Friday, March 13, 2015

Good Idea Friday - Plywood Floors

We've spent the past year overhauling our attic into a bedroom. Our house, built in 1909, has amazing hardwood floors in most rooms and we were trying to figure out how we could install new flooring--on a budget--that wouldn't clash too terribly with the original flooring. After spending countless searches on pinterest trying to come up with a solution within our budget, I came across this blog post from the infamous Centsational Girl about plywood floors.

Now, I was skeptical. Really skeptical. But after crunching the numbers we realized with $80 worth of plywood, we could install flooring not just in the new bedroom, but also in the hallway leading out to the upstairs landing, So we decided to give it a try. If it didn't work out we weren't out that much money, and hey, nothing a couple area rugs couldn't cover right?

We went about it slightly different that the above post, we had the hardware store cut the wood for us, in the same width as our hardwood floors, and in various lengths. Stores generally charge for this, but for us this was still better than trying to use our extremely old and fairly scary table saw.

First to go down was the sub floor chipboard, screwed to the floor joists, then plastic foam sheeting designed to go under flooring. We laid out the planks, lined them up to our liking, and nailed them down using a brad nailer. Once in position, we used dark caulk to fill in any gaps. This is a great trick, by the way, for hard wood floors; plaster, putty, and glue-sawdust mixture tends to dry and can crack apart and/or pop out over time. Silicone caulk on the other hand, does not. You can find it in various different colors too, so get one that matches the stain you plan to use. (I got the idea from a great friend who also blogs about home remodeling and projects - Us Versus The House

After the caulk set we sanded, gently. Plywood is thin sheets of wood glued together, sand too hard or deeply and it gets funky looking, as some colored inner layers will start to show. Just be careful when sanding. We then applied 3 coats of a dark brown stain (Jacobean by Minwax), the same we used on the original floors, and then finished the whole floors with 3 coats of water based polyurethane.

And the final product! 

There's a few things we would have done differently with our flooring though: don't skimp on the wood. We went with a thinner (cheaper) 1/4" plywood, where as the original blog post suggests 1/2", and though it was fine for the room it's in, in a much higher traffic area we would really recommend going with thicker plywood. It LOOKS great, and nearly matches the original wood floors for us, but the sound is off. I know that sounds silly, but it actually sounds more like a laminate flooring instead of actual wood.

All in all I'm extremely pleased with the floors, and for the price (roughly $160 for all the supplies), you really couldn't get a cheaper flooring option than this. This might SOUND like a large undertaking, and something out of the reach of most people, but it really was one of the easiest projects I've done. To summarize, you basically get plywood, cut into planks, lay down subfloor and subfloor sheets, nail planks down. sand, stain, poly. Done. Something like this could easily be done in a week or less (have to let that stain and polyurethane dry!) and is a great floor option for anyone looking for something new on a tight budget. 

Oh, and because I just can't NOT post before and after photos of the attic turned bedroom, here you go if your curious. It was originally lined with wood planks and covered with newspaper from 1918. We KNOW wood plank rooms are en vogue on pinterest, but if you saw the amount of dust and heaven knows what else that fell along with the planks.. you wouldn't want that in your bedroom. Ever.

Before Remodel

After Remodel

Monday, March 02, 2015

Foot Shape to Reveal Your Heritage

I'm sure we've all seen this one make the rounds all over the internet, from Pinterest to Facebook. But there are so many problems with this I don't even know where to start. 

First off, this really only seems to address European decent. What about Asian, or African, or you know, the various North or South Americas? Second off, the shape of one's feet can vary from family member to family member. Just in our family alone, I have "Egyptian," my husband has "Greek," but our kids? One is apparently Egyptian, the other is Germanic.

The truth is: the shape of your feet can't really tell you what your ethnic roots are any more than saying the shape of your hands can. There has been studies done to see if toe length can show genetic traits, and the ruling is no, the shape of your toes really aren't a good indicator of genes, let alone something like your 'roots' or heritage. Where as genetics and heritage can play a role in certain bone structure, it really isn't a good indicator when it comes to your feet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cleaning Your Oven with Ammonia

"Easy Oven Cleaning Tip! No more harsh chemicals to clean your oven! Just use ammonia"

 Before I start, just to get this out of the way. YES, it does work. That's not what makes this a bad idea though. Ammonia is a household item that, as the decades pass, become rarely seen in most peoples houses. There's a very good reason for that actually. You see, as much as people assume a single ingredient cleaner is less harsh or scary than those modern cleaners that have a mile long ingredient list, that's not always the case. In fact, cleaning your oven with ammonia can be far more dangerous and harmful than the infamous spray-on oven cleaner most of us know.

 Let's look at this commonly touted pin/life hack.
  1. Preheat to 200° then turn off. 
  2. In a heat safe glass dish, fill with ammonia and set on middle rack (about 1 to 2 cups of ammonia). 
  3. In another dish, fill with boiling water and set on bottom rack (2 cups). 
  4. Leave overnight. 
  5. The next morning, remove dishes and wipe down the inside with a hot wet sponge

There's a few problems right off the bat with this: there's no mention whatsoever of using gloves or proper ventilation. Ammonia is highly caustic and toxic and can be extremely harmful to your skin, eyes and lungs. In fact a woman in Denmark was sent into a coma from cleaning her oven this way. Which brings up another fact to keep in mind - ammonia is sold in varying strengths, from 2% to 10%, in different countries. This little life hack is meant to be used with the weaker variants found in countries like the US. When you heat up ammonia it stands a good chance of vaporizing, which is extremely dangerous. Vaporized ammonia not only can burn your eyes and lungs, it can kill you if you inhale enough (by, say, sticking your head in an oven trying to clean it).

The fact is, ammonia really isn't better for you or the environment from other forms of oven cleaners. You might look at the ingredients of such products as Easy Off and balk at what it contains, but when you read over just how bad ammonia actually is, you quickly realize that one isn't better than the other. In fact, modern day oven cleaners tend to have far fewer--if any--fumes, something ammonia surely can't claim. Not only that, if you use various other cleaners in your house, you have to be extremely careful to never EVER mix ammonia with anything that contains bleach. That can cause a reaction that produces fumes that can quite literally kill you.

In my opinion, there's a very good reason many housewives started ditching such cleaners like ammonia in favor of the modern cleaners that started appearing in the mid century and soon took over our homes. All in all, this is just not a good idea. There are many other, safer ways to clean your oven.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Home Remedies for Stretch Marks

"Uncover Stretch Mark Remedies with Things Already in your Home: Its unbelievable the simple stuff that are stretch mark remedies." 

I could narrow this down to one of the dozens, if not hundreds of home remedies for stretch marks, but instead I'll make it easier on everyone.

The truth is: there is no home remedy for stretch marks. Not coconut oil, not vinegar, not mustard oil, shea butter, or drinking a lot of milk.

You see, it all comes down to what stretch marks are. They are essentially tears in your skin, causing thick, discolored scar tissue to build up between. Stretch marks occur in the the resilient middle layer that helps the skin retain its shape. They come in various sizes and degrees, and the truth is, pretty much every single person on the planet has them (yes, even men). When they first form they are dark hues, often red and purples, but after they heal they will fade to become closer to your normal skin tone, often times lighter, and possibly shinier than the surrounding skin, depending on the severity of the marks.

Unlike some scars which are only on the top layer of skin, these run so deep that nothing you apply--from creams to oils--is going to fix that. The only proven way to treat stretch marks is with various medical procedures ranging from prescription retinoids, to lasers treatments, to surgery to literally remove the damaged skin.

But what about prevention? I'm sure any woman who has been pregnant has been given various solutions to preventing stretch marks. Unfortunately not a single study has been able to prove any of these actually aid in preventing stretch marks. At the end of the day, rubbing a bit of shea butter in you skin might not help, but it won't hurt. Just don't be surprised if you end up with stretch marks by the time those 9 months are up.