Category Archives: Deferred Phase 1 Work

5 years!

This year has kind of felt like a slog. But when we look back to where the house was a year ago, I think we have cause for optimism.

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Can you spot the changes?

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I’m excited about having the table set. That means Year 6 is starting out right. But back to last year… I started off Year 5 staining the handrail and prepping and priming the rest of the stairway and paneling. It was a tedious job and I was ready for a break.

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Instead, I let the Irishman build cabinet doors for my kitchen. (Did you notice how messy it looked without them?) This was bar none the most mismanaged project anyone ever took on at my house. The cost overruns had me in the hole from June to December and for months and all I could do was train myself not to care about the mess that took over my first floor and the public sidewalk in front of my house. This was definitely not legal so I’m just glad no one turned me in.

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When the Irishman was done, I’m not sure if there was a single door that was actually in acceptable condition. Some had surface flaws that became evident after they were painted over, some were the wrong size and didn’t close right, and some got scratched before they were installed. For the time being I ignored it all because I couldn’t stand the sight of them.

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Once again, no break. I went head on into another project that was far more annoying than I expected: stucco.

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Or really, the annoying part was the building paper, lathe, flashing, and casings. On the bright side, this makes the house look a lot more finished and less scary.

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At this point, I sincerely wanted to leave the house a pigsty forever and never touch another project again. But I also wanted to get those cabinet doors off the floor (and make them look closer to what my money should have bought). I participated in a 30 projects in 30 days challenge in September. A lot of the things I actually wanted to close out were too big to average a project a day, so I went with it and found smaller projects to do. The odd pieces of not-yet-installed moldings and the piles of unused building materials.

And in October, my dad and I worked a miracle on those  cabinet doors. It took about 2 weeks of hard work, a little too much to average a project a day.

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Then after a good long Christmas break, I tackled the Leaning Tower of Pyrex. I’ve added enough extra shelves inside my kitchen cabinets that some of them are only about 5 inches apart. It’s great and I don’t understand why more people don’t do this.

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And the work I stared on the linen closet? It should be done by now but instead it’s… on hold.

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I thought it would be done by now, and that right about now I’d be taking a good look at each of my linens/life choices as I moved them back into the closet where they belong. What got in the way? A friend who needed to get out of a bad living situation, fast. It was messy but it works out. I was planning on looking for a short-term roommate again anyway.

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Back To Work, On Storage

Did you miss me? I took a solid 2 months off working on the house and that’s been really great. In fact, I haven’t been this social in 6 years, before I bought the place. Relatedly, I decided to reorganize the kitchen cabinets. Partially because some of them are a disorganized mess and partly to get the Martini glasses on a shelf where I don’t have to jump onto the countertop to reach them.

And to do that, I’m adding 8 more shelves. I took advantage of some oddly warm January weather to go to my parents’ place and cut up scrap wood left over from the kitchen cabient doors, and now I’m painting the ones that weren’t painted on both sides. The ones that are painted blue are going to stay that way. I don’t care.

While I was at it with painting kitchen shelves, I sooner or later need to paint the linen closet. After the previous roommate moved out last fall I emptied the linens into the back bedroom closet and then never came back to that. But while I was rolling primer onto them I noticed how bad the walls were. There was no casing around the door on the inside and there were gaping holes in some of the walls. A big piece of plaster fell off at the bottom. The shelves are too big to install continuous runs of casing. Nothing is square, the walls aren’t close to flat, there’s nothing to nail into, and the plaster is globbed out way beyond the door jamb. This quick little job got annoying fast.

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So, I pulled scraps of the downstairs casings, sorted by size, and a skinny little offcut from the kitchen fronts out of the lumber hoard and cut them to fit into the spaces between the shelves. (The Irishman gave me this saw. You can tell because the pieces to prevent you from cutting your fingers off are missing.)

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And I had an awful time trying to fit into this closet to nail the pieces in. I bent nails over and over again and then couldn’t manage to hit any studs. I can’t tell what’s holding the original parts of this house together and I don’t ask.

I screwed in the moldings on one side, and that worked MUCH better. Remember how I rebuilt the side of the arch between the living room and the kitchen 3/4″ smaller to make the casing thicker on the one side? I saved the old piece and it was a little battered but just the right size! And this might be the last time anyone sees it.

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On the other side where there’so only room for something really skinny, there was also no way I could figure out to nail anything in. So I just cut things a little long and wedged them in place. I still need to cut off this 1 protruding shim.

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Both sides have big ugly gaps. Like I said, the walls aren’t flat or square and the plaster is glooped beyond the door jamb. And then how do you like the way the shelves don’t even match? The ones with the nosings were extras out of a friend’s parents’ basement. When they ran out I made the rest and didn’t bother to add nosings to them. And this reminds me that I need to fill the hole from the old door strike. I switched which way this door opens when I repurposed the closet for linens.

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And when I was cutting the shelves to fit into these not-square walls, I just kept the saw blade square and notched and notched and notched. I could be worried about things falling into these gaps and disappearing forever.

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Anyways, I got a reliable endorsement for Big Stretch caulk from Ross. It apparently fills wide gaps on the exterior of his house that he’s meticulously restoring. Hopefully it does equally well to hide the sins in this slapped-together linen closet.

Phew, Scratch Coat’s Done

Current 30 Projects in 30 Days count is 9. First I finally finished nailing the lath up to the house (Project 6). Between the casings, the tar paper, and the lath, the stucco prep took over 2 months. (Recycled photo but you get the idea.)

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And here it is with the stucco up (Project 7)! You’ll notice that some stucco is scratched and some isn’t in this photo. What we did after our lunch break was still too soft to scratch, so we took a break while it was setting up. The scratch coat is the first of 3 coats that are required for traditional (read:Twentieth Century) hard coat stucco. If I do the rest of the house myself, I will float only the second 2 coats right onto the old stucco and (thank God!) skip the lath.

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It’s funny because for what a big deal this is I don’t have that much to say. One thing is I was better at floating stucco onto the wall at the end of the day than at the beginning. Another is that my hands are dry. And most important, having exposed plywood sheathing on the back of the house was a worry and might have made the back of the house compete with my real source of future joy, restoring the front.

Speaking of which, we did one small thing to the front. I’ve had this nice mailbox sitting on my living room floor since my birthday in March, and you may have noticed that my 30 projects tend to revolve around finishing all the unfinished things that are stacked up around the edges of the living room. Alternate title for this challenge: #FreeTheCorners! Anyways, here’s the new mailbox. It doesn’t look TOO out of place on my scuzzy house, does it?

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And for reference, here’s the old one. Only downside is I’ll have shitty takout menus stuffed into my railings now because the new mailbox is too nice for a Circular Free Property sticker. I’ll stick one to the glass on my front door, but not until I spruce it up next month. More on that later.

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And I installed the third clothes bar in my closet. I re-purposed old clothes bars everywhere else and when I ran out, just did without on the right side and filled it up with junk. Now it will be easier to install baseboards in the closet because I can empty the lower bar on the left side and work without emptying the closet.

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So, will I make #30ProjectsIn30Days? Last update I was 2 days behind if my goal were a project a day. Today I still am! I think that’s a good thing.

30 Projects, Week 1

First off, I can already tell that I’ll be re-defining what a project is. There were a lot of things on my list. Second of all, it’s been a struggle lately to go to the gym, cook healthy food, and keep up with house work, let alone do remodeling on weeknights. But today I doubled up at the gym, am now blogging, and did some stuff to the house! But, sorry Mom, the dishes are gonna sit in the sink. Anyways, here are the tasks I’ve completed:

  1. I cleaned out the junk side of my closet, and the floor on the clothes side. I found some real gems, like pieces of the Pontiac that broke off and put in a box to reattach later. Now some of my random crap is in control and I’m ready to add  the missing baseboards, robe hooks, and clothes bar. Also note that I built more twice as many shoe shelves as I can fill.
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  2. The Irishman seemed to have forgotten to paint the back sides of all the kitchen cabinet doors that are the hardest to take down. I’ve had them leaning against a wall for a month. Now the back sides are all painted and they’re hanging again. The fronts will be painted in place on a separate item. (He also started to paint a bunch of his off-cuts because he didn’t check whether they were doors or not. Since I paid for that work, I’ve finished painting them to use them as extra shelves. But that’s not finished yet.)
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  3. I helped my roommate move out. Setting up my guest room is on hold until I can borrow the Suburban, or use my parents’ car and some bungee cords on a dry day.
  4. The bookcase in my living room had an open top. It was supposed to fit tight to an 8-foot ceiling, but because I have higher ceilings, I closed it up with a piece of scrap plywood that I stained. The color is too dark but you can only tell because I had the flash on.
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    The edges of the plywood look pretty bad but I’ll fix that once I retrieve my spare mahogany boards from the lumber-hoard.
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  5. Here, I’ll let you see how much I cared about my containers this spring.
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    I finally weeded them. Believe it or not, I had a boxwood and a camellia hiding behind those weeds. The vegetables on the wall aren’t mine. The neighbors borrowed my pots.
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So, even with this rather generous re-numbering and staying home on a holiday weekend, I am a little behind one project per day. Do you think I’ll make it?

30 Projects in 30 Days?

I’ve never thought it worked for me to participate in blogger things like the One Room Challenge. Starting a room and finishing it in the same year? That’s not how things work in the Crooked House. And even my parents, who raised me with more normal DIY remodeling, leave rooms unfinished until they redo them for the second time 20 years later. But 30 little things in 30 days? Stacy came up with this idea because like me, she’s made major headway on fixing up an old house but left little bits undone everywhere. I’m not excited to do these small projects, so I like the chance to cheer on and commiserate with other people doing the same thing. But on the other hand, September is the return of weather I like, and I’m not sure I want to be bound to give the house all of my time. Especially when some of these jobs can happen when it’s miserable again in January.

But My mom says do it! So here’s my list, leaving some bigger things for later months and breaking every item into the smallest thing I could possibly call a stand-alone job. I’m still not sure if I can manage 30, and I might come up with extra things to sub in for some of these. But this is a good start.

  1. Finish getting the lath attached? Yes, I am rewarding myself for missing my goal by putting it on this list. There’s almost nothing left to do from this.
  2. Stucco, scratch coat
  3. Stucco, brown coat
  4. Stucco, finish coat. 3 coats, 3 jobs is not a cop out because I said so.
  5. Wire brush and paint the stub of a cast iron pipe the gutter connects to.
  6. Weed my flower pots. I haven’t done a lick of gardening all year and now they’re kind of ridiculous.
  7. Finish painting the kitchen cabinets.
  8. Install kitchen cabinet knobs
  9. Have glass fitted in the china cabinet doors.
  10. Organize/clean the basement and retrieve some materials from the lumber hoard.
  11. Fill nail holes in woodwork throughout the house.
  12. (Have my dad) caulk seams in woodwork throughout the house. Because remember, I suck at caulking.
  13. Make small drywall repairs and patches throughout the house.
  14. Touch-up paint walls throughout the house.
  15. Install vintage brass switch and outlet plates throughout the house. (They are smaller than the new ones, thus most of the wall repairs.)
  16. Bring my twin bed back from my parents’ attic and furnish and set up the guest room. Yes, I have a guest room! I’ve arrived!
  17. Finish my closet. This means one more closet bar and baseboards, hopefully made of scrap wood. It also probably means random crap in the guest room closet.
  18. Finish the linen closet. This means paint the shelves and add baseboards.
  19. Paint woodwork in the upstairs hall
  20. Paint paneling under the stairs
  21. Paint and reinstall the basement stairway door
  22. Install a bulletin board on the back of the basement stairway door. Part for function, part to hide damage.
  23. Paint woodwork in the kitchen and the big archway between the kitchen and living room
  24. Paint vestibule door.
  25. Get the hardware back on the vestibule door and find a skeleton key. Because I’ll be locking the house with an old-fashioned skeleton key when I take the front door off to refinish it.
  26. Repaint kitchen walls as needed.
  27. Tape and mud basement stairway walls (there’s not much and they don’t need to be done well)
  28. Paint basement stairwell.
  29. My sister bought me a really nice mailbox for my birthday in March. Let’s get it up.
  30. I promised my sister I’d season her vintage cast iron at the same time that I do mine… a year later, she’s asking where it is. And since she’s visiting home this month, it’s time.

Projects that Aren’t Stucco

Yes, I’ve decided to drop everything and do something else. You’re probably wondering what I was thinking. Well, first I was having trouble with my garbage disposal. It would drain slowly and clog up often, so I’d have to run it just about every time I used the sink and use the little wrench to un-jam it about once a week. This was almost enough to get me to remove the garbage disposal entirely. And then Saturday it WAS enough! Because when I tried to un-jam it, it fell off the sink! So when my dad came down, we flushed it out with the hose (which was super disgusting and probably a biohazard), got it back on, and now we both learned from YouTube that filling your disposal with ice cubes and running it about once a week will knock gunk out of it and prevent this from happening.

And after this, the next project? Stop moldings on the upstairs hall doors. They’ve been under my bed for like a year now. And I’ve had the Irishman’s table saw and pneumatic nailer in the middle of my living room since my parents were done with them. So I wanted those things out to make the kitchen look good? Not exactly – it’s already a mess from the other two half-finished projects. But my roommate is moving out so it was time to make some room for her stuff.

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So the first thing we had to do was the roller ball catch on the linen closet door. My upstairs hall doors all match, but the bathroom and linen closet doors are thinner. I think that’s because they were originally closet doors and Victorian closets were more like cabinets than rooms, so they had cabinet-like hardware on the doors. But installing the roller ball catch was scary because it meant boring a 7/8″ hole into a 1-1/8″ door. I let my dad do it.

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What a relief. The door split just a little when I drove the catch in, but I’ll touch it up with the stain/finish and no one will be the wiser.

Then onto the stop moldings. These doors are old and warped so I had to flex the stop moldings in tight to them. That makes everything look clean and the doors don’t rattle when they’re closed. I learned somewhere on the Internets that shimming them out with 2 layers of cereal box cardboard gives you just enough of a gap to close properly.

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This, the bathroom door, was particularly fun because it’s badly warped. The Irishman tried to warp it back the other way to no avail. I don’t really care since it was important to have a few imperfect things in the house anyway. The way this trim runs at an angle is a little bit fun. Except that now I have to fill the screw holes that it was supposed to cover.

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As for the stucco, I’m crossing my fingers that the PREP can be finished while it’s still August. That would mean it took 2 months.

Pushing Through with the Banister

A quick note: It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks. I should have published this about 2 weeks ago on April 8. I present it to you now as if I had.

It’s been a tedious month. We left off with the banister and the paneling below looking more or less like this.

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The sequence was burn paint off, sand, wood filler, sand, prime, then see everything I missed (and the grain that the primer raised), wood filler again, sand again, prime again, rinse, repeat.  And because I was getting so fed up with this job, I did what any sane person would do and squeezed in the upstairs banister. I was going to focus on the downstairs part and let this go till later. But the job was so bad I thought getting it all done now made more sense.

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So the dirty part was going on upstairs while my OCD got free reign downstairs.

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This work might seem pretty sedate compared to Phase 1, but I’ve also done it on top of working out 5 times a week and cooking myself heaps of meat and vegetables so I stop wanting bread. You see, I’m 30 now and to my great horror, my waistline has grown enough that for the first time in my adult life I’m wearing a pants size that American stores keep in stock.

And today I have a couple dear old high school friends coming for dinner, which was a bit of a problem because I was still working on the banister yesterday and I haven’t done a lick of house cleaning in a month. I just let the place look like this, plus a continuous accumulation of dust and clutter.

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And so, my parents came down yesterday. My dad and I got another round of priming done and my mom cleaned the house. Maybe I should be ashamed that I let that happen but it was her way of helping. So where are we now? Well, just about all of it is primed (except for some difficult spots where the 2 banisters overlap). In this critical corner, there is no sign left of the hatchet job someone did moving the basement stairway door. The paneling has its sticking in place and the sticking matches the door perfectly. The only thing missing is the little piece of ogee trim under the cap above the door. With a compound miter cut that the Irishman said was not easy to do.

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Upstairs I have a little bit more priming to do and then, sadly, there is more sanding to do there. And there are 8 balusters missing from around the volute downstairs, but I don’t want to install those until everything else is painted. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone would fit their hand in there except that they did a really terrible job painting this.

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Stairs

But anyways, I’m ready for a break again. And the house is spotless, so keeping it that way for a while would be a nice thing to do instead of messy, tedious projects.

Or, maybe not. On the morning of the 8th, a few hours before my company’s supposed to show up, there’s a crazy person cutting high density fiberboard on my sidewalk! Can you guess why?

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