Archive for Something About Home Improvement

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

I was surfing the web one time and came across a do-it-yourself dishwashing detergent recipe. It’s supposed to be eco-friendly and economical. That seems like a win-win situation if you ask me.

After shopping around the Southbay, I found the hard-to-find ingredients (washing soda & borax). Afterall, why would a national grocery chain want to sell you ingredients to make your own stuff when you could buy theirs? Here are the components:

1cp Washing Soda (not baking soda, but it’s similar)
1cp Borax
1/2cp Kosher Salt
1/2cp Citric Acid (unsweetened lemonade mix packets will do)
Vinegar (this doesn’t go into the mix, but you add it to rinse dispenser part)

Now, let’s break down the costs:
$4.14 - Washing Soda (includes tax) - 55oz ($0.075/oz)
$5.34 - Borax (includes tax) - 76oz ($0.07/oz)
$1.5 - Kosher Salt - 13oz ($0.12/oz) - I just looked up a price since I always have this in my pantry)
$2.99 - Citric Acid (Sugar-free lemonade mix) - 3.2oz (0.93/oz) (I’m sure I can get this cheaper)
$1.83 - Vinegar - 32oz ($0.057/oz)

Here’s the cost of each batch (assuming 8oz per cup): $5.36
$0.60 - Washing Soda
$0.56 - Borax
$0.48 - Kosher Salt
$3.72 - Citric Acid

Each batch makes 24oz of dishwashing detergent. The instructions say use 1 tablespoon per load (which is about 1/2 oz in terms of dry ingredient volume), which will give you around 48 loads. Doing the math, each wash costs you around $0.11-$0.12. I’m sure the price would drop dramatically if you can get citric acid for cheaper than $0.93/oz.

Anyway, after using this mix for about a month, I haven’t really noticed any difference (that’s a good thing). The only thing is that you definitely still want a rinse agent (I haven’t tried the vinegar yet), because without it, it won’t be as good as the normal dishwasher detergent that you can buy in a store.

Scarf Girl, signing off.


Kitchen Destruction

Today, at long last, we begun remodel work on our 70’s style kitchen. Let me say that demolition is a very quick process. This morning when I left for work, everything was intact, except for the portion of the wall that we let our friends “help” knock a hole in. When I got home, the floors were all taken up and the cabinets gone. *poof*

Tomorrow we’ll be discussing the recessed lighting positions as well as having the plumber come in to check things out. Exciting time ahead, and we’ve only just begun.

The “before” video

Post-Demo and plumbing rough-ins video (5/6/11 & 5/7/11)

Scarf Girl, signing off.


Kitchen Cabinets Galore

So we received our delivery of kitchen cabinets recently. Holy moly! They have taken over our two-car garage completely. Everything arrived in huge boxes from what I imagine, a large-ass truck (J was home to receive the goodies, so I’m merely using my imagination).

The next step? We have to open everything up, take inventory, and check for damage. So far there isn’t any damage, but we did notice that a lot of the cabinet doors got misaligned during transit.

Unfortunately we won’t begin the kitchen remodel for at least a month. *sigh* A month of parking outside. Luckily the weather is getting nicer.

Scarf Girl, counting boxes.


Kitchen Countertop Shopping

Yeesh. So countertops are expensive. Well, that is if you’re trying to use quartz. Granite is nice that it’s plentiful enough that stores have slabs of them marked down to pretty low prices. Of course, the biggest $$$ factor that I’ve noticed is labor. You found a $100 slab of granite? Great, now who is going to cut it down to size for you and cut a hole for your sink? I’ve seen prices ranging from $200-$350 to cut out a hole for a sink (sometimes sink mounting is included). That doesn’t even include cutting things down to size and installing the countertops.

So if you’re quartz people like we are (we don’t want to have to seal our countertops…ever), then you will likely not find an abundance of slabs at a store. Most places that we’ve gotten quotes from would quote by the slab. What if you use only 1.25 slabs? Well, you have to pay for 2 slabs. However, we did find that some stores will charge you only for what you’re going to use. They do that because of the high volume of quartz they use for certain colors/patterns.

Finding places that will charge you on a per square foot basis could save you a few hundred dollars, which when it comes to remodeling a kitchen, will certainly come in handy.

Scarf Girl, signing off.


What the world needs…Door Stop Hook

So we recently put the door back on to our hallway bathroom. Well, we realized that we didn’t buy a door stop, which could lead to our doorknob making a hole in the wall. While I like the function of the door stop, I don’t really like how they stick out and become something you can accidentally kick/trip/stub your toe.

Then it dawned one me. We also need a hook or two behind the door. So…. why not a door stop that’s also a hook? Does such a thing even exist? The answer, I discovered, is yes, after a quick search online. The only thing is that I don’t really like the look. The ones that exist are pretty much a modified version of the doorstops you normally can find at a hardware store.

I did, however, come across a cool looking ninja star clothing hook. However, that could cause a very different issue than just stubbing your toe (like stabbing your eye).

Scarf Girl, stopping doors and hanging clothes.


Time Sure Flies

Wow, I blink and suddenly two months have passed. Crazy! Well, I’ve mostly been distracted with trying to remodel out house. Although, we haven’t started construction of our master bath. We’ve been doing a lot of planning for it (and lazing around). I’m happy to say that we’ve been using our hallway bathroom for a while now although the finishing touches haven’t quite been, well, finished.

I finally got around to tiling the backsplash. It was my first time tiling anything on a vertical surface. I pretty much just decided to dive into it. “How hard can it be?” I used strips of mosaic tiles (that I cut from a 12″x12″ sheet), and applied them to the wall after putting some mortar on the wall. Next step is to grout. I wanted a small gap between the sink countertop and the tiles, so I used quarters as bottom spacers. I just cleaned off any mortar that got stuck. Hooray for free remodeling supplies!
Scarf Girl, signing off.


Being Handy Comes In Handy

So our 2nd bathroom is pretty much complete except for the vanity, medicine cabinet and some finishwork. I gotta say, the tilework that our tilers did was excellent. You can tell that they didn’t take shortcuts. One example is that they found the center point of the tub walls and started tiling from there. I think many tilers start from the left and go to the right. That way, they only have to measure and cut tile for one side, versus cutting it for both sides. It’s more work, but you get better symmetry. I didn’t notice this right away when I saw the finished work, but realized that I had liked it more because of the symmetry.

As a result of putting up new tiles, the tilers put up some greenboard (some sort of drywall I think). In order to do this, they had to attach it to the nearest stud, which stuck out past where the files would be. What does that mean? Well, it means I’ve got some drywall that needs to be prepped, primed and painted. It also means there’s a seam between the existing drywall and the new drywall.

So what did we do? We called up the guys who painted our house to see how much they’d charge to do this. $300! Err… what about the hole where the medicine cabinet will be? $300! Aiyah! That means they would charge us $600 for these items. Err…I didn’t like the idea of paying $600 for stuff that we could probably do if we learned.

What are we going to do? Well, I figure that we can buy about $30 worth of supplies and try to tackle things ourselves. Why not? It’s worth a shot, and if we screw up, at least we know there’s the fallback plan of hiring the dudes.

Wish us luck.

Scarf Girl, signing off.


Bathroom Demolished

So J and I decided to tackle the bathroom demolition for our hallway bathroom partly for education purposes, partly to save money. And, we thought it might be fun to destroy something.

After many 2-hour evening sessions (around 14 hours total I think), we finally wrapped things up yesterday. Here’s what we did:

1) Removed baseboards.
2) Removed vanity/sink, medicine cabinet and toilet.
3) Shower/Tub: Removed the tiles, greenboard, tar paper and drywall, to expose the studs along the walls all the way up to the ceiling. We also removed the shower fixture and discovered that there’s a galvanized steel pipe going from the valve to the shower head (it should be copper like the rest of the house).
4) Floor: removed tiles, Wonderboard (cement board I think), vapor barrier (this plastic sheeting). We exposed the subfloor, which is made up of planks of plywood (I think).

Here’s what I learned:
-It’s kinda fun to take a hammer and break up tiles, but that gets a little tedious after a while.
-Demo-ing is not rocket science and while I’m sure an expert could do things much more quickly and efficiently, if you’re a newbie, it is possible to do as long as you’ve got some tools and some time.
-If you can find a guy who will do it cheap enough, let him do it and save yourselves many evenings and garbage fulls of debris.
-We used the following tools: hammer, mini sledgehammer, chisels (not the wood kind), pry bar, utility knife, shop vac (it is awesome!)
-Don’t forget ear plugs, dust/particle mask and a face shield (my friends call it riot gear) or goggles. If you don’t want your hair to get all dusty, a cap or bandanna will help.

Onwards to the next phase… find a window dude to replace the bathroom window. Our new Milgard window (we get a tax credit… woohoo!) is very lonely and wants to be installed.
Scarf Girl, signing off.


Carpets Be Gone!

In an effort to cleanse the house, we tore out the carpet in the one bedroom. It was pretty simple even though this was our first time doing this. Took the two of us 1 hour. Not too shabby! (note: the room is slightly smaller than 10×10)

First J would gently lift the carpet off the tackboards and cut 1.5-2ft strips. We found cutting on the back side was easier. After he cut the strips, I cut them up into smaller pieces (so that they’d fit into the garbage can). I don’t know if people ever donate carpet pieces, but this one smelled smokey I’m sure, so I wouldn’t want to donate that.

After all the carpet was gone, we removed the padding. This time we just rolled up the similarly cut strips because they weren’t as bulky as carpet would’ve been rolled up. Lastly, we pried off the tackboards and pulled up staples (which held the padding in place).

Some things I learned:
-Bring the masks that you bought at the store instead of leaving them at home.
-Cut the carpet into pieces or rolls so it’s easier to move them out.
-Be gentle when you remove stuff so dust doesn’t fly everywhere.
-A pry bar is preferred over using a flat head screwdriver when removing the tackboards.
-Removing staples with pliers is kind of a pain, but necessary to do.
-Wear protective eye gear so that dust doesn’t get into you eyes.
-Carpet and padding should fit in your garbage bin if you make the pieces reasonably sized (no paying for extra dumping).

More adventures to come!

Scarf Girl, getting handy.


First Home Improvement Visit

We decided to visit the house yesterday to take some measurements and check things out. We ended up doing a few things:

1) Removed the ceiling fan in bedroom 3.
2) Removed the color coordinated mounted bookshelves from the master bedroom and bedroom 2.
3) Took some measurements around the house.
4) Trimmed the lemon tree so it isn’t growing as crazily and over the neighbor’s fence.
5) Trimmed some oranges from the tree beacuse there’s just so many (and the tree is only growing in one direction).
6) Picked up some “presents” left over from the seller’s dogs.
7) Aired out the house as much as we could in 3 hours.

Next up:
12/29/09 (Tuesday) - spraying the subterranean termites.
12/30/09-1/2/10 (Wednesday) - tenting/fumigation for those typical termites.

Scarf Girl, signing off.


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