Pinterest Pallet Wall - Total Success!

Once upon a time we had this unfinished basement stairwell.  We built our house 3 years ago and left the basement unfinished. As someone who is obsessed with good lighting (read: I hate fluorescent lights), I am constantly dimming lights or turning off bright, undimmable lights in my house to create ambiance.  I pretty much drive my husband crazy with this, but I can't help it. Did I mention I love ambiance?

So, this stairwell, unfinished with white primer covered walls, unfinished oak steps and one spiral CFL bulb hanging lonely from the landing ceiling between the split staircase, was my least favorite place in our house.  Main reason being: when we host gatherings (which happens often), the adults mingle upstairs in our (perfectly lit) open living area, and our children descend into the unfinished basement to play and make whatever mess they so desire.

But because the kids are constantly up and down from the basement, the basement door would always be open. And...that light! Blinding and sterile, reflecting off white, unfinished walls, would pour into the upstairs space, creating an almost violent interruption of otherwise perfect ambiance.  I always joked that I felt like the little girl in Poltergeist..."Go towards the light, Carolann!!" It was more than I could handle.  I had to do something about it.

So, as an admitted Pinterest fanatic, I have always been drawn to the very rustic and seemingly simple repurposed pallet wood projects.  I have a board dedicated to ones I love.  So, not only did I want to solve this horrific and intrusive lighting issue, but I also needed some sort of creative outlet.  I took to Pinterest to figure out if there was something creative I could do to change the stairwell so that, with the door hanging open, I would want to look at.

For the sake of documenting (and making this more interesting with some visuals), here is what my stairwell looked like before I started my project:

Plain and boring, and that light! Get out your sunglasses!

I decided that I wanted to create a focal point at the landing and then paint the rest of the stairwell a deeper color, to absorb light rather than reflect it.  So once I knew I wanted to create the pallet wall, I headed to Pinterest and searched for various pallet wall projects.  I found this article by Cape 27 Blog and it was the closest I found to the end result I was looking for. 

Her tips on how to dismantle the pallets was particularly helpful, and before I acquired the pallets I already knew that I'd need to enlist my husband's help.  Being that this was not his project, I had to make sure he would be willing to help me with that.  When a Sawzall is involved, I dare not do things on my own. I am known to lose phalanges.  But that is an entirely different blog post.

I had put out to my world (ahem, Facebook, of course) that I was in search of pallets many moons before. And part of the reason I even got a fire lit beneath me to actually get this project started was the fact that a still unknown person dropped off a pallet in my driveway one day (thank you, mystery pallet gifter!).  So, I had a pallet and all I needed to do was find more.  Back to Facebook.  One more post and I found the generosity of my son's school principle who was more than happy to set aside pallets at the school for me. So, I now had 6 pallets and I was ready to begin.

The first task was to separate the pallet slats from the support pieces.  There must be a general rule that each slat is secured with no less than 3,633 nails.  I donned a pair of safety glasses (and you should, too.  No one likes pallet splinters in their eyes) and held each pallet as my husband violently sawed through each nail with the Sawzall.  Somewhere during the dissembling of 6 pallets, 8 beers (ish), and about 2 hours later, this is what the garage looked like:

I hadn't read anything about whether the wood should be sanded or treated in any way before staining, and, after said beers there was some discussion about the best way to clean and prep the boards.  I really did not want to sand them. I knew what amount of time that could take and the mess involved.  The boards were very dirty - even moldy in some cases - and I really wanted to make sure they were clean before I used them.  So, after some discussion, we decided that pressure washing them would be a good option.

Yay.  I got to pressure wash in Pennsylvania in late October!  Brrrr!  But, I was lucky to have a mildly pleasant day for my task and much to my delight, the pressure washing worked GREAT.  I pressure washed both sides and then set the boards on the leftover support pieces from the pallets to dry.  I set them with the side I wanted to have visible facing up.  There was no reason to stain both sides since one side would be against the wall.

Of course there was significant drying time involved.  It was October, and the boards were in my unheated garage, so I let them sit for a little more than a week before I was satisfied they were completely dry.

The next step was staining them.  I immediately ruled out any dark stain, as I wanted to highlight and even amplify the different colors, textures and imperfections of each piece of wood.  After a little bit of spot testing, I ended up choosing Minwax Wood Finish Golden Oak 210B.  It wasn't too dark and wasn't too light.

I kept the boards right where they were in the garage (use a tarp or plastic liner,'re gonna get messy here) and rolled the stain on.  It was immediately obvious that one coat wasn't gonna do it. So, I applied the first coat and a second coat a few days later.  The only reason I had to wait so long was because of the cold temperatures.  We put a space heater on to help dry it faster, but some boards took longer to dry than others.  One more coat and then and application of stain on all exposed edges (they are going to show, some more than  others, so don't skip this step), and I was ready to do the next step while they dried completely: prep the stairway.

I chose Glidden Grey Tweed in eggshell finish for the walls of the stairway.  I thought that they natural wood and the brownish gray complimented each other nicely.  A kind of modern color pallet. The wood I'm holding below was just a pieces of laminate floor sample at Lowe's that I used as a guide when picking out the paint color.

Here is how the stairwell looked after the painting was done.

Yes, that CFL is still bright, but the color of the walls definitely absorb a lot of the glare.  Ahhh.

It was now time!!  I was so excited to get this wood on the wall.  I definitely had some help.  A few friends came over one night, and to my delight, what I thought would be a multiple day project was done in one evening (about 4 hours).  While my walls and home are different and we encountered a bit of a challenge with finding studs initially, the lesson I pass on to you is to make sure you know where your studs are and use a chalk line to mark them so that you know where to nail the boards.  We opted against using any plumb chalk lines horizontally on the wall only because with so many different widths of wood, we knew that sticking to a true level line might frustrate more than help.  Instead we used a level to check how true each row was as we went along.  This worked really well:

Make sure when putting up your boards that you stick with wood from the same pallets, and hence have the same width for each entire row.  Mixing up different widths in the same row would be a total nightmare and a puzzle that would be hard to solve.  And you'd have pretty big gaps between wood which would expose the wall (which reminds me: I painted the wall we were nailing the wood to so that you did not see white wall behind it.  I suggest you do the same - and if you choose a lighter color for your adjacent walls, I suggest using a wood colored or darker paint on the wall you nail the pallet wood to).

Here are some "action" shots from the evening.  Me and my awesome crew of helpers (thanks, guys!!) and me - being dangerous with a nail gun (I have all my fingers intact, in case you were wondering).

The wall turned out a thousand times better than  I expected.  What was once my least favorite place in the house is now my favorite.  The holidays and some travel came up right after we finished the wall, but eventually, my husband used what was left of the pallet wood to trim out the staircase and the walls, which was a nice touch.  I also added my own artwork to the wall to add a jolting pop of color, which I think really defines the space.  Here are the final pictures, with new light fixture and art (stairs will eventually be stained and varnished, but that's another project).

Bad Memory!

Yet another couple years has gone by and I have neglected this blog. We've been in our new lake front home on Lake Meade for almost a year and a half now.  And building a new home almost instantly eliminates home improvement projects like we did on our past several homes...almost.

We built our dream home on the lake where my husband grew up, but that didn't mean we got everything we wanted.  There were home features and extras that we simply couldn't do right away for many reasons, but primarily financial.  Things like the basement - left unfinished; the backyard - not landscaped; and the driveway - unpaved.

There were smaller things we compromised on, too.  We had to opt for laminate countertops in our kitchen in lieu of the beautiful Quartz countertops we loved so much in the dream kitchen we had just built in our last home.  They can be upgraded rather easily in the future, so for now, we're on the 5 year plan to get them replaced. We insisted on Trex decking for our deck, but opted for pressure treated lumber for the railings. We plan to replace those wooden railings with glass panels for an unobstructed view of the lake. Hopefully in our lifetime.

We have big dreams and plans for this house. And the good thing is, we're realistic in knowing that we could be in our 50's or 60's when they all come to fruition: A finished basement with a full bar, bathroom and state of the art media center. A 3-tiered stone patio to dock backyard with amazing perennial gardens and an outdoor kitchen. A Trex dock with hydraulic boat lift and small boat house (shed) with solar panels on the roof.

Of course, we'd love to have it all now. But we also want to have money to retire on someday, so we'll have to take it one small project at a time.

In the meantime, I hope to remember:

  • That I started this blog
  • To document our projects so that I can tell you about them
  • to take lots of pictures.
 But I won't ask you to hold me to it. That might be a waste of time.

It was all for someone else...

Many of you may know that we have decided to move to Lake Meade in East Berlin, PA. It was something we always knew in the backs of our minds, but we have put so much into our house in Wellsville that we had planned to stay here for at least 10 years or more. Until, that is, a real potential deal on a lakefront property in the lake open up.

We spent several months talking to and working out a deal with the property owner - only for it to all fall through a few weeks ago. By then, however, we had already started 'finishing' our house in order to get it on the market. That is the great part. Things that have been on our "To Do" list for 2+ years have finally gotten, or are getting done. The only difference is they aren't getting done to what we had envisioned they'd be as the homeowners. Instead, they are getting done just well enough to better the look of the property in hopes that it will sell.

For instance: Instead of stamped concrete walkways and patio, we're going bare bones with brushed concrete. Instead of the beautiful glass front door we had planned to buy, we painted the existing one red to match the other door. Instead of new bedroom doors in the older part of the house, we just got new doorknobs. And so on.

That doesn't mean we're doing things half-ass. This is, after all, a pretty nice home. Our challenge, however is that our home does not fit any traditional description. Originally a rancher, we added a 2 story addition and turned the old garage into a living room. We went from 1400 to 2800 SF. So, we could be considered a "Ranch-Split-Level-with-a-FROG". But that doesn't really do a good job of describing it.

I'll post pictures when we are ready to start posting them FSBO - which we are only doing for a few weeks to see if maybe, just maybe someone is looking for exactly our type of house and we can maybe close this deal privately. Know anyone that is looking to move to the Northern York County SD? Hint, hint.

Oops! Forgot about YOU!

I COMPLETELY forgot about this blog. Wow. Maybe its because we basically stopped renovations after we put up the stone on the fireplace...wait, I'm trying to remember...yes, yes, that's what happened. Fast forward 1 year and 3 months and we have done basically NOTHING to our house. Chalk it up to our crazy, insane, busy lifestyle and the fact that my hubby started yet ANOTHER business venture and you get to just stop in your tracks.

I'm none too happy about it, though. There are so many little things left undone - trim here, doors, there, no grout in the exterior stone almost 2 years after we put the stone on (ironically, though, we did just have a guy come today to quote us on finishing the job). Sigh. Patio, walkways, landscaping, extending the deck, and yes, of course, there is also putting in a swimming pool and somehow enlarging our pathetic miniature room that we use as a Master Bedroom. HA! Not likely all to happen anytime in the next, oh 20 years...

But I digress. Back to this blog. I totally forgot about it. I only stumbled upon it because I posted a comment on a blog I read almost daily. One that has nothing to do with renovating. A fun, bright and airy blog that leaves you feeling like all your I's are dotted and your T's are crossed. One that makes you wish you had a huge walk in closet in your...Master...Bedroom. Sigh.

Well, hopefully I'll have a reason to post on here with some renovation tidbits soon. But I'm not gonna hold my breath, and neither should you.

Well, here is a more finished picture of the fireplace surround. You can see that the hearth base has been poured. We'll have the antiquing layers applied tomorrow. All that's left? Staining and oiling the shelves.

Fireplace Project

It's been quite some time since my last post. What have we been up to? Well, come on now, we always have a project going. But, more specifically, and most recently, we've been working on covering our fireplace surround with ledge stone and having a new hearth based poured. To date, and since the inception of the project (well, minus the time spent preparing the surfaces for laying stone such as the wire mesh, and scratch coat), we have 37 hours logged. That's about 6 hours a day since last Friday. It's exhausting, too! But hey, I'm getting some nice arm definition from carrying around 4 to 6 pound stones all night.

Here is a picture from last Saturday. This was about 1/5 of the way through:

The hardest part is keeping the stones tight since this is a dry stack method - meaning that we will not grout the stone. We use a cement dye to color the mortar. This ensures that any spaces or gaps (which are inevitable and common) will not be too noticeable, and you will not see the scratch coat behind them.

Here is a picture from 5 minutes ago:

It looks so good!! And here you can see the beginning stages of our stamped concrete hearth. The border is a form which will give it a real stone edge look. In a week or two, it will be antiqued and colored again to give it a darker, two color tone.

The shelves are made of 3 inch thick unfinished maple. We're going to stain them, distress them a little and then treat them with tung oil to give them a hand rubbed antique finish. I have started staining a scrap piece today to see what the difference will be between one or two coats of stain, and then 1, 2 or 3 coats of tung oil. I and thinking about 'roughing up' the corner edges of the shelves with a large stone to give them a worn and aged look. Right now, they're a little too perfect.

In its final stages...

Well, we have the kitchen about 90% done. The remaining 10% includes the tile backsplash, a new main light and getting the stone for the fireplace. Some things are on hold. We want to eventually get the tile for the backsplash, but for now, we have just painted the walls and that is fine. We also have lots of trim to hang, and some touch up painting. And, of course, we seem to have a very empty house. I feel like I just do not know where to start with decor! No pictures on the walls yet, and that is what I am grappling with. But, to satisfy your need to see what our kitchen now looks like, here are a few pictures.

This one is of Jason using the new stove. In particular, I really love the pendant lights, but that round flourescent light eventually must go!!!

This is a shot of where the wall in the LR used to be. Now it is nice a open, and we can enter from there or from the old dining room side.