Exiting Route 66

As with all of our other rooms pre-renovation, this room screamed 90’s in the worst way. This room was originally designed as a game room with our pool table. The before pictures just don’t do this Route 66 themed room justice. Picture floor to ceiling plaid wallpaper, a license plate border, then continuing a lovely hunter green wallpaper to cover the ceiling. Complete with Route 66 curtains, chairs, everything! Even a Route 66 gift store employee would have said, “I think that’s too much Route 66 stuff for one room.” We ditched the pool table and started planning for what would be our new craft room.

We stripped all the wall paper off inch by plaid-covered inch then had the professionals come in to texture the walls.

Our look for this room is light, vintage, and with slight rustic/industrial touches. We chose a medium grey, Requisite Grey, for the 20140113-201956.jpgwalls and a slightly darker Functional Grey for the ceilings. Both are Sherwin Williams colors. We added wood trim where the wall meets the ceiling for a more customized look (and so our paint line didn’t have to be spot on).

Storage was essential in this room. It was acquired in the form of wood shelving lined with baskets and containers of all shapes and sizes.

The closet was converted into a small office space with custom wood shelves held up by black steel pipe.

A cheap flea market table was stripped of the bright blue spray paint and stained a dark walnut with antique white legs.

Overall, it’s a space that holds a nice mix of old and new, industrial and soft, and rustic and polished. It’s complete with family pictures, inherited treasures, and all things necessary for whatever creative project strikes us next.



Perking Up the Deck

After our entire focus had been centered around redoing the bathrooms, our deck was looking tired, sad, and unrecognized. So our Labor (intensive) Day Weekend was spent refinishing the back deck. Hiram, our all-knowing, God-sent gift of a handy man, recommended Cabot sealer to reinvigorate the wood. We chose a deep brown semi-transparent stain called Cordovan Brown. It was power washed with cleaner, allowed to dry for a week or more, and stained using a brush for the rails and between the slats and a roller for the planks. We love the look of an outdoor rug, but hate the feel, smell, and overall nastiness of an outdoor rug. We chose to stencil one straight on to the deck. Best of both worlds, right? Rosie disagrees. She can’t quite grasp why it looks comfortable, but doesn’t feel comfortable. She’ll adjust. 20130928-220551.jpg 20130928-220720.jpg 20130928-220744.jpg

Bathroom Renovations: Concrete Vanities and Bathtub Surround

I’m going to start this story by saying up front that this tutorial is meant to supplement other more in-depth how to videos and articles. (See https://leavingourtrail.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/how-to-pour-and-install-concrete-countertops-in-your-kitchen/ for greater detail). The kitchen countertops were a learn as you go type of project. It was the first time we had delved into the world of power tools, melamine, templates, and the medium of concrete. The bathroom vanities, on the other hand, were a “we kind of think we know what we’re doing” kind of project. We jumped in with all the confidence that finishing the kitchen countertops could bring…

The ugly green cultured marble tub surround and vanity top in the master bathroom were reason enough to start the bathroom concrete. Sadly, it was I who picked the hunter green, mauve, and baby pink cultured marble tops back in 1991. (Who could have known those colors wouldn’t make it to ’98?) We had originally only planned on doing the master bath, but my thought process was, if we were going to do one bath, why not do the guest bath, Hannah’s bath and a half powder bath while we were at it. What’s one, two, three more molds while we we’re already here. The demolition was therapeutic to say the least. Getting the marble out in one piece was not an option weight, shear size, or strength wise. We opted for brute force and a sledgehammer. Actually, a regular hammer an old towel to cover flying pieces and safety goggles were enough to do the trick. Only one narrow tub surround piece was stubborn enough to only be removed by the sheer strength of our handyman, Hiram. Otherwise we were able to break the marble into small enough pieces and haul it downstairs.

The next step required making precise templates of the tub surround. The marble was laid in five different pieces so that’s what we did with the concrete. We made sure the templates matched the exact dimensions prior to cutting the melamine. The templates were made using 3 inch strips of luan and our trusty glue gun.

After the templates were flipped, laid on the melamine, and traced, we cut the melamine to size using our circular saw, table saw, and jigsaw. We fit the melamine pieces back in around the tub prior to building the sides of our molds to ensure a nice fit. I’ll admit this did require some up and down and back and forth to the saw to get it right. We were not as concerned at the wall because backsplash would cover any imperfections. The seams, however, needed to be snug. The master vanity was nearly 98 inches long. We decided to build two molds and make a seam straight down the middle. I would do it all over again the same way. The templates were still prepared on site to ensure that all wall imperfections were met. Again, the templates are flipped on the melamine, traced out, and the melamine cut. We had wiggle room again, though, because backsplash would cover the wall edges.

We made the vanities 2 inches thick therefore our sides were made with 2 3/4 inch strips of melamine. The tub surround finished concrete was 3/4 of an inch thick, therefore those side pieces were cut 1 1/2 inches to accommodate the 3/4 inch base of melamine. All sides were built using 1 1/2 inch screws and pre drilling. The sides were caulked using 100% silicone in black to see it well. The templates were done in the same manner for the guest bath, Hannah’s bath, and powder bath. If you’ll notice in the powder bath, the template was built to accommodate the angle of the wall. Why not customize it if you’re building a template. No backsplash here…..our measurements had to be right on!

We purchased over mount copper sinks and cut the foam knockouts a 1/2 inch smaller in diameter. So lovely not to worry about getting that foam cut to perfection. Our sink edges hid all tiny imperfections! The faucet knockouts were built using a foam swimming noodle (great idea, Hannah!) cut at 1 1/2 inches and a wooden dowel cut at 1/2 inch. This gave us our 2 inch depth of the concrete plus ample room to maneuver tools to reconnect the plumbing.

After all the molds were built, we established a pouring day, rented a two bag cement mixer, bought powder grout stain, bought 10 bags of Quickrete countertop concrete mix, and set forth. We used Solomon brand for the grout stain. We purchased deep brown and dark buff. One cup grout was used per 1 80 pound bag of concrete. We mixed the powder with hot water prior to adding it to the dry concrete. A pudding consistency was established prior to pouring into the mold. The molds were covered with plastic and allowed to dry for two days. Another 5 days completed the drying time.

Hannah and I slurried the holes in the concrete with Portland cement stained the same color. We then sealed with a product called Z SiACRYL 14 which we purchased from Z countertops online. 2 light coats and the matte finish we were going for was achieved.

The countertops can look wet when water gets on them, but they dry nicely. No stains thus far! We applied clear silicone to the base of our cabinets prior to installing the concrete. The clear silicone was also used as our seam in the master bath vanity and at the seams of the tub surround. I like the look.

I credit Hannah with doing all the plumbing reconnections. We both get credit for fixing leaks by learning the value of a nice fitting wall tail pipe! Finesse is definitely more important than strength in plumbing!
So there you have it….4 bathrooms for the price of one 2 bag cement mixer. FYI, I have since bought my very own Kobalt cement mixer. Love it!

Master Bath

Guest Bath

Hannah’s Bath

Powder Bath

Front Porch Makeover


I’ve always loved the look of stained concrete. The walkway and front porch were ideal to stain. This project started with finding the two most perfect stain colors based on very small store samples. At Lowe’s we found burnished gold and vaquero brown which we thought would blend nicely together. We also bought concrete cleaner, an etching substance to maximize porosity of the concrete. We rented our handyman’s power washer and got after it. The concrete turned from a drab dingy gray to a bright steel gray with every swipe of the wand. After it dried and after reading several DIY articles on staining, we attempted imagethe walkway. We practice tested on a halfway poured sidewalk down by the creek in our neighborhood. First went on the gold. Ugly. So we then tried the brown over the gold and mixed the 2 with water from a spray bottle. Something was still not quite right. We decided to put the brown down first. The gold next mixed over the top of the brown seemed to be a winner. So off to the real walkway we went. We developed a rhythm. Work in 4′ x 4′ areas. I spray the concrete with water to wet it down then I spray the vaquero brown. Hannah sprays the gold over it and then sprays water on top of that to mix. We think we’ve got it! This continues to a few feet shy of the steps of the porch. Looking good, feeling good about our project, Hannah leaves me to go on a dinner date with friends. How hard can it be by myself I ask myself. I can do her role as well as mine. So after taping plastic around the house, this stupid woman attempted the steps and porch by herself that evening. At one point the spray from the gold got on my door despite my taping, and I ran to the garage to get more rags. By the time I got back the spray had accidentally been put in the lock position and ugly gold paint was spewing all over the porch. I frantically mopped up gold paint for 2 hours until the sun set and it didn’t look so bad simply because you couldn’t see it. I was seriously afraid I’d ruined the porch, but by some small miracle, we just started the process all over again in the morning, and the colors matched the sidewalk. It took 3 gallons of brown and not a full gallon of gold to complete the task. I’m not sure rolling it on would have created less waste.image

We let it dry for a couple of days due to some high humidity and rain sprinkles. I then sealed it with Quikrete pavement sealer which brought out a slightly darker hue to the final color. It was rolled on along with every bug, twig, and leaf which blew or just appeared at every roll. A new Pier 1 love seat and cushions, lots of lanterns and decor, and curtains (because why wouldn’t you need curtains on the front porch?) give a more formal yet warm feel to our new and improved entry. It’s turned into the perfect spot to curl up with a cup of tea or a glass of wine.


How to pour and install concrete countertops in your kitchen




Our first mega-project was building concrete countertops for our kitchen. The baby blue laminate circa 1992 just wasn’t cuttin’ it any more. I used an article from the DIY network as my basis.
I’ll add my own wisdom on top of that. The article tells you to first and foremost build your molds. You need melamine to do this. It is white and smooth and the concrete won’t stick to it, however we oiled it prior to pouring. It comes in 4×8 sheets like plywood at Lowes. Don’t use Home Depot. Worthless. Build your template from luon. It also comes in large sheets and you’ll cut this into 2-3 inch strips. Its flexible and creates a great template. You’ll probably only need 1 sheet. Hot glue the pieces together and trim as needed with a chop saw/miter saw. The template gets built preferably with your old countertop off otherwise on top to get the angles, overhang, and measurements exact. You’ll need to determine where your seams will be also. Ours were easy to determine by size. We had 2 pieces, separate molds, on either side of the oven which we seamed behind the oven. The bar was one piece and the sink and dishwasher area were 3 extremely heavy pieces. If your cabinets were custom to the home they most likely will support the concrete, otherwise you’ll need to add a plywood top or some such other support. We were ok except the dishwasher area needed an extra vertical board drilled into the brick then supported by the cabinets. The template has to be FLIPPED before tracing it onto the melamine as the bottom of the mold is the top of the countertop. So hard to wrap my little brain around. We lost a day of work to this little error! Cut your traced piece of melamine with a table saw/jig saw/circular saw however you need to get the trace perfect. Once it’s cut you cut 2 3/4 in strips of melamine to form the sides of the mold. This allows for a 2 inch thick countertop as the melamine is 3/4 inch thick. Drill and screw the sides into the mold. Caulk the inside with 100% silicone black caulk so you can see it well. (long standing joke about me getting some black caulk!)


We used 2 Quikrete bottles of charcoal stain to 1 80 lb bag of Quikrete countertop mix. Also purchased at Lowe’s. We needed around 15 bags for our project. We rented a 8 bag cement mixer, but it was pretty hard to handle. You could get away with a smaller one and help keep all your mixtures the same color.
We used steel mesh from Lowe’s, cut to size and placed in molds at 2/3 full to get great strength. I never could figure out rebar. The consistency of the concrete is tricky. Wetter than Peanut butter, drier than pudding. We allowed the concrete to dry in our house for 14 days with plastic over the molds for the first few days to allow even drying. We were in January, though. The bag does not say to dry this long. I hired a consultant. He was helpful but a real jackass. He would have charged us $8000 to do the job! I think we ended up spending much less than $2000 and that includes a $400 sink!
Caulk the areas where the molds will lay and caulk the seams. After the molds are flipped and placed, you make a slurry mixture of Portland cement, water, and stain and this fills in all the holes and seams. Use gloves, it can cut your fingers. We did use electric sanders along the sides of the molds right after pouring to decrease air holes. The slurry mixture is fabulous! Allow this to dry for a day.

Prior to the epoxy, we sealed with a basic concrete sealer the consultant gave me. This is an important step. This dried for a day. The epoxy seal is extraordinary. You buy it at sherwin Williams. Its not cheap.. About $80 and we needed 2. It’s called envirotech 2 part epoxy. You mix it together and have a 15 min period before it becomes hard as a rock!! You dust and vacuum to perfection then apply with foam brushes. You use a heat gun to remove air bubbles. It was stressful. You make a tray to catch overflow so as not to get on cabinets and floors. We used cardboard and waxed paper. It was messy but controllable.
We used foam for the sink and faucet knockouts and wrapped the edges with packaging tape to give it a smooth edge and prevent the concrete from sticking. We cut the foam with a jigsaw. Our sink came with a template. It is undermount. The faucet knockouts must allow for a thicker countertop so you can screw the parts together. One more mistake we made.
5 men flipped for us. 25lbs per square ft I think is what it’ll weigh.
I hope I’ve not overwhelmed you. It’s doable. Other than pouring the concrete, it can be done in as long or short of a time frame as you want. My complaints are that it water spots, but the beauty of it compensates. Good luck and please post any questions and we’ll do our best to answer! -L & H