When we decided to close in the big opening in our kitchen to make room for more cabinets, I knew we were going to have to do something about the lighting in the hallway. There’s a pretty easy (in theory) solution – just add more lights! But, like most DIY-projects, that’s easier said than done. This particular project calls for three-way switches, which means it’s a little more difficult than just swapping out a light fixture. Here’s how we’re diagramming our electrical work, so when it comes time to do the wiring, we know exactly what we’re doing.
Now, I’m DEFINITELY not an electrician. At all. But I do believe that most home renovation projects can be done by homeowners, and people shouldn’t be afraid to dig in and really get to know their home. You’re more capable than you think. It would absolutely be faster, easier, and much less of a hassle to just let an electrician come and do the work, but you pay a premium for all of that. This is a budget renovation which means we plan on doing most (if not all) of it ourselves.
There are a few basics that you have to know about residential electrical work, so if you’re brand new, check out this article. This particular job requires that we use a three-way which is a kind of switch that allows you to turn on or off the lights from multiple locations. Think about the switches at either end of a hallway in your home – those are most likely three way switches.
The term three-way switch is kind of confusing, but all it means is that either both switches are up, both are down, or they are opposite of each other. Add those together, and you get a three-way switch! There are no on/off markings on three-way switches. Here’s an example of what two of our switches will look like.
As you can see, there are more screws on a three-way switch than traditional switches. There’s a green screw for your ground, a light brass screw for your travelers, and a dark brass screw for your common. You might see stab-in slots on switches as well, but I try to stay away from them in favor of screws since they lend themselves to a more secure connection.
Is your head spinning yet? I totally understand. Honestly, just staring at wiring diagrams for a few hours is what did it for me. BUT! Now I have that
Okay, so with all of that out of the way, we’re planning on ‘editing’ two of the circuits in our kitchen/hallway area. First up is the hallway. I put together a little diagram of
Our hallway currently only has one light (C in the diagram), and we are planning on adding two new lights (D and E in the diagram). We also only have one existing light switch (1 in the diagram), which means I need to add another switch (3 in the diagram) to the other end of the hall. Generally, you want to have a switch on either end of a hallway so you don’t have to walk in darkness to turn on a switch. Here are the existing wires:
Wall switch #1 is wired to light C with 12-2 romex, which consists of 3 wires: a black
There’s a lot to unpack here, but basically, we’re running 12-3 romex from the first switch to the first light, 12-2 between each light, and then 12-3 from the last light back to the second switch. 12-2 and 12-3 Romex are just types of wire you can buy. 12-2 has regular white, black, and copper, where the 12-3 has red, white, black, and copper. Each has its own use, but generally, most of the wiring in your house is probably 12-2 (12-3 is used commonly for
Just like you learned (hopefully) in science class, circuits have to be complete to run. The red, white, and black wires are all working together to provide electricity so when you flip the switch, the light comes on. The ground keeps your home safe from fires if something goes wrong with the circuit.
Looking at that diagram might make your head spin, but if you take a minute to draw the diagram again yourself, it will be much clearer. Before drawing these I had a vague idea of what I was doing, but after drawing them, I feel much more confident and ready to tackle the project.
So now that the hallway is planned, it’s time to turn our attention to the kitchen. This is what we currently have:
Switch 2 will be new, switches x
Switch 2 and 4 will both be able to turn on/off the lights in the kitchen all at once (something I’ve wanted since we moved in), which means another three-way switch install, and switches 1 and 3 will be able to turn on the hallway lights from either end. This diagram doesn’t take into account the other wiring we’ll want to do (move a few outlets on the sink wall, install some outlets on the desk wall, wire for a microwave, etc), but it’s the same general idea for those.
So on a Friday night, we got to work. Stuffing romex in the ceiling and cutting 19 holes in our drywall isn’t glamorous. Definitely prepare for some well-deserved showers at the end of the day! Working above our heads that much lead to us wishing we had started lifting weights in preparation, but it all worked out just fine in the end.
It took me probably 3 hours to research everything and put together the diagram, and it took us an entire weekend to do the wiring with kids – if you had no interruptions, you could probably do it in one day. A pro could most likely get this done in just a few hours, so though it’s cheaper, you’re paying for it in your time.
I’m happy to make that trade, though. According to
If you are considering installing new lights or doing some electrical work around your home, think about doing it yourself! After LOTS of research and killing the main switch on your house (just to be safe) of course. I feel incredibly satisfied every time we do an electrical project, and it’s neat to see how things are connected inside your home. Not to mention the cost savings. If you want to read all about our whole kitchen journey from the beginning, here are all the links!
You know the story – dream up a renovation, research, go to the store, get started, run into issues, pull your hair out. Right? That’s what step one of preparing for the One Room Challenge was like, anyway. We needed to frame a new wall to update the layout of our kitchen, but it had to be over existing ceramic tile.
After lots of research, it seems that the general consensus is you can definitely build a wall over existing tile. Or hardwoods. Basically anything but carpet (why would you ever do that?!?!). I started with removing the drywall from the existing wall, so I would have access to the studs behind it.
It actually came off pretty easily. I used a hammer to essentially pulverize a hole in the middle, and then once I could get the back of my hammer underneath the metal corner pieces, pieces started coming off in large chunks.
Soon, I had all the corner pieces off and were down to just the drywall. We pried it off to expose the bare wood. Next, it was time to attach our sole plate to the floor. We measured where our studs would go and began drilling (living in Texas often means no basements, so most houses are on a concrete slab like ours).
If I had only known how much work still lied ahead. I started by using a masonry bit to drill down through the ceramic and into the concrete. Ceramic tile is way harder than concrete, so it took a little while to get through. Eventually, I hit the concrete.
And then? The frustration began. I’d get to a certain depth, and then the bit would just spin. We tried all kinds of things to make it work
After much trial and error, and more frustration than I want to admit, I went back to researching. And I found something really interesting in an article about framing a wall over radiant heating. Basically, the tubes in the heating would get punctured if you drilled into the concrete floor. The solution? C
I managed to get one screw partially into the concrete but failed miserably on the others. I had pretty much given up on using mechanical fasteners at this point. And if construction adhesive is good enough for fancy radiant heating applications, it’s good enough for me.
I trotted off to the home improvement store the next morning, picked up some construction adhesive, and glued that puppy to the existing ceramic tile.
It took all of 30 seconds, which is hilarious compared to how long I had been drilling.
I set some heavy objects on top and waited for the glue to dry. In the meantime, I started work on framing out the rest of the wall.
Framing was pretty easy. You basically install a board the length of the new wall on the floor and ceiling, and then vertical studs on each end. Then, screw or nail each one to hold them together. I also chose to anchor the sole plate to the existing wall for added stability.
And just like that, I had this beauty. I decided to evenly space the studs at 12.5″ inches instead of the standard 16″. I’ll be hanging heavy-duty shelves over subway tile on them, so I like knowing there’s a little more stability than normal.
After a very long two days, I ended Sunday night with some pizza, popcorn, and some Austin East Ciders. Framing a wall over ceramic tile was definitely not easy, but we got it done. Cheers to renovation success, even if the path is a little more winding than we imagined!
Oh – and if you’re interested in doing a DIY project of your own (nowhere near this scale!), you can grab my 3-day Dauntless DIYer challenge for free below!
Today’s post is a story about a project just grew and grew and grew (much like my love for chocolate) until I threw the original timeline out completely and gave myself over to the renovation gods. removing carpet from a concrete slab sounds easy, but there’s a little more work involved that if you have a traditional wooden subfloor.
If you are lucky enough to live in a place with a basement, color me jealous. We live in Texas, which is prone to flooding so all the houses here are built on concrete slabs. Now, I grew up in Kentucky where basements are much more common, so adjusting to that new reality took some time. But things really came to a head when we decided to rip out the carpets in our master bedroom – as you can see, they
Kidding, obviously. Can you say gross? There are stains ALL OVER the place. I don’t know how we lived with them as long as we did if I’m being honest. The previous owners had them cleaned before we moved in, but if you’ve ever owned a home with carpets, you know stains creep back quickly.
So removing carpet from our concrete slab started like any other renovation – rip those puppies out. Demolitions is somethin you can totally DIY and it’s just SO. FUN. There’s something so satisfying about removing carpet, and if it wasn’t so disgusting I’d even say I enjoy it! If you’ve never removed carpet before, it’s pretty easy.
Here’s where things take a turn from the expected (aka carpet installed over wood subfloors): removing carpet from a concrete slab involves also removing the approximately 10 million nails driven straight into the concrete around the perimeter of the room. It will seem like getting those out is impossible, and I definitely felt that way too for a little while. But the good news is, I’m gonna save you some headaches and just tell you the easiest way to deal with those. We tried a lot of different things and through trial and error (mostly error), found the best solution.
Get yourself a Dremel like this and a carbide blade like the one included in this package. You’re going to cut every single one of those lovely little nails so they are flush with the concrete. Don’t try and pry them out (it’s gonna want to take concrete with it) or hammer them in (same thing). It’s loud. It takes five-ever. You just have to do it. Just make sure you wear your safety goggles because cutting metal = sparks.
The neat thing about this is that during this project, I couldn’t stop thinking about my Dad. The sound of my childhood was a Dremel tool – he makes all kinds of models, car parts, basically anything you can think of. And one of his favorite tools is a Dremel. Every time Aaron fired that thing up (because Tyler was cluster feeding during this renovation, Aaron did most of the cutting) I thought about Dad. It’s funny how sounds can bring you right back to a previous time in your life!
As always, the right tool makes the job much easier. The best tools we’ve found for projects involving carpet and trim (we’ve done close to 1,500 square feet at this point!) are:
Congrats! You now have a completely bare concrete subfloor ready for the new flooring of your choice. We chose to install bamboo hardwoods (just like on our stairs and on the second story) over it, but you could do any number of things – tile, cork, laminate, etc. The world is your oyster at this point!
One quick note though – you know how I always say to double the amount of time you expect a project to take? Yeah…double would have been a light estimate for this one. I expected we could get all the floors laid in a weekend, but it took almost an entire week to complete everything. A lot of that had to do with renovating with little ones running around, but the millions of nails to be removed didn’t help. If you are considering removing carpet from a concrete slab, definitely budget more time than you think you need to finish up cutting out all those nails.
Back to the renovation – since we were so far ahead of schedule (haha!) I decided to repaint, too. The bedroom was one of the first rooms we painted when we moved in, and I loved the blue, but times change. We went with a very light tan, which looks suspiciously like what it was before we painted it blue. You live and you learn, though, right?
And because one thing always leads to another (no, just me?), I also decided it was time to upgrade our headboard/bed frame. We were definitely on a budget at this point, though, so I threw this absolute MOOSE of a headboard together with some curtains and a mattress pad from Home Goods, and a big 4×8 MDF panel we already had in the garage. It’s seriously huge, guys. I think someday I’d like to add some nail trim to make it look a little fancier, or maybe beef up the padding, but for now, I’m thrilled with how it turned out. I just hung it on the wall with a french cleat (they’re the best way to hang really heavy things, you can find them here or at any local hardware store) and called it a day.
We finally had our floors clean and nail-less, so it was time to prep for the hardwoods. First, we put down a moisture barrier, which is basically like an extra thick trash bag that keeps moisture from the porous concrete foundation away from your moisture-hating hardwoods. (Totally not necessary if you have a plywood subfloor, but for a concrete slab like ours, you have to use one). You can see that in the left of the image below. Then, we laid down our underlayment. I wasn’t super happy with the Insulayment that we used upstairs, but for the sake of consistency, we used it in our master too. It’s what the guy at Lumber Liquidators sold us, and while it has worked just fine, I would definitely choose something different in our next home.
We finished laying all the hardwoods, installed the baseboards (with the help of a great local handyman…crawling on my hands and knees right after having a baby was NOT on my to-do list), finished painting, and voila! Brand new room. I love how they turned out, and I don’t have to worry about what awful thought-to-be-extinct disease my kids are getting from touching the gross old carpet. It feels great under our feet, and it’s SO much easier to take care of.
So if you want to remove carpet from a concrete slab, budget a lot of extra time, and invest in a Dremel. I’m so glad we did. It would have been much easier to just put in new carpet, but with two kids and a dog, hardwoods made much more sense.
Have you guys tackled any projects that you thought would be relatively quick, but run into something that ended up taking a lot longer? Or do you love
PS: Want more of the inside scoop? Follow me over on Instagram for more of the day-to-day stuff. Big posts like this are fun, but the minutia of daily tasks is what keeps me following my favorite bloggers. Hope to see you there! You can even check me out over on Pinterest, where I share all kinds of DIY and Home Improvement stuff!
I’m back today with one of the biggest transformations our house has ever gone through. Our existing carpets were a nasty tan that had seen better days. We replaced our floors upstairs with beautiful new hardwoods, and that made these stairs look even worse. It was time to renovate our carpeted stairs. It ended up being a little more difficult than normal since we planned on installing hardwood flooring on stairs with an existing nosing, but I found an easy solution. Here’s our starting point:
I’ve always loved the look of dark wood treads with crisp white risers like this and this. We had actually planned to replace the carpet on the stairs while we were doing our big flooring install upstairs, but we got sidetracked. Here’s what we had been living with since we paused our renovation:
I basically laid the flooring all the way up to the top step so we could come back later and finish it.We ripped up the carpet on the stairs by first cutting a strip away from the top and basically just pulling really hard. You’ll need gloves for this since there’s tack strip, but it’s a pretty easy job otherwise. Just gross. 20 years of dirt is just nasty, no matter how well you clean your home.
After the top layer of the carpet was gone, it was time to work on getting all the staples and nails out. I found a tool that gave me a strong grip and pulled. Lather, rinse, repeat 10,000 times. It was time-consuming, but I threw on a podcast and zoned out. A few hours later, we were ready for the next step!
After I got the staples out and the tack strip up, it was time to tackle the risers. A lot of homes with carpeted stairs (especially if they were built toward the second half of the 20th century) have some pretty shoddy workmanship beneath the carpet. Our risers (and treads) had some pretty big gaps on either
I decided that instead of sanding everything down, I would just install new risers that I cut down from longer boards. It worked incredibly well, and I’m very happy with the result. If you choose to do it this way, don’t assume that each step is the same height. T
Finally! It was time to put the first step on. I hooked the new tread piece to the existing floor upstairs and glued it down using Liquid Nails. Most contractors recommended
Anyway, I glued it down and placed in the new riser with construction adhesive as well. Then, I cut and placed the cove trim. I also taped everything together to make sure it would stay in place while it dried. I also shot a finishing nail through the trim for good measure.
While that dried, it was time to solve another challenge. I had the same issue that Kelly over at Lilypad Cottage was dealing with during her stair renovation. Each one of stair steps had a lip or edge on it (nosing), and the replacement hardwood flooring we planned to install didn’t cover it.
You can kind of see what I’m talking about in the picture above. I also used cove trim underneath each step to cover things up. I don’t have the patience to trim off each and every step like she did. Serious respect. I definitely admire her for doing it! I think if I hadn’t been trying to do this with a sleeping baby in the house, I would have cut each step off. But without an industrial strength noise machine, I had to find a quieter way.
My solution for installing hardwood flooring on stairs with an existing nosing? Paint. The overhang from the new flooring + the cove trim almost covers the entire lip of each step. Maybe a 1/8″ is left showing? Not enough that it’s worth it (to me) to cut the whole thing off. It would have been a dirty, time consuming, and difficult process. So, I bought a $2 test pot of paint that matches the color of the new flooring and painted the edge of each lip. You can’t see it from a regular walking angle, and most of it is going to be covered in a stair runner anyway.
I worked my way down the stairs, gluing, nailing, and taping things into place. One word of caution, though – go with a shorter nail if you’re working with hard materials. I originally used a longer nail, thinking it would add more stability, but it just bent. The shorter nails went right in, and I had no issues.
Finally! All the treads were installed, the risers were painted, and all the trim pieces were in! We actually lived with it like this for a few months. I loved how clean it looked and didn’t want to cover up all my hard work! But, Tabby (our pup) was afraid of the new slick stairs and was sliding around like crazy. We had a baby very interested in them as well, and I wanted to give her something more stable to walk on. So, we installed a runner!
We have an awful lot of grey in our house. I chose to paint ALL the walls in our great room, entryway, stairwell, office, and upstairs hallway the same color when we moved in. It was a safe option, and I stand by it, but we definitely could use a little more color around here. I ended up picking this runner from
Installing it was a breeze – it took me about two hours. I actually found it helpful that I had three separate runners to install. It was less fabric hanging down where I didn’t need it. I followed this process:
A lot of tutorials out there said to wrap the bottom of the runner underneath itself so you have a nice, tidy edge. Our runner was so thick, though, that it would have looked incredibly bulky and cumbersome compared to how tight it was on the rest of the steps.
The carpet is soft underfoot, and it feels so much safer. We haven’t had any issues with stains or dirt in the year+ we’ve had it installed (even with an 80lb dog and two kids). With such a busy pattern, I expect to be able to hide any stains that show up well. The flat weave had stood up well to Tabby’s claws, and we’ve had zero issues with fraying, scratchiness, etc. I just sweep it off every so often, and it looks brand new!
Above is a picture of how the two rugs meet. I didn’t have the normal setup that a lot of people do with a ‘real’ stair runner. Normally, you would wrap the fabric underneath the stair tread (where it isn’t visible). With the shallowness of the lip of each tread on our stairs, that wasn’t possible.
Have you ever dreamed of ripping that nasty old carpet off your stairs? Anybody else out there that hates pulling staples out? This was definitely a more involved hardwood flooring install than I realized at first due to the existing nosing on the stairs. I’m so glad it’s done, and now we can finally enjoy it!
If you want to tackle this, there’s good news! I’ve already done lots of the work for you! I put together a list of everything you’ll need to complete the project.
Since this is a two part post, be sure to go back and read Chapter One about installing the cabinets for our custom desk before you read on, otherwise a few things won’t make sense!
Hallelujah! We had countertops. I actually kind of liked the look of the raw wood but knew since we were going to put in dark hardwood floors someday, I wanted to stain it dark. You can also see we hung our monitors and hid the cords (the left one has skewed to one side in the picture above, but it just rotates back into place. Here’s the mount we used, and here’s the cord hiding mechanism. Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually against code to put any sort of regular plugs behind a wall because it’s a documented fire hazard. I’m glad we spent the extra money to do it the right way.