We have WALLS!

And a CEILING!

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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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SHAZAAM!

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!

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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.

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Nursery Inspiration

Who’s excited???  It’s been a while since I put together a mood board and possibly the best part of pregnancy is brainstorming decor!  I had a few ideas floating around, but wanted to wait until we knew if we would be having a boy or girl.

Well, it’s officially a boy!

So here’s what I’m currently thinking:

Nursery Mood Board

I wanted something fun and child-appropriate without being overly cutesy.  Baby won’t have any opinions on decor for a while (if ever), so the nursery is really more for mom and dad.  I also wanted to keep the basics of the room pretty gender-neutral so if we have a girl sometime in the future we can reuse our baby gear easily.

As I mentioned before, my starting point was a set of Zoo Portraits–fun and whimsical without being sickeningly cutesy. The ceiling fan I fell in love with early on and nearly talked myself out of it! Everyone thinks I’m nuts when I start gushing over a ceiling fan, but isn’t this one just fabulous?

I didn’t want to fall into the muted, monochromatic trap that a lot of baby rooms fall into.  Bold colors and high contrast are easier for a baby to focus on, so I wanted pops of brights, especially in the mobile. Plus, it’s just more to my personal liking. The lime and redish-orange I plan to work into some more accessories and storage pieces.

My current thoughts on paint are to paint the ceiling the same minty-aqua as the light fixture and then go pretty neutral on the walls.  I think by the time I’m done there will be a lot going on around the floor and walls that will be better balanced by a bolder ceiling.

The Eames elephant probably won’t make it into the final room since it’s definitely splurgy, but a girl can dream, right?

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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…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.

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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

 

 

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First IKEA Run of 2017!

After Matt broke one of my picture frames from our gallery wall I’ve been meaning to get out to IKEA for a replacement.  In the meantime I also managed to convince him that we should replace the beige couch* and discovered a sale on their PAX wardrobe line (which we were already planning on getting).  So we just decided to make one giant (read:expensive) trip.

We’re a compact car family so we opted for the delivery service.  We even lucked out and were in Zone A so it was a flat $59 for anything we wanted delivered. Plus the delivery service would leave the items in the room of your choosing.  No man-handling PAX parts up our stairs for me!  Sold!

I usually try to avoid IKEA on the weekends, but the Sunday we went wasn’t too bad.  We had a specific plan and weren’t really browsing for anything else (although we did end up with a full-length mirror because such is the nature of IKEA).  I used their in-store PAX planner because for some reason it’s super slow to load at home.  This was the most time consuming part of the trip and I started steadily feeling crappy.  After you have a PAX plan an employee will type up an order slip, but as soon as we were done with our plan the nearby employees had vanished (it was busy, I get it).  I sent Matt off to find someone and collapsed on a nearby ottoman.

I must have looked pretty awful at this point because a random man came up and asked me if I was ok.  “Just pregnant and miserable, but otherwise fine.” was my reply.  “Ah.”  He said knowingly. “Migraines?  My wife had horrible migraines.”  I’m pretty sure I just got more sympathy from a total stranger than I have from my husband…. although he’s now afraid to offer any help to me because he’s afraid I may misinterpret it as coddling and get pissed.  Poor guy can’t win.

After getting our PAX order together we were informed we had to go back to the kitchen section to get the door hardware, but everything else would be pulled for us.  It had been a rough weekend for me so I seriously considered passing out on one of the beds and letting Matt wander back through half the store to get back to the kitchen section.  I womaned it up though and went with him.

We also decided to replace the Beige Couch of Boring.  It was a super comfy couch, but I’m pretty much programed to hate beige.  Plus the size and style just weren’t working for me.  We decided to go with the Karlstad sofa because we figure with kids on the way we don’t have to worry about it getting destroyed.  Plus, every square inch of the cover can be removed an washed.  Win.

We were able to get same-day delivery (woot!) but I wasn’t going to deal with same-day assembly.  Unfortunately, this meant dealing with assembly after work during the week.  Because Matt’s a sweetie, we assembled the couch first.  Because Matt is considerably less pregnant than me, he then decided to assemble the PAX that same night while I tested out the nap-ability of the new couch (verdict: little hard, needs breaking in).

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The couch looks solidly IKEA at the moment, but not to worry, I’ve got plans to hack this puppy!  The smaller, more open profile is definitely a win for the space.

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Hey look, Matt has a closet!  In the bedroom!  It actually even gives him more space than the closet he was using previously.  More wins!  Since I was napping and not supervising, he managed to break one of the rods and lose a hinge.  2017 has not been a good year for Matt’s DIY record….  We seriously tore the bedroom apart looking for the missing hinge and can’t find it.  It’s big enough that we would have heard the cats playing with it if they had batted it off.

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The most exciting part of assembling this was getting it level.  The PAX frame has little feet behind the bottom edge in the corners that you can adjust… but they assume your floor is only a little unlevel.  Anyone who’s even lived in a old house know words like “level,” “square,” and “standard size” are words that will no longer appear in your vocabulary.  Instead this thing got leveled by jamming a 1×2 under one corner.  Good times.

While we were at IKEA I was debating between the BERGSBO and TYSSEDAL doors.  The TYSSEDALs were about twice as pricey and I while I thought they were slightly nicer, I didn’t think they were twice-the-price-nicer so we went with BERGSBO.  Then Matt assembled everything….

But because I’m a genius, I forgot to take a picture of assembly round 1. We got them up, I stared at them for a couple days, and then decided they weren’t right for the room.  The paneled doors and detailed trim of the house just wasn’t working with the bare-bones shaker-style doors on the wardrobe. Luckily, the doors fit into our car (hatchbacks FTW!) so we hauled them back and exchanged them.  Oh, and we picked up another pack of hinges because a week later we still hadn’t found the lost one.

The TYSSEDALs have some beveling similar to the house’s interior doors and work MUCH better.  I also finally got a nice, chunky, full-sized mirror.  It only took Matt about 20 holes in the wall to get it hung!  This one’s not even his fault! A 100+ year old house means lathe-and-plaster construction for the walls.  While there still are studs, the extra bulk over them makes stud-finders useless.  the only thing to do is drill a bunch a tiny holes until you feel a stud and then patch them all later.  Fun times, right?

Our dressers replaced our nightstands (which you can see a bit in the reflection) but I’m not showing pics of the whole room because it’s not super clean and is also incredibly bland at the moment.  Like most rooms in the house, it’s on the to-do list.  At least we’ve upped the functionality!

 

*Anyone in the Twin Cities area looking for a couch?  The main reason we’re getting rid of it is because I HATE beige.  It’s also a little too chunky for our space.  It’s up on Craiglist right now so if you’re in the area let me know and I’ll share the link.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Let the Demo Begin!

Now that Matt has moved into my study, we’re ready to start tackling the demo work on his study (well, he’s starting the demo, I’m still trying to tame all my crap in the other room).  The main reason we decided to work on this room next is because it is currently the grossest room in the house.  While we have plenty of rooms that still need a good ‘ole paint-and-style, this is the room that actually needs WORK.

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Whomp whomp.

Do you see that trim?  Matte-black, skinny trim in a 115+ year old house?  Are you kidding me?!  Half the reason I love old houses is for the big, chunky, amazing trim!  This makes me want to cry.

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And the ceiling… we had this same nasty acoustical tile treatment happening in our dining room.  I’m terrified of what we’re going to find underneath it… but it absolutely HAS to go.

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We’re also missing a closet door in here…. and it’s currently Matt’s closet.  We’re planning on getting a wardrobe for the master bedroom so he can keep is clothes in there, but I still want this closet to have an actual door.  Thank god it’s a standard size at least!

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What you can’t really tell from the pictures is that these walls we also all paneled at some point.  It’s actually fairly hard to tell in person too so I think the paneling may have gotten skim-coated too.  We’re a little on the fence about what to do about the paneling.  And by “we” I really mean me (Matt doesn’t want to deal with the walls at all).  It’s honestly pretty inoffensive in person so the tentative plan is to leave it alone unless it gets damaged as we rip the trim out.

This past week Matt already got started on the demo and took out all the ceiling tiles.

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Wow… that is nowhere near as bad as it could have been!  We’re a little concerned about some of the bigger cracks causing issues when we rip out the furring strips, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the moment!  Hopefully all it will need is some crack repair and a fresh skim coat…hopefully!

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We also found some more awesome electrical work!  And “awesome” I mean wtf?  It’s been a total crap-shoot if fixtures here have an electrical box and/or modern wiring or not and this one seems to be another not on both counts.  I want to get this light wired to a switch anyway and adding an electrical box isn’t a huge undertaking.  I am a little concerned that an electrician will want to redo the wiring as well.  It’s not a bad thing by any means, just a more expensive thing.

We spent Christmas in Wisconsin and then brought Matt’s mom and brother back with us.  If there’s one thing college boys are great for, it’s manual labor, so we put him to work with Matt.

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The furring strips were soon removed. And the ceiling stayed up!  I was a little concerned that the furring strips might be propping up some of the cracked areas, but so far so good!

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The offensive trim soon followed the ceiling into the garbage.

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The paneling took a bit of a beating in the process so Matt is finally coming around to just taking it all down and re-drywalling.  It may be a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it in the end.  I’m hoping the ceiling just needs a skim-coat.  I do NOT want to deal with the ceiling so I’m hoping for a budget-friendly project that can be hired out.

Most of the demo was done with pretty small pry-bars, about 1 foot long or so.  They’re better for getting into tight spots.  We’ve got a 3 footer too which is better if you need a lot of leverage.  As sissy as the tiny ones look though, they’re super useful to have around.

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Here’s to ending 2016 on a destructive note! If we had a fire pit we’d probably be ending it with a bonfire as well.  Hopefully we get it all put back together next year.

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Via Twitter, @HeatherGenua

More IKEA Adventures

Ok, so I took more than a week off.  It’s full on cold and flu season here in Minnesota and I’ve been feeling a little under the weather.  Plus, I finally had an appointment with an Endocrinologist right before Thanksgiving.  She supported the first Doctor’s conclusion that my wacky thyroid was only a temporary/viral thing but ran some more tests (have I mentioned I HATE needles? This fall has been miserable) and found that in body’s attempt to fix the situation it had over compensated and now my thyroid levels are too low.  So now I’m being medicated for that. Yeah, it’s been fun (and hopefully, still all temporary… I go back for still more blood work after Christmas and will hopefully be able to stop the drugs).

Now onto the house stuff! If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen me have a small IKEA breakdown a couple weeks ago.

Basically we’re putting the hallway work on hold for the winter.  It’s too cold to work on the porch and I don’t relish the idea of stripping and staining inside with no ventilation.  Instead we’re moving on to Matt’s study.  It’s a bit of an anomaly in the house–I think the floor, the radiator, and the door are the only original elements remaining.  The ceiling is the same gross acoustical tile that we had in the dining room, the walls were paneled (and possibly skim-coated?) at some point, and all the trim was replaced with boring, modern, builder-grade trim…. then painted matte-black.  The closet door is also missing.  Pretty much, I have no clue what in the hell happened here, but it’s not pretty.

This weekend we started moving all his crap into my study (we need to empty out the room in order to basically gut it).  His study will be uninhabitable for quite some time so we’re trying to make my study functional for 2 people.  We tried a few layouts for 2 desks, but ultimately liked the idea of shoving them together… the only problem was my existing desk was a smidge shorter than Matt’s.  Yes, I was neurotic enough to care. Plus, we figured a quick trip to IKEA for a (cheap!) matching desk would solve the problem.

Unfortunately, this particular desk was discontinued.  There were however 3 different models from the same line, and we assumed the one with the closed shelving would be the same size.

Wrong.

We got it home and it was six inches too short.

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We brainstormed a few different options, including trying to hack the new base onto my old desk top, except the top was too deep.  Finally we agreed to suck it up and go back to IKEA for a matching one since it’s a pretty cheap desk.  Neurosis for the win!

Apologies in advance for the crap-tastic photos… this lack of daylight during the week is killing me.

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Matt also hung artwork while I was taking a nap.  To his credit he googled the correct height to hang artwork…. unfortunately google is wrong.

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Or at least Google is wrong if you search “how tall to hang pictures.” How tall? I’m not a grammar nazi, but that just sounds wrong. I googled “how high to hang pictures” and got an answer of 60″ to 66″.

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My go-to height for art work is 60″ on center. If you’re taller than average you may want to go a little higher, but I wouldn’t go lower unless everyone in your household is incredibly petite.  Matt caught me glowering at the too-low artwork (my desk is the one facing them) and insisted that he is not adjusting them for two inches.  Fine, I understand.  Really.  But someday when I’m bored, I’m sure I will re-do all of them.

Because I’ve already shown I have no qualms about embarrassing myself online… here’s what the other half of the room looks like.

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Yup, this is my life.  Just keepin’ it real, yo.

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Checking in on the Hallway

I had visions of being completely done with the hallway by now!  Unfortunately life and a pissy thyroid ate up a lot the time I had planned for this so I’ve very much not done yet. I thought I’d share my progress anyway though.

If you need a refresher on what I started with, check out this post.

The Staircase

One of the first projects I had planned was replacing all the busted newel caps on our staircase.  I had a good start on it but petered out.  So right now I have replaced…. one.  Yes. One.  But that one looks good!

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The chunky post at the base of the stairs in all original, but the second post has a brand-spankin-new newel cap.  Is a it a perfect match?  No.  But is pretty darn good?  I think so!

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Even in old houses I think it makes sense to weigh every investment.  Is it 100% historically accurate?  No.  Is the cost of a 100% historically accurate reproduction worth it for this particular house?  Sorry, but no.  It’s a pretty basic, standard old house for St Paul (heck, there’s even a near-perfect doppelganger house a couple blocks away!).  It’s sort of like trying to make an average 1950’s ranch a high-end MCM masterpiece. We’re also not restoring this house, we’re renovating it.  We’re just renovating it while still trying to be mindful of it’s origins.

Ahem.

Anyways… one newel cap down, 5 more to go!

The Doors

Oh the doors!  I had such high hopes that they would have been done weeks ago!  Unfortunately barely being able to get off the couch for nearly a month set me back a bit.  We’re 1/2 way there though!

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I posted about my love of black doors a while back, but Matt was adamantly against it.  He also didn’t want to paint them white (so picky!) so we compromised with a darkdark stain.  It’s a shit-ton of work, but I think it looks pretty fab.  Please ignore the orange-y railing, I’m working on it.  Slowly.

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I also ordered glass knobs to replace the black ceramic ones.  Yeah, the ceramic ones were probably original, but they just disappeared into the dark stain (the brass back-plates are more noticeable in real life, but I’m still thinking of cleaning them up a bit).  Half the upstairs door knobs were already glass anyway and I wanted continuity.  I ordered these beauties from House of Antique Hardware.  It might be my new favorite place on the internet.  I could make a shopping list a mile long from this place if I had the budget for it, but alas. I still may get the dust corners at some point because they’re super cute and cat fur clogging up the stairs is a legit problem in this household.

The Cat Tree

Why is pet furniture so often really ugly?  I mean, where are the homes where the standard fleshy-beige cat upholstery fits in?  My best guess is that it’s designed to hide most fur colors.  These are the sorts of things I tell myself to make sense of this crazy world.*

Regardless of the reason, the fleshy-beige had to go! The scratching posts sections had also gotten pretty beat up over the few years we’ve  had it.  It’s seen a lot of love from the cats and needed  a makeover.

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I dissembled the whole thing, wrapped the flat pieces with a faux sherpa fabric, and wrapped the polls top-to-bottom with jute.  I did a bit of reconfiguration of the pieces too to make it visually lighter and provides the cats with a taller section they so they stretch out and scratch. They usually only hang out on the top section anyway, so it really didn’t need the extra bulk. I still am not sure what to do about the top basket yet (helloooo weird blank space and lonely screw), but I’m working on it.

Still Working on:
  • Newel caps
  • Staining the railing
  • Refinishing the doors
  • Planning a gallery wall
  • Lighting
  • Building a new cabinet for the entryway

 

So that’s the current State of House address.  I’m planning on doing a check-in with the kitchen too to let you know how my temporary fixes are holding up. I just need to clean it first…

 

*At least I’m not alone in my “Why does pet furniture have to be ugly” thoughts.  There is a shop in St Paul called–I shit you not–Custom Cat Purrinture.   Yes, Purr-niture.  Believe it or not Matt and I haven’t checked it out yet.

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And Then We Found a Dead Body Under Our Garage

Well, part of dead body.

And probably not a human body… but other animals still have bodies and if you only find a part of it it’s still very clearly dead.

Matt pointed out that title is rather misleading, but that’s just how headlines work.  Sure, I could have said “And then we found part of a dead body under our garage.”  or “And then we found a bone fragment that was probably some dog’s chew toy under our garage.” But neither of those is very click-baity and my SEO app is already yelling at me about the length of my current tile (that thing is horribly judgemental).

Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Our garage is… sad.  When we bought the house the inspector couldn’t even get the garage door open so for the past year we’ve basically had a giant storage shed that will fit anything that would fit through the smallish side door.  Awesome, right?

Also, the whole structure was leaning and wonky, and we weren’t even 100% sure that we would even be able to get a new garage door installed or if the entire thing would need to be torn down.  Yeah, it was just that good.

Recently we had a garage door company take a look at it, and thankfully they said they’d be able to add a functioning door.  Not only that, they even said they’ve worked with worse.  They came, they installed, and left us with a functioning garage that was still incredibly wonky.

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For the past couple weeks Matt’s been working on adding extra supports, sistering split or rotting studs, and digging out around the base to replace decaying boards.  I told you it was is pretty sad shape.

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On Saturday we dug a trench along the final side of the garage to expose all the rotting boards.  This wasn’t quite as bad as I anticipated, except for the tree roots that are clearly trying to eat our house.  And our garage.  And possibly us.  Hell, I think from now on I’ll just refer to the big tree in our backyard as Audrey II.

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About 10′ away from the tree there were still roots as big around as my wrist.  There were also TONS of the little spidery roots that had invaded everything.  As I pulled them out I also pulled up chunks of rotted wood that they had clearly eaten.  They were also starting to work their way up the side of the garage.  Awesome.

Also while digging out our trench we came across other assorted randomness.  A straw, tons of broken glass, plastic bags, rusted wire, and a coffee can lid.  Once I found the coffee can lid I was really hoping to find the rest of the can (filled with someone’s buried fortune of course), but it never turned up.  A short time later I exposed a strange, lumpy thing and was mildly taken aback.

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I thought it was a small vertebra but it ended up being the deformed top of a metal spike.  Bummer.

Me: No coffee cans filled with money, no dead bodies…. it’s like all those books I read when I was little lied to me.

Matt: Um, sure.

Me: I bet the Bobbsey twins were really the murderers/robbers/whatever just so they could set up crimes to “solve” and then cunningly frame other people.

Matt may have stopped talking to me at this point.

Later that afternoon I was standing by one of the dirt mounds, waiting to be useful, and I see something buried in the dirt.

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If you’re wondering if I can tell the difference between a stick and a bone in a random pile of crap the answer is apparently yes.  I have no clue what kind of bone because I’m not a boneologist…. er, wait, Latin… osteologist?  Maybe I should Google this…

…omg I was right!  I even spelled it right! (although spell check disagrees and suggests Meteorologist).  It’s like taking all those advanced Bio classes paid off… but only a little since I still can’t identify the stupid bone (but at least I’m still better at science than spell check).

Anyway, I found part of a bone buried under our garage which means I at least found part of a dead body.  Or the remains of a dog’s chew toy…. but dead body sounds much better.**  And just think, anytime you give your dogs pigs ears or beef bones to gnaw on you can refer to them as dead bodies.

“What’s Buster doing?  Oh, just burying a dead body in the backyard to save for later.”

“I had to get Fido a dead body so he’d stop eating my shoes.”

“Rufus hates being left home alone, but if you leave him with a dead body as a treat he does much better.”

Sadly, this is still not as exciting as the time I found a skull in Chicago.***

 

*Whether or not I can tell the difference between a bone and twisted piece of metal is an entirely different story.

** Or maybe it’s just me?

***True story!  And no, not a human skull.  It was probably a deer skull…. but it was just randomly in a locker in the train station.  For realz.  It was a little before Halloween and I was having  a party so I brought it back home with me.  I was maybe 12?   And possibly a bit different from other middle school girls….

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