Monday, January 31, 2011

As Seen on TV

I have a little confession to make:  I really love infomercials.  I don't mean that I love buying from infomercials, in fact I haven't bought a thing, but for some reason I've always enjoyed watching infomercials.  Something about the over-the-top "acting" and miraculous, change your life inventions have always kept me infatuated.  That being said, I rarely believe the hype and mark most of it down as just good marketing, at least effective marketing.

Becca and I dedicated this weekend to cleaning and staging the house for her friend Megan to come by and take some pictures for the future home website (Coming Soon).  One of the many things on my list was to clean the bathroom floors and see if I could get them looking any better with minimal work.  So when I started scanning the internet for a solution for cleaning grout in tile floors I was a little hesitant to believe that oxygen bleach, the main ingredient in one of infomercials' favorite sons: Oxi Clean, was the hands-down favorite of many bloggers out there.  However, I'm no professional cleaner and when the internet tells me to use Oxi Clean who am I to doubt, so I gave it a try.  All I can say is WOW!  Oxi Clean really did clean the grout and did it rather easily.  With just a little of time and even less elbow grease our dingy dark grey grout was a bright white; a color I had quite literally never seen out of our floors.  I was thoroughly impressed.

There is a lot of information out there on how to do this, but this is the route I took.  Sweep or vacuum your floors to get rid of any excess dust.  Mix one ounce of Oxi Clean for every two cups of warm water in a bucket.  Take some type of stir stick and mix it real well because it won't just dissolve on its own.  Use a measuring cup with a spout (my choice) or a turkey baster to liberally poor the mixture along the grout lines making sure the entire surface is covered.   Depending on the size of the room your cleaning you may break it up into a few sections and only poor in one section at a time.  I found it easiest if I didn't poor any further than I could reach from in one spot.  Once the mixture is down walk away and let it sit for 5-15 minutes depending on how dirty it is.

When you come back make sure you have a bucket of warm, clean water, some type of wash rag, a scrub brush, and a big dry towel.  You could use an old tooth brush but I sprung for the grout brush at Lowe's and I think it was worth the money.  Take the brush and dip it in the Oxi Clean mixture and then start scrubbing the grout.  It really shouldn't take much work, just scrub it a few times and move on.  I usually stuck to about 4sq feet at a time of scrubbing and then take your rag soaked with the clean water and wipe up the mixture where you just finished scrubbing.  As you do you should see that the grout you just scrubbed is perfectly clean.  Rinse the rag out and continue until most of the mixture has been mopped up.  Then take your towel and dry where you just finished cleaning.

That's it.  Just continue this process a section at a time and in no time you should have wonderfully clean tile floors.  I've got some pictures below that gives you a better idea of the before and after.  It truly amazed me.  Stay tuned to this site where we'll soon be posting more pictures of the house along with website for the house once we put it up for sale.  It's coming quickly.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Great Wall

Another project that's been a long time in the making is our landscaping around the house. We were very lucky that when we bought the house there were already several shrubs and other plants the previous owner had put in. However, they used the black plastic bordering that I see so often and I always thought it could look much better. So two summers ago I set out to start redoing the landscaping so that when we were finally ready to sell I knew it would look great. I also knew it would be a little expensive so I wanted to spread out the project a little bit.

So that summer I consulted the help of my friend Tim Yoder, owner of Yoder's Lawn & Landscape, to help me out. Fortunately for me, Tim's wife Ashleigh needed me to distract him while she set up for his surprise birthday party.  I was able to get Tim to come over and help spend the day designing and building the whole front of the house's landscaping wall. It turned out wonderful, as you can see in the pictures, plus Tim gave me some great lessons on how to build a good landscaping wall. Later that summer I finished the front yard up by adding weed-guard, some mulch, and few new plants based on the recommendation of Yoder.

This last summer, with prospects of selling the house coming up quickly, I decided to finish what I had started and complete the wall around the side and back of the house. I didn't want to bother Tim again with a bunch of free manual labor, so I ventured into this part of the project on my own. Needless to say, it took a lot longer than the front yard, but as I got a few free hours here and there I just kept chugging along block by block. By the end of the summer I had finally finished up and with a few trips to add mulch I was finally finished. I'm really happy with the end result and know that at the very least the project has added some serious curb appeal. If anybody wants any pointers feel free to ask in the comments. Or if you'd prefer the easy way, just give Tim a call and I can guarantee he'll have it done faster than two years.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mount Saint Oak Tree

In this spot once stood the eighth wonder of the natural world: a massive pile of leaves that I would argue could have been the largest in residential Springfield. Known as Olympus to the squirrel gods in the neighborhood, the mound stood, at its pinnacle, nearly 5 feet tall with a base of 24 by 21 feet. I did a little math, as I often do, and figured that's over 1000 cubic feet or almost 7500 gallons of leaves! That's a lot of compost.

The reason for this suburban monstrosity is really two fold. One of the best things about our current home is that we have over 30 mature trees on our property. These serve for wonderful shade and low utility bills in the summer and a beautiful looking landscape all year round. However they also provide a variable monsoon of foliage every fall. In years past I've tried everything from raking, blowing, mulching, mowing, burning, and bagging. With Becca and I starting a garden a couple of springs ago I decided to keep a hold of some of the leaves and begin a compost pile to provide us with some good soil. Well over those last few years we accumulated more than we could possibly decompose in my life time.

Fast forward now to this fall when I came to the realization that no self-respecting home buyer is going to want to purchase a house with the mecca of arborist sitting in their backyard. So, as my oh-so-patient wife has pointed out in our other blog here, I have been spending a lot of time in the yard trying to both mange the current crop of deciduousness while also trying to chip away at the existing mighty monolith. At times the battle seemed feudal as the rate of leaves coming in to the pile was greater than that going out, but in the end I did prevail. This weekend, with a welcome December warm spell, I managed to burn the last bits of the pile and check one more thing off my list. With our new lot being completely bare of any trees at this point I can honestly say that I'm going to really miss the shady summer afternoons, but when fall comes around I'll be happy spending the afternoons inside with my family instead of battling an army of foliage outside.

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