When Home Feels like a Fixer-Upper

My husband and I stood and stared at the scalding hot water pouring onto the bare plywood floor of the bathroom we are remodeling. Neither of us knew how exactly to go about plugging a hole in a water main. Finally, the shock wore off. I grabbed nearby towels and stuffed them around the split copper pipe, and my husband ran to the basement to shut off the water. Thankfully, the plumber was scheduled to come the next day, and the neighborhood pool made a great stand-in for showers that evening.
Do-it-yourself projects look really easy, all smiles and shiplap, until something like this happens.

Read the rest of this story in More to Life Magazine by clicking here! 

Home Sweet Farmhouse Home, Episode 6: Fireplace reveal!

Hi dear friends! Thank you for stopping to read this final episode of this summer, and part 2 of last week’s Home Sweet Farmhouse Home.

(For all the episodes of Home Sweet Farmhouse Home click here.)

If you remember, last week I showed the first stages of our fireplace surround makeover. It was a nice fireplace, but it was ten years old. Besides that, I’m FREAKING OUT because my firstborn is going to COLLEGE in less than a month and so I’m redecorating my house to cope. (Because nothing helps stress like adding more stress, right?)

Also, because my third novel is set on a farm, I want to pretend I live on one, too.

Here are three more of the inspiration photos I found on Pinterest. You can see all my decorating pins by clicking here.

Dream fireplace #1:


Dream fireplace #2:


Dream fireplace #3:


Those are some lofty goals right there.

But I love a challenge.

Last week I showed you how I chose the river rock for the bottom of the surround.

Below is the wood planking I found at Lowe’s to use for the shiplap.

While it would be an expensive product for covering an entire room, it was perfect for the tiny space above the mantel. I only had to use one and one-half packs. The pieces are pre-cut into various sizes and they fit together tongue-and-groove style.

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I didn’t have to make any cuts to these planks because I got lucky and they fit the space I needed them to perfectly.

And I used basic trim nails to hang them.

See how they come in different sized pieces so that a staggered look is made simple, too?

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The other thing I love about these planks is that they are really thin.

This helped the 1×3 poplar I chose to frame them compliment them perfectly.


All up and caulked.

I love caulk.

Caulk makes everything better.

Even amateur carpentry.


Because the planks I used are not traditional shiplap and I wanted to create a patina of age and wear, I painted the grooves with plain black acrylic paint.

Then when I painted over with white, I purposely left imperfections.


But before I show you that…

…on to the grout.

I was terrified to put the grout on the stones. I was afraid it would run all over the carpet or that I’d picked the wrong color or that the stones would “get lost” in it and I’d never be able to wipe it off right.

I didn’t need to be skeered, though.

The Kind Man from Lowe’s and the directions on the back of the stone tile were most helpful. Here are some of the products and tools I used.

NOTE: Make sure you get SANDED GROUT. There’s a HUGE difference between this and the un-sanded variety and take it from me, it’s not pretty.



Here’s the grout, all mixed up.

The consistency reminded me of cake batter.


Below is a shot of the first stages of grout application.

This is when I started to get skeered again.

The rocks disappeared!

It was so messy!

I had it in my hair and in my teeth and all over the dogs.

I felt like I was a little kid who got out of the ocean and rolled in the sand.

That’s how messy it got.


Lots of wiping and sponging is involved.

And more wiping and sponging after that.


But finally, I started feeling like I was getting someplace.

Someplace wonderful.





This whole project reminds me so much of the way my novel-writing goes.

I get inspired.

I dig in.

I freak out.

And somehow, after the giant mess of it all…

…something beautiful emerges.



Here’s the before picture again:



And here’s the after.

I thought I might need a new piece of art to hang in the middle of the shiplap, but I really love this print of the man and woman praying.

On a farm.

So I kept it.



Now I have a farmhouse-ish fireplace to match my farm-inspired book. (Have you read it yet? 🙂 )


What about you?

What inspires you and your creativity?

What DIY projects are you working on at your place?


Thank you for reading this fun little Home Sweet Farmhouse Home blog series. I’m taking the rest of the summer off of projects so I can finish my fourth novel and carve my heart out of my chest get my firstborn off to college. But after that, I may have some more projects to share with you. Would you like that?


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17


Home Sweet Farmhouse Home Episode 5: Fireplace Surround Part 1

Hello, dear readers!

Summers are busy, aren’t they?

Maybe that’s why they never last as long as I want them to.

About the time I feel settled in to the less scheduled, longer days, back-to-school begins to loom on the horizon like a bad summer storm. I don’t know about you, but I’m the sort of mama that loves summer. I love having all my boys home in my nest.

Which might be why I’m always feathering ours…the projects and art I create in summertime are a way to express the joy that overflows when my family is all near. It’s a tangible–albeit annoying to the four precious men who tolerate it–way for me to love on them without getting (too much) in their way. 

This fireplace renovation is a perfect example.

(Friendly reminder: I’m just a girl having fun, so please don’t rely on what I say here as the final word on your own home improvement projects. Be sure to consult with a professional before starting your own.)

I LOVE this project.

It’s not an easy one, though, and so I’m dividing it in to two parts. Part 1 today will show you inspiration and how I’ve done the bottom half of the work. The second episode will talk about the top half and the final REVEAL. 🙂

So here’s what I started with, the “before” picture of our fireplace.

It’s a beautiful fireplace as-is. But since I’m in love with the farmhouse style, it needed some major work.


While the woodwork is beautiful, the tile is boring and over ten years old. And the wall above the mantel has been begging for something more for as many years.


Enter Pinterest.

I’m not an original decorator.

I fully admit I’m a copy-cat-er. I search and search and scroll and scroll Pinterest until I find all the pictures I can that are similar to the dream in my head.

Here’s one of the many that are the inspiration behind the re-do I’m sharing with you:
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It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I went back and forth and back and forth between doing all stone, all the way to the ceiling, but I decided (because our family room isn’t very big) that would be too much. Besides that, I wanted to incorporate some shiplap.


Who doesn’t need more shiplap in their life?

And their family room?

So I decided to do stone below and shiplap above.

Let the demolition begin.


This is the best, unanticipated part of having three baby boys.

They grow up to be big man-boys who LOVE demolition.

I learned the hard way that removing tile is neither fun nor simple.

And it creates a gigantic mess.

My oldest chipped and hammered for hours until at last we had a nekked fireplace surround.



REALLY nekked.

Like, studs and insulation nekked, which I had not anticipated.

Enter Friendly Mr. Lowe’s Guy.

I love this man. He has helped me so much with this project. If you’re a DIY newb like me, find yourself a Friendly Mr. Lowe’s guy. He’ll show you things like this lovely Hardiebacker cement board that we installed all around the fireplace. We had to do this, because we had to have something on which the tiles could properly adhere.

(By the way, HardieBacker does say on its website that it’s okay to use around a fireplace. Be sure to check for things like this before you attempt it on your own.)

The Hardiebacker is super nice because you can use a box cutter to score along the lines and snap it apart.

Don’t forget to measure twice before you cut! 😉


Once the Hardiebacker was screwed in to the studs, the fun really started.

I’ve always been smitten with the smooth river rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan. If you’ve read my second novel, Then Sings My Soul, then you know a little about my obsession with rocks. And I do enjoy decorating with things and themes I’m passionate about.

Here’s some pictures I took of rocks and boys skipping rocks from a family vacation to South Haven, Michigan, the setting of Then Sings My Soul:






As such, I was absolutely thrilled when I found these beautiful stones available (also at Lowe’s) as a tiling system.

The river rock tile is especially forgiving because…

…no one can tell if it’s crooked because none of them are straight.

Besides that, they have a mesh backing, and I was able to cut smaller and even individual sections of stone for precise placement.


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I still have to grout, but here it is so far!

The grout is a darker shade of gray, and while everything I’ve studied indicates it will be the easiest part of this project, I’m terrified I’ll mess it up and these beautiful stones along with it. But I think/hope/pray the dark gray will be striking against them in the end.

I’m so excited.

This might be my favorite DIY project to date.

I wish I could’ve done more for you by now, but I have a fourth novel I’m editing, as well as my firstborn son going to college for the first time in less than a month, so I don’t have a ton of extra time for my projects. Thank you for your patience as I piece them together for you! I can’t wait to share the shiplap and grout results with you next time!

What about you?

Have you ever collected river rock?

Have you ever remodeled your fireplace?

What are you working on this summer?





By wisdom a house is built,

And by understanding it is established;

And by knowledge the rooms are filled

With all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4