Tag Archives: painting

Planning… Stucco?

So I’ve had a pattern. Do project, burn out, take time off, start 2 new projects. I was around that point in the cycle 2 weeks ago and, well, it was pretty obvious that sooner or later I need to finish painting the kitchen cabinets, get the knobs on, and get glass in the doors. So I took down the ones that the Irishman never painted on the back sides. Incidentally, he skipped all the ones that are the hardest to pop on and off.


And he convinced me that I need to stucco around the patio door this year. I’ve had plywood sheathing exposed to the elements (under an overhang at least) for 2 years now. So after lining one side of the dining area with cabinet doors I filled  the other with stucco materials. Also PVC trim boards for casing around the patio door.


And then I got food poisoning. (And I don’t know what from but I probably cooked it myself.)

So here’s the plan. First off, the old plan was to have the whole rear of the house stuccoed at once. The new plan is to defer the air shaft area indefinitely…


And do it like everyone else did and just redo the part that I can see for now. As in, new stucco on the plywood and the stucco that got this lovely green paint.


Now, stucco terrifies me. Because there are some stucco houses I love.


But there are others that are McMansions. Also, modern stucco is supposed to have ugly control joints so it doesn’t crack. I’m definitely going to need a couple because the stucco around the back door will be installed as a veneer over paint and plywood while the rest of the house (to be stuccoed later) can get it right onto the masonry, the old fashioned way.

So here’s what I’m thinking. I’ll install the new stucco with one horizontal control joint right around the top of the first floor. And I’ll wrap the corner and put the control joint right behind the downspout where you can’t see it. Because inside corners are bad, this means that when I go back and stucco the rest there will be a really long skinny strip of stucco that wraps the corner from the siding (the trim is PVC) to behind the downspout. Then the rest of the back inside the air shaft can hopefully get one seamless coat. Back to this photo again, the little bit of brick that’s showing behind the downspout is where the joint will be. (Note: I’m pretty sure the back of these houses are all a low grade of brick that needs to be stuccoed.)


Then there’s the small matter of texture. What I’ve noticed about old stucco is that it’s not as perfectly flat and often has a heavier texture than new stucco. That house I showed above? The walls seem to have heft. New stucco more often than not looks like a card house.


But the Crooked House is not Tudor. It’s not Cotswold Revival, Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, or arts and crafts. It’s a very modest late Victorian, a period when I don’t think stucco was particularly popular. And the back has no architectural style at all really. I’m going to do the walls in a fairly smooth sand finish. That’s basically the plainest stucco finish and it was popular before my house was built and after. It’s also the easiest to do. And I’m skipping the corner bead. I’ll chip off some of the old bad repairs to let the wall be semi-flat, then I’ll just let the corners be a bit rounded off.



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.


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.


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

wood filler.jpg

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.


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.


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.



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?



Progress and Increasingly Delicate Sensibilities

My dad came today and we got the lower part of the stairway wall primed!


Old house purists: before you bite my head off for painting my woodwork, the first floor interior is a Colonial Revival style remodel from the 1930’s and had always been painted. But getting it back to this point seemed insurmountable. Especially these scrolly things under the stair nosings. There was so much paint glooped up onto them that I used 3 different types of chemical stripper, then burned it off with a heat gun, and finally gave up and used sandpaper. I then primed it, which exposed more flaws, so I sanded it all again and primed it a second time. It looks pretty good now!


There are still imperfections to fix, including all the little nail holes in the paneling. But the paneling all needs to be sanded as the paint raises the grain of the plywood it’s made out of.

Once this is done, there’s another round of it upstairs. I didn’t do it all at once because (1) there is only so much prep I can stand to do in one go and (2) I wanted to get the downstairs painted before reinstalling the top 2 stair nosings, and then I have to close up the unfinished underside of the upstairs box newel.IMG_0724.JPG

And I’ll be replacing the 8 bottom balusters in the second phase after getting everything painted that they’ll block. (No, not restoring. It’s not worth the trouble for paint grade pine.)


But my sensibilities are getting delicate. I can no longer handle this bit of unpainted trim on the ceiling that was supposed to happen later with the upstairs banister. It’s now getting moved up into this phase.


What is happening to me that this is bothering me? Remember when I was sleeping in the kitchen? That was totally fine.


And then this project is about to collide with the Phase 2 kitchen cabinet fronts thanks to another flaw my delicate sensibilities can’t handle. The casings around the big opening between the living room and kitchen is just tacked up so it can be notched into the cabinet fronts later. But this is affecting the living room now because I’ve decided that the little strip of molding on the left side of the door opening is too skinny.


You see, I opened the wall, but emphatically wanted it to look like the wall was still there, just with a big doorway in it. I think that completely open rowhouses can feel relentlessly long and narrow and liked the proportions of this room as it was at the beginning. And right now this skinny rip of trim doesn’t feel like enough to hold up the corner of the room. It feels more like an outside corner than a wall. It will also balance better with the window on the other side.


So, I’ll be yanking off that that piece of casing that had been ripped down, pulling off everything that had been tacked in place on the kitchen side, facing the cabinets, installing a new wooden board over the old one to make the doorway like an inch narrower, and putting up a new, heftier rip of trim on the living room side. Luckily, this isn’t the expensive special order casing, though I will, sigh, be needing more of that later, too.

So, does this sound like a good idea to you, or do you think I need to be medicated? My thoroughly practical dad flinched, but then took a second look and said, “You know it really will look better if you come out about one and a quarter and cover up the side of the refrigerator.”

A triumphant end to Phase 1

I always imagined that the stove would be just about the last thing I’d do in Phase 1. The house wouldn’t be perfect but it would be livable and I’d make pasta and it would be triumphant. Well, I’ve been making pasta and a triumph it is not. Even easy meals are kind of tedious in a chronically messy kitchen. And elsewhere in the house, the march toward civility is moving backwards.


Now the plan was always to slow down a bit and get my life back for a little while after Phase 1. So when would that come? It was looking like at some point or another I’d just anticlimactically say that’s enough.

But now there’s big news – I have a triumphant end to Phase 1 once again. Because a good friend of mine wants to be my roommate! That means great things for my bank account. And it also means more stuff to do now. She’s pretty easy going, but she said in no uncertain terms that the doors need to be back up on her room and the bathroom before she can move in. And there’s at least one solid weekend’s worth of work left to turn the living room and kitchen right side up again. I’m hoping for a little more help from the Irishman; without him, it could easily be 2 weekends.


And the new end of Phase 1 (I think) is the washer and dryer. But first, there’s all this painting that feels like it will never end. But there are bright spots. I’m done most of the prep now and at the very least, the messiest painting should be done this weekend. I hope. And the back bedroom closet doors look oddly new with the mildew bleached off and painted over. Of course new wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m happy enough to have it here.


And there’s quarter round in the living room! That’s not just a big step forward (and a prerequisite for the bookcases) but also one more thing out of the basement. 5000 to go before the washer and dryer come! Just kidding. But not really.


So, it looks like I need to put a third coat of paint onto most of the walls. Hopefully that’s done this weekend and I can really put the house together next. Then here’s what’s left:

  • Finish Phase 1 trim painting, which means all upstairs woodwork. Re-hang upstairs doors.
  • Clear out the back bedroom. There is stuff in the furniture. I’ll have to put it in boxes.
  • Procure and install curtains or blinds for the back bedroom.
  • Move the bookcases I have back to the long wall where they were and anchor them. Add a 4th narrow unit and height extensions. (Bringing over books and other things that go on them can go beyond Phase 1.)
  • Hang the 2 downstairs interior doors and slider screen door that are currently stored in the living room.
  • Bring over one more piece of furniture for the brick wall by the stairs.
  • Add 6 more drawers (for a total of 7) to the kitchen. Make plywood drawer fronts. Paint them? Rearrange kitchen things and bring in china.

The list is getting shorter and less scary, right?



If you’ve known me a while, my excitement over this little thing won’t surprise you so much. The plan for the weekend was to paint the baseboards in the bedrooms, turn the heat on, and have my 4th moving day, bringing in furniture that goes in front of the baseboards in the bedrooms. But then we had 68 degree highs this weekend, which was crazy. But it was a rare chance to put off the heat and take the windows out and paint them, so I’m not complaining.

I put really good Marvin wood windows on the back of the house. Meanwhile the front windows are total crap, installed so they don’t close right, caulked shut where the drafts were really bad, with flimsy reclaimed Masonite around them. But that has them tidied up enough that I’ll grin and bear them till Phase 2. (The Masonite will be painted white)


But back to the windows I put in, one of the best things about these is that the jambs are all wood with slim metal tracks mortised into them. So although they aren’t quite as pretty as old wood windows, they have a cleaner look than most new ones. They also require massive amounts of cutting in with a tiny brush. The thought crossed my mind while I was doing all this that maybe vinyl windows aren’t so bad after all. Impure, filthy thoughts! But it went away, and after a solid 20 hours or so, 3 of my 5 windows now look totally amazing. It’s Sherwin Williams ProClassic semi-gloss, which is totally smooth and beautiful and just shiny enough to show off all my biggest splurges. I only got one coat on the sashes, but they’re easy to take out so the second coat can wait until spring.



Then, how did Moving Day Number 4 go? Well, one of the friends who helped with the couch came back AGAIN (I’m really lucky not to have scared him away) and I got in another 4 big pieces of furniture and a rug. This included my grandmother’s buffet (now reborn as a dresser) that was previously storing random crap in my parents’ basement.

buffet and rug

Her matching hutch took its place. Which is handy because my dad is now working from home and the books from his old office are standing between me and my kitchen stuff in the attic. And now he has a proper place to put them.

And I need to give my parents credit for another round of cleaning and tidying up including my totally gross mini-fridge. Though while they were doing that I was getting old window labels off with acetone and my fingernails, which wasn’t all that much fun either. After that THEY treated ME to dinner!

You ready to see the rooms? Drumroll please…




So, now I can think about window treatments. Aside from continuing to paint and finally getting that heat on, they’re up next. I also need to shampoo the rug in the front bedroom before I set up the bed. The front windows get either cheap junk plastic blinds from Home Depot or even cheaper junk paper shades from IKEA. But the back can get a permanent solution. I’m thinking stained wood blinds mounted inside the window jambs. And I might add floor length panel curtains as this is the only window in the house where that is possible.

But something functional for privacy first. Whatever I get, I want it to look good all the way opened. Because that’s how I like all my windows during the day. Maybe there’s something better than wood blinds for that. Any ideas?

Paint Wrap Up and Color Reveal

Did I have a good Labor Day weekend? No, it was exhausting and I didn’t really do anything fun. But the house is all painted and I’ve handed it over to the electrician! He didn’t want to waste any time, and how could I say no?

Friday night was the final prep: putting paint samples on the wall. I picked colors off cards for the bathroom and back bedroom, but I’m glad to have spent the $25 on 5 colors this time because I would not have been happy with my first picks. In the living room I channeled my inner Goldilocks. I leven ooked the part some 25 years ago, but I digress…

Old pic with Mom

But now what I actually meant is that my first color choice was overbearing and orangey. The second, my mom’s pick, was insipid. The third was just right.


And I feel like I’m turning into my mom. It matches the stained glass perfectly! I’m not usually a stickler for matching, but it worked out this time.


The kitchen is just off white, the same color as the ceilings everywhere else. It’s a little warm, and that subtle change made a big difference in how the room feels. Like I said, I can put a color on the kitchen cabinets later if this is too boring. Also, all the living room paint is the same color. It just looks different here.


The vestibule is gonna be navy, including the ceiling. But in case the walls get banged up when the rest of the woodwork goes in, I just did this much so far. This color came from a friend; we each need about a half gallon. And I was grateful to not have to pick it out!


Then I did the matching thing. I pulled a neutral out of the marble to get a safe background color for the room. I was surprised to find that the colors that worked best with the marble were greyer than I expected. And again, it took 2 tries. It looks serene and all, but I’ll want to liven up the room… at some point.


Now let’s back up to a night after work next week. The plan was to put all the pre-hung doors in the bathroom now to free up the room for painting and leave them there until after the floors were finished. But there’s no way the supertall closet doors were gonna fit.


So now they’re installed instead and WAHOO I’M SO EXCITED


And let’s celebrate the demise of all those pig tails… except the one where my dining room chandelier goes. But even more exciting than that? Multiple outlets upstairs mean the end of this mess. And new adventures of actually being able to close the bathroom door.


Oh also, my mom loves all my colors. I wanted to call myself independent (ha) but this approval was important.

Rounding Up and Chickening Out

I’ve gone in some circles with paint colors from my bedroom and now I’m thinking of dialing it back. Way back. I’ve gone from strong and dark to light, plain and neutral. Something that won’t compete with all that marble and mahogany. I took a piece of the marble into the paint store with me and was surprised to see that it goes best with greyer tones than I was expecting, so it looks like my walls might end up greige. But you can talk me out of this, too, if you want. I’m still painting the walls and ceiling in the vestibule navy. It will feel like entering the house through a dark, fancy closet.

Then what else have I been up to? Well, the toilet is hooked up again! And weirder yet, it’s clean. But the stored materials are making their way in because it was getting too boring in here. My left knee fits between the two door jambs so it’s all good.


The living and kitchen are both cleared out enough to walk through! Tidying up isn’t my strong suit, so my dad deserves most of the credit for this one.


And ceiling repairs in the kitchen. The light is back where it should be, centered between the beams. And the patches from the waterfall incident are just about smoothed out enough to paint over now.


And I made this thing. Can anyone guess what it is? In other news, I used the band saw I thought we should get rid of.


Answer: the old flush mount light I impulse bought like a year ago is actually a chandelier with lots of pieces missing. So it looks like a flush mount, but if you put it on the ceiling there’d be nothing to cover the electrical box. Now it should be totally usable.


The cuts don’t show. I’m planning on painting the board to match the ceiling so it looks like it’s not there. But I could put an interesting color on it instead. I could, but I don’t think I want to.

Then there are the two ceiling fans I was planning on using in the kitchen and the back yard. I bought one for the back and definitely, definitely look forward to some man-made breezes back there. There aren’t many ceiling fans that are rated to use outside and small enough for my little overhang, but luckily, Lowe’s carries one.

I might put this hand-me-down in the kitchen, too. The switch housing cracked and I’ll probably want to add a light. And then… the motor housing is oak. I don’t really understand why that is a thing. But the blades are real wood and I think a ceiling fan in the kitchen would be handy.


And if I use it, I’ll need to either buy a light kit and I may wind up staring at it angrily. So I may not even be willing to invest 25 bucks into making it usable for now. Maybe I was wrong when I said I had phased out all my boob lights. Also, the chandelier I bought, which is also a questionable choice, is not ready to hang. It’s more likely that I’ll do worse than boob lights and leave the pig tails.