Category Archives: Home projects

Making the Barn Door

Steve made the barn door for our guest room/exercise room.  We made the (4 feet)  large so it feels more like a den when it’s open.  We used leftover floor decking (1 1/2″ thick) and ceiling boards (pine 3/4″ carsiding)  for the middle portions.  We put in 2 panel doors in the house so I wanted the door to be 2 panel also.


Since the boards are all tongue and groove, they were easy to put together after being cut to length for the middle.  The frame is the thicker decking boards so the grooves had to be adjusted on the table saw to fit into the carsiding boards.  Steve added crosspieces to strengthen the horizontal plane.   The boards were wood glued and braced together until dried


Amazon had the best deal on 8 foot Barn door hardware for about $90.  It is a 4 foot door so we needed the 8 foot hardware for it to slide all the way open.  The smaller door hardwares cost about half that much.  He leveled the wall and attached the hardware


We vinegar/steel wooled the door to age it and so the stains would take better.  Let it completely dry first before staining.  Then the poly we use all over the house is Varathane Matte Polyurethane.  It dries really hard and is very washable.  If you would like Steve to send you the plans for making your own barn door go to  For $10, he will supply you with directions and a materials list and expected costs for the project.


Wainscoting can be rustic too

I love wainscoting to keep a lot of dents and marks out of walls and corners.  You can use a semigloss enamel to give it a hard washable finish.  I use a double antique white for a softer white.  As long as it’s not pure white which comes off really harsh.  I used all reclaimed wood in the powder room.  All of the pine boards that we removed with the recking bar and didn’t ruin were saved for making trim and nailer boards for walls using the Rigid Table Saw and our Dewalt Benchtop Planer.  The planer is used WITH NO NAILS in the boards after they are cut on the table saw.  It cleans off all the paints and you only need a light sanding.  This makes reclaiming SO EASY!    After a year, we had finally used up all our wood from the demo period.  Pinterest gave me a great idea to use 4 x 8′ sheets of hardboard cut into slats on our  Rigid Table Saw.Rigid table saw.  

 Pin preview

Above are the sizes to cut your wainscoting.  As long as you plan on painting it, hardboard is a super cheap way to go.  You could do a whole room for about $30.  Make a few level marks across the wall where you want horizontal boards and then use a partner to snap chalklines around the room.  I use a Bostitch brad nailer to attach the boards after marking studs behind the drywall with a studfinder.  After the horizontal boards are in, I measure for vertical boards and put them in.  If you want to make a lot at once, you can make a list of the sizes and mark them on the back once they are cut.  After the boards are in, caulk all the edges with paintable latex caulk.  Below are some of the projects we’ve done using wainscoting.

Below are some links to other posts related to this topic:

Garage turned into Living Space


Cement Countertop for Bath

During the attached garage conversion, we were adding a bathroom.  With the rustic cabin theme, we decided to make the vanity and cement the top.   Supplies needed were

  1. pine 4″ X 4″‘s
  2. 2″x4″‘s
  3. our vinegar/steel wool solution
  4. walnut  stain
  5. cement countertop mix from Menards
  6. blue tape and plywood for cement form
cement counter
cement counter

Steve measured the space and built the vanity in the garage.  He used  4″x 4″‘s for the posts and 2″x 4″‘s to build the upper and lower shelf frames.  I wanted a “slat” look like on garden benches so Steve used slats made of 2″ and wider 3.5″ 3/4 boards cut from 1 x 10’s on the table saw.  He used a Kreg pockethole tool to countersink the screws that attach the frame so you couldn’t see any on the outside and so you could get in far enough with 3″ screws.pocket_hole_detail_250

Steve then built an in place form for the countertop.  There is a 3/4″ plywood base and 1″by material on the back wall edge an inch high.  He left the sides so the cement would fill to the wall edge, and temporarily placed a 2 x 4   on the front edge.  the front and back edges served as the screeding surface to level the concrete after it was poured into the form.  He also made a 1 inch form hole for the sink pipes to fit through.  We used a vessel sink and had it there for reference as to the hole size.  I think he mixed a bag and a half all at once outside in a cement tray and brought it in by the bucketful.  We trowelled it a little after is hardened some, but Steve says he wouldn’t do that the next time because it left wierd patterns on the top.  We also tried to sand it to quickly before it was dry enough and it started gouging out the surface.  So we had to add another skim coat to the top.   Luckily it’s pretty forgiving in that you can keep adding skim coats till you like it.  We sealed it with the 511 stone sealer but in the kitchen we need to come up with a food safe sealer to make it not so porous.  

The inside of the form front had blue tape on it instead of melanine so it has a texture that i like instead of being perfectly smooth.  Steve said he would have liked it perfect.  I think it came out great and it hasn’t made any stain marks or anything.  

A word about removing ceilings. .


Every time we demo a ceiling or wall, there is old oiled cloth sawdust insulation from the fifties that we found out has an R value of about 1.  Some walls have R11 but not many.    To give you an idea of the fun we have had, here is a picture of the powder room ceiling:There were SEVEN layers of ceiling, none of which was insulation!




Sleeping loft



In the process of raising the ceiling height in the living room, we decided to make a sleeping loft above it instead of a cathedral ceiling.  This gave us an 11 foot ceiling which is still dramatic.  We lost a walking height bedroom and went to a four foot height.  We built a small ladder made of galvanized pipe and wood to climb into it.  The loft is also found on Pinterest showing  a pic of the finished loft.  

Sleeping loft

“shiplap” the cheap way

Pinterest is a great source to find decroating ideas.  One of the best for us was “shiplap” made from quarter inch underlayment from Home Depot.  It costs about $10 for a 4’x8′ sheet and you can request to have it cut in 8 inch x 8 foot strips that you just tack on with brads over our existing paneling.  If you are going over drywall, you may need to apply liquid nails.  Our entire house was filled with different color paneling, no drywall.  We removed the panelling, updated the wiring and put in new insulation.  Then we rehung the panelling and painted it black.  The 8 inch strips were tacked up with nickels as spacers:0922152113

Raising the ceiling height

The main floor is 7 feet 4 inches and the second floor is now 8 feet in the middle slanting to 2 feet on either side.  We had 2 bedrooms with an upper foyer.  To increase the ceiling height downstairs in the living room to 11 feet we are taking out the floor of the riverside bedroom upstairs.  We don’t want to lose bed space so a sleeping loft will be installed  4feet  at its highest point.   The new living room is 11 feet high.

Living room after
Living room before
removing floor
removing floor
View from living room
View from living room


Another 2 sets of 2″x 12″ LVL beams with 4×4 supports had to be put in horizontally under the second floor to support the floor and the new loft.  Then we took out the ceiling below and the floor joists of the old second floor bedroom.  Pretty freaky,huh? One tool I highly recommend for demos is a Recking bar.Recking bar

 It’s a huge crow bar that gives you the leverage to take down walls and ceilings without being a gorilla.  We installed the pine ceiling upstairs first so we didn’t need a ladder to do it.  Then Steve put in a header against the outside wall to hold up the new loft floor made of 2×8’s.  We insulated the floor to cut down on noise from the people sleeping in the loft.  Go to the link below for the post on finishing the loft above:

Sleeping Loft

In the breakfast island area and the master bedroom, we put in new 4×8 beams that we left exposed to increase their heights to 8 feet.  The floor upstairs is  2″x 6″ pine decking from Menards that is stained dark upstairs and left naked below.  It’s thick enough to be the underlayment and the floor.  

0212161437img_20160325_095639871_hdr-1 img_20160301_192400256

let’s build a GARAGE!!!

. We went to Menards after much debated agony on their garage design-it-center, estimator online. We printed our design estimate and ordered an 11,000$ “kit” and scheduled a delivery for two weeks later.  When you do that all at one time, the delivery charge is only about a $100, but you have to have a place to put everything!  You should have seen our driveway and yard.  The driveway was narrow so the truck could only put things near the street – they brought in the rest by forklift.  We still had to move quite a bit by hand to organize it in order of need.  

We hired some great local contractors to level the ground, pour the cement, frame the garage, and put the metal roof on.  We always try to save as much money as we can so we bought during a Menard’s 11% sale and received a $1200 rebate check a month later.  We try to do that for every project.   It helps.  Some people complain about the quality of Menard’s wood but when you order a lot it is handpicked and of good quality.  You can change the standard kit, so automatically you will get boxes of the different nails so if you have framing  or roofing nailer guns you should specify those types of nails.  

One thing we messed up on, (well one of them) was only having one course of cement bricks laid.  We ordered a 10 foot high garage which was at least a $1000 more than an 8 foot high garage.   BUT 2 courses of brick would have given us a 9 foot garage with an 8 foot kit for not much  more money to pay the bricklayer.  

The bricklayer came 2 days after the cement was poured and within 3 or 4 days Jim and his crew came to start the framing.  After about 2 weeks they were done with the framing, a few structural osb sheaths and the metal roof.  

Now it was our turn to take over building.   You are given the right amount of sheathing if you plan your cuts the way a builder does.  We didn’t have to make too many trips back to the store.  Because of the 10 foot garage we wasted more of the sheathing placing a seam where I wanted it. Again we should have ordered 4′ x 10′ foot sheathing, but alas 4 ‘x 8’ footer’s came.  We decided on 4 foot and 6 foot panels  which was still several 2 foot leftovers.  We hand nailed the siding sheaths on, which was bit of a pain, sometimes Steve used the our Senco Stapler .  After caulking all the seams, we rolled the paint, Benjamine Moore’s Northwoods Brown color matched by Menards with their Ultra Outdoor paint.  A good paint for the money.  We spray painted Rustoleum Metallic finish spray paint on the stock white windows and soffits and the spray has held up well after a year.  There is a liquid paint can form that you can order for touch ups called Rustoleum Painters Touch quart.



Sistering Rafters to add roof support

 There was only 2×4’s holding up the roof and we wanted to eliminate the knee walls.  The first thing was to create a ridge beam to better support the rafters we planned on adding.  We hired two contractors to put in two 2×12 LVL’s (Laminated veneered lumber) held up by a 4×4 douglas fir in the middle that was supported  down to the basement floor. 




 Two by eights were then put in with a framing nailer and a 6 ton automotive bottle jack.  6 Ton Automotive Bottle Jack

Steve would brace a “T” shaped wood invention to the rafter and bottle jack that had a large piece of LVL lumber under it to spread the area of impact.  He then jacked up the roof one rafter at a time to fit a two by eight that was cut to fit the upper and lower roof angle.


We are planning a  “michigan roof” as its called around here in Wisconsin (?).  It’s a hot roof or sealed insulation in the rafter cavity with no traditional air gap.  When the metal roof is installed we’ll put in an air gap  between it and the old roof outside the house.  Inside,  layer of 2″ hard insulation is against the roof, then there is still enough space for R21 fiberglass insulation to total between R26-28.  We put a layer of Reflectix for a vapor barrier that was supposed to increase the R value, but I am still skeptical about that.  We plan on car siding or tongue and groove pine as the ceiling.  As we got more 2×8’s put in we were able to take out temporary braces that were put in.  This allowed us to take out the knee walls that held up the roof before, now to create more living space.

Home, crap home!


Just moved into our 1950 dilapidated cabin on the Eagle River, Wisconsin.  We moved from a renovated foreclosure near Walloon Lake in Petoskey Michigan.   Realtors sold it more than doubling our purchase price.  We wanted to be on a chain of lakes and this new old house was the best we could find.  Sometimes, no, many times, I think we should have kept looking.  Our first mistake was to think we had time to look after  the house went on the market. The house sold with 2 offers the first day!!!  That sounds great, but we had to be out in 30 days!

I have a close friend in Minocqua and used to have a cabin there so we decided to look in that area. We  wanted to stay with a price of less than $200,000 so that narrowed down the on water possibilities.  There was one other property on 6 acres down the river, but an investor bought it before we could even see it.  We were moving from a 3600 sq.ft., 6 acre house in the woods. First we had to get over the fact that we couldn’t afford anything over an acre on water. Our dream home would also have to be less than 1500 sq. ft..  So, after finding this 1300 sq. ft. Cape cod style  with a one car attached garage just under an acre . . . we promptly rented two storage units.


To describe the house I might as well show you pics:

0716151801Every room was a different color paneling. The whole place was carpeted (mauve in master, white in living area.)  By the way, our St. Bernard is named Wally.

0905151725-1The ceilings downstairs were 7 feet 4 inches tall with painted knotty pine that drooped.

The upstairs has an attic hatch to get up and 4 foot high knee walls.  Older green carpeting covers the 2 bedrooms and “upper foyer ” with more paneling. 0716151805 Behind the knee wall my husband found 07161518162×4 rafters holding up the roof with no insulation outside the knee wall. We haven’t removed any interior ceilings yet to see how much insulation is there.  The previous owner said they did some updates in the 70’s – that sounds good doesn’t it? img_20150810_121115445 The kitchen has formica cabinets, orange formica counter tops, formica walls and ceilings and linoleum in pretty bad shape.  There is no space for the refrigerator except on one wall. Effectively blocking the walking space logically needed to navigate through to the back hall. This 8×12 room has osb walls and orange indoor/outdoor carpet from the 60’s.  It holds the basement staircase and has doors to the back porch and attached garage.  0716151835The garage is very long, about 24 feet by 15 feet. A work room in the back is 15 x 10 feet.  there is no insulation.  Windows are from the 50’s.  The only way to get in the house here is a small door that is handmade next to the garage door.  So how bad?, pretty bad, but don’t worry it only gets worse from here.


  1.  Replace the paneling and insulate, update wiring
  2. Replace the carpeting, level the floors, update with new floorin
  3. Increase the square footage without adding on
    1. Take out the knee walls upstairs
    2. turn the garage into living space
  4. reenforce the rafters to hold more weight for snow and insulation.
  5. update the kitchen
  6. Replace all the roofs with metal including the rubber flat roofs on the front and back porches0716151817a-1This will of course include adding a pitch to those roofs which we don’t know how as of yet.
  7. Oh yes, and raise the height of the ceilings somehow . .

So, that’s about it for now until we actually do it, this is our dream list, except for one important thing that my husband says we have to do – BUILD A GARAGE, THE BIGGEST ONE THAT WILL FIT!