{Series Part 3} Fill Dirt

This post is #3 in my How to Build a House series. Click on over to see how we got to this point and where we're headed next in our house-building adventure.
Remember that one time I wrote a whole post on dirt? Yep, this is that time.

Fill dirt.  While it's not pretty and doesn't make for very good before and after pics, fill dirt, lots of it, was required in order to get our lot up to snuff and ready to build. Let's dig right in, shall we? (you see what I did there?)

When we first purchased our lot WAY back in 2007ish it was covered in trees.
Not gorgeously mature southern oaks or flowering magnolias, no no. Pine trees. If you live in the south you know pines pretty much grow straight up and not out, sort of like giant sticks. They don't provide a whole lot of shade and they're quick to fall on your shed in a bad summer thunderstorm, not to mention the needles make a mess of your pool screen. So, we kept what we could on the sides and in the back for privacy, tried to save a couple tiny non-pine trees we found, and removed anything else that could potentially fall on our new house (or the neighbors' houses because we're nice like that). That left us with one giant crater-esque lot.

Seriously, our lot was a good 4 feet lower than our neighbors' lots. See the slope off from the neighbor's yard next to my son's head? This picture was taken mid clearing.

And while some people might like the crater look, we knew that was not going to pass local building codes. Our builder told us, from his experience building in that area, we were going to need dirt. Drainage, septic, well, and flooding (and maybe some other stuff?) all contribute to the need for more dirt. So ask your builder or local code office if you're going to need dirt (we're in Central Florida) and about how high your lot is expected to be. This all has to be done well before the slab is poured to allow time for settling. (We filled a year in advance!)
Me and Austin after our lot was fully cleared just so you can see the task ahead!

As it turns out, 1 acre x 4 extra feet = A CRAP LOAD of dirt. And, dirt costs money. Side note: We could have filled just the spot that the actual house was going to sit on but then our yard would have sloped off in all directions... we wanted it flat. Many homeowners fill just the house pad. You can do that to save a little cash. Fill dirt is sold by the cubic yard and delivered via dump truck. Depending on the size of the truck, an average truck can hold 7-10 cubic yards of dirt. (larger trucks can hold much more but probably can't drive on residential streets, so you'll probably have the 7-10ish-yard-trucks delivering to your house) With some handy-dandy math, we estimated that we would need 100+ truck loads of dirt at, wait for it...., $125 per load. That is more than $12,500 in DIRT. *dies.

So we sweated about it. And procrastinated. And tried to figure out how we were going to come up with twelve grand out of pocket (since we still didn't have the loan at this point) while not depleting our downpayment fund. And then the next crazy magically dirty turn of events happened.

The 1 acre that we own is in a very rural neighborhood and our lot in particular backs up to a huge conservation preserve. This, of course, was one of the most attractive qualities of this particular lot. So imagine our panic when my husband visited the lot one day only to notice bulldozers and construction equipment directly behind it knocking trees down and digging a giant hole. This is one of the panic-frenzied pics he texted me that day.

This is right over our back fence. In the midst of hyperventilating, we called the city to find out what was happening to our iddlic country setting. They explained to us that it was still indeed "conservation" and that the power company just needed to make a small dirt access road back there to get to the power lines. No traffic, no building. Just a way to restore power to us incase of a storm. They were digging a new "pond" in order to get enough dirt to smooth out the road where their trucks might have to drive. Huge sigh of relief. Happy dances all around. 

So while we were still sweating the cost of filling our lot we joked that we could go out there with shovels and just start scooping the extra dirt from the road project (literally mounds of dirt just feet from where we needed dirt) onto our lot. That's when my husband got the idea to just ask what they were planning to do with all that dirt. So he called the city but they kind of brushed him off ("who is this again?") with no real answer. Really, the city had no incentive to hook up one of their contracted excavation companies with an individual landowner. I get it. That's when the hubs decided to take matters into his own hands. 

He took a half day off of work, drove out to the property during business hours, hopped the back fence, and flagged down a guy in a dump truck. I'm not kidding. Luckily the guy stopped :) and gave the hubs the contact info for his boss (the guy running this project). After a couple phone calls back and forth, road project guy realized he was going to have to pay to truck the extra dirt out of there and we needed dirt literally next door! Do you see where I'm going with this? 

Because my husband flagged down a dump truck, the dirt company filled our entire yard for FREE. We basically did them a favor because they didn't have to pay to truck the dirt away. They were happy to dump it on our lot for us and we were way more than happy to have them dump it there. This is just the start of the piles that began arriving on our property.

I'd love to say our entire lot was filled for free but really, the surrounding yard was (which really is a huge area and saved us thousands). The pad dirt, or the dirt directly under the concrete slab for the house, had to be a different kind of dirt. The free dirt we were getting in the yard contained "organics" as the dirt guys told me. Meaning bits of plants and wood and things that over time would decompose. You can't put that under the slab because it will shrink and settle too much and your house would start to crack. No good. Since we already had a relationship with the dirt people at this point, we worked with them and paid to have the right kind of dirt delivered for the pad. We just staked out the basic shape of the house and filled that area with the "nice" dirt.
Over the next couple weeks piles and piles and piles of dirt collected on our lot until no more could fit. That's when the dirt guys gave us the number of someone who could come out and "knock it down". Basically a guy in a bulldozer (bulldozer? I think that's the machine he was on) smoothed everything out and made a nice transition down to the street. He's basically a sculptor of dirt. It really is an art. It's hard to tell how much dirt is actually there in this picture. Trust me when I tell you it's tons and tons... literally.
So the moral of this story is don't be afraid to take matters into your own hands and maybe look a little crazy. I can only imagine what the dump truck driver was thinking when my husband flagged him down in the middle of the woods. Our builder jokes that we prayed to the dirt gods because he's never heard of such a thing before. :) Because of the hubs' shenanigans, we paid less than 25% of what were were expecting to pay to fill our lot. Woo hoo! Now that money can go into something more fun like cabinets, or furniture, or lighting, or rugs, or anything really besides dirt.

Ready for the foundation! Totally ready to do this. Like 7+ years in the making ready.

Stay tuned. The super fun adventure of getting a building loan is next.


Back to School Name Tags

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® Elmer’s and Wet Ones, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CraftandCleanUp http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV
August is so itching to be flipped over on my calendar. If it weren't for the insta-sweat, hair-frizzing, deodorant-reapllying humidity here, I might even forget summer is almost over. While the pit stains will tell you there's no end to summer in sight, it's totally true for the kiddos. Back to school is coming people. It's coming.

Just this week I stocked up on new uniforms (can I get an amen for free shipping and online sales?), made my first lap through the school supply isle at Target, and wrote "Meet the Teacher Night" on the calendar. The kids are asking about their new teachers and if 1st graders have to wear a belt. (I have no idea... do 1st graders wear belts??) While we wait for an answer on the great belt issue, I thought I'd put the kiddos to work making something useful for the upcoming year. Name tags.

What's the big deal, right? Why do you need name tags? Because if my kids have brought it to school, it's been lost at least once. Lost books, lost bags, lost shoes, lost lunch boxes. You name it, I've dug through the scummy lost-and-found box to retrieve it. So I figured a good way to keep their summer brains active, recycle some old business cards, and have a hearty stash of name tags to attach to school-bound items, was to make some.

  • Old business cards or scrap card stock
  • Elmer's Glue (bonus: you can get a Elmer's Glue/Wet Ones combo pack in the Back to School section at select Target stores while they last... someone knows how 1st graders and glue work)
  • Stickers
  • Decorative tape
  • Laminating sheets
  • Hole punch
  • String or rubber bands

Step 1:
Take all those outdated business cards and glue them right sides together. Lucky for me, my old cards were one-sided so that gave us a nice white card to work from. If your's are printed on both sides, just glue some scrap paper over the cards. It will cover up the old business info and provide rigidity.

Just glue right over Mama's face hun... it's all good.

Stick those suckers together. We did 3 or 4 and then moved on to decorating.

Step 2:
Decorate. The kids cut and glued decorative papers, added stickers, decorative tapes, and of course added their names or initials. I believe the below face is the universal "I'm cutting something out" face.

Easiest way to get the cards glued together evenly is to get in there with your fingers.
And since the glue came with Wet Ones Wipes, ... well two birds one stone, right?

Step 3:
Hole punch. Do this now before you laminate because it's really hard to hole punch through all of the card layers plus lamination. Trust me.

Step 4:
Laminate. I used self adhesive laminating sheets in the office supply isle at Target. If you have a fancy pants real laminator, you can always use that. After they were laminated, I repunched my holes through the lamination. It was way easier to do it this way than to try and punch through like 5 layers at once.

Step 5:
Add a string or rubber band.

Now attach those suckers to backpacks, lunch boxes, toys, books, whatever. I put all the extras in the same drawer I keep all the sandwich bags so when I'm packing lunches in the mornings the name tags are handy. They turned out so cute! I might just make a few for myself ... because you know sometimes people accidentally take the wrong lunch out of the fridge at work. #layoffmylunch :)


DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen

I chatted with my BFFs at Online Fabric Store and was provided some product while writing this post. I was not compensated otherwise and my opinions are my own. Now you know, and knowing's half the battle. :)
Don't you want to cuddle with it? My "new" porch screen looks OMG-where-did-you-get-that good.  I'm starting to see a theme with all of my DIY projects where I revamp crap from around my house. I finish the project and then think, why did I live with it so ugly for so long? Same case with the screen. Sucker was bleh before. At the risk of sounding weight-loss informercial on you: I should have done it years ago!

This is almost the final project in the great porch makeover I sweated through this summer. Just a couple projects left to show you how I went from this to some place you might actually want to sit down and have a margarita (without using hand sanitizer). So far I finished the hanging plant chandelier, built an outdoor storage box, crafted some herringbone shim art, and revamped the entire dining area. On to the screen!

Here's the before.
I bought this screen probably 10 years ago at a garage sale for $20. (I remember that because as a poor gal in her early 20's, $20 was a lot for a decor item... who am I kidding, still is. #cheapandiknowit) It sat in various apartments and houses I had through the years and basically hid my crap. Once I got married and got "a real house", it got banished to the back porch and has since lived it's life out hiding our plunger :) It still needs to hide the plunger, but we can at least make it pretty.

  • Old Screen
  • Small scrap pieces of wood trim
  • Fabric (about 3 yards as long as it's wide enough to get 3 panels out of it) The fabric I am using is P. Kaufmann Outdoor Silsila Poolside Fabric from Online Fabric Store. Click here to get it!
  • Screws/Screwdriver or drill 
  • Sewing machine and regular sewing stuff
Step 1:
Remove any of the old stuff that is in your way. I'm my case, this paper stuff was moldy and ripped and needed to go.  I just ripped it off. I also did a few small repairs to the wood frame at this point.

Step 2:
Prime. Some regular old spray primer always helps the paint stick better.

Step 3:
Paint. Once the primer was dry (took about 30 seconds in the blazing 95º Florida heat/direct sun), I gave everything a couple coats of spray paint. Same Rust-Oleum teal I used on everything else.

Step 4:
Now head inside and get some water and an ice pop while that dries. Good? Let's keep going. Time to cut the 3 fabric panels. To do this I folded my fabric lengthwise in 3rds and cut on the folds. Doing this just happened to give me three even panels slightly larger than I needed to allow room for hemming. Doesn't really matter how you arrive to this step... you just need as many fabric panels as you have screen panels and they need to be about 2" wider and about 6" longer than the size of the panels on the screen frame.

Step 5:
Press and hem. After the panels were cut, I folded the sides under twice (not the top or bottom... that's the next step), pressed, and sewed. I made sure my finished panel width was going to fit inside the frame I had drying out in the yard.

Step 6:
Cut pieces of scrap wood or trim for the tops and bottoms and sew pockets for them to fit into. That sounds complicated, but it's really not. You're essentially making "curtain rods" and sewing pockets on the tops and bottoms of the fabric panels for those to slide into. Like this...
Those are my 6 pieces (1 for the top and bottom of each panel) of scrap trim I had laying around in the garage. I cut them to fit inside the width of my screen frames.

Then I hemmed the top and bottom of each fabric panel leaving a large enough pocket so the trim pieces could slide inside. If you end up using a really wide piece of wood for this, you're going to need a longer piece of fabric the make a larger pocket. I allowed myself 3 extra inches on either end.
 Slide that sucker right in there.
And, to make sure I was hemming everything to the correct length, I made the top pocket first then clamped it to my screen to determine where to make the bottom one. Like this... (Note we are inside at this point and the kids are not snoozing. I was way too hot and naps are like a mythical creature of the past)

Step 7:
Attach the fabric panels to the screen frame.  Again, I cut small scraps of wood to fit inside the width of my existing screen frame.

Then screwed through those scraps from the back, into the screen frame, into the scraps I cut for my curtain rods on the front. Make sense?

Drill pilot holes to prevent splitting. Just go right through the fabric from the back into the scrap wood that's in the pocket on the front. The important part here is to make sure your screws are the perfect length. Not too short so they don't grab the fabric panel on the front, but not too long so they don't poke through the front.

And that's it; you're done. I can't tell if it looks a hundred times better than it did before or a million times better.  Hmmm. 

Besides hiding our plunger (lovely, I know) and larger yard crap that doesn't fit in the bench, it makes a really sweet backdrop for the dining area and all of my accessories.
The other fabrics pictured here: 

So maybe you don't have a screen to revamp, but something else? Either way I hope you're inspired to just try it! It might just work out. Life's too short to live with ugly stuff.


Outdoor Dining Makeover

I was in cahoots with RYOBI, STOK, and Online Fabric Store during my back porch makeover this June. I received a few products during the process but was not compensated otherwise. My opinions are my own :)
So you guys... the porch is DONE. Like totally completely done. And we used the heck out of it this weekend for the 4th. Do you remember where I started? (Only the most embarrassing post ever) Here's a few pics of my patio set as a refresher.
My patio table was, let's just say, gross. It is actually an indoor set that was my husband's before we were married. When our furniture combined, it got moved to the porch. And since then, it's been a bit neglected (like 7ish years neglected). The only thing I did to it when it moved outdoors was to cover the seats in a brown vinyl. Why did I go with brown?  I have no idea. But it sure makes for a good "before"!
The feet were really rusty and and frogs and lizards had sort of made it their home. It's main use was to hold up drying beach towels and bathing suits.

So I finally did something about it (spoiler: I looks like a place you might actually want to sit down now). First thing I did was remove the seats.

Since I recovered them once already in their life, there were lots of staples. Instead of trying to staple over my other staples, I decided to remove them. This actually went really fast.

Once the old vinyl was off (yep, the seats used to be red suede), I got to work recovering them again. I chose a gorgeous white faux ostrich vinyl from Online Fabric Store. However, you might have already noticed, I didn't stick with the white vinyl. While I loved it (and still do) it just didn't work with all of the other bright colors I had going on. Once I had it on the finished chair, it looked out of place. So in the end, I redid the stools again in Premier Prints Outdoor Blooms Pacific Fabric and I love it! The white ostrich shall live on in another project.

Recovering a stool like this is really easy. You basically cut a slightly larger pice of fabric, pull tight from opposite sides, and staple. Just keep going around, pulling from opposite directions until you've secured all of the fabric and trim the excess.

After the seats were done, I got to work on the table and chairs. Everything was pretty rusty so it all required a really good sanding.

I posted this pic on my Instagram a while back. That was me mid-sanding. Besides the half deflated kiddie pool in the reflection, is the camera picking up the fact that my arms are on fire? It was quite a workout!

Once the sanding was done, I wiped everything down with a damp cloth. Note the outfit change. I didn't get this all done in one day :)

When everything is clean and dry, we're ready for primer and paint. I used Rust-Oleum spray paint. This pic is a little deceiving. I think the table took 2 cans of teal paint and maybe 2 cans of primer. 

Do a light coat of primer to prevent drips and a sticky finish. It doesn't have to cover completely.

Then came the paint. Again, light coats. I think my backyard smelled like spray paint for a week. 

After the teal was dry, I flipped the chairs over and tapped off the legs to spray the orangey-coral color for the dipped look. The chairs kind of remind me of little bugs in this picture that got tipped over and can't get back up. I realize that is weird, but seriously. They do, don't they?!

I thought it was going to be harder than it was to keep the paint from getting on the teal parts I already painted but it went pretty smoothly. Only a smidge of touchup required. (Can't you just hear the little chair... help me! help!... okay, I'll stop)

The table got the same treatment as the chairs.

And when everything was dry... drumroll... Tadah! It's like a color explosion. All of the fabrics you see are from Online Fabric Store (links to all of them are below). The rug is from World Market and the accessories are a combination of IKEA and Target clearance. We actually have an outdoor space to eat and entertain now.

And speaking of... remember our grill before? (ewww) Does it even count as a grill if fire doesn't always come out of it?
Anyway, after! We got a new STOK Quattro 4-Burner grill. The cool part about this grill (besides the snazzy orange accents... not gonna lie. I was equally as excited about that. So stylish!) are the interchangeable inserts. You can change out the grill grates to a pizza stone, griddle, veggie tray, and more. 
I got so used to not using our grill that I kind of forgot that was a cooking option. We've used the new grill so much in just the few short weeks we've had it this summer. I really love not having to turn the oven on in the house when it's 95º outside and having fewer dishes to wash. I forgot how good grilled veggies are. We've already been talking about getting a few more inserts to increase our cooking options. I may never cook inside again... or it might all be part of my plan to have the hubs cook from now on. He is the grill master after all. Mwahaha ;)

Like I mentioned before, all of the fabrics are from onlinefabricstore.net. The coral seahorse one is so adorable. I love the beachy vibe it gives the space.

You might have noticed the splendiferous (it's a word... Trust me, I used the thesaurus) screen in the background of some of the photos done in P. Kaufmann Outdoor Silsila Poolside fabric. The complete before & after and tutorial on that are coming soon!

So it's finally done and I just have a few more posts to give you all the details including the outdoor screen and Arctic Cove misting kit installation. Now who wants to come over for a margarita? I'll save you a seat!