Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yet more progress

I haven't had much time to update the blog lately, but P has been continuing to make progress on getting the bathroom back into shape.

He put up drywall in the closet:

And my favorite part, a ceiling!  And he even got up into the attic and moved the insulation back into place, so we're much more energy-efficient now.

We cut another damaged section out of the subfloor, and got the first two layers of new flooring down.

We hadn't done this earlier, because the floor seemed to be the only thing holding the wall up--so we didn't want to cut all of it out at once.  While we were down there, we also used some bricks, 2x4s, and shims to build up a bit of a support pillar connecting the wall to the foundation.

There's not too much going on the with bathroom this week.  While life is keeping us busy with other things, we're pondering some of the more fun decisions that come later.

What type of flooring will we install?  Since there's a good chance we'll do more extensive renovations to this room later, we're looking for something cheap and quick.  Peal-and-stick vinyl tiles had been topping the list, but now laminate looks like it's winning out.  I had been under the impression that laminate was not appropriate for wet and humid rooms, and our standard renovations reference book says laminate is ideal for those settings.  And I'm certain it knows better than I do.

I'm in agonies over what color to paint the bathroom.  Here's my list of constraints:
  • I need a color that is flattering to both of our skin tones.  I don't want to try to apply makeup in a room that makes me look green.
  • The color should be fairly subtle/neutral.  The bathroom has a skylight and is quite bright.  In my last apartment, with a similar configuration, the bright lighting hitting the vintage turqoise tub tile made the room emit an unearthly glow.
  • This is the last room in the house left to paint.  I need a color that is cohesive with the scheme we've got going in the rest of the house, but not too duplicative.
  • I'm not planning to paint the woodwork in the bathroom (at least not for now), so the paint color should work with it.
It's that third requirement that's really stumping me.  From the first two requirements, I figure that a light gray is the way to go.  Except all of the living areas of our house are already painted light gray--another light gray might push us over the edge.

Maybe a different light gray?  The one in the dining room etc. has very blue undertones--a gray with different tones?


Friday, August 27, 2010


P (re)framed the closet last night.  It doesn't look so dramatic in pictures, but it was a big, important step, and I was amazed by how quickly he completed it.




We were feeling celebratory this evening, and I already had on hand ingredients for a nice dinner.  So I decided to do it up, and finally finished unpacking the last of the china and crystal my grandparents were kind enough to bring me back in May. 

When my grandmother (other side of the family) died, she left an unfathomably large collection of china behind--most of which she had inherited from other family members.  I got a small set of china that had been her mother's, and a large set of crystal (I think glassware with raised designs, really) of unknown origin.  That was, oh, five years ago?  But transient graduate student apartments did not seem the right environment for family china--especially not china that had been used often for many decades, and had had various pieces broken over the years, so I'm not starting with an over-generous number of pieces.

But I don't want to just turn them into museum pieces out of fear.  Now that we have a house (and don't have roommates), it was the right time to move the china out of storage at my parents' and put it to good use again.

All of this is a long way of saying that, a month after I formally entered the pool of temp workers, my first assignment finally came through!  And it's a long one!  Beginning Monday, I'll be working full-time for the next month.  Big changes!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Out, d****d smell!

To review: this whole closet-gutting and floor-repair job began in an over-the-top attempt to rid our closet of whatever perfume or cosmetic smell had saturated it.  And after removing all of the shelves, drywall, vinyl, and most of the subfloor, and airing it out for a few days, the smell was mostly gone.

But not entirely.

Maybe we're imagining things at this point, but we're on a crusade here!

This is a little tricky to explain since I don't have proper "before" pictures, so you'll have to use your imagination.  Imagine you're standing in the closet, with the door behind you.  To your right is the chimney, straight in front of you is a wall that separates the closet from the dining room, and to your left is the wall the closet from the master bedroom.  Got that?

Now both the dining room and the bedroom have shallow, built-in shelving units whose backs protrude into the closet.  See this unit on the right:

The back of that is the wood panel that you see in this picture:

For whatever unfathomable reason, the drywallers installed drywall around these surfaces, rather than over them, so the paneling protruded a few inches into the closet.  And then it was wallpapered.  And then it soaked up closet smell.


Side note: want to see the wallpaper that used to cover every interior surface of our closet (including shelves)?

Sorry, that's all that remained of it by the time I got a camera in there.
Since these surfaces had been exposed to the smell, and still seemed to faintly exude it, we picked up some good old-fashioned oil-based Kilz paint to seal any remaining odors.  (I'm really surprised--and grateful--that P didn't just rip out these walls while he was at it!)

Now here's where you might think we're losing it--and you might have a point.  It's really difficult to reach all of the sides and corners of this paneling.  I wanted to get everything all nice and sealed, but didn't want to spend a lot of time trying to get a paintbrush into every nook and cranny.  So I just picked up a can of Kilz spray paint, ignored all warnings about using it in a well-ventilated area, and sprayed away.  In many, many coats, because after 15-30 seconds, the fumes became rather overwhelming, and I'd give it a half an hour to air before coming back to it.

At least I remembered to tape the door frame!
And then I rolled all the easy parts:

Since we're on a crusade, this is only step one.  In step 2, P installs drywall over the panelling.  Step 3: I prime the drywall with Kilz also.  Because after all this effort, we really really want a scent free closet.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beginning to put the bathroom back together again

The process of putting things back together again actually began long before demolition was completed.  As P found joists and studs that needed replacing or reinforcing, he would mark them down and note measurements, and periodically give me the list so I could go cut them out.

My initial reaction when he asked me to do this was, "Are you crazy?  You want me cutting out the pieces that will hold our house up?"

And then I thought, well, why not?  Really, it's just like quilting: take a measurement and cut out a piece with reasonable accuracy.  (Well, it makes sense to me.)

I got out the jigsaw and....  Actually, do you mind if I go off on a tangent here about the jigsaw?  I know I'm going to sound like a flunky in the Bosch marketing department, but I don't care--we love this saw.  Here's how wonderful it is: 1. it's the only saw I'm allowed to use without supervision,* and 2. it cuts through so many surfaces so easily that we never call it the jigsaw.  Around here, it's known as the butter saw--whatever you've got, it slices it like butter.  If even I, with my complete lack of upper body strength, find it easy to make straight cuts, you know you've got a winner.

Image courtesy lowes.com
So I took my--ahem, our--totally dreamy butter saw and some saw horses and some parallel clamps and a tape measure and a square (only after I was scolded for not using it), and whipped out some structural members for the house.  And then I strutted around like a proud rooster. 

In most cases, P used these pieces to "sister" the rotten joists, rather than removing the old ones.  'Cause while they're partially rotten, they are still holding up our house.  And we'd like it to stay up while we're working.

Old joists with new sister and reinforcers--and you can see how much rotten wood was removed and why we needed something else to hold up the new floor!
For energy efficiency purposes, I would have rather started by fixing the rotten members in the attic and replacing the ceiling in the closet.  But practically speaking, and from a safety standpoint, the floor absolutely had to be done first.  I've been complaining lately (to anyone who will listen--my parents, the guy at the Home Depot paint counter...) about what a pain it is to work in closets and bathrooms--much less a bathroom closet!  But try a bathroom closet with most of the floor removed:

Needless to say, we're putting in a new (sub)floor before we raise a ladder.

Since we're only replacing the damaged parts of the subfloor, we need the new floor to be exactly the same width as the old one.  Easy, right?  Subfloors are pretty standard, right?  We happily trotted home with a 4'x8' piece of 3/4" OSB before even looking at the thickness of the old floor.

Said OSB is now sitting uselessly in the kitchen--worse than useless, it's blocking access to important things like the napkins and stamps.  Bane of my existence.  (I know, I have a really good existence.)  Turns out the subfloors in our addition are made of--so far as we can tell--2 cm thick OSB.  Where in the world does a person find metric OSB?  It's very nearly 26/32", so we wandered around Home Depot looking for that.  Which of course doesn't exist.  But three cheers for elementary school math!  I spotted some 15/32" and 11/32" plywood, so we'll just have a two layer floor. 

Make that a three layer floor--the 2 cm OSB in our bathroom was covered with 1/4" OSB.  But only the bathroom, not the rest of the addition.  No idea why--maybe to make the vinyl floor in the bathroom line up more evenly with the bedroom floor, which was covered in both carpet pad and carpet?  But ours is not to wonder why.  All we need to know is that either we need the new subfloor to be 26/32+1/4 thick, or we had to remove the 1/4 from the whole room.  We decided to go with the thicker floor, and to replicate the layering.  This way, if we ever want to join up the flooring surfaces in the bedroom and bath, we can just peel off the bathroom's top layer, and leave everything else intact.  (P has delusions of moving the bathroom to the other side of the master bedroom, and then the current bathroom would become part of the bedroom....  Yeah.  Silly boy.)

So we cut out our plywood, and then, being the crazy thorough people we are, we glued it down with construction adhesive, and then nailed in a whole bunch of nails.  P recruited me to help nail--which after a minute of whining, I discovered I actually enjoyed!  (Yes, honey, you were right with that prediction.)  P was nailing on his end of the board, and I was terribly proud of myself to find that I got in at least one nail for every two he did--if I was really on a role, I could match him nearly stroke for stroke.  (Yes, we have his n' hers hammers.  Doesn't everyone?  And yes, he was letting me use the better hammer, so I did have an edge there.) 

All of that is to say that the boards are not going anywhere.  P actually gave them a pep talk about being our floor for the next 20 to 90 years, and how important they were and how they better stay put.  I pity the fools who try to move them. 

I hope they don't turn out to be us.

*I'm allowed to use this saw, and not others, because 1. it's hard (but certainly not impossible) to cut off your fingers, and 2. it's quite unlikely to have kickback problems.  Kickback is when you hit a knot or funny bit of grain in the wood and the saw sends the wood flying.  Doesn't sound so scary until you see a piece of wood embedded in a wall 15 feet away, and think about what that could do to a nice, soft abdomen.  Eek!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unexpected master bath project

I've been generally telling you about projects we've completed.  This post is an experiment in blogging ongoing projects.  Really ongoing--I can hear P on the other end of the house using the Sawzall at this very moment.

Most unexpected bathroom remodel projects start with something like, "well, there was this leak...."  That's where ours starts, too.  Except our leak was at some point in the distant past before we bought the house--we're guessing it may have been as long as 15-20 years ago.  And it wasn't a plumbing leak--it was a roof leak along the chimney, which happens to be behind the wall of our master bathroom.

The house took on a lot of water before the situation was fixed--so much that it ran down the chimney all the way from the attic to the crawl space.  It puddled on the floor in the master bath, and degraded the OSB subfloor so badly that the vinyl on top of the subfloor was discolored and cracked.  When you stepped in that vicinity, things felt decidedly insecure.  (I neglected to get a pitcure of this, because who wants a picture of an ugly bathroom situation?)

Here's the sad part--we didn't notice this until the home inspection.  We thought we had done more than our due diligence--we visited the house three times before making an offer, and the last time we even flew P's father in to help us do our own informal home inspection.  How did we miss such a glaring problem?  Here's how:

If there's anything more skeevy than carpet in a bathroom, it's lifting up the carpet remnant in someone else's bathroom to check what's under it.  Ick!  (I really don't think this was placed there in an attempt to deceive us--I think it was for the previous owner's comfort and so she didn't have to look at the vinyl.)

Anyway, it wasn't that big a deal.  I thought about asking the previous owner to fix it, but we agreed not to, because: 1. we were getting the house at a good price, and didn't want the deal to fall through because we started niggling, 2. P thought we could fix it ourselves, so we were just looking at the cost of supplies--subfloor is quite cheap, so the only real cost is 3. the replacement of the vinyl, and we wanted to select the new flooring ourselves.

This situation probably would have topped any normal person's to-do list in home renovations.  We gave it quite low priority.  We're pretty sure that at some point we want to make some substantial changes to the room--the floor plan is not as functional for our lifestyle as we would like--but we can't figure out (or agree on) exactly what those changes should be.  And why put in a new floor, only to rip it out in, say, two years when we finally figure ourselves out?

This gets to what I find the really funny part of the situation--P found himself tearing apart our bathroom Saturday night not because the floor was a death-trap, but because the closet smelled funny. 

Yup, you heard that right.

There's a small closet in the master bath, just to the left of the entrance.  For some reason that completely mystified us, it smelled really strongly of old lady cosmetics.  You know that smell.  Maybe it's cold cream?  It was so strong that we didn't put any of our things in the closet, and never opened the door.  How did the closet absorb that many cosmetic odors?

P decided that if we stripped the wallpaper that covered the interior of the closet and its shelves, the smell might go away.  So he stripped the paper, and, for good measure, threw away all of the shelves a few weeks ago.  The smell might have declined slightly in intensity, but it was still quite strong.  Plus now we could see what we should have suspected--the drywall in the closet was also significantly damaged from the leak.

P suddenly decided to deal with this on Saturday night.  Clearly the drywall would need to be replaced.  Plus, maybe if we removed it, the smell would go away!  I think the first I heard of this was when he decided to remove the ceiling as well.  Then neither of us were happy campers.  I was not at all amused because the house was now open to the attic, which is crazy hot in August.  Not good for the utility bill.  P was not amused because in the process of moving the insulation around in the attic so that it wouldn't fall into the closet when he removed the ceiling, he discovered that--you can see this one coming, right, why didn't we?--oops, some studs and joists were rotted from water damage!

Oh boy.

Then, just for kicks, P got all surprised that the floor had been supporting our weight all this time.  So he took one good stomp, and, what do you know, the floor wasn't supporting his weight anymore!
Water stained vinyl flooring.  And the hole P's foot made.

(And now you see why I don't have any good before pictures--I didn't see this remodel coming.) 
Surprise!  All together now--not only was the subfloor rotten, but the joists under it were too!

I think I left a rotten closet stud off the list.

In the span of an hour or two, we went from thinking it might be a few years before we worked on the bathroom, to needing to do major structural work right now.

P spent Sunday making all of the holes larger.  This meant he got to buy more saws!  I think we now own one of everything at Home Depot.  (P would beg to differ.)  P began demo with the jigsaw and circular saw we already owned.  He used the circular saw to remove the rotten subfloor, since he could set the depth on the circular saw so he wouldn't cut through the floor joists. 

At Home Depot, we picked up a new Sawzall for P.  He's in love.  Demo went much faster once he had it.

Picture borrowed from homedept.com

P standing on the floor of the crawl space.  Usually he complains about how much easier it would be to work on the house if we had a full basement--here's the counterexample!

Tomorrow: we begin trying to put it back together!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend reading

I ran across this article on state parks.  I found it a bit slow to get going, but well worth sticking with it.  I love Smith's concluding paragraph on how state parks ability to celebrate the local and humble reveal great virtues:

"State parks are everywhere. According to the National Association of State Park Directors, there are more than 6,000 state park units in the 50 states. The system receives more than 725 million visits a year. And yet you'll never see the state parks on any kind of national calendar, on the face of any coin. This is unfortunate, as the diversity of the parks and the states' approaches to nature; the aspiration behind arguing that you may not have the Grand Canyon, but you have a grand canyon; the gumption of saying that when life hands you a landfill and former drive-in theater, make a state park, collectively create an identity as inspiring as the that of the national parks. I mean, if you're going to have values embedded in nature, those seem like seem like pretty good ones to me."

Certainly makes me want to go out there and make sure my legislature doesn't cut parks funding in these tough times! 

It also inspired me to look up our nearest state park--haven't learned that since moving here six months ago.  Turns out it's only one town over.  It's newest claim to fame is having an ADA compliant tree house--even kids in wheelchairs can ascend!  Definitely unexpected, and pretty cool.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My favorite astronaut

A lot of the work that we've done (okay, that P's done) on the house these last several weeks has been the kind of stuff that's important, but not very flashy.  Lots of plumbing work, in particular.  First installing the pressure reducer that our home inspector told us we needed.  Luckily, I happened to be doing laundry that weekend, and P was in just the right place in the crawl space at just the right time to discover that there was an enormous hole in the pipe that drains the washing machine, and most of that water was ending up in the crawl space rather than the sewer.  So then there was an unplanned pipe repair.  Then a planned pipe repair on a slow leak the inspector had discovered on the kitchen sink drain pipe.  Plus replacing a leaky outdoor spigot, and adding a shutoff valve so that we can drain it in the winter and not worry about freezing.  (The simpler alternative would have been to install the fancy new spigots that will drain themselves in the event of a freeze, but that would have required enlarging the hole for the pipe in the cinder block foundation, and that would have required buying a crazy large crazy expensive drill bit and a hammer drill to run it....  And all that adds up.)

All of this is to say, P's been spending a lot of time in the crawl space.  And some in the attic.  He has a kind of love/hate relationship with them: he complains to no end about going in, but wild horses couldn't keep him out.  He's put significantly more mental time and energy into dreaming about how to improve them than he's put into the interior of the house.  (At least that's how it seems to me.)

He decided it was time for a special outfit for crawl space and attic work, so he could be more comfortable up/down there for a longer period of time.  So, a rendezvous with his other illicit lover (McMaster-Carr), and now he's all set.

To those of you who are distressed about the appalling amount of bare skin he has exposed, let me reassure you: he does have gauntlet-length disposable gloves that he whips out when the urge strikes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Replacing floor boards

I forgot to mention this funny incident way back when I addressed the subjects of floor repair and patching.  While we did our best to work with the floor boards we had, a few were split beyond repair--all boards on edges of rooms that probably had not been properly  fastened down. 

We decided that the best way to deal was to simply splice in a few new boards.  On one of our many trips to Home Depot, we asked about purchasing some unfinished oak floor boards.  But apparently they were next to impossible to find in the South this spring, because there was a flooring shortage up North so all of our boards had been sent there.  ?  They might have been able to special order us a box--but a box was 20 square feet, and we only wanted 1 sf.

Time to get resourceful.  Home Depot helpfully supplies little sample blocks of their prefinished flooring.  These are generally about 4" long.  But one of the Depots we frequent would stick out a bucket full of 12"-18" long pieces of just one type--Bruce red oak!  Score!  So each time we would go rent a sander, I went and grabbed a few more "sample" pieces.

The down side of this approach is that it is really hard to remove the finish from modern prefinished flooring--it is amazingly tough and durable.  (You actually need special sandpaper if you're trying to refinish one of these floors.)  Our really sharp scraper and P's nice strong muscles were able to take it on.

The end result looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Especially if we ever install baseboard in the hall  :-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekend outing

P and I did a quick run down to Hilton Head this weekend to meet up with his family, who spent the week vacationing there.  It was a lot of time spent in the car for just a little time at the beach, but it was worth it to get to see everyone.  We were particularly excited to see our nephews.  We last saw them on Memorial Day, and aren't entirely sure when the next visit will be.  They're 15 and 23 months old.  Kids move through developmental phases so fast at this age, that they're completely different creatures three months later.  And we don't want to miss a single phase!

Little A (23 months) generally warms up to us pretty quickly, but it does take a few minutes to break the ice.  P did it almost instantaneously this time--as soon as he walked through the door, he saw a container of bubble-blowing soap.  "Bubbles?"  "Bubbles!"  Whoa!  The kid's got lots of new words!

A was not so sure about the beach.  P and I took him down on our own one morning.  He was a little overwhelmed by the ocean, so we tried digging and playing with the dump truck at the top of the waves.  He put up with us for about 10 minutes, and then started worrying about the amount of sand on his hands and feet.  He quickly realized that as soon as we washed him off, we were going to get him dirty again.  Enough of this nonsense.  He marched up to the high tide line, announced "bye bye," and headed back up the beach.  We followed--we know when we're beat.

A had spent most of the week playing in the hotel pool, and was thoroughly at home there.  So fun to watch him in the water!  Sometimes he would jump a little too vigorously and find himself underwater.  He was surprised, but not distressed, by this turn of events--he had figured out not to inhale down there.

The pool provided the perfect opportunity to work on my latest shoot-along assignment: light.  The pool had one permanently installed umbrella, and the indirect light under it proved the perfect setting to take pictures.  Now, getting a 2 year old to look at me is a whole 'nother matter....

Practicing floating on a noodle just like his Grammy

So I guess the other moral of the story is that light only gets you so far--emotion is good too.  This is the only picture I got of our other nephew, S.  It's in the parking garage, as we're packing up to leave--hard to imagine a worse lighting scenario, but the picture perfectly reflects the personalities of all involved.

P is a ham for the camera, S is a generally happy boy, and V is thrilled by anything involving her godson
S is just working on his first words.  Here's an indicator of what a great kid he is--instead of using the word "no" in every possible situation, like most toddlers, he's learned "yeah."  To be said in response to anything or nothing, or just muttered to himself as he tools around.  "No" hasn't entered his vocabulary yet. 

I hate the floor buffer

Lucky me is spending a few hours sitting in the lounge at the auto mechanic, waiting for my car to get an oil change, tire balancing, and alignment. Perfect time to catch up on some outstanding business, right?

P pointed out that, what with the computer being out of service and our busy summer, I failed to complete the story of our floor refinishing. Actually, he simply wanted nice "after" pictures showing the results of his hard work. But I can't do that without finishing up the nitty gritty details. (Plus the auto mechanic doesn't have wi-fi for customers, and I haven't unpacked our cd of office to install it on the new laptop, so I'm writing this in Notepad. Text now, pictures later. So, lots of text! Everyone's favorite part of a blog, right?)

So when I last left you, we had just survived a somewhat hairy night of applying sanding sealer to the floor. But all of the speed bumps weren't behind us yet....

Since we were using water-based sanding sealer on our oak floors, it raised the grain tremendously. While P was at work the next afternoon, I got out the pole sander and knocked down the grain on the edges and corners (with 220 grit sandpaper, and 150 grit sanding sponge in the corners). Since it took a few hours just to do the edges of each room, it was clear we needed to bring in some mechanical reinforcements if this project was ever going to get done. So off we went to Home Depot to get the floor buffer.

When we got home with the buffer, I felt that P was not getting on to the job fast enough--he was doing something unimportant like eating his dinner--so I decided I was going to get this job rolling. Not wanting to scuff our delicate floors by wearing shoes, I took them off and headed out in my wool socks.

Let me mention here, for those of you who have never rented equipment from Home Depot, that each piece of equipment comes not with an instruction manual, but with a single sheet of instructions. These instructions rarely contain any useful tips on how to use the machinery, but cover other important things like, "Don't use electrical equipment with frayed cords! You could die!" and "Dust can explode and catch fire! Handle your dust properly or you could die!" and "Don't inhale around this machine, or you could breathe dust and die!" So we just stared at the buffer and used our deductive powers to decide how I should turn it on. We decided that it would start by hitting the button on the side, and stay on by gripping the triggers on the handles (sort of like brakes on a bike). I have hands of roughly average size and strength for a woman, so it was simply impossible for me to hold both handles and hit the start button simultaneously. So I grabbed one handle, hit the button with my other hand--and the buffer took off, dragging me after it. Around and around we spun, until the buffer slammed into the wall and the handle was ripped out of my hand--at which point the trigger was released and the machine turned off. Or maybe the machine had wrapped the electrical cord around itself so many times that the plug had pulled out of the wall. I'm not sure--it all happened really fast.

Yes, the sensible thing to do would have been to let go of the trigger earlier. But all of this happened in the span of a few panicked seconds, and I wasn't up to rational thinking. I was going with my instincts, and desperately hanging on to the machine in a futile attempt to control it.

Damages included a nice hole in the living room wall, scuffs on our lovely floor, and some impressive bruises to my elbow, right side, and right foot where the buffer had gotten the better of me. I slunk off to lick my wounds and sulk, and refused to ever touch the buffer again. P was on his own from here on out. Our walls breathed a sigh of relief.

P was gracious enough to have some difficulties of his own controlling the buffer. He was even kind enough to console by creating his own (much smaller) hole in the living room wall.

He even remembered the story of which his older brother A had used a buffer to refinish floors--A had found the buffer so hard to control that he had had to recruit a second large guy to follow him around, holding onto A's shoulders to steady him. This was quite consoling, since A runs a landscaping business and is a very strong, indefatigable guy--but I really wished P had remembered this story before I turned on the buffer.

For this first buffing, where there was a lot of grain to knock down, P used a sanding screen on the buffer. Unlike the sanders we had used, the floor buffer does not have a built-in dust collector. Instead, we discovered that the particles of sealer and wood remain under the sanding screen, and eventually stick together and build up on the screen. This clogs the screen so it doesn't work very well. More disturbingly, these areas of build up will scratch the floor. So P had to stop fairly frequently to pick them off the screen.

Once the floors were buffed and the dust cleaned up, we applied one more coat of sealer to the floors--since so little was left after the parts that had raised with the grain were knocked off.

Lessons learned from our experience with the buffer:

1. Using a buffer is not as easy as it looks. I used to see the janitors at my grad school using a buffer 2 times the size of ours on the stairs of the library. I figured, this must be easy! Moral of the story: respect the buffer.  And the janitors.

2. The buffer is a lot harder to control when you're using an aggressive sanding tool on a rough surface. That is to say, the buffer has a real mind of its own when you're using a sanding screen on a floor with raised grain. It's a lot easier when you're using the smoothest buffing pad on your penultimate coat of poly.

3. The best way to control the buffer is not with sheer brute strength (sorry, A and other guy holding his shoulders), but by carefully balancing the amount of pressure you apply with each hand--this will keep it from spinning out of control in circles. Which is to say, never hold it with only when hand. Even when trying to press that pesky start button.

4. This is the proper garb for running the buffer. Shoe covers, not socks!

Okay, one more post on floor finishes, and then the final reveal!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Our first assignment for the shoot-along was to photograph things we were loving about summer.  I was hung up on this one for a while--it's been quite hot here for the last several weeks, and I'm not feeling the summer love.

Upon further reflection, I realized that I have been thoroughly enjoying the garden.  This is the first summer I've had a real garden.  Last summer was too rainy, and my garden spot too moist and shady, for my few plants to stand a chance.  Before that, I made do with some potted plants on my somewhat shaded apartment balcony.  So it's been great having some sunny dirt for my plants to grow in, and I've liked puttering around tending them.

For the last month it's rained, briefly, nearly every day.  The garden has been happy.

I snapped these photos about two weeks ago, when the sun popped back out after a brief midday rainstorm.  They seem like a pretty good description of my summer.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Project of the week

My parents are coming to visit soon.  So the project of the week is to finish* decorate the guest bedroom--finally get a bedframe, hang some pictures, etc. 

To review, here's what the guest bedroom looked like in May, when our first guests arrived:

The walls, trim, and ceiling were all the same almond color that graced all the rooms of our house.  Plus lots of spackle on the walls where P was busy fixing nail pops.

And here's a peak of where we are today:

As with all the rooms, the ceiling is Behr's white ceiling paint, and the trim is done in Behr Ultra Pure White (satin).  We painted this room just after I figured out my cardinal rule of paint color selection--when in doubt, go with the Benjamin Moore historic colors line, so the walls are Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb gray.  A pretty misleading name--not a gray all all, but a nice taupe.  Perhaps with warm gray undertones.  Not too pink, but not at all yellow.  Just what we wanted.  (We also tested Elmira White.  Very similar, just a touch lighter and less gray--also a lovely color.)

The windows used to have IKEA Wilma curtains (in white) hanging on the rods and puddling nicely on the floor--but I liked them too much, and borrowed them for the master bedroom decorating project.  Since my parents live closer to an IKEA than I do, they're going to kindly bring another two sets for the guest bedroom.

Right now, the room is nice and neutral with crisp white accents and minimal furnishings, and P and I are really liking it that way.  My plan is to furnish it with various family mementos and hand-me down furniture pieces.  The trick will be to do that while still keeping the calm, uncluttered atmosphere.  We'll see if I can pull it off!

*I can't finish the guest room--to the extent that anything is ever finished--before my parents arrive because my parents are bringing a number of items for that room: curtains, dresser, nightstand, and chair.  There's a very real chance that I abuse my guests.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Surprise master bedroom decoration project!

P was away on a business trip Thursday-Saturday.  I decided it would be really great to complete a major house project on my own, and surprise him with it when he got home.

The short list included: 1. Really clean up and de-clutter the place, 2. Finish unpacking boxes and setting up the living room, and 3. Painting and decorating the master bedroom.  Painting definitely sounded more fun than cleaning, so it was on!

The master bedroom was never a priority.  The walls were a shade of just-off white.  Not offensive, but a little too reminiscent of all of our bland grad school rental apartments.  Plus, they were quite full of nailholes and scuffs from whatever items the previous owner had had there.

Frankly, choosing to paint the bedroom over of the of other possible jobs was a largely selfish choice.  I was pretty sure P would be more relieved to find that all of the boxes had magically unpacked themselves, rather than the bedroom had a new wall color.  But whatever.  I'm the laborer here.  But then, a few days before he left, P came to bed all dejected, and told me that he kind of wished we were sleeping in the guest room.  It was all nice and finished!  And not full of stuff!  And it had paint, baseboards, and even a floor! 

Um, yeah, a floor.  We were so eager to get rid of the carpeting in our house, that we went ahead and pulled it all up--fully knowing that the master bedroom only had OSB subfloor under the carpet.  (The rest of the house had hardwoods under there.)  We knew it would be 6 months to a year before we would be able to lay hardwoods in there, but a subfloor seemed way better than mauve (and occasionally stained) carpet.

In case you're interested:

Living on an OSB subfloor is pretty obnoxious.  It's nearly impossible to clean, and I get the occasional splinter in my foot.  But neither of us have any regrets about tearing out that carpet.  It was the right thing to do.

I'll start the redecoration narrative by mentioning that we still have a plain OSB floor.  It doesn't make sense to us to invest money and time into a temporary fix, and most of the options we can think of would make our lives more difficult when it comes time to lay those hardwoods.  So we're sticking it out.

Enough about the sad floor situation, and back to P's dreams.  Crisp white sheets!  Like in a hotel!  Wouldn't that be nice?

Well, yes, that would.

With this unexpected validation of my decision to do a surprise bedroom makeover, I busied myself with as much prep work as I could without raising P's suspicions.  I picked up new white sheets, picture frames and curtain rods, two gallons of paint, and got busy patching those holes in the wall.  (Yeah, that wasn't just a "I can't stand having a hole here anymore!" patch job.  And there was one smaller hole I didn't even tell you about.)  Even though I selected a paint color I had already tested in two other rooms, I obeyed my cardinal rule of painting a test swatch on the wall--behind my dresser.  Sneaky!
As soon as P was gone, I pushed all the furniture to the center of the room and threw some drop cloths over the pile.  (Hooray for large rooms and small furniture collections!)  Obviously, there was no need to put drop cloths on the floor.  After all, the last painters hadn't either.  (They sprayed painted the wall before the carpet went it!)
Then I painted and painted and painted. 

And ran around decoration at the last minute before P came home.  Except everything didn't come together quite as well.  Wow!  Who would have thought hanging curtain rods was this hard?  Why aren't they straight?  I measured the holes!  Why did I buy full size sheets for a queen bed?  Oh no!  Last minute trip to the store!  Wash the sheets!  Put them on the bed!  Wait a minute--that's a king sheet!  But the package says queen, and everything else in it is queen.  Manufacturing defect!  But P is in the driveway by now.  Oh well. Sheets will have to come later. 

And I didn't get around to hanging photos.  Which is probably just as well, after the hash I made of hanging curtains.  P can help with that one.

So, what you've all been waiting for.  Before:






And, for the coup de grace:
Painted faux headboard!  Cheaper than the real thing, and much easier to fit in the car.  Only took about an hour of planning with graph paper, and two and a half hours of measuring, leveling, taping, realizing a critical mistake, retaping....  But it was totally worth it--I'm thrilled with the results.

P and I are both pleased with the paint color--Benjamin Moore Quiet Moments.  We had tested it in two other rooms, so I knew that he liked it.  I didn't want to do all of that work of painting and then have him disappointed with the results.  Interestingly, it's the darkest paint color we've used in the house (though I certainly wouldn't call it a dark color--we just tend toward light ones), and this is the darkest room--and it works well.  I went with eggshell paint, thinking it might help brighten up the place a little.  Maybe it does, but I rather wish I had gone with my trusty flat paint--I'm not as good a spackler as P, and my wall patches could use all the disguising they can get.

So there it is.  Surprise!  Stay tuned for the finishing touches to the decor in a week or two.