Sunday, November 15, 2015


Hey folks. Handy Mandy here. Sorry to leave you guys hanging like that. I've been a bit busy lately. You guys remember Boyfriend?

Ever elusive

Well, there have been a lot of upgrades in the Handy Mandy household over the years, but this is perhaps the most exciting. Boyfriend has been upgraded.

To Fiancé.

The furball and I have moved out of Casita Amanda, into the luxurious Wellington Palace. It's roughly twice the square footage and boasts 8, count them 8 walk in closets. I think my days of wandering around trying to squeeze just a bit more storage out of a tiny house may be done. Casita Amanda, or the Lunar Module, as we must now call it, has a tenet. I'll get around to posting the conclusion of the bathroom reno sometime, don't worry. And Wellington Palace has plenty of projects that need doing as well, so fear not, Handy Mandy isn't going anywhere.

So let's talk about Thanksgiving. It's my very favorite holiday, and this is the first year that I get to host at my house for all my family on Thanksgiving. That's going to include two parents, one brother, a pair of parents-in-law, a pair of step-parents-in-law, a pair of siblings-in-law, two friends and one friend parent. Toss in me and Fiancé, and you've got 14 people. 

I have exactly 12 dining room chairs. 

So, where do we turn in our hour of need but to Ruth's Room! This Bart's Barn spin off hosts furniture, books, clothing, knick knacks and other thrift store finds. And the proceeds of course benefit Habitat for Humanity. 

They don't look like much yet, but give me time.

I actually purchased these around this time last year, thinking they'd fit great in Fiancé's bedroom for the purpose of putting on shoes. He was dubious. They cost ten bucks.

I turned them over and removed the seats, which were held on by a couple screws.

Then I ripped off the fabric and what passed as cushioning. 
You can tell these were probably originally upholstered in the late 50's/early 60's in gold, and reupholstered in the late 70's/early 80's in paisley. Ew.
At this point I reupholstered the seats using two inch high density foam (I like a cushy tushy) and some plaid to match Fiancé's curtains and bedspread. I thought I took pictures of this but, I guess I didn't. 

cushy tushy.

Then I sanded and restained the chair frames.

Then it's a matter of screwing the seats back to the chair. Which was harder than you'd imagine. I suggest sitting in a chair and putting the seat upside down in your lap. Then line up the frame and screw them together.
Yes I'm in pajama bottoms and slippers. Don't judge. 

I lost the screws for the seat in the move and had to replace them with new wood screws. But if that's the only thing I lost during the move I'm ok with that.

Here we are, good as new, ready for Thanksgiving duty!

Now all I have to do is figure out how to feed 14 people.

Puppy Tax!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Snow days and Bathroom shelves

So here's the view from my back door right now.

And the view from inside.
My snow bunny made me cinnamon rolls!
We've had 3 snow days lately. And me stuck in the house means me looking around trying to make things better.

And I've been staring at my front bathroom and comparing it to my newly renovated powder room. And the comparison is not favorable. So I've been making budgets, and plans and trying to convince myself to wait until spring break to start demo. 

In the meantime, there's a small project I can do to satisfy my handy itch and make my bathroom just a little bit better. 

Linens and things. 
Here's my linen cabinet in my front bathroom. It has this funny little middle door that opens downward. This design is very common in houses this age. The idea is that you put a laundry basket in the bottom cabinet, and then you can open the middle door and dump your dirty clothes in.

The problem with this particular design is that there is no way that a laundry basket is going to fit in the bottom cabinet. It's too small. So this is basically wasted space.

Wasted space is a luxury I can't afford in a 930 square foot house.

So, a shelf.

I measured the opening on the inside, and cut a scrap piece of plywood. There's a protrusion in the front of the cabinet that the shelf can sit on, but there's nothing to support it in the back. So I held up the shelf inside the space, and made sure it was level.
Can't be a bubble left of center.

I took my pencil and drew a line on the back of the cabinet along the bottom of the shelf.


A little bit of scrap quarter round with the flat side up will support the shelf on the back side. I tacked it in place with my new friend Brad.

Test fit!

Now all it needs is a coat of bright white paint to fit in with the rest of the cabinet, and voila! New storage.

Total budget? $0

Now let's see if I can get through the rest of this snow day without tearing up my bathroom.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Powder Room Reno Under $500

Yes. You read the blog title correctly. I renovated my powder room for under $500. And it looks like it stepped out of Better Homes and Gardens.

So let's start with the before.

It's not that bad right? Well it's not really. But, it's very very pink. And as much as I love my tiny casita, I have never planned on living in it forever. That's right folks, Casita Amanda is slated to become a rent house. The plan has always been to live in my postage stamp sized house for 5 years and then skeedattle on to bigger and better things, while renting out this baby to make a little cha-ching cha-ching. But life, as you may know, does not always go according to plan. This bathroom reno has been 7 years in the making. It may be possible for me to move on to my bigger and better things in a couple of years, making me four years behind schedule. But that's ok. In the meantime, we get to make Casita Amanda clean, neutral, and above all low maintenance. 

See that? See how the counter has been thoughtfully extended to provide extra shelf space? See how it's right over the toilet tank, where you totally can't get to the tank to make repairs? That is our problem my friends. That is not low maintenance. In the past, when I've had to make repairs to the toilets in this house, I've done it by taking a flash photo with my phone of the inside of the tank, and then squeezing my arms between the tank and the countertop and working off the photo. Basically blind. And it sucks. This countertop has got to go. Which means the tile has got to go. So, down to demo.

First, I scored the caulk around all the little porcelain thingamabobs like this soap dish here, with my utility knife. 

Then I took a putty knife, and used a hammer to gently pry it from the wall. One of my well meaning relatives suggested I sell tickets to my demo to help pay for the renovation. Well, no offense to said relative, but that is a horrible, if entertaining idea. For several reasons. 

1. That is a liability nightmare. Morons with sledge hammers wanting to bust stuff up are bound to hurt themselves or someone else.
2. They will likely destroy something I want to keep in my bathroom. Like the vanity. Cheap, boring, ugly vanities at Home Depot cost at minimum $250. That's like, my entire budget. I'm keeping the one I've got thanks, there's nothing wrong with it. 
3. They will destroy something I don't want to keep in my bathroom. The soap dish, toothbrush holder, towel bar, most of the tile, the countertop, and the light fixture are all being donated to Bart's Barn. Just because I think they're hideous and outdated, doesn't mean someone else can't use them. 

Demo is as delicate as surgery. You'll save a lot of hassle, time, and money if you're careful and don't go around hitting things with sledge hammers. Save that for the DIY channel. 

Next. Tile comes out. 

By being careful I managed to only break about half a dozen of the tiles. The rest got carefully removed and packed into boxes for Bart's. If you'll notice there's an extra sheet of plaster board between the actual wall and the tile. Not sure what was up with this, but I've seen it in several bathrooms of this era. Something about giving depth to the wall? The bullnose tiles cover the transition. 
Hulk smash!

Whatever. It's coming out. All it does is take up space in an all-too-tiny powder room. This was actually quite satisfying to rip out with my bare hands. 

At this point, I needed to get the sink out, so I could remove the countertop. Again, there's nothing wrong with the sink, so I kept it. Why should I spring for a new sink when the old one just needs cleaning? The pipes on the other hand...

I guess I just don't know my own strength.
I kind of righty tightied, when I should have lefty loosied. And the P trap cracked. Hey, it's hard to tell which way you're going when you're under the sink like that with everything all backward. Well it was 50 years old, and brittle. So there's a small unexpected expense. A new plastic one was about $2.50.

With the sink out, I ran my utility knife down the sides of the counter top and popped that baby off like a cork from champagne. 

And then we removed the toilet the same way we did Boyfriend's.  I don't want to think about why the tile behind the toilet is oddly discolored. Let's not mention it again. Then I removed the lower tile. Now, word of warning, a putty knife is not the correct tool for this job. What you actually want is a type of chisel, and you can find it in the paint section near the putty knifes. It's blade is much thicker and isn't flexible. If you use a putty knife, you're going to end up ruining it. Like I did. 

That's a tear. In the metal. It actually got much worse. 

The lower tile does not have an extra layer of drywall behind it, so I had to do a lot of chipping away at the mastic and sanding to get it sorta smooth after the tile came down. 

I used joint compound to fix all the damage to the wall from where the tile came down, skim coated the wall behind the toilet and added texture to make it look sorta like the rest of the room. Here's a before of the flooring in here. 
Vinyl is always in style right?

One layer of vinyl is over the whole floor. It looks like they didn't remove the toilet the last time they redid the flooring. So, we ripped that out. 

At this point I painted the walls a nice neutral grey and installed a new light fixture. Of course, I found the light fixture at Bart's Barn. For $15. 
Similar lights cost $27 new. 
Saved $12, and donated to a worthy cause. That's what I call a win.
Installed without electrocution = win. 

Now. The countertop. I saw this neat post on pinterest, and basically just followed her tutorial. Cause I think it's pretty. And cheap. And my vanity was not a standard size anyway. 


So, cedar. I used Liquid Nails and clamps and lots of time to attach some beautiful cedar to a chunk of plywood. 
One can never have enough clamps.

Now I had a problem. Since I didn't have a new sink, I didn't have a template. But I did have a countertop with the right sized hole in it. And some cardboard. 

So I traced around the hole and cut out the cardboard.  Voila. Template. 

So. Next I measured the distance from the back of the old counter to the hole, and lined up my template in the same place on the new countertop. 
Measure twice, cut once. 
It's important to get the sink in the right place so the P trap will line up. The water lines in are flexible, but the P trap is rigid, and there isn't a lot of wiggle room. 

Then we drew around the template, drilled a hole, and cut out the middle with a jigsaw. 

Watch your fingers. 

This post is getting kind of long. I'm beginning to think I should have split it into at least two parts, like the Twilight movie. They knew the power of double the revenue. Oh well, we'll power through. Next we dry fit the sink. 

Boyfriend says watch the hoses!

Everything fit, so we were ready to install. Notice the lip on the back of the plywood? That's for my backsplash. 

I had a little extra wood, and there was a gap of about 3/4 an inch when I was done with the counter, so, backsplash. It looks kind of sauna like. I just dabbed on some Liquid Nails. 

It's an Amandaclamp.
And smushed it up against the wall. The backsplash actually keeps the countertop in place with the lip on the plywood. All the cedar is stained and treated with Thomson's Water Seal, just like it was on a deck. This is a wet area, and even cedar will rot. 

This is seriously my least favorite part of this job. 
So now we pop the sink in place, and hook up the plumbing. After the plumbing is put back together, I secured the sink to the countertop with these little clippy things. 

Then I nailed the front trim onto the countertop, and this counter and sink are going nowhere. 

You might have noticed the floor tile. I bought this floor tile 7 years ago, when I put it in my front bathroom. I was feeling very Nicole Curtis at the time, and I still love the pattern. Don't worry, I factored the tile into the budget. It's such a small space, that the tile only cost about $100. But I was too cheap to rent a tile saw for three cuts. All the edges but the threshold will be covered by quarter round. So I Jerry-rigged this together and cut the tile with a diamond saw. 

The right tool for the job always makes things easier, but this will work. 

After removing the quarter round, doing a dry fit, and some cuts around cabinets and such, we tile. 

Goop goes on floor. Tile goes on goop.

I used an adhesive and grout in one combo, because with these tiny little mosaic tiles, the adhesive tends to come up in the grout lines. And I didn't feel like scraping grout out from in between a million little hex tiles. 

Grouting is kind of impossible to screw up. Once the tile has set for 24 hours, you spread goop on with a float.

A float is a rubber thingy you spread grout with. 
Push the goop in the crevices. 

Now, it's impossible to grout and not get grout on the tile. Which you don't want, you want shiny clean tile. So, you immediately wipe the grout off the tile before it hardens. Grab a bucket of water and a sponge. With a wet sponge, wipe the floor keeping the sponge flat. Don't scrub, you don't want to take the grout out of the crevices. 

Wax on, wax off. Grout on, grout off.

Keep the sponge flat, and rinse it often. Squeeze it out really good and just keep wiping. 

There's no soap in the bucket, that's grout goo.

Let the grout dry at least 8 hours before you walk on it or anything. Then put the quarter round back up. After spending half an hour, angry at my quarter round, my finish nails, my hammer, myself, I pulled my 8th bent nail out of the trim and went and bought the brad nailer I've been wanting for at least four years. 

Say hi to Brad, my newest toy. 

I'm a miserly penny pincher, but sometimes you just need the right tool for the job. I pulled the old nails out of each piece of trim, and cleaned up the caulk from the edges.

And by the way, all of your trim should be labeled. This was a tiny job, and there was no real way I could get it mixed up, but I labeled it anyway. Because trying to figure out a jigsaw puzzle when you're wanting to put trim up can cost you valuable time. 

This was SO much easier. 
Brad nailers like this have a safety feature. You can't shoot a nail out of this gun unless the tip is depressed against some surface. So, press the tip against the trim, and hold down the trigger until the brad pops out and fastens your trim in place. Each nail takes like 2 seconds, instead of 15 minutes and half a dozen expletives. I love this tool so much. And it's battery powered. No cords, no air compressor. I'm in love. 

So, when you're done, your trim will look pretty crappy. 
I broke this piece getting it out. 

There is a magical substance that will make it look like new again.

Put some joint compound on your finger and run it along all the cracks between the pieces of trim. When it dries, touch up the paint, and it will look like one piece. Just like new. 

When I painted, I took out the blinds in the window. I hate blinds. They're dirty and they discolor and they get stuck if you open them too far. They're just yucky. So I sewed a curtain to go in their place. Curtains are better than blinds. 

I am not a sewer. That's my lovely Aunt and my Mom and my late Grandmother. I missed out on the girly stuff like gardening and sewing, and headed straight for the power tools. But sewing is kinda neat, and I can make curtains all day long. Anyone can learn to sew straight lines. If mom taught me one thing though, it's to press your seams. Otherwise it looks like you did it yourself. Also, trim off all your stray threads. Professionally made curtains don't have stray threads. 

Mine look like they came from HomeGoods. 

Boyfriend helped me find this fabric on the clearance aisle at Joann's, and I used my teacher discount for a sweet deal. What do you think?

Ready for the after pictures?

I didn't hardly mess up the pattern! Just a little in the corner. 

Grand total? $426.42. And that's including $139 for Brad. $100 of that was spent on tile, 7 years ago. $80 was bought with gift cards from my lovely family this Christmas. It looks so clean, so spa like. I can't wait to get my hands on the front bathroom this summer.