Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes

A big thank you to Mother Nature for beautifying my window boxes with the first snow of the season here in Central Illinois today!

I must also thank my sister, Dee. She knows I can’t turn down cast offs like some lanterns she gave me that were damaged when a tree fell on their house during a storm this past summer. I don’t think she throws much away without asking her hoarder sister first. And just to clarify, I prefer to call it recycling. And recycling her lanterns made for a beautiful winter window box.

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

My “window” boxes are technically planter boxes, since I didn’t have the nerve to mount boxes to my bricks. Here’s one naked right after I made it.

  Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

To decorate them for winter, I thought the most convenient way would be to leave the pots inside the boxes,  cover the tops of the planters with a couple of boards and then mount my Christmas items on top of the boards. You can see in the four corners there are the recessed boards that form the legs.

  Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Those are what I rested my boards on to form a “table” for my goodies. Plywood would have been easier, but I didn’t have any on hand. Sorry there are no pictures. It was way too cold out there to be lolly-gagging around taking photos.

After I set the boards in place, I screwed the lanterns onto the boards and then drilled holes where necessary to insert stems of greenery. I also used screws to attach garland and berries and such. We’ll see what’s left after the winter winds take their toll!

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

These were very cheaply done, since everything in the planters was either recycled, free or purchased at garage sales. This doesn’t have to be an expensive venture. Thrift shops would be another great place to find greens and ornaments for window boxes. I’m guessing I paid no more than $10 or $15 to decorate both of these.

Since my landscaping is new and very small, these planters will be the only form of curb appeal I’ll have in the wintertime for a few years, so they’re pretty necessary.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Yes, Merry Christmas!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

How to Replace an Old, Nasty Doorbell

If your doorbell has seen better days or you’d just like an updated version, it’s an easy fix. Perhaps you’ve gotten new door hardware and now your doorbell doesn’t match. Or maybe you’re putting your house on the market and want your home’s first impression to be a good one. Either way, it’s an easy process. Ladies, you can do this!!

Here’s what my old doorbell looked like. Besides the fact that it’s just worn out, I wanted one with a light. And I recently painted my front door, which made the bell-from-hell look even worse.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Like many builder-grade doorbells, mine was a non-recessed one–meaning it’s basically a box that sits on top of the siding, with the “guts” of the doorbell inside of it.

The new one I chose is a recessed one, that sits flat against the siding with the guts recessed into the wall. I picked this one up at Lowe’s.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

A couple of things to consider if you’re shopping for a replacement doorbell, are the location of your current screw holes, and the type of doorbell you currently have.

Lowe’s had a gorgeous, round, ornate doorbell that I fell in love with, but I knew by looking at it that it wouldn’t cover the screw holes I currently had. Chances are, new screw holes aren’t going to match up to old ones, and that’s ok as long as they’re covered by the doorbell itself. Since I didn’t want an empty screw hole on my vinyl siding next to my brand new doorbell, I had to go with my second choice. My point is, it’s a good idea to measure the distance between your current screw holes before you shop so that you can be sure the new doorbell will cover them.

As far as what type of doorbell to get, there are the two types I mentioned already. Most of the super-awesome, fancier ones seemed to have a recessed mount. Meaning that the “guts” of the doorbell sit back into the wall instead of on top of it. You can see through the packaging that this one is recessed. You can see the guts sticking out the back.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Either type of doorbell can be installed regardless of your current doorbell’s type. It just adds an extra step if you go from a non-recessed to a recessed one like I did. Here’s how.

Before you begin, find the breaker that goes to your doorbell and shut off the power. Next remove the screws that hold your doorbell onto your house. You should end up with something that looks like this.

 How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Loosen the screws that are holding the wires, and remove the wires from behind the screws. Now throw that nasty, old doorbell in the garbage.

Hold the new doorbell up to the hole in your house where the wire is coming out. The hole will probably be too small to accommodate your new guts (as is in my case in the next photo). If you already have a recessed doorbell, your new doorbell should fit into the existing hole. If it does, congratulations and skip this next step. Also, congrats if you chose a standard, non-recessed doorbell because that will work no matter what. If not, this is where the extra step comes in. Well worth it for the doorbell of your dreams in my opinion.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The hole has to be made bigger, so here’s what I used. My can’t-live-without-it Dremel moto-tool. If you don’t have one, buy one. I promise you’ll use it for all sorts of things.

Being very careful not to nick the wire, I whittled away the vinyl siding to a 5/8″ diameter hole. If you don’t have a moto-tool, you might be able to use a sharp utility knife to shave off some siding. However, when I replaced a doorbell at my last house, I also had to go through OSB that was underneath the siding. Not a big deal, as OSB was no match for my great and powerful Dremel, but you may have to resort to Swiss-cheesing the OSB with a small drill bit if you don’t have a moto-tool.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Once I felt the hole was big enough, I loosened the screws on the new doorbell.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I then placed the wires around the new screws and tightened them. It doesn’t matter on a doorbell which wire goes on which screw. Honestly, you can’t screw this up.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Then I pushed the wires and guts into the wall.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I turned the breaker back on so I could test the doorbell before I went any further, just in case…And it worked! A doorbell never sounded so good.

Of course, as I expected, the new holes didn’t match up with the old ones.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I drilled two new holes and screwed the doorbell to the siding. Soooo much better!

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And here she is at night.

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This is a simple thing to do to make your entry look nice. There were only three steps in the instructions, for heaven’s sake. You can do this!

How to Replace a Doorbell/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Changing out this doorbell took me between 15 and 20 minutes from start to finish, and was well worth the $15.00 it cost. The most time-consuming part was figuring out which breaker to shut off, which is a real treat if you’re doing this by yourself and have to go up and down a flight of stairs.

And just for kicks, here’s my freshly painted, sunny yellow front door with my new doorbell in tow. The door was white before and very, very dirty. Now my entry says, “Hello!”

Yellow Front Door/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

DIY Window Box Substitute–No Mounting Required

If you’ve always wanted beautiful window boxes but were afraid of the installation, planter boxes are a DIY-friendly alternative. They’re easy to build, and can be decorated seasonally with non-plant items if you live in a planting zone that doesn’t allow for live plants in the winter. You don’t have to leave them stark and empty in the off-season!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I moved into this house this past winter, and it was in desperate need of some curb appeal. I had all of the half-dead, overgrown trees and bushes removed, and decided to start from scratch. How sad and lonely she looks. Window boxes will cheer this house (and me) right on up!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Unfortunately, I did have a problem with my window box idea. The actual construction of the window boxes wasn’t an issue, but my fear of drilling into my bricks to install them certainly was. And to be honest,  I wouldn’t have been all that excited to drill into vinyl siding, wood siding or any other siding for that matter. Thinking about mounting a window box securely enough to handle the weight of the wood, the dirt and the plants made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

So I decided that instead of window boxes, I would make free-standing planter boxes. And when I say free-standing, I mean “$free$”-standing.  I recently had a screened porch added to my house (click here to view) and wrestled some of the wood scraps away from my builder. Wood scraps = free planter boxes.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I decided to build the planter boxes so that pots that my son, Ross, gave me a few years ago would fit inside of them. You don’t necessarily have to have pots inside of planter boxes, and if I hadn’t had these already, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to buy some. I would have just lined the boxes with a weed fabric so that dirt wouldn’t seep out of the cracks, and filled them with dirt. These pots have seen better days, but I love them, and they were perfect for putting inside the planters.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I wanted to use treated 4 x 4’s for the legs, but I only had four that were long enough, and I needed eight. I did, however, have some treated 2 x 4’s left from the porch that I decided to double up and use instead. I knew if I ran a bead of caulk where the two boards met, and then painted them out, they would look just like the 4 x 4’s. My goal here was to not buy anything in order to make these planter boxes, so I had to be creative.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The actual sides of the boxes were built using leftover shiplap that was also left over from the screened porch. It was already primed and painted, but I still had to give it another quick coat after I finished assembling the boxes.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I don’t know how long this shiplap will last out in the weather since it’s pine. The primer and exterior paint should protect it for a while, but if it rots after a few years, I can replace it. I’m also hoping that by using pots inside of the boxes, the shiplap will last a little longer since there won’t be wet dirt resting up against it.

Here are my first two sections I put together after measuring how tall and wide I wanted the planters to be. You can see that the section on the right is made up of the sandwiched 2 x 4’s, so I used that section for the back side of the planter.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here I’ve added a second piece of shiplap.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Since I was too lazy to go to the basement to get my super-duper saw horses that my son, Brandon, got me for Christmas, I just used my cute little Honda Fit (Love that car!) to steady my two sides while I screwed in the end pieces. And yes, I was careful not to scratch the car.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

In this photo, you can see that I cut the legs a couple of inches shorter than the finished height because I wanted to be able to rest pieces of wood on top of them. I wanted to be able to decorate these boxes for fall and Christmas using non-plant items like pumpkins, ornaments, birdhouses and such. Wood laid across the tops of the legs would give me a hidden platform to set items on.  The pots with the dirt will only be used in the spring and summer for live plants.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next, I took 2 x 8’s (because that’s what I had on hand–a curb score) and notched out spaces with a jig saw in order to accommodate the legs, and toe-nailed them in from underneath. I chose to leave a space down the center so the water from the drainage holes in my pots would run through onto the ground rather than sit on the wood. If I decide at some point to fill the planters with dirt without the pots, I’ll add another board to complete the bottom.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And it fits! My plan for when my square pots go to pot heaven some day, is to buy pre-potted arrangements and just set the pots inside the planter boxes.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The planters looked a little blah-zay to me so I decided to jazz them up a bit. I had these scraps that were already cut at a 45 degree angle on one end. The 45 inspired me to cut another 45 on the other end, and I tacked them on the front of the boxes to add a little interest. In addition to the 45 degree angle adding some interest, it also helps the rain run off rather than sit on top of the boards.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Can you tell it was getting dark outside? Well, it was, so I did the painting the the next day. I primed the raw wood first, then I painted the primed wood, then painted the whole thing one more time.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I caulked around the decorative pieces and some other areas that I didn’t want water to get into. Some of the 4 x 4 legs had splits in them, so I caulked those, as well as the cracks where I joined the 2 x 4’s for the back legs. Then, a fresh coat of paint. It always amazes me what a fresh coat of paint can do.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I looked through my stash of goodies, and found some white, decorative iron pieces I’d bought a few years ago at Hobby Lobby, and added them to the fronts after rubbing some watered down gray paint on them. And wha-la! Here are my 100% free window box planters!

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

See what a difference these make for my once sad little house! Before–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And here they are all decorated for fall. I put these together after I realized mums were not happy living in my planter boxes due to lack of sunlight. I had my heart set on mums, but these will do just fine!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And yes, I painted my shutters and gave them some jewelry. Now, for your viewing pleasure, another set of before and after photos!

Before–
 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s the second planter box. Even the fall pretties I used to decorate with were budget-friendly. I grew the pumpkins myself, the hydrangea were given to me by a friend, and everything else you see in the planter boxes was from my stash or from garage sales.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I like the planters better than window boxes because I can move them to the back yard and fill them with flowers or veggies if I want to. I was also able to make them bigger than most window boxes would have been–a window box this large would have been very heavy. If I get tired of them (fat chance), I can remove them and there’s no damage to the house underneath. And God forbid, if I ever move again, I can take them with me!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch

If you’re thinking about building a screened-in porch and are looking for a creative way to finish the interior, look no further. Shiplap is a beautiful way to go if you are a fan of farmhouse or cottage-style decorating.

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I moved to a cute little house in need of some TLC this past winter, and waited (impatiently) for spring to arrive so I could have the existing screened porch removed and re-built. Here are before and after photos of the exterior.

Before–

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Before–

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–Real landscaping will come next year.

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

My builder and I discussed several possible ways to finish the inside of the porch–all the usual ways. I scoured the internet hoping to find something not “usual”, but no luck.

I wanted the space to have the feel of an interior room—something quaint and cozy, and I was looking for something I could put nails into, to hang mirrors, clocks, pictures, hooks, etc…without feeling like I just destroyed something new. I like to move things around a lot, resulting in a Swiss-cheese type wall finish.

If you look closely at the before pictures at the beginning of this post, you can see that the inside walls had the exterior house siding on them. Not conducive to nails, and not very homey or interior-roomish looking in my opinion.

So here we are under construction in the next photo. I wanted a partial wall on the bottom half of the porch (as opposed to just window screen) not only for privacy reasons since I live in the city, but also to keep out as much of the weather as possible. Needless to say, construction began with no idea of how to finish the inside.

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

We got about to this stage in construction, and my builder was ever-so-patiently waiting for me to figure out what to do with the inside, when then the shiplap idea came to me in a wave that made my heart flutter just a bit.

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I told my builder about my idea, and after he looked at me sort of funny, he called his lumber supplier to see if they carried shiplap. The response on the other end of the phone was, “Does this lady watch ‘Fixer Upper’?”  I thought, “Who on the planet doesn’t watch ‘Fixer Upper’?”, but I kept that to myself because based on the blank look on my builder’s face, he was, in fact, that one person on the planet.

This is what shiplap looks like. It’s not tongue and groove, but rather the edges are notched as you can see here.

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The price of cedar shiplap made me laugh, so we went with pine. I asked my builder about the possibility of installing a faux shiplap by running treated 1 x 8 boards horizontally, in order to keep the budget down. We decided against it because as treated wood dries, it separates quite a bit, leaving gaps between the boards. And who wants to look at Tyvek lettering, right? So I took a deep breath, put on my big girl panties and went with the real deal.

In an attempt to make the wood last as long as possible, I primed and painted all the surfaces of the boards, not just the side that would be visible. I paint for a living, and my new porch isn’t all that big, but I’m here to tell you that I nearly lost my mind before I got all the sides and surfaces primed and painted–three times. And of course the notches added some extra brushwork too.

So after a coat of primer and a coat of paint, I had to repaint again after installation in order to cover smudges and nail heads.  If you decide to paint your own boards, you’ll need a lot of patience, a lot of space, a lot of time and perhaps an engineering degree in order to figure out how to stack all the boards so they can dry and not stick together.

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s what I should have done differently. I used an exterior primer, but the primer I used wasn’t strong enough to seal knots, and the knots bled through my primer and my two coats of exterior paint. Here’s how the knots looked when they reared their ugly heads. Irritating brownish dots. Everywhere. Shiplap with chicken pox wasn’t what I had in mind.

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

So if you decide to use pine shiplap, do yourself a favor and seal the knots first–before you prime and paint–with a primer that’s meant to keep knots from bleeding through. The product I purchased to seal the knots, was for sealing only the knots and not the entire board. This worked for me because I had already primed my boards, but I would recommend searching for a product that can be used on the knots as well as the rest of the board (assuming there is such a product) so you don’t have to seal all the knots, and then prime the rest of the boards with another product afterwards. Here’s what I used to seal the knots only.

As of this writing, roughly three months after construction, the knots are slightly starting to bleed through the paint again. I’m guessing it’s because the sealer was applied over paint and primer rather than directly on the bare knots. A heavy duty primer is worth paying for.

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

For my 14 x 16 porch, the shiplap cost around $800. I had enough leftover to build some planter boxes too! (See them here.) So here’s my shiplap porch all complete. I love the look of it, and the practicality of being able to nail into it with no worries. If I want to move the nails, I can leave the holes for a distressed look or I can fill them with putty and make them disappear. I could also just pound them in and leave them.

Welcome to my happy place.

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This is the gable end.

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I added some corbels that I bought years ago at an architectural salvage warehouse to the windows.

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

A very kind and thoughtful neighbor who is an electrician, installed an outlet for me as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift.

 Shiplap In a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 Shiplap in a Cottage-Style Porch/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I don’t see shiplap as a fad or something trendy that will be dated in 10 years–I don’t do trendy. I think it’s classic, timeless and lovely. Shiplap adds a relaxed, cottagey feel to a space. Thank you, Chip and Joanna. (I even watch your re-runs.)

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.