Author Archives: Matt

I Need My Space

The thing about having a baby is that suddenly your house starts to feel REEEAAAALLL small. No room to store bikes, beach stuff, tools… and suddenly everything is scattered throughout the house because someone lost his workshop. And lets not mention the leftover building supplies that have taken over the new bathroom. The house has become a real mess.

Soon after we bought the house we put a small metal shed in our backyard. It was just big enough to fit a small snowblower and a lawnmower. Not much else. Here’s a picture of the shed during our the build of our addition. (That’s it over there on the left hand side).


Realizing that we were out of space, we decided to move forward with building a shed. The big box stores have pre-built sheds, but they are expensive, even without adding in the floor, and they aren’t built that great. I knew that if I could find the time, I could build something that would last much longer and do it at half the cost. We decided to build a 7’x12′ saltbox. Why 7′? Because 8′ seemed too big, and 6′ seemed too small. And I didn’t want to part with that dear burning bush in the back yard.

The first step was to move the old shed out of the way and start building the base. Fortunately, I had help that day.


Free help. And he brought his own tools.

I decided to build the shed on a 2×6 pressure treated frame. Working around the roots from a nearby tree turned out to be a chore but I made it work. The final height of the shed sits a bit higher than I had hoped because of it, but not a big deal. I should have mentioned that as a disclaimer, I have no professional training in this, so I’m not saying that the way that I built it is correct. I’m just saying that…. I built it.


DIY tip: Always have a level handy.

The frame went together fairly easily. If you’ve ever built a deck, its essentially the same thing. The floor joists and decking all went on without too much trouble.


Floor joists were 16″OC, and I also used joist hangers to make the job a bit faster.

With guidance from my brother, I decided to frame the walls laying flat and then stand them up in place. I also sided the back wall at the same time because it was so close to the fence. This saved me from a big headache later on.


My friend Dave offering some assistance on the front wall.

Framing walls is fairly straight forward once you get into the swing of things. We’re using 2x4s here where the kits that Lowe’s and Home Depot sell usually are built with 2x3s. I suggest pricing out your lumber wherever you can. I found that I could save a bunch by shopping around and don’t feel afraid to ask for a price match either.

Once the walls were in place and sided it was time to move on to the rafters. A saltbox shed has a more complex roof but I think it adds to the detail. The highest point of the shed is around 8′. That leaves plenty of space for storage and headroom. Rafters are a bit more difficult to figure out and install. It will go much quicker of you have a second person around to help out.

I found that the easiest way to build the rafters was to start off with a top ridge like I have below. This way I can just set the rafters against the ridge and nail them in place.


I’ll offer a word of advice here, and it’s something that I wish I would have done. Before putting the side paneling up, I would get the rafters in place. This way you can run your siding all the way up to the roof line and not have to worry about a seam. If you have 8′ or less for your full height I would do it that way.





One thing I hadn’t put much thought into was being up on the roof. I hate height….even at 10 feet or so. I got used to it after a while, but was glad when it was done.   


Roof is on with trim attached. I used felt paper and 3 tab shingles to close it up.


I had to cut the burning bush back. It was in the way.

With the roof in good shape, it was time to move on to the doors. I used leftover 2x4s to frame them, and the same siding that I used on the walls. I’m sure theres a better way to do it, but they feel solid and secure. The final step will be to add the corner trim, build some stairs or a ramp and get some paint on it. The siding is already factory primed so there’s no rush with that. I had electricity running to the old shed, so I wired the new one with an outlet and exterior light. At some point I might wire an interior light. Here’s a look at the inside bike storage I built.  


Even with the bikes stored on with side of the shed, there is still plenty of room to store a 4×8 sheet of something between.

I wouldn’t recommend this project for beginners as there is a fair amount of details that go into it, but it’s definitely a money saver to build it yourself. I think my total was somewhere around $1k, where the big box stores are much more than that with a floor. Probably the $2k range.  Plan on a good week to get it built if you move as slowly as I do.  The final detail that I added to the outside was this garage sale find window. I attached some leftover black felt paper to the back to make it look more realistic.  Untitled signature


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Take it for Granite

I figure it’s time to update the blog, since the countertop has been installed for a while now and other progress has been made. We finally have the hardware installed on the cabinet doors and the trim around the new window has been finished. There are a few more details we need to finish up. The crown molding that we ordered color matched to the cabinets will go in once we figure out how level out the ceiling. One option we are looking at is putting in a faux tin ceiling, or something similar. The other option is to level the ceiling with strapping and re-drywall. That would be the most work.
The last detail to finish up is under cabinet lighting. We have looked at a bunch of different options around town and nothing seems to offer a good way keep all the lights wired together and link across the microwave cabinet. I found an option at IKEA that will work well, and with the switch and plug already wired into the cabinet most of the difficult work is already complete.

So here are a few pictures of what the kitchen looks like with the new countertop. We think the granite looks great! We couldn’t be more happy with the work that Qualey Granite and Quartz did.

To see what the kitchen looked like before, click here.


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Pack It Up, Move It In, Let Me Begin…

It’s been a busy week here, with lots of shuffling cabinets in and out. We finally got the old kitchen sold and moved out, and the counter top came apart without too much of a hassle. I’m happy with what we got for it in the end. Getting the right seller who could move it out was a big help. Three of us had it all disassembled and loaded in a U-Haul in 3 hours or so.


The old kitchen had been moved out only a few days when I got the call that our new cabinets were in. I set up a day to have them delivered and got them loaded in the house. They took up way more room than I had expected. We had boxes stacked in the dining room, hallway, living room and kitchen. My first task was getting them unpacked and organize the chaos that had taken over the first floor. I temporarily fit the base cabinets in place to see how they would fit. This gave me a good idea of where all the joints would line up.


Old houses can be tricky. There usually isn’t a level wall in the house but I got lucky hanging the wall cabinets. The first cabinet to go up was in a straight corner. Not much shimming to be done.


The rest of the cabinets went in without too much trouble. I would definitely recommend installing a ledger below the cabinets to get everything level. It not only helps to keep everything  in line, but it also helps with not having to hold it up before screwing them in. It adds a bit to the wall prep, having to mud and sand before paint, but it’s worth the extra effort.

The discrepancy between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling form side of the room to the other is really noticeable, so we’ll have to figure something out there. Otherwise, they look good! Next weekend we’ll tackle the base cabinets. This week the contractor will be here to remove the window and replace it with a shorter one. More pictures of that progress when it happens.



And just a reminder of where we started off when we bought the house, and a reminder why that door to the left was holding us back from a much bigger kitchen.




Filed under Renovation

Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Kitchen

I have always dreamed of doing something BIG with our kitchen space. It’s not the smallest of rooms, but I knew we could do something better with the layout. One of several advantages of building the addition, was moving the door in the kitchen that lead to the porch. It wasn’t a big deal having an entryway there, it worked, but it limited what we could do with the kitchen. Now that the door has been moved and drywalled in, we can think about how our existing kitchen space can be better utilized.

When we bought the house the existing counter space was tiny. Here is all we had when we toured the house in our first visit:

More kitchen cabinets

After we moved the fridge over and added a dishwasher with the new granite countertop several years ago, our counter space more than doubled.

Finished Kitchen 001

We didn’t add any significant storage space with that latest addition, but we also didn’t have room for any more cabinets. Once we removed the door to the porch, our options opened up. We met with a local building supply store to talk about our options. Hammond Lumber Company, a family owned business in Maine, has been my go-to for lots of home projects. They helped design and guide me through the process of building the back deck, and countless other projects. Their Kitchen and Bath Design Center has been great in giving us ideas and visuals for what was possible. To give you an idea of the current layout and what we are going to get, take a look at the following image. The left is what we currently have (in less detail) and the right is the future design.


With the new layout, we’ll make room for a much larger fridge by moving it out from between the two windows to where the stove is currently located. The new stove will move to the center of the longer stretch of countertops. This will make the new stainless steel stove more of a center piece when walking in the house looking down the hallway, and also make a natural seem for the new granite counter top. We’ll have to replace the window in the upper left hand corner of the new sketch with a shorter one to make room for the base cabinet and counter top.

The new design will give us over double the counter and storage space, and give us room for a bigger fridge. We found a great deal at a local big box store on a stainless steel appliance set by Frigidaire, so the entire look of the kitchen will be updated. The new cabinets are larger and higher quality, with slow close hinges and factory finish paint. The crown moulding will help finish it all off.



The cabinets will be white to help keep the room bright. There is little natural light in this room, and when we removed the door to the porch it got even darker. With the cabinet color picked, we made a trip to our local granite dealer to shop for options. We decided on this lighter colored slab, and Miles seemed to like it too..


With the cabinets shipping in a few weeks, the most pressing tasks are getting the window replaced for a smaller one, and selling and removing the old kitchen. Hopefully this process happens without any problems. We’ll also need to prep the walls and move some electrical lines and plumbing. We’ll keep you updated as the work progresses!



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Filed under Renovation

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

While wasting time on Facebook recently, I saw a request from a local publisher looking for home renovation stories. I sent them a few pictures of projects that I had done in the past, one being the hidden door, and the recent addition that is still a work in progress. They replied with interest, so we scheduled a quick photo shoot and interview for an article that would eventually appear in the April issue of the Bangor Metro. Check out page 38.

I think the article turned out great!


A big THANK YOU to the Bangor Metro for stopping by the house!


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Filed under Renovation

Putting the Mudroom on the Final Spin Cycle

With the window trim and mudroom seating in place, it was time to focus our attention on the cabinets surrounding the washer and dryer. As with any project in this house, we wanted to do it on the cheap. We spent alot of time researching cabinets, both online and some that were available in-store. One consideration was to order cabinets through Ikea, but since we haven’t been there yet to lay our hands on them, we didn’t want to spend the money on something that we weren’t quite sure of the quality. The option that we ended up going with was this unfinished oak cabinet from Home Depot. The drawer slides and hinges weren’t the best of quality, but we figure that these cabinets won’t get a ton of use. And with a few coats of paint they should look pretty decent.

You may remember that we chose to paint the mudroom a shade of blue (Woodlawn Sterling Blue). For the cabinets we wanted to go with something that wasn’t white, but would still have a bright appearance. We went with this color called Montpelier Madison White.


With so few cabinets to paint, I ended buying just a quart. It did the job of covering really well.
The cabinets aren’t packaged that great for transit, so I needed to putty a bunch of scratches and dings. Not a big deal considering the price.

The joys of painting in the winter means you end up painting in your dining room. Maybe our first project should have been to build a garage?

And here is what they look like after a few coats of paint.


I had a little bit of help from Miles when I was painting. Every time I painted over the lines he would beep at me. I think he might be an artist in training.


Installing the cabinets only required contorting my body above the washer and dryer.

I had to add a small piece of trim to the top of the cabinets to fill the gap from the crown molding. This is mostly due to poor planning on my part, but if anyone asks, I’m going to tell them that I did it on purpose.

And here they are! We found our drawer pull and door knobs at Lowes.

The only thing missing was the countertop. Sara and I had talked about having a piece of granite cut, but we ended up just using some scrap bamboo I had laying around from our stairway project. The treads were just the right thickness to give it a butcher block look. I cut them down to size and used a biscuit joiner to put the pieces together.

I never pass up the opportunity to use my router , so I routed the corners of the countertop to give it some detail.

After a few coats of polyurethane and the addition of a few LED under-cabinet lights, the project was nearing completion.



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History Hidden in the Walls

One of the neat things about renovating an old house is finding all of the hidden treasures. Most of this stuff can be found literally stuffed in the walls and ceiling. I imagine some of it just found it’s way in the cracks of the floor, but other stuff may have been placed there. Take for example this little item I found when tearing down the old porch. The old mason jar still sits where it was left many, many years ago.


I have never run across anything valuable, like a pot of gold, or a Bugatti Veyron, but I have found some stuff that is pretty neat. Over the years I have kept it all in a box in the hopes that one day I could display at least some of it. When we found a pair of the old auditorium seats and installed them in the mudroom, Sara and I thought it would be a good place to also display the house’s history. I don’t know exactly how old the house is, but records from the Bangor Museum and History Center point to the house being built somewhere in the late 1910’s to early 20’s. Here is a picture taken by a tax assessor during the great depression. This is the only picture I have of this house before we bought it. I would love more!


Compare that with the way that the house looks today (minus the photoshoppping of the shutters, which we will now call shutter photoshoppery).

What if.....

So what else did I find in the walls? Lots of stuff! I collected more marbles than anything else. They seemed to be in every wall I tore apart.


I also found ads for Model T’s, invitations to local events, birth certificates, pay stubs, fishing licenses, receipts, bottle caps, a chisel, playing cards, stamps, and lots more. The oldest thing I found was a receipt for a screw pulley from downtown Bangor hardware store, the Haynes and Chalmers Company. As you can see, it was dated July 14th, 1909.


The Lone Ranger


While not really “old”, I found this piece of newspaper kinda neat. Castro and the mention of a French invasion. Bay of Pigs maybe?


I also found this pay stub from 1939. This was especially cool since the address on the original envelope was our address. Since I had found other items with the name Mr. Arthur E. Stewart, I could now piece together that he worked at an ice cream factory in the late 30’s. I have heard that there was an ice cream factory in our neighborhood, but I haven’t confirmed that it was the same one where he worked. And doing a bit more digging, I found that he was one of 9 children, but passed away in 1998 in Florida at the age of 83. I would love to learn more about this family and if there are any surviving relatives still in the area.

Mr. Arthur Emery Stewart’s pay stub


Donald Everett Stewart (1924-1974) Social Security card (Arthur’s brother, and 1 of 9!)

Donald Everett

Arthur Williamson Stewart (1889-1969) hunting license, and combo hunting/fishing license. Thanks for keeping it legal Mr. Stewart!



Neat, huh?

So what do you do with all of this stuff? Frame it of course!


And here it is hanging on the wall, with the freshly painted window trim!


So, what do you do with all the hidden treasure you find in your house? Did you ever feel entitled to free ice cream for life when you found secret ice cream manufacturers treasures? Neither did I, but wouldn’t THAT be sweet!?



Filed under Decorating