24 February 2013

The first sign of spring around here always comes in the form of the crocus. The neighbors have some light purple ones naturalized in the strip between the sidewalk and the street. They always bloom the earliest, and their appearance always remind me to keep an eye out for mine. My yellow ones bloom first, about a week after the neighbors' purple ones pop up. It will still be a month before warm weather takes over, so these little blossoms are just a tease of spring.

23 February 2013

One down, twenty to go.

Finally a room that is totally, utterly, completely done. Before you are too impressed, this is the smallest room in the entire house. It's not even really a room, just a closet. But it's a finished closet. That's the important part. Please ignore the mess stage left in this hugely inspiring picture.

It all started when the cable company started charging us a $4/month modem rental fee (for a modem that costs about $30 to buy outright). Naturally, we do not want to pay this. Getting a new modem seemed like a good excuse to finally get the modem and router out of the cobwebs of the basement and into its permanent home upstairs. So on Monday we finally ran the coaxial cable from the basement to the closet. On Tuesday I mudded the closet (it got taped by the professional drywaller but it got overlooked for subsequent coats), Wednesday I applied CitriStrip to the floors and covered with plastic. Thursday I sanded, primed, and painted the drywall and scraped, sanded, and shellacked the floors. Saturday I installed, caulked, and painted moulding; painted and installed cleats and a shelf; wired up an outlet; and finally moved the modem and router upstairs. There's plenty of room for more shelves later if I need them, but for now it's done. The end.

Item #9

Today I finished installing the door trim in Clara's room. The main holdup was the closet light switch. It was a little too close to the door, so the trim overlapped the switch cover a bit. I bought a wooden switch plate so I could cut off the overlap. Once that was installed, I nailed up the rest of the moulding. Nothing to it.

PS: Clara loves reading in this little rocking chair. It belonged to my mother's mother when she was a child. Clara looks a bit like Grandma, so I guess it's appropriate!

15 February 2013

Item #44, part 1

I am almost finished building the bulk of the second closet organizer (the first is here), but I thought I'd show its current state to show how it's put together. The main box is made from 3/4" plywood. I had the plywood ripped in-store, so I got a much better cut than I could have handled at home. Very simple assembly, just three shelves attached with screws. I plan on using a couple of Ikea drawers in the towers, so I sized them according to their specs for an 18" drawer. Then I added 1x4 blocking to keep the tower square and to give me a place to anchor it to the wall.

Next came the panels on the side. These are mostly decorative, but they will also support a plywood shelf. The 1x4 on the wall to the left continues the support all the way to the corner. The panels also make the tower 1.5" thick at the front so that a 1x2 face frame will perfectly cover the edge.

I should have painted all the components before installation. Oh, well. I have a few items to pick up today, but this should have a double rod and lots of clothes by the afternoon!

12 February 2013

I'm calling it done.

I'm trying not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, so I'm calling the closet floors done.

The striped effect is from the different ways the floor was formerly finished. From the left, previously unfinished, paint on bare wood (you can barely tell the difference in the first two), and paint on primer. I doubt any amount of sanding would have evened out 80 years of different absorption rates, but wood conditioner may have made the difference less noticeable. I used three coats of Zinsser SealCoat to finish them. It is a de-waxed shellac. There are plenty of websites that outline the pros and cons of shellac, so I won't go into that here. I'll just say that it's often a better fit for old homes than polyurethane. I sanded lightly between coats 2 and 3, then buffed with 0000 steel wool after the third. The result is a lustrous, smooth finish. Not smooth enough for a Risky Business reenactment, but smooth enough.

Unintended consequence: I can now make good on any promises to give somebody a good shellacking. Or a mediocre shellacking at the very least.

08 February 2013

Item #87

The back guest bedroom has a pull-down telescoping ladder for access to our attic storage. Ours didn't come with a door to cover the hole in the ceiling, so I had to make my own. Wooden folding ladders are attached to the door and require complicated tension spring systems. Fortunately, we just needed a hinged door to stay out of the way when open and flush to the ceiling when closed. I built a frame with 1x3s using my pocket screw jig and stapled a piece of 1/4" plywood to the back side. I had to experiment with a couple of different catches to find a combination strong enough to hold the door up. I ended up with six magnetic catches. Four probably would have been sufficient, but I really don't want this thing to fall open accidentally. The "handle" is a PVC strap. I still need to finish the 1x2 trim, but that has to wait until the crown moulding is installed - it will end up very close and if I have to shave something off to make it fit, I'd rather take it from the hatch trim rather than the crown. For now, I'm just glad we don't have a huge hole in the ceiling in the bedroom (we have plenty more of those elsewhere, thankyouverymuch).

The big surprise

I hinted to my family in an email that I would have something fantastic to show on the blog by the end of the week. Of course, that was on Monday when everything was going according to plan and it seemed like I'd have the entire thing wrapped up by the weekend.

I really should know better.

The big project was sanding and refinishing the floor in the laundry room/closet. Here it was before I started doing anything:

The area on the left had never been finished at all. I think that there was probably a rug there (that wall wasn't there originally - we added it - so the unfinished area was centered in the old room), and the previous owners had just painted around the rug's perimeter. The brown area on the right was painted. The unfinished area was a snap to sand. The entire thing took a couple of hours with a handheld belt sander. The first 8-10 inches of the painted part wasn't much more difficult; it was painted directly on the floor. But the last two feet on the right hand side have been a battle hard fought. Somebody actually did their prep work 80+ years ago with some kind of indestructible oil-based primer. Here it is now:

I've used CitriStrip, mineral spirits, rubbing alcohol, pure acetone, and a heck of a lot of elbow grease to get it to this point. After all those chemicals I was afraid to use the heat gun for fear of setting the house ablaze. But the good news is that the paint is gone (in areas that will be visible - I haven't been able to get really close to the wall, but baseboard will cover that), so it should just be a matter of doing a light sanding.

This picture does not do justice to how gorgeous this wood is now that it has been sanded. To quote Wayne White, it's so beautiful it hurts my feelings.

04 February 2013

What a difference some paint can make

Here's what I've done since I last checked in.

1. Nail-set, caulked, and painted closet crown moulding. It was pre-primed moulding, but it was looking dingy from sitting around before getting hung. It definitely looks crisper and neater with a coat of paint. Crown moulding in there is officially DONE. 

2. Caulked, wood-filled, sanded, primed, and painted the bathroom windows. I did this for the two master bathroom windows as well as the one window in the hall bath. Both rooms looked instantly brighter. I can't imagine how dark it would have looked if I'd stained instead of painted. You can still see wood grain underneath the wood in some places, but I'm OK with that. If I wanted a totally smooth look, I could have used plywood or MDF. It's wood trim. You can tell it's wood. So what?

Alas, it is not much and nothing further got checked off the master to-do list, but it still feels like progress.