Monday, March 4

The Incredibles: The Ugly Duckling House

What is the scariest part of tackling ugly spaces in your house? For many it's the projects that require caulk guns, and routers, primers, and saws, electrical wires, and grout. Whether decorating or organizing, a little hardcore diy knowledge can go a loooong way. It's also the one thing that tends to give the most people pause, which is why I'm excited to have a superhero of DIY stop by for an exclusive...Sarah from The Ugly Duckling House! Believe me when I say this hammer slinging, power tool tot'in lady is indeed Incredible! 

Even better, she knows how to diy-it solo...which I am all about since my hubby isn't a power tool type of all. not. at. all.
Sarah has been featured at Bob Vila Nation, among other awesome diy sites. I discovered The Ugly Duckling House via this Top 100 DIY Sites For Home Improvement Fanatics list, Sarah is #4 on the list!  I immediately fell in love with her blog, who wouldn't? It is chock-full of practical information that even I can easily follow...yeah, and I'm the type that glances at instructions with an "eh, good enough, I got this", followed by "winging it". Sarah keeps it real, makes it interesting (she is hilarious! I'm always giggling through her posts), and easy to follow at a glance! Thanks for stopping by Sarah!

"Interviewing The Incredibles" part 1: 
Dare to DIY
Whether you are already a diy aficionado, or you are looking to get your dare on, Sarah has sound advice for us all, so enjoy the interview, and look for the diy challenge I'm making you at the end!

Ursula: Although I found your “Cleaning & Recipes” page insightful *chuckle*, I love that you have a “Lessons Learned” page! I mean, really some of us out there are saying, oh thank goodness, she wrote just for me! How do you recommend someone start seemingly daunting diy’s that require “tools” and “knowledge”, when we just figured out how to use our electric can opener?

Sarah: Honestly?  Google is my best friend.  We’re buds.  I designed my own website (more than once) with nothing more than a search engine and the right key words.  Same goes for learning how to skim coat a wall.  There’s a skill to finding the info you need quickly (working in IT as my day job never ceases to amaze me how skill really is needed in places you expect to be no-brainers like searching for tutorials).  But doing the research (thoroughly – not all how-tos are created equal, and there’s usually more than one way to do something) does more than just give you a step-by-step instruction.  It teaches you the lingo so you can ask the right questions when speaking to the clerk at the home improvement store.  It makes them treat you differently (“Need any help?” turns into “Ok, well here’s what I think you should do…”).  It also gives you confidence that when something goes wrong or doesn’t pan out the way you had it in your head, you have more “tools” at your disposal to figure it out.  That freakout you know is looming on a project?  That’s fear.  Knowledge kicks it in the teeth.
But… some of it will always be trial and error.  Sometimes when I’m not sure how to do something, and even after reading six different ways to cook an egg, I still wind up with a runny mess (did I mention I don’t cook?).  So don’t dive headfirst into a kitchen reno if you aren’t sure how to use your caulk gun.  Start small.  Build confidence from projects that don’t involve plumbing or electricity (and definitely not in the same project!).  Smaller projects have less risk and you can usually correct your mistakes easily.  Every home is different and has its own quirks, which means you may encounter something outside the cookie cutter “fool-proof” plan.  Many projects don’t need a huge arsenal of tools to complete; only the right ones.  Paint a wall; build some shelves.  The big projects you see from bloggers online are after years of honing their skills and from consulting people who know better.  It sounds cliché, but the phrase “Rome wasn't built in a day" stuck around for a reason. 

Ursula: *Sigh* yes my home is the quirk, but I'm taking that advice to heart! DIY projects seem like a lot of extra work. What would you say makes it worth the time and effort? C’mon, give us the gumption to tackle our ugly spaces too!

Sarah: Do you have a stubborn streak?  Are you a cheapskate?  While those aren’t the best qualities for most people, they sure do help me when it comes to DIY.  I don’t post a lot of pictures of myself online because I’m usually a mess, and so is the house.  I get into snarling fits of rage when something isn’t going right.  I have never thrown a tool, but I’ve come close.  But that’s the territory.  There’s a reason handymen and women get paid to do this.  It’s not easy.  It requires skill.  Which is why it’s all the more rewarding when I can look at a room and think, “holy crap, I did that!?!?”  Accomplishing something you weren’t sure you could do – it’s the Superwoman effect.  Don’t tell anyone, but I do the pose after each project.  Either that, the “Rosie the Riveter”, or “The Heisman”.

Ursula: *giggle* On behalf of all readers, please PLEASE sport the pose for us someday!  Ok, so some of us don’t have the tools, or the money to fork over for a garage full of complicated items we don’t know how to use. What starter tools should we have? And how can we learn to use them?

Sarah: I wrote a post a while back for ten DIY essentials under $50.  Most of my starter projects involved wood, paint, and stain.  On top of that list, I’d add slip lock pliers and wrenches (Channellock is a brand for reference), a stud finder, adjustable clamps (love the ones from Irwin), jigsaw, and angle square.  In the $50-100 range, I’d also recommend an oscillating (multi-) tool, a compound miter saw (mine is 10” but they also have 12”), and a Kreg Jig.  You don’t need to go out and buy all of these things at once!  Hand tools will still do the job and are cheaper.  I bought my jigsaw at Big Lots of all places (a discount/knockoff store in the Southeast) and it’s still going strong (cheap tools will sometimes surprise you at how long they last!).  Also, Home Depot carries refurbished tools – I’ve bought almost half of my outdoor trimming tools this way and saved myself a few bucks doing it.  As for learning how to use them, tools always come with instructions, and You Tube is a good resource for free instructional videos (many manufacturers are already hip to this and are creating their own channels).

Ursula: I'm convinced! And very happy for You Tube! I'm curious to know, what projects/accomplishments are you the most proud of? 

Sarah: So far, I think I’m most proud of the guest bathroom redo (it’s still unfinished, but the major stuff – toilet installation, tile inlay, etc. is done) and my gold leaf map art.  I learned so much on both projects!  But overall, what I love most is seeing my home move inch by inch closer to the vision in my head.  It’s a long way off, but it’s going to get there.  And then I’ll have a nice, long nap.

Ursula: I hear that!
Sarah, you are fantastic, your blog is fantastic! Anyone who hasn't visited your blog and gotten schooled in diy HAS to stop over! Visit Sarah at

Oh great, now I'm all hopped up on inspiration and gung-ho to get-to-it
I'm sure I'm not the only one. Soooo, I'm making a challenge to all the readers and bloggers out there, is there a diy you've been afraid to tackle? Or maybe you've already faced that fear head-on. We all want to see! This Thursday come back and link up your Daring DIY's, and I promise I'll tackle a few to share as well! The link-up will be open the entire month, so go face your ugly spaces and take lots of before and after pictures...I'll be waiting! 


  1. Great interview, Ursula! I love Sarah - she IS a DIY superhero! Looking forward to the rest of the series and that DIY party!

  2. Wonderful interview Ursula. I am not familiar with Sarah's blog but I am off to fix that right now. Thanks.

  3. Oh so this is what Interviewing the Incredibles is ...! I have very much enjoyed following Sarah recently, lots of fun with the funny and diyin' with the best of them ... and never boring. love "not all tutorials are created equal" and the best skill is ... learning how to find the right info. So True. Thanks for having her and thanks for sharing. cheers. ~jb


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