28 March 2013

Cleaning out the coupon drawer

Do you ever have a to-do list that seems simple enough until you realize all the other things that need to get done before you can do any of the items? In my family, it's what we call "cleaning out the coupon drawer." You need to do this, but you have to do that first, which you can't do until this other thing gets done. Before you know it, all your plans hinge upon cleaning out the coupon drawer.

Clamping a handrail for repairSo that's what happened to me yesterday. I've been trying to work on the under-stairs pantry. I already installed the electrical boxes and wired them up. Before I can enclose that area with drywall, I needed to do some repairs to the bottom stair. But before I can do that, I needed to tighten up the newel post. I ended up taking the newel post almost completely apart. As I took it apart, I realized that the post (which is hollow) was only attached to the railing and nowhere else. There were a bunch of nails that had worked themselves too loose to be useful and they needed to come out. But to remove them, I had to take the newel post off completely. But before I could take off the newel post completely, I needed to repair the split in the handrail. (Are you seeing how cleaning out the coupon drawer works?) So I lined the crack with Frog Tape (to protect the surface of the handrail from excess glue) and gently pried the split open a little bit while applying Gorilla glue. I clamped it with every clamp I could find and wiped off any glue squeeze-out.

Paint stripped off newel postI left the clamps on overnight but was still able to take off the newel post while the glue dried. So the post came off and I removed the nails. The post's paint was in pretty terrible condition, and I've always intended on refinishing it eventually. I figured it would probably be easier to strip the paint while it was off, especially on the back side that abuts the balusters. So I spent some quality time with a heat gun and got off all the chipping paint that I could. Then I sanded it lightly with a palm sander. I still haven't stripped the paint off the mouldings, but I wanted to get the post back on for safety reasons. That stripe of paint in the middle is apparently where some long-missing piece of moulding goes. It circles the entire newel, and there are pencil alignment marks too. I'll see if I can find something appropriate to put there later.

Repaired curved stepBefore I could reattach the newel post, I had to repair the bottom step. It has a rounded end, and the nails holding the curved piece in place had worked themselves loose when I was investigating how to tighten the newel post. (All the how-to advice on the internet indicates that there is a bolt underneath that can get retightened - this is not true for old houses with hollow newels.) I wiggled off the stair tread and made the necessary repairs. Then I reattached the stair tread and finally I was able to put the newel post back on.

Reattached newel postI cut a block to fit snugly inside the post. I then repositioned the newel post into its spot and screwed the block down to the stair tread. Then I nailed the block to the post from the outside and reattached the handrail using screws. The bottom of the post doesn't rest on the step - there is a gap that is covered by the plinth. This gap prevents it from being rock steady, but putting the plinth back on fixed that problem entirely. Now it's as solid as can be.

So that's the (long) story of how drywalling a pantry turned into cleaning out the coupon drawer stripping the paint off a newel post.

22 March 2013

Uh oh

Discouraged with my closet project, I began a big clean-out downstairs. I've taken several trunk loads of usable household stuff and clothing to Salvation Army, I sold our old furnace on Craigslist, I put a bunch of old wood on sawhorses in the basement, and I rearranged the new oak flooring so we have a clear pathway downstairs. I was feeling pretty good about my progress until I started clearing out a bunch of boxes being stored under the stairs. And what did I find? Termites. Live, working, adult termites. Anything with termite damage got thrown in the outside garbage and I immediately made an appointment with Orkin. They came out for a free inspection and will be back next week to treat the house. Fortunately none of the house's structure has been compromised - they've just eaten scrap wood laying on the dirt floor of the crawlspace. I've done all I can do in the meantime, so I'm trying not to let it get in the way of all the other things I need to get done.

12 March 2013

I was so looking forward to revealing the finished closet. I finally got all the ikea drawers installed yesterday and put on the drawer fronts that I made last week. I stepped back to look at it. And it looked awful. I mean really, truly terrible. I cried. Tom came home - 2 hours late as always - and looked at it. He agreed it looked bad, which means it is probably even worse than I thought. I cried some more. I am totally out of steam on this project, which means it is going to sit in its current state for another 10 years until I run out of other poorly-done projects to be fed up with.

05 March 2013

Item #45, part 1

Last summer I bought several ready-to-assemble drawer-base cabinets off of Craigslist for $15 each. I put two of them in the kitchen, one in Clara's closet and one in the laundry room between the washer and dryer. It needed some work to make it look like it was supposed to be there. Here it is before I started work on it:

And now:

Norm Abram's job is safe for now, but I don't think it's too shabby for a first carpentry attempt.