Welcome to A Girl’s Guide to Home DIY! Here you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to complete DIY projects around your house. You’ll find things as small as hanging a spice rack to completing an entire kitchen renovation. I hope we can inspire you to tackle a project you’ve been wondering if you can do on your own. ~Lauren
Hi friends! The weather in Northern Virginia has been so nice the last few weeks, so I’ve been spending a lot of time getting the garden ready for planting. I know I wrote about starting seeds indoors a few weeks ago, but today I’m going to share my tips on starting seeds outdoors.
Growing up gardening with my dad in Maryland, he always waited until Mother’s Day weekend to plant most of the plants outdoors. In the
Mid-Atlantic, Spring can be a tricky thing, and even when you’ve had weeks of 70 degree weather, you’ll get a random Thursday night low of 25 at the end of April that will kill everything. When it’s this nice out for a few weeks, I get really impatient to start planting tomatoes and peppers and green beans and all the other yumminess outside. So, I scratch that itch by starting seeds outdoors that are pretty hardy and made to withstand a late spring frost.
The big benefit of starting seeds outdoors in early spring is you get to start harvesting when you’re just finishing planting your usual summer plants–for me, that’s usually the beginning to mid June.
How to Choose the Right Seeds for Early Planting
The easiest way to find the right seeds for starting seeds outdoors in the spring is to look at the label of the seed packets. Look for seeds that are labeled “early spring”. These tend to be hardier seeds/plants that can withstand a late frost if it occurs. Save the seeds labeled “plant after the danger of frost” until, well, you’re after the danger of frost. For us, that’s usually the first week in May (hence my dad’s Mother’s Day rules).
I love Burpee seeds–they’re reliable and provide easy planting and care instructions.
If you’re not sure where to start, look for some lettuces, spinach, peas, onions, brussel sprouts, beets, or radishes. Now, not all varieties of each of these are safe for early spring, so again, make sure you check the packaging. (These links are more expensive than the packing, but they have free shipping. If you have a free shipping coupon on Burpee.com, you’ll save money buying direct from the source!)
Choosing the Right Spot in your Garden
I have a smaller backyard, but I plant a ton of vegetables, so space can be limited. I have to carefully choose where everything goes. I save the sunniest spots for my peppers and tomatoes, and then I ration out the rest of the space.
Most early spring crops don’t tolerate the hot, dry sunny spots I save for my peppers and tomatoes anyways, so it works well. I usually put the seeds in on the other side of the garden, where it’s partly shady, and they do well.
Make sure wherever you choose to plant them, you get get the right amount of sunlight (listed on the seed packet) and the soil stays well drained.
Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item.
Let’s Get Started!
Ok, now that you’ve picked out your seeds and the spot in the garden, let’s get started!
Step 1: Prepare your Soil
If you haven’t weeded your garden before this, that’s the first thing you need to do. And, after weeding, you should till the soil. For those of you new to gardening, that means working the soil (stirring, cultivating, turning, whatever word you want to use) so it’s soft and easy to dig in. I use a 3-tine hand cultivator, but you can use a garden rake, a shovel, an electric tiller, whatever you find easiest to you. I like the 3-tine cultivator, as its tines are a bigger than a standard garden rake, so it’s easier to pull out weeds.
Once I’ve tilled the soil, I’ll use my hands or a garden rake to even out the soil. And lastly, I make little raised rows for the seeds. These rows will help excess water drain off the seed roots, and for little seeds, a little too much water is a big deal.
Adding Garden Soil
The first time I plant in a garden I usually add some seed starting soil or vegetable garden soil into the ground dirt. My dad taught me to do this to add some nutrients back into natural soil and to give my seeds the best chance. If you’re a more advanced gardener and measure pH and measure nutrients in your own soil, then you’re way more advanced than I am and should probably take over writing this post 🙂 I have not learned to do that yet, so for now, I hedge my bets by adding garden soil to my natural soil once every few years.
Step 2: Dig your Holes for your Seeds
Time to dig holes for your seeds! Make sure you follow the instructions on your seed packet for the depth of your holes and how far apart they need to be to accomodate your growing plant.
If you’re planting lettuce or spinach in a row, you can take your finger and drag a line in the soil, about a half inch deep.
For the peas I planted, they need a hole 1/2″-1″ deep, so I stuck my finger into the soil, about half way down to my second knuckle, every 4-6″ in the soil.
Step 3: Plant your Seeds
For your lettuce and spinach, I typically slowly shake the seeds out along the row. The seeds are so small, you can’t individually drop them. Then, just lightly cover them with soil.
For your other plants, drop 1-2 seeds in each hole and then gently cover them.
Step 4: Water & Label
Next, water your seeds until your soil is soaked. You need to be careful with the seeds and young sprouts. A heavy stream of water can displace the seeds and wash them away.
Use the mist setting on your hose nozzle (if you have one). Otherwise, I use a watering can with a nozzle that has a light stream. Or, when you lose that nozzle (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything), pour the water into your hand and let it drip down onto the ground below.
If your seeds need a support (like peas), place that now. I use a cucumber trellis, so my peas can climb as much as they want.
Then I label the rows if I’m planting different things together with these simple stake labels–like my lettuce and spinach. Yes, when the sprout, I’ll know what they are, but if they never sprout, I like to know what failed, so I can try something different when I replant them.
Step 5: Water Routinely & Wait for your Seeds to Grow
Water your seeds every few days (or whenever the soil is dry to the touch) and wait for your seeds to sprout. Lettuce and spinach comes up super quick–in 1-2 weeks! The rest of your seeds you may be waiting a little longer, but just be patient and soon you’ll have yummy veggies to eat in early summer!
Hi friends! I’ve been a little MIA on Instagram and the blog recently because I’ve been taking full advantage of this nice weather! In Northern Virginia, Spring usually lasts all of 2 seconds, and we just go from Winter to Summer like BOOM! So, this 60-70 degree loveliness deserves to be savored by the heat and humidity bears down on us. One of the projects that’s taken over my life is power washing the fence. I’d never used a power washer before last week, and I’m pretty sure it’s now my favorite outdoor activity.
Now, I know what you’re thinking (because I thought the same thing about power washing my entire life):
Power Washing Sounds A Little Intense. . .
I mean, it has the word ‘power’ in it. And, when you read all these how-to guides for power washing they talk about expensive equipment and hurting yourself in the strong spray.
Let me tell you: if you’re not ready to buy a power washer (we weren’t), borrow one (we borrowed my mother in law’s) or rent one from your local hardware store. Give it a whirl, and you’ll be seduced by its magical cleaning powers, and you’ll soon be researching power washers on Pinterest to buy for yourself.
And, in regards to hurting yourself, just don’t spray yourself directly with the spray, and you’ll be fine. If it’s strong enough to spray moss of your fence, it probably shouldn’t be sprayed on your body, am I right?
Do I Really Need to Use a Power Washer?
When we bought our house, the front and back fences were covered in moss and looked really run down. So, we got quotes to replace the whole fence (we have this mix of wood fence in the back and the front gate, with chain link fence along the sides and all the way through the front (to separate our driveway and our neighbors). We were ready to pay $2-3k but not the $6-10k we were quoted from four different companies! So, we sucked it up and just cringed when we looked at the moss-covered fence because moss is way better than $10,000.
Last summer I tried to clean the fence and our porches with this mildew remover I found at the hardware store. You just hooked it up to your hose, and supposedly it would clean everything right off. Wrong. It didn’t remove any of it.
This year, I ventured into the world of power washing. My husband had used it before, so I was going to make him do all the power washing all through our yard, but after watching him power wash our back porch for 15 minutes and seeing the AMAZING results, I was pushing him out of the way to see what magic it would work on the fences.
You really need basically nothing for power washing your fence, other than a hose and a power washer and an outlet to plug the power washer in to. That’s it! Woohoo!
Step 1: Connect your Hose to your Power Washer
This is as easy as it sounds–connect your hose to your power washer. Ours was on the front of the power washer at the bottom of the container. Make sure the connection is tight.
Step 2: Turn the Water on to your Hose
Also straightforward–turn your hose on at the spigot. Your power washer will spray now at the same power as your hose would, if you have anything that needs a light washing but can’t take the pressure wash (like your car, your air conditioner, your windows, your flowers–I may have sprayed it on a lot of things 🙂 ).
Step 3: Plug your Power Washer In
Also, straightforward. I plugged it into an outdoor extension cord so we could use it in the front and back of the house without unplugging it.
Step 4: Turn your Power Washer On
Follow your manufacturer’s instructions on how to turn your power washer on. Ours was this two-button system, almost like a gfi outlet–press test then reset and it turned on.
When ours turned on, it made a quick motor like noise and then was quiet. At first I thought it was broken, but it wasn’t. It only made noise when the sprayer was on.
Step 5: Power Wash!
That’s it! Now you’re ready for power washing the fence. You’re going to be so amazed at how quickly it gets dirt and moss and mildew off, just like I was! And, how easy it is! Soon you’ll be power washing your fence, your side walk, your driveway, your shed, your house, your porch. . . not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
But, back to your fence (for now). Here’s some tips and tricks for power washing your fence.
Power Washing Your Fence
Start from the Bottom or the Top?
Most of the posts I read said you need to ‘Start at the bottom and work your way to the top.’ I never understood this, but I tried both ways and they both worked fine. Since I was curious where this advice came from, I did a little research. It seems that if you’re using a cleaner or soap before you power wash, you need to apply your soap from the bottom up. This is because by applying from the bottom up, you prevent the soap from running down on to dryer surfaces, which prevents the soap from evaporating before you rinse it off and streaking from the soap lines after washing it off. (There’s a lot of chemistry behind this with hydrostatic pressure and surfactants and such if you want to get really nerdy!) If you’re just using water like I did, it doesn’t matter where you start.
Spray in Long Lines
Even though I read that you should do this before I started, I learned this one the hard way. When you’re spraying on wood, you need to spray in long smooth lines. Otherwise, you’re going to get these marks on your fence where you changed direction. This allows you to apply even pressure across the wood, so you’re not putting more pressure on one spot vs. another–that’s what causes damage to the stain.
I wasn’t as worried about the stain–honestly I didn’t even know if there was any stain left on the fence since it was so green and old looking. So, I’m okay with the few streak-looking marks I ended up with. But, if I were to do this again, I would be more careful to make the long smooth lines from the beginning.
To make the long lines, I would start at one end of a plank, and spray to the top, and then spray back to the bottom. If I didn’t get all the mildew and moss off, I’d repeat the long slow spray once or twice, until it was all off.
Get All the Nooks & Crannies
I didn’t realize how many nooks and crannies there were on a fence. There’s hidden spots near the latch, around the hinges, on the sides of each picket and post. And, let’s not forget the WHOLE OTHER SIDE. Luckily for us, our back fence faces a wooded area, so I did not bother cleaning that side. But our front gate needed both sides cleaned, which I conveniently forgot about until I was going to put the power washer away for the day and looked at the back of the gate as I closed it. Oops!
Before & After
Doesn’t it look so good?! This took about thirty minutes of spraying, washing away years of yuckiness!
Now, I’m off to keep power washing our walkway! I’ll post pics when I’m done!
Hi everyone! Happy Easter to those celebrating today! I’m in Bethany Beach, Delaware at my family’s beach house, so today’s post is going to be a little different. No how to guides today–instead, I’m going to share with you some coastal decor inspiration, all straight from our beach home.
My parents bought this house over 20 years ago, and they’ve been hard at work improving it ever since. Here’s what it look like when we bought it.
And, when we lifted it (yes, you can lift a house!)
And, here it is today!
Home of my Heart
This home has such a special place in my heart. I’ve spent winter weekends here, curled up on the couch, reading and relaxing, and summer weekends with my girlfriends, dancing and and laughing all night. I spent my whole summer here between graduating college and starting my first job, holding the reality off just a tiny bit longer. We’ve celebrated countless Easters, Fourth of July’s, Thanksgivings, and New Years’ here, with both family and friends. And, a few years ago, my now husband asked me to marry him here.
My Amazing Parents
My parents are the heart of this home. Every time they come down, they have some sort of project up their sleeves to make it better, sometimes for them, but mostly for the family. Sometimes it’s weeding the garden and planting flowers after the winter (like this weekend).
And, sometimes it’s building a shed that matches the house (my dad and uncle built this a few summers ago).
My dad definitely takes on more of the manual labor and building, while my mom is more of the decorator. My dad built these beautiful bookshelves, adding so much storage and style to what was a pass through to the back bedrooms and bathroom.
My mom found a lot of inspiration for her coastal decor from Coastal Living magazine. She’ll take ideas from some of their feature homes and find the best spot for them in our house, like these stairs and the window decorations.
When my mom bought this big fish, we all thought she was crazy, but I have to say, it’s now everyone’s favorite part of the kitchen.
And, she puts together some pretty amazing faux flower arrangements.
And, let’s not forget, some of the adorable bedrooms.
Through the years, they’ve made the house grow to accommodate our ever growing family. We were a family of 2 adults, 3 kids, and 1 pup when they bought the home, and we’re now a family of 7 adults, 2 toddlers, 2 pups and a cat. And all the while, through the renovations, they’ve kept the feel of the original home and the coastal feel throughout.
This will always be where I call home, and I can’t wait to continue to make more memories here and see how my parents continue to make the home grow with our family.
Good morning friends! With spring showing signs that it may actually be here to stay in Northern Virginia (that’s always up for debate here), I’ve started doing a few things around the house that I consider my version of ‘Spring Cleaning’. For me, spring cleaning isn’t all about cleaning–it also includes things I do in the spring to get ready for warmer weather, like changing out the glass for the screen in our storm door.
I love to have the windows open to get that nice spring breeze, before the oppressive heat and humidity show up. Changing the glass out for the screen in our storm door is like adding one giant open window to the front of our house. And, it lets Sadie, our pup, patrol the neighborhood for those invading FedEx and UPS trucks from the ground, and not our living room chair.
If you’ve never done this before, it’s really straightforward and only takes about 15 minutes to complete, once in the spring and once in the fall.
And, make sure you read through my instructions before you start and make sure they line up with your door. Some newer doors have different types of installation, so check with your manufacturer if you’re door seems different.
What if I Don’t Have a Screen, Just the Glass Insert?
When we moved into our home, the screen insert for the storm door was missing. I was worried that meant we had to install a new storm door (an extra $200-$300 we didn’t have with all the other new home expenses). But, I found the model number of our storm door on the inside edge and went to the manufacturer’s website. They sell replacement parts, and a new screen insert was only $30! They shipped it to our house in just a few days, and of course, as luck would have it, it was bent and wouldn’t fit. But, the customer service at Andersen Windows & Doors was amazing and shipped us a second one for free, without us having to return the first one!
Here’s the best news of the whole project (if you weren’t already loving that it only takes 15 minutes): you don’t need ANY supplies! No power tools, no screws, not even a hammer or a screwdriver! All you need is the storm door insert, and a friend to help–the glass door is VERY heavy. You can do it by yourself if you need to, but I wouldn’t the first time, just in case you run into any issues.
Step 1: Lock the Storm Door Open
Open the screen door most, if not all of the way, and slide the little brake, or “Hold Open Clip” (yes, that’s actually its name on some models), to the end of the closer (the thing that makes the door close).
Step 2: Lift the Handle Up
Once the storm door is propped open, lift the handle up 90 degrees so it’s out of the way of removing the glass insert.
Step 3: Remove the Latch Rails
Now, let’s get down to business. To get the glass insert out, you need to remove the 4 latch rails holding it in place on the door (these are the long plastic strips around all four edges). To do this, you need to start at one end of one latch rail, and with the tips of your fingers, push the latch rail out until it unsnaps. You’ll have to do a little bit at a time, working your way down until you get the whole latch rail off. Then, repeat with the other three. I usually remove the two short ones first, and then I remove the two long ones.
Be careful when you remove the last two latch rails–the glass is really heavy, so if it starts to come out, you’ll have to hold it in while removing the last latch rail. This is where it may be helpful to have a friend helping.
Step 4: Remove the Glass Insert and Store for the Summer
Again, the glass insert is VERY HEAVY, so carefully (and with help if needed) remove the door from the insert.
Before I store the glass insert, I usually wipe it down, especially the edges. We store ours in the shed, so I know the glass is going to get dirty, but if I don’t remember to clean the edges before installing it in the fall, at least it’s been cleaned once that year.
Step 5: Clean the Storm Door
This is the one time you’ll have access to the inside of the storm door, so it’s a great time to clean all the dirt and pollen that’s accumulated over the last year. I just use some Clorox Wipes, since they’re easy, and wipe down the whole door, inside and out. It takes five minutes, and somehow during the year, I never think to clean the door–just the glass insert.
Step 6: Place the Screen Insert into the Storm Door
Now, grab your screen door insert and place it in your storm door.
Step 7: Replace the Latch Rails
Replace the latch rails in the opposite order you removed them–long rails first, then short rails. These can be a little tricky to place in but you need to sort of pinch the shorter edge inward so the edge of the latch rail lines up with the door. You’ll hear it snap in place. It’s hard to explain, so if you don’t quite get it from my description and picture, try watching a You Tube video on it. You’ll know you’ve done it right if the whole thing snaps in place.
Step 8: Unlock the Door Handle and the Door Closer
That’s it! All the hard work! Now just unlock the door handle (i.e. turn it back so it’s horizontal) and open the door closer so it swings again, and you’re all set!
See? Super easy to do, even if you’ve never done it before. And, now you get to enjoy the nice breeze and the pretty spring weather!
Hope this DIY project helps get you ready for the warmer weather!
Hi all! Sorry for being MIA this week–I’ve been having a lot of fun with my mother-in-law’s power washer since the weather is so nice. I’m going to be posting about how amazing (and easy) power washing is soon, but today I’m going to revisit the kitchen. I was so excited to show off the new kitchen renovation that I showed it off before some of the little things were completed. I’ve been putting off these few small finishing touches, so I decided to write this post to motivate me to finish them as I go 🙂
The things I have left are a mix of fun and not so fun but necessary things to finish off the kitchen:
- Replacing the switch plates that are too small with the new backsplash
- Caulking around the upper kitchen cabinets
- Recaulking the edge of the backsplash (that’s now exposed after our new microwave was installed)
- Hanging a rail for our potholders
While these seem like things no one would notice (my husband certainly doesn’t), they’re all things I stare at and obsess over every time I walk in the kitchen. And, these are things that I know if I don’t finish now, I’ll be staring at the same gap between the cabinet and the ceiling 3 years from now, just as annoyed with it then as I am today.
So, let’s dive in and knock these out!
Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item. I’ve only linked items I’ve used in the past and would use again (unless otherwise noted).
Replacing the Switch Plates
When you install a new backsplash, you may run into one of two problems (or both) with your existing switches and outlets. I ran into both, so here’s how to address them (cheaply and easily, I might add!)
Bigger Outlet Covers
I found that after installing the backsplash, one of the outlet covers no longer covered the hole for the outlet. I had cut tile around the outlet box (and thought I did a really good job about it). But, when I went to put the outlet cover back up, there were a few millimeters of outlet box now exposed.
Easy fix–you just need to replace your standard switch plates and outlet covers with bigger ones! They’re sometimes labeled as XL, jumbo, or giant covers, and the standard single switch and single outlet ones can be found at most hardware stores.
You may find that your switch plate or outlet cover still covers the hole, but the standard screws are now too short to reach the outlet box. That makes sense, right? You just added a half inch of tile to the wall so the screw probably doesn’t reach anymore.
There’s an easy fix to this! In the outlet aisle at your hardware store, they sell screws just for this purpose! These are the ones I found at Home Depot. They come in a few lengths and a few colors to blend with your switch plates and outlet covers. And, for $3 they did the trick!
Caulking the Edge of the Kitchen Cabinets
Since we moved in to our home, there was this tiny gap between the top of some of our cabinets and ceiling. Instead of installing the molding to the ceiling, it seems the previous owner installed them to the cabinets, so they don’t always line up to the ceiling.
Even though I’ve put it off for 2 years, there’s an easy fix for this–a little caulk! And thanks to you all reading my blog (and me needing to finish this post), I got this done in 10 minutes.
Tip: Make sure you use caulk made for wood, like this Dap Alex Fast Dry Caulk, for this project, and not the same tile caulk you use. It’s made to be painted and stretch with the wood.
The cleanest way to do this is to use some painter’s tape, as I did with the backsplash project. Here’s a quick recap of how to apply caulk:
- Cut the tip of the caulk container off in a 45 degree angle (this makes it easier to apply).
- Have a lot of paper towels on hand, and if you don’t like getting your hands messy, have a pair of skin tight gloves to wear.
- Line the area with painter’s tape, which will help you make nice, clean caulk lines
- Then, gently squeezing the caulk tube, squeeze a medium sized bead of caulk out along the seam you want to caulk.
- Next, using your finger, smooth the bead of caulk so it forms a nice even line connecting the tile and the other surface.
- If you applied too much and it’s gloopy, wipe it off with your finger and onto a paper towel.
- If you applied too little, just add a little more!
- When you’re done, pull off the painter’s tape to reveal your nice, pretty lines.
After doing this, you’re laughing at me for how quick this was and how much I procrastinated doing it. That’s ok. I deserve it. I admit, it was super quick and I wasted a lot of time staring at the gap instead of spending 10 minutes to fix it. And, it looks so much better now that it’s completed!
Recaulking the Backsplash
After we installed our beautiful backsplash and then got our nice new microwave, I had a mini meltdown when we realized our new microwave was shorter than our old one. Of course, Steve is tall enough that he doesn’t notice it unless he bends over, and I’m average-height enough that it stares me right in the eye every time I’m in the kitchen.
All the hard work in cutting the tile to fit under the microwave and caulking the edge two weeks ago was for naught. (In hindsight, we should have waited to do the backsplash until we got our new appliances, but oh well).
As much as I’m whining, it really is a 5 minute task. First, scrape the old caulk off the tile with a utility knife. Once that’s done, follow the same steps of caulking as are listed above. The only difference is I used kitchen/bath caulk for this, instead of the wood caulk I used for the cabinets, so that it could handle the grease and steam directly from the stove a little better than the wood caulk could.
Hanging a Rail for our Pot Holders
And, the last project I tackled was hanging a rail for our pot holders. Since we’ve moved into our house, our potholders have either lived on the countertop or on 3M hooks above the stove (before we had a backsplash). The one drawer we have next to the stove is too narrow to hold them.
After finishing all the other kitchen projects, I had one more rail left from our pot rack project (and after using 1 extra on the family command center), so I thought I’d jump on the train of using it as storage for our pot holders.
You follow the same steps to install these as you do the pot racks, except you can screw these directly into the cabinets and do not need drywall anchors. To get the step by step instructions, check out my pot rack post.
And, the Kitchen is ACTUALLY Done this Time!
That’s it–the kitchen is 100% COMPLETE! I’ve gotten so used to how good it looks, I’ve almost forgotten what the kitchen looked like when I started. Ten weeks ago I started on this journey, and a few hours after work here and there and a few weekend projects and I now have a completely new kitchen!
If you’re new to A Girl’s Guide and want to start from the beginning of the kitchen reno, jump to my first kitchen reno post. Inside this post are links to each kitchen project I completed.