And Then Our House Rebelled

Image via Giphy

Around 3:30am on Saturday our smoke detector decided to lose its shit.  It started beeping and loudly announcing “low battery!” Around 4am Matt decided to go an rip out the batteries.  That was when he discovered that the smoke detector in the hallway is hardwired. Yup,  our smoke alarm woke us up at 3:30am because the backup battery was bad.

Luckily we had extra batteries, so Matt grabbed a replacement…only to find that the previous battery was also rather corroded and the gunk left on the battery connectors was now impeding its ability to sense the new battery.

Now, I’m still in bed at this point so all I hear is Matt shuffling around the house like he’s playing some twisted game of Marco Polo with the smoke alarm. Then the alarm suddenly starts shrieking “Fire! Warning carbon monoxide! Fire! Warning carbon monoxide!” I start laughing like an idiot because now I’m convinced our smoke detector is just straight-up broken and of course that would happen at 4am.

Turns out Matt hit the test button to see if that would act like a reset and get the alarm to recognize the new battery. It didn’t work. Obviously.  So now it’s 4:10am and I start googling how to remove a corroded battery because it’s either that or flee to a hotel.

In case you’re wondering, vinegar will clean off battery corrosion. You should really use gloves/eye protection, and of course be very careful around the electrical workings of anything–especially when it’s still connected to power.

You’re welcome.

After Matt and I properly woke up for the day, we went on a walk to get breakfast since we’re having a January heat-wave at the moment.* When we got back, I went to haul in the baby gear and the baby, and Matt stayed out to salt the walkways. I left Wesley snoozing in his stroller next to the door while I dropped the diaper bag and pastries inside, then turned to go back out and grab the baby.

Only the backdoor wouldn’t open.

I checked the locks. It was unlocked. I fiddled with the locks (both the deadbolt and the simple lock for the latch we never use). Nothing. Was it stuck on something? Nope.


I finally went out the front door, walked around the back and tried to shove it open vs pull it open. No dice. So I tried and force it open with my shoulder TV cop style. Ouch. Finally I gave it a good swift kick (just to show it who’s boss), collected Wesley and schlepped around to the front door.

When Matt was done salting, he repeated everything I had just tried and nothing worked for him either.  It turns out that the bottom doorknob (which controls the latch) had inexplicably broken, so the knob could no longer retract the latch. This is a vital part of being able to open a door.

Step 1 was to run to the hardware store and buy a new latch set.  I also picked up a matching deadbolt because I really didn’t like the existing brass one we had so hey, excuse to update! We thought Step 2 would be as simple as taking off the door knob and wiggling the inner workings around. Nope. The inner workings were well and truly busted.

Matt went through our tool stash to try and find something he could shove between the frame and the door to push the latch back in,** but it still wouldn’t budge.  He asks me if I have any brilliant ideas, to which I reply “sure” and then immediately get to googling.***

It turns out this sort of thing is not unheard of and found a fairly lengthy thread in a DIY forum dedicated to it. Long story short, if your latch is properly busted (like in our case) there isn’t an easy fix. The general consensus is 1) don’t bother taking the door off the hinges because that often doesn’t help and 2) either bust out your hack saw or call a locksmith.

We chose the hacksaw option and it took Matt around an hour to cut through.

(We set the knob back in place to block some of the draft)

Thankfully installing our new latch and deadbolt was a piece of cake. Matt was very confused because I decided to try Kwikset Smartkey locks that let you re-key them yourself.  They were more expensive that the standard locks, but cheaper than bringing in a locksmith (and we really didn’t want 3 different keys for our house). They are SUPER simple to use to, so we were able to get our 2 back locks on the same key as our front lock in about a minute.

Once the weather legitimately warms up we’ll also paint the the rest of the door frame and repaint the door, since it looks a little sad at the moment.

Matt looked up the security of these locks and it sounds like they’re no better or worse than a lock that would require a professional to re-key. Plus, as one person put it: your house is only as secure as its weakest point and we all have windows.

So that was our Saturday.  We woke up to a demon smoke alarm and later I got locked inside the house. I have a feeling I’ve offended the DIY spirits in some way or else our house has spontaneously acquired a poltergeist. Maybe I should turn on our gas stove and shake some sage from our spice cabinet over it… If that doesn’t work, we are surrounded by churches so I could probably round up an old priest and a young priest.


*In Minnesota a winter heat-wave means anything over 30 degrees. Over the last 2 days I have seen 2 people outside in short sleeves, one guy in shorts, and several without jackets.

**During all of this we’re working from inside the house, so you have access to that tiny gap.  The outside of the door frame has trim pieces covering up this space.

***This is how I solve problems at work too. People think I’m smart, but really I just figure out good search terms.


Sorry, couldn’t resist. Matt’s propensity for punning is apparently rubbing off on me.

One of the (many) random “features” of this house was the lack of a closet door in Wesley’s nursery. We originally put up a tension rod and curtain, but that just didn’t look terribly finished and we’ve been meaning to get a proper door up there for ages.

By some crazy stroke of luck, the door frame was actually a standard size.* By some other crazy stroke of luck, I was able to find a 5-panel door that was a reasonable match.  Not perfect, but for $50 it was pretty damn good! I’m pretty sure the only way I could have found a better match would have been to order a custom door which would have been super pricey. I’ve already mentioned that our house work is much more renovation than restoration, so the investment in a custom door just wouldn’t have been worth it in this case.

So door. $50. Good deal. Part of the reason it was so cheap is because we ordered a door slab vs a pre-hung door. The difference is just what it sounds like. A door slab is just a slab of wood–no hinges, no pre-drilled anything. A pre-hung door is both the door and door frame already connected by hinges. One of these is a little easier to deal with, but we didn’t choose that one.

Because we had an existing frame, we first needed to check the fit. The frame may have been a standard size, but unfortunately it wasn’t square.** In order to get the door to fit properly, we had to plane off a good chunk from every side. This would have been super easy, except for the way hollow-core doors are constructed.

Planing is meant to happen with the with the grain, but at the top and bottom of the door you hit the vertical supports of the frame, and it’s REALLY hard to go against the grain.  Matt ultimately took a hand saw to the edges–he figured out how much we needed to take off from the corner, sawed that off, and planed the rest down to that point.

After planing (lots and lots of planing), I took a palm sander to all the edges to smooth them out nicely. And yes, we were totally working on our upstairs landing since we had to keep checking the fit of the door and didn’t want to be constantly hauling it up and down the stairs.

To add the door knob, we bought a simple kit that came with a guide and hole saw bits for a drill. The guide clamps onto the door and then you just drill on through.  We managed to position our door knob right over one of the cross supports on the door so it was a little more difficult to drill through, but not a huge problem.


Mort likes to supervise things.

The hinges were a bit more problematic. The frame already had places for the hinges, and we even had some extra hinges that were original to the house… we just had to mount said hinges to the door itself. You can get hinge kits like the door knob kit, but they usually require a router, which we don’t have, so we decided to half-ass it. Typically you would route out only the exact size of the hinge, so you’d leave a little strip of wood along the edge.  Instead, Matt just planned out the entire depth of the frame to accommodate the depth of the hinge.*** It’s only noticeable from inside the closet though (and only if you know what to look for), so not a big deal.

Whoa! It’s a door! That opens and closes! Craziness!

Don’t mind the random futon.  We did some furniture shifting and need to figure out a permanent home for it.

My only real disappointment with this door is the knob. I assumed I’d be able to switch out the actual knob on a new latch set. Wrong. Current latch sets are designed to interlock and screw together in a way that makes switching out any one part of them impossible. House of Antique Hardware has vintage-looking knobs/latches designed to fit modern construction, but I can’t quite justify spending $140 on a closet door knob… although I am scoring an extra bonus this year at work…



* “Standard,” “square,” and “level,” are terms that don’t tend to exist when dealing with 100+ year old houses.

** See what I mean?

*** And only planed off a small amount of his thumbnail in the process.

Sofa Table DIY

The room we use as our TV room is slightly awkward for furniture placement since it would have originally been used as the dining room. We happen to like it as the TV room since the built-in buffet acts as a killer bar and we really like the openness between this room and living room for entertaining purposes.

The layout in the TV room has the couch in front of the radiator, which means…

…the couch has a tendency to angle back  since there’s nothing to stop the other side from shifting.

Luckily, there was super easy fix. Full disclosure: As easy as it was, I totally half-assed this project.  I had no plan and had to redo it once. But it the end it all worked out. I also failed at taking progress shots since I was just trying to get this done in the evenings while Matt was on baby duty.

First I picked up a couple 1×10 pine boards, along with a couple 1×2’s. I cut the 1×10’s into 1 board the length of my finished table, and 2 boards the height of my finished table (if your goal is a really exact finished size, technically it’s the height minus 3/4″).

You could move on to construction at this point, but I wanted a little extra detail, so I cut the 1×2’s down to 4 pieces the height of the table, then glued and clamped them down onto edges of the table legs. (You can also glue, then cut everything down to size at the same time)

Once the legs were dry, I glued the tops of them onto the bottom of the table top, making sure to line up the edges as smoothly as possible.  After that dried, I reinforced the joint with a couple of small L brackets and assorted tiny screws we had left over from random projects.

The table was still a little wibbly-wobbly, so I cut down a scrap 2×2 with 45 degree angles at each end to use as a brace on each side. This also got simply wood-glued into place.

Once everything was nice and solid, the whole piece got a light sanding, a couple coats of stain (Minwax: dark walnut), and 2 coats of polyacrylic. I didn’t bother staining the inside faces of the table since it will be completely hidden behind the couch. #lazygirl

Et Voila! No more shifting couch + a great place to stash drinks and a basket of baby items since this couch is my go-to nursing spot (and a great spot to stash a cuppa).

Refinishing Wood Part 2: Prepping

Still have the old finish on your project? Make sure you check out Step 1: Stripping.


  • Palm sander and/or sanding block
  • Coarse, Medium, and Fine sandpapers (roughly 80, 150, and 200 grit)
  • Wood filler
  • Putty knife

How To

Alrighty, by now you should have bare wood, but it’s still probably seen better days. If you have weird white residue in spots, don’t fret.

See? It happened to me too and it’s nothing to worry about–just dried up bits of stripper that didn’t get completely wiped off. It will come right off with some sanding. It can be washed off too, but you need to sand anyway, so why make extra work for yourself?

I started sanding with an 80 grit paper and my palm sander (I still used a sanding block and loose sand paper to get into the smaller and more detailed areas).  The coarser paper will even out any small scratches in the surface and also take off any tiny bits of varnish you may have missed with the stripper. When sanding, always sand with the grain of the wood as much as humanly possible.

After going over everything with 80 grit, dust everything down with a tack cloth (an ever-so-slightly damp rag works too). This is when I inspect for any significant gouges.  Since these doors are old I wasn’t aiming for a perfectly smooth surface. That just feels disingenuous. I did however want to patch the worst of the worst.  Some of the doors had dog scratches down the front. One had NO carved into it, probably by some angsty asshole teenager. Several had assorted old screw holes. These were all things that I didn’t really feel added to the character and would need to be filled in.

Using wood filler is easy, blob it over the hole/crack/gouge then use your putty knife to scrape off the excess. Set the edge of your putty knife flat against the surface and with a firm, even pressure pull it over the putty you laid down. It sands off very easily, so don’t panic if it looks a little lumpy. Also don’t panic if you didn’t completely fill in the hole–let the first layer dry and add another.

If you’re going to be staining, make sure to use stainable wood filler. I’ve tried a few different kinds and my favorite so far is Plastic Wood. Don’t bother buying a giant tub though.  It dries out fairly quickly and is difficult to work with if it gets too dry (I’ve had the same issue with other fillers I’ve tried too). Personally I also think a metal putty knife works better for wood filler, but you could definitely use a plastic one if that’s what you have.

Now that all your holes/dents/gouges/graffiti are all filled in, it’s time to sand with a medium grit paper.  I used 150-120 grit,* again with my palm sander.  This will smooth out your 80 grit sanded layer and smooth out any blips left from the wood filler.  If you find areas that need a filler touch up, dust them off, fill again, let dry, and sand.

When sanding over the filled spots you want to remove an filler that’s sitting on the surface and leave only the filler left in the divet. Pretty much just keep sanding until you see the original shape of the hole you filled.

Finally, I went over everything with a fine grit sandpaper (I used 200 grit).  I chose to used just a sanding block instead of a palm sander since all the real work should have been done on the coarse and medium sands.

At this point you’ll want to clean everything off really well. Vacuum, tack cloth, canned air–whatever it takes. If you find dust congregating in any crevices you can dig it out with a tooth pick.  Basically you want your surface to be completely dust free before finishing it.

Up Next: Staining (or Painting)


* I had a mix on hand… have I mentioned I am SO not a professional?



Refinishing Wood Part 1: Stripping

Sexy music is optional, but I highly recommend it.

Anytime you want to refinish a piece of wood furniture with a different stain, the first step is to strip off the old finish. Even if you plan on painting you may still want to strip off the old finish if it’s lumpy. If you’ve been looking into re-staining a piece you may have discovered gel stain and its claims of little-to-no prep work.  I’ll get into more detail on stain later on, but if you’re interested in preserving the wood grain you’ll want to skip the gel stain and read on.  Like a lot of DIY projects it’s time consuming, but not technically difficult. Actually, it’s really hard to screw this up too badly at all.


How To Do It

In the past I’ve used Smart Strip but this time around I decided to give Citri-Strip a go.  It’s still low odor and biodegradable, but it more readily available at pretty much every big box hardware store.  The process is the same with both, just make sure to work in a well ventilated area with appropriate skin protection.

Paint the stripper on your surface in a fairly thick coat.  If you’re using Citri-Strip do NOT use a foam brush, the stripper will start eating through the foam. Yes, I learned this lesson the hard way and inexpensive chip brushes are definitely the way to go.  Do your best to cover the entire surface, but the Citri-Strip can be hard to see so you may end up missing something (but don’t worry!).   For my particular project I found that waiting about 15-20 minutes after applying the stripper was perfect.

Once your stripper has kicked in (it will change color a bit and show some bubbling) it’s time to scrape it all off.  I was working over a plastic (disposable) drop cloth, but I also lined a metal bowl with a plastic bag to catch most of the gunk.  Use a plastic (less likely to scratch) putty knife to scrape off all the stripper and all the finish it’s taken off.  Not gonna lie, it’s pretty gross. If you have any intricate corners or trim, you can scrape them out with a stiff scrub brush.

Side note: did you know it’s near impossible to find a putty knife narrower than 1.5″?  If you have a raised panel door like I do the indents around the panels may be less than 1.5″…. argh!  I eventually picked up 1.5″ plastic putty knife and used a hack saw to shave just a little bit off the edge–perfection for under $1 and about 2 extra minutes of work.

There will probably be some little bits of gunk that get left behind.  If you let them dry out a bit  you can brush the off with a clean scrub brush or vacuum them up with a shop vac.  Then I looked for any areas that were still shiny with varnish and, if needed, dabbed on some more stripper.

Any areas that were proving especially stubborn I would scrub with a wire brush instead of scraping with a putty knife.  This was especially helpful in the more detailed areas. I only used the wire brush on the toughest spots because it can scratch up the wood.  Use it sparingly and only scrub (medium firmness, no need to put your back into it) with the grain and you should be fine. If you plan on re-staining you’ll want to make sure you have every bit of varnish off otherwise the stain won’t absorb into those areas and you’ll get an uneven finish.  No bueno.

Next time: how to prep your piece for finishing.









All the Trimmings

We have walls, we have a light fixture, and we now have mouldings!


Oh my god it’s finally like a real room.

We started with the baseboards.  Once again I spent a while agonizing over trim pieces (since trying to duplicate 100 year old moulding with contemporary, mass-produced pieces is a bit of a pain).  We had a little more leeway in this room since the upstairs was already a bit mis-matched so I decided to simplify things from when I did the dining room baseboards.

This time I settled on a 3 part baseboard instead of the 4 part plan I used before.  We picked up a 4″ baseboard, chair rail, and shoe molding.


We really should have started with the plinths, but I was still painting them.  You can buy fancier plinths at the hardware store, but the ones in the rest of our house are super-simple so I made them myself.  I measured the width of the door casings, added about a 1/4″ (seriously, I just eyeballed it) and ripped some down.  We had a scrap board of 10″ select pine so I used that since it would be plenty tall. Then I took my palm sander and rounded down all the edges and corners, primed and painted… and waited for them to dry.

While the plinths were being finished, we put up the 2 main parts of the base.  We started with the bottom layer, went around the entire room, then added the top layer rather than fully finishing a wall at a time.  My best advice for installing baseboards (or pretty much any trim) is to just tack it in place until you’re sure all the edges/corners line up well.  If there’s an oopsie down the road it’s way easier to pull off and fix.  Oh, and also start with your longest pieces first so if you cut them too short you can still re-use them elsewhere. We were able to leave the right amount of space for the plinths because I had extra one that was originally intended for backup but had a pretty nasty split in the wood.


Once the baseboards were up we were able to add in the plinths, followed by the vertical door casings.  I was a little paranoid about installing them because my dad and I custom routed them and didn’t have any extra. Matt totally rocked it though!  We went with a simple header cut from a 1×6 since that’s what’s in the 3rd bedroom.


SHAZAAM! We have door mouldings! (and a door that needs to be refinished, but that’s a project for another day)

After the doors, we moved onto the poor, naked windows.


Here we started with the sills, which sound intimidating, but they were really easy. First we figured out the depth of the other sills in our house and ripped a couple boards down to that measurement.  Then we measured the depth of the window opening + the depth of the casing (A) and the width of the casing + 1/2″ (B).  This gave up the dimensions of the cutouts we needed to make. The length of your board will be the window width + (B x 2).

SillTemplateI actually added a little more than a 1/2″ to the ends and cut it down after we dry-fit the sill.  We used a jig saw to cut out the corners.  It’s a pretty crappy jigsaw and we probably didn’t have the right blade for this this so my cuts were a little wonky.  I also used my palm sander to slightly round off all the edges and corners.



All of this will get covered by the window trim pieces though so we’re ok!

After the sills were nailed down, we added the inside trim.  We found a 3 1/4″ baseboard which was shockingly perfect. Yes, ok, there’s a bit of a gap in the middle, but our house isn’t square/level/standard in anyway so we’re used to these things.


I think it’s easiest to start from the top when you’re dealing with mitered cuts like these.  You’ll know the top piece fits snugly and then you only have 1 mitered edge on the side pieces and shave off extra length with just a straight cut until those fit snugly too.



Next we added the vertical casings and the header. Thanks to our old house and wonky walls, there’s quite a bit of gap between the header.  We’re going to add some wood filler and no one will ever be the wiser.


Finally we added sill base (there may be a technical term here, but I don’t know it….).  Again, we just copied what was happening in the 3rd bedroom which was simpler than the trim in the rest of the house.  Here we used a 1×4 cut to an 18 degree angle on the ends… I don’t know how they came up with 18 degrees, but it’s consistent with the other small bedroom.


And that’s the window!  Lots of parts, but mostly easy cuts.


After all the trim was nailed up Matt went around and caulked everything.

Original image via Hyperbole and a Half

I have to give a HUGE shout out to Matt for pretty much everything in this room.  I may write the blog, but he’s been working so hard on and picking up my slack when I need a nap break.  He’s really been the moulding (and painting, and ceiling fan) champ here and installed everything with pretty minimal help from me.











We have WALLS!


It’s kind of amazing actually.

A few weeks back my dad and brother-in-law joined up for an Epic DIY weekend.  My dad and I kicked it off with some custom door and window casings.  Matt’s brother, Isaac, got in later, so he and Matt were going to tackle the ceiling on Saturday.

Matt and I had already gotten drywall up on the walls, and all the seams taped and mudded.  The ceiling was going to be a far more intensive job though and a little college boy labor goes a long way. The first step was to rent a drywall lift.  My dad was telling me that he and my mom drywalled a ceiling without a lift back in the 70’s…oof!  It cost us $15 to rent a lift for the most of the day (from Menards).  Totally worth it.

I may have mentioned before that my dad and I make up team Crazed Perfectionist.  We watched Matt and Isaac for a little bit to see if they would need extra hands.  They didn’t really, but we started getting a little twitchy about the lack of crazed perfectionism, so I suggested (firmly) for a division of labor.  Team Crazed Perfectionist would handle the measuring and cutting, and team Grunt Labor would handle the lifting and installing.  This actually worked out pretty well, especially since doing anything on the ceiling gets tiring pretty quickly so this gave team Grunt Labor a bunch of mini rest breaks.

We’re still pretty new to drywall so I’m not going to do a tutorial (I’m sure they are far more knowledgeable people out there who have already written them).  I do have a few useful takeaways we learned though.

  • Suck it up and rent a drywall lift!  We didn’t bother with it for the walls because we installed the sheets vertically, but it was MUST for the ceiling.  If you’re installing sheets on the wall horizontally, you’ll probably want it too.ceilingDrywall1
  • Align the factory edges of your drywall as much as possible.  The edges of a sheet of drywall have a very slight indent in them to help compensate for the thickness of the tape and mud.
  • Mark the ends of your joists on the walls, then use a chalk line to connect the marks to show you where to put your screws.  It’s MUCH harder to eyeball a straight line when you’re balanced and bent on top of a ladder.


  • THIN coats when mudding.  Seriously. Yes, if it goes on too thick you can sand it down, but drywall dust is horrendous. Thin coats should mean less sanding AND less dry time between layers so you can get more done in a day.
  • Once you’re at the sanding stage, try and tarp off the room as best as you can.  We hung plastic sheeting over the door and kept the door closed at all times.


  • We didn’t try this, but had multiple people suggest a drywall sanding sponge.  Wet sanding should help control the dust and joint compound is water soluble so it’s supposed to be faster.
  • We tried a sanding attachment for our shop-vac.  Awesome in concept, but according to Matt it was a little unwieldy.  The head would spin unpredictably making things a little difficult.  He did notice an improvement in the dust control though, so it probably depends on the person if they like it or not.
  • Get a bag filter for your shop-vac!  You for sure want one rated for drywall dust because you will be vacuuming up a LOT.
  • Wear a mask and full goggles when sanding.  I really can’t over-state how awful drywall dust is.
  • Make sure you keep a good moisturizer handy.  Drywall is incredibly drying on the skin.


You can see we ended up with a tiny little strip of drywall, which is usually frowned upon.  Based on where our joists were positioned, this made the most sense for us.  We were able to screw the edges of the second-to-last board directly into the joists and the last little strip was light enough adhere with construction adhesive (because we were drywalling over existing plaster instead of bare studs).  We screwed it in too, but there wasn’t a joist there which we would have needed to secure a larger piece.


After making it though the weekend without killing anyone, Matt kept working away on the mudding/sanding the seams.  It’s a process and, quite frankly, it sucks.  Actually, the mudding’s not so bad, but the sanding is possibly the worst home improvement task ever.  I was really happy to have solid excuse not to help.  Once Matt got things sanded, he would call me in to give the Crazed Perfectionist opinion and then I’d go around with a pencil and circle all the areas that needed more work.

Two weeks later we were ready to prime!  I’m specifically holding off on installing trim until the room is fully painted.  Painting goes SO much faster when you don’t have to worry about cutting in!  We knocked out all the walls in about an hour one evening after work. Unfortunately, it was starting to get a little dark at that point and the “fancy” bare drywall primer is nearly impossible to see until it dries so our first coat turned out super crappy.  Oops.  It also highlighted some spots that still needed a little extra smoothing (though not as many as I expected!).

The next evening we tackled the touch-up spots and the ceiling.  We’ll take another look at everything in full daylight, but it seems to be going well.  I’m planning another coat of regular primer just so we don’t get any surprises when we paint.  And when will we get to the actual paint?  Well, my ceiling fan is now back-ordered until the end of April and I need the fan to decide on the ceiling color and I need the ceiling color to decide on the wall color.  Matt just sort of shakes his head and asks why we can’t just get a white fan.  I tell him he because he married a crazy person which he really should have been aware years ago.

Until my beloved fan comes in I’ll be sanding (with a mask!), priming, and painting all the trim pieces.





Gettin’ Our Groove On

I know I’ve been light on the house updates lately, but this past week should make up for it! Last Wednesday night * Two Wednesdays ago my dad came into town and then my brother-in-law joined us on Friday night.  Matt and I had taken off work for an Epic DIY Weekend and had a big ‘ol list of projects to try and tackle.

On Thursday we started looking for wood for our door and window casings.  We already knew we had to custom route the vertical casings so we just need to get wood in the correct dimensions.  Well, since the original casings in the rest of the house were 4.5″ inches wide, which meant dimensional lumber wouldn’t cut it.

We poked around through the trim section to see if there were any flat trim pieces that were 4.5″ wide.  Nope.  A bunch of 3.5, some 5.5, but no 4.5.  Figures.  At the end of the trim aisle though, were some door jamb pieces and kits.  Do you know how wide a door jamb is?  4.5 inches!  BOO-YA!  Plus, the outside edges are slightly rounded like our moldings.  Can I get another boo-ya?  The only minor problem is that they’re 81″ tall, which is a bit short but we have plinths in every other room so that’s an easy fix.

Sounds perfect right?  Only all the jambs at Home Depot were pretty warped.  Arrrgh!  Plan C now was to get 1×6’s and rip them down to size on a table saw.  A table we don’t have….  My dad offered to buy us a table saw though!  Some people give cribs as new baby gifts, my dad gives table saws.  I pointed this out at the store and a nearby customer laughed and pointed out that table saws were way more useful.

Ok, so we have a plan!  We have lumber!  We have a saw! We’re good to go, right?  Ehhhh.  Because the door jambs were so incredibly perfect and my dad and I make up Team Insane Perfectionist we decided to swing by Menards to see if they sold the same thing and if they were any straighter.  Success!  Let’s roll!

My dad had brought along his router and router table so we figured we’d get that all set up and then zip the boards through like you would with a table saw.  Easy-peasy right?

Um, nope.

There’s more resistence with a router blade than a table saw blade so it takes a LOT more effort to feed the wood though.  Pair that with a longer board and it’s really hard to get a nice, consistent groove.  The amount of effort it took to get one edge done (that didn’t even end up being a good edge), was clearly not going to work.

Ok, time for Plan B.

Back we go to the hardware store to pick up some inexpensive pine to make a jig. The jig consists of a 1×8 for the base and a 1×4 for the back guide that are screwed together in an L shape.


We knew we needed the raised edges on the casings to be 3/4″ wide so we did some quick math to determine where we would need to position the board, then screwed in some thin scrap wood as spacers.  It needed to be tall enough to butt the board up against, but short enough that it wouldn’t interfere with the router.


You don’t need to run your spacer pieces along the full length of the jig.  The board won’t be moving, just the router, so you really just need to make sure you have nice, even spacers on each end so you can position the board well.  It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re going to build a jig you want all the lumber you’ll be using to be as straight as possible.  We may have spent a good 10 minutes pulling out board after board and checking it for straightness.  Knots and splits don’t really matter, it just needs to be as straight as possible.


Once we had our jig set up, we clamped the wood into place and got to routing.  We did have to stop at each clamp to re-position it, but that’s not a big issue.



See my lack of a mask?  Don’t do that.**  Routing kicks up shit-tons of sawdust.  I didn’t realize that right away (yes, I’m an idiot) so I didn’t put on a mask until I was about 1/2 way done… and then 2 days later I was in the ER with an asthma flair-up.

We did one pass, then flipped the board around to do the other edge.



Bee-yoo-teee-ful.  But now there’s still a chunk left in the center.  We re-measured to see how far out the next pass would have to be, but this time just marked lines on our jig.  The outermost passes were the ones that really had to be precise, so for these we just lined the board up with the marks and had the second person simply hold it in place.



Aaand then you flip it around and do the same thing to the other side.


Now we’re left with one tiny strip in the middle.  Now, you guessed it, we measured, marked, and re-positioned the board.  The narrow strips we used as spacers for the edges were the perfect width to position the board to get the center strip.  We flipped them vertical to line up the board and pulled them out once someone was holding the board in place.



Some of you may be wondering why we bothered painted the boards if we were just going to strip a bunch of it off.  Well, we didn’t; the boards came pre-primed.  We didn’t need them too, but they were the only real wood (not particle board or MDF option).  The bonus is there’s a much better contrast in my pictures.

Just take a look at these beauties compared the original casings!


I’m giving them a rating of PDG: Pretty Darn Good.


*I may have been a little slow in publishing this….

**See my awesomely coordinated gloves and Batman shirt?  Not planned at all, but you can totally copy that.  Also, I hate pregnant-me in pictures.  In real life I feel totally fine but I see a picture and can only quote Spaceballs–“Why didn’t anyone ever tell me my ass was so big?!”  My amazing and supportive husband responded to this with “Well, you’re supposed to be getting bigger.”  This is the same amazing guy who once told me “I like how fat you are” and said I looked like “a yellow whale” after trying on a very unflattering maxi dress.  He may suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.  I’m hoping for the “pregnant glow” before we get a professional pregnancy shoot done, but so far I’ve just been breaking out like a teenager.









Presidents Day Dry-walling

Last year we went to Vegas with some friends for the Presidents Day/Valentines Day weekend.  This year, we dry-walled a nursery.

Well, we started dry-walling a nursery.

Yes, getting older can be a little lame.  Like I tend to tell people though, I’ve never been cool a day in my life and don’t intend to start now.  So yeah, dry-walling.


As a quick refresher, this is where we were at with the nursery.  We had ripped out the gross ceiling tiles, the lame trim, the prison-esque light fixture, and the grody paneling.  I voted to just hire someone to come in and skim-coat ALL THE THINGS but Matt wanted to just re-drywall.  It’s definitely cheaper so I didn’t argue too much.

Last weekend we headed to Menards, rented a truck, and bought a crap-ton of 1/4″ drywall.  We opted for 1/4″ because we weren’t ripping out the existing plaster and wanted to minimize extra bulk.  I helped Matt haul this into our house, all the while thinking I’d fall, have to call the emergency mid-wife line and explain to them that I slipped on some ice while carrying drywall because the first thing we decided to do after finding out I was pregnant was to demo an entire room.  Thankfully I remained upright and told Matt he would need a different assistant to help haul the sheets up the stairs.*

One of the issues with adding a layer of drywall was that door frames would be a little awkward.  If you drywall up to the edge of the door, you’re stuck with a bare edge of edge of drywall.


Ew ideed.

To solve the problem (without redoing the entire door frame) we bought 1/4″ strips of wood to frame out the openings first, and then butt the drywall up against the wood.


The change in materials (and the gap) won’t be an issue because we’ll be adding new trim to the entire room as well, so all we need is an even surface. Once the rest of the doorframe gets painted, you’ll never even know it was there.

Speaking of even, have I mentioned that old houses are not even remotely square?  Yeah.  We’ve got some seriously half-assed looking drywall happening in here.


Although it’s hard to tell from the picture, so feel free to think of us as drywall masters.  We’re cool with that.


…but I’m honest, so here’s a close-up of the piece above the window.  It is the exact same length as the piece below the window that has nice, tight seams.  This is what happens when you assume things are even.  Except you really only make an ass out of u, because if me had been there I would have put a stop to these shenanigans because I know not to trust old houses.

Aaaanyway…. We can get away with some half-ass-ery because we’re dry-walling over an existing solid wall rather than bare studs.  This is also why we opted to hang the sheets vertically instead of horizontally.  I usually see drywall hung horizontally so I researched it a bit and the conclusion seemed to be that it doesn’t matter a lot, but horizontal hanging will be a little more structurally sound.  Well, we already had existing walls, so that I wasn’t a huge issue for us.  It was easier to hang the sheets vertically, so we went with that.


The drywall sheets were 4’x8′ and the ceilings were about 8’3″ tall.  We’re planning on installing baseboards that are taller that 3″ so the bottom seam wouldn’t be issue.  We grabbed a couple scrap 2×4’s (thanks to the brilliance that is modern lumber dimensions, 2=1.5) and were able to prop the sheet up so it would sit even with the ceiling while we screwed it in.

So now we’re almost half way done with the walls!  There’s still the other half, plus the ceiling, plus all the mudding/taping/sanding.  We’ve recruited my dad and brother-in-law to come help in mid-March so we should see a big chunk of progress made then.  I’m planning on haz-matting myself up and diving in too because I start getting twitchy if I see people doing things that aren’t up to my standards.**  I’m mostly concerned about all the dust from sanding (since I’m already asthmatic and prone to bronchitis) but I figure a heavy-duty mask and a sander that attaches to a shop-vac should leave me pretty safe in that area.


*He opted to do it himself and as a result we have two more broken picture frames.

**Drywall joints pre-compound are clearly not one of my higher standards







Shit My Husband Broke This Weekend

Matt decided to get his DIY on this weekend, which is general is awesome!  This time though… he was a little off his game.

Project 1: Fix the leaky radiator

The radiator in our dining room had a small leak.  Nothing super noticeable, but it was causing some rust on the pipe and, because radiator systems rely on pressure, was also causing some issues with the radiators on the upper floors.  So Matt did some research and decided to try a fix with epoxy putty and fiberglass tape.  “I don’t know if it will work, but it can’t possibly make it worse” was basically his mantra.

Except it made things worse.

I wasn’t supervising watching his progress, but he had to chip off some paint to get the putty to adhere.  Paint that had been partially sealing the leak.  And then the epoxy and fiberglass didn’t really do anything (except look awful) so we just ended up with a slightly larger leak.


I don’t have a before picture because I wasn’t expecting this to be a big deal, but this is the aftermath.  I told him he wasn’t allowed to “fix” anything else this weekend.

Project 2: Study Demo + Outlet Replacement

We’ve been steadily ripping out the paneling in the study and were down to the last wall this weekend!  The only annoying thing so far is that the outlets in the room were installed over the paneling, so they needed to be removed in order to take the paneling off. Which means once the panels were off we had to put the outlets back in, but properly this time.

Matt picked up new electrical boxes that could be secured to studs (so they wouldn’t be wibbly-wobbly).  To reach the studs he had to cut through some of the old plaster and lath.  He was pretty excited because he got to bust out the reciprocating saw we got for Christmas.

The first outlet went smoothly… but the second.  Well, I was downstairs and heard a crash.  I shouted up that I didn’t want to know about it, but I found out anyway.  He was cutting a new opening for the outlet on the wall that runs along the stairs.  The wall where we had recently hung a gallery wall.  A gallery wall I was planning on photographing that same day.  If you’re unfamiliar with reciprocating saws, they create a lot of vibration.  Vibration doesn’t mix well with wall art and one of the pictures came crashing down off the wall.


Yeah. There goes my project for the weekend.  I made him take down the rest of the art before continuing and he made it through the rest of the project without destroying the house.