Hello! I’m Ana, a mother and homemaker from Alaska.
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Ana White
May 03 2013

Last Christmas, our family got a very special present.

My sister, a mother of three with a newborn baby, and her husband, finally found the perfect house.  After a year of looking, after almost buying a house "just to get into something" - the perfect house for their family became available.  

When we went and looked at the house, we were amazed at how well built it was, how well layed-out it was, and just how perfect it was for our dear little nieces to grow up in.

And the house was just a five minute walk from the Momplex, a bike ride from our own house.

Sounds to good to be true, doesn't it?

Of course it is.

Here's the catch:

The house isn't quite finished.  It's finished enough to live in, but not finished enough to get a regular mortgage on.

Proud Auntie Note: Can you see my sweet little nieces?  I am so thankful they have this beautiful home to grow up in!  Those are the same little nieces you see throughout this blog.

So my sister had to get a construction loan that will convert to a regular mortgage when the house is completed.  In the meantime, she's paying a high interest rate on the full amount of the home.  In other words, every day this house is under the construction loan, she's paying double the interest and no principle.

So getting this house finished up is a top priority for their family.

But here's the problem.

  • My brother-in-law works seven days a week.
  • My sister works full time.
  • My newborn niece has severe food allergies and is very difficult to care for, consuming all of my sister's time.
  • They've called on contractors, but for different reasons, the house isn't being worked on.
  • Things just aren't getting done.

    Meanwhile, the Ram and I have been busy working on the Momplex, trying to get the Momplex wrapped up and Mom moved in.  We are so darn close.

    The Ram and I talked about helping my sister out - they've certainly helped us out quite a bit over the years on our cabin, our house, and my brother-in-law has helped out on the Momplex too - but we both agreed that we just don't have the time to commit to getting my sister's house done on top of our current work load. 

    Well, five months went by .... and they haven't been able to find a contractor, and they haven't been able to find the time to tackle the projects themselves.

    Soooo ..... welll ..... 

    You already know how this story goes, don't you?

    I know, you totally saw that one coming, didn't you?

    One of the first things on the list is removing temporary carpet and installing permanent flooring in the living room.  The rest of the house has finished flooring - it's just this main room.

    Bye bye temporary ugly orange carpet ....

    Under the carpet, the floor hadn't been cleaned for flooring, so we removed all the mud splotches.  Can't have uneven spots under laminate flooring - the joints will pull apart.

    When you do a heated floor with gyp-crete, you border the area with boards in doorways and stair landings, and then fill inside the border with the pipes and gyp-crete.  The Ram ground down the joints to make a level surface for the flooring to float over. 

    And then we went through the entire floor area and checked for any nails popping up or other problem makers.

    Then my sister started vacuuming up the mess we made.  This is my newborn niece with the food allergies.  The food allergies give her a terrible rash and I can only imagine a tummy ache too, so she's held all day.  This is how my sister get's housework done.

    We wonder if the old carpeting with pet stains/hair could be contributing to the allergies because the allergies seemed to have gotten much worse when the moved into the new house.

    Don't worry, we've got fans blowing, doors open, and the kids have been outside for the grinding.

    But now they want to help!

    This flooring doesn't come with foam underlayment, so it has to be layed down first, separately.

    That's the other Uncle J, who also helped out on putting the flooring in.  He's also been helping out with lots of other things too.

    The foam underlayment has a sticker, so you just layer and stick the ends together.

    This foam underlayment is designed for a heat floor, allowing the heat to transfer up, but still giving the floor a little bit of a cushion underneath.

    Baby likes it!

    The actual snapping the flooring down and putting into place went really, really fast.

    It's the 10% at the ends that take up 90% of the time.  

    Helpers don't hurt either!

    But then we got to the fireplace.  What to do here?

    It's hard to see from this picture, but the fireplace is not a straight rip cut on the boards.  It actually varies quite a bit.

    So I used this marking tool to find the pattern of the rocks.

    It's actually called a Contour Gauge - it's $10 at the Home Depot and will save you 10 hours.

    And then trace that pattern on to the flooring.

    I got a whole process down of lining up, marking, tracing, repeating, and this went really fast too.  The Ram took my marked boards down to the garage and jigsawed about 1/4" in from my marks.

    Seriously, how can you not want to rip out old carpet and put in new flooring for that almost crawling cuteness?  

    We had to cut a little loose around the fireplace just to get the flooring to snap in, but it looks really good, and we'll go back and fill any gaps with grout from the fireplace, and the fireplace will look like it was installed after the flooring.

    Then there's just the little section past the fireplace ...

    And it's done!

    I think I've figured out what makes this guy such an awesome DIYer.

    He's fearless.  

    I'm always worried, what if we cut this wrong?  We'll waste a piece of flooring.  What if we start wrong and don't have enough left on the end ... what if???  I'm always questioning myself (I think that's why I love plans and furniture so much!).

    But the Ram?  He just goes for it.  And if things don't work out, he figures it out.  

    My sister and I talked about this too.  If she had the time, she's more than capable of whipping this floor out.  We are all capable.  But it's fear of messing something up that inhibits us.

    I can promise you, there's one piece in this floor that shouldn't be there.

    And you are looking right at it.

    A good carpenter can hide anything, right?

    I believe that's the key to DIYing.  You just gotta go for it, do your absolute best job, over-prep beforehand - but when there's a challenge, don't give up, just keep at it until you get things right.

    And don't forget - it's about the smiles.

    So I guess we now have a weekend gig too.  But you already knew that didn't you?  Darn it, I wish those little nieces were just a little less cute sometimes!

    Have a great weekend!  You know where we'll be!

    XO Ana

    10
    Ana White
    April 22 2013

    Happy Earth Day!  You are greener than you know!

    On this Earth Day, I thought I would take a second to celebrate two things - wood, my favorite renewable resource to work with - and you.  If you are building furniture, you are already doing many green steps, and may not even realize it!  


    Consider what is potentially happening when someone purchases a piece of furniture.  Trees are cut down - often not under FSC Certification - in one continent, and then may be shipped across the world to another continent.  Then in a factory where workers - under very different labor and environmental regulations - turn that wood into furniture.  The furniture then is packaged to protect it, and shipped back across the world. It ends up in a distribution center, then shipped to stores, and finally to your home.  By the time the furniture gets in your home, it could have traveled 10,000 miles. 

    And you get to leave the pile of cardboard and Styrofoam on YOUR curbside.  

    When I build furniture, I drive 5 miles from my home to a local building supply store.  I purchase lumber that is not wrapped in plastic or styrofoam, lumber that is grown local to our region. Then I take that wood home, and I build furniture with it.  It's like buying from a local farmer's market raw fruits and veggies, as opposed to processed and packaged food made in a foreign country.  We are supporting local jobs, local materials, and minimizing shipping pollutants and waste.

    And even if your wood does have to travel further, it's a whole lot more economical and environmentally friendly to ship boards than it is to ship furniture in crates, protected by Styrofoam.  

    And then let's not forget that by just building with wood, you are choosing a material that is renewable - as opposed to buying plastic or metal furniture, made without renewable resources.  And let's not forget that wood - especially young forests - produces oxygen and absorbs carbon, so properly managed forestry is actually a good thing!  And when you turn that wood into furniture - as opposed to letting it burn in wildfire or fall to the ground and decay - that carbon stays in the wood, and not in the air.

    By already building, you are greener than you knew!  I celebrate you on this Earth Day!

    But I also wanted to point out how we can be even greener when we build.  There are decisions we can make - and the more of us that make these decisions - the bigger the impact.

    source

    1. Buy Locally Grown Materials. 

    It's just like supporting a local farmer's market for your produce.  Support your local lumber supply.  Choose materials that are readily available in your area.  And just because you are shopping at a big box store doesn't mean the lumber isn't local - the big box store is trying to reduce freighting lumber too.  

    One of the reasons I work with PureBond Plywood is because it's North American made and they make great efforts to reduce shipping distances - and no, this post isn't sponsored by them.

    source

    2. Choose Faster Renewing Wood Species 

    When you purchase wood, you have to cut down a tree (but let's not forget that every tree has a natural lifespan regardless).  You can choose a tree that grows back quickly, or a tree that takes hundreds of years to renew.  Douglas fir can be harvested in as little as 12 years, while teak can take up to 150 years.  

    And if you just have to have a certain wood species, consider using veneered plywood for the bulk of the project with a solid wood face frame.  That way the bulk of the project is made of more sustainable materials, while the part you see is made of the wood grain you love.

    plans

    3. Use and Support Reclaimed Materials. 

    The best option for green building choice is of course to use materials that would otherwise be disposed of.  An old barn about to be torn down, crates from an orchid, your neighbors old deck - get creative and embrace using reclaimed materials whenever possible.  A word of caution though - make sure your reclaimed materials are safe, as old paint may contain lead and pallets may be treated with harsh chemicals. 

    plans

    4. Choose Formaldehyde-Free Pressed Woods.


    Yes, you can choose pressed wood products made with formaldehyde, or pressed wood products made with soy based adhesives.  Ask for formaldehyde free products to improve your home's indoor air quality when you select pressed wood products like hardwood plywoods.  My favorite is PureBond Plywood - it's beautiful, formaldehyde free, and comparable in cost to the alternative.

    NOTE: I do work with PureBond Plywood, but this post is not sponsored or endorsed by them.

    scrap wood vase tutorial

    5. Don't Throw Out Scraps.  

    In our shop, we use everything.  Anything wood scrap still big enough to cut, we save for future projects.  Too small to cut, we use for firestarter (of course wood is our main heat source up here in Alaska).  And the sawdust we spread in our chicken coop. 

    I've seen amazing projects built from scraps - everything from wood vases to wood wall quilts!  If it's big enough to cut, you can use it in a project. Get creative and use up as much wood as you can!

    milk paint spa bench brag post

    6. Choose Organic or Earth Friendly Finishes. 


    Did you know that you can seal wood with linseed oil?  Or that you can purchase no VOC paint or organic paint?  Did you know you can make your own paint from milk?  Or that natural plant based wax can be used as a beautiful top coat?  There are so many beautiful, durable options for a greener finish.  

    train trundle finished with boiled linseed oil and made with PureBond Plywood

    Also consider ooops paint - which might otherwise be thrown out - or stain, which takes much less product to finish.  

    7. Support the Good Guys.  

    If you find yourself buying the same materials over and over again, take a minute to research the company behind it.  Are they FSC Compliant?  Do they care about long-term forestry?  What are they doing to to help our environment?  One of the reasons why we shop a particular hardware store is because they carry Gorman Lumber - which is harvested in our neighboring Canada.  The wood is absolutely beautiful, and right there behind "what we make" and "what else we do" is "what we are doing for the environment."  

    the bed we still sleep on

    8. Do it Once, Do it Right. 


    If we are going to put your time into making something, let's make sure we make something we want to keep.  Make your projects extra sturdy.  Take the time to sand them well.  Use glue for stronger joints.  Put in that extra effort to create a project you are proud of and want to keep forever.

    And if in a few years, you find yourself wanting something different, repurpose that original project.  Bookshelves can become legs for a project desk, too small dining tables can be chopped down to make perfect coffee tables.  



    outdoor lounge chair plans



    9. Take Care of Your Furniture. 

    Wood is a material that has a lifecycle.  That means it is designed to decay at some point.  By taking care of your furniture, you can make it last longer.  For outdoor furniture, keep up on painting or sealing it and store in winter months out of the elements.  The longer you can use something, the less materials you will use.  Remember, it's about Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.



    my friend Beckie built these tall bookshelves!


    10. Encourage Your Friends and Family to Build. 


    I'm just one person, and there's only so many pieces of furniture needed in my tiny house.  But if I can get my friends on board - or at least make furniture for them - I've 10 or 20 times greener  :)  


    On this Earth Day, I challenge you to share with your friends and family why building can be a greener choice.


    Happy Earth Day!


    XO Ana


    PS - Got any green building tips?  Share how you build green in the comments below.

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