Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: DIY Built Page 1 of 9

Resource and Reuse

One thing I did not expect before renovating our ranch, is how much material this rebuild consumes. A 100-ft section fence needed hundreds of pickets and dozens of posts; thousands pounds of concrete were poured into the soil. The roof on our small house took thousands of shingles, each consists of multiple layers of different natural and synthetic materials. Layer of plywood went under our feet, and the amount of 2″ x 4″s we hauled back from Home Depot can only be counted by trailer-load. Before owning this house, I never thought about how much material goes into building a house, nor how much more it takes to renovate one every a few decades, or more frequently, every times it changes ownership.

It prompts me to think in a larger scale, how much we as human, affect the world during our expansion and development. How much we took from the Earth, how forcefully we invaded the Nature, and how many wild life we have terminated, although not deliberately, for our comfort and convenience.

More I think about it, more I regret some decisions I made during the renovation, such as putting in a big concrete patio. Of course, most decisions we made for the house are good for the environment and wild life, such as planting hundreds of trees and perennial shrubs, as well as making our house more energy efficient. But we can do better. Moving forward, I would like to be more conscious on the environmental impact of our renovation decisions. A good place to start, is to reuse and repurpose materials from our own demolition.

I have noticed the amount of solid waste generated during demolition, pretty much as soon as we moved into our houseConstruction and demolition (C&D) waste represents a big part of the solid waste generated in US, and 90% of the C&D waste is generated during demolition. Since we demo by hand, we have an opportunity to save some material by carefully taking things apart. These materials and parts, otherwise going into landfill, is now returning back into the circulation. And reusing our own material will form a even small cycle compared to the process shown below, going from step 7 straight to step 4:

Most of the material we have saved are lumber and occasionally hardware/screws. During our last big renovation project, namely the basement reno, we were left with lots of framing lumber. We took the nails off them, and stored them over the garage roof trusses.

View this post on Instagram

Do you label your lumber? #woodworking #reclaimedwood

A post shared by Terrific Broth (@terrificbroth) on

This Spring, I started using them for indoor and outdoor projects whenever we need 2″ x 4″s. I know, 2″ x 4″s are dirt-cheap (probably cheaper than dirt at this point…have you paid for good dirt lately?) and readily available in big box stores. However, the goal of reusing these lumber is mostly saving them from landfill and conserving the energy and virgin resources used to produce new materials, rather than saving on the project costs.

The addition advantage of using older lumber – in our case, dated back to the 1950s – is how well they match our original framing. The picture below shows a piece of modern 2″ x 4″ on the left, and a piece of old 1950 2″ x 4″ to the right. The difference between them are so apparent!

IMG_2732

Compared to modern 2″ x 4″s, the 50s 2″ x 4″s are 1/8″ wider and thicker and with straight edges. They are also a lot denser and harder than their modern counterparts.

Because of dimension difference, these 50s’ 2″ x 4″s are excellent for creating new framing that has to marry the old framing. Using these lumber with exactly same dimension helps everything line up more evenly. We also notice that there are very little bow on the old lumber.

Old 2″x4″ on the top, modern 2″ x 4″ at the bottom:

IMG_2726

Because of the different density, the old lumber offers the same expansion/contraction coefficient and should be more compatible to the existing framing. I expect less issues down the road joining similar material together.

Over a weekend, Slav and I frame the closets in the retreat room. The old lumber we used came out of our basement, with a few from the very closets during the demo last week.

Before demo:

IMG_2603

After demo:

IMG_2620

In preparation for the Murphy bed installation, we need to add more framing on the lower part of the closet so the Murphy bed has something to attach to.

Before putting in new framing, Slav patched the missing floor boards with leftover from the office project:

IMG_2734

IMG_2733

Then we started with the closet to the right. Here is the before:

IMG_2633

With new framing:

IMG_2720

As you could see, another layer of 2″x4″s were added onto the existing framing. We did a short wall at the bottom and created a new stud. At the top and side, we attached pieces of 2″x4″s for future side panel to attach.

IMG_2717

We did the same to the left side of the Murphy bed closet. Since this part of the framing was pretty weak, we added more horizontal bracing to reinforce the structure.

IMG_2724

As you may notice, we also took down more drywall in the left closet. This closet will be lined with plywood, and it does not make much sense to have the drywall sandwiches between plywood and the framing.

IMG_2719

Since the left side will be used as a closet, we just beefed it up by adding 2″ x 4″s along the edges.

IMG_2725

After patching the flooring and framing, Slav repaired the drywall around the closets:

IMG_2721

And repaired the bedroom doorway with drywall:

IMG_2738

IMG_2736

Since we plan to move the bedroom door to the hallway opening, this doorway would just become a walk-through. So Slav patched it with leftover drywall and finished the corners.

IMG_2737

We are in process of sanding and painting the newly patched walls, then it will be time for the Murphy bed build! It is nice to cross off four items off the list!

1. Patch missing floor boards;
2. Repair and finish drywall edges against the closet wall;
3. Reinforce the closet framing;
4. Murphy bed construction and installation;
5. Wire the electrical outlet to face the bed;
6. Construct guest closet, and shelving unit in between;
7. Construct and install closet doors;
8. Trim out the closet wall;
9. Caulk and paint the closet wall wherever necessary;
10. Construct a standing desk with motorized legs and a wood top;
11. Construct a window seating next to the desk;
12. Adding necessary storage behind Murphy Bed area for bedding and pillows;
13. Repair and finish the original bedroom doorway.

New Climbers + Recent Cedar Build

You may remember the climbing roses I planted. This Spring, I decided to add  a few more climbers around the house. Some for scent, some for beauty, and some for function. Although these are perennial vines and will take years to grow, I want to show you their baby form today. Hopefully when we check back a few years later, we can see some good progress!

“Scentsation” Honey Suckle

IMG_2397

Planted on the front of the house is a honey suckle called “Scentsation”, a very showy vine with extremely fragrant yellow flowers. It has a longer blooming time compared to other honey suckles, from mid-spring to late summer. I planted it near Slav’s office window, hoping to add a nice touch of scent to the room he spends most of his awake time in.

IMG_2401

Although tiny, this particular honey suckle is expected to grow to 9’~10′ tall and 5’~6′ wide, covering the big trellis behind it. It is deciduous which means losing all the leaves in the Fall. By placing it on the west wall, at maturity, it should shade this corner of the house from strong afternoon sun during summer months, while allowing sunlight in to warm up the house during winter.

IMG_1755

IMG_1758

To keep the honey suckle close to the wall I built this cedar planter. To protect the foundation we graded around the house and put down a layer of gravel over 6-mil plastic around the foundation. I scraped away the gravel, set the planter directly on top of the 6-mil plastic, then added more 6-mil plastic to prevent soil and water sipping out of the planter.

20200516_112755

20200516_114107

20200516_121110

After filling the planter with soil I planted the honey suckle and transplanted some sedum here.

20200516_121805

IMG_1756

As a rule of thumb, container plants or plants situated in raised beds need to be more winter hardy than the zone it is planted in. This honey suckle is rated as zone 4-9, which means it should winter over just fine in our zone 5B/6A.

IMG_2397

We secured a big trellis onto the house for the honey suckle to climb on. If it likes the spot, it should climb to the top of the trellis in a few years! An additional advantage of this plant is the bright red berries in the Fall, which are favored by birds and other wild life.

Climbing hydrangea

IMG_2057

Although popular in Europe, climbing hydrangea is not well-known in US. It is also a deciduous vine, famous for its ability of growing in full shade. These plants are true climbers, using the holdfasts (suckers) on their branches to scale walls and other structures. In Europe, you will find this plant covering north-facing walls of old stone buildings up to several stories tall with their large, “lace-cap” flower flowers in early summer. In theory, a climbing hydrangea can reach 50 feet tall at maturity. In our cold climate, it often tops at 20 feet.

20200517_102818_HDR

I planted this flower on the northeast corner of the house, right next to the AC unit and outside of the master bedroom window. I want to it to be a screen plant, not only adding privacy to our bedroom, but also beautifying the north side of the house where small windows are swallowed by a sea of brick. As you can see, this spot gets 3~4 hours of morning sun, then shade for the afternoon. Although not an ideal location for most of the flowering plants, climbing hydrangea will be one of the few climbers to perform in such situation.

IMG_2419

Shortly after planting it I added some support from two sides – one being a metal trellis, which we got from Lowe’s as a 3-pack and used all around the garden. The other one being a short cedar fence between the bedroom window and the AC unit.

20200519_193743_HDR

I built this cedar fence all by myself! To be honest, among all the big and small projects I did this Spring with the cedar boards (the patio planter, the honey suckle planter, and the outdoor kitchen), this build is my favorite. From setting post, planning board layout, to attaching boards, it covered all the steps for a fence build, yet remained manageable for me to complete over one afternoon.

20200519_165143

I started by setting a leftover post, which is just tall enough for shadowing the AC unit! Love it when I am able to use up leftover materials without any waste.

20200519_172502_HDR

To keep the post straight I used a pole level and several clamps. They were so helpful when working solo! I made sure that the post aligned with the side of the window and stood straight before backfilling.

20200519_172605

20200519_173214

20200519_175449

After securing the post, I marked the length of the boards and cut them all at once.

20200519_175637

Attaching all the boards went pretty quick. A scrape 2″ x 4″ was set next to the house for the other end of the boards to attach on.

20200519_185040_HDR

This is the final product. Besides supporting the climbing hydrangea, this fence also hides one of the eyesore from the bedroom window – the AC unit.

20200519_190501_HDR

The view from the bedroom window without the fence:

20200519_165402_HDR

With the fence:

20200519_190701_HDR

Climbing hydrangea is known to be slow during the first few years, but after it puts down a good root, it should take off and cover all the unsightly pipe and outlets on the north side of the house in a few years.

IMG_2391

Passion Flower

20200519_155305

Passion flower is another rarely seen flowering vine in Colorado. Being tropical looking passion flower seems to be too delicate for our winter. But it is actually a zone 5 plant! I put mine on the east side of the house, protected from harsh wind and bitter cold.

IMG_2385

After planting I added some string and a leftover wire panel to help it to climb.

IMG_2382

Since planted, it has grown a few inches! This is what it looked like a few weeks ago:

IMG_2060

And this is today!

IMG_2388

Cucumber and Pole Beans in the Veggie Garden

I also planted some climbing veggies! I’ve been growing cucumber for years, and always let them spread freely on the ground. This year, I tried to grow them vertically. I set a trellis on the end of a veggie bed:

IMG_2405

And planted two seedlings at the base of this trellis. The have been flowering for a weeks now and I hope to see cucumbers really soon!

IMG_2404

I also grew two climbing beans: Red noodle, and Limka.

IMG_2412

It is fun to set up the support for my bean babies. Slav lined some T-posts along both sides of a path and I tied some trellis netting to these posts for beans to climb on:

IMG_2408

I also tied the top ends of the netting together over the path, allowing the beans to create a tunnel.

IMG_2409

Look at the beans go! It has been a month since they came up and they are growing an inch per day with the recent heat.

IMG_2415

This is the first year I set up a bean tunnel. In addition to support the beans, I also want it to shade the veggie bed behind. The garlic here will be harvested soon, and I want to plant greens and radishes here hoping the tunnel can provide enough relief from the hot afternoon sun.

IMG_2417

Climbing roses

At last, I want to show you how our climbing roses are doing! I planted four “awakening” climbing roses along the back fence in 2018. They are all doing very well.

IMG_2360

IMG_2361

IMG_2359

I started training these roses this Spring. After a good trim, I guided the longest branches of each rose towards the back fence using plastic stakes:

IMG_2424

IMG_2425

IMG_2426

It might look dramatic but are actually good for the growth of these roses. Bending the branches horizontally eliminates apical dominance and should encourage side shoots and more flowering along the branches.

IMG_2427

IMG_2423

I also did the same training to the “iceberg” climbing rose planted in the front yard:

IMG_2420

This rose was planted only last Fall, but has already flowered for us. I got all my climbing roses from High country roses and they all came with their own root and are very healthy. I know it won’t be long before this climbing rose to put on a splendid show on the front fence.

IMG_2421

Training climbing roses is a scary thing – you should see how much I trimmed off these poor roses…But in the end it is for their own good. I am looking forward to the growth of all the climbers. Given time, they shall become the stars of my garden and for decades to come. Let us check back next season together!

Back to Work + Basement Trims

IMG_2198

2020 has been intense so far. After staying home for months, I am finally back to work. We did well during the pandemic though. While Slav continued working from home, I accomplished a number of home improvement projects. From organizing the garage and creating more overhead storage to refinishing the bathroom door, from building patio planterstidying up the veggie garden, building a new terrace garden, to automating the drip irrigation, I did not rest a single day! You can see the result of our projects in the recent garden tours here.

IMG_2084

But the biggest ticket item Slav and I checked off during the stay-at-home period, is our basement utility room.

IMG_1862

Installing flooring and the doors in the utility room marked a near completion of our basement renovation, which we started a year and half ago! Now the only task left in the basement was installing trims and baseboards.

IMG_1819

With the momentum we decided to wrap up the basement reno before I had to go back to work. So during the last two weeks of my stay-at-home time, Slav joined me in the basement to work on trims.

We started with installing trims for the three doors we installed back in February. The profile we chose is called “craftsman“, which matches the best the profile of our doors.

IMG_2178

IMG_2188

IMG_2261

IMG_2220

The top trims were pieced together with 1″ x 2″ and 1″ x 6″ boards for a beefy look. The side trims were all 1″x 6″ boards.

IMG_2289

Due to the height of the ceilings, we used simpler profile of trims on the closet doors and the bathroom pocket doors:

IMG_2211

IMG_2239

IMG_2288

One area that was difficult to address is the space between the two bathroom doors. There was not enough room here for the whole width of 1″x 6″. So we opted for a corner bead.

IMG_2272

We ran both door trims and the corner bead all the way to the floor for a clean look.

IMG_2276

After finishing the door trims, we installed baseboards. The baseboard we chose has a simple profile with tall base and a fat bead on top.

IMG_2171

The 5.5″ height hid all the imperfection on the bottom of drywall, and the 5/8″ thickness covered the 1/4″ gap between the flooring and the drywall well.

IMG_2223

We installed the same baseboard throughout the basement for a cohesive look.

The media room

IMG_2250

IMG_2164

IMG_2188

The master bedroom

IMG_2251

IMG_2255

IMG_2270

And the newly finished utility room

IMG_2295

IMG_2306

IMG_2205

There are a few places where the baseboards end on the face of the door trims. We used a return profile to finish the corner elegantly:

IMG_2225

Similar return profiles, with a different angle, were used to terminate baseboards where they meet the master closets.

IMG_2237

IMG_2266

IMG_2263

To make sure one pocket door closes tightly onto the wall, Slav installed baseboards up to the door from both side and did nice returns on both ends:

IMG_2206

IMG_2207

It might not look like much, but it took us three days to get all the trims and baseboards installed. Following installation, Slav caulked all the nail holes, seams, and gaps, and I painted all the trims, baseboards, and closet doors in the same color of our main floor trims.

IMG_2242

IMG_2267

IMG_2203

This is the first time I tried this Valspar oil-enriched enamel paint. And it did not disappoint! It is almost self-leveling so there is not much brush marks. I chose satin finish, color matched to Behr ultra Pure White.

IMG_2279

After the paint dried on the doors and baseboards, Slav installed handles and magnet door stoppers to protect the walls. All the hardware are in satin nickel which matches our door hinges.

IMG_2172

After installing the trims and baseboards, I can finally get furniture for the media room! We only purchased a few pieces that are necessary for this room to function, including a new TV stand:

IMG_2285

We put the TV and its stand in between the bedroom door and bath door. They fit perfectly into this spot.

IMG_2301

IMG_2181

Slav is on the mission of finding us a couch. At the mean time, the massage chair serves as a comfortable spot to watch TV from:

IMG_2190

The small heater was now moved to the wall between the utility room opening and the bathroom. I like to turn it on just for faux log fire.

IMG_2298

We also got a storage unit for Slav’s vinyl collection:

IMG_2194

I moved all the records and the player down as soon as the storage unit was assembled, and Slav set up the speakers so they can get input from our phones, computers, or the record player.

IMG_2219

I had painted the access panel to the water main to match the walls. Now with the record collection and speakers in front, you can hardly notice the access panel anymore.

IMG_2245

IMG_2293

Can you believe that we finally crossed the finish line on this basement renovation? This is particularly significant since today happens to be the three-year anniversary of us moving into this house.

Finally, Charlie can enjoy some peace and quiet in his favorite spot in the house:

IMG_2198

Now when going down the stairs, we know that we would be entering a clean and relaxing space, without any work in sight. What an amazing feeling it is!

IMG_2219

IMG_2161

IMG_2216

IMG_2203

IMG_2253

IMG_2260

IMG_2229

IMG_2284

Many thanks to those of you following our basement renovation for such a long time – 18 months to be exact. Thanks for your encouragement and cheers along the way! Now let us hope the pandemic is over soon so we can host movie nights in our new media room again!

Page 1 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén