Not The Plan For The Weekend

This weekend was supposed to be simple, no strenuous projects.  Cut the grass, paint, and hang the 1st floor bathroom door.  Well I got the grass cut and after that was 7 hours of what has to be the most physically taxing work I’ve done in months.  I moved into the house with just the heat installed.  It was November, so AC wasn’t a necessity at that time.  My entire yard needs to be graded, but the area were the AC unit is going to be placed was particularly bad.  With every rain water would puddle in that area.  With hot weather approaching, instead of tackling the door, I tackled this area.

First priority was getting the drain pipe for the gutter deeper in the ground.  Last March my cousin Cameron and I ran PVC to connect the relocated downspout from the gutter to the original drain in the ground.  He dug down to the top of the clay pipe and we ran the PVC to it.  Unfortunately as the ground settled that pipe became exposed because we didn’t go deep enough.  We should have dug deep enough to remove the first clay pipe link.  That’s what I did Saturday.

This was one of the days I wish the weather forecast had been wrong.  I got to the original connection and was able to dig down to remove the next section of clay pipe (another 18″) before the rains came.  Digging the trench deeper, adding additional PVC to adjust for the deeper trench, and refilling the hole all occurred during a steady rain.

I was a muddy mess, so I don’t have a lot of pictures.  Before refilling the hole I dumped 4 bags of pea gravel in to help with elevating the dirt line.  I finished the project about 10p.  I was whipped and hungry.  I worked through dinner, but I was bound and determined to not have to deal with mud again the next day.  That tyvek suite has been deposited in the trash.

With the pipe fully covered now I could build the pad for the AC unit.  I have never poured concrete, so another new skill has been added repertoire.  After watching a few YouTube videos and talking with my go to handyman, Tom Milfeld, I decided to take this project on.  LADIES, we can do this.  I don’t know how many times I’ve prepared something in the kitchen that just needed you to add water and stir with no trepidation.  Well concrete is no different.  Just add water and stir.

20190428_130429First step was building a box.  My HVAC company had marked the spot with an orange box, so I’d know the location and size.  I had to go on memory because the rain and my digging project eliminated his markings.  Next step was making sure the box was level.  I made a 4″ thick frame, but in order for the box to be level the side closer to the house had to be elevated with stakes making it almost to 6″ deep.  That just confirmed how bad the pitch towards the house is and why I always got a pool of water in that area.

Quikrete’s website has a concrete calculator, so I would know how many bags to buy.  My box was roughly 40″ x 40″ and at a uniform 4″ depth that would need 7, 80 lb bags.  I bought 9 due to the deeper house side.  I got my wheel barrel out of storage, which became my giant mixing bowl and started mixing one bag at a time.  I ended up using 8.

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Even though it was Sunday I asked Tom if I could get just one hour of his time.  He arrived on bag 7 and brought the tool needed to smooth out the top.  For future reference I now know not to mix too loose.  He told me the water will evaporate and seep into the ground eventually, but he had to spend more time smoothing it out.  In a couple of days I’ll remove the wood frame.  I’m still sore and stiff, but my house is now ready to receive the AC unit.  Of course I had to leave a mark in the concrete, so in block letters I placed SGw/S – Sista Girl w/ Skills was here.

Humpty Dumpty

20170729_161028Stained glass frame was nailed to the wall
Stained glass frame broke into many pieces when removed prior to wrecking ball
All of Venus’ skills and help from Wood Shop Scottie
Helped put stained glass frame back together again.

The picture to the left was taken prior to demo.  I was able to get the stain glass out for repair without removing the frame, but when it came time for drywall I had no choice but to remove it also.  I started with a crowbar and the dried wood started cracking immediately.  I then pulled out my reciprocating saw and didn’t fair much better.  End result about 15 pieces.

Why I waited months after it came down to start putting it together I don’t know, but I didn’t start gluing pieces together until just weeks before my move.  The base of the frame was originally in two pieces; a right and left half to create the oval.  The outer trim was originally in four pieces, a top and bottom to each side, so basically my goal was to get back to 6 pieces and then down to the two halves.  I glued small pieces together first and used my pin nailer to hold them in place.  In the final stages of the project I regretted my over use of nails.  I should have invested in more clamps.  

With relative ease I got all the smaller pieces back together and I felt I was ready for stain, which I did before nailing the trim to the base.  On side the trim stayed in tack with the base except for a section where the base and trim had broken off.  The other side the base basically shattered, but the two pieces of trim stayed whole.  With the shattered half back together I was ready to reattach the trim and the top was a perfect fit.  The bottom trim did not and I assumed the weeks of separation and improper storage caused it to warp.  I did days of online research about bending wood, but ultimately decided to clamp it and slowly tighten.  When the trim met the base I filled it with nails and held my breath when I removed the clamps.  Initially huge success.  I turned my sights to the other half.

It appeared I had lost a small slither of would, so I got the brillant (NOT) idea of using 2-part epoxy to fill most of the void and then used a product called Quickwood, on top in hopes it would blend with the wood.  Quickwood is a putty epoxy that looks like a tootsie roll with the flavor in the center.  You cut off the amount you need, kneed it until the two colors are thoroughly mixed, and then press it into the area of repair. Once it was hard I sanded it down until it was smooth with the original surface.  The experiment worked and I had two halves ready for hanging, but they no longer lined up.  One side was about a half inch longer.  Time to take this project to the Wood Shop and ask Scottie for help.


I had to remove the trim again, which brought into realization that I used way too many nails.  Nails are a detriment to some tools in a wood shop so I had to work to get as many out 20190406_154320as possible.  Of course I broke a perfectly good section of the outer trim in the process.  Also the initial huge success I had with clamping and forcing the trim to bend created a stress crack on the base.  This project was taking many steps backwards.

Scottie decided my best option was to make the base one piece and had me go to Home Depot for mending plates which we screwed and glued to the back of the frame.  We also took a very sharp chisel and removed my epoxy experiment.  Turns out I probably had not lost the piece.  We used the stress crack and the re-separation of my epoxy mend to make sure the two halves met and secured the plate with screws and Gorilla glue at the seam.  He advised that I should let that sit overnight, so this project was going to take another week. 

Turns out at my next wood shop class I was a solo act, so we got to focus on the frame.  With the two sides meeting properly the next tackle was making sure the trim would fit.  Scottie has a great eye and was able to see if we shaved a little bit of one piece with a jigsaw and sand another part with the belt sander that everything would meet.  I did everything he suggested and we used two more mending plates and wood glue to secure my former epoxy spot and the new stress crack I created.  Another overnight drying period, so the finish would need to wait for open shop.

Everything dried and I finally had a complete frame.  I was good to go home and stain, but Scottie saw and knew that I could make it better by using the Quickwood to fill where I had slight separation at some of the mended spots and to fill the original and new nail holes I created.  He showed me the proper way to apply it, so I wouldn’t have to spend as much time sanding.  The trick is moist fingers to help smooth and push it into the crevices you’re trying to fill.  I was fearful of breaking it again, but I took his advice and spent the bulk of open shop fine tuning.

Once back home I added the Quickwood to a few more areas and sanded it more.  After sweeping away the heavy dust, I used a Gerson TACK cloth (my neighbor Bill hooked me onto these) to remove all the fine dust.  I applied a coat of Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (mainly because I had it and thought it couldn’t hurt) and then applied the custom Zar color stain, again.   I just stood back in awe, it was beautiful.  I decided to add a couple of coats of Minwax Polycrylic too.  I love working with that product and can’t wait to tackle my built-in.

While that dried it was time for me to deal with the drywall around the window casing.  It protruded beyond the casing, which meant I’d have a gap between the wall and the frame.  This situation is with most of the windows in the house.  Plaster could be spread to fill where it was needed, so some areas were thicker than others.  Drywall doesn’t give you that play, so I have some windows where it protrudes and others where it recesses. 

My favorite handyman, Tom Milfeld, just happened to see me in the yard, so I had him help me trace a line around the areas with the gaps and he suggested I use my Ridgid JobMax tool to remove the drywall and that is exactly what I did.  It actually created the perfect ledge for the frame to rest in, so hanging it by myself was really easy.  After getting the frame up I also put the back boards back around the built-in bench.  I can’t be more pleased with how this turned out.  Humpty Dumpty back together again.

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All But One

My beginner wood shop classes has lit a fire.  I got all, but one of the doors in my master suite restored and hung.  After finishing the linen closet and seeing how easy it cleaned up, I decided to pull the rest out as I thought they were all in pretty good condition and would be a quick project….or so I thought.  The one remaining door, water closet, will need to be painted.  It was a salvage door I purchased from Cincinnati Reuse Center already painted and not in the best condition.  For that reason it will be the only painted door in the master suite.

20190413_003808The last storage closet door was graffiti filled and carved into. The carving was too deep to sand out.  It was filled with an ink that did not budge with denatured alcohol or graffiti remover.  Unfortunately it’s the side of the door that is exposed to the room.  Another “character” mark in testimony to what my home has survived.

First step was cleaning the surface dust off with Murphy Oil Soap water.  The inside of the door was a piece of cake.  It just needed the Howard’s Feed-N-Wax.  In addition to the carvings the other side had graffiti and what looked to be dried egg.  The denatured alcohol and 000 steel wool removed the graffiti and egg with relative ease.  I followed it with the Howard’s Restor-A-Finish Maple-Pine applied with 0000 steel wool and then the Feed-N-Wax.

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The master closet door was another salvage door I got from Building Value Cincinnati.  It only needed cleaning and waxing before hanging with the pocket door hardware.  Trimming out the pocket door was the challenge.  Fortunately I had the door jamb from the kitchen swinging door.  The door was long gone, but I saved the jamb during demo.  The kitchen was the only room on first floor with the lighter stained doors.  The craftsmen that built my home actually stained the kitchen side of the jam light and the dining room side dark.  I had to rip that piece down to the right width, so I cut from the dark side.  I then sanded and applied Zar Early American stain to match the door.

This door had a regular door knob, but I was able to find two vintage knobs with face plates similar to the originals on Ebay.  I drilled an indentation in the jamb, so the latch recessed into it allowing the door to completely close.  It will never lock.

The door separating the bedroom from the bath was also fairly easy.  There was a small patch of graffiti on each side that I was able to remove with denatured alcohol.  Once removed this door just needed Howard’s Feed-N-Wax.  The jamb for this door was never removed and the door didn’t close because the hinges were rusted, so I didn’t know the jamb and door were not aligned.  My first finish carpenter could/should have caught it when he was installing the trim in the bathroom, so because he didn’t I will live with the gap.  More character of an old home.  The door still didn’t close due to the wood threshold that was on the floor.  I took it up and considered not putting it back, but their was obvious discoloration at that spot.  I took the piece to the Wood Shop and used their planer to reduce the thickness.  Already putting that membership to good use.

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The one thing I’ve noticed is that the short hall to the bathroom is dark.  I should 20190416_211931have put a light on the outside of the closet.  I believe it will be possible to add, but for now I’m placing my favorite lamp in the corner.  I bought that lamp for my first apartment,outside of school, for a short lived job I had in Detroit.  I really didn’t have a place for it, until now.  I will purchase a motion sensor outlet (asked the Google, found it on Amazon), so it will just come on when I walk past.

The last door, laundry room, was the most challenging.  This space was a small closet that I enlarged to accommodate the washer and dryer.  The original door was only 5′ tall, in great shape, but I couldn’t see myself stooping every time I wanted to do laundry.  20190408_192417Once again I was able to find the perfect door, in its jamb, at Building Value Cincinnati (I bartered the original for it, so it was practically free).  It was obvious the door had been in a fire.  It reeked of smoke. One side was more severe than the other; the years of varnish/finish actually blistered, which probably protected the door.  I decided to sand this side of the door vs. stripping.  No pros or cons, I just thought sanding would be faster, which proved to be correct.  I had the door sanded, cleaned, and stained with the Zar Stain within an hour.

In hindsight I should have done the denatured alcohol step before applying the stain, but I just assumed this door was going to be slightly darker than the others based on the other side.  Turns out that darkness was just soot as when I wiped it with my denatured alcohol soaked steel wool it revealed a much lighter door, same shade as others.  With the small wipe I was forced to clean the entire door, which used up a few pieces of steel wool.  What came up was a mixture of soot and old varnish, but once all removed the door was beautiful.  I used the Howard’s Restor-a-Finish Maple-Pine and once hung rubbed on a coat of Howard’s Feed-N-Wax.  I was able to use the original knob and face plate.

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Here’s a warning and shared lesson learned.  I worked on these doors three days in a row, working until 2-3 in the morning the first two nights.  I have not suffered any serious injuries while working on my house, but with the laundry room door I came very close to loosing my left eye.

Hanging doors by yourself is easy when you separate the hinges.  I have been soaking my rusty hinges in vinegar (see YouTube, a DIYers Resource post) and have successfully been able to remove the pins.  The pins on the laundry room door put up a fight.  I used vice grips and got the bottom knob off, but the pin, even though the hinge had movement, wouldn’t come out.  It was about 1 am and I got the NOT so brilliant idea of clamping the hinge to a pallet (I need to install the vice grip I bought for my bench) so I could use a screwdriver and a small sledge hammer to tap it out.  Hand on screwdriver and some pretty hard whacks and nothing.  I released the screw driver and double fisted the hammer and came down as hard as I could.  The screwdriver ricocheted out and somehow flipped up and went straight up my left nostril.  Instant nose bleed, no geyser.  My hands were filthy and I had no clean rags in basement, so I cupped my hands under my nose to minimize the trail of blood to my kitchen where I washed my hands and grabbed paper towels.

It took about 30 minutes to get the bleeding under control and the leech-like clots to stop.  My face was aching, but I was bond and determined at that point to hang the door, which I did before going to bed with a cotton round saturated with Neosporin stuck up my nose.  The next morning, a Sunday, there was only a runny nose level of bleeding with less pain, so I went to church.  I did get in to see my doctor on Monday where I updated my tetnus (was two years out from needing it) and was referred to an ENT, who confirmed no serious injury.

First time I appreciated my big nose (you can laugh).  Do not EVER try that yourself.

Dead Space to Closet Space

There is one TOTALLY complete area in my house, the master bathroom linen closet.  I’ve been psyching myself out.  The piles of trim and moulding in my basement has had me overwhelmed, so I’ve been avoiding it until this week.  If all the trim reinstall goes this smoothly I’ll be the happiest DIYer on the planet.

For those that have not been following the entire journey or if you need a refresher, the linen closet in my master bath was dead space behind walls that was revealed during demo.  Thanks to Pinterest I got the brilliant idea to replace this crawl space closet (I have two others that are even bigger) by inserting a dresser into the wall, see inspiration, in my master bedroom.  This meant I was able to relocate the door and moulding  and use it to create the linen closet in the bathroom.  I had to patch the missing floor and frame out a wall to create the space.  Check out the picture slideshow at the bottom of Have I Said Lately How Much I LOVE Restoring This House post.

The moulding and shelve brackets from that closet have been sitting in my master floor, with nails still in them waiting to puncture my foot, since December.  I thought it would be quick pull them out, use my tried and true Restor-A-Finish clean-up method, and nail them up in new closet.  Unfortunately I learned that the new closet was actually wider by 6.5″, so the shelve and moulding would be too short.  What to do?????

20190319_200734Three weeks ago I started taking a Beginner’s Woodworking Class at Wavepool located in my neighborhood.  I joined the wood shop too, so I’ll have access to tools I don’t have and an expert to help me with my ambitious future woodworking projects (a desk,  dining table, headboard, and refreshment stand).  In the first two weeks we covered tools I’ve used regularly, but thanks to Scotti, our instructor, I learned better or proper techniques and I got inspired to start tackling my moulding projects.

20190401_213830I started by hanging the shelve brackets.  I didn’t concern myself about the gaps on the end of each center bracket because there was still more than enough support for the shelve.

To clean up the brackets, I just used Murphy Oil Soap and water.  The moulding I cleaned with the denatured alcohol in preparation for the Restor-A-Finish, but they didn’t look like they needed it.  Instead I wiped them down with Howard’s (same company for the Restor-A-Finish) Feed-N-Wax.  This company makes an awesome line of products.  The Feed-N-Wax worked GREAT, so much so that I used it on the door too as it was in far better condition than other doors I’ve restored.  I will most likely do this process (Oil Soap to remove dust and Feed-N-Wax) on more doors in similar condition.

The closet is wider, so I needed to extend the floor moulding center piece and for that I used a piece of the moulding that was on the opening (door) side.  I decided to not trim out the inside of the door, which freed up some extra moulding.

To extend the moulding I cut one end of the long piece to a 45 degree angle and glued the 6.5″ extension, also cut at a 45 degree angle to it.  I used a product called Insta-Bond, that my carpenter, Tom Milfeld, told me about.  I’m not 100% sold on this product; I’m batting 50/50 on it holding, but it held on this and you can barely tell where the splice meets.

Next up the shelves.  Only one of the two were still in the house and unlike the brackets I could not use the original due to the bracket design.  Instead I went to Home Depot and bought a 4′ x 8′ sheet of pine ply-wood and had them cut it in half and down to 64″ in length (only way to get it in my car, otherwise I would have taken it to Wavepool to cut).  To make the front edge look finished, I also purchased 1/4″ x 3/4″ pine moulding that I glued and pin nailed to the plywood.  I thought I wanted extra wide shelves, given I will only have two, but once I saw the first in the space I decided to rip it down to 18″.  Still 2″ wider than original.  After a dry fit they were ready for staining.  Tip (I did not do and should have): sand the pine moulding after it’s installed.  1) to get rid of any glue residue and 2) that brand seems to have a waxy film on it that does not absorb stain well, which I knew from past projects.  I was just eager to get this done and didn’t take the extra time.

I used Zar wood stain in Early American that I bought from Sherwin Williams for the kitchen built-in.  This was a great way to see if I had been recommended the right color and I believe it is, so I’m anxious to start working on the built-in again.  Britt Sang, door painter/stainer, used Minwax Polyacrylic on the inside of my front door and gave me the leftovers.  I decided to use it on the shelves, just to protect them a bit. I had never used this product, but will use it again on the built-in.  It was very easy to use and, unlike oil-based polyurethane products I’ve used, did not smell and dried fast.  I applied three coats, sanding lightly with 220 grit sandpaper between each coat.  It only needed 2 hours of drying time between coats, so this part was done in a day.

They recommend allowing 24 hours before actual use, but I placed in the closet and throw in two sachets of lavender to hopefully nix the faint chemical smell.  I did wait before placing my contents.  Thrilled with the end results and re-energized to tackle more.

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