Yard & Pool

What We’ve Been Up To

Wow – I was thinking it had been a while since I’d posted anything to the blog and it was probably time for an update, but I had no idea it’s been almost a year.  Crazy.  I guess time just got away from me.  Anywho, needless to say, I’m way past due in sharing what we’ve been up to, so here’s a quick look at some of the projects we’ve worked on over the last year.

 

1) Refinishing Hardwood Floors

This one makes the top of the list based solely on the impact it’s had to the main floor of our house.  We had the original hardwood floors refinished in the dining room and foyer (replacing some pretty worn carpet).  In hind sight, this turned out to be one of the more disruptive projects we’ve done since living in this house, but now that all of the inconvenience is behind us, I can safely say it was totally worth it!

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2) Grown Up Curtains

We have curtains – real, grown up window treatments – in the dining room and living room!  This is something we’ve talked about since we started redecorating the main floor, but I was a non-believer.  Custom curtains aren’t cheap and I (apparently) am.  But, after 6 years of living with teal fabrics that no longer matched anything else on the main floor, we decided it was time to bite the bullet and update them.  We figure old ones lasted 20 years, which is a pretty good run for curtains … and the new ones have made a world of difference.  Needless to say, I’m now a believer in “the power” of curtains.

 The “before” pictures:

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And, the “after” photos:

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3) The Basement

We’ve started working in the basement … sealing it up, cleaning it out, and generally making it nice, bright, and less buggy.  So far, we’ve had new windows installed, sprayed foam insulation around the rim joists, and rearranged all of the stuff down there about 5 times to get better access to the couple of rooms we’re starting in.

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4) New Porch Door!

We have a real door on the side porch now!  Since we moved in, it’s always been a screen door, which really wasn’t a great solution.  The door would get caught in the wind and blow open, it didn’t seal well at all, and generally felt like a “duct tape and chicken wire” solution.  So, we decided it was time to do something more permanent and went with a fiberglass 3/4 glass door that swings into the porch (to avoid the wind issue).  We’ve had it through the winter and have LOVED how much tighter the porch is now that we have a real door.

The old storm door:

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And the new door:

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5) No More Window Air Conditioners!

It might sound silly, but this was huge!  We had a couple of window air conditioners mounted in the wall – one was in our bedroom and one was in the sunroom.  They were probably a really great feature when those rooms were converted porches to living space long before the house had central air conditioning, but we’d never used them.  As far as we were concerned, they were loud (we could hear everything outside like it was happening in our bedroom), they were no where near air (or bug) tight, and they didn’t look very pretty.  Once they were gone (and the walls patched), we realized we’d lived with them entirely too long.  They are gone, but definitely not missed!

The master bedroom:

In the Master Bedroom

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And the sunroom:

In the Sunroom / Family Room

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6) New Liner for tbe Pool

This wasn’t exactly a planned upgrade, but we found our pool empty and the liner collapsed when we went to open it last spring, so a new liner it was.  We knew the liner was getting up there in age, so it as really just a matter of time.  Hopefully this means we’ll have some uninterrupted seasons of pool use ahead of us – these pictures make me so excited for warmer weather!  I can’t wait to go swimming with Haley this year – I think she will have so much fun with it!

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Anyway, many apologies for the lengthy absence.  I think this brings the blog (roughly) up to date … more to come (hopefully without a year passing in the meantime)!

I’m really embarrassed to admit that the project to install a new flag pole, which we had planned for a weekend back in July, is only just now complete.  We, of course, have lots of excuses … it was too hot, digging up the old one was more work than anticipated, we had other things going on … but, mostly, we’re just lazy.  So, enough of that – the new flag pole is installed and operable … and we’re excited about that!

As a reminder, here’s what we started with:

Before Pictures

It was about 20′ tall, non-removable and rusted with hardware beyond its useful life.  We pondered initially whether it would be worth trying to fix up the old flag pole rather than replace it.  We figured it could look better after some time with a wire brush, a fresh coat of paint, a new pulley, and some fresh rope, but the logistics of painting a 20′ tall pole stumped us.  Plus, we found a nice collapsable, removable one by Uncommon USA that shared none of the problems of the old one.  We decided it was clearly time for a replacement.

So, we moved on to Plan B:  Dig up the old flag pole and replace it with a shiny, new, collapsable, and removable one.  Brilliant plan!

We decided the first step should be to cut the pole off at a more manageable height so that it wouldn’t be so unwieldy while we dug it up.

The Old Flag Pole:  Cut Down to Size

 

That done, we started digging around the concrete footing … and dug some more … and kept on digging.  After making a mess out of the flower bed around the flag pole, we resigned ourselves to the fact that digging out the old flag pole was easier said than done.  We seriously think that flag pole had a more substantial footing than some homes.

Monster Footings!

While the top portion of the concrete looked like a typical do-it-yourself pour that should be easy enough to dig up, further down, it became obvious that a form was used to pour a proper footing.  We also found some metal rods reinforcing the concrete.  And to top it off, the flag pole concrete appeared to be “connected” to the section of sidewalk that leads from the driveway to the flagpole.

This was when we decided (back in July) that the flag pole project warranted some more thought before proceeding … the amount of “thought” that would take until the weather cooled down at least.

And, so, the flagpole sat for about 2 months, looking like this …

The half-of-a-flag-pole we lived with for 2 months.

… until a 2 weekends ago when we decided to tackle the project again, this time with a new approach.

So, plan C for the flag pole project was born:  Cut off the old flag pole and install the new one in a slightly different location.  After more time spent trying to dig to the bottom of the concrete the old flag pole was set in, we decided to give up on that effort completely.  Instead, we figured we’d cut the flag pole off even with the concrete, take a sledge to the top of the footing to chip away at it until it was a few inches below ground level, cover it with dirt and mulch, and forget it was there.  Then we could move on with installing the new flag pole a little to the left and closer to the driveway, which would be more centered in the flower bed anyway.

So, Chad took the reciprocating saw to the remaining half of the flag pole and cut it off at ground level … success!

No more flag pole!

And then he attempted to break out the top portion of the concrete … but this time with little success.  That concrete was just not budging.  So, we decided to leave it there … and even talked ourselves into thinking it was the right thing to do.  After all, it was preserving the history of the old flag pole that had been lovingly installed by a previous owner … they even wrote their name in the concrete.

Hicks.  1981.

So, we decided to move on to installing the new flag pole.

For the installation of the new flag pole, we used a post hole digger to dig a hole about 30″ deep and 15″ in diameter.  Our hole turned out a little bigger than the manufacturer’s recommendation, but we figured bigger was ok … we wouldn’t want the flag pole to fall over after all.

Digging for the new flag pole.

The hole.

With the hole dug, we then added gravel to the bottom for drainage and leveling and such.  We added enough gravel so that the top of the plastic sleeve (which holds the flag pole) was level with the ground and the bottom of it was filled with about 2″ of rock.

The gravel ... and the plastic sleeve.

We weren’t sure how much concrete we would need to fill the hole around the plastic sleeve, so we started by mixing up 2 60 lb. bags of Quickrete, which we found filled the hole only about 2/3 of the way, so we wound up using one more bag.  We did decide, though, to stop the concrete about 2″ below ground level so that the footing could be more easily covered with mulch to blend in to the flower bed.

Mixing the Quickrete

2 bags of concrete.

As we added the concrete, we periodically checked the sleeve to make sure that it was pointed straight up (nothing worse than a crooked flag pole!) using a post level.

Post Level

Once all of the concrete was poured in the hole, we even temporarily set the flag pole in the sleeve so that we could check to make sure it was straight.  We were really worried that the flag pole would come out crooked, but we found that even wet concrete does a really good job of keeping the sleeve in place so it doesn’t move around too much and was pretty easy to level.

Leveling the flag pole.

With the concrete poured, we cleaned up for the night and waited for it to cure before inserting the flag pole into the sleeve and raising it for the first time.

Drying concrete ...

The next day, we we really relieved to find that the flag pole was, in fact, straight!

It's straight!

It feels like we have been looking at a rusted out, inoperable flag pole for so long and it’s really nice to finally have one that’s functional and that looks so much nicer than the old one!

The New Flag Pole

The only thing we’re missing now is proper lighting so that we can leave the United States flag out at night.  With our current arrangement, we have to bring it in at night, so we find that we aren’t flying a flag as often because of that.

Chad, however, found another flag that doesn’t have that problem … a John Deere flag, of course.  :)

John Deere Flag.

Here are the “official” before and after photos for the flag pole replacement project:

Before & After

 

And so the project to install a new flag pole is finally complete – only a couple of months later than planned.  Overall, we’d say there isn’t anything overly difficult or challenging about the installation of a new flag pole … the removal of an old one, which was planted in an extraordinary amount of super-strength concrete, however, is a different story!

Our house came with an old fashioned horse hitching post at the point of our circle (ok, maybe more like tear-drop shaped) driveway.  One of the previous owners was into horses and welding … hence the hitching post.

the horse hitching post ... hiding behind the bush

We never paid a whole lot of attention to the horse … mostly because it was hidden behind a bush and surrounded by other plants when we moved in.  When we put new landscaping in this spring, though, we asked the landscaper to include the area around the horse in his design.  With the new landscaping, the horse is much more of a focal point than it was before, which we like.

the horse with the shiny new landscaping

We’ve been noticing, though, that it’s a little rusted and not looking the finest … and now that it’s more of a focal point, we thought it would be a good time to fix that.  I’ve been waiting for the weather to cool down to an acceptable temperature before tackling the re-painting of the horse and decided that this morning would be good enough.  It was below 90 degrees, not raining, and below the humidity threshold for the spray paint … so I figured there was no point in continuing to wait for the perfect day.

wire brushing the horse

I started by taking a wire brush to the horse to knock off any loose paint or rust.  By the time it was done, I was covered in a fine layer of black dust, but the horse didn’t look too different.  I was kind of surprised by that, but I think the brush did it’s job since the painted surface is a lot smoother than I think it otherwise would have been.

all ready for paint!

the spray paint

After wire brushing the horse, I rinsed it off with a garden hose and then got a bucket of dish soap and water to remove any remaining residue before rinsing it again and leaving it sit in the sun to dry.  With the horse dry, I then applied a couple of light coats of Rust-olium Rust Reformer primer followed by a couple of light coats of flat black spray paint (as a top coat).

as good as new

I’m giving the horse a good 24 hours to make sure it’s completely dry before replacing the mulch at the base, but otherwise, this quick project is pretty much done.  For as quick, cheap, and easy as this fix was, I’m super excited about how it turned out.

 

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