Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A day late and a dollar short...

I've been a bit behind this week, what with work and all. It seems that I've failed to report on something important.

Yesterday marked one year since we closed on the house. Of course we're not anywhere near where I naively thought we would be by this point, but knowing what I know now, I think we've done pretty well for ourselves.

  • Rewired the house
  • Added CH/A, including the ductwork
  • Built 2 fences
  • Took the kitchen down to studs, including 7 layers of stubborn flooring and plaster out the wazoo
  • Drywalled said kitchen and installed cabinets
  • Installed new granite counters and tin backsplash
  • Added all new appliances
  • Refinished the floors and began new base shoe
  • Painted 5 rooms so far
  • Started work on the screen porch-- new coat of paint and the beginnings of a new ceiling
  • Got a new roof
  • Sealed the gaping holes in the floors that lead to the outside world
  • Built trap doors to attic and crawl space
  • And did all the other sundry crap that goes along with these things-- tested out 18 different methods for doing each project, fixed all the mistakes we made as we went, made a minimum of 4 trips to the hardware store for each project, and added some of the decorative details like new light fixtures and repurposed furniture
Doesn't seem like quite enough until I remember that we learned everything as we went along-- and for months it was a weekends-only event; then once we moved in, we had to keep up with all the other things that go along with, you know, actually living somewhere-- leaks and yards and feeding ourselves. Not to mention the fact that we fought with the city for a while, and only hired out the AC and the electrical (oh yeah, forgot about the roof. hired out the roof, too)-- and we even helped with some of the electrical to speed things along. We did most of this by ourselves.

I think we've come a long way, learned a lot, and I'm pleased to say that we have a shit ton left to do.

There's painting the interior trim, and screening the porch, and painting the house, and replacing the window AC with an actual window, and repairing the hail-damaged ceilings and carport, and finishing the kitchen trim, and lining the chimney, and unpacking, and...

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's hot

Me? I like it. As long as I can sit in the shade and be generally motionless.

Pretty much everyone else I know hates it. And to be fair, it was well over 100ยบ this weekend. The humidity was pretty easily in the very high percentages. Adam and his boss worked on making sides to a trailer Saturday while the boss's girlfriend and I grazed on Pringles and watched, raising helpful concerns such as, "Ummm, how do you plan on bracing those walls again?" I had a good time, but didn't get much in the way of progress done.

Last night, I broke the garage door track. That should count as progress, I suppose-- we have to demo that door soon, anyway, in order to salvage the wood and make new ones! I'm just looking long term. Doing my share.

We also got some good old fashioned scrubbing-type cleaning done on kitchen and bath-- like with heavy-duty cleaners, not just a cursory wipe. The dog got a bath. And promptly got dirty again. The grass, did not get mowed.

So, you see? Not much in the way of visible progress. So for today's eye-candy, I give you: the screened-in porch furniture I'm going to buy this evening, assuming it's still in stock now that it's gone on sale.

It's the kind of thing I hate buying-- but it's gone down in price to cost really next to nothing. And I do have a couple of chairs that I'm upholstering for the porch. We just have so much outdoor space-- and we've got so little to work with!

And for the kitchen light...what do you think?
I'm still trying to find it on clearance. I know the metal is different than the other finish in the room, but I think it's otherwise pretty awesome.

Oh yeah. That's the other thing I did this weekend...

Internet window shopping.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Moments in DIY history

Our best DIY moment-- the point where we really turned the corner and realized we could do stuff! with tools! and make it not look like crap!-- has to be our floors. When we first bought the house, we were so happy to have hardwood under the carpet that we didn't think much about them. We got an estimate to have the refinished and they were **choke** going to cost $4000. That was clearly not in our budget, especially after being told we had to rewire the whole house. No sir.

But getting the estimate did glean some good information; we found out that the floors were heart pine. They were in such bad condition that they had to be redone, but we wanted to recreate the color of the floors as they were under the carpet. They were a beautiful deep red and amber-- we looked into stains and oils and polys. We've since found out the the color was creosote, I believe, mixed with shellac. I only have a few "before" pictures that show their paint and carpet pad stained, scratched, worn down condition. The first two pictures show places in the house that weren't covered by carpet (The dining room and hall were hardwood when we bought it). The third picture shows floor that had been hidden by carpet...

There's definitely some debris that leads directly back to us, but you can see the carpet pad stains and how dark they were originally in the third shot and the worn down places in the previous two.

Turns out the creosote is illegal, I think, and therefore something we can never recreate exactly-- a lot of time wasted, really. But shellac by itself is certainly available. A little research with some of the wood salvage specialists, some excellent advice from Gary at This Old Crackhouse, and a better understanding of the properties of the wood and how each finish would alter the natural characteristics sold us on shellac. And a few good websites with directions on refinishing floors got us started on the labor.

But our most useful tool came in the form of a couple of cowboys that run the equipment rental store by our house. They helped us with the tools and materials, showed us how to use everything, gave us supplies and extra days free when they "forgot" to give us something before they closed-- mostly these were things we didn't know to ask for. Most importantly, they laughed at us when it was clear we had no idea what we were doing and when we screwed up by not removing the wax from the floors before we started. They kept us from taking ourselves and the project too seriously. They were great.

At any rate, many trials and tribulations. I did a couple of the rooms on my hands and knees with a palm sander one board at a time. We were afraid that the soft pine was too thin to handle any diagonal leveling passes with the drum sander. We left some chatter marks. And it was cold. We did this over Christmas.

But the sanding all worked out well eventually...
And so did the shellac...

We had to use regular amber shellac, one coat of it; this was more difficult to get hold of than I thought-- everyone thought I was too stupid to know what I was asking for and tried to sell me poly. Then we had to put on a second coat on of clear dewaxed shellac. And finally a water-based poly to preserve the color and finish.

Love. I don't think I've ever been so proud of myself. Maybe the drywall...Both of these were projects that everyone made a face over. You know, when I told people we were doing it ourselves they made a face, to which I responded by asking if they would like to give us the $3200 that hiring someone would cost. To which they, of course, made another face. We're poor. There was no other option. And looking back, even if we had the money to pay someone, I don't think I would do it. I've become so territorial about the house. I'm not sure we'd have found anyone who would have done rooms board by board or used shellac for that matter. This way, the house is renovated as we want it to be and with just a little extra care because it's ours.

This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.

We're Bona Fide!

Our biggest news of the weekend, in my opinion, was that our neighborhood has finally been added to the National Register of Historic Places. I never understood why this part of town wasn't already on the list. Even as a little kid, I noticed that these houses weren't so much older than others, but they were old AND well-maintained. And as I've mentioned, the street used to be brick and that gave it an even more charming, old-timey, historic feel. Nice to know that we've been made an Official Historic Neighborhood. And we can still paint the house whatever color we want. Whew!

Our other history-related discovery is house specific. We started on the plywood ceiling of the screened in porch. We've wondered at various times whether that side of the porch was original. We sort of assumed that at least the screening portion was not.

So anyway, I was spraying the rafters with bug spray-- yes, I know it's bad stuff and that I am killing bees, which are important and dying and I feel like a bad human being, trust me. But they are carpenter bees. They bore perfectly round holes in the wood and continue those holes into extensive tunnels that can render boards too weak to support whatever they are supporting. Also, I seem to be particularly allergic to wasps/yellow jacket/big bee kind of stings. Not honey bees, just the big guys. So it's me or the bees.

SO. I was spraying the rafters and beams when I noticed this:

Ok. See above the beams? There's trim. So I know that at the very least, the ceiling's been dropped. And when I climbed up to see...
That is actually the rest of the NON-screened in porch. And the white splotchiness in the back, on the right, is the old decking of the foremost gable angling in. I could also see the eave of the rear gable sticking into this space. Basically, this seems to indicate that perhaps...

...were added on. It explains a number of curious things about the house, too. First of all, it explains the weird shape of the porch roof-- totally flat, then angling down. It also explains why, when all the bungalows in this town have a doppelganger, ours doesn't. And there are quite a few porches in our neighborhood that are only partially covered, so it would make a certain amount of sense that only the right-hand side of the porch, under the gable, originally had a roof. At any rate, the bottom-heavy, in-your-face columns and expansive porch that we love were in part a savvy addition, probably in the fifties, if other renovations inside the house are any indication. I'm just, I'll just say it. I'm so happy the POs did this! How often do we get to say that?!?

This has also reignited another interest. When we first bought the house, I spent a while looking through kit house plans to see if it was from one of the catalogs. I really wanted it to be, but wasn't holding my breath. However! The write-up about our neighborhood for its registry listing says that the majority of the houses appear to be kit homes. Time to visualize the place sans half a porch and see what I can find!

We spent all day Saturday picking up the kiddo from camp and visiting with family, so Saturday was a wash (re: the house) and Sunday was devoted to the porch ceiling. We replaced some 2x4s and painted the less damaged boards with rot sealer. We ended the day a few screws short and with it looking like this.

You can see that some of the boards sag a bit. That's because there's no beam to attach it to. The beams run diagonally, which means we have to anchor them where we can. I've got a few ideas for evening out the seams, and then I think we're going to cover it with faux beadboard or some other kind of thin wall covering so I can stagger the seams and make them a little less disparate.

All in all, a good weekend. Sore, aching weekend, but an exciting one nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ain't too proud to beg

And luckily I don't have to!

The inspector showed up early (!) and deemed our insurance claim at 70% completion! Yay!!

This means they'll send us more money very soon; this also means I can breathe a big ol' sigh of relief.

Wish me luck

'Cause I'm gonna need it.

The inspector for the mortgage company is coming today to inspect our progress on the insurance claim items. Basically, we're supposed to have the inspection at 50% completion. All we know is we've blown through the first disbursement of funds, so we need more. They've basically told me that we can have more, they just have to do the inspection first. If the inspector says we are, indeed, at around 50%, we can have more. If not, then we have to write a letter and beg for it, though I've been told they're 99% sure they'll say yes to said letter of begging.

I understand why they're doing this. It's just that I hate jumping through all the hoops. It stresses me out and then I yell at people and my blood pressure skyrockets and it generally pisses me off. At any rate, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the porch ceiling that I started working on last weekend and the screen windows that need replacing will get us that much closer. The porch is halfway through and I'm starting to replace the screens this afternoon... I'm hoping that they'll see that we have all the supplies (except for the plywood that I need to borrow a truck for) and are in process with these two items-- one weekend will finish them up-- and credit us for both projects.

Then I won't have to resort to any unseemly begging.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Another weekend over

I keep busting ass all weekend and it still doesn't seem like enough! So this is when the blog is helpful. It's a good chance to assess...I did stuff after all. Who knew?

Adam had to work aaaalll day Saturday, and the end result was a nasty sunburn. I was on my own.

First things first, I got a wild hair and busted out the scissors and garden shears. Here is the front walk right after I started

Yes, that's a coffee mug. It was about 8 am and I was perfectly happy to scoot on my butt with my coffee until it looked like this

I was pulling up toupees of grass. At any rate, lots of good clippings for the compost.

In other front of the house news, we've decided that the next item on the insurance money list is the porch-- we've got funds to redo the water-damaged ceiling.

I spent this afternoon removing the fan and tearing out the ceiling.

Next weekend we should be able to reinstall the ceiling and replace any boards that have rotted out.

Finally got our bedroom light hung...

But what was simultaneously the greatest accomplishment and biggest disappointment of the day was the kitchen cabinet doors. I got the hinges on them and got them hung. Ugh. Aside from the fact that I really don't like them, I wasn't able to get some of the stiles lined up perfectly, and they almost all hang askew. I put the same style hinges into the very same holes, but they still were crooked. And then I thought maybe I had them on upside down, but that didn't fix it. It just reminded me that the damn things were crooked when we bought the place; we took them off the cabinets a few weeks after we closed, so I had completely forgotten. Also, several screws broke off in the cabinets. If anyone has good solutions for getting those out without destroying the face, I'd love to hear it!

My main complaint is how yellow they are. We could take them apart and sand them and put them back together so that they're square, and rehang them so that they're not crooked, but that's far more time than I want to spend on something that I hate. I hate the design. It's just too, too MUCH for the rest of the kitchen with all the other clean straight lines-- in the counter, in the backsplash, in the floor.

Ugh. I almost don't want to show the pics.

It's so hard to tell how anything looks without the countertop trim, the crown, and the baseboards-- not to mention with the green window-- don't worry; it'll be white and the trim will be caulked. I'm also not sure whether natural wood will be ok for the doors. The sanded red oak is pinkish. The poly makes it a little yellower, but not like they are now. Remember this?

Do we think that finishing new doors like the top one above will help out the yellow insanity? The company said they could choose the wood for red undertones (like that red strip on the door above)...If it doesn't, can we stain dark? And if we can't stain dark, I guess we'll repaint the walls...


The one thing making me a very VERY happy camper is the fact that we are getting new doors. It's decided. We just don't know when. That's one reason we put the old doors back on; the other reason? We didn't know how badly we wanted new ones until we saw the old one. Soon enough. I can be patient. I love the counters and dishwasher enough to make up for anything else that's wrong with that kitchen. And I still have high hopes for it once the trim work is finished.

I just need about 720 more weekends to get there...

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We're painting the porch columns brick red and leaving the trim white. If it looks too stark, we'll begin considering trim colors. No sense in making more work or worry than required. However, any suggestions are always appreciated-- something may revolutionize the whole process for us unexpectedly!

Paint obsessions

Adam hasn't seen these yet, so this may all be a moot point...I guess my questions here are this. Does the cream look funny with the grey roof? And if I painted the trim cream, could I leave the rest of the house white, or would it clash too much or look super unfinished? There are also beams running across the porch ceiling that could be painted cream, and the gable vent could be both cream and red. I have seen white clapboard houses with red brick porches, so it might actually work. I sort of like the idea of the porch as a facade... I'm just worried about the cream fitting into the equation. I'm mostly just not sure I'm ready to take the leap of painting the whole house a color.

These things stress me out.

Painting possibilities

So my epiphany has turned into another epiphany entirely-- I had mocked up the house with its usual red trim along the eaves, adding red porch columns and white architectural detail. I knew the red was too bright, but it looked really whorish-- just vulgar. I had to avert my innocent eyes.

And then I tried it with the red eaves, warm grey porch columns and white detail, and I thought it was a little boring, but an improvement and, frankly, very grown up looking. I was very happy.

I got home and Adam wasn't opposed to the grey, but was still holding out for a good red color.

Now, I could have simply browbeaten him into agreeing with me. In fact, when I told him I wanted to show him some colors, he said, "Is this something I have to like, or should I tell you for real?" I was mildly offended, but told him to tell me for real, and he did. So I went and tried again-- with a new picture of the house that included our new roof, and not one that I photoshopped in--
(House as it is now)

and found a much more brick red color. And what d'ya know?! Deja vu all over again. I really think I like it.

Stephanie from Bungalow Insanity suggested this (painting the porch columns and horizontal trim, preferably red) a long time ago, but I've only just now gotten around to mocking it up. And, as usual, I am once again ever so grateful for an awesome suggestion through the blogosphere. Other thoughts, guys?

Now the real question is finding the right red-- one that isn't too brown or pink or purple. I did have a plan at one time. There's a house on the market, a few blocks down, that appears to be a typical red brick bungalow...that is, until you're snooping around sale houses and realize that the mortar and brick are the same color. I was planning on taking some color swatches down there and matching them to that house-- it's just such a great brick color match! And it's empty, right, so who would care? Well, the neighbors are friends of ours and they told us a few days ago that the owners moved into the house after it didn't sell to cut back on costs.

Would it be weird if I knocked on their door and asked if I could stand outside for a while with some paint chips?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A housepaint epiphany

I think I may have a plan for my exterior color scheme. But I haven't shown it to Adam yet, so...Shhh! I'm not showing it to you yet because I don't want to completely jinx it.

At any rate, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with you another bargain that I found. You may know that I didn't think very highly of my Sherwin Williams interior Classic99 paint experience. This, however, is their low-end line and we've since used their low-VOC alkyd paint for interior trim and have been pretty happy with it-- it's gloopy, but that's the way it goes with alkyd; I may try an additive with the next gallon.

ANYWAY! During my epiphany, I went onto SW's virtual painter application to see if I could find a color similar to my Photoshop choice. That's where I discovered 2 things. First of all, SW lists the RGB values of each of its colors. This isn't going to change the fact that every color looks different in huge quantities, and never looks like it does on a monitor. But, that does at least help make the color slightly more accurate in relation to the things around it when photoshopping said color into a pic. Yes, I know there's a lot of problems with that, but I liked having hte tool for some comparison.

The second thing I saw was that if you use the color visualizer and click to print the color info, you get a 15% off coupon for your next purchase. This is great, because we definitely need more trim paint, and I'm willing to give the higher quality lines a shot on the exterior if I don't find a color I like better elsewhere.

So anyway, mum on that whole epiphany thing, but I thought I'd pass on the savings at least...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sleep to dream

I know I've mentioned my anxiety dreams. They usually involved whatever project we were in the midst of, and they've mostly died down since we got the new mattress.

But last night I dreamed someone stole our fence. On one side, the whole thing was gone. On the side we built, someone simply took the panels and left the posts and cross pieces. That's my second fence dream, the last one involving 10 foot reciprocating saws and claims byt he neighbors that the fence belonged to them.

What's my subconscious obsession with the fence?!?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

It's your fault!

I blame it on all of you out there getting new kitchen cabinets. I've been obsessing over them. When I realized that we aren't in a position to buy new doors right this minute, I thought maybe some sanding and a clear coat of poly would tide me over for a couple of years. So I sanded the back of one door to see. And I really liked it-- or, at least, it was an improvement in my humble opinion:

The top one was partially sanded and given a coat of clear water-based poly. It highlights all the variations in the wood. But then I tried to sand the front of the door. Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated. Lots of beveling and curved surfaces. It was just going to take too long. Not to mention, the doors are in much worse shape than I remember. I ended up cleaning them all with some 409, taking off the old hinges, and hammering lose stiles back into place. We're going to put these back for now-- just to hide the clutter-- and price building them ourselves. Then we can decide if the money saved is worth doing it ourselves. I may get those custom doors I wanted after all...

I don't think I'd have been able to stand it if that's all I got done this weekend. Luckily, I managed to clean the front porch and then use one of those Lowe's coupons to get some Adirondack chairs.

And the most time consuming project was that baker's rack I mentioned the other day. I picked it up from my mom's and it was in worse shape than I expected.

A couple hours with a wire brush, some steel wool and a spray of water, plus a good coat of primer did the trick, though.

The final product, after a coat of satin wine red--

Ta da!

I like it. We may move it around. At least I got something done! Now I can feel accomplished.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A hardware misstep

That's what we want to avoid, at least. I've been perusing other people's lovely new cabinets and it lit a fire under my ass to get a quote for new doors. $750. It's not much. I know that. But we are in a recession, people, regardless of what the Fed wants to call it. For those of you who can afford it, the company is Advantage Cabinet Doors. They priced 22 doors and 7 drawer fronts for us, in red oak that they would select for redder undertones to blend in with the existing red oak cabinets. The doors would be Shaker style with square edges-- no beveling or mitering or raised panels-- and the stiles would be of the width that we designate. And unfinished, so we could keep everything consistent. In other words, custom doors, if not custom cabinets. That also included shipping. I think if they were closer to $500, we'd do it. Somewhere in that $250 difference is the line between an awesome deal and something not worth justifying when we have perfectly functional cabinets. We'll live with what we have and try to make them a little more likable.

These are the cabinets in question, as seen in a "before" shot of the kitchen:

And you know, I've been looking at them stacked on top of each other in the garage for months-- they actually don't actually look half bad in place. I will definitely need to sand them and put a clear coat on; the finish has yellowed severely over the years. And I planned on putting hardware on the doors and drawers. This hardware:

I had the micro setting on. I don't know WTF they're blurry...Anyway, the finish on the wood, as I said, will be more natural and pinky. But I kept looking at them and thinking something wasn't right about the knobs. At first I thought maybe they were too small. Then Adam said they looked unnecessary. I think he may be right. The doors are the kind that have a little curve to the edge so that they don't need hardware. I'd hate to drill holes in them and then hate the way they look...But if I do decide to get hardware, I have a mess of $10 off Lowe's coupons to soften the blow. (You can still get more!)

What do you guys think? I just feel like all cabinets should have hardware; but, then when I look at ours and they don't look right, my addled little brain doesn't know what to do. At any rate, it's cheaper to have nothing, so we'll start with that. Get them all hung in place and see how it looks. Step one in that direction? Sanding.

In other kitchen news, we have a big old blank space on one wall.

I put the dining room chair there for filler. Baseboards are obviously in order, as is crown...But I think I'm going to refinish a metal baker's rack that my mom had in her old house. It needs serious rust removal, and a coat of paint. I'm envisioning red-- deep red wine red-- with dark wood shelf tops. The shelves it has are wire, and a thin "butcher block" style top would be really nice-- in fact, some poplar strips would be super cheap, and I've got the glue, clamps, and red mahogany stain just begging to be used.

It's always something-- something that gets you no closer to final inspection, but which is clearly going to be more fun than any of that stuff.