Monday, September 12, 2016

Saved From the Flood: DIY Concrete Tabletop

So I recently used frozen custard to bribe my six year old to eat a few lima beans.  Which she tried, then decided that they "tasted like death", and then proceeded to gag and cry like I was forcing her to suck down a bottle of poison.   This was the same kid, however, that handed me a tube of icy hot, and said, "Mom, we need to get rid of this new toothpaste."  Now I'm not saying that that near death experience (because the big sisters told her she was going to die from it) affected her ability to properly taste, but all I'm saying is it could have played a role in the goings on that day.  Either way Mommy and Daddy deserved the frozen custard after the end of what will heretofore be called "The Ordeal".

So just to catch up we bought a table from a flood house, and put a plywood top on it.  In a nutshell.  I like to think that my design sense is traditional with a twist.  Sometimes its shabby chic, sometimes its industrial farmhouse, but its almost always a traditional piece with a very nontraditional finish applied to it.  

So I looked at this table with its very classic and traditional lines, and thought what would be super durable for my family but give this thing a cool twist?  Then I had an epiphany...concrete.  There are several blogs on Pinterest that have shared using a skim coat method to transform their dated kitchen laminate counters to give them a new contemporary look.  To me concrete gives a very modern finish, and it got me thinking how cool could something as contemporary as concrete look on such a classic piece.

So again if you check out my last post on this.  You will know that the table top was complete trash, and we needed to start with a clean slate.  I loved the overall shape of the old top so after tracing that onto a thick piece of plywood we cut it out using our jig saw.

So as many of you are aware Southern Louisiana was devastated by extensive flooding recently.  Señor Hotness had gone down with the Mormon Helping Hands initiative to help with the recovery effort happening down there.  I was home with the kids while he was helping gut homes of wet flood damage.  Señor Hotness tries to protect me from biting off more than I can chew so he had gotten me a 24"x 24" piece of plywood for me to practice on before doing to whole tabletop, but I'm more of a sink or swim type of girl so of course I waited until the moment he left and started on the real deal.  To be honest it had been raining off and on for several weeks, and we were projected to have a few days of dry weather.  I didn't want to waste time on a practice piece, and miss the break in the weather. 

So my Saturday started at 7:00, and began with intense sanding to smooth out all the rough edges created by the saw.  I sanded it like this until the sharp edges were gone, and then I flipped it and did the underside.  The underside wasn't getting the concrete treatment, but I didn't want any curious fingers that might want to feel the edges to come away with splinters.

I'm good with an electric sander, but occasionally I would slip and catch the finish part of the table.

Which I fixed with my stain that I had matched when working on the bottom.

Sanding, of course, creates and insane amount of wood dust so I used a hand brush to clean the surface of any particles.  A shop vac would work best, but I don't have one.

While I was working so diligently on our new dining table my chocolate stash was being thoroughly compromised.  This little brown eyed girl was so darn cute with her chocolate mouth it was hard to be to terribly upset about it.

Most people either used Henry Featherlite, or Ardex brands, but I didn't have access to either product and didn't want to order anything.  So after discussing our options we chose to go with the TEC product from Lowes.  It is a skimcoat and patch system used to even out floors when getting ready to tile.  Best yet was it wasn't expensive.  I only had to use two bags, and probably wouldn't have had to use two if it wasn't for the waste I had from trial and error.

So in all my research much emphasis was put on the consistency of your mixture.  They almost all said a pancake batter would be the best texture comparison.  Well I make a mean pancake so I was familiar with what the consistency should be.  I didn't, however, take all of the variables into account.  All of those awesome tutorials were done indoors, in what I imagine are fairly climate controlled areas.  I was doing mine outside, and it was HOT.  So my pancake batter mixture started to set up almost immediately instead of the 10-15 minutes that was talked about.  In the end this first swipe was mostly trashed, and I had to start again.

That's right it was a heat advisory day.  I'm sure some of you are thinking 94 degrees isn't all that awful, but heat index made it seem like it was 106.  Then we also had 50% humidity.  Which was a lower humidity than we had had in weeks, but all the same it made for a hot, muggy, miserable time.

It looked so much better after a second coat.  I learned that because of the heat that I needed to make my mixture much wetter to account of the super quick dry time that the weather was giving me.

WARNING: when working with concrete materials make sure to wear goggles, a respirator mask, and gloves.  It is very caustic and irritating for the skin.  So wash it off as soon as possible.  I would also suggest you cover your hair.

When I was spreading it out on the top I didn't even attempt to keep it from falling over the edges.  All the excess that I had from the roll-off I used my gloved hand to spread around the edges.  Don't worry about getting it perfect smooth.  Any roughness will easily knock down with some minor sanding.

You have to move fast, and get it smoothed as it dries so super fast.  This is what my feet would look like pretty much after every new layer of the concrete.  I rinsed it off quickly, and always followed with copious amounts of lotion.  This stuff dries your skin out quick!  I also promptly got a new pedicure after I finished this table top.  So no need to worry that I'm going out in public sporting toes like this.

This was the final layer of concrete.

Now that its completely dried its ready for its final sanding.  For this layer I used my orbital electric sander with a 220 grit sand paper, and kept the sander speed on a low so it wouldn't just blast through all of my layers.  You are just looking to knock down the rough areas, and make a general overall smooth area.

This was taken right after I had put on the last layer.  I thought the bubbles were going to be a problem, but...

I actually really love how they looked after being sanded down.  All those fine bubbles add interest to it.  I'm sort of in love with fine bubbles.  Bubbles are my life.  I will say you don't want to have too many of these, or larger ones but these are just cool.

This is what my arm looked like after sanding.  As you can sort of tell from the picture I was wearing plastic gloves, but the dust was super fine and clung to everything.  I will tell you after this I hopped in the shower, and had a minor freakout when I started to soap my hair.  It felt like I had wire bristles for hair.  It was completely fine after some intensive conditioning, but I would recommend anyone else wanting to do this to wear something to cover their hair too.

The sanding process gave me a concrete dust sleeve.

Here we have our sealer going on.  I used a Quikcrete sealer in a high gloss with a wet like finish. Make sure you are getting a sealer that is for use indoors, and is safe for use on eating surfaces.  For example mine is resistant to a myriad of different stains including food.  Which, I'm sure you will understand, excited me since this was going to be my dining table.

I had a little help with the sealing so I could get some pictures taken.  We applied two coats, waiting the two hours between coats per the manufacturers instructions.  The surface just drank up the first layer of sealer, but the next layer left a smooth protective finish.  It recommended a high density foam roller, but in my experience foam just causes more bubbles when applying a sealer.  We used a 6 inch roller graded for use on fine/smooth surfaces such a cabinets.  We applied all the sealer in one uniform direction, and then without adding more sealer to the roller we rolled over it again in the opposite direction.  That eliminated roller streaks, and helped knock out any bubbling we had in the sealer.  Bubbly sealer isn't good as the dried bubbles will burst if scrubbed vigorously, and that will lead to staining on your surface.  Which you don't want for your dining surface.

Every last one of those imperfections are still very visible on the surface, but I think that is what makes it kind of cool.  Its this very formal table, with very formal lines.  I think beyond having a very informal material like concrete on the top, and additionally all of those areas of imperfection highlighted makes this a perfect piece.

Isn't he cute being all handy, and fastening the table top on?

Here it is all sealed.  I was somewhat worried that my beloved bubbles would attract food, but the sealer did its job well and these stay completely and utterly clean.

BAM!  Isn't it gorgeous! I love the wood finish on the bottom paired with the concrete top.  I additionally love that concrete doesn't discolor with hot dishes, and is impervious to water and food stains so long as it has been properly sealed.  Just what I need with my dirty children.

This thing is massive and completely fills our dining area, but it is just right for our larger family.  

Did I mention how sturdy this thing is?  The concrete didn't add a ton to the over all weight, thankfully, but it should give us the durability of a slab of concrete.

It also looks spectacular in the room.  Don't all those imperfections make for a really interesting look for the top.  I'm sort of in love with it.

We've already put this thing through the ringer.  The day this was finished, and ready for the house we had some of our good friends come visit from Texas with their own 5 daughters.  So this became the kids table for the weekend.  It held up to 10 lively friends who are never not excited to be in one anothers company.  Its is still beyond beautiful.

Lets run down the full cost of this portion of the project.

TEC Skimcoat and Underlayment--2 Bags @ $9.98 each:  $19.96
Previous Table Costs: $188
Grand Total So Far: $207.96

So for less than $20 we have this spectacular concrete table top that will take a beating from my active family. (and apparently my friend's family too :)  This table has had just about everything spilled on it, and a few dried on food stains.  They have all washed right off with no damage to the top.  I really couldn't be more pleased.  If I haven't said so enough I'm IN LOVE with this table.  I love how the formal and informal come together to give a spectacular piece of furniture, and it completely supports my own personal sense of style.  So don't be afraid to take something completely traditional, and then give it a completely non-traditional finish.  It could just turn out to be the best thing ever.

Stay tuned to see how I rework the chairs, and complete this awesome table set.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tricking Out the Trash: Thrift Store Chic

Have you ever gone clothes shopping looking for an outstanding outfit that highlights your complete and utter awesomeness.  One that conveys your personal brand of quirk all while reducing the appearance of your muffin top and double chin.  Only when you get in the dressing room you realize that the shirt that looked so gorgeous on the hanger/mannequin is actually too short, and has a pretty intense pair of shoulder pads.  So instead of the cool look you were going for you look like you have the shoulders any linebacker would be envious of, and a food baby that you are so proud of that you want to show it off.  Hopefully that's not where you choose to throw in the towel because with some searching you will find that outfit that makes you look theory.  I've had to take a knee, and come back to the search again on a different day. (Clearly I need to listen to a little less NFL radio with Señor Hotness because I'm just chalk full of football references today.)  

This was the design equivalent to that.  This all started with garbage (the title to my biography someday I'm sure).  A year ago I found this really cool kind size bed frame that someone had left on the side of the road, and due to it being taken apart like an animal it wasn't useable as a bed frame anymore.  This one find has been the garbage that keeps on giving.  I have already used a piece to make something really cool for my formal living room.

The sweetest trash pile EVER!  I was having a morning walk when I came across this.  The bulk trash truck was in the neighborhood when I spotted this.  I've never finished up a mile so fast in my life!

The bulk trash truck and I went head to head, and I won because I'm awesome, and apparently swift when good garbage is involved.

So after lightly sanding down what I assume was once part of the headboard I gave it a coat of kilz spray primer.  Then I lightly sanded the primer layer, and followed that up with krylon white spray paint in a gloss.  I don't have any pictures of the process because the weather was sketchy at best, and I was playing chicken with the rain clouds.  So I sped through the process (as much as I was able), and didn't get any pictures.

Here it is after I'd distressed it. I used glaze tinted to a dark brown color called barista that I've been rocking for over 6 years now.  Then I got it hung in the breakfast nook.   It was better than the weird bare wall that was there, but still missing, something.

This is what I'm going to refer to its hipster phase (get it? because of the chunky black frames).  I thought that frames with pretty scrapbooking paper in it was a good idea.  Clearly I was mistaken.  This look only lasted about a week when I realized I didn't have an inner hipster to embrace. 

Then I remembered my garden burlap that I bought a while back at Lowes.  I still have a huge ton of this left.  It was the purchase that keeps on giving.

I used furniture mod podge in gloss to adhere the burlap to the surface.  I rolled it on with a small roller.

Then I used a pair of sharp scissors to trim around the edges.

I loved the texture that the burlap added, but it was still missing something.  It wasn't as boring, but it wasn't what I wanted.

Then there was this unfortunate little turn.  This also didn't last long.  I thought doing something fun with utensils would work great since it was in the breakfast nook, but alas no.  It just looked stupid and boring.  It wasn't awful looking, but didn't work with what I already had.

Then I had an epiphany.  The breakfast nook tends to be kind of dark.  So something mirrored would be a great way to reflect light, but it needed to seem random.  I didn't want it to be to matchy because that had tanked so very thoroughly in my past attempts at something awesome.

Then one day I was strolling through the local thrift shop, and came across these silver style platters.  These are usually easy to find in a variety of shapes, and sizes and are usually cheap.  I wasn't looking for a fine antique.  Just the look of one.  I was looking for something that had a formal look, but also something that was obviously aged and used.  It gives it instant character.  The little round plates are actually silver plated, but everything else I'm pretty sure started out its life as a dollar store platter.  I was okay with that.  I bought all of these for less than $4.50, and the effect was magical.

I love how it turned out.  The platters give it just the right amount of character, and the silver gives a very pleasing reflective surface for extra light.

Other than giving these a quick wash down for any serious grime I left all the awesome imperfections to contribute to the aged patina.  I just hot glued these directly onto the burlap surface.

Not everyone is a fan of the aged patina.  This is my two youngest "helpers" pointing out all the flaws on the platters.

In the end the randomness of the different shapes, and shiny platters on the textured burlap surface was a home run.  This is now one of my favorite pieces in my house.

So lets do a quick rundown of the cost of this project.

Architectural Feature Piece: free (garbage baby)
Burlap: free (left over from numerous projects, but if bought brand new it was $9.98)
Furniture Mod Podge: free (leftover from a previous project, but if purchased new it would be $10.63)
Silver Platters: $3.55 at a local thrift shop
GRAND TOTAL: $3.55 out of pocket

So after months of trial and error it only took me about 10 minutes, some thrift store finds, and hot glue to get the look I wanted.  That and a willingness to dig is someone's garbage pile. 


Monday, August 29, 2016

Saved From the Flood: Operation Dine Together

I feel like there is a fine line between sentimental trinkets and hoarding semi-precious crap, and its my job as a parent to help my kids learn the difference.   I just had to talk the 6 year old out of a candy wrapper because she thought it would be a perfect blanket for her fairy house.  She also has a collection of assorted sticked outside...again for the fairies.  I can't tell her that I'm the fairy, and as I am also her mother I don't want random pieces of trash and janky sticks hanging around.  If I were a betting woman I would guess the crack team of "creek turtles" will make off with her things outside...again.  We've been trying to catch them for months.  I digress

In our Texas house we had a massive kitchen island.  An 8 seater that we could have easily sat 12.  We had a smaller formal dining area, but didn't really need an actual large table for all of us since we usually all just ate at the island.  When we moved here to Louisiana our rental was beyond tiny for our 7 person family, but we just made do with our table (and it dwarfed the tiny eating area there...a feat for sure).  In this house we had planned on upgrading to a bigger table, but then put that off until our house sold.  Who wants to buy a new table just to have to move it out of state.  Now that we have decided to stay, our search for a table to fit us all, was back on.

As many of you are aware I am allergic to paying full price for anything.  Even on the rare occasions that I buy brand-new I wait until there is a sale, coupon, clearance, or its being discontinued.  I prefer finding awesome things at thrift shops, craigslist, Facebook groups, or literally picking it out of someones garbage pile.  It saves me a ton of money, gives my home a cool eclectic look, and gives me a reason to dig into a project.

I don't know if you've seen the extensive flooding in southern Louisiana here lately.  The devastation has been unbelievable.  In the spring, northern Louisiana had some serious flooding as well.  The property damage was also huge.  We were so lucky that our house didn't have any flooding, but I know people in the Monroe and Shreveport areas weren't so lucky.  This table came from a house in Monroe that had 3 feet of standing water in it during the spring floods.  I was able to get it for super cheap.  Which was great since it was from a house that had been under 3 feet of standing water.  Did I mention 3 feet of standing water?  

The previous owners had invested thousands of dollars on this table set.  It was a very high quality piece, but like most mass production pieces of furniture there is always areas where they cut costs.  On this piece it was the actual table top.  Absolutely every piece of this table was solid wood except for the table top (veneer and MDF) and some of the mounting pieces under the table.  In short the table top was complete garbage, but the rest of the frame was awesome, sturdy, high quality wood.

As always The Babe is down with posing for a photo opportunity.

It was only where the edge of the MDF was exposed, and there was no veneer, that it was vulnerable to water.  As you can see that was fairly devastating for the integrity of it.

The leaf was the worse piece.

Oh did I mention is came with 8 chippendale style chairs that are 100% solid wood, and absolutely beautiful?

The detail on the bottom portions of the table were gorgeous, and I wanted to save as much of that as I possibly could.  Spoiler alert...we save it all.  Because we are awesome, and humble.  We are humble, awesome people...clearly.

The table came from a doggy home, and this was the only piece that showed any kind of pet damage. Thankfully I was about to match the stain to at least camouflage the damage done by the pooch.  I've had experience doing that before.

With all the damage to the tabletop we knew when we bought it that it would need to be replaced with something new.  We had planned on doing a plywood top.  Ultimately we will be doing a super cool finish so the plywood is just a base.  I did really like the curves of the original top though.   So after we detached the top we flipped it on top of our plywood, and traced it to cut with our jig saw.

I absolutely loved the under edging of this table, and was super hopeful that I (and by I, I mean Señor Hotness) could remove it undamaged so that we could put it back on the new top.  Thank fully it all came right off, and was completely mold free.

And who said that a cute witch couldn't ride a push broom.

The Babe was eager to do her part to help out. 

I just want to address the elephant in the room.  Señor Hotness and I are twinning it with the project flip flops.  I'm not sure that that is the safest footwear to be wearing, but thats what I always wear during a project unless I straight up go barefoot.

The Babe wasn't loving the sound of the jig saw.

When we finished, we primed the bottom of the plywood to create a barrier for moisture to help prevent warping in the future.  While I'm not anticipating being impacted by a flood (who ever is) we do still live in Louisiana which means it is beyond humid here...pretty much year round (the mosquitos are horrid).  So better safe than sorry.

Ok so remember how this table sat in three feet of standing water?  Keeping that in mind I thought it best that I take the base pieces apart to fully clean everything.  That's when I came across this lovely bit of fuzz.  (Disclaimer: I was wearing a respirator mask, and plastic gloves at this point.  Don't play around with mold.)

So I mixed up mold cleanser in my pressure pump sprayer.   As per the instructions I used a bristle brush to really scrub it into the wood, and then let the cleanser dry on.  All the stained areas of the table cleaned off completely.  The only areas that had any remaining mold were in the unfinished areas of wood which were the parts that fit together, and aren't seen.

Luckily I had a special mold killing primer.  I only used this after I had thoroughly cleaned, and sanded the area.  The areas with the mold were hard to get to, and therefore hard to fully sand out the affected area.  Make sure that any primer you use to seal mold is MADE for mold, and contains a fungicide.

I was really wanting to preserve the original finish so I was super careful when I painted on the primer.  I only painted it on the raw unsealed areas which, luckily enough, was also the only remaining moldy areas.

All properly cleaned, sanded and sealed you can't even tell that I had that completely disassembled.

The underside pieces weren't all solid wood.  The parts that were, were made to slide to accommodate the leaf which we weren't going to be using anymore.  So instead of trying to make them work we opted to go with new parts.  Señor Hotness engineered a thick wood piece to make it all the proper height.

It fits wonderfully, and now we have a new sturdy piece to support our new top.  While Señor Hotness was getting this put together I was staining pooch scratches on the legs.  I took one of the legs with us on a Lowe's run, and was able to stain match this pretty closely.  Which turned out to be Red Chestnut from Minwax.  It blends so seamlessly you can't find the scratches unless looking.  

TA-DA!  Isn't it beautiful?  We also stained all the new undercounting pieces that are slightly visible from certain angles.  This is an 8 foot long table now, and will easily accommodate the 8 chairs.  The new top is top secret for now, but stay tuned for details on how we are going to finish out, not only the top but also chairs.

And lest you think we neglect our children when in the throws of project completion.  This is how we did homework that day.  

Here is a run down on the cost of this little project.

Table and 8 chairs--$100
High Quality 4x8 sheet of plywood--$32
Minwax Red Chestnut Stain (8 oz)--$5
Lumber used for new under supports--$51
Grand Total--$188

So because I was willing to take a chance on what most would view as garbage I will have a fantastically awesome, and quality piece of furniture to add to our home for less than $200.  I will be honest and say it took a ton of sweat equity, but for something of this caliber it will be completely worth it in the end.  So don't be worried to take a change on something dicey, and get out there and make something pretty.

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