Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Things not on our X-Mas list

I finally spent a second catching up on a couple of blogs, and found this great post on one of my favorite blogs: 15 Stocking Stuffers for DIY'ers.

Wow, we ARE house freaks, because: a) we already have ALL if the things on the list (except the nail nippers, which look AWESOME, FYI, and the sticky zippers, because we've been lucky to have doors where we need to shut things off), and b) I immediately recognized the utility of the headlamps - we've used them many times this way. No explanation needed.

Sadly, for our families, our holiday lists are full of incredibly specific items like: a 3/8 x 3/8 mortising bit to build rail & stile panels for the mud room seat; an assortment of antique-looking brass slotted screws, oval head and flat head (can never have enough); about 20 feet of a particular gauge of new, vintage style lighting wire from Sundial Wire....

Aw, heck, just get Lee Valley or Home Depot gift cards. Who wants to go searching for that crazy crap?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mission (somewhat) accomplished

The plan was to get the kitchen tile backsplash in this weekend. Well, the windows still needed a bit of glazing, so they're not entirely in, so we weren't ready to affix the windowsill, so we had to wait to tile all the way around.

NEVETHELESS, we got way ahead on many other jobs.

  • Microwave cabinet casing is in, most of the trim is up, and it looks awesome!

  • Bought and cut chair rail for top of wainscoting (painting & installing: next weekend?)

  • Wine rack area installed, 2 tiny trim pieces to go, but it's successfully holding the leftover thanksgiving wine right now. (Yes, there was leftover wine).

  • Backsplash is indeed tiled behind the stove! Successful test of the tile fit & installation. Phew!

Please excuse the crooked picture. As you can see, it was early & the coffee was still being made. No straight pictures till 10 am.

So the kitchen will absolutely be done by X-Mas. Wahoo!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, BT! (and a brick story)

Today is a faithful reader (and all around fabulous woman)'s birthday, so in honor of this auspicious day, a story I think she'll find funny.

So, we've been hunting for free, old bricks for our patio project next summer. (Note: My best friend: "Where the hell do you find old bricks?"; Me: "People just have them lying around their yards".) So every time I go anywhere, I'm scanning for bricks.

A few months ago, we noticed that a new Chinese Restaurant in our old neighborhood had a pile of bricks by the side of the building. Two side notes: (1) this place is called "No. 1 Restaurant", so of course the running joke is that we're thrilled it's not the unfortunate "No. 2 Restaurant", and (2) this used to be a slightly creepy video store we used to walk to. Eew.

The other day I found myself early for an appointment and in that neighborhood, so I figured, what the heck, I'll just go ask if I can have those bricks. They were sitting there for a long time, apparently useless.

Curtains rise. Girl walks into Chinese restaurant. Woman on phone, talking in Chinese, motions to paper menus on counter. Girl looks at menu briefly (knowing she won't order from the former video store), and goes to the drink fridge, pulling out a water and pretending not to wait for the woman to get off the phone.

Woman [in Chinese, asks person on line to hold on a moment], juts chin toward girl as if to ask - what do you want?

Girl: I noticed you have a pile of old bricks outside, and I'm collecting old bricks for a project. If you want to get rid of those bricks, I'd like to take them.

Woman: [strange look], What? [Tells person on phone to hold on, in Chinese]

Girl: [motioning wildly, to act out a brick pile around the building], loudly, Sometimes people want to get rid of old bricks. You have a pile of bricks. Do you want them or can I take them?

Woman: [in poor English] Is that your car there? What's wrong?

...this goes on, until woman motions to young man in restaurant to watch the counter [spoken in Chinese] and follows girl out to brick pile. Girl explains again about bricks. Woman shakes head in dismay, goes back inside, girl follows. Woman sends young man out to figure out the situation. Girl follows young man to brick pile, explains. Young man furrows brow, goes back inside.

Woman goes back outside, followed by girl and young man, listens to question about bricks again (heavily aided by charade-like gesticulations), and finally woman says, "I used to think, 'keep', but now you take".

Girl: (motioning) Me take? OK? [OK signal with hand]

Woman: Yes [goes inside]

Girl pulls car around & loads bricks.

It was a great moment when (I think) the woman was admitting that she, too, was some sort of a pack rat, saving the bricks for something, but ready to let them go when a crazy girl asked for them.

So far, we have 36 more bricks but it's a big pile so we'll go get more now that we have permission. The next place we've found with a brick pile is in a pretty trashy neighborhood, so there ought to be a good story when we screw up the nerve to ask there, too.

Moral of story: was there one? Maybe it's 'hell, might as well ask'. We gets lots of stuff that way.

So on your birthday, BT, ask for the moon! And we hope you get it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who's lazy and who's NOT lazy

This is Henry. This is what Henry does about 90% of the time. Oh, sorry, in winter this is what he does. Normally he hugs the radiator, but it wasn't quite cold enough yet, so he had to dangle his feet off to regulate his temperature. Nice. In summer, he stares at us from his chosen chair on the porch, as if to say, what are you people still doing here? This is my porch! Amazingly, he's not particularly overweight or unhealthy. Everyone caters to his every need. He is unfazed by anything, including the visiting dog who was at this very moment trying to stare him down from just off-camera. Henry is lazy. Perhaps he's the definition of lazy.

Despite the lack of blogging over the past week AND the fact that everytime anyone asks how the kitchen is going, we say, "Going well. Putting up trim & finish work", we are NOT lazy. Our window glazing party is tonight and we've got all but 4 little strips of beadboard in. All of the trim is up and after touchups on that and finishing the windows, all we really have left is building the microwave cabinet, sanding and refinishing thresholds, putting on the chair rail, and tiling the backsplash, for which I've been reserving Thanksgiving vacation days. Wow, we're really almost done. I know you're all relieved, and probably as sick as we are of talking kitchen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Our southern doppelgangers

We got a comment on our pictures of the full moon, and found that some other housebloggers got even better pictures: . Nice!

Also check out their before pictures and commentary - although every stitch of our house was pink at some point, someone at least had the sense to paint it white. Wait - I hate that white paint! Wait - maybe it is better than white.

At least the squatter in our house left within a few hours of closing - reason number 52 to get a lawyer! But they appear to have hex tile in the bathroom. Now that's a close call - creepy squatter...hex tile??? Hmmm...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Window sashes: paint stripping 101

It's fall, and in the North, all thoughts turn to winterizing. That means windows: getting them all back in! (See also related series of posts at House in Progress). This weekend I broke the record for number of windows sashes stripped in a single weekend: 6 (3 windows worth). Whereas it used to take me about 8 hours per sash, I'm down to about 2 (excluding the time that I leave sashes with stripper on to soak in).

It struck me that although I responded to a question by a reader a while back about paint stripping, I've never put it on the blog. So as I stripped those sashes, I did the play-by-play photos. (Yes, I got a new camera charger). Following is the procedure we use, pasted from my response to the comment, and with window-specific details added. Note that I ALWAYS use citristrip on sashes - it works well, doesn't damage the glass, and it's my old standby. Other methods are better for other house parts (heat gun for trim, peel away when I'm tired of stripping, etc.) Also note that you should ALWAYS test what you're doing on a piece that will be hidden or that is not your favorite window - all the old materials and types of paint have their own personality & you need to first make sure that what you're using won't cause damage.

We use a variety of paint stripping methods, depending on the job and sometimes the mood! We assume everything is lead paint, so we never ever sand anything. We use a heat gun for starters, to get the big stuff off. This works really well in our house, because they painted right over the old shellac/varnish, and the heat gun basically heats up that shellac layer, and it slides right off with the paint. You can see the varnish on the back of a heat-gunned piece of paint, below.

Then I go back and clean up using a wet stripper - sometimes I use citristrip, sometimes peel away. If almost all of the paint is gone, I sometimes just scrub with a green scrubby pad (like scotch brite) and regular old rubbing alcohol - but you should test on a small section first because the alcohol can darken some woods, and if you have light wood, the green scrubby can stain it green! I would test everything, frankly. I always wear gloves and usually a respirator for fumes. You'll need lots of gloves - they get gross and splinters will puncture them, then you'll start leaking! Splinters are a serious issue - even with gloves I usually have lots that often don't come out for a while - I've had some real painful ones. I sometimes wear those rubber-dipped work gloves under my rubber stripping gloves if I'm getting a lot of stabs!
On windows, I always use citristrip. It's gloppy and gross, but it's my old standby and it works for our unique combo of old disgusting paints. I do them outside. We never take the chance of cracking window sashes with the heat gun, which is why I always strip those wet.
Step 1: apply the stripper. Let it sit. Often overnight. Just let it work, I'm telling you. Then gently scrape off the paint. Words to live by: just scrape off what slides off. Don't try to physically scrape. The wood gets soft with the stripper on and you will gouge it.
Step 2. Apply the stripper, again, if necessary. Often there is a particular layer of paint that is either on there really well or is a different type of paint than other layers, and it can act as a barrier. Get off what comes off the first time, then re-apply. After many times doing this, it is quicker and way easier than working really hard to get those last bits off with a scraper (and you damage the wood less). Then gently scrape that off. Either apply again or go to the next step.
Step 3: clean it up. However we get the majority of paint off, after that I clean up the little stubborn bits by scrubbing with wet stripper & green scrubby. Take your time here, scrape the little bits out of the corner now, because even though it's oh-so-tempting to say "I'll just sand them later", it's impossible to do that. Just get it all off while it's still goopy.
Step 4: really clean up. You can use alcohol & scrubby, or whatever the stripper manufacturer suggests. Your call. Get it clean, you'll probably have a bit of hazy residue but you want to get the stripper to stop working so things can dry out.
Step 5: Let it rest. I don't touch them again for a few days. The wood needs to dry our; it gets soft during the process. Plus you'll be sick of dealing with the windows. When you come back to them, they'll look pretty good. Then we do the world's quickest sanding with like 150-ish paper just to remove any stripper residue and smooth out if there were any splinters or raised grain (or wood filler for the millions of curtain rods they HAD to install), then tackcloth and finish. Woo hoo!
Oh, and in our case, now turn them over, fix all the exterior problems, reglaze, then re-finish all the rest of the window parts, THEN install. We're getting there, though.
Other tidbits of info: Peel away claims its ok for inside, so I use that on trim that isn't removed (if the heat gun wasn't appropriate for some reason, like carvings or places the heat gun won't go). You'll need a bunch of dental picks, scrapers, etc. to clean up some spots. A really dull chisel works well for a lot of things - it doesn't tend to accidentally gouge the wood. Wear clothes that you wouldn't mind throwing out. Sometimes it just gets too messy & gross, and if your paint is potentially lead, you'll want to kiss them goodbye. And - ventilation! This is all stinky and not the healthiest thing to do, so get yourself plenty of fresh air or do it outside.
Windows take PATIENCE. Repeat: PATIENCE. In fact it all does. When you first start you'll wonder how you'll ever finish, but you just have to keep plugging and take lots of breaks/come back to it later. I find that I actually kind of look forward to it now! The results are so satisfying, it is always worth it - we have beautiful flat-grain fir under there! If you can master pulling the trim out and working on it outside in a workshop/garage, it's much cleaner and easier that way. Disclaimer: I'm an amateur and I'm just telling you what we do, no implied warranties, etc. :)
There's nothing like a beautiful old wood window. They look and work great, you just have to get them cleaned up and tune them, and they're miles better than vinyl. But don't even get me started on that issue...
Sorry about the odd spacing on this post - I don't know what's up with it! Out of time to worry about it...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sugar buzz

We've finally figured out the correct candy amount for our neighborhood: 300 pieces. Enough for the trick or treaters plus some for us & the friends who come over to have pizza & frosty beverages on the porch and help us make fun of the kids. And people getting busted by the cops for speeding.

Sugar buzz...wearing off. This calls for more coffee.

Oh, p.s., to the grouchy parent who said "They don't have railings", yes, we KNOW. We're building them next summer. We were a bit busy last year putting in 2 bathrooms and a kitchen. If you want to help, bring it on, b----. And if your kids don't know to stay inside the aisle of flaming pumpkins, well, you've got some parenting to do.

p.p.s. - Free candy = no complaints allowed.