Saving Etta: Kitchen Update & Installing the Range Hood

This kitchen was a big deal for me. It was one of those projects I knew would make or break this house. It was also the first time I’ve taken the reins on kitchen design and installed cabinets. As the project was in the home stretch, I spent many hours and late nights working on the kitchen. Today I’m thrilled to give you another update on the kitchen and show you the installation of the range hood (complete with all the mishaps involved). Speaking of mishaps, I have some tips to help you avoid a potentially dangerous and costly mistake when selecting a range hood.

Before we begin, I’d like to say thank you to all my wonderful sponsors on the Saving Etta project. I could not have saved Etta without their help. When you are looking for products that last and perform well, you can rest assured that I hand-selected these sponsors to represent the Saving Etta project.

Saving Etta sponsors

Where It Started:

If you’ve been along for the entire Saving Etta journey, you may remember the kitchen in the house when I bought it. Then again, you might be like me and need a little memory refresher once in a while. Here’s the kitchen before:

kitchen with cabinets

Saving Etta - The Story of Saving a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

There were only a few base cabinets and five upper cabinets. Lucky thing because it made demolition of the kitchen easier. The first week after purchasing the property, I hauled all the cabinets to the dumpster and started peeling away the layers in the kitchen. It was a lot of work, but so much fun seeing through the decades and discovering old bead board beneath.

The water heater was walled into a little closet in the corner of the kitchen. It was a blast taking a sledge hammer to the wall. Who needs therapy when you can release pent up frustration through demolition?

Unfortunately it wasn’t enjoyable getting the water heater out. My plumber had a tough time removing the water heater from the house!

You might remember asbestos tiles were discovered on the floor and they had to be removed. What was left was a maze of floor joists and pipes where the floor used to be.

I originally hoped to save this room from demolition because it was part of the 1900 structure, but after assessing the lack of crawlspace and a severed structural beam with my architect, we decided it had to be removed.

The picture below is shortly after demolition. The doorway on the right is where the original kitchen entrance was. But, it had been walled off a long time ago to provide space for the refrigerator.

The new kitchen was moved to the other side of the house, as shown in the plans below:

Saving Etta First Floor Blueprints - Kitchen Location

Obviously, after demo, a lot of progress happened to get us to the new kitchen installation. If you want to read the previous updates, here’s what you missed:

Now that you’re up to speed, this is where we left off (right after installing the kitchen cabinets.)

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

To protect the wood floors, we laid Surface Shield Builder Boards on the floor. They worked perfectly to protect the floor from spills, dropped tools, and lots of tracked in mud and dirt. It’s amazing how much dirt got tracked into the house. But, when the ground is scraped clean of any landscaping, things are bound to get messy. I eventually purchased two dirt trapper rubber mats and put them by each entrance. This helped limit much of the dirt from coming inside.

Selecting the Range Hood:

Choosing a range hood for the kitchen proved to be difficult because I liked so many of the Broan options. (Broan is one of the Saving Etta sponsors and provided the range hood for this project.)

The first hood I fell for was the Broan RM519004 Stainless Steel range hood. It’s sleek and modern, with a beautiful curved shape.

BROAN RM519004 Stainless Steel range hood

The style definitely appealed to me because it was different, but the width of the hood is 36″. I was concerned it might look too big in a small kitchen. Ultimately, I think the hood would have worked, but I had already moved on. (I will keep this range hood in mind for future kitchen renovations, because I still think it looks kind of sexy.)

Next I stumbled upon the the B5630SS Broan range hood. It had some curves, but more of a box shape. And the glass hood added some elegance.


Ultimately I decided against this range hood because I worried the glass would show dust or grease between cleanings. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t choose this range hood, because I would have been hit with an unexpected expense. Right before installing the new range hood, my mechanical contractor asked how many CFMs the range hood pulled. “CF-what?,” I said.

What is CFM and Do You Need Make Up Air for Your Range Hood?

CFM is short for cubic feet per minute and it describes the amount of air flow an exhaust fan can pull. Believe it or not, this is one of the most important specifications (besides dimensions) you need to know when considering a range hood. One would think the higher the CFM the better, because it sucks up more cooking odors and steam, right? Not necessarily. Typically 200-300 CFM is adequate for a range hood in a residential kitchen. If you have a commercial stove, or the range hood is mounted further away from the stove top, you may need something stronger. If you need a range hood with a stronger fan (over 400 CFM), you’re required to install a make up air device with an automatic damper. This will add to your expense and requires a licensed HVAC contractor to install it.

For reference, this is the code for exhaust hoods in residential construction:

International Residential Code: M1503.4: “Exhaust hood systems capable of exhausting in excess of 400 cfm shall be provided with makeup air at a rate approximately equal to the exhaust air rate. Such makeup air systems shall be equipped with a means of closure and shall be automatically controlled to start and operate simultaneously with the exhaust system.”

What happens if I don’t add make up air for my range hood?

Stronger exhaust fans can depressurize a house. Resulting in doors slamming shut, air pulled from any cracks or openings in the building envelope, or noise. Some unsuspecting homeowners have turned on their exhaust fan to find it pulls ashes from their chimney. If you don’t have make up air it could create a dangerous back draft situation in the home. This is why it’s important to know what the CFM is for the range hood you want to install. (This article does a good job of explaining the issues with stronger range hoods.)

Luckily the range hood I chose for the Saving Etta kitchen was under the 400 CFM limit. This is the beauty I ordered, a sleek Broan modern stainless steel hood with a square chimney.

BROAN RM533004 Range Hood

No glass to clean and the width is 30″. Plus, the CFM is 370, sufficiently low enough to not need make up air, but strong enough to exhaust cooking steam and odors. This made me happy, especially after all the make up air vents we had to install in the laundry room.)

Installing the Range Hood:

As with many installs at the house, I had to pick and choose which ones to assign to my subcontractors. The range hood was already slated to be installed by my mechanical contractors, so I let them take over installation. I was busy working on another project, but when I came into the kitchen I knew I had to step in and “help.” As before, things were not going smoothly. The first indication that the install may get screwed up was when I found the instructions folded up in the bottom of the product box. I pulled them out and quickly scanned the directions. The second clue was when I found a bracket in the box as well. The guys were trying to figure out how to attach the chimney to the wall (had I not arrived when I did, I’m sure they would have finagled some unattractive solution.) Without an invitation, I took over the role of supervisor and pointed out how the chimney needed to attach to the wall via the bracket in the box. I’m not sure if the guys were relieved or annoyed, but they put up with my directions (thank goodness!)

About Working with Contractors:

Before we go on, I want to point out the fact that these were the so called “professionals”. But, obviously they didn’t know how to install this particular range hood. I chalk this up to lack of experience with this model, not necessarily lack of experience as a mechanical contractor. BUT, they should have been reading the instructions. I want to leave you with this important message:

When you hire a professional, make sure you read the instructions for how the project should be completed. Do your homework and research online so you understand the steps in the project. Speak up if you see something amiss. Just because someone is a professional doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes.

At the end of the day, the contractors go home. If something is installed incorrectly you’ll be the one who has to live with it. And, unless you are working with stellar contractors, it might be difficult to get them back to your house. (Then again, stellar contractors are oftentimes extremely busy. You’ll need to wait to get back on their schedule.)

We worked together to hang the range hood chimney. The guys had already hooked up the ductwork and painted mastic over the seams (also required by code). The fan motor was plugged into the outlet above the duct.

The hanging bracket was attached to the wall, and then the upper chimney was slid into place over the bracket. Securing the chimney to the bracket was a little tricky because the hole on the chimney has to line up with holes on the bracket. Plus, it was difficult maneuvering a drill against the ceiling. Ultimately, the chimney and range hood were installed. The power was turned on to the hood and…NOTHING! We scratched our heads until I climbed back onto a step ladder and peeked into the chimney. See the problem?

Doh! Somewhere along the way we unplugged the fan and forgot to plug it back in. Luckily we all had a collective laugh about it and then slid the chimney back down to plug it in, then re-attached the chimney to the bracket. My words of wisdom: “Always make sure it’s plugged in!” LOL.

We left the protective film on the range hood, and I’m glad I did because it was easier to clean and protect while tiling. Stay tuned for more updates and the kitchen reveal soon! Next up is tiling the backsplash.

kitchen cabinets installed

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Broan. I was compensated for my time and efforts to promote the Broan products. However, all ideas and opinions are my own. I will always let you know when you are reading a sponsored post. You should also note that I’m very particular about the brands I work with.

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

Saving Etta: Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

About that Saving Etta laundry room, did you get a peek last week? If you missed it, I showed you how I installed the cement tile floor. We can all agree, the star of the laundry room is the floor. But, there’s another star in this room that’s hard to show in pictures. It’s this little guy:

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

That, my friends, is a Decora motion sensor in-wall switch from Leviton (one of the proud Saving Etta sponsors.) And it works automagically! When you walk in the room, the light comes on. Then it shuts off after a predetermined amount of time (choose between 30 seconds, 5 minutes, 15 minute, or 30 minutes for the time-out period.)

Before I tell you more about this fabulous no hands light switch, I need to give you the full details about the laundry room and discuss something I would definitely do differently next time.

Saving Etta: Laundry Room Update

After the cement floor tiles were installed, I had to cover them up with Builder Board from Surface Shields to protect them. The small area covered was protected, but I should have covered the entire floor because my mechanical subcontractors were the messiest bunch of guys I’ve ever met. Every time they came into the house I had to follow them around cleaning up mud and dirt. Plus, I lost track of the number of fingerprints they left on the walls. Seriously, it was like following children who had just played all afternoon in the mud.

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

To make matters worse, they didn’t share my eye for aesthetically pleasing mechanics.

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

Avert your eyes from the giant hole in the ceiling and look at the water heater vent pipe. Did you count all the sections?

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

One, two, three, four sections. What the fizz?! When I called my mechanical contractor, I told him this looked like a preschooler installed it. In all fairness, it would have passed the inspections, but I hated how it looked. Instead of letting them monkey around more, I took matters into my own hands and ran to Ferguson to purchase one vent pipe. It looks much better, right?

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

I’m sure you are wondering about the giant hole in the ceiling — it’s for make up air. This is required when you have a gas appliance in an enclosed room. The codes want to make sure that gas can’t build up in the room. I had already installed a built-in vent over the door, but the inspector wanted more. We added make up air in the floor. (You can see it in the picture below. It’s the hole in the floor on the left. And it eventually got a floor vent cover.)

Installed Avington Cement Tiles from

But, the inspector still wanted more make up air. My mechanical contractor suggested cutting holes in the wall into the kitchen, but I said “No way!” Ultimately, the best (and least unattractive) solution was a ceiling vent which eventually got a round diffuser placed over it.

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

It felt like the issues around the gas water heater were never ending. One of the inspections noted where there wasn’t enough clearance between the vent pipe and the framing. It was easily fixed, but between this and all the makeup air required for the gas water heater, I have vowed to go tankless next time. In the next flip, I’ll listen to my plumber’s suggestion to install a tankless water heater. It will cost more, but will look a lot better and not have as many issues during installation. A tankless water heater will still need to be vented, but it can be vented out the wall instead of the roof.

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

Live and learn, right? Regardless, the laundry room is still a show stopper with the cement tiles and room for a side-by-side washer and dryer. (Most of the houses in the downtown area only have room for a stackable washer and dryer.)

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

How to Install a Hands Free Light Switch

Now, onto the one affordable upgrade I will make again and again! The Leviton motion sensor switch is a wonderful addition to a laundry room or other areas in your home where you frequently have your hands full carrying things such as laundry or groceries. Or you might be carrying something so filthy you don’t want to touch the light switch. As soon as the door is opened (or someone walks into this room) the sensor detects your presence and turns the light on. It will also automatically turn the lights off, saving you frustration and money in rooms where lights are frequently left on.

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

The Leviton Decora Motion Sensor is set to turn off after 15 minutes when no motion is detected, but you can set the device to turn the lights off at 30 seconds, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or 30 minutes. The motion sensor can also be tweaked to detect motion in a certain range from the sensor.

You’ll definitely want one in your house, so here’s the video tutorial to learn how to install a Leviton Decora Motion Sensor switch:


(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)


Before installing the motion sensor, turn off the power at the circuit breaker to your switch. Using a voltage tester, make sure the power is off.

Disclaimer: Always use caution when working with electricity. Follow the instructions provided with your device. Do not attempt to make changes to your home’s electrical system without prior electrical experience and knowledge of your area’s electrical codes. Contact a licensed electrician if you have any questions. Pretty Handy Girl can not be held responsible for personal injury or harm.

  1. Remove the Leviton Decora Motion Sensor from the package and read the instructions.
  2.  Look at your wiring, you should have a ground wire (bare or copper), a neutral wire (white), a line wire (this is the live wire that’s usually black), and a load wire (sometimes it’s also black and sometimes red.) The line wire is the wire that carries the electrical current from the circuit breaker to the switch. The load wire carries the power from the switch to the light fixture.
  3. Strip ⅝” of the insulation off the wires. You don’t need to bend your wires into shepherds hooks, the wires can be inserted straight under the screws on the Leviton Motion Sensor.
  4. Always connect the ground wire first. 
  5. The neutral wires should be connected to each other not the sensor.
  6. Next connect the load wire to the black terminal.
  7. Finally connect the line wire to the red terminal.
  8. Gently fold and tuck the wires into the wall box. Make sure the word TOP is facing up on your sensor.
  9. Drive the screws into the top and bottom of the motion sensor.
  10. Turn the power back on and test your motion sensor. If it works, great!
  11. Follow the instructions to make any adjustments to the length of time the lights stay on and the motion sensing field.  
  12. Attach the cover to the motion sensor.

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

Enjoy hands free control of your lights with the Leviton Decora Motion Sensor

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

You can also install the motion sensor in a room where little kids like to play but aren’t good about turning out those lights. Or in that dark room where you always fumble for the light switch.

What about you, where would you install a motion sensor light switch?

Laundry Room Update and a No Hands Light Switch

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Leviton. I was compensated for my time and efforts to promote the Leviton Residential products. However, all ideas and opinions are my own. I will always let you know when you are reading a sponsored post. You should also note that I’m very particular about the brands I work with.

 If you haven’t done so already, be sure to *subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

*My followers on YouTube get sneak peeks of some of the projects I’m working on, so subscribe today!

Want more automation in your home? You’ll definitely want to check out these tutorials:

How to Install Smart Dimmer Switches

How to Install Smart Dimmer Switches


How to Install USB Charging Outlets

How to Install a USB Charging Outlet

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

If you’ve been browsing Pinterest lately or flipping through the pages of your favorite home design magazine, you’ve probably seen (and likely fallen in love with) real cement tiles. Cement tiles are trending, so much so that porcelain and ceramic lookalikes are popping up at most tile retail shops. The first thing you’ll notice about real cement tiles, is the price tag can be steep. What you probably don’t realize is cement tile can be a bit trickier to work with than standard ceramic or porcelain tiles. Don’t let this dissuade you, because today I’m going to show you how to install those beautiful authentic cement tiles and achieve professional results. Plus, because we’re friends, I’m going to share with you my affordable source for real encaustic cement tiles!

Cement Tile Look Alike on Bathroom Floor

Cement tiles purchased from most tile retailers can run upwards of $20 per square foot. But, I’m about to let you in on my secret tile source. Shhhh, lean close so I can whisper it in your ear. “TheBuilderDepot sells real cement tiles for less!”  In fact they sell more than just cement tiles and their prices can’t be beat! You might remember I used beautiful marble subway tiles from TheBuilderDepot when I was renovating my kitchen.) The Builder Depot offers popular tiles at a discount because they cut out the middle man. (Here’s a brief explanation on why their prices are lower than other retailers.)

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Seeing those beautiful cement tiles and a great price prompted me to contact my friend at The Builder Depot and ask him about being a Saving Etta sponsor. He agreed but on one condition; he asked me to write a tutorial on How to Install Cement Tiles and discuss the pitfalls and risks associated with improper installation techniques. Apparently customers were unaware of the proper way to install cement tiles. In fact, even seasoned tile installers were making costly mistakes because they were treating cement tiles like ceramic and porcelain tiles. There is a big difference between them.

What’s the Difference Between Cement Tiles and Porcelain or Ceramic Tiles:

  • Ceramic and porcelain tiles are slick (often shiny) and aren’t absorbent on the surface.
  • Encaustic cement tiles are highly porous and absorbent from the surface to the base.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles can be grouted immediately after the thinset mortar has cured.
  • Cement tiles must be sealed before grouting or you risk the grout staining (or permanently sticking to) the surface.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles do not need to be sealed.
  • Cement tiles need careful handling to avoid staining and scratching the tiles.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tiles are forgiving and can stand up to a lot of abuse.
  • Encaustic cement tile patterns are created by pouring different colored clay baked into the tile. It’s not merely a coating.
  • Porcelain and ceramic tile patterns are applied in the glazes (painted on top of the tile).

Here’s a beautiful video showing exactly how encaustic cement tiles are made:

Now that you know more details about cement tiles, you can have a beautiful cement tile floor. But, you need to follow this tutorial closely. (Almost all these instructions will apply to installing cement tiles on a wall, so keep reading.)

Making Manzanita's tile shower niche cement tilesCheck out this beautiful bathroom makeover with a Cement Tile Niche
by Making Manzanita

How to Handle Your Cement Tiles:

When you receive your cement tiles you’re going to be tempted to rip open the box and rub your grubby hands all over the smooth tiles (or am I the only weirdo that likes to stroke tiles?) Regardless, before you open the box, wash your hands. Cement tiles are EXTREMELY porous and will absorb oils and stain easily. Until you get to the sealing step, you’re going to have to handle these tiles with care (kid gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea.) Lest you think you can seal the tiles before installation, don’t try it. The tiles have to be porous to release moisture while the mortar is curing. If you seal it ahead of time, there’s a good chance your tiles will develop a ghosting appearance.

Cement tiles can scratch easily. Keep the packing material between the tiles until you are ready to install them. Don’t mark your tiles with a pencil or pen for cutting (unless you will be cutting off the marks.) Even faint pencil lines can’t be easily removed from the tile surface.

How to Prepare Your Floor for Cement Tiles:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Just like when you paint a room, you’ll get the best results if you take the time to prep your space before you begin.

Before laying tiles on your floor, you must put down a substrate to prevent future flexing that can lead to cracks in your grout or worse in your tiles. Typically tile installers will use cement backer board. But, because the cement tiles are so thick, I chose to use an uncoupling mat to reduce the finished floor thickness.

cutting uncoupling mats.

Measure and cut your mat (or cement board) with a utility knife. Dry fit the mats (or boards) before proceeding.

Whichever substrate you use, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. For improved waterproofing, you’ll want to cover seams with the recommended seam tape. For completely waterproofed floors, add seam tape around the perimeter of the room (as shown in this video.)

Installed uncoupling mats, finding center of room. Marking perpendicular lines.

Next find the center of your room and mark perfectly perpendicular guidelines to use as a guide when laying out your tiles.

Layout cement tiles starting in the center.

Dry fit the tiles with spacers in your room before you begin. Make any adjustments to the tile layout or pattern before you begin.

Dry run. Layout cement tiles before installation

How to Install Cement Tiles:

With your substrate installed, it’s time to install your tiles. Before we begin, make sure you have these tools and materials. A quick note on cutting the tiles. You can use a score and snap manual tile cutter for straight lines, but nothing beats a wet saw for angled and more complicated cuts. If you don’t want to buy a wet saw, you can rent one. Tile setting is a one person job, but it helps to have an assistant to speed things along by making cuts and mixing more mortar and grout.


Instructions for Installing Cement Tiles:

Here’s a video I made to help you learn how to install cement tiles properly and keep them looking beautiful!

Mix your thinset mortar according to the package directions. (I usually try to achieve the consistency of peanut butter.)

Prepping Your Cement Tiles:

One of the most important tips for working with cement tiles is to soak them in water before installation. Allow them to soak for at least 30 seconds before laying them into the mortar. If you don’t soak them, the tile will absorb too much moisture from the mortar.

Soak tiles in water tub

Starting from the center of your room, apply the thinset mortar to a small area and use your 1/2” notched trowel to comb the thinset. Lay your tiles down. Lift one tile to check and see if the mortar is completely covering the back of the tile. If not, your mortar consistency may be too dry.

Avoid the temptation to lay more than a few tiles at a time.

Lay first four tiles in thinset mortar

After your first small group of tiles are set, insert spacers. Check to make sure the tiles are level and the same height. Then immediately clean any and all thinset off your tiles using a damp sponge.

Now you can move on to installing the next small grouping. Periodically check to make sure your tiles are lined up with each other and there are no lips between tiles. (Using these self leveling spacers will eliminate any lippage on tiles.)

After all your tiles are installed, block off the room and keep off the tiles for at least 24 hours while the thinset hardens.

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Sealing Cement Tiles:

We’ve arrived at the most important step when installing cement tiles! You must seal the tiles before grouting them. Use a penetrating sealer made for porous stone or cement tiles. Before sealing, make sure your tiles (and the thinset for that matter) are completely dry. You can test the tiles for any remaining moisture by laying down a piece of plastic on the tiles after installing them. If there is moisture the next day when you lift the plastic, they aren’t dry enough. Wait for them to dry or you could risk discoloration of your tiles.

Clean the tiles by sweeping off any debris and clean with a ph balanced cleaner (a bucket of warm water with one drop of dish soap is a good cleaner.) Let the tiles dry. Wipe or buff with a rag.

Pour the sealer into the dish pan. Dip your pad applicator into the sealer liquid. Squeeze off excess sealer against the edge of the dish pan.

Apply sealer with pad applicator

Apply the sealer in thin coats working in one direction. Remove any excess sealer from the tiles BEFORE it dries. (See the streaks below? Those streaks and any puddling needs to be buffed off to avoid uneven drying.)

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from

Let the first coat of sealer dry completely. In fact you may want to take a break for 30 minutes or so between coats.

Buff off excess sealant from tiles.

Be prepared to apply many coats before your cement tiles are fully sealed. (My tiles needed 5 coats to seal them. Then I had to wait another 24 hours for the sealant to fully cure before grouting.) It may seem like a long process, but this insures the tiles will withstand regular use and resist stains.

After each coat of sealant dries, you need to test to see if the cement tiles are completely sealed. Drip water onto the tiles. If the water beads up, they are sealed. However, if the water absorbs into the tiles, add another layer of sealant and try the water test again later.

Water beading up on cement tiles means it's ready to grout.

Once your tiles are fully sealed, wait 24 hours before grouting.

How to Grout Tiles:

Because I work alone, it takes me a little longer to grout. To prevent my grout from hardening too quickly, I like to float my mixed grout container in a bucket of ice water to slow down the setting action.

Load up your float with fresh mixed grout. Holding your grout float at a 45 degree angle against the floor, spread the grout over the gaps between the tiles in a diagonal motion. Work in small 3 – 4 square foot areas. Then scrape any excess grout off the tiles using a clean grout float.

grouting tiles with grout float

Immediately wipe off any excess grout using a clean damp sponge. Ring out and refresh your sponge with clean water frequently.

It is imperative to get all the excess grout off the tiles or you risk the grout staining or settling into the tiles. Go ahead and move on to the next section, but go back to the previous tiles and buff off any haze with a dry rag.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from

After the grout has cured, clean your floors with a pH neutral mild cleanser. Then apply one final coat of penetrating sealer. A new coat of sealer should be reapplied every 6-12 months for floors, and every 2-3 years for wall tiles.

Avington Black & White Cement Tiles from

Cement Tile Maintenance:

To protect your beautiful cement tile floors, clean up any spills immediately. Never leave anything sitting on the floor that could stain or scratch your tiles. If your tiles get scratched or stained, you can use a fine grit sandpaper to sand off the stain. Just be sure to re-seal your tiles after sanding.

Still on the fence about installing cement tiles in your home? This is a good article breaking down the pros and cons of cement tiles.

A big thank you to The Builder Depot for providing the laundry room tiles for the Saving Etta project and for giving me excellent instructions for installing the cement tiles. What do you think? Do you love the cement tile look?

Laundry Room with Avington Cement Tile Floor.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. Happy tiling!

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

Disclosure: The Builder Depot is a proud sponsor of the Saving Etta project.  I was provided with materials for this project. I was not told what to write. All opinions and ideas are my own.

 If you haven’t done so already, be sure to *subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

*My followers on YouTube get sneak peeks of some of the projects I’m working on, so subscribe today!


If you liked this post, you’ll also find these tile posts helpful:

How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

How to Tile a Backsplash


How to Install Cement Tiles and Achieve Professional Results

How to Grout Tiles

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

I should probably re-name this post How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Semi-Privacy Fence. But, honestly it’s only semi-private because the lots in downtown Raleigh are so close together and the next door neighbor’s driveway is against the privacy fence. All they have to do is lean against the fence and peek through to eliminate the “privacy” function. But, if we’re going to be honest here, their six foot picket privacy fence has cracks in it where the picket wood has shrunk. And, yes, you can see through their privacy fence too. But, in a suburban neighborhood, this fence would block the view from the road or a distance.

When I was considering fencing options for the Saving Etta project, I wanted to create a beautiful fence that was attractive to look at but also gives some privacy and security.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

Why I chose to use a window pane lattice fence:

  1. I love the look. It’s a mixture of cottage and modern. And it’s perfect for a modern farmhouse style house.
  2. The new owners can train a flowering vine to grow up the lattice and create more privacy.
  3. It’s neighborly being able to see and talk to your neighbors next door. It fosters community!

As we drew closer to the holidays, I knew I had to push the accelerator on all the remaining projects at the Saving Etta project. Therefore, I did not build this fence, I hired a fence contractor to build it. But, I did design the fence and shared my design idea with the contractor. I took some inspiration from my Pergola with Trellis Screens.

Build a Pergola with Trellis to Screen Your Trash Cans | Pretty Handy Girl

The following tutorial is a basic construction guide for How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate. I didn’t oversee the construction, so I’m going to make some suggested fasteners, but ultimately you should gauge the strength of your fasteners especially when building the gate. If your gate is wider, you may need an additional cross or diagonal brace.

Tools & Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Before we get started, I want to express a huge thank you to Wood It’s Real for being a Saving Etta sponsor. As you might remember, they sponsored the side porch and the front flat sawn balluster project. And now, I have the honor of sharing yet another Wood It’s Real Sponsored project. Let’s learn How to Build Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate using beautiful Southern Yellow Pine.

Wood It's Real Website

This build will take at least two days. Digging the post holes, setting the posts, and pouring the concrete for the posts can be completed on day one. But, you’ll want to wait overnight for the concrete to set up before building the fence panels. For more information on setting fence posts, you might find this tutorial by Quikrete helpful.

Before building your fence, be sure to research your local building codes; know if you have to meet any setback limits, and find out if you have any restrictive covenants for your neighborhood.

Building a Window Pane Lattice Fence:

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

To create the tall privacy fence, we used one 4′ x 8′ lattice sheet vertically between the posts. Therefore, our posts were set four feet apart. After your 6×6 fence posts are set in the ground, you can start building your lattice fence sections between the posts.

set fence posts


Measure and cut two 2×6 pieces of pressure treated lumber to fit between the top and bottom of the posts. Level and secure to the 6×6 posts using exterior grade wood screws.

secure-2x4 horizontal lumber

Center your 4×8 lattice panel in the center of the 6×6 posts. Cut 2×2 lumber to create a frame to support the lattice.

add 2x2 frame to secure lattice

Secure the 2×2 frame to the inside of the 6×6 posts and the 2×6 horizontal lumber. You can use wood screws or 2″ finish nails to secure the 2×2 frame. Add another 2×2 frame to the other side of your lattice.

secured-lattice fence section

Add post caps to the top of your fence to protect the posts from rot (and to make your fence look pretty.)

add post caps

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

Repeat the steps above to create as many window pane lattice fence sections as you desire.

completed window pane lattice privacy fence

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate
Depending on the angle of sight, you can see some shapes through the fence. This is the view from the bathroom window. I’ll be sharing how I added complete privacy to this window in a later blog post.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

From the bedroom you can barely see the neighbor’s car through the fence.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Gate:

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

To match the window pane lattice fence, I challenged my fence contractor to build matching lattice gates at the end of the driveway. I wanted the opening to be wide enough to drive a car through (should they want to park in the back of the house or get a delivery of mulch or other landscaping materials.)


Measure and cut your 2×4 pressure treated lumber. For a 4′ x 8′ gate, cut the vertical pieces exactly 8′ in length. The top and bottom pieces should be cut 41″ long. Secure the frame with pocket hole screws in the corners of the frame. (Click here to learn how to use a pocket hole jig.)

build 2x4 frame for gate

Lay the 4×8 lattice panel on top of the 2×4 frame. Tack the lattice in place using 1 ½” finish nails.

add lattice panel to 2x4 frame

Measure and cut your 1×4 lumber using the same measurements as the 2×4’s.

cut 1x4 frame to size

Secure the 1×4 boards to the lattice and the 2×4’s using 2 ½” exterior wood screws. (The lattice will be sandwiched in the middle and the screws should extend through the 1×4’s and the lattice and into the 2×4 frame.)

sandwich lattice between 1x4 and 2x4 frames

Your gate construction is complete. Add hinges and gate hardware and secure to a 6×6 post.

add gate hinges

These gates are rock solid and shouldn’t sag over time. The lattice keeps the gate square.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

For a decorative touch, we added two 2×6 pieces of lumber across the two gate posts to create a pergola. The new owners can put a potted vine next to each post and allow the vines to grow up and over the pergola.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

A metal drop rod is secured to the left side gate for stability and to keep both gates from swinging in when latching.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

The window pane lattice provides plenty of privacy from the road. But, it also allows the homeowners a view to see if anyone is coming up the driveway.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

What do you think? Do you like the window pane lattice fence and gates? Would you leave it natural or stain it?

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored post for Wood It’s Real. It was written as part of their sponsorship of the Saving Etta project. I was not told what to write. All words and opinions are my own. I am very particular about the brands I work with, and only partner with companies that provide quality materials and/or services.

saving etta front view seeded and straw

Saving Etta: Front Yard TransformationSaving Etta: Front Yard Transformation & Tips for Saving Money on Landscaping

I hope you enjoyed the backyard transformation I shared on Monday. Like the backyard, the front has taken on quite the transformation of its own. One of the first things I knew I wanted to do at the Saving Etta house was to preserve the cottage charm curb appeal (especially around the front porch.) Sadly her charm had dwindled like the color of her faded yellow aluminum siding. The iron railings (that didn’t appear to be original) were barely attached to the porch columns. It was an easy choice to send them to the scrap metal yard.

1900 triple A frame house

While removing the rotting porch floor boards, we realized we couldn’t save the porch framing. And in true “opening a can of worms” fashion, when exposing the porch ceiling rafters, we found the porch roof wasn’t flashed and it wasn’t tied into the house very securely. It was a sad day when I realized the entire porch had to be removed. Unfortunately, the demolition crew had finished months ago, so I had to try to get back on their schedule.

Front Yard Transformation

After the front porch was removed, new sheathing and house wrap was applied. Then my framers built the porch back to the same size. Before the siding and roofing materials were installed, the porch roof and band were flashed properly to prevent any water from seeping behind and causing rot or mold issues.

front porch before landscaping

See that scraggly bush next to the stairs? I fought my subcontractors who wanted to cut it down. The framers in particular complained about it being in the way. Little did they know, that scraggly bush had a secret. In the spring it would look like this:

Bridal Veil Spirea original to house

The white flowering bush is a Bridal Wreath Spirea with cascading white flowers once a year. Saving the spirea was part of my plan to save money on landscaping. I tried to reserve funds for landscaping, but surprises kept cropping up which cut into my landscape budget. Consequently, I put my thrifty thinking cap on and came up with a few strategies to make the most impact for the least amount of money.

7 Strategies for Low Budget Landscaping:

    1. Do as much labor yourself – As you saw in the backyard landscaping update, my family and I planned an entire yard work day. We cut back the weeds, trimmed bushes, hauled away brush, and mowed the lawn. This saved me the cost of paying someone else to do the work.
    2. Use plants you already have – As I mentioned above, I fought to save as many plants in the yard as possible. But, I’m also fortunate to have a healthy landscaped yard at home after years of hosting Free Plant Swaps in our neighborhood. Two of our bushes that have really thrived, are a pair of evergreen bushes by the front door. I’m not sure what type of bushes they are, but they might be in the juniper family. Regardless, they grew too big for the front of the house.overgrown bushes by front of my housePretty Handsome Guy and I dug them out—keeping the root ball intact—and loaded them into my truck. Then they were planted in front of the house.spruce trees loaded into back of truckThe bushes are much better suited in front of a raised porch. Best of all, they were spruce in front yard
    3. Shop the discount section – Lucky for me, it was late fall when we got started on the landscaping. My local Lowe’s Home Improvement had a large selection of half off plants to choose from. I chose these evergreen abelia shrubs that have pretty red growth on the tips in the cold weather and will have flowers in the warm season. Always look for discounted plants in your local nursery. But, steer clear of dried out and stressed looking plants. If they appear healthy go ahead and purchase foundation bushes
    4. Shop end of season flowers – Flowering perennials that have faded blooms are usually discounted as soon as the blooms start to die. But, if you’re lucky you might be able to cash in on a post-holiday sale. After Thanksgiving I stumbled upon a huge clearance of mums. Each pot was marked down to $1! Even big mum planters that were $30 a week ago were $1. I bought several mums and planted them throughout the yard to add some color. After the blooms finish, they can be cut back to encourage new growth. They’ll produce beautiful blooms again next year.
      back deck and back of house view after landscaping
    5. Put money where it gets the most visibility – To get maximum visual impact in your yard, you’re going to have to spend some money. But chose to spend money on the show stoppers like a larger tree, a pergola (or make your own pergola or trellis), or spend on hardscapes like patios or walkways. On the side of the house, I chose to put a little more money toward the side entrance since this is the homeowner’s main entrance.before patio and landscapingThe landscapers installed a beautiful paver patio that will last decades and control mud and dirt from entering the house.side view with paver patio
    6. Talk to your landscaper to see if they have extra materials or plants – Ask your landscaper if they have leftover materials or plants they would be willing to give you for a reduced price. When discussing my needs and budget with my landscaper, she told me if I was willing to be flexible she might have some leftovers she could use. Ultimately she installed an array of plants and the side entrance pavers at a discount, which gave me more bang for my buck.landscaper crew adding mulch and plantingsWith four men and some big equipment, the landscapers were able to whip the front yard into shape quickly. The front yard was leveled and fresh dirt and grass seed was laid down. Finally, they planted a small tree where the old tree had been.Ugly Tree in front of Etta
    7. Be patient – Save money by purchasing younger plants, trees, and bushes. Purchasing mature greenery can cost a lot more for those who want instant gratification. If you can wait a few years, the younger plants will get bigger. Same holds true for those scraggly clearance plants. They may have some broken branches or spent flowers, but if you cut them back they will grow back beautifully with time. You can also save money by planting grass seed instead of sod. If you can wait a few weeks, you’ll be rewarded with grass sprouts and more money leftover in your pocket. Better yet, if you continue to sow seed next season (fall or spring), you’ll fill in any empty patches.
      grass growing on front hill at Saving Etta house

Saving Etta: Front Yard Transformation

Ready to see the front yard transformation? For fun, let’s take a look back on where this whole journey started!

Ugly Tree in front of Etta

June 2017 – I purchased the property.


Front Yard Transformation

February 2018Demolition was completed by removing the poorly built additions in the back and removing all the siding and rotten framing.

Front Yard Transformation

May 2018 – New foundation, framing, and sheathing are completed.


dirt yard around house under construction

July 2018 – It’s finally looking like a house again. Siding, windows, roofing, and the new front porch are added.


no landscaping, saving etta house under construction

September 2018 – Side porch steps are completed. Gutters and the rain chains are added.


rain chain

(This is where I bought the rain chains (affiliate link). They were the most affordable rain chains I could find, and I like how they look. The rain chains get plenty of compliments!

Front Yard Transformation

October 2018 – The front porch railings and ceiling are completed. My favorite addition are the flat sawn railings.


after landscaping side yard

November 2018 – The house is completely finished and listed for sale. The first weekend we had it on the market we received multiple offers!


beautiful 1900 triple a construction house near downtown raleigh

I can’t believe the house is finally complete. It took 18 months of hard work and patience while waiting for permits, subcontractors, and while I took a two week vacation with my family.

saving etta front view seeded and straw

In the end it was all worth it and I love that Etta has regained her cottage charm.

saving etta beautiful restored 1900 house near downtown Raleigh

I can officially say Etta has been saved. Maintaining the same lines as the original 1900 house was very important to me. Wherever possible, I kept the original materials. When we had to replace old with new, I made decisions based on what looked closest to the original. I also tried to reuse materials whenever possible, like the old siding which found a new life on the side porch ceiling.

Stay tuned for more Saving Etta updates! There’s been a lot of work going on inside and I can’t wait to show you.

Front Yard Transformation