Staining our wooden decks is a task I've actually come to enjoy. I remember the first year I did it - it was so hot, I had never done it before, and I did not have the right tools. Fast forward to today and I am here to confidently tell you what you need (and what I recommend) to make your deck staining project a little easier than my past experiences have been.
Very Important Notes: 1) I am not an expert; 2) Do in Spring or Fall if possible; 3) Make sure you wash the area and no rain is in the forecast for 48 hours before staining (so your deck gets fully dried out) and after staining (so your stain cures properly) to be safe.
STEP 1: SCRUB, SCRUB, SCRUB - WASH THE AREA
This can be done with a power washer or good old-fashioned elbow grease. We do not have a power washer, so I went with the latter.
Supplies Needed for Elbow Grease Option:
Allow deck to dry.
STEP 2: STAIN, STAIN, STAIN - KNOCK THIS SH*T OUT
There are many ways you can stain something. I am sharing how I did it in a way that was best, easiest, and least messy for me.
Supplies Needed for Staining:
Use the pad painter to apply stain, making long, smooth motions, with the grain, up and down each board (that unintentionally sounds sexual - but I guarantee you it is not a sexy process). If you don't take anything else away from this post - remember to consider using Cabot deck stain. I swear by it. The semi-transparent kind provides enough color to hide ugly spots and brighten everything up, but is transparent enough that you can see the wood character/texture because it doesn't look like straight up thick paint. The color I used in project pictures on this post is New Cedar. After two coats, it gives the deck a nice semi-gloss look and water beads immediately - so satisfying.
After I am done with the large area application, I use a small paintbrush to do detail work around our white railings and deck edges. You can evaluate and tape off areas beforehand if you'd like, but I'm over taping while painting. The small paintbrush is precise enough for me! You can also do this detail work before OR after. Our deck just happens to be low enough that I can do the outside edges from most all angles.
STEP 3: WAIT, WAIT, WAIT - WATCH STAIN DRY
I let the first coat dry for 24 hours and then applied a second. When the second coat was less tacky to the touch, I waited another day more and then put all of our seating/décor back in place. It's so tempting to put everything back in place immediately after you're done - but have patience, my dear.
Supplies Needed for Drying:
IN SUMMARY | Rain = Bad, Wash, Dry, Stain, Dry, Stain, Dry, Enjoy
The COVID “quarantine” period has been a dream for me. I have been able to focus time and energy on projects that truly bring me joy. Giving our family cabin a facelift was one of those projects.
For years I have wanted to tackle updating the mobile home style cabin my grandma has on the Mississippi River in Lansing. She had made major improvements to the exterior (siding/roof), plumbing, electric, completely renovated the bathroom, and had new ceilings and light fixtures installed. Huge things checked off the list, all worth it. The thing was, the décor throughout the rest of the cabin wasn’t matching with the updates that were made – distracting from all of the great work that had been done.
Because I didn’t have to work every weekend this summer due to the pandemic, I had time to knock out the work I did over the course of a few consecutive visits up there. I knew that when I did it, I wanted to do it all of the way, all at one time. I didn’t want anything to be partially done – because when I do that – I have a tendency to leave it partially done…I’m also a control freak so I wanted to make sure the way everything was finished was the way I envisioned it!
I ended up doing most of the work on my own, working 12+ hour days. My grandma jumped in to help me with removing wallpaper and final touches. Working on my own knowing I had full days with no interruptions to check things off my list made me very happy! I was focused and fueled by soda, sugar, and Mexican food. Heaven. All work was done on a tight budget. I used as many items I already had or from the cabin as possible, like paint and décor.
I started with the guest bedroom. It had been wallpapered a VERY long time ago and was fully taken up by a set of huge, solid bunk beds. The mood was dark and dingy. The bunk beds were used quite a bit when we were younger, but as everyone got older, the person who drew the short straw got to sleep in that room. The beds needed to go. I was able to sell them on Let Go to a super sweet family who really needed the beds for their growing family. We said goodbye to them and got to work.
Luckily, the wallpaper was done over wood paneling. In this room, removing it was pretty easy for the most part. I removed all paper and glue, filled holes, and caulked some big gaps in the paneling where water had gotten to it (making sure the cause was addressed beforehand – it was). To brighten things up, I taped everything off and painted it a very light grey and navy blue. Here are some before and after photos:
Much more welcoming now. Everyone, myself included, is in love with how it turned out. On a side note – all of the things I did really freshened things up as well because as I was making cosmetic changes, I was deep cleaning along the way.
Next, I moved on to the master bedroom. This room was really just a mish mosh of random things. One of my goals was to give each room a “theme.” Grouping like items together so instead of looking messy/cluttered, the cabin looked clean/curated. It made a HUGE difference. This room became the “fishing room.” I took down wallpaper here as well, patched things up, and painted with a pretty light green.
You’ll see in the photos below that we have fishing poles hung on the wall I painted. There was a rack on one side, not the other, so once the paint dried, I added a second rack so I could hang all of the fishing poles. I was able to use scrap wood I found in the cabin and bought some cup hooks to screw in. I then attached a fishing net to the wall behind the bed and assembled a nightstand to add. Here are some before and afters of this room:
Wow – right?! The vibe is now much more welcoming and it definitely feels more cozy.
The last place I did big changes in was the kitchen. Unfortunately…I’m terrible with before photos and forgot to take some of the kitchen! Please use your imagination to picture an outdated, grimy space with peeling wallpaper that was powder blue and white with a teapot pattern everywhere you looked. Some of the walls were partially painted white over the wallpaper – but it never got finished.
This is the room I’m most proud of because it was the first time I used removable wallpaper. It was definitely the biggest challenge. I was extremely nervous to do it and of course, my grandma wanted to help that day, so I had an audience! But once I had the first piece up, I rejoiced, knew what do to, and was able to get it all done in a day. I applied a weathered wood wallpaper to the backsplash area of the counters and behind the sink. I painted the rest of the walls the same light grey as the extra bedroom.
Cleaning was key in this area. I magic erasered every surface several times! It made an amazing difference. I also rearranged how some of the items were on the counters and bought grey kitchen rugs to bring the grey from the wallpaper into the room a little more. Here is an after photo of the kitchen:
In case you are wondering, I found the wallpaper at Menards. I bought 3 rolls but only needed part of one. It cost around $30.00 – well worth it.
I did a little facelift to the living room. Removed wallpaper, patched holes, rearranged the wall décor, and bought a new cover and throw pillows for the couch. Little things, but the room is now cohesive.
And lastly, I organized the crap out of the dining room. There is a buffet in there that has always been piled with miscellaneous items from years ago. My goal was to at least clear off the top and make room in the cabinets. Mission accomplished! I added a bright tablecloth to the dining table to inject some energy into this area and made the theme “bald eagles and wolves" using décor from throughout the cabin. I also displayed all of the buttons we’ve collected from past “Fish Days” (Lansing's town festival) we’ve been around for. We take a lot of pride in those.
For a quick, cheap update, I'm pleased with how everything turned out! I ultimately did it for my grandma. We are very fortunate that she allows us to enjoy the cabin, so it felt good to show her my gratitude through this work. She was extremely pleased with the results and that makes my heart feel so full. There are a lot of memories in that cabin, many tied to my grandpa. Seeing the cabin change from what it was when he was alive was hard for her, I know, but breathing new life into it has given her a renewed interest in spending time there. I'm so glad I could give her that gift.
Garden season is in full swing on our acreage and so far Mother Nature has been good to us.
Last year was a pretty devastating year for me as a gardener as I battled a number of barriers – the biggest being cucumber beetles destroying literally my entire plot. So in my opinion, I was due a fairly easy year this year. It’s been dry, but sunny and humid, and the garden has seemed to respond pretty well.
Here’s a few photos of what I’m working with this year. These were taken just the other day – late July.
Because I’ve had a good harvest, I’ve been able to continue offering free vegetables at the end of our driveway for passersby. We live on a busy road and our wheelbarrow of goodies is normally gone in a few short hours.
Earlier this summer, we received the nicest note from an anonymous person thanking us for the veggies we provide! It completely caught us off guard, but felt very nice to know people appreciate it.
The letter really fired me up and made me anxious to get fresh produce out for our neighbors ASAP. This also meant I needed to start working on the new “Free Fresh Produce” A-frame sign I had been thinking about making over the winter. The old sign I had was made quickly out of cardboard and pallet wood. It still stands, even after two summers, but I thought it was time for something more durable and permanent.
I tried my best to be resourceful, using as many supplies that we already had as possible. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you may remember when I made a cucumber trellis out of the sides of a baby crib. I also made a light fixture out of the mattress spring from the crib. My goal was to utilize the whole thing, so guess what I made the A-frame sign from? The crib ends!
For this project I used:
The lettering was hand drawn with pencil first, and then I painted in with white exterior paint. Once the paint was fully dry, I put two layers of clear coat spray paint over the entire sign to seal it from the elements.
Lastly, we attached the small chain to each side of the A-frame near the bottom so the sign didn’t splay out and fall to the ground.
Here is the finished product! We were quite proud of it in the end and it really pops, getting peoples’ attention.
What have been some of your favorite DIY projects this summer?
It has been a minute since I have attended a Do It Herself Workshop at Home Depot! I’ve enjoyed the past classes I’ve been to - creating this two-drawer nightstand, vertical herb garden, and vertical succulent garden.
Their latest project, the DIY Pegboard Shelf, caught my eye. These types of shelves are very trendy right now. What I especially like is you can change up the shelves really easily to meet different needs you might have, or if you simply want to restyle it to give a room a different look, you can do it in minutes.
When I arrived, they had everything ready! The plywood, shelves, and dowels were already cut. All we had to do was screw the two plywood pieces together and insert the dowels where we wanted the shelves. I was kind of (really) bummed I didn’t get to use the hole saw to create the holes for the pegs, but I can’t complain. I got a free shelf out of the deal!
Because we didn’t do much…I couldn’t take step by step photos…so here is their instructional video:
I chose to paint my shelf a high gloss grey after getting it home. I wanted it to pop against the wall I was putting it on, which is dark poly stained wood.
After letting it dry completely, Joel helped me screw it onto the wall. I love its versatility and it looks great in our dining room area. I didn’t know I needed something on that wall until I had this in place!
In my last DIY post, I shared how (with the help of my parents) I reupholstered our dining room table benches. This next project I’m sharing was inspired by our dining nook makeover.
I believe I made it very clear that I loved the fabric I found on sale to use on the benches. I’m a paisley princess, can’t get enough of it. And the yellow/grey combo has always appealed to me. To have all of these details come together in a fabric was dreamy. Anyway, I wanted to use the leftover fabric to make throw pillow covers for our mudroom so that when you enter our mudroom and walk up the stairs to our dining nook, the spaces felt tied together.
This time with the help of my grandma, together we made throw pillow covers for two pillows I already had and wasn’t crazy about.
She used a basic envelope pillow cover pattern like this one. I am not a sewer, but she did walk me through the whole process and explained what she was doing. I have full confidence I could make a somewhat nice cover if I had to in the future, but for now I’ll lean on her!
Once I had the pillows ready, I decided I was going to give the mudroom a mini makeover by changing the paint color as well. It was a fine mudroom, but it was missing impact. A good punch in the face when you walked in. In a creative impact sense, not a physical one! It needed a little something extra. My mom helped me pick out the perfect gold color that matched a deep yellow tone in the pillow cover fabric. Butterscotch Ripple. Yummy.
Instead of painting an accent wall or the entire room, I ended up creating a faux wainscoting effect around the mudroom and up the stairs leading to the dining nook.
To create the effect, all I needed was:
I made my wood cuts one wall at a time, just to see how things fit and if it would affect my next run of wood. I measured up from the floor to the height I liked, leveled the strip, made marks with my pencil where the bottom of the wood strip would be, and then used the stud finder to mark where the studs were. I used the nail gun to secure the strips, being sure to check that they were level along the way.
I followed the process above all the way around the room and up the stairs. Up the stairs was a little trickier because I had to cut the ends at angles. I’ve mentioned before that math and I don’t get along – and that includes angles. I actually just marked the angle of the wall on the piece of wood with my pencil by eyeballing it, made the first cut, placed the cut angle against the wall, marked the angle of the other end, and made the second cut. Real professional…but, I got super lucky and it fit perfectly.
After I had everything nailed in, I went through with the wood filler before painting. I filled in each of the nail holes created by the nail gun and wiped off any excess with a damp cloth. From there, I started to paint! I had to put two coats on, but it’s a really small space, so it didn’t take long.
Here is a before of the mudroom when we moved in:
Here is the after following the mini makeover:
In total, this project took me an evening and part of the next morning to complete. For such a quick project, I couldn’t be more pleased with the impact it has when you walk in our back door (which is our main door)! People will be leaving with black eyes from the punch in the face they’ll get now (LOL). What are you working on lately? Tell me in the comments!
Looking for an adorable DIY project for Easter? I’ve got just what you’re looking for! While browsing Dollar Tree for a few Easter/Spring décor items to freshen up what I currently have, I ran across inspiration for a project. One item led to another and I had a full vision for the vignette we have placed just as you pull in our driveway.
I knew I wanted to put sticks with plastic eggs hanging from them in the wash bin. But then I found a felt bunny head that I thought would be cute peeking out from the bin as well! Here is my vision brought to life:
I mean, come on. That face! Here is what I used to create the bunny:
If you make any mistakes, that’s what the sander is for. I sanded the edges, smoothing out any unintended mis-cuts and bumps. I then sanded the flat sides of the wood, wiping them down with a cloth afterwards, so I had a good surface for the paint.
I chose to connect the bunny head to the 2x4 before painting. I attached them together with two long screws through the face of the bunny. I did this because there are normally high winds where I put this piece of décor and I didn’t want it to fall apart. If you will be putting this on a porch or indoors, you could easily use wood glue or construction adhesive.
Once attached, I started to paint. I used white outdoor paint as the base and applied spray paint with a brush for the facial features (I work with what I’ve got at home!). I finished it off with a coat of clear poly spray paint to seal it up. I chose to paint both the back and front white because the back is visible from the road. I utilized the facial features on the felt bunny head to paint in the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. I have to give credit to my husband for that idea!
I might cut the 2x4 down a little bit to lower the head a little more, but I can’t help but smile when I see this sweet bunny peeking out of the wash bin, welcoming me home! Here’s another angle for your viewing pleasure:
Since Fall is my favorite season I get extra inspired to do decor related DIY projects. I keep my eye out for the latest trends and like to try my hand at creating my own version.
This year, these caught my attention:
The variations are endless! I knew I had a couple of old metal items in our shed that would be perfect for this project. When I went searching for them, I found an old rusty metal canister and, believe it or not, an old muffler that I couldn’t wait to use!
Quick story about the muffler - it came off my husband’s truck. Nothing gets thrown away around here. Everything has potential to be used as something else. I couldn’t wait to show Joel what I had created with the hunk of metal he had tossed aside!
This upcycling project is quick and easy. Start by using painters’ tape to create your jack-o’-lantern’s face:
For the teeth, I liked the look of the ripped edges of the tape.
Next, I attached some paper towels (you could use newspaper, regular paper, plastic, more tape, etc.) to protect the rest of the surface area from overspray:
I then used some black spray paint I had in the basement. I’d recommend using spray paint for this, but regular exterior paint would probably work as well (assuming you’ll be putting these outside).
Spray away, let the paint dry, and then the fun part, pull off the tape and paper towels!
If you couldn’t tell, the jack-o’-lantern on the right is made from the muffler!
I also tried making a mini version out of a random piece of metal (I think it was a light bulb cover of some sort). The surface had ridges, so the facial features ran a little bit. He has a face only a mother could love, but he’s still a cutie!
Can’t wait to make more of these! If you try it out, send a picture to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag me on Instagram @countrywrennest.
The project I'm sharing today may be my favorite DIY project so far! Creating faux built-ins in our living room completely changed the look and feel of our home.
Our house is small, so storage is key. We have a large living room that we weren't utilizing to its full potential. We pieced some items together as temporary filler, but I knew we could do better. After several months and three different design plans later, I completed the project outlined below. The built-ins give us the additional storage we needed and look 100% better than what we had going on before!
Step 1: Find, prep and paint shelving. Originally, I planned to buy shelving. Then I wanted to build shelving. Then, by talking to the right people, I found a balance between the two - prefab shelving that could be assembled in whatever way I wanted.
My dad had two large shelves he wasn't using that were from a medical office. They held medical charts so are very solid shelving units (which I needed, especially for Joel's records).
The shelving consists of a metal frame with compressed wood panels for the shelves. I did some online research and decided I'd paint the metal and leave the compressed wood panels as they were.
First, we sanded the frame and the bars that hold the wood shelves. We then washed the metal materials with warm water and household cleaner.
After the metal was sanded and cleaned, I painted everything with two coats of latex paint. I used a roller for the large parts and a brush for the nooks and crannies. I had half a gallon of medium dark gray (called "Padlock Gray") paint left over from painting our guest room that I wanted to use up vs. going out and buying more.
The last thing we did on the shelving was cut 30 inches from the bottom of the "inside" panels. We didn't have enough wall space to put a shelf, dresser, shelf - so our solution was to have the inside of the shelves braced on top of the dresser.
Step 2: Find, prep and paint dresser. In total, this project only cost us $75. The one thing I paid for was the dresser that we used as the centerpiece of our built-in. I found a great vintage dresser on the buy/sell app "Let Go." I bought it from a nice woman who was not creepy in any way. It was a positive buying experience!
She had already painted it with black chalk paint, which I liked. The only thing I did was paint the top of the dresser with the same gray as the shelves to make the separate pieces look like one unit.
Step 3: Installation! I was anticipating installation day like a kid anticipates the arrival of Santa. Projects are life in my world.
Before I could start putting the pieces together, I needed to add some protection to the bottom so they didn't scrape our hardwood floors. I used adhesive felt squares for the bottom of the dresser legs. For the shelves, we used an industrial tubing used on semis to protect various parts from damage. See below for what this tubing looks like.
After I knew my precious floors would be protected...we started putting the pieces together!
The shelves were super easy to put together. No tools necessary. The bars snapped easily into the sides. From there, we simply set the compressed wood panels onto the ledges of the bars.
I was thrilled with everything once it was all in place. It was very sturdy, looked attractive, and was going to help solve some of our storage issues!
I loved it even more after I took a look at what the space looked like before. I'm a little embarrassed that we had people over with the space looking so disheveled...Take a look for yourself!
I was able to add storage for DVDs, books, CDs and records. I dedicated a space on the left to Joel's record player (it is hard to believe that we went almost one year without having this baby set-up) and a space on the right for a little desk to keep my planner/laptop.
You can do this! All you need is two bookshelves, a dresser, and a little imagination!
My Christmas decor obsession continues! This time, I upcycled a sled from Stuff Store in Waterloo.
Here's what I used on this piece:
Here's what I started with:
It's a great, solid piece that I got for $12.00. Quite a score in my eyes.
I used my green exterior paint to cover the blue paint that was on the sled.
Once I chose the saying I wanted to use, I wrote it out on the sled in pencil. I then traced the pencil lines with my white exterior paint using a fine brush.
When I finished the lettering (which I am still learning to do with paint, so be kind!) I had my husband take a look at it. He suggested I add some imagery. After some thought, I decided to add two "happy little trees" (Bob Ross was literally playing in the background) and some star/snowflake shapes.
To top it all off, I added a strand of $5 battery powered jingle bell lights from Target for a pop of color.
Here's the final product:
I think it turned out so cute! It only took a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon to complete and cost under $20 for a piece that is just what I wanted for this corner of our porch.
My challenge to you - when you are at the store, start looking at items for their potential. Just because the item isn't exactly what you want in that moment, think about how you can make it so!
I searched and searched for Christmas ideas for the decorative area I have on top of the hill as you turn into our driveway. I didn't find a solution that 100% worked for/spoke to me, so I combined some of the visuals I saw into a project that was the best fit for our space.
I ended up drawing inspiration for this project from a pallet Christmas tree I saw and made one out of wood lath instead.
Here's what you'll need:
I started out by taking a piece of lath to the space I wanted to put the Christmas tree in and marking the width of how long the bottom piece should be with a pencil. Once I had the bottom piece marked, I planned to mark each piece of lath 1/1.5 inches in from the first mark (and so on) as I worked my way to the top of the tree.
I laid out my lath one piece at a time, starting with the bottom and started measuring/marking where my cuts would be. You'll need a good amount of floor space.
Once I had each piece marked, I cut the lath using a circular saw.
As I cut each piece, I made sure to stack them back in the same order.
Once I was finished with the "branches" of the tree, I used another piece of lath to create the "trunk." I sawed a point on the bottom of the trunk to help secure it in the ground when it came time.
Because lath is pretty lightweight, I chose to simply glue the branches to the trunk. I used Gorilla Glue, which is extremely strong glue. With this type of glue, it is important to get the surfaces that you are gluing together wet first. I used a damp washcloth.
Also, with Gorilla Glue you are encouraged to clamp items together or use another type of heavy pressure to press items together. I clamped the top piece and used full paint cans down the center to press down on the rest of the lath. It worked really well.
I let this project dry overnight and painted it the next morning. I used a green, matte, outdoor paint. I dressed it up a little more by adding some dots to mimic lights or ornaments with yellow, high gloss, outdoor paint.
We bought a metal stake to reinforce the tree and used 20 gauge metal wire to attach the tree to the stake. We pounded both the stake and the tree into the ground before connecting with the wire. You can also see in the photo below that the Gorilla Glue expands really nicely to ensure a good bond.
Here's the final product! I ended up adding a red bow to the top for an additional pop of color and to tie it more closely to the decor I put in the wheelbarrow.