My garden bench sat in the weather for so many years that it was covered with mildew and dirt. I could have bought a new one for less that a hundred dollars but I like the scroll work on the back of this one better than any I have seen. I decided to refinish it.
When you plan a bathroom renovation, there are droves of decisions to make, details to plan, and supplies to purchase. You picked beautiful granite for your countertops, but what about your sinks? Does the paint color for the walls complement the wood tone of the cabinets? Where did you find those drawer pulls again? And what about the plumbing? Keeping track of the details can be overwhelming!
Using Microsoft OneNote and a project notebook helps you organize the ideas, sources, materials, and prices for your project, but there’s one more invaluable tool you should never plan a renovation without: a checklist– a concise list that helps you plan and keep track of all the pieces you will need.
I created a comprehensive checklist for my own bathroom renovation, and it worked so well that I wanted to share it with you.
For your convenience, you can print this checklist as a PDF by clicking here.
For your convenience, you can print this checklist as a PDF by clicking here.
For me, the most enjoyable part of a project is picking the elements that will make it my space. Coordinating the sinks with the faucets, the tile with the countertop, and the flooring with the shower tile is my favorite part. But there are so many things to remember that it is easy to let something slip through the cracks, forgotten.
It‘s important to have the items you need on hand when you need them. If you leave out a major, or even a minor, piece it can cause delays and dramatically affect the project time line. Also, you might end up having to settle for a substitute for something you really wanted, just because there is not time to get your first choice at the last minute.
Use this checklist as a guide. Your contractor will thank you, and your bathroom will turn out to be the functional, beautiful, relaxing retreat of your dreams.
Your visions of a beautiful new bathroom are coming together. You have done your research and have gathered up-to-date design ideas from the professionals. Your creative juices are flowing. Now that you have design ideas for how you want the room to look you can create your floor plan.
Layout changes? Time to brainstorm
Start your floor plan by measuring the space. Create a graph on paper or on the computer using your measurements. Next, think about any layout changes you might want to make. Is your shower too small, or (rarely) even too large for your space? Maybe your toilet seems just a bit too close to the shower area, or you finally want to install a double sink to make sharing the space more convenient.
This is the time to think about your wish list, and plan those changes. Keep in mind that moving plumbing tremendously increases the cost of the renovation, but it’s far easier to tackle it at this stage than to change your mind later.
The great wall debate
For my bathroom, I opted to leave all the plumbing in place. The major structural change I wanted to make was to knock down a dividing wall.
My family bathroom is not a large room. It felt closed-in because it was divided into two sections by a wall with a door opening. The door had long since been removed so all the wall really did, in my mind, was create a visual block.
My family had a great debate over that wall – keep it as it was, put in a half wall by the potty (a half wall is sometimes called a knee wall or a pony wall), put in a half wall topped by an acrylic panel, or get rid of the wall completely.
If we left the wall in, it would provide separation of the sinks from the potty and shower, so two guests would potentially be able to use the bathroom at the same time. But having any wall took up a great deal of visual space on an already tight floor plan. We went round and round discussing the merits of having the wall or removing it, and no one could agree.
I saw a renovation show on HGTV where the designer used a decorative acrylic panel on top of a half wall. It was very attractive and might have swayed my vote towards keeping some style of wall. However, when I finally found the product online, I quickly changed my mind. I found out that it would have to be ordered directly from China and in 6-foot by 8-foot panels for a couple thousand dollars. I only needed a piece that would be about 3 by 4. Scrap that idea!
Without a decorative panel, I could see no reason at all for a half wall. It would just take up space and would provide very little in the way of a privacy screen.
Make a wish list, then ask the experts
While you’re still in the planning stage, though, it’s important to explore all your options, so we turned to the professionals to get their advice. I got an opinion from every contractor I interviewed, and from the cabinet designer I was working with at Home Depot. In the end, we decided to just get rid of the wall, and it turned out to be a good decision.
Creating your floor plan is the best time to consider changes and explore all your options. Feel free to let your imagination run wild: It’s far cheaper and easier to explore your options now than it will be after you’ve gutted the room. Bounce your ideas off of your family, and use resources like your contractor (and this blog) to mesh your dream floor plan with your budget and the realities of your space.
Have you renovated a bathroom and changed the floor plan in the process? How have you solved design or layout challenges that have arisen in your plans? Share your ideas with us in the comments section.
Beginning a complete remodel of a bathroom can be a daunting proposition. Especially if you are your own designer and general contractor like I often am. It can be tempting to dive right in and haphazardly start buying things that catch your eye, but by taking the time to thoroughly plan your design strategy, you can make inspired choices that give you an end result you’ll love.
Inspiration for your plan: Turn to the experts
The variety of design options can be overwhelming unless you have some idea what you want to achieve with your remodel design. Fortunately, there’s a simple and fun way to inspire your design. Start by doing research to help you decide what you like and what you really want.
I know what you’re thinking…”Research, ughhh!”, but stick with me for a moment. Thumb through a few of your favorite magazines. They are a great source for pictures of projects done by professionals and other homeowners. Or, try perusing a handful of online sites, such as HGTV and DIY (and Home Design Evolution, of course). They offer vast numbers of photos of bathrooms created by top designers. These sites make it easy to narrow your search by
color or by style, such as traditional or modern, transitional or contemporary. And if you haven’t narrowed your tastes down yet, finding photos that look and feel “right” will give you a well-defined starting place for your project.
“What did that faucet look like?” – Using a Project Notebook
Once you start finding elements you like that you could incorporate into your room you need to save them so you can find them again later. There are several good ways to do this, and you can combine several organizational strategies to suit your personal style.
The most essential tool is your project file. You can use your project file to keep magazine
cutouts, printed pages, paint samples, and other design elements together for convenient reference. Make sure to clearly label each element with its source and prices – this information is invaluable to have handy when you’re ready to make your purchase decisions.
Another useful tool, especially if you’re doing the bulk of your research online, is using software to create a project file on your computer.
My personal favorite software program for organizing my design ideas is Microsoft OneNote. (If you don’t have access to OneNote you can try free alternatives like EverNote that you can download online.)
To use OneNote, set up a project file with subcategories that group your design elements together for easy comparison. For a bathroom project you might have subcategories that include sinks, faucets, cabinets, and mirrors.
With your OneNote project file set up, you’re ready to browse the web for ideas. When you find a picture online of a room design that you like, right click and copy the picture. In your OneNote file, paste the picture. Then add any comments or notes you want, like what you liked about a
given design, and which elements you want to try to incorporate into your room.
You can also copy and paste complete information on items like faucets or sinks copied right from the website of the source where you might buy the item. This way you can track where you found project components, and include details like size and dimensions, and color choices. This also makes it a breeze to compare prices from various sources at a glance.
When you invest the time to thoroughly plan your project, you can easily keep track of the ideas and inspirations that are guiding your project. Organizing your thoughts into a project notebook is a great way to ensure that all the elements of your design mesh well stylistically, and you’ll love the ease of combining your ideas in different ways. Not to mention the money you’ll save by finding the best prices on the items you want. Best of all, you’re one step closer to making your dream bathroom a reality.
Where do you go for inspiration when you are planning a renovation project? Have you planned a project and come up with some great ways to organize your plan? Write a comment and share your ideas with us.
Years of Atlanta’s heat and daily exposure to direct sunlight had faded our once-black front porch lights to a dusty, silver grey. If you have a similar problem, here is what you can do to return those faded lights to their original luster.
Don’t buy new lights, refurbish the old ones!
If you undertake a project like this, make sure you have someone helping who is experienced with electrical wiring and knowledgeable about removing and installing light fixtures. You want to avoid injury from electrical shocks and you don’t want to cause any damage to your house.
A surprise hiding in wait
When Vann loosened the first light, he found that the wires were completely blocked in with mud. Digging into it with a screwdriver, he was able to pull out all the caked and hardened dirt. We Googled and figured out that it was a Mud dauber nest, a type of wasp in our area. Luckily, it was abandoned. A good shot of hornet and wasp spray was reassuring, if perhaps unnecessary.
Keep in mind when you do outside projects that insects and wildlife can get into the smallest and most unexpected places. Always be cautious so you don’t startle a critter or stir up a hornets’ nest.
The refinishing process
Your first step is to take the lights apart. Amazing how many pieces there can be! Using acetone on a rag, you can wipe the surfaces to clean them. Acetone is a surprisingly effective cleaning agent for oxidized painted surfaces. In a well-ventilated area, like on the patio, lay out a large plastic drop cloth to protect the floor. Position the pieces on wood blocks so they will be up off the ground with the edges exposed.
Next, apply two to three light coats of black spray paint. I used Rust-oleum Professional High Performance Enamel for a hard finish.
Tip: Use several light coats of paint not one heavy coat. Otherwise, you will get drips and bubbles and a very blotchy paint job.
Details that matter
If your lights are all in pieces anyway, it’s a perfect time to fix any details that may have bothered you. I never liked the trim inside our lights, which was a bright brass color. I decided to paint the brass-colored pieces with Rust-oleum Universal Metallic All-surface paint in satin nickel.
I really made a mess of this. The pieces were long plastic cylinders and long metal pipes. I tried spraying them by propping them up, but my work surface was outside, and when the wind came up they blew all over the place. I had blotched and glopped paint everywhere.
To fix my mess, I had to sand the pieces and start completely over. This time I crafted a holder made of bent wire coat hangers to hold the cylinders. Also, I took the project inside, out of the wind.
Finally, I had success! The satin nickel looks great with the black light covers and matches the silver caming in the glass of my front door.
Remember that the details matter. You can fix almost anything if you just plan and take your time with your project.
Better than new
After reassembling all the pieces, you can turn off the breaker and reinstall your lights. What a difference a small renovation can make to the curb appeal of your house. And the only cost is a couple cans of spray paint and a little time. Your lights aren’t faded any more – now they are fabulous!
Before renovating our garage, my husband and I had a mishmash of tools that lacked functional storage space and piles of miscellaneous stuff spilling out from every wall. So we sorted out the keepers from the junkers and devised our organization plan.
The shovels and rakes were hung in a logical order. Then we created safe covers for sharp-bladed tools and organized with shelving and storage bins. But we still had tools left to store and to top it all off the garage was ugly!
Garages don’t have to be white
Picking paint colors can be one of the hardest parts of a project. The colors look so different on the wall in your space, and always seem to dry to a different color than you thought it would be.
I used to buy quarts and quarts of different colors to sample trying to get just the right color. My basement shelves were lined with expensive, unused cans of rejected paint.
Thanks to computer technology, the paint companies figured out a way to measure miniscule amounts of tint so they can offer small, accurate, paint samples. I love the Behr Ultra 8 oz. paint testers for just $2.94 each. Now you can sample all the colors you want – guilt free.
Tip: The Behr testers are the same quality as the regular paint so you can use the leftover paint for any project, interior or exterior including touch-ups or even craft projects.
For our garage I suggested that we use “Home Depot Orange” for the walls, since I am there so often it feels like home anyway. Even my friend Pat in Paint agreed that if anyone qualified to use that color, I definitely did. Surprisingly, the family shot me down on that one. Oh, well.
My first serious choice was Windwood Spring, a pretty, light turquoise, but to my disappointment that one was vetoed too. We finally agreed on Silver Drop for the walls and Dolphin Fin for the inside of the garage doors. The test swatches we painted looked like warm greys that would be
cheerful and neutral. They both turned out very light once they covered the walls, but they are bright and at least they are not white.
My decorating philosophy: You win some, you lose some – home improvement (and marriage) takes compromise.
Put it where you need it
Brooms, mops, watering cans, and flyswatters (ugh!) are items I use inside, but store in the garage, right outside the door to the house. For these types of frequently used tools, I needed to find a way to make them easy to grab and replace. My search turned up spring-type hooks that come in one strip, but are very close together.
Since mopheads are so wide, though, I thought spacing the hooks farther apart would be the most functional placement. After more diligent searching, I found individual spring hooks that I could mount at a spacing that fit my collection of brooms and mops.
Tip: To be functional, storage should be customized to fit your personal collection of tools.
The kids have to play
holds lots of stuff yet fits snugly next to the wall without wasting space.
Build specialized storage for your unique needs
The plant stake/swim noodle holder was a fun project that Vann helped me with. I am a gardener and have collected bamboo and plastic plant stakes that I used to just lean in a corner. Problem was they fell over all the time and made a mess. So I designed a holder, then enlisted help to make it.
This was a quick and fun project. The best part was that I learned to use the mitre saw and the nail gun. Look out American Handyman!
Now it functions
The garage makeover took a lot of thought and time to pull together. The great thing is that now everything in the garage is something we actually use, and it is all easily accessible. The shovels and rakes are sorted into their own wall homes. My birdseed and stepladder are in one convenient, easy to reach spot. The walls are no longer white!
Perhaps most importantly, dangerous tools are stored safely. Chemicals are divided by function and are stored on high shelves out of the reach of my granddaughters.
The collaboration with my husband made this a satisfying endeavor where we shared time, thought, and camaraderie. The final result is a functional, bright, space we can both use and enjoy.
Have you found a product that fits your organization project? How have you organized your garage to make it more functional? Share your ideas in a comment.
Protecting our environment and getting rid of weeds in your garden are often very opposite ideas. Staying green by not using chemicals and sprays on the weeds usually means backbreaking work pulling weeds from hard-packed ground.
Click here to watch my easy solution for quick, green weed removal using one of my favorite tools: the action hoe.
The storage room at the back of the garage is finished. The sharp and dangerous tools are behind the door, out of little girls’ sight and securely attached to hooks. I found stacking plastic baskets at Target in bright green that continue the spring theme inspired by Behr’s Spring Morn paint.
There is plenty of shelf room so I created separate sections dividing the bug sprays, weed killers, flower fertilizers, car care items, and bike repair tools for easy access. Heavy flowerpots stack conveniently on the floor. There is one problem that I still have to work on: empty shelves! That means shopping – YAY!
Creating function and storage
With the storage room completed our efforts move into the main garage. The main goal is to have everything organized so it’s easy to access and safely stored. But that’s no reason it can’t look nice, too.
How many shovels do we need anyway?
Our garage wall is lined with shovels. Who knew there could be so many different ones? There is a long narrow shovel for digging up plants, flat-edged shovels (two sizes) for scooping landscape materials, a “Smokey the Bear” shovel for digging BIG holes.
Even though we live in metro Atlanta we have two very large snow shovels – Vann just can’t part with them. Last winter, I saw the wisdom in his insistence when we had a weeklong snow and ice storm – we were lucky to have them! The wall also sports a line-up of rakes, hoes, and cultivators. The ones already hanging on the wall are the ones we use the most.
My favorite tool is one that I call the garden wedgie. (It’s actually an Ames Action Hoe). You put the trapezoidal hook on the ground then wiggle it back and forth to uproot weeds. It’s a slick tool. I like to use it under the bird feeders to remove all the sprouts that grow from all the seeds
the birds drop.
Hidden away in the cobwebby corners of the garage are the forgotten tools. Do we really need these? Sorting through them a few turned out to be things we had truly just forgotten about, a few we decided to donate to my daughter for her efforts with her garden and Garden Greenthumb blog. A few old, broken ones just went away. That thinned it to a workable number.
A big consideration was the dangerous tools. My granddaughters are here regularly and love to play on the driveway and run in and out of the garage. I wanted the sharp, heavy tools up out of reach or hidden away, so I had a few things to make.
We have an attachment for the string trimmer that works as an edger. It is very sharp and had gouged dents in the wall and left large black, greasy stains where the blade rested against the wall. I repurposed a give-away canvas tote bag into a blade cover.
Make a thatch rake wrap
Another tool, the lawn thatch rake, has a long row of sharp blades. To store it safely I made a canvas cover to form a casing for the blade. Safe storage, and it keeps the garage clean, too.
Hanging up the tools
Planning is the key to organizing. You have to really think about what you need to store and where you can put things so that they are in the most convenient location for easy access when you need them.
Our garage had existing tool hangers on the outside wall for the shovels and rakes that are functional and provide adequate storage for the trimmed-down supply of tools.
Bike hooks hold two of our bikes up off the floor and easily accessible. On the back wall there was room for another bike hook for our third bike.
Pests in your birdseed or dog food?
At Wild Birds Unlimited I bought two aluminum bins with locking handles to store all the birdseed. Mice, bugs and other critters can’t get in. Even a raccoon probably couldn’t open it. Being short, I need a step ladder to fill the bird feeder, so I want it stored right over the seed bins where I can reach it easily.
Also, I save paper bags from Starbucks, Bath & Body Works, and other places to use as lunch bags, carry bags, and sometimes gift bags. The wire shelf units we kept them in didn’t work very well to hold these bags; they slid through the cracks or folded over the top of the shelf.
After much searching, I was able to find pieces from the Rubbermaid Fast Track system that worked perfectly. A wire basket, 30 x 8.5x 9 is just the right size for my paper bags. I added a multipurpose hook for my 2-step ladder. A single 48-inch section of track holds the components and completes the assembly.
Near the garage door was the perfect location for the stack of paper yard waste bags and work gloves. We used two 24-inch Rubbermaid single shelf tracks and two Rubbermaid prefinished shelves to create an adjustable shelving unit to hold the bags and the plastic boxes of gardening gloves.
Tip: When you hang the shelf tracks try to screw into wall studs for the sturdiest installation.
With two walls down and one to go we are making great progress in creating functional garage storage. The renovation is coming together.
Have you found a product that fits your organization project? How have you organized your garage to make it more functional? Share your ideas in a comment.
Moving into a new home always seems to leave piles of stuff that fit into your old space but don’t quite have a home in the new space. This was especially true when we transitioned from an oversized garage at our last home into a regular-sized one here. Fortunately, there is a small storage room at the back of the garage. Unfortunately, this became our dumping ground. All the flower pots, small tools, fertilizers, kids’ outdoor toys… all those seldom used things that you want to keep but don’t need right now came off the moving van and just landed in that room. They sat there forgotten and almost untouched for 7 years – except when they got shoved around to make room for more stuff. Yikes!
It was finally time to reclaim our storage room and transform it from a ‘dead tool graveyard’ into a well-planned functional space.
You have to consider a number of things to organize a garage storage space, including:
- Shelving needed
- Tools to keep or get rid of
- Storage systems available
- Flooring options
- Paint colors (my favorite thing!)
Where do we start
Let’s tear it down!
The storage room had a narrow ledge about 32-inches high on two sides of the room. The ledge had legs made from 2x4s that blocked access to the storage space below. The worn-out pegboard and rickety shelves could hardly be called adequate, let alone well-planned or functional. Everything needed to go…Time for Demo!
My husband, Vann, got out his sledgehammer and took a herculean swing at the ledge.
Nothing happened. The shelf didn’t budge. Another swing, a push, a swing from the bottom up – would this thing ever break?
Next he tried a crowbar. The boards moved a little. After much prying, pounding, and nail pulling the ledge finally came out. The mismatched shelves all went, too.
One thing I learned from this – demo isn’t always easy but there is a way to remove the old structures that you don’t want anymore. It just takes the right tools, a little patience, and sometimes lots of muscle.
With the old shelves finally removed the process could continue. Next up – paint the walls.
Preparation is key for a good paint job
After the removal of 500 nails, the walls were in sad shape. They required patching, sanding, filling, and more sanding before we could paint. There were big holes that needed mesh patch kits and several coats of mud. Luckily, Home Depot has patch kits in a wide variety of sizes and we found just the right ones for our job. Even though we chose high-quality paint-and-primer-in-one, we decided to use a separate coat of primer before we painted.
Tip: Clean the walls with trisodium phosphate (TSP) for better paint adhesion. Be sure to wear gloves and protective eyewear when using the TSP.
Tip: In a small room, especially one with a low ceiling, you can create the illusion of more space by using the same color for the walls and the ceiling. You effectively eliminate the horizontal line so the walls and the ceiling blend into one visual space.
Painting finished, it was time to undertake the floor. We had quite a debate about what type of flooring to use.
To tile or not to tile…
The floor of the storage room was to be my initiation into laying tile. I have watched my contractor so many times and I have TONS (literally, I’ve lifted it!) of leftover tile. I thought I could just do a quick and easy job like on TV. I should be so lucky…
I quickly realized I was in over my head.
I asked my contractor friend to look at the existing floor, and he said I couldn’t lay porcelain tile on the particle-board sub floor. Even if I laid in ¾ inch cement backerboard, it would flex and the tile would break.
That meant replacing the subfloor with new plywood before putting in the cement backerboard. All these layers would raise the floor 1.5 inches, so the door jamb and the door would have to be shortened, too.
I would need to buy tile snips for the small cuts, spacers, mud, grout, tools to spread the mud, sponges, and on and on. I would need to rent a tile saw.
I feel overwhelmed just writing about it! This was supposed to be a weekend project, but the tiling alone would take weeks of work.
I took a step back and really thought about my project. This is just a garage storage room! It was time to rethink my options.
Walking the plank (flooring)
At Home Depot I found some vinyl tile that was good quality, TrafficMaster Allure Tile 12 in. x 36 in. Resilient Vinyl Plank Flooring. It was nice looking, and it used a “floating” installation, so it didn’t even have to stick to the subfloor – it would stick to itself. Since it was vinyl it was flexible and wouldn’t break. Simple to install and budget-friendly – it was the perfect solution.
The resilient vinyl plank flooring was easy to install. The sticky interlocking edges connect the pieces without having them stick to the floor.
Tip: To pick your starting point, decide which part of the floor is most visible and where the best pattern should be.
We started along the open wall on the left side and worked from the door to the back of the room. Using a Husky Turboslide knife, the tile can be scored and snapped to the size needed to finish the row.
The hardest part of the process was at the very end. The vinyl is purchased in cases that cover 24 square feet. At the last corner of the room we needed about ½ a tile. I wanted to avoid opening a new box for just one or two tiles, so looked for ways to put trimmed pieces together and still have edges with adhesive. We ended up with a couple of miss-matched cuts in the back corner. It’s the kind of thing that no one else would ever notice and we saved about $50 by not opening another case.
We finished the entire floor in just a few hours.
Shine a little light
Originally, the room had a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. This wasn’t attractive and didn’t provide good light to work by.
We found a new inexpensive overhead light at Home Depot, and fitted it with a pair of bright white CFL bulbs to finish the shell of the storage room.
Tip: Energy saving CFL bulbs are available in warm/soft white, (bright) white, cool white, and daylight. Pick the light color based on the function of the space where the light will be used.
Prep is finished
A major part of our storage room renovation is done. We took down all the old non-functional shelves, repaired the wall surface, and painted with a bright and cheerful color. Our new vinyl flooring is a big improvement over the particle board it replaced, and there is enough light to see into even the hidden space behind the door.
The room is still empty, but it has cheerful walls, a durable, low-maintenance floor, and a bright new work light. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but this project is coming along nicely.
Do you have a garage or storage room renovation that you want to work on? Have you tried a great new paint color or construction material? Share your experience in the comments.