It was always our dream to build a firepit.  We had a ton of bricks leftover from when the french doors were put in and thought it would be cool to use them for the firepit.  Neither of us had ever laid brick before – we figured it couldn’t be that difficult.

We poured a concrete pad on the ground, which was about 18 inches below the deck floor.  We used concrete block to build the firepit walls up to the deck level.  From that point we used 4″ block for the interior of the firepit and brick for the exterior.

I don’t think we would ever try to lay brick for something structural or taller than a few feet.  But for a firepit that is only a couple feet tall it looks great.

Getting started - you can see the hole in the deck that we built the firepit up and out of.

Miriam is toiling away in the hot sun. It was my job to keep the mortar wet and take photos.

Masonry block is in place. Laying the first course of brick.


The first time we used the firepit. It kept the deck from burning down so I suppose it was a success.


Building a deck was high on our list of things to do.  The big things we wanted to include were different levels, space for a large table (or two), and a firepit.  We had to go big to fit all that in.  I think the deck will always be a work in progress – a year after we first built it we are still making changes.  We added steps from the lowest level to the yard a few weeks ago and right now are in the process of redoing the railing around the upper level.

The deck is framed with 2×12’s and 2×8’s.  With the exception of the upper level of the deck we did not use any posts – we leveled all our pilings with each other.  From there it was easy to lay our 2×12’s down and start framing.

We used composite decking for the floor.  We went with the Home Depot house brand, Veranda.  It was almost half the price of the Trex.  The downside is that the colors are not as rich.  We did the deck in gray with red trim.  A year later the colors have faded a lot – I’m not sure if this is common to all composite decking or only the cheaper brands.

The beginning - rough framing of Monster Deck

We used over 1,200 linear feet of board and 2,000 joist hanger nails for the frame.

We used red for the edging. Thankfully my uncles provided help screwing in all the planks. Even with four people helping out it still took a few days.

We built a deck bridge out to the gate. Previously there were steps inside the gate that became a muddy mess in the rain.

Living Room

May 16, 2010

The living room has been a work in progress for a long, long time.  It started out with wood paneling everywhere.  We eventually decided to paint the paneling from the chair rail down white.  We removed the rest.  We bumped out an area above the fireplace to mount a TV and rebuilt the mantle using pieces of the old crown moulding.

The living room has been one of the biggest projects we have tackled.  The triangles on the upper parts of the walls had to be drywalled, mudded, painted, and trimmed with moulding.

I wired the room for surround sound.  All the wires to the TV are hidden in the walls.  There are coax and HDMI hookups for the cable box, DVD, Stereo, etc on each side of the room.  In hindsight I should have run all the wires to a media closet in another room.  Live and learn.

My Dad and Brad getting ready to destroy some wood paneling

Wood paneling gone, starting the framing of the area for the TV mount

My Mom handled the wallpaper removal in the triangles. no one has fallen off a ladder yet!

Aaaaand the finished product! We had the ceilings painted white to brighten the room. That's me sleeping on the couch - taking a rest after a year of hard work.

Here's one more shot, minus the TV. We've had it in the basement while the hardwood floors were being refinished.

Kitchen Backsplash

May 16, 2010

We thought we’d go a little fancy with the backsplash.  Rather than doing something traditional like granite or ceramic tile we went with stainless steel and copper subway tiles.  Copper was used in the kitchen with a stainless steel detail above the stove.  We continued the tiles around the corner, over the breakfast bar, and into the living room.  As the tiles wrap around the corner they switch from copper to stainless steel.  The copper did not look too hot with the purple living room walls.

Cutting the tiles was not something we had give much thought to.  We ended up buying a bandsaw for the project.  The most difficult part was where the tiles wrapped around the outside corners.  I notched a triangle in the top and bottom edges of the tile and cut away some of the backing.  This let me bend the tiles in a fairly straight line.

Since you don’t need grout with the metal tiles there is no way to hide areas where tiles don’t meet up perfectly.  Most of the tiles fit together nice and snug.  Just don’t get too close and you won’t notice the tiles with spaces between them…

Stainless steel squares in the rectangle, copper tiles elsewhere

Looking sharp, eh?

We continued the tile around the corner into the living room

Happy Thanksgiving

December 1, 2008

We lost the battery chargers for both of our cameras during the move.  Our batteries died a couple of weeks ago so we haven’t been able to take any photos.  We broke down on black Friday and bought a new camera.  Even though this week had the holiday we managed to get a lot done.  Almost all of the drywall is up and most of the taping and mudding is done.  Bob has gotten all of the wiring in and our lights even work – although we have to plug the bare wire into an outlet to make it work.  Light switches next week!

I'm in the pantry!

I'm in the pantry!

Miriam has become an expert at doing drywall

Miriam has become an expert at doing drywall

Brian and I installing hardwood floors in the pantry and fridge alcove

Brian and I installing hardwood floors in the pantry and fridge alcove

My expert electrical work

My expert electrical work

We have A Gate!

September 30, 2008

The air conditioning is broken at work so it has been very hot in the office this week.  I couldn’t take it anymore so I left early today.  I spent a couple hours in the afternoon working on the fence and I got our first gate (mostly) up.  This is a very exciting development and it was great practice for the big double gate opening over the driveway that we will be tackling this weekend.

This gate is the most exciting thing to happen to me since we moved in

This gate is the most exciting thing to happen to me since we moved in

Almost there…

September 28, 2008

The weather this past weekend was rainy and miserable.  We didn’t let that stop us – we only had 17 posts to put up and weren’t about to let some crummy weather get in our way!  By Sunday afternoon we had all the posts set in the ground.  What a wonderful feeling to finally be done with the posts.  We finished with the posts early enough to start putting up panels.  Next weekend I think we’ll be able to finish the fence entirely – especially if we have help again.

My Mom and Dad came over and helped out again – they put up a bunch of beams together and then split up to tackle separate projects.  My Mom worked on clearing back the bamboo again and my Dad worked on removing wallpaper inside.

One day this week Dee Dee’s friend Cara is coming by to work on our front yard.  She has a landscaping company and Dee Dee has hired her (thanks Dee Dee!) to tackle the yard.  She is going to remove the boxwoods lining the walk, cut down dead branches on the big willow oaks, get rid of all the weeds, and generally make it a much nicer place.

Looks very fence-like

Looks very fence-like


A shot of the finished french doors - I don/'t think I/'ve showed this yet

A shot of the finished french doors - I don't think I've shown this yet


wallpaper removal at it's finest!

wallpaper removal at it's finest!