...because home doesn't happen overnight.

I get a surprising number of emails asking whether or not I use rug pads or non-slip rug grippers. Up until a few weeks ago, the answer was no. I’ve never liked cushy rug pads for the sake of padding alone. For me, they make vacuuming more difficult and I feel like they’re just one more thing to collect and hold dust. And the good ones are expensive!

As far as non-slip pads go, most of the larger area rugs in my home either have a built-in, non-slip backing (living room sisal, boys’ Flor tiles) or are anchored by such substantial pieces of furniture (dining room kilim, master bedroom jute) which render rugs pads unnecessary. The shag rug in the living room is layered over sisal which has a textured surface that holds the shag rug in place. The cotton and jute rug in Mabrey’s room rests directly on the wood floor. When I first bought the nursery rug, I was sure we would need a pad of some sort to keep it from shifting so I was happy to discover that it stays put. I think it’s because the room is so small and doesn’t see a ton of foot traffic. The 4′ x 6′ sisal in the entry has a built-in, non-slip backing.

entry and kitchen rug  HouseTweaking

I don’t use a pad / gripper under the kilim near the kitchen desk – nor under the Persian rug near the kitchen sink. The kitchen is a high traffic, high mess area so I’m frequently taking the rugs outside to shake out crumbs and dirt. A gripper would keep them from shifting but I don’t want them stuck to the floor. I tried the cheap mesh grippers that you can cut to size but found them completely useless. They bunched up and only stuck to themselves. If we had elderly people in our household then I would consider anchoring the rugs properly (or forgoing them all together) but we don’t find them to be tripping hazards. We’re all subconsciously aware that they’re here, I guess.

The only rug that has given us problems is the seagrass runner in the hallway. (Btw, do you call it a hall or a hallway?) It has a cloth backing and due to all the traffic it sees, it shifted easily. I was constantly repositioning it and, more than once, it posed a tripping / falling hazard. Since the only functioning bathroom is the master, we and our guests have to walk down the hallway to use the restroom. Most OH SH@#! moments occurred as someone was exiting our bedroom and entering the hallway. I called it rug surfing. Fearing someone would inevitably experience a full on wipeout, I finally bought some gripper tape to keep the rug in place.

rug gripper 1

After measuring my runner, I bought two boxes of rug gripper.

rug gripper 2

I removed the runner from the hallway. I vacuumed the floor then wiped it down thoroughly with Bona and a microfiber cloth to ensure the gripper tape would have a clean surface to adhere to.

rug gripper 3

While the floor was drying, I vacuumed the underside of the runner. Preparing clean surfaces for the gripper tape is essential.

rug gripper 4

I applied the gripper tape around the perimeter of the (backside of the) rug then ran an extra line down the middle for added adhesion. This used up the majority of the two boxes of tape.

rug gripper 5

I removed the yellow backing from the tape then carefully put the runner in place and walked around on it to press the tape to the floor. Easy!

The rug has been in place with the aide of the gripper tape for over a month now. It hasn’t budged. Not even with kids running wild and weekly vacuuming. If you’re curious, I vacuum the rug weekly and use an attachment tool to vacuum the narrow space between the rug’s border and baseboards.

While we’ve had great success with the tape, the reviews are all over the place and, from what I can tell, results vary depending on the type of flooring and rug. It doesn’t look like it works well on carpet or on rugs with highly textured backing. But with our wood floors and fairly smooth cloth backing? Two thumbs up. Even so, I expect the tape will need to be replaced at some point in the future. But if it keeps people from wiping out in the hallway then I’m all for it. (FYI – I used this same rug tape in our previous home under a small rug in the entry. We had hardwood flooring in the entry. When we were preparing to move, I took up the rug and tape and there were a few sticky spots of residual adhesive but they cleaned up with a little Murphy’s oil soap and elbow grease. There was no damage to the wood floors.)

What about you? Are rug pads / gripper tape necessary in your home? Is there a particular pad you would recommend? Oh! In case you’re wondering, the seagrass runner is from Overstock. I love the texture it brings to the bland hallway. I can’t wait to add art to the walls.

P.S. – See who won the ShoeMint giveaway here. I added sources for my entire outfit since so many of you asked.

Progress in the kid / guest bathroom is slow-going.

kid bath progress

Steve started tiling the back wall. It’s proved to be a challenge. The wall is wonky and there’s a window and Steve’s a perfectionist soooo…it’s taking a while but we’ll get there. The other walls shouldn’t be as tricky.

Since it looks like we’re going to be sharing one bathroom for a little longer, I decided to do something I’ve been meaning to for a while.

slow closing potty lid 1

I replaced the flimsy plastic toilet seat and lid in the master bathroom. It changed my life.

The toilet came with the house. We decided to keep it. (We actually wanted to keep the toilet in the kid / guest bath, too, but it was accidentally broken during a renovation mishap. Oops.) I’ll never forget the looks of passersby as I was cleaning the toilet in the front yard…with a garden hose…while eight months pregnant. THE HORROR.


I went to Home Depot and had way too much fun playing with all the toilet seats. It’s almost embarrassing how many special features there are. You know, considering some places in the world don’t even have proper sewage systems. But it didn’t stop me from wanting all. the. features. Built-in potty seat? Yes. Removable and easy-to-clean? Yessssss. Whisper-soft and slow-closing? GIVE IT TO ME.

I ended up with this tricked out seat + lid. Installation was super easy. Gross but super easy. Once I had removed the disgusting bolts holding the old seat in place I couldn’t get the new clean one installed fast enough. It took me all of 10 minutes. And that was with a toddler “helping” me. The new seat and lid are made of molded wood so it’s sturdier than the cheap plastic we had before. Our toilet is round and the new seat is about ½” too long but it doesn’t seem to affect its function.

slow-closing potty lid 2

There’s a built-in potty seat which Mabrey has already claimed. I really like this feature since we don’t have room for a separate training potty. The potty seat is removable so when we’re past the potty-training phase we can take it off. A magnet holds the smaller potty seat to the lid when non-toddler derrière use the toilet. The potty seat is plastic – not wood.

Another awesome feature is the soft-closing mechanism which keeps the lid and seat from slamming shut. Everett graciously demonstrates this toilet *magic* here. I love this feature. When the boys use the bathroom during the night or early in the morning while Steve and I are sleeping, I’m not jolted awake by the sound of the toilet seat slamming anymore. It’s the equivalent of hanging blackout shades in an infant’s room. Anything for five more minutes of sleep! Between our soft-closing kitchen cabinets & drawers, bathroom vanity and now toilet, I’m going to be slamming all the things at every house I visit.

potty lid unlock

In case I need to remove the seat + lid for cleaning purposes (from the looks of our old toilet seat bolts apparently I need to), the entire piece can be unlocked from the bolts and lifted off.

slow closing potty lid 3

In summary, maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can teach an old toilet new tricks.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

concrete waterproofing

A few weeks ago when we were cleaning up the exterior of our home Steve remembered we hadn’t yet sealed the concrete walks and patios that were installed over a year ago. Oops! After a little research we decided to try a new (to us at least) waterproofing agent, Behr Premium Protector & Waterproofer. It’s a water-based, silicone waterproofing agent that forms a barrier within the surface but allows trapped water vapors to escape. And it’s guaranteed to protect the surface for 10 years. Had we known how miraculous this stuff is, I would have documented the application with my real camera. But we didn’t know what we know now so all I have to share are crummy phone pics. My apologies.

You can find out more about the application process here but it’s pretty straightforward and easy enough for even a DIY novice. Steve used a garden sprayer to apply the sealer and large pieces of cardboard to protect nearby surfaces from overspray. He let it cure for two days before testing it out. The first time he sprayed a little water on the newly sealed concrete he yelled for me to come look.

concrete waterproofing 2

The water immediately bubbled up into these crazy amoeba-like droplets and proceeded to “roll” to the nearest low spot. It reminded me of the way mercury rolls around. The boys thought it was so cool and played with the water droplets, pushing them around with their fingers. The results were almost freakish but it was quite obvious that the waterproofer was doing its job. We made my dad and grandpa (who are both lifelong, hardcore DIYers) witness the results for themselves, too. They were AMAZED. They said they had never seen anything like it.

Anyway, I thought maybe you hadn’t either and that it was worth mentioning in case anyone out there is considering a DIY concrete waterproofing project in the near future. Or if you just want to watch water do its best cytoplasm impression. Sometimes DIY is cool.

FYI – This post was not sponsored in any way. This stuff is just really, really awesome.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

05.28.14 / Exterior Evolution

It’s been three years since we made the decision to downsize and buy the Underdog. From the beginning we said “it isn’t the house of our dreams but rather the house in which to pursue our dreams.” We still stand by that motto. Renovating this house hasn’t always been easy (or quick!) but we feel we made the right decision for us. Some days when we’re feeling especially disappointed about our progress (or lack thereof…yes, kid bathroom, I’m giving you the stink eye) it helps to look back and see how far we’ve come. So today we’re taking a look at the exterior’s evolution.

exterior tree removal

When we bought the house it was barely noticeable from the road, hidden behind several large trees. Our inspector found evidence of a previous termite infestation inside and outside the home. One of the first things we did was have many of the trees removed to allow the house and yard to dry out properly. The tree removal also optimized natural light inside. (I had to fight to save that one remaining tree. I’m so glad I did. It provides the only shade in the front yard.)

exterior lawn redo

Shortly after removing the trees, we did away with the wood shutters and installed a metal roof. Still, the yard was horrendous – bumpy, full of weeds, stumps and bare spots. It actually sloped toward the house. After talking with a neighbor who happens to be a landscaper, we had the yard excavated in the fall of 2012 and started from scratch. We had new concrete walks installed, completely reseeded the lawn and put in some basic landscaping. Eventually, we rehabbed the front entry.

exterior spring 2014

It’s taken us a while but this is how the exterior looks currently. It’s nothing special but it’s clean and uncluttered and well-maintained which was basically our goal all along. Really, anything other than “crack house” was our goal!

exterior spring 2014-6

We endured a brutal winter and, unfortunately, we lost some of our young plants. I spoke with employees at a local nursery and they said they are having a hard time keeping up with the demand right now. Many commercial and residential customers are having to replace plants that didn’t make it through the winter while the nursery’s own plant inventory (they grow their own shrubs and trees right here in Ohio) suffered as well. A few of our gold mop cypress have a bit of brown on them and that has me worried. I guess we’ll just wait it out and see how they do. Two grasses aren’t sprouting yet so it looks like they may need replaced. Many of our plants aren’t meant to withstand temperatures colder than -10ºF and we had many days much colder than that this past winter.

exterior spring 2014-3

As far as I can tell, the roses are fine. The hydrangeas are greening up. One of them started sprouting way ahead of the other but the second is starting to catch up.

exterior spring 2014-4

We did lose the miniature evergreens in the front bed. Personally, I wasn’t all that sad to see them go. They were one of those hasty “I don’t know what to put here so let’s do these” choices. I replaced them with Elijah blue grass. I don’t think I’ve shared a good picture of the planter under the picture window that we turned into a storage bench.

exterior spring-5

Steve built a wood frame within the planter and used leftover Trex deck boards to create three separate “lids” that form a bench seat. We store potting soil and outdoor toys inside. It’s worked out really well so far.

exterior spring 2014-7

Last year we created flower beds along the east and north sides of the house but held off on planting anything in them. We didn’t have the time or money to devote to them. A few weeks ago I spent $350 and one day planting them. The east-facing bed has spirea, grasses and variegated liriope.

exterior spring 2014-8

The north-facing bed only receives a little sunlight in late evening. A nursery employee suggested chardonnay pearls (left of the heat pump) and an azalea (right of the heat pump) for this shaded area. I threw in a few more liriope.

exterior spring 2014-9

The chardonnay pearls are my favorite. The have the slightest sweet scent that drifts in through our bedroom window.

We went with a different mulch this year. It’s browner and finer than what we used last spring. I like it better. The previous stuff was chunky and almost stick-like…although I did like the black color. Steve had the mulch delivered last Friday afternoon and by the time he got home from work, I had spread it all. I really enjoy spreading mulch. Is that weird?

exterior spring 2014-2

The grass seed has taken really well. We pay an organic lawn care company to come out and fertilize regularly. We recently reseeded around the deck we installed last summer. Hopefully, it comes in as nicely as the rest.

For comparison’s sake, a look at where we’ve been and where we are now…

exterior before & after

Again, it’s nothing special but it’s definitely an improvement. Our neighbors and mailman have noticed. In fact, just last week our mailman came to the front door and said “Don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t think I’ve been up here since you got a new front door.” Imagine his surprise when I told him it’s the original door. It feels good not being embarrassed by our home’s exterior anymore. We’re really looking forward to having the driveway replaced and I’m anxious to see how everything fills in over the years.

What about you? Did you lose any plants due to the harsh winter? Were / are you embarrassed by your home’s exterior?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking