This is basically the mantra for the bathroom. The vinyl is nasty, the wood is in sorry shape, and the wall color is just plain unfortunate. Because I don’t know when we’ll have the budget for a full gut job I’m pretty much painting every square inch of this room.
After I tackled repairing the window trim, I moved on to demo-ing the closet shelves. Their configuration was bizarre and they’d be annoying to paint around. Unfortunately as I removed them I notice the paint on the inside of the closet was peeling badly. Bad news: it will probably need to be skim coated. Good news: it’s the inside of a closet so I probably can’t fuck it up too badly.
Luckily, skim coat or not, priming everything was the first step. Ok, second step. First I scraped off all the really lose bits with a putty knife and filled in what I could with spackle and then primed everything in sight.
Doesn’t that already look so much better? The beigey vinyl was absolutely disgusting and even just seeing it primed makes a huge difference! The tub base got primed too since it is certainly not staying it’s previous dirty-beige color.
Personally I think it’s easier to paint trim first. My dad disagrees so this is a clearly a personal preference thing. Coat #2 for me though was all the vinyl and trim. You don’t need to worry about a clean edge, just a smooth edge. Basically any paint you get onto the next surface you’re going to paint make sure you feather out so you don’t see brush lines or blotches. The trim, vinyl, and closet interior are all Clark + Kensington (satin) tinted to Benjamin Moore Simply White (mostly because I had it to use up… I was unimpressed with Clark + Kensington for trim*). The trim did get a second coat of Benjamin More Advance too.
Aaaaannd now for some blue (Behr tinted to Benjamin Moore’s Opal Essence to be exact). MAN this was a long time coming! This is just a sneak peak for you. The bathroom’s not quite done yet–we have a new vanity and faucet to install, closet shelves to rebuild, and additional shelving to add.
Up next we tackle our pretty dismal counter space issue.
*Still love it for walls though–that and Behr are my go-to for walls, but BM Advance has won my heart for trim, cabinetry, and furniture.
Besides patching the giant fracking hole in the wall there were a few other areas that needed some TLC before we could paint. The most noticeable of these was chunk of window trim that someone cut out to fit in that nasty old light fixture.
We’ve acquired a number of random wood scraps from other projects and luckily the 1×2’s were the perfect depth for the trim. Unfortunately they were just a hair too wide… and the only power saw we have is a miter saw. No sane person is going to put their fingers that close to the blade to shave a 1/4″ off of a 1×2. I could have picked up a hand saw, but it would still be difficult to safely hold a piece of wood that narrow while cutting. Instead I screwed a few pieces of wood together to lengthen the piece I needed to cut and keep my fingers well away from the blade.
The wood got cut and I still have all my fingers. Win. It’s a little too small, but I can hide a gap a lot more easily than I can hide a too-wide piece of wood.
Then I picked up a couple little strips of craft wood to mimic the raised edge detail on the out edge of the trim. It was a little too high so I used my palm sander to knock it down a bit.
After that it was a just a matter of evening everything out with wood filler.
The only thing left to do now is paint it since there’s no way you can stain over this patch job and have it look good. Luckily I wanted white trim anyway.
There was more work still to be done on the window frame though. When we moved it we ripped out some glass shelves that were built in across the window. This left some glue residue behind and exposed some foam insulation along the window frame. Not so great to paint over.
I started by sanding off the glue residue. Next I cut down some quarter round to hide the exposed insulation. Based on the other windows in the house there should be a larger piece of trim here (that would actually cover all the damaged wood) but I didn’t think I could find something that would work without a lot of custom cuts and routing and I just don’t currently have the equipment for that.
We pulled off the closet door earlier too, opting for a curtain instead (the cat box is in the closet so it needs to be very easily accessible). Unfortunately the hinges were glued in place so we had more glue residue to contend with. I scraped and sanded the glue off, but left the holes. The curtain should hide them well enough and if we (or future owners) decide to swap the door back in it will be way easier.
I also ripped out the old shelves in the closet since they’re rather haphazard. The closet’s getting painted too and I’ll be putting up new shelving so it looks more organized. I’ve also added the person who installed these shelves and painted over the screws eleventy-billion time to the People I Want to Punch list. There’s a fair amount of peeling paint I’ll need to scrap off the walls too. Urgh.
Everything else was just a matter of patching the normal holes, cracks, and gaps that you encounter when painting.
In our quest to replace all the light fixtures in our house we’ve run into some interesting… situations. In the bathroom we discovered an existing hole in the wall once we removed the medicine cabinet and old light fixture. In our bedroom we, once again, had no electrical box, couldn’t mount one where the existing hole in the ceiling was, so had to put a new hole in our ceiling for the electrical. When we moved in there was also some existing awfulness by the window on our stair landing, so this weekend we had 3 different repair/patch situations to deal with.
Removing the old make-up mirror in the bathroom left more than a couple screw holes. It looks like they painted around it multiple times so there was actually a depth change in the wall too.
What you need
Flexible putty knife
Start by cleaning up the existing surface. In the case of flaking paint, try and take off all the loose stuff you can. For holes just make sure there’s no unevenness (especially with plaster walls since they can sometimes bubble when you try and screw into them).
Next, cover the hole, dent, divet, whatever with a thin layer of spackle. Use the putty knife to smoosh in the spackle then drag the blade of the knife even against the wall to scrape off excess. Like spray paint, the trick is working in thin layers.
Once the first layer has dried, use your putty knife to lightly scrape off any ridges and sand down any noticeably high points. Then add another thin layer and repeat. You’ll probably use around 3 layers, so don’t try and gob a ton of spackle on all once.
Once you think you’re done, run your hand over the area to make sure. You may feel lumps and bumps you didn’t see and they’ll stand out more once you paint. Sand/spackle as needed until everything feels nice and smooth. Then you just need to prime and paint and voila!
If you have a larger hole, spackle alone isn’t going to cut it. Maybe a doorknob tried to show your wall who was boss. Maybe your teenagers had an unauthorized rowdy party. Maybe the idiots who wired your house didn’t believe in electrical boxes and you need to patch the old hole where the wiring came in.
What you need
Spackle or joint compound
Flexible putty knife
The steps are pretty similar to patching small holes, but you need to cover up the hole first because there is no way you’re going to fill it solid with spackle. You can find wall patches at your hardware store in a variety of sizes. They’re pretty much an adhesive mesh over an aluminum panel so they’ll stick over the hole and then you spackle over them.
The trick here is to gradually feather out from the patch since it’s going to be slightly higher than the surrounding wall. Again, build up thin layers until everything’s hidden and smooth.
Once the ceiling gets repainted it will disappear completely, but even now you can’t notice it unless someone points it out to you.
Dude, you got this. It looks scary, but it’s not that bad. Even if you have plaster walls.
What you need
Drywall (Home Depot sells 2’x2′ squares, Menards sells random sizes for patching… other places probably do too)
Stiff putty knife/5-in-1 tool or drywall saw (depending on your wall type)
Paint stir stick/thin scrap wood (optional)
Wood glue (optional)
Flexible putty knife
When you have a hole this big they don’t make adhesive patches big enough so you’ll need to fill it with drywall.
Safety note: make sure you know if there are any electrical wires behind the area you’re patching since you do not want to accidentally cut or drill through them.
Start by evening out the edges of the hole so it’s rectangular. If you have drywall you can cut out the rough edges with a drywall saw easily. If you have plaster walls… it takes some more effort. This video can probably explain it better than I can. It’s a little putzy and time consuming (and dusty!) but not incredibly difficult.
Cut (really score with a utility knife and snap) your drywall patch to fit your new, squared hole and screw it into place. If you’re missing lath or not near a stud you may have to create a surface to screw into with some scrap wood. Again, there’s already a video that should help explain that better than me. He’s patching a pretty small hole, but the concept’s the same.
We had to cut a hole for the wiring too. I traced the electrical box in the right spot, drilled holes along the perimeter, then used a drywall saw to cut it all the way out. The drilled holes just make it easier to cut a rounded shaped, if you’re cutting out a square you probably just need the saw.
Tape the edges with an adhesive mesh tape and feather out those edges just like you did for a smaller patch. We ended up taking off more plaster so we could expose some more stable laths to mount the drywall on.
Still working on this one since it will take some effort to completely hide a hole that big, but by the time we paint you’ll never even know it was there.
*Ok, so I used the same wall patch spackle I used on the bedroom ceiling… time will tell if I royally flubbed it.
A couple weeks ago we started tackling some of the upstairs light fixtures. The vanity fixture I ordered for the bathroom finally arrived and the bedroom ceiling fan was making some unpleasant grinding noises (and wobbled when you pulled on the cords) so we decided those 2 were up next.
We started in the bedroom and dismantled our sad old fan.
No one will miss it.
I got a little excited at first because there was modern wiring! Modern wiring! There would be an electrical box! This would be as easy as it should be! Right?
There was modern wiring, but no electrical box and the new fan was significantly heavier than the wussy little old fan. Shit. We’d have to do this right.
The good news was that since we were on the second floor we had ceiling access through our unfinished attic. The bad news was that the way the joists and other supports were configured left no space to mount an electric box over the existing hole. So we had to cut a new hole in our ceiling. Joy.
Cutting a hole in old lath and plaster (with a crappy saw no less) is mildly terrifying. At least it was for me as I stood underneath and started yelling at Matt to stop what he was doing because some hairline cracks started to form. The take-away here? Just buy a good saw already.
We did successfully cut a hole in the ceiling AND securely mount an electrical box. After that installing the fan was pretty easy.
Much better! I agonized over a ceiling fan for he bedroom for a while (like I agonize over nearly all lighting choices). The ceiling fan was a must since we don’t have A/C and I don’t sleep well if I’m too warm. I eventually settled on the Hampton Bay Havana ceiling fan from Home Depot. I usually think the fake palm blades are a little kitschy, but something about this one just seemed nicely textural without totally screaming tacky Palm Beach hotel.
Up next was the bathroom. That fugly vanity light HAD to go. During our demo process we discovered the medicine cabinet was hiding a hole in the wall and the light fixture was hiding even more of a hole in the wall.
And an absolute cluster fuck of wires. You can’t really see what’s going on here, but there are 3 hot wires, 4 neutral wires, and 2 grounds for a single light fixture. There was some crazy splicing happening to get everything hooked up to power and to the light switch above the sink.
We also had to enlarge the hole in the wall so we could center the new fixture the best we could and, you guessed it, install an electrical box. It was a giant headache and we were left with a big honking hole in the wall that needed patching (more on that later) but once again we had a HUGE improvement over the the existing light (even if it’s a little crooked at the moment).
We went with the Contour Double Sconce from West Elm and I may order another on the these for the downstairs bathroom cuz I kind of adore it.
You know how I was all gung-ho about the bathroom makeover a few weeks ago? You might be wondering what all I’ve accomplished.
Well, ok, I painted the radiator and we replaced the vanity light (with a new crooked vanity light that will need to be re-positioned ), but other than that, absolutely nothing… and given how long ago I started this it does really feel like nothing.
Yup, that’s right. I caught the plague or mono or malaria or something* and it lingered forever. Even after I thought I was better it came back with a vengeance and I had to take another sick day from work. I was utterly exhausted constantly and one of my co-workers tried to convince me I might be pregnant (spoiler alert: I’m not). So yeah, I was barely getting off the couch much less tackling the bathroom. Then the first weekend I was back to normal we skipped town to visit family (and attend a friend’s baby shower. A comic book themed baby shower with no stupid games. This is why we’re friends).
Once I finally felt alive again we started working on reinforcing our windows (they’re triple paned so super heavy and awesomely sound-proof, but the upper sash is only supported by some plastic pieces which have started to give way) and getting the porch painted before it’s too cold
Now we have a giant hole we need to patch around the new light (thanks for nothing previous homeowners) and THEN we’ll probably actually started painting.
*I actually still have no clue what I had except that it wasn’t strep. After over a week of a killer sore throat and general malaise I was really hoping it would be so antibiotics would actually make it all better. No such luck, I just had some sort of wait-it-out viral awfulness.
Light fixtures that will need to be re-positioned: 1
Wires wrangled: 9*
Holes put into the ceiling (intentionally): 1
Hole put into the ceiling (unintentionally): 0
Outlets/Switches replaced: 3
Excursions into the attic: 5
Days without power to most of the upstairs: 2
Boxes of light fixtures destined for garbage: 3
Boxes of light fixtures that someone may actually want: 1
Bandaids used: 7**
Electrical fires started: 0
Bake Sale goods eaten by cats: 1***
* 4 hots, 5 neutrals… I have no idea what’s happening in this house
**Mostly because Matt got a bunch of blisters from excessive screwdriver use (and then kept replacing them as they loosened from more excessive screwdriver use), and one because I managed to impale my index finger with a screwdriver and then started hysterically announcing to Matt that I wasn’t going to the hospital (I don’t handle needles well), thankfully it wasn’t actually that bad and a bandaid seemed to be a sufficient fix.
***It was a cheddar jalapeno biscuit I picked up for Matt since my department does a big bake sale fundraiser every year. We left it out on the table when we went to dinner and came to find one of the cats (most likely Spencer) had chewed through the baggie it was in and devoured it, jalapenos and all. This is the cat that loves Indian food and once was the reason I had to call the vet to ask if pine nuts are toxic to cats since he ate about a tablespoon+ after we left a dish on the counter while cooking and didn’t think they need to be guarded. Schmutz on the other hand tends to eat carpet fuzzies near dinner time to prove that she’s about to starve to death.
We were actually pretty productive this weekend, although it was mostly smaller putzy projects with no real photo value, so here are the weekend stats:
Air conditioners removed: 2
Air conditioners that fell out of the window:* 1
Trips to Home Depot: 1
Rugs purchased: 1
Giant mums potted: 3
Shelves assembled: 2
1 x 2 x 8’s purchased: 15
Boards cut: 34
Windows reinforced: 17
Feet of trim painted: 90
Cat prints left in fresh paint: 9
Cats found guilty of walking in fresh paint: 2
Feet of worthless cable removed: 200
Cat puke found on brand new rug: 0**
Hello Kitty bandaids used: 2
Naps taken: 3
*I lifted the sash before Matt had actually stabilized the unit so gravity took hold at this point and it crashed onto our porch roof (because of course this happened with the one on the second floor). Matt made a spectacular Indiana Jones type save and grabbed the cord that went flying by, then hauled it back into the house before it continued on into the ground. Hopefully it will still work next year…
**This has got to be some kind of record for our cats. I swear it’s like their way of marking their territory.
We knew when we bought the house that the existing boiler was elderly and probably not going to last much longer. We had someone come out for a maintenance estimate to see if we could get it to limp along for a couple more years and they discovered that it was leaking carbon monoxide. Aw hell no. It was fairly slow leak (and only when the boiler was on so we haven’t been at risk in the hot summer months we’ve been here) but it was probably only going to get worse and that’s not something you want to mess with. Like at all. That combined with the fact that even just triaging the damn thing would have been pretty pricey we just opted for a full replacement. yay….
I was up at stupid-early-for-my-day-off o’clock this morning, the cats got locked in the bedroom, and we had the boiler guys making all kinds of noise in the basement. I don’t envy that job at all, it seems super labor intensive and REALLY dirty. Schmutz was also just starting to become fully adjusted to the new house (and didn’t run away when the HVAC guys knocked on the door) but I think today may have set her back a bit since she spent most the time curled up in the corner of my closet.
The good news though is that in replacing the boiler they moved it from a rather annoying location (where the venting caused a pretty low clearance to the “workshop” corner of the basement) to a nice out of the way corner. This also fixed the venting issues the previous boiler had AND they cleaned up the venting on our water heater at the same time.
The pretty cool news is that we also got the Nest thermostat. I was intrigued as soon as I started reading reviews/blog posts on it a while back and Matt got intrigued once some friends of ours (who also have boiler + radiators for heating) installed it. The HVAC company who did our install warned us they have encountered problems when it’s hooked up to a boiler/radiator system instead of a furnace/forced air system but our friends haven’t run into any trouble so we decided to go for it and see what happens.
We are now ready for winter! And since it’s September in MN that could really start any day now… nrgh
My dad and step-mom came into town over the weekend to see our place to help us out with some projects. My dad is kind of awesome (HI DAD!) and super handy and good with the problem solving necessary for old goofy houses. Our project for the weekend was light fixtures. Pretty much every light fixture in our house I want to replace, but I’ve never changed a hard-wired fixture before since I’ve only ever had apartments. I figured I could learn how to do it through the power of You Tube, but it would be way easier to have someone here walking me through.
Sometimes I do actually make smart life choices.
The first light fixture we tackled was the family room ceiling fan which by far the most depressing of the 3. We had also been unable to use the fan feature since the fixture was hanging out of the ceiling a good inch so we were not terribly confident in how well it was attached. We also figured it would be the most difficult to deal with.
We were right.
The concern was that the electrical box in the ceiling would not actually be rated for ceiling fans. The problem ended up being there was not actually an electric box in place. Nope. Instead there big ol’ screw in a ceiling joist that the fixture was hanging from. Awesome. I don’t actually have pictures of this step since I guess I was mildly in shock, but these are the pieces we pulled out:
The good news was that with the joist right there we had a really solid mounting surface. I’m not really going to go into detail about what we did because it’s one of those things is not technically up to code (although still an improvement over what was there) so I don’t really want to encourage people. But let’s be honest here, in an old home sometime you gotta do what you gotta do.
There was also a decent amount of ceiling damage that the previous medallion was covering. I hadn’t planned on putting a ceiling medallion in the family room, but at this point it seemed like the easiest solution and I was ok with it.
Better already. At this point we could actually install the damn fan. Word of advice for old home owners, the hot and neutral wires may not be color-coded so you want to make sure which is which (our existing fan had the hot and neutral reversed… joy). Everything else was following the instruction manual that came with the fan. Putzy and annoying, but not ungodly difficult.
Ta-da! Much much better. The light patterns from the water glass are a little crazy and it kind of turns into a disco in here when the fan is on so we’re going to try and find some more diffuse bulbs. This fan was also the last of its kind within 100+ miles of us. I was scouring websites trying to find a ceiling with a some-what vintagey feel (nearly impossible) and finally found this one at Menards and had to drive out to Apple Valley to snag their last one on clearance.* It’s a Turn of the Century Cosmos 52″ fan in satin nickel. The blades were faux birch on one side and silver on the other, so I just painted them white. It looks a little stark in the room at the moment so it may get another mini-facelift down the road.
The two other ceiling fixtures we tackled also had two more radically different mounting situations.
The living room was also lacking an electrical box AND there was what appeared to be a gas pipe (from when the house probably had gas lighting) jutting out of the hole. There was also a third random wire which in any sort of normal situation would have been the ground wire, but I think I’ve already established that we’re pretty far removed from normal in this house. (The picture make the wires look a frayed and scary, but they were actually in surprising good shape, just dusty)
Even though we were pretty sure the gas pipe was no longer connected to anything we didn’t want to mess with it so we went back to the hardware store (again) to get a different electrical box (technically an extender since it had an open back). We also had to saw a chunk out of the ceiling medallion to have it fit around the new electrical box that would be sticking out of the ceiling a bit.
Then we had to run to a hardware store (yet again) to get a 100 watt equivalent candelabra bulb** since the single bulb in the living room is kind of wussy and we wanted the bulb in before we finished assembling the fixture.
Voila! Matt was skeptical about the crazy mod MASKROS light in our fairly traditional (architecturally) home, but I think everyone was pretty impressed with the end result.
Fixture #3 was the entry light. The existing light was this boring old (tiny) globe.
Not awful, but not so nice either. Enter IKEA once again. I loooove their VANADIN ceiling light. Pretty simple, still interesting, cheap, and most definitely not a boob light. It also has a vintagey vibe. Win.
When we took this light down there was actually an electrical box in place. WOOT! And color-coded hot/neutral wires! There was even a ground wire! Craziness! ….Only the electrical box wasn’t exactly attached to anything. Luckily there were screw holes in the base of the VANADIN so we were still able to solidly attach that to the ceiling with drywall screws.
This one was hands down the easiest out of the three fixtures we tackled, but nothing was 100% as straightforward as it should have been so it took the whole weekend to change out three lights. We also answered the slightly lesser asked question of “How many people does it take to change a light fixture.” Answer: 4 people, 2 days, and 5 trips to the hardware store.
* The lighting department guy is possibly my hero and also quite probably thinks I’m just slightly unhinged. I called to make sure the store still had it and how much it was since the website didn’t list the price. $80. “I’LL BE THERE IN 20 MINUTES!” *click*
** The only 100 watt equivalent candelabra bulb we found was at Lowes and the closest one to us was in West St Paul. Nearly every frickin’ road our GPS tried to direct us down was closed. And then we went the wrong way on the expressway on our way home. It was an adventure… or something.
You may have noticed I’ve mentioned our tub faucet a couple times without any actual closure. Our existing faucet is leaky as hell so we decided to replace it. Also the shower curtain rod was was too small for the tub (a little narrow and about a foot too short). We even got all fancy and splurgey and found this complete set (faucet/shower/curtain surround) at Vintage Tub and Bath because I figured if we were going to do it, let’s do it right.
The new faucet arrived the day before we left for Europe. We somehow got it into our crazy heads to try and install it that night so the faucet wouldn’t be dripping the whole time we were gone. Two hardware store runs later we discovered we couldn’t actually turn the water off. There’s no shut of at the tub and the main house shutoff wouldn’t budge and we were afraid of breaking it. So we called a plumber to replace the shutoff valves.
All right! Let’s do this thing!
We tackled the kitchen faucet last weekend and were going to do the bathroom at the same time… only when we went to start disconnecting everything we discovered that there are no actually hex nuts connecting the pipes to the faucet so our wrench was rather useless. We had to give in at this point since it seems like the only way to disconnect everything was to cut the pipes and redo the connections. We’re at least smart enough to know that is probably beyond our skill level at the moment so we had to call a plumber again, this time to replace a faucet. Argh…. this should have been a pretty simple DIY job but our quirky house has conspired against us.
This morning the plumber came and nearly didn’t do the work. Our old faucet was not up to code (faucet below the spill the line) and our new faucet didn’t fix this issue (since this is hard to on a clawfoot where the faucet is mounted to the tub wall). Plus, St Paul is trying to change their codes to get rid of 2 handled shower faucets because apparently there’s a risk of scalding (????). We’re not worried about either of these issues since A) the spill line issue is only an issue if you have sewage backing up into the faucet (and contaminating your drinking water) which we’re not terribly concerned about on the second floor (and we haven’t found a record of this ever actually happening) and B) scalding could only be a possible issue if your water heater is set hot enough which ours is most certainly not. Ultimately we had to sign a waiver but we now have a non-leaky (and gorgeous!) faucet and shower head! … and a stupid-expensive plumber bill. Nrghhh.
Expensive, but oh-so pretty! And much more authentic to the house! Granted, nothing else in the bathroom besides the tub are terribly authentic to the house (more like authentic to the 70’s-80’s), but I’m working on it!
The new shower head sits significantly higher than the old one and can definitely comfortably fit even the tallest people I know (and I know some crazy tall people).
We also ended up with this….er… beauty. If we had anticipated this we could have ordered nice looking connections. But then, if we had anticipated all of this we might have just asked the plumber to repair the existing faucet. The good thing here is that the shower curtain hides it pretty well.
Unrelated: I’ve been home sick all day, pumping myself full of pain killers/fever reducers and vitamin C and really just trying to sleep it off. Apparently I get some trippy dreams while sick. This time my house was invaded by a squirrel that both my stupid boy cat and my cousin’s six year old son tried to befriend. The Bloggess was my neighbor and was giving me gardening advice, like growing carrots in bathroom vanity drawers and trying to keep renegade kale from taking over the yard. Then my Dad and step-mom came over and we went to the Gay 90’s (not exactly NSFW, but possibly mildly questionable for work) to watch the drag show but ended up playing a bizarre Clue-like game (involving the Waco, TX siege) instead. The really sad thing is I can see exactly how my sub-conscious arrived at about 99% of this.