acid wash sounds both 80s and dangerous, but I can assure you it was neither.  Well it could be 80s if you jammed out to some hair metal while doing it.  We opted for Yeezus, which does feature the occasional 808 drum kick.  But as far as danger is concerned, the muriatic acid wash process isn’t to be feared.   You can purchase muriatic acid at a pool supply store; we actually snagged some out of the pool shed at Chris’ parents’ house.  We mixed 9 parts water with 1 part muriatic acid.  Since we were dealing with chemicals we made sure to wear the proper safety accessories while handling the acid: goggles/safety glasses, gloves, mask, long pants, and shoes.  Keep in mind that the water will dilute the acid a lot, but when first mixing the solution you need to be extra careful with the acid.  Next we dampened the concrete with a garden hose – we set the nozzle to either “mist” or “center shower” so we didn’t over-wet the floor.  Then we dipped a stiff bristled brush into the acid mixture and scrubbed the floor with it.  This was interesting because the acid solution had sort of a peroxide-like effect on the concrete – lots of white bubbles and fizzles when you first spread it on.  We needed to keep the acid from drying, so while Chris scrubbed, I continued to keep all areas of the floor damp.  

Once we scrubbed the entire floor with the acid solution, we rinsed it clean with the hose, vacuuming up the excess water with the shop vac as we rinsed.  Whew, done right?  Nope – we repeated this process twice, and then followed up with one more really good rinse session (garden hose + shop vac).

Once the acid wash was complete and we had enough Yeezus for the night, it was time to get the first coat of paint on the floor.  The product comes with special instructions on how to properly mix its components, so Chris was careful to measure only what we needed for the first coat so we didn’t waste any paint.  The paint is very time sensitive so we needed to move quickly.  The weird part about applying the first coat of paint is that the floor needed to be wet to do so.  Having painted many things, we had a really difficult time accepting this.  It was weird, but we did what we had to do…even if we were cringing the whole time.  Chris painted, while I kept the floor misted and damp.  The first coat is intended to go on very thin.  As you could probably infer, once the paint hit the wet concrete it sort of spread out and watered-down very quickly…it seemed so wrong.  There is a method to this madness though – concrete absorbs moisture, so by applying the paint to wet concrete, the floor will absorb some of the watered-down paint as well.  This essentially creates a bonding barrier between the concrete and the second coat of paint, which hopefully equates to better overall adhesion of the product to the floor.  

Drop down and get your roller on, squirrel.

Watery paint...oh so wrong.
Even though the whole applying paint to a wet surface process seemed sacrilegious, we were able to do the acid wash and first coat of floor paint in the same evening – oh heck, yes.  And then we treated ourselves to some well-deserved ice-cream cones.

Before Chris applied the second coat of floor paint, he filled any cracks in the floor using a product provided in our nifty U-Coat-It bucket.  It was essentially like a caulk, which he applied to the few cracks that we had, allowing 6 hours dry time before he applied the next coat of paint.  The second coat of paint does not require water like the first coat did – you simply paint it on as you would any other paint.  Chris mixed the remaining parts for the paint and got cracking.  He said it was a tad nerve racking since the paint cured quickly (so he needed to move fast), and because he didn’t want to run out of paint.  Luckily, he didn’t run out of paint and was able to get the second coat down before it cured.  Whew.

Mixing the second coat.  You can also see what the first coat looked like when it dried.

We let the floor dry for a whole weekend while we skipped town and headed to the beach.  When we came home we spent a whole half hour “ooo”-ing and “ahh”-ing over our new candy-coated floor.  Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I’m here to tell you that our basement floor is drop dead gaw-geous.  Only time and lots of wear will tell if the paint product we chose will stand up to its positive reviews, but as of right now it feels solid and looks great.  We would highly recommend it to anyone looking to paint a garage or basement floor. 

Even though we scrapped the striped-floor idea, I can assure you the space is about to get far more exciting.  Many of you have been left on the edge of your seat after I teased you with how awesome the staircase is going to be when I get my squirrely little hands on it, and I’m excited to inform you that those pictures are just around the corner.  The project for this week is to begin painting the steps, so keep your eyes peeled for a bit more excitement in our basement renovation progress!

Pssst - check out these colors...