Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

September 30, 2014

How to Spray Paint Plastic Lawn Chairs

The previous homeowners left us a pair of plastic lawn chairs but I didn't love the beige, so I decided to try spray painting plastic!  It turns out that it's easy to spray paint plastic and painting my beige plastic lawn chairs immediately made them look crisp and new.

Here's a peek at our "new" aqua lawn chairs!

How to Paint Lawn Furniture

And here's what they looked like before:

Painting plastic is nearly identical to painting other surfaces.  Although many Rust-Oleum paint products can be applied without a primer - or include a built-in primer - it was recommended that these chairs be primed first.  I cheated and used a Rustoleum paint + primer combo in flat white as my first coat, because that's what I had on hand.  Other than that, the steps for painting plastic were simple!

How to Paint Plastic Chairs:
  • Scrub the chairs with Mr. Clean.  I used Q-tips to really get into the corners (there was a lot of gunk on these).
  • Rinse with a garden hose to thoroughly remove soap and let dry.
  • Using multiple, thin coats apply the primer.
  • With one hour (or after 24) apply multiple, thin coats of paint (I chose Painter's Touch in Satin Aqua).

Review of Rust-Oleum Spray Paint on Plastic

Tips and Tricks for Painting Plastic Chairs:

I didn't flip the chairs over to paint the undersides, because they will never be seen.  Instead, I painted what could be seen underneath the seat with a few blasts of spray paint.  These new-fangled spray cans that can spray in any direction are excellent for speeding up a project because instead of flipping a piece of furniture back and forth (and wasting paint on the bottom), I just crouched down and sprayed upwards to cover what's visible of the underneath area.  So easy!!  I did make sure, however, to spray the backs, under the arms and the insides of the legs thoroughly.  It's definitely an aerobic activity making sure that the surface is evenly covered from all angles. 

Although this paint dried quickly - it was dry to the touch in an hour - it takes a bit longer for paint to fully cure on plastic (about a week), so I made sure to set these chairs aside to ensure they could cure in peace. 

Unlike metals and woods, there's always a chance that not all plastics will accept paint well, but these turned out perfectly.

Aqua Lawn Chairs
Summer Project: Spray Paint Lawn Furniture
Tips for Painting Plastic
Can you paint plastic lawn chairs?
How to spray paint plastic

It took one can of primer and three cans of paint.  The only reason I required so much paint was all of the nooks and crannies at the back of my chair!  Plus it was a kind of windy day.  Every day on the lake is a windy day, so sometimes I don't even notice.  A simpler chair and calmer weather would require far less, I'm sure. Time-wise, it took less than an hour (including scrubbing, but not including dry time).

How to Spray Paint Plastic Lawn Chairs by @danslelakehouse

The former owners left all kinds of goodies behind.  Did you catch Szuka and Handy Hubby in the paddle boat we unearthed last week?  I shared an adorable photo on Instagram but I'll admit something just to you: the whole boat ride Szuka was pretty calm as we paddled back and forth close to shore.  She leaned against our backs, which was so cute.  I hopped out and Hubby paddled away so I could snap a photo.  She started to fuss and fuss and fuss and ... SPLOOSH - found herself in the water.  Seconds after she hit the water, she was already booking it to shore.  The girl can paddle.  I'm not even sure the top of her head got wet, thanks to her awesome doggy life jacket.  Once she made it to shore, she looked at me like, "we're both safe, but what about him? Who cares about him? Let's escape while we can" and she took off toward the house, looking back to make sure I was behind her. 

Large Dog in a Life Jacket on a Paddleboat

Special thanks to Rust-Oleum for providing the product for this makeover and many more upcoming projects!

September 26, 2014

Deck Makeover, Part II - Staining Pressure-Treated Wood

Last week I showed you how I prepped the deck for staining and now...drumroll's a look at the deck with its lovely new coat of Cape Cod Grey:

As a refresher, here is the deck pre-stain and post-scrub:

And a side-by-side comparison, for fun:

I originally had a genius idea for the stain: I wanted to find a really close match to our walnut-stained maple hardwood flooring so it would look like the house extended outside.  When I looked at stain samples, however, my bubble was burst because the closest matches just looked really drab (and really red). 

No problem, I had a plan B: a pale, driftwood grey.  Something about this fresh lake air has me wanting everything to look driftwood-y, have you noticed?  The plan for kitchen counters (but luckily the white worked better), and then the credenza top... I'm really feeling grey right now.  I also figured that grey stain would be forgiving and hide any irregularities in how the wood absorbed the stain, because there isn't too great a contrast between the unstained wood and the grey stain.  If a little natural wood peeked through...meh.

I decided that variations would only enhance the (artfully) weathered, driftwood look I wanted.  Genius, right?  A design scheme that lends itself well to colossal screw ups!  Unfortunately, I didn't account for the stain complementing the existing exterior because I had hoped we'd have time to paint the house almost-black this year.  I'm not loving the grey with the concrete faux stone, but it doesn't loo bad either.  Hopefully next spring a darker exterior will materialize and my plan will come together.

At that point I'll also garden a bit (what's a weed?) and then (more excitingly) style the deck a bit!  The thought of sewing outdoor pillows and accessorizing will keep me going through the winter.  We pushed our patio table to the side and use the built-in bench in lieu of some of the chairs because this way it's functional but doesn't block a view.  Positioned elsewhere it's all we saw.  Plus this way we have room for our patio loungers for weekend reading!

I chose CIL brand Exterior wood stain (in semi-transparent), from Canadian Tire, and was pleased with the application.  It took almost three gallons and three days to apply the stain, however, so I only got one coat on.   The maximum applications recommended is two coats.

There are some variations in the stain intensity, but that's 100% attributed to my application and the wood.  A second coat would even out the stain, but it would be more opaque.  I'm going to leave it, and possibly apply another coat next season.  We've had some rainfall recently, and the stain is causing water to bead up on the deck.  This means it's working well to protect the wood, so I'm beaming with pride.    

Once again, here's the before:

Applying the stain was straightforward: I just brushed it on with a large brush, keeping a wet edge and working in small sections.  The stain had a nice consistency: not too thick, not too drippy.  It was easy to clean up (just soap and water).  We used three brushes: a big thick wide one, a 2" angled brush, and one with a super short handle for tight spots.  This combo was ideal.

We also tried the Wagner Deck Mate stain applicator and it was terrible!!  No matter how much I fiddled with the settings, the stain either gushed out or barely flowed.  The pad made it streaky and uneven.  I was so disappointed, but it was a valuable life lesson: in DIY, as in life, there are no short cuts!

I did figure out some tips (most of them near the end), so hopefully next time I stain the deck it will go even more smoothly:

  • The best time to stain a deck is spring or fall when the humidity is low and it's not scorchingly hot.  If it's too hot or humid, the stain might dry too quickly (or slowly), ruining the finish
  • Having a small broom is handy to brush out debris from the cracks - even if the deck was recently cleaned and swept 
  • Starting on the most tedious sections (while energy levels are high) makes this task easier
  • To stain railings, having one person applying the stain to the front and another on the opposite side works well because each can catch the others' drips - this makes the railing process go a lot more smoothly
  • Working away from the house seems like common sense but it's easy to loose sight of an exit strategy in the heat of the moment
  • Working in long sections - the entire length of a few boards, not 1/3 of the length of 6+ boards at once would ensure a more even application (I learned this on the second last board)
  • Buying a set of cushy knee pads isn't a waste of money
  • Following the manufacturer's instructions to the letter is always a good idea!

I'm happy!  The deck looks fresher.  And hopefully the deck will last longer with this protective coat (which will protect against rot, mildew, cracking, and more).  One thing I hadn't thought about was how much the grey would brighten the house from inside.  It reflects more light inside (if that's possible), which makes me think a darker stain would have had the opposite effect, so I'm even happier my walnut-stain idea was dead in the water.

We still need to re-build the deck step and next year I'm going to paint the lattice black so it fades into the abyss that is the space beneath the deck.  Oh yeah, and garden...

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Canadian Tire.  With the help of my local Canadian Tire paint department, all products were chosen by me.  I was not encouraged to choose a certain brand or use certain products.  I was not asked to provide a review of any of the products used.  I was simply asked to stain my deck and show it off!  All opinions and editorial decisions are my own.  

P.S. I'm over at Cuckoo 4 Design, gabbing about Szuka for Julia's famed Living Pretty with Your Pets series!
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September 24, 2014

Hiding Lamp Cords inside Furniture

How to deal with lamp cords

Lamp cords + furniture have long stumped me.  Many years ago I read an article that exposed decorating magazine tricks, like taping lamp cords to furniture for photos or photoshopping them out completed.  I felt cheated!  And deflated.  If the design experts and interior decorators of the world couldn't show us how to actually deal with unsightly cords, I figured it was impossible.  After we welded Hubby's desk, a genius reader asked if we could our fit lamp cords through the hollow square tube legs.  We couldn't, but that's when it dawned on me: if we were making/DIYing our own furniture, why weren't we creating secret spots for lamp cords?!?  If we had chosen wider tubing, the reader's suggestion would have been totally feasible.  It definitely got me thinking.  The dining room credenza was our first opportunity to create a cord solution.  As you already saw, we drilled holes through our DIY wood top and threaded the lamp cords down into the unit, and out of sight.

How to hide lamp cords in furniture

What you didn't see was the inside of the cabinet:

Put lamp cords inside of furniture
Ikea hack: hide funiture cords inside Besta units

To manage the cords, which are threaded to the outlet behind the centre unit, Handy Hubby drilled a 1.25" hole (using a hole saw) between the Besta units.  Using a jigsaw, he then notched out the back of the two shelves in the centre unit to allow the cords to be routed down the back and to the outlet positioned conveniently behind the wall-mounted credenza.

Dealing with lamp cords

Honestly, I stop and admire our floating credenza daily, because it just looks so polished.  Normally I nitpick and eventually find fault with our projects, but the credenza is still in my good books.  Recently we added furniture grommets to complete the look!  Furniture grommets are just little caps that slide into a hole and make it look tidy, similar to the function of fabric grommets.  The grommets we bought (from Lowe's) were so easy to install: we just pushed them into the hole.  Done.

Silver furniture grommets

When Hubby and I build a desk for the office, we're going to do something similar and cut holes for all of our cords and hide them somewhere inside.  Next time, though, I'm going to order the grommets before we make holes.  It seemed like 1.5" was a common size for grommets, so we made the holes that size.  When I went to actually order them, weeks after putting the top on the credenza, I realized that many of the available 1.5" grommets looked more appropriate for an office conference table.  The sleek, metal ones I wanted were all a different size.  (You know, for someone with a PhD, sometimes I really bomb in the areas of research and preparation).  I was thrilled when I finally tracked down these silver plastic ones at Lowe's.  They were $17.00 for the pair, which I thought was a bit steep for two plastic rings (and they're not even turquoise!), but they look great and don't feel cheap, so I think they were worth the price.  And the six hour drive to Minneapolis, MN to pick them up.

If you're going to add furniture grommets, find the ones you want before you drill the holes.  The styles and sizes really vary, but there is an abundance online.  This pair is cute and so is this one.

Decorator trick: hiding lamp cords
How to hide lamp cords
Sleek and modern furniture grommets

Do dangling lamp cords ever bother you?  Do you have any fabulous suggestions?  I'm on the hunt for more ideas!
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September 18, 2014

Deck Makeover, Part I - Prepping Pressure-Treated Wood for Stain

I had grand plans for the lakehouse exterior this summer: paint the exterior house doors and the garage doors aqua, paint the house exterior and garage exterior nearly-black, paint the guesthouse door and trim, stain the main deck, stain the guesthouse deck, and avoid gardening at all cost.

I think that I was most successful at avoiding gardening.  I did, however, also manage to slap a coat of grey stain on the deck just before the cold weather set in.  Whew - just under the wire!  It proved surprisingly tricky to find a suitably sunny stretch of days in which to stain the deck.  You never realize how much rain you're getting until you need a minimum of three sunny days in a row.  I naively thought the deck might take a couple of days to prep and stain, but in the end our schedule looked more like this:

Day One: Prep the deck (instructions below) - Hubby and I worked together.
Days Two-Six: Wait for the weather to clear up.
Day Seven: Sunny day! Stain the railings, part of the stairs, part of one bench - Hubby and I worked together but got so little done.
Days Eight-Twelve: Vacation (poorly planned).
Day Nineteen: Finally, another sunny day! Stain the main area of the deck - Me alone, sigh.
Day Twenty: Finish up the other bench and stairs - Mom took Hubby's place on deck duty with me.
Days Twenty One-Twenty Two: Soak my finger in epsom salt to help release a super deep, super large splinter.
Day Twenty-Three: It worked!!  The epsom salt was incredibly stingy, but softened the skin and brought the sliver to the surface for removal.  Oh yeah, and the deck looks okay too.

Currently I still need to touch up a few areas but it's been so cold at night that I'm worried it won't dry properly.  All in all, it took four days of actual labour to prep and stain the deck - three of those days required two hands on deck (sorry, couldn't resist).  I really think the deck could use a second coat, but I can always add another coat in the spring.  I'll show you the finished deck soon, but first we need to mow the lawn because we've "forgotten" to do that for the past four weeks and it's looking really disheveled.  After what we did to the front yard, I can't show you the back yard in its current state.  I just can't.  In the meantime, here are the details on how we prepped the deck.  And hey, dragging out the deck staining story will really help draw you, the reader, in and recreate the frustrating, delayed gratification I experienced as this task dragged on and on.  This is an advanced creative writing technique, I'm sure of it.

Before we did any type of surface prep, we removed the step leading from the house to the deck.  When the railing had been added for the elderly former occupant, the stairs had been cut to accommodate it.  The railing was a hassle and an eyesore for us, but to remove it we had to jettison the entire step.  We plan to re-build it and will stain it to match the deck (if possible).

In the photo above, and the truly incriminating photo below (I stopped feeding them last year, I promise), you can also see how weathered and sad the deck was. 

Our deck is pressure-treated wood that was installed about 13 years ago.  New pressure treated wood can have a high moisture content and needs to dry out properly before staining/painting, but because ours was so old that wasn't a concern.  It was treated with some kind of clear finish, but had really taken a beaten and much of the finish had worn off.  The wood was very dry and weathered, with some discoloration.  Pressure-treated wood can have a green tint, but it also seemed like we also had some mildew.  It was advised that we sand the whole thing by the pros at Canadian Tire but that seemed like soooo much work, so we made the executive decision to skip sanding.  Instead, we scrubbed extra thoroughly using the deck cleaner they recommended.

After the step was removed, I swept the deck really well but because our deck was built with the boards rammed up against each other (dude who built this house did not understand wood expansion), a lot of debris was stuck in the crevice between the boards.  After my best sweeping attempt, I used Rez Deck Cleaner to clean and prepare the deck for staining.  This deck cleaner cleans, brightens, and restores weathered wood surfaces.  I learned that the grey tinge of weathered wood is actually a layer of dead wood fibers that need to be removed, which this cleaner does.  If our deck had previously been stained a different colour, I could have used Rez Deck Stripper instead (but I probably wouldn't have been so glib about skipping sanding).  The type of wood, its condition, whether it's been stained/treated before, if it's weathered, etc., all impact the best course of action for prepping a deck so make sure to chat with a pro at your local paint department for advice tailored to your deck if refinishing it is on your to-do list.

If using a deck cleaner like this one is part of the preparation system recommended for you, here's my experience:

  • Put on thick rubber gloves, rubber boots, and eye protection
  • Protect vegetation by hosing it down with water (keep pets away)
  • Wet the deck with a hose
  • Dilute the deck cleaner, as per the manufacturer's instructions
  • Using a mop, broom, or paint roller, slop on the cleaner evenly and let it sit for 15 minutes
  • [Optional, but I did this] re-apply the deck cleaner to keep the deck wet
  • After another 15 minutes, scrub with a rough bristled brush 
  • My tip: keep a bucket of water nearby to clean your bristle brush of goo
  • Rinse thoroughly with a hose
  • Allow to dry for at least 24 hours before applying stain

At first it didn't seem like it was working, but when I started scrubbing with my brush I realized that a lot of grey goo and film was coming off.  My water bucket was immediately filthy so I kept re-filling it to make cleaning off the brush easier.  I scrubbed and scrubbed and rinsed and rinsed (the 3.78 L jug was more than enough for our deck).  I didn't use a pressure washer because I was advised that it could soak the wood too much, so I just used a garden hose.  It worked out well because I initially tried to stealthily steal my Dad's pressure washer but his theft-deterrent practice is to store pieces of his tools and equipment elsewhere, and without the missing piece we couldn't use it so stealing it seemed futile.  We were actually looking for the piece for so long, that he came home and caught us red-handed so we politely hauled it back to the garage and added a pressure washer to our sale watch list at Canadian Tire.

After cleaning, the deck did look much brighter and much less grey.  Not that Szuka gives a damn.  She gets a little peeved anytime we have the gall to go outside without her.

The deck definitely absorbed the stain nicely, so I think the cleaning process was a success - although only time will tell how the stain holds up and whether or not it begins to peel.  I'll share the completed deck makeover soon (you caught a sneak peek on Instagram).  Provided we don't get snow this week, I may have an aqua patio chair makeover to go with it.

Disclosure:  I partnered with Canadian Tire for this project.  I was not asked or prompted to provide a positive review of any products used for preparing or staining the deck.
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September 16, 2014

Bearly a Problem

It's embarrassing to admit, but when we first moved from the city to our rural lakehouse, I was scared out of my gourd.  The woods - at night! - tops the list of my irrational fears.  A lifetime of scary movies has taught me that bad things happen in the wood at night.  Shortly before the move, we started watching The Walking Dead, and that's when I learned that the woods can be terrifying during the day too.  The episode in which Hershel's idyllic, country farm is overrun by walkers hit a little too close to home and that's when I stopped watching.  Only recently have I been able to come home in the dark without spending half an hour parked in the driveway, petrified with fear of what's lurking outside and trying to screw up the courage to open the door.  I can now stand on the deck at night while Szuka does her evening perimeter check/pee, instead of cowering inside with all of the lights on.  When something goes bump in the night I'm not immediately drenched in sweat, certain that my untimely demise is imminent.

Photo Source
Despite the bevy of irrational fears that have shaped my experience of country life, I haven't - until recently - been afraid of more plausible threats, like bears.  I've seen black bears, here and there, but I always felt safe in my backyard because black bears, we're told, tend to avoid people.  Predatory black bear attacks, although horrific and gruesome when they happen, are really very rare.  Still, habituated bears - those that are accustomed to humans and aren't afraid - are worrisome.

Photo Source
Recently I shared a photo on Instagram of one of our apple trees with a branch ripped almost clean off.  I suspected a bear, and it was confirmed last week when a neighbour anxiously banged on our front door to let us know a bear was in our apple tree, high among the branches, and refusing to budge.  He eventually ran off, but she was really concerned by how unfazed he was by our presence.

The neighbour told me someone else in the area had been confronted by a giant, 200+ lb black bear, who determinedly, yet slowly, approached her while she was out walking.  She in turn slowly backed away but he followed, so she tried to make herself big and tall and noisy but still he confidently moved toward her (probably not unlike the curious bear in this video).  He was only scared away by a passing truck.

This description sounded eerily like what might happen before a predatory attack.  For the first time, I became afraid of what's actually lurking out there, in the woods.  I felt somewhat safe because Szuka is always by my side (and she's a big girl), but then I read that dogs can be the worst around bears: some run up to a bear and nip it, then turn around and run back to their owner with the bear in hot pursuit.  Szuka, still just an adolescent and fun-loving pup, is goofy enough to do that.

Illustration Source
I decided to do a little research and see what I could do - in addition to buying bear bangers and bear spray, which I stocked up on - to keep bears away (plus what to do in the case of an encounter!).  The number one rule for keeping safe in bear country?  Hide food sources (garbage, compost, etc).  That's kind of a no-brainer, and despite my former penchant for fox-feeding, we've been diligent about not leaving food out.  I have no idea what possessed the former owner to plant two juicy apple trees between the house and the garage.  But then I saw this photo of a woman feeding a black bear and I realized that sometimes smart people just do stupid things.

Photo Source
We had been meaning to chop the trees down, but last fall there were no confirmed signs of bears coming to our yard (we thought we saw bear poop, but now I'm not so sure), and so it hadn't seemed urgent.  Plus, we liked the leafy privacy they afforded.  Well, it turns out that last year there was a big bear hunt in the area that eradicated the bears, but without an organized hunt this year, more black bears began appearing.

A couple of Instagram friends told me we could interrupt the fruit cycle and still keep the trees.  I thought that might be a good idea but suddenly the fruit tree removal seemed very urgent.  The persistent little black bear started appearing daily and I was worried he'd bring bigger, even bolder friends.  Even though he's small, I knew that he could still do damage if provoked - especially if he took a swipe at Szuka.  He tended to appear around the time we went outside to play fetch - and I started to wonder how many times he'd been only a few feet away without us realizing.  One night I decided to read about every fatal bear attack in North America in the last hundred years, and it had me wishing for a comforting episode of The Walking Dead.  Did you know that a woman was mauled to death in her kitchen when a black bear burst through her window and attacked her?!?  Hubby and I decided, definitively, that the trees needed to go.  Right now.  Luckily, my father-in-law was kind enough to drop what he was doing and come by with a chainsaw.  He expertly cut down the trees (digging up the ground around them so the sawed off stump won't protrude) and then we bagged up all of the apples.  I still need to cut down and dispose of the heap of branches, but the larger chunks of wood we'll dry out and burn.  We mourned the apple trees a little, and the heap of brush has certainly not added curb appeal, but I feel a lot better now that the lure of delicious applies is gone.

The bear will still come back for a bit, out of habit, until he realizes that the apple buffet has officially closed.  The neighbours have blueberries that have yet to ripen so it's entirely possible that he'll still be hanging around the area, snacking.  Hopefully, though, no additional bears will be drawn to our yard because we never leave out anything tasty.  At least by the time our little guest grows to his full size, our apple trees will be a distant memory.  In the meantime, I'm not going outside without bear bangers and bear spray, plus I've put a giant bell on Szuka's collar so we don't accidentally crash a teddy bear picnic.

See ya, little guy.
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