The DIY Way to Finish a Stub Wall

Stub wall2

Our home came with some great stuff – and it also came with some not so great bare-bones stuff!

One major issue in our home was the unfinished stub wall (or some people call it a pony wall) at the top of our stairs. It was just finished with drywall and was missing any sort of trim. Because this stub wall is the “landing zone” for all sorts of stuff (like cell phones and clothes that need drying) it was looking pretty rough. So for $45, we capped the stub wall for a custom look!

Here’s how we added trim to finish the stub wall. Check out the tips on what NOT to do!

Find the materials: The “cap” consists of a piece of MDF and moulding below it. We used an 8′ x 10″ piece of MDF from Home Depot. This cost us about $12 and amazingly was cheaper than the trim! We also bought baseboard moulding/trim to wrap under the MDF.

Get the tools: You’ll need a miter saw, nail gun, jigsaw or oscillating hand saw, and router. DIY NO-FAIL TIP: Get a router – rent one, borrow one, whatever you have to do. It’ll make all the difference when you go to create nice edges on your board!

Trim the top board: Trim the board to the length and size that you need. We wanted the board to wrap around one side, so we measured and cut out the section using our Dremmel multi-tool. A small hand jigsaw would be fine too.


Be smart about how you the finish the edges: We decided to get fancy and run the wood through a table saw angled at 45 degrees. This just tore up the board and made it look super messy. We thought paint would help – it didn’t. Here’s what happens when you try to trim MDF on a table saw:


Sad, sad stuff. We also tried to use the miter saw to create a unique angled area at the end of the board. It didn’t work either, so don’t try it!


So we sanded it with a palm sander and that helped quite a bit. But seriously, don’t try to get fancy! Just run a router around the edges, or just sand the edges so it won’t have sharp edges that get dinged up easily.

Install the board: Once you have your board in place, glue it with PL Premium or Liquid Nails, and then tack it into place with your nail gun. I’m sure just the adhesive would be fine, but we wanted to ensure it was firmly in place for years to come.

Cut the moulding: Cut the moulding at 45 degree angles to wrap around the bottom of the board. Then install with your nail gun. If you don’t have a nail gun, little finish nails that are countersunk would work just fine.

Fill the holes, caulk, and paint: Paint first, using a roller to ensure the finish is even. I used a paintbrush and in certain lights it looks like someone quickly painted it with a paintbrush because they had a BBQ to go to in an hour…not that I did that or anything. Okay, maybe I did.

DIY NO-FAIL TIP: Caulk also makes all the difference in this project. Use white caulk designed for trim or woodwork to fill in the gaps. See the gap where the board and the trim meet? Caulk in areas where you can see the seams (like the other side, where you can see it walking up the stairs).


You’re done! This little project took us a whole day, thanks to small little cuts around the end of the board, figuring out angles, and that darn table saw idea. If you’re smart and didn’t try to get fancy, it’s a 3 hour project.

But check out the results! I love the before and after (along with the before and after of our new hardwood floors, because it’s the only “before” photo I had). Funny how a little thing like trim can make such a big difference.

BEFORE (and a bonus before & after shot of our pretty new hardwood): FullSizeRender

AFTER: IMG_4945IMG_4946



The DIY Guide to Installing Stair Treads


Our carpeted stairs were gross. When we moved into our 10 year old home a year ago, we we knew the carpet on the stairs needed to be replaced.

Big box stores quoted us around $1,500 just to replace the carpet with wood – and we’d still have to do all the demo and prep. No thank you. Our final cost for the stairs was $800, and that included buying power tools (a great investment!)

Here’s how to use your DIY skills to replace your carpeted stairs with wood treads.

Tools and materials required to replace stair treads and risers: 

  • Sliding compound mitre saw (rent or buy – this is the one we used)
  • Nail gun and air compressor (rent or buy – here’s the one we bought)
  • Stair tread template (here’s the one we bought) – Worth every penny!
  • Power sander and fine grit sandpaper
  • 42″ oak stair treads (what you step on)  – Pine treads are about $11/piece, oak treads are about $16/piece. We bought 42″ treads, because the width of our stairs was a little wider than the standard 36″ pieces.
  • 42″ oak stair risers (the vertical piece that goes above the tread)- Pine risers are about $8/piece, oak risers are about $12/piece
  • Clear polyurethane and stain (if you want a different color than natural wood). We used Miniwax, but if you can go to a professional flooring store and get a better polyurethane, we’d recommend that. Miniwax will never leave a perfectly smooth finish.
  • Natural bristle brush – Nylon won’t work with oil-based polyurethane
  • Pry bar – To remove carpet tacks
  • Crow bar – To remove treads
  • Utility knife – To cut up carpet or score risers
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil

Step by step instructions (with my very handsome husband as the hand-model and DIY builder):

1. Sand and stain/polyurethane your treads and risers: This is what takes the most time. We used our garage as our workspace so we could sand outside. We sanded each of the treads with a fine grit sandpaper and a little power sander and wiped them down with damp cloth.

There are actually two ways to do this step – You can install the wood and then stain/polyurethane the pieces. This is so the nail holes don’t show once you tack the treads into place. We didn’t want to deal with waiting for the stairs to dry (yeah, we needed to get to our bedroom!) So we did all the prep beforehand, and we had no issues. It’s up to you!


When you don’t have sawhorses, you use what you can find. We used a trash can and a table saw to rest the wood on. Whatever works!


Remember, if you’re staining, you’ll want to stain before you polyurethane. Or you could get a stain/poly combination.

IMG_4701We polyurethaned each of the boards and laid them out to dry. You need to do this at least 2 times. We have a friend who’s a professional floor installer who told us we only needed 2 coats, and he was right! One coat to soak into the wood, and the second coat to protect. Make sure to lightly sand between coats, because the first coat seems to bring out the “grittiness” in the wood.


2. Remove the carpet and underlay: Go to town and rip up the carpet and underlay. It goes pretty quickly. Cut it at the top of the stairs, if the carpet carries onto the upstairs landing. Bye bye, gross old carpet! IMG_4747

2. Remove the carpet tacks: Pry off the carpet tack strips. Careful, they’re sharp! We’re doing this so it’s safe to tear up the treads later. You could skip this step, but you might get poked by carpet tacks!


3. Remove the treads: This requires some serious muscle (enter handsome husband with big muscles, or whoever you can talk into helping you!) Use a crowbar and hammer to wedge it under the treads and pry off. Once you have a little bit of the tread up, hammer upwards to remove the tread. Our treads were solid thick pine, but the risers were just plywood, so those were easier to remove.


You’ll end up with the bare stringers- and no way to get back up the stairs! We stuck the cat in a room upstairs while we were doing this project. If I were to do this again, I’d keep all pets downstairs so you don’t get concerned when they’re not meowing and have to tiptoe up the risers to check on the cat…not that I did that…. ok, maybe I did.


4. Start measuring and cutting: Let me introduce you to the brilliant stair tread template. It’s $20 and was worth every penny. It’s two plastic ends that you attach to a 1×3 that’s a little shorter than the width of your stairs. We used a flat strip of wood we had around the house, because the 1×3 we bought was bowed (if you buy one for this project, make sure it’s straight!)


Lay the template on the stair stringers and tighten the template so you get the exact angle and length of each side of the tread or riser.


Then mark your boards with a pencil, or score them with a utility knife. I’d recommend using a knife, so it doesn’t leave pencil marks.


Use your compound miter saw to cut the board to exact angle. Line up the laser to cut it juuuuuuust right. Work your way up every stair until you have all boards cut. Warning, this took us all day. All. Flipping. Day.

5. Install your risers and treads: Because we were “nervous,” we didn’t install as we go. Instead, we cut and measured every riser and stair, and installed at the end. But you really should install each tread and riser as you move up the stairs.


Start with the bottom riser, then place the tread on top of it. Then the riser, then another tread, and use this pattern until you reach the top. The riser rests on the tread. Use PL premium adhesive in a caulk gun to install the treads. Using a lot of adhesive on each tread helps act as a leveller. We used 3 tubes of adhesive for 15 stairs.

Then use your nail gun and 2″ nails to tack the boards into place. Use a 45 degree angle so the nails won’t wiggle out as the stairs start to get worn in. A 45 degree angle has a better chance of keeping that nail in place. The more nails you use, the less squeaking you’ll have. You can use wood filler to fill the holes. We haven’t done this yet, because you can’t see where the nails are. We’ll get to it…eventually!


WARNING: Your stairs will SQUEAK. A lot. For us, it was because the edges of the wood were pushing against the trim. This’ll be fixed by walking on them and wearing them in, and by caulking. The caulk creates a buffer between the tread and trim.

6. Caulk and paint: I tried to paint the side stringer trim before we installed. What a bad idea. Because the treads are so tightly cut, they scraped up the trim as we were fitting the the treads and risers into place.

So tape off your stairs, and paint the trim with 2 good coats of paint. This takes forever, but it’s well worth it.


Now caulk the gaps between the stairs and trim. Using white caulk specifically designed for trim, get ready to make a mess. Cut off the tiniest tip of the caulk and squeeze small lines into the edges. Then use lots of paper towel and a big damp rag or towel to wipe off the excess. Plan to get your fingers messy and wipe off a ton of excess caulk. This was the best thing we did, because it helps fill in the gaps and stopped the squeaking.

Before caulking:


After caulking and painting: IMG_4837

And you’re done! That’s the final step to making your ugly carpeted stairs into gorgeous wood stairs that’ll stand the test of time (and help add major value to your home). 


Questions about installing stairs? Comment and let us know your questions or advice for other DIY stair installers! 

Paint Cheap and Cute Pinecone Ornaments

Pinecone ornaments

We’re all about pinecones around here. They look so cute as vase fillers, and even cuter as Christmas tree decorations! Here’s how to make cute flocked pinecone ornaments.

The stuff you’ll need:

  • Pinecones: Use scented ones from a craft store, or the best and cheapest option – collect them from nature!
  • White craft acrylic paint
  • Small paint brush
  • Low gauge floral wire  (26 gauge)


  • IMG_4363IMG_4360

1. Grab some floral wire and big pinecones: We collected pinecones and baked them (see the post on that here). Then I grabbed some low gauge floral wire, left over from our wedding floral, and looped it to create a hook for the pinecones. Twist the wire over the top couple of layers of pinecone.


2. Get some cheap craft paint and go to town: Start from the bottom and work your way up, using white paint and a cheap little paintbrush to paint the edges of each pinecone.  I dabbed the paint on to make it look like snow fell on each edge. Starting from the bottom makes it easier to hold the pinecone (which I didn’t do on this particular pine cone, making for paint-covered fingers!)


3. Add glitter (if you’re into shiny things – which I am): I didn’t have any glitter on hand, but you can always sprinkle silver or gold glitter while the paint is still wet.


4. Hang on the tree: Enjoy your (almost) free ornaments! We hung them all over our tree to add texture and a really rustic look to an otherwise very shiny tree.


What kinds of things have you decorated using pinecones? Comment and let me know – I’d love to hear what other decor lovers are doing! 

How to Bake Pinecones

how to bake pinecones

Have you see the big bags of pinecones in the craft stores?  They’re crazy expensive for something that God gives us in nature for free! Decorating with pinecones is great for fall and Christmas, they’re so versatile and create ideal “space fillers.”

We had a few vases to fill, and my lovely cycling husband spotted tons of pinecones on one of his rides. He packed a backpack full and brought them home…and brought home whatever else was in them.

Pinecones can hold creepy crawlies, and who knows what else. Make them house-safe and get rid of the critters by baking. Here’s how to bake the bugs and everything else out of pinecones:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (you’ll be baking them for an hour)
  2. Line baking sheets with aluminium foil: Doing this ensures you won’t get sap all over your baking sheets, and sap would just ruin pretty much anything you bake in the future. We doubled up on tin foil for regular sized baking sheets. I wrapped the edges too, so the entire pan was covered (the photo below shows the “after”, check out all of the grime!)how to bake pinecones
  3. Do a pre-check before baking: Pick out any pine needs, grass, or grime before layering them in the oven. Cleaning them as much as you can beforehand makes sure you’ll get the cleanest results after baking.
  4. Layer the pinecones: We crammed the pinecones on the baking sheet. The point is to heat them and kill any living creepy crawlies! Give them enough room so air can circulate, but you can still really layer them up.How to bake pinecones
  5. Make them smell great (optional): Want scented pinecones? Drip essential oils over the pinecones and toss before baking.
  6. Bake and shake: Bake the pinecones at 200 degrees for an hour. After they’ve cooled, bang the pans against the counter and shake up the pinecones to remove any dead bugs or to bake pinecones

7. Display your cleaned pinecones: I love pinecones for vase fillers, but they’re great in bowls for a centerpiece, or for hanging on a Christmas tree. What do things you decorate using pinecones?


how to bake pinecones

Make a Charming DIY Fall Porch Sign

DIY fall porch sign

Decorating my porch for the season has become my new obsession. It’s what you see when you leave each morning, and what you come home to every night – so why shouldn’t your porch get some TLC?

Porch signs and outdoor signs are an awesome way to showcase the season and add some character to your entryway. Using found items and some cheap Hobby Lobby essentials, I was able to create a cute autumn porch sign – here’s how you can do it, too!

You’ll need the following materials – this cost me about $5, because I already had most of the materials:

  • One piece of wood or MDF – Approximately 3 feet by 1.5 feet, but pick the size that works best for your outdoor space
  • Latex paint
  • Craft paint in assorted colors (orange, white, black)
  • 4 chipboard letters – $4
  • Circle stencil (or just freehand them!)
  • Paint brush
  • Stencil brush
  • Gorilla Glue

Fall porch outdoor sign

Fall porch outdoor sign

1- Find a large piece of wood to act as your canvas: I used a piece of wood that came from the packaging of a sign shipment (in marketing, you get all sorts of fun deliveries!) We cut it using a table saw into a 3′ x 1.5′ piece. You could also use some old plywood or MDF, or even secure pallet pieces together. Whatever you can find in your garage!

Fall porch outdoor sign

2- Paint the wood using latex paint: I had my favorite $1 paint samples on hand (read more about those HERE), so it made for a cheap painting project. I used Valspar’s Lemon Curd, and brushed one coat on. You’re going for a rustic look, so one coat will do it.

Fall porch outdoor sign

3 – Grab a stencil and go crazy! I had a circular stencil I’d gotten from Hobby Lobby ages ago. Using white acrylic craft paint, I stencilled different sized circles randomly around the board.I used a stencil brush, but a foam craft brush would be fine. Again, rustic is good!

Fall porch outdoor sign

Fall porch outdoor sign

4 – Paint your letters and weather them: Use wood or chipboard letters and paint them using craft paint. My letters were half price at Hobby Lobby- $1 a letter! Wood letters would last longer, but are more expensive. I can’t even tell you how awesome these chipboard letters are – I used them for everything! Need proof? Take a peek at my other letter decor ideas HERE.

I used a dark orange craft paint on the letters, then ran a paper towel dipped in some black craft paint around the edges for a weathered look.

Fall porch outdoor sign

5 – Grab the Gorilla Glue and go to town: I used my trusty Gorilla Glue to secure the letters into place. You can measure to ensure the letters are even and centered, but I just eyeballed it and they look fine. Then I picked up some cute burlap leaves (also from Hobby Lobby) and glued those around the board for some added texture.

Fall porch outdoor sign

6 – Spray with varnish: I haven’t done this yet, because I want my sign to get a bit beat up and weathered this season. However, if you want your sign to really last, spray it with varnish to seal in the paint and ensure the chipboard stays intact.

7 – Display your new fall outdoor porch sign! Ain’t it cute? I’ve also used small pumpkins and orange mums to make it even more fall-ish on our porch. Love it!

Fall porch outdoor sign

outdoor porch FALL sign

Have you started decorating your porch for different seasons, and what kind of things have you done? Comment below and let me know your awesome porch decorating ideas! 

The $1 Way to Paint Furniture and Decor


Ever get a piece of furniture from a garage sale or thrift store, with full intention of painting it? It’s my favorite way to get great furniture and make it my own – but painting can get crazy expensive.

Enter paint samples! These awesome one pint cans of paint go on sale quarterly at Ace Hardware and Lowes, and it’s just enough to paint a small piece of furniture. The best part – they’re only ONE DOLLAR! .99 cents, actually, which makes projects super affordable.

Ace Hardware usually sells the Valspar or Clark + Kensington brand, and Lowes will usually sell Valspar on sale as well. I usually get the Valspar, because it’s a well known brand and it works well for my needs.

Using inexpensive paint samples allows you to use unique colors and test out color schemes. If you hate the color, you can always swap it out the next time the paint samples go on sale. Of course, they’ve introduced rules, probably because people started buying multiples of the same color instead of buying a whole can. You can only buy four, and they each have to be different colors.

Here are the colors I bought last time they had the sale.

$1 a piece - can't beat that!

I chose colors that already went with my home’s decor. Using darker variations than my last purchase (which was used for painting a desk, frame, stools, etc), I was able to paint some unique pieces.

Here are some furniture and decor painting ideas that you can use your paint samples for. 

Check out the mirror, painted with a cheap little brush in a dark grey color. Would you believe this mirror was a muddled gold color before? Gross!

Grey frame $1 paint samples

I also painted a floral wall medallion which now hangs in our laundry room. Love it! It covers so much better than craft paint, not to mention that it goes a lot further than a tiny little bottle of craft paint.


IMG_4120 2

Take a look at the decor pieces and cool decorative balls that I painted in a bright turquoise and the same dark grey as the mirror.

$1 paint samples

There are so many uses for one pint paint samples. Let us know what kinds of painting you’ve been doing lately, and if you’re painting furniture with these awesome samples! 


Free Stylish Bible Verse Printable – Isaiah 32:18

There’s something about Bible verses on the wall in a house that help it seem more like a home. I really love this verse, Isaiah 32:18, in our house as a statement of God’s protection over our home.

Isaiah 32:18: My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, and undisturbed resting places.

What a promise! If you want to post this free printable Bible verse in your home, click here to download the PDF:

Dwelling Places Printable

Or click on the JPEG below to print an image version – then let me know how you’ve used it in your home by sharing a photo on Pinterest and tagging #OurTennesseeHome. 

Dwelling Places Printable

Enjoy this incredible Bible verse in your home!