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Stairwell Repairs

Easter’s been here and gone, and it was a wonderful holiday. We had Good Friday off so Andy took me to a very rare dinner. We only have time and money to go out a couple times a year. He spent a good bit of the weekend with Lucy’s hockey, then on Sunday we and the girls all went to church together, and spent the day with his extended family. We had started shopping for Easter basket goodies about a month ago and probably had more fun stuffing and hiding them, than the girls did finding them! One of the places we thought to hide a basket was in the ceiling joists, as part of his drywall has been ripped down due to a second-floor tub leak. We didn’t hide anything there but if I can get him to guest write a blog, you may hear more about his drywall work. It was a great holiday.

20150403_11112120150404_155123I removed the extra handrails. Then I finished scraping the wallpaper and had two small DIY projects: drywall patching and stucco repair. You can see from the photo on the left, how horrid the wall was behind the paper. I remembered a trick from my days of actually building rooms from scratch. Smooth on a light coat of spackle to fill nail holes and other imperfections. When it is dry but not cured, run a damp sponge over it to wipe off excess paste and to get rid of the spackle edges. When it’s cured just a swipe of the sandpaper will do this way. Less dust, less work. I used a double-sided scrubby sponge for this task.

20150403_133552When I was removing the wallpaper, some of the DYI spray ran down to the first-floor ceiling, creating water marks. When I tried to wipe them off, the stucco itself came off! You can see the photos in this post. 20150404_173523To patch quickly and easily, I just took the scraper I was using to spread spackle, loaded it up with the spackling paste, and dabbed it overhead onto the ceiling to blend in. Since the ceiling was white, there was no need to paint. Another way of doing this is mixing the spackle compound with water until milkshake consistency and dab with a large-holed sponge. Unfortunately I didn’t have that type of sponge and had to make do!

I also deglossed all the doorway and baseboard moulding this weekend. The products from our stores that made this weekend easier were the ever-famous rubber gloves for the deglosser, and glasses and a half-mask respirator for the drywall. Even tho the sanding was minimal, there is dust all over the area. And you know if it’s on the wood, it would be in my lungs if not for the respirator!

Next weekend is yet another busy one. I sit for my graduate exam and Grace has a PMEA music concert. But I hope to start painting the walls.

Stairwell Assessment

20140719_132619The stairwell seems like a small area at first blush. I am in my final quarter of my MBA and the holidays are almost here, plus I will be having houseguests. Soon I will be heading outside to mow and assess the landscape20150314_151938. I figured this would be a fairly quick area to do. The stair chair and second hand rail had to be removed, and the handicap grab bar at the top of the steps will be removed, but not yet on that one. I will remove that after my family gathering at Easter so my mom has a bit of an easier time going upstairs.

This wall also was not sealed before the wallpaper was put on; it appears it was patched before that layer went on. I spent about 4 hours this weekend and only got a few square feet removed. I am using DIY gel remover, a paper tiger, and a scraper.

In this area I intend to patch and paint the walls, reglue a baluster in the banister, remove the stair runner, and hopefully have enough of the music room carpet remnant to put a piece in the upstairs hallway. The paint will be the creamy white from downstairs and then a mix of the gray upstairs and the green downstairs. The ceiling looks fairly good, and a gentle washing will probably brighten it up.

I am happy it appears I will not need to use any scaffolding or ladders, but the work will tax my shoulder muscles, to be sure!

20150314_151912I will be using the standard gear from Safety Girl, Construction Gear, and Discount Safety Gearpaint brushes, rollers, coveralls, respirator, and gloves.

Here are the before shots so you can see what I am working with.

Guest Room Reveal

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Interior Wall before

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Interior wall After

I am on budget, just about $60 for the paint, a new roller handle and disposable paint tray. I shifted some furniture to capture the boarding house feel and provide a dresser for overnight guests. The antique stool looks a bit beat up but blends perfectly with the theme of the room. I would like to eventually go back and paint the ceiling and add some crown moulding but 2 months is way too long to spend in this small room. I am coming to the realization that I will be going back through the house, room by room, when I am finished, fixing anything I want to change, and adding things I didn’t have time or money to do the first time. Didn’t they say homeownership is a full time job?

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Greenhouse window wall After

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Greenhouse window wall Before

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Gun cabinet wall Before

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Gun cabinet wall After

Finishing Touches on the Guest Room

20150301_115556I had an upper respiratory infection over the weekend so, on doctor’s orders, stayed at home. Andy says the doc probably also mentioned the word “rest” in there, but I didn’t hear it. I took the opportunity to be “lazy” and watch an on-demand movie and sit with a cup of tea each morning. I skipped church, and only saw Andy for a little bit. Luckily, I felt very motivated. Aside from a family meal at Andy’s (and ice mandating I stay put), shoveling my driveway was the only time I was outside. I am really starting to love the Wellies for this – they aren’t as warm as our SafetyGirl fleece lined boots would be but when it’s near 40 they do a great job of keeping my feet dry and just pull on.20150301_120901

The guest room is almost done and I will reveal it next week, I promise! This weekend I used my blend of cleaner on the plank floors – hot water, a dash of vinegar, and a dash of olive oil. It didn’t get everything up but it it did a nice enough job that I am happy with it. Some of the paint has been there for 40 years – that didn’t budge. But I really wanted the feel of this room to be civil-war-era boarding house and I think what I could not remove keeps in this theme. Here are before and after pics of part of the floor. For this I used our poly gloves (the oil is great for your hands but the vinegar, not so much) and the knee pads.

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window with greenhouse

The other main thing I did here was taking stock of the condition of my dad’s mini green house. In the stack of clutter I went through to finish this room, I found some of his seeds. 20150301_101648The mini green house in the window is just the start of his obsession. He has a hot house on the hillside, and probably one acre of garden. He would always take us out to walk it with him whenever we’d visit. “And see, Bets, I planted my corn to come up every 3 days. You’ll have to come and we’ll have a roast.” I found the seeds he meticulously pulled from each tomato that   was a gift from someone’s garden, placed on a paper towel marked with “Uncle Fred” or “Maize,” effectively creating new heirlooms. I made his aunt’s (my great aunt) day when I mentioned that her deceased husband has an heirloom variety ready to see if it will bud. The ripples of this quiet man continue.

Add to my list of things to do this very early spring: buy peat pots and potting soil.

Personal Guest Room Touches

I seem to be slowing down on this room. I still need to paint the ceiling, but Andy and I had a twice-a-year weekend without the girls and we wanted to make the most of it. A snow storm kind of sealed the deal that once I got to his place, I wasn’t going anywhere. We went out for sushi Friday night, we celebrated Mass together, we watched some movies, we did some cleaning, we shoveled driveways together. I was to have my friend Gale come in to play with me at my church’s service but the snow canceled our plans, leaving me to play alone. We were also to get together for Andy’s mom’s birthday, but the snow stopped our travel to his hometown. My family shut itself in for an afternoon game and pizza day.  It was a great weekend. When I found out back in 2013 that Andy had children, I was ecstatic. They add so much to life, even when things don’t run smoothly. I miss them after awhile of not seeing them. But a few days a year being adults is, well, great.

20150219_195842Even though Gale didn’t make it, I prepared the guest room as I am working on it, for her. I tried to consolidate paint cans and ladders to one corner of the room. While I was taking a break from painting, I added two homey touches to the room: a WiFi password welcome sign on the nightstand with some amenities, and a slate painting.

The welcome sign is simple. There are a number of free templates available on Pinterest20150219_200406 or you can create your own – add your home’s WiFi password, frame it, and put it on the nightstand. I also added some lotion and an alarm clock.

The slate painting was borne from a large piece of slate I found cleaning out my dad’s room. 20150219_182325I am uncertain what he intended to paint on it, but it is the right size and shape for something, with holes for hanging. I used a long, strong leather thong and knotted the ends so they don’t slip through. Before I painting it, I hung this on a nail close to the floor for a week to make sure the leather would hold the heavy slate. I found a template for one of my favorite sayings and modified it to be a bit more “artsy.” Using the light gray for the walls, I painted this freehand with several Q-Tips for paint brushes. To hang I simply made sure I was on a stud with my nail. I like it!

Continuing in the Guest Room

20150131_164514 This past weekend I finished the painting and removed the tape. Andy was at a quick hockey tournament with Lucy and then Grace had her Confirmation yesterday. It was a good weekend to work. I taped off the trim and did it first, then let it dry thoroughly and then taped to paint the walls. I used a fresh roller on the lighter grey to keep the color true.

I did not intend to paint the doors – I wanted to keep much of the wood – but when I looked at them from across the room, they seemed out of place. So I painted them. Here are some progress photos.

While our brushes do a great, precise job, I used frog tape because of the stark contrast in my paint choices. 20150214_164610

Among other things, my parents were Civil War buffs (War of Northern Aggression, if you ask Mo!). I didn’t want a shrine to my parents, because that just screams “creepy” to me. But as a nod to them, I tried to capture the feel of a boardinghouse in the 1800’s. I used the Confederate grey paint with a paler complement and kept the somewhat beaten plank wood floors. All the furniture is heavy and dark, yet still graceful.

I used my local Freecycle to get rid of a lovely but too-orangely-redone trestle table, a small flat screen TV, assorted clock parts, and finally the stair chair! I am pulling together my thoughts and the room as I finished painting.

I would have liked to have skipped painting the ceiling, but the more I look at it, the more the imperfections are screaming at me. So I will add a week and some extra money for some flat white paint, and at least go over the blemishes. I still have the floor, and a bit of moulding would be nice. I really do need a break. Until it’s done and livable, that’s not going to happen.

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Painting the Guest Room

With winter here, my time to work on the house is throttling down. I shovel and clean the litter box far more (see blog20150201_122417) since my cats are only inside in the winter. My mom has had some surgeries and I’ve spent some nights with her.

Because there is so much clutter in this room that is either waiting to be picked up, or will be repurposed in the room when done, I must work on this one wall at a time. I don’t like that. But the wall against the steps will be where the bed goes, and a dark gray. The rest of the walls will be a lighter gray with the darker trim. So I am painting the highlighted wall first, pushing everything I can against it, and finishing. This week is the prep work and dark wall.

20150131_164337Before I ever started, I had to remove all the pictures placed helter-skelter on the walls with random nailholes and many pen marks x-ing the spot. There were two sets of curtain brackets even tho that room has seen only blinds for at least a decade. I patched the holes and lightly sanded. Then I deglossed all the trim and taped off my dark grey on that wall.

The salesman talked me up to a greater-coverage paint for that color, and I am so glad he did. As it was, it took 2 brush coats and one roller coat to make sure all the dimples were hidden. With something so dark, any missed spots would be unforgiving.

Proof positive our paint brushes and rollers are the best – halfway through the wall, my roller handle snapped off the extension pole. I’ve been using that roller handle with our roller since the dawn of time, and the roller is still going strong. Because I didn’t want to stop the job to run into town to buy a new handle, I finished the wall with our 4” paintbrush. I cleaned the floor best I could with my tea and oil concoction, and decided that junction looked good enough to push the furniture against.

no64517_-00_purple_side_purple-rain-boots-puddletonsMy weekend with Andy was absolutely wonderful. We went out for about an hour for a drink to toast the memory of an old friend of his on Friday night. Saturday we attended Grace’s honors band concert and then to dinner with his parents. And Sunday we washed our cars together and broke up the ice in the driveway. I was so excited – I wore my wellies for the first time. I wish I had pics to show you, but take my word for it – they were adorable!

Updating Bathtub Fixtures

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courtesy of This Old House – click on graphic to go to TOH page.

Overflow drain proj I updated the bathroom but left the tub fixtures as they were, knowing I would need a plumber. I tried to do what I could. The old overflow cover’s lever no longer remained either up (to hold water in the tub) or down (to drain). This is a simple fix any homeowner can do, especially because the drain itself was in good shape. The overflow  part is sold individually for about $10 at most home repair stores and requires few tools. The old cover is unscrewed and when it is pulled forward, the old lever’s attachment pulls the linkage mechanism forward also. A clip on the new overflow connects the new lever to the existing linkage. The new overflow is then screwed into place.

The diverter I tried to replace myself but the old nipple had to be rethreaded. Given that, swapping out the spout is as simple as unscrewing the old one and screwing on the new one. An adapter is included with most diverters to suit most plumbing.

20141005_19431020150205_171326The faucet itself is a bit trickier. I knew to shut off the water and unscrew the old handles and the collars. From there it took a plumber, who removed the valves within and replaced the whole thing with a new assembly. It is very important here to either replace the unit with the same brand or be prepared to pay for replumbing to retrofit a new brand. I guessed, after living with my dad, that the old one was most likely a Price Pfister, and bought that brand for the plumber to replace.

The whole thing needs cleaned up a bit, but here are the before and after shots.

Life Hacks – Deglossing vs. Stripping

20150131_154204You’ve heard me say, on every room, that I degloss the trim before painting it. Why? You have a couple options for good adhesion of the new paint over the old: cleaning and sanding, stripping and cleaning, or scraping and cleaning. If the old paint is in reasonably good condition, a light sanding will do. If it’s pretty built up, you most likely will want to strip it. And if it’s beyond those things, you will need to scrape the flaking paint to provide a seam-free surface for your new paint. Either way, you have to clean it too. The deglosser will do the cleaning and the job of either the sanding, stripping, or scraping. Because it’s a harsh solution, you must wear gloves. But because it’s a harsh solution, it provides a lot of elbow grease of its own.

20150131_154223I’m not sure what on earth my dad was thinking when he painted this room. My guess is, he was getting tired of maintaining the home and just slapped some latex paint over the old stuff without doing any of the above. Bad idea. Because of this, the top coats were removing the bottom coats and the whole thing was chipping off. I didn’t want to remove all the old paint due to time and the reasonable condition of the rest of the trim. So I scraped a little with just a plastic scraper, to remove only the loose edges, then cleaned and smoothed it all down with my trusty deglosser. It penetrates and bonds the paint layers as well as provides a “toothier” surface for new paint.

Making a Planter Out of a Crock

20150124_133529 My parents collected antique crocks – the genuine non-reproductions, the really heavy ones you don’t know what to do with, yet fear them breaking. I have one in each finished room as a waste paper receptacle, but when I needed a little something to go beside an occasional chair in the library and found myself with one too many crocks, I decided to steal things from my house to put together a planter. These babies are heavy and breakable, and I was going to be working with plants and soil, so I used my go-to gloves: Tuff Chix work gloves from SafetyGirl.20150124_133558

I  believe in upcycling so I walked around the house to see what I had, that I could use. It’s like a miniature treasure  hunt. I had a few cuttings in plain pots by the kitchen sink. I had a spider plant gone wild in the soil of a floor plant. I had some raffia left over from a sympathy basket. I had a plastic kitchen container whose lid hasn’t been seen since the crocks were new, I’m sure.  I placed the kitchenware upside down in the bottom of the crock to raise the level of the plants, then set the pots inside. Using tumblers filled with water, I took rooted shoots from the spider plant, and set those around the edges. I topped the whole thing off with the raffia, to hide the plastic pots. 20150124_135731