Cleaning your dryer

Did you know that your dryer is one of the leading causes of house fires?  And that you can avoid that scary mess just by cleaning it.

How many times have you thrown a load of laundry in the dryer and then headed out to run errands, or to bed?

Yeah, that thought terrifies me.  So, I finally accomplished a task I’d been meaning to take on for months.  And except for squeezing back behind the dryer, it was actually really easy!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A phillips screwdriver
  • A hex socket screwdriver set (I bought a cheap-o set at HD for $5.  It allows me to use regular screw bits or the hex sockets.  The backside of the dryer is held on with hex screws)  Something like THIS.
  • A shop vac with a brush attachment
  • A dry rag
  • A broom, mop & water, or a wet rag.

Here’s what to do:

1. Turn off the power to the unit from your breaker box (Safety first!) OR, if you have a gas dryer, turn that off.

2. Take out the lint trap and set aside

3. Take out the two phillips screws by the lint trap hole.

4. Pull the dryer out from the wall so you can get behind it.

5. Unscrew the vent attachments from the wall and from the dryer.

5. Unscrew the back panel.  There is a small panel where your electric wires feed in.  Remove that small metal piece.  Then remove the screws near the electric wires and the three screws on either side of the back panel.

6. Pull back panel off and set aside.

7. Start unscrewing the black metal lint compartments (this piece connects the lint trap to the air output pipe).  There will be 5 or 6 screws holding this piece on.

8.  Carefully lift the piece up and pull it out.

9. Vacuum every piece of lint or dust you see.  Everywhere.  From the back panel, the vent piece, the wires, the fan, the black lint piece you just took out, etc.  If you can’t get it out with the shop vac, use the dry rag to reach it.  I found that my shop vac arm wouldn’t reach down into the black lint piece, so I reached down into it with a rag to clean it out.

As a side note, I found bobby pins, nails, buttons, plastic, pennies, and tons of other random objects that shouldn’t be in my dryer when I vacuumed it out.

10. If you have a long venting system (from the dryer to wherever it dispels outside), make sure to clean that.  Mine just goes through an exterior wall and directly outside, but if your venting is longer, be sure to buy a long-snake brush to clean it.

11. Once all the pieces are lint-free, put them back on.  Black lint piece first, then the back panel, the small electrical panel, and then the phillips screws near the lint trap.

12. Take this opportunity to sweep and mop behind the washer and dryer (you know you’re not going to do it otherwise).

13. Push the units back into place and go outside to find the place your dryer air dispels from the house.  Use the shop vac and long-snake brush to clean.  Make sure that all of the little flaps swing freely.

14. Use warm water, dish soap, and an old toothbrush to clean out the lint trap.  Make sure that water runs freely through it– sometimes dryer sheets can create an invisible film over the lint trap and cause overheating.  It’s a good practice to get the lint off each time you run your dryer, and wash the trap with water and soap periodically.

15. Turn the power back on and run the Air Fluff cycle– if we dislodged something, this will push it out.

Now you can run your dyer without worrying it might burn your house down!  Just knowing that it’s clean is a reassurance for me– plus, I took this opportunity to wipe down the exterior surfaces so it looks all shiny and new.

How about you?  Any Spring Cleaning projects you’re ready to tackle?

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DIY Shelf for a Half Wall

After finishing the stripes I painted in my downstairs bathroom, I decided that I really wanted to finish the poor little half wall.  The top was textured, and for some reason always dirty.  It needed a shelf.  Here is what I started with:

Here is what I needed:

  • 1″ board for shelf
  • Quarter round (already primed)
  • Miter box (THIS is the one I purchased)
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail set (like THIS)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Caulk
  • Wood putty

Here’s what I did:

1. I measured the width and the length of my half wall.  I bought a board that would hang at least 1″ on every sides (my wall was 4″ wide, so I bought a 6″ wide board).

2. I measured (adding an extra inch or two for mitered corners) how much quarter round I would need to wrap around the bottom of the board/by the wall.

3. Then I cut the shelf board to size and used my palm sander to get the board really smooth– including the edges.

4. I laid the board on the half wall just to make sure that it fit well.  Then I took it off and primed it while I worked on the quarter round.

5. I measured, then started cutting my first piece of quarter round.  This step was admittedly the hardest.  And I spent a good 15 minutes sitting by the miter box trying to get the angle I needed.  Here is what I figured out.

  • Put your quarter round against the wall you want it, mark the spot where the inside edge will hit the wall.  Do both long walls, then measure the piece on the short end after you’ve cut both long ends.
  • Lay the quarter round with the rounded side down on the bottom of the miter box.

  • Pull the quarter round towards the edge/wall of the box.

  • Put your fingers under the rounded side of the quarter round and gently pull it towards the edge/wall of the box.

  • Line up the your mark with one of the 45 degree saw lines (use the opposite 45 degree angle cut for the other side)
  • Make sure that the angle you’re cutting is correct (mine were all outward pointing angles)

  • Saw through the quarter round

6. Measure your other sides of quarter round and cut.  This is what your angles should look like when you’re done.

7. Make sure your shelf board is hanging over an equal amount on both sides.  Then nail it into the half wall with finishing nails.  Use your nail set to get the nails all the way into the wood without damaging the wood with the hammer.

8. Nail some finishing nails partially into your quarter round.

9. Nail your quarter round underneath your shelf against the wall.  Use the nail set to get the nails all the way into the wood so you can cover those holes with wood putty.

10. Use wood putty to cover nail holes.

11. Paint the shelf and quarter round.

12. Once the paint is dry, use a paint-able caulk around every edge for a seamless look.

I absolutely love  how the shelf turned out.  Now all I need to do is grab some cute vases to set there!

Have you built anything recently?

I’m linking up to Thrify Decor Chick’s April Before & After Party.  Check out some other great projects there!

Striped paint on textured walls

I’ve been itching to paint some stripes in a room in my house for ages now.  I can’t believe it has taken me this long.

So last weekend I decided to finally get on it and make it happen.

I chose my downstairs bathroom– the bathroom that my guests always see.  It’s a pretty small room (and hard to photograph.  Sorry!), so I thought some horizontal stripes might also help to make the room feel a little wider.

What you’ll need:

  • Paint (choose colors that are in the same “color family” (white & tan) or completely different (white and navy) for different effects)
  • Painters tape– A LOT.  I used regular blue painters tape (without issues), mostly because I have issues with Frog Tape– it never sticks for me!
  • A long level
  • Pencil
  • Artists Brush
  • Regular 2″ brush & roller

What to do:

1. Paint your base coat over all the walls.  Let this paint dry completely (24-48 hours).

2. Measure the room from the top of the baseboard to the ceiling.  Mine was 90″

3. I’ve read that 12″ (or thereabouts) stripes are the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  So, divide the length of your room (90) by 12″ to see what you get.  (90/12 = 7.5)  Round up or down to the nearest number.  I knew I wanted an odd amount of stripes because I wanted the white on the top and the bottom, so I went with 7 stripes.  Now, take the length of your room (90) and divide it by the number of stripes you want (7), (90/7 = 12.8).  Each of your stripes is going to be about 12.8″ thick.

4. Start at one edge of the room.  Measure your distance (12.8) from the baseboard, make a pencil mark.  Keep making marks all the way up the wall.

5. Then, take your long level and hold it against the wall by your mark.  Use the level around the room to draw lines about every 4-6″

6. Get out the tape and tape your lines.  Be careful when taping.  Your stripes will look a little disproportionate when the tape is up– that is because the tape is sitting in the base-coat-colored spots and not in the new stripe colors.  So the areas to be striped will look larger.

7. Use an unimportant gift card (it gets a little scratched) to rub the tape lines to make sure they’re down firmly.

8. Use a dabbing motion to paint the base coat against the edges to be painted with the stripe color.  This will form an edge to prevent some paint from seeping under the tape.  Let the paint dry completely.

9. Use a low-nap roller to roll the middle section of the stripes– don’t roll right up to the edges.

10.  Roll the edges with only a tiny bit of paint (about the time when you’re ready to roll more paint on your roller) by starting on the tape and dragging downward or upward into the stripe.  Don’t push the roller up into the tape or you’ll force paint under the tape.  Use the paint brush only for places the roller can’t reach.

11.  Pull the tape down immediately after the second stripe coat.

12. There will be a few places where the paint still seeped under the tape.  Use the artists brush to fix those.

It’s such a classy look.  And it really does make the room feel larger.

Have you been working on any bathroom improvements lately?

Make your own Gallery Wall

Everywhere you look online there are these amazing-looking gallery walls.  I knew I wanted to incorporate one into my house, but I just wasn’t sure where.  Then I realized that I had a large wall that was completely blank and I honestly had no idea what to do with it– the stairwell.

Here’s my inspiration picture from Pinterest… yes, more inspiration from YHL.

I purchased most of my frames at Goodwill or other thrift stores.  I watched for 50% or tag sales and got most of mine for $1 or less.  Then, I purchased some semi-gloss black spray paint from Home Depot and sprayed them to match.  I loved that I had all different kinds of frames, but that the color is what pulled them in as a whole– and made the wall less “haphazard” and more “on purpose”.

To hang them (I learned this trick from Young House Love), lay the frames on newspaper/ads and cut out to the same size.  Mark an arrow pointing in the direction that it needs to hang (if appropriate), and mark where the nail holes need to be on the newspaper too.

Then, all you have to do is hang the newspaper up, move things around until you’re happy with it, nail in your nails per the marks on the newspaper, and then play a long game of “which frame matches this one?”

TIP: Filling your frames before hanging would be easier– that way you can write a keyword on your newspaper outline so that hanging the frames later is less of a guessing game (if you have a lot of similarly sized frames).

And this is what mine looks like now.

I love it, partially because it allows me to display (and create) some great art, and also because it’s a fun thing to see each day.  Every day when I walk down the stairs I see something different.  I also love it because it was such an odd space that I had no idea what to do with.  I get more compliments about it than any other thing in my house– I think it’s a fun surprise as you come up the stairs.

NOTE: I hung A LOT of frames on that wall (yeah, I know, you can see them all), but I didn’t have enough art to fill them all yet.  The collection grows as I get inspired to make something, or find something I want to frame.  It’ll be an ever-changing collection of things that make me happy– or things that inspire me.

Here are a couple of the art projects that I’ve posted about that are up in my gallery wall.  Basket weave paper art, Yarn block stamp art,

What art have you been creating lately?

Ombre paint chip art

I’m linking up to the great Pinterest Challenge bloggers today. Young House Love, Bower Power, Hi Sugarplum, and The Great Indoors.

I love paint chip art, partially because there are so many color options available, and partially because paint chips are F-R-E-E.

Here are a couple of my inspiration pictures.

and

I wanted something that would match the colors I already had in the room, so instead of it truly being ombre, it’s more of a pixelated color gradation from blue to yellow.  And I absolutely LOVE it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Paint chips
  • Frames
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Here’s what you do:

1. Cut your paint chips into squares.  I measured the width of the matting in my frame and divided it by different numbers to figure out what the best size of square would be.  I didn’t want my squares too small, but I also didn’t want them too big.  Mine ended up being 2×2″ which worked perfect with the Ribba frames from Ikea I used.  I cut one square out and used it as a template for all the rest– that way I knew the sizes were staying consistent.

2. Lay out your pattern.  Move colors around until you’re happy with the layout.

3. Use double sided tape, or roll little pieces of tape to adhere the paint chips in the pattern you selected.

4. Frame your practically free art.

I ended up doing two of them, with the same colors in the same pattern.  I have them flanking a window in my TV room, but to keep it from looking too “matchy matchy”, I flipped one of the frames upside down.  So the pattern is the same on both sides, but opposite.

What projects have you been working on lately?

Reupholster a tufted ottoman

I tackled my first re-upholstery job with this Wingback Chair last year.  It turned out to be a lot easier than it looked, but also incredibly time consuming.  When I reupholstered the ottoman to go with it, I ran out of steam in taking pictures and documenting the process– I was so ready to just be done with it.

So, I actually tackled another ottoman (with tufting) and took more pictures this time.

For the list of what you’ll need, see my Wingback Chair tutorial, we’ll be using all the same things, PLUS

  • Embroidery thread
  • Upholstery needle (much longer than standard needles)

What to do:

1. If your ottoman has removable legs (like mine, twist them off)

2. Flip the ottoman so the underside is facing up.

2. With your screwdriver (or other small, flat object to pry out staples), remove all the staples holding the black mesh covering.

3. You’ll likely find piping next, remove that as well.  In fact, remove all the staples you see.  And just keep doing that.  This is the hardest part of the process, I promise!

4. Pull the bottom fabric backwards towards the top of the ottoman to see the staples hidden underneath it. (The picture does a much better job of showing what I mean).

5. Keep removing staples until the whole piece is naked.

6. Use the original fabric pieces to trace your new fabric.

7. Start by putting the top piece on and stapling it back in place.  Use the reverse direction that you took things off to put them back on.

8. Take out the old piping from the old fabric and sew it into the new fabric.  Using the old piping innards makes it really easy– no measurements.

8. But before you put the lower piece of fabric (that goes all the way around your ottoman and has a seam), sew the seam and then slide the fabric on inside out starting at the top of the ottoman.  We’re recreating those hidden staples.  Once you get the fabric in place and staple it down, you can flip the fabric over itself, stretch it down to the bottom of the ottoman and staple it down completely.

9. Now that you have all the fabric on you can start on the tufting piece.  I chose to reuse the buttons my ottoman came with and just cut out small circles (about twice as big of my button) of my fabric.  Then I placed the button in the middle of the fabric and hand stitched the fabric around it at the back.  You can buy new buttons, OR you can buy a kit to create your own buttons.  I didn’t want to spend the money, so I just DIYed them to work.

10. Using the long upholstering needle and embroidery thread, pull the button through the hole and hold it taut.  Then, with your other hand, staple twice.  Then, pull the thread over the staples in the opposite direction and staple once more.

11.  Once you’re done with the buttons, staple the black mesh back on and screw the legs on.

Ta da!

And here is a view of the top with the tufting.

Have you been working on any upholstery projects lately?  I’d love to see your pictures!

Hanging Curtains

Hanging curtains “high and wide” made such a huge impact on the rooms in my house.  It’s amazing what a small change like that can do to the space.  The ceilings feel taller and the space feels bigger somehow.  Here are just a couple pictures to show you the difference.

Before

Hang them near the ceiling and to the outside of the window.  The distance out from the edge of the window depends on how full your curtains are; you want them to fall so that they cover the window frame, but don’t cover the actual window.  Hanging the curtains so they barely cover the actual window will make your window appear bigger and won’t block out the precious natural light.

One of each.  See the difference?

Both windows done.  Now, to get rid of that awkward space above the window but below the curtain rod, hang some bamboo roman shades in that space.  Then no one will ever know that your windows don’t go all the way to the ceiling.

And this may be my favorite drawn rendition that I’ve found online.

Replacing a Sump Pump

If you just need to replace a sump pump (that is already installed), you DON’T need to call a plumber.  This project was really easy– aside from having to install it in, what I lovingly refer to as, “Lake Eagleson” (aka: the periodic lake in my cellar).  I love swimming, I just prefer not to have a pool in my own cellar…

About a month and a half ago, parts of the Pacific Northwest were hit with torrential rain and flooding.  Although I admit, I’ll take flooding over hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis anyday…  Regardless, I don’t live near a body of water (small or large), so I didn’t think I have much to worry about.  Until I came home from work one day to nearly FOUR feet of standing water in my cellar.  The water table in our region had risen so quickly, that water had literally “seeped” out of the ground and risen up four feet (still below ground level).  Getting the water out was a giant headache, and I told myself that I would learn more about my sump pump (that I had finally gotten working) so that this never happened again.

Fast forward a month:  My sump pump had been working almost 24/7 for over three weeks at this point, and then finally I didn’t hear it running anymore.  I checked the ground of the cellar for standing water, but figured that the water table had dropped enough that the unit didn’t have to work nearly as hard anymore.  I did check it out though, realized that, after checking several things, the motor had probably just died– old age or over-use I guess.  I did some research, picked out a nice model (Zoeller 98) and ordered it.

The even better part is that it took me less than two hours to install and less than 30 minutes to clear the cellar of water.

Here are the important things to note before purchasing a sump pump:

1. Pick a reputable brand.  Read the online product reviews.  Buy something that is going to last– not just something with a lifetime warranty.  Zoeller, for example, had only glowing reviews online– heavy-duty, USA-made, and reliable.  All things that were important to me (when it comes to keeping my house safe!).  You might pay a little extra, but it’s worth it.  Use a brand that a plumber recommends.

2. Choose your HP (horsepower).  If you don’t get much water (so the pump doesn’t run much), or if you’re not pushing water very far (piping), then you can probably buy a 1/3 hp unit.  My current unit was a 1/3, but knowing the water issues at my house over the last year and a half, I knew that upgrading the HP was probably my best bet.  My current unit is 1/2 hp.

3. Plastic or cast-iron?  The Home Depot or Lowes sell some pretty dinky-looking plastic pumps.  You get what you pay for here.  It’s called a “submersible” pump because the unit WILL be under water– in fact, it’s best that it has some water around it– it cools the motor down.  My unit is cast-iron and it just feels more solid and dependable.

Here’s what you’ll need to purchase:

  • Sump pump
  • PVC pipe (probably 1.5″, that’s the standard width for these units.  But check your current pipe to make sure you don’t need to connect pipes of different sizes.)
  • PVC male connector piece (check your sump pump before purchasing)
  • PVC primer & cement
  • Check valve (this is what keeps the water–once sucked up the pipe– from returning back down the pipe when the pump turns off.  You NEED one of these.  VERY important.  If you don’t have one, you could cause undue stress/overwork to your new pump and burn it out early.)
  • Hacksaw
  • Screwdriver
  • Union connector (this easily connects two sections of PVC with simple twisting– it’ll make it easy to remove those pipes again if I ever need to replace my pump in the future) Not pictured above (I bought the wrong piece), see picture below.

Now here’s what to do:

1. Use a hacksaw to cut the pipe.  There will be some water in the pipe as you’re cutting–FYI.

2. Remove sump pump from hole.

3. Take new sump pump and screw in the male connector PVC piece.

4. Cut a piece of PVC pipe to a length longer than you’ll need it.

5. Use PVC primer & cement to attach the PVC pipe you just cut to the male connector already on your sump pump.  Give it at least 15 minutes to cure.

6. Above the unit (the bar, on mine), or less than a foot and a half from the male connector, cut the PVC pipe again.

7. Connect the Check Valve.  MAKE SURE THAT THE WATER FLOW ARROW IS POINTED THE RIGHT WAY.

8. Connect the rest of the PVC pipe to the top of the check valve.

9. Place the new pump in the sump pump hole/pit.  Make sure that the float device isn’t restricted by the walls of the pump, and that the unit is setting on a flat paver stone.

10.  Cut the PVC pipes so that they almost touch.

11. Connect the two PVC pipes with the Union Connector piece.

12. Plug the unit in.

Easy easy easy.

Now, if you don’t have a lake in your cellar to test the new unit with, pour a five-gallon jug of water into the pit to make sure it’s working.

Any lakes in your cellar/basement lately?

DIY Monogrammed mugs

This is a really simple, but personalized gift to give someone.  Not to mention incredibly inexpensive.

Here’s what you need:

  • Mugs (You can get these at Goodwill, Walmart, or Target for inexpensive) $1 per mug
  • Porcelain Pen (purchased at a craft store like JoAnns or Michaels) $7
  • Pencil – FREE
  • Monogram printed (to size) on computer paper – FREE
  • Ballpoint pen – FREE
  • Scotch tape – FREE
  • Scissors – FREE

Here’s what to do:

1. Take a piece of computer paper and color all over it with pencil.  This is a way to create your own transfer paper– I didn’t want to purchase any, so I made my own.

2. Cut out the monogram.

3. Cut out an appropriate sized piece of “transfer paper” the size of your monogram.

4. Put the two pieces of paper together– transfer paper pencil side on the side of mug, monogrammed side facing up.  Tape in place on the mug.

5. Use a ballpoint pen to trace around the outline of the monogram.

6 Remove the tape/paper and be careful not to smudge the pencil outline.

7. Use the porcelain pen to trace the outline (and fill in the letter).

8. Allow the paint to dry for a full 24 hours.

9. Bake the paint on for 30 minutes at 300°F

You can also draw other things on the side of the mugs.  Just print out an outline and draw it on.

And here’s what it looked like colored in.

What crafts have you been working on lately?