Plinths Installation

Original Plinth

My next few post are all about playing catch-up with projects that have happened or are ongoing at the house. Several weeks ago I made a post called “What Is A Plinth”. I had purchased two Ekena Millwork – Diane plinths from Amazon to practice on. I bought two because my first thought was to glue them back to back to create the thickness of the original plinth. That would mean I’d need a total of 16. Instead I pulled a MacGuyver (you know that’s my favorite term for when I come up with something most would not) and attached the plinth to a piece of 5/4 (which means it was a true 1″) x 8″ Azek pvc board to create the needed thickness. Here are the steps:

First I ripped the Azek board down to the same width as the plinth. I had to purchase a 9′ board and used less than half of that for the entire project. Next I cut the top off the Ekena plinth as it was more ornate than the original. The majority of the Ekena plinth is hollow, so removing where I did left a solid top.

The slightly shortened plinth I nailed to the full 9′ Azek board with my brad nailer, one nail on each side near the top. I wasn’t seeking to permanently attach at that point, but needed the two pieces to stay together for the next cut on the miter saw. The original plinths were stubby, about 5″ tall, so the majority of the Ekena plinth would be waste. I measured the original plinth to get its height and angle on the bottom and transferred those measurements into a scrap piece of 2×4. That piece was my test for each of the 8 locations and it fit the first location like a glove. I never measured again after that. If my test block didn’t fit in other locations, whether too tight or too loose, I adjusted my miter cuts on the real pieces accordingly, always intentionally overcutting. I marked the cut line on the back of the joined pieces and made the cut.

My longest brad nail is 2.5″, not long enough to go through both pieces and firmly attach to house, which is why I didn’t permanently attach them. I pulled them apart and attached the Azek piece to the house and then the Ekena plinth to the Azek board. They shouldn’t go anywhere and given they are made out of plastic they will never split, crack, or rot. I used a ladder to install the first plinth, far right of the bathroom side of house. The two inner plinths I could install from inside the house, but the two outer plinths I couldn’t because the windows next to them are picture glass, they don’t open. When I saw how bad of condition that window sill was I decided not to install any more until Lyle had addressed them.

As you can see from the picture above that window sill was severely dried and cracked; it was in the worst condition on entire house. Lyle and I had differing opinions on how this should be corrected and when, so I took over the restoration of all the window sills, which I’ll talk about in the next post. 7 of the 8 locations were straight forward replacements. The one that wasn’t was difficult because the original window weight protruded out and didn’t allow the plinth to sit flush to the house. I couldn’t push it back inside, so I used my grinder to carve out a channel on the back of the block. After that it fit like a glove.

The bedroom side windows I was able to hang all of them from inside my room. Since I needed to do work on the bathroom window sill, Lyle erected a scaffolding platform from me to work from. I was a nervous wreck the whole time, but the window sill was restored (see white stuff in pics below) and all eight plinths are installed and ready for primer and paint. Some may need caulk.

Exceeding My Expectations, So Far

Some contractors may find me difficult to work for. I know too much and can do too much for myself. I set a high bar of excellence for myself, so in turn I expect a contractor to do the work at an even higher level of perfection. After all I’m just an advanced DIYer/Sista Girl with Skills, a contractor should be a trained professional and able to do a project faster and better. Lyle Benjamin of Lyle’s Homes started the prep to paint my house on June 9th, approximately two weeks earlier than originally projected. I viewed that as a great thing, but it was a rocky start. On day one he came and left, leaving a worker who worked on the first floor windows when I thought we had agreed I’d handle them while he focused on the second level. My mind instantly flashed back to my drywall crew. Could I have possibly made another bad choice, did my project get subcontracted again? I shared my drywall nightmare story with Lyle and told him I know I’m difficult, but he’s got to make me feel comfortable with what he’s doing. He has.

Lyle’s Homes is the first major contractor I selected without having a referral. Believe it or not, he reached out to me via Match.com. I had a bout of temporary insanity and signed up in search of a significant other and in my profile I said if you want to learn about me find my blog venusdiyworld (Match does let you insert websites in your profile). Lyle found it and reached out to me offering his painting services by pointing me to his Thumbtack page. No romance was ever formed, but he got my attention when he used another “R” word, Restoration. With his second bid I truly felt he understood what I wanted to accomplish and it was at a price I could afford. In hindsight the problems in week one were avoidable if I had told him I was not ready for his earlier start date. All the projects I planned to tackle (replacing trim on first floor windows and rebuilding rear portico) would have been complete by end of month leaving a clear understanding on what he needed to focus on. I’m still mastering my General Contractor skills.

Lyle’s bid included this wording: Prep: Wash house to remove dirt , grease and loose and peeling paint. Remove paint to bare wood on all widow frames/casings using a heat gun and or chemical removal agents and sanding. Hard scrape and feather sand additional wood trim and fascia to remove loose and peeling paint. This described what I thought was needed before any new paint was applied to my house. He’s doing this to levels that are far exceeding what I thought was possible. As I stated in an earlier post the three windows on my neighbors side that he cleaned entirely are much smoother than my windows were, so much so that I went back and used a higher grit (80 and 120) to try and reach the smooth as a baby’s butt level that his windows are.

The work he has accomplished on the second floor dormers and side crown moulding has blown my mind. He actually removed the crown from the dormers and had another worker scrape it on the ground. Doing that revealed that bees or hornets were making a home through the gaps that had formed over the years. Before rehanging he will treat them would a wood hardener, which should stop them from decaying further and he said he will be able to close those gaps. He’s also willing to spray the opening with some insecticide I have in a pump sprayer.

With the first floor conflict Lyle did agree to adjust his price, but with the high level of detail he is performing, I’ve now agreed to purchase the Sherwin Williams Duration that will be the final coats. Paint was included in his bid and he projected needing 30 gallons of primer and paint combined. If Lyle paints as well as he preps my house is going to be absolutely GORGEOUS, a true showcase home for the community of Camp Washington. In addition to buying the paint I’m also still tackling some projects, so that he can stay focused on the 2nd floor and also because I can’t see him completing this project in three weeks as projected (rain is starting to be a factor now). There are more broken tiles, so even though he said he would do that I took that on since I had already done some with the rear portico.

The missing pieces

There were two pieces that didn’t get replaced when myself, my father, and my cousin Cameron were tackling this project two years ago. They are near the rear gutter on the Stock Street side of my house. We attempted, but the angle my father told me to cut was wrong. We didn’t have any angle finder tools and my father was using math calculations based on measurements he told me to find. It was my last piece of tile and I’m standing on ladder being yelled at about not giving him the right measurements. I left the piece, un-nailed, resting on the gutter until now. My skills have definitely improved.

I’m tackling the plinths and window sills next.

Rear Portico Makeover – Scraping The Headboard

The portico over the rear door was as caked up with paint as the window mouldings, maybe more. The inside top and sides were just slats of bead board. I decided to replace the old bead board with new. The ceiling was spongee and in really rough condition. I remembered when installing the light fixture thinking it really should be replaced, so now is the time. Removing the bead board was a piece of cake. A crow bar and hammer did the trick. Removing the ceiling and sides revealed a glimpse at what the house looked like when it was originally built. The original, unpainted, flawless condition cedar shingles siding were revealed. Seeing that really makes me wonder what condition the house was in before they added the asbestos shingles.

The Original Cedar Shingle Siding

I decided to build the ceiling first. I didn’t even need to cut those boards. They were 48″ long, so I had Hyde Park Lumber cut 8, 8′ boards in half for me. That saved wear and tear on my miter saw. Before installing them I used my carbide scrapper to remove the paint from any surface that would touch the new wood. I used the grinder a bit also, but unlike the windows and the door I was concerned with damaging the original corbels, so I used it sparingly.

Before tackling the sides I removed the remaining paint using my heat gun and a 5-in-1 scraper. It took me about three hours to get all the paint off.

I used my angle finder to determine the slope, 30 degrees, and with that I was off to the races. I set up a jig on my miter saw to cut the point (dental teeth) at the end of each board. Basically I cut the needed angle off a 2×4 and used that to set the angle of the saw each time I needed to make those cuts. I put a piece of tape on the back support plate, to mark where I needed to place the 2×4 and I used the miter saw clamp to hold it in place. With it secured I just had to butt my bead board against it, cut, flip the wood, and cut again. Originally there was a strip of crown moulding that went around the top edge of the sides and front. I found a very similar profile at Lowes, plastic, but for the life of me I could not figure out the right angle, so I settled for a flat piece of old pine scrap wood I had in my basement.

In removing the old side bead board I managed to break the asbestos tile on each side. No big deal to replace, but when I put my ladder up to get measurements I noticed two large holes in the tiles above the door. The wood of the house was completely exposed, so I decided to replace them also. I couldn’t get the damaged pieces out without sacrificing the two narrow strips at the top. Thankfully those could be cut from one piece of the replacement tile. It was extremely hot that day and the shingles where hot. I tried my best to minimize how much I touched them. My cuts for the side pieces where spot on! I actually reused the damaged shingle from the top to replace the broken pieces on the right side of door. I only needed two narrow pieces and I hated wasting a full sheet of the new. I was hoping I’d only need one case to repair any needed areas around the house. Yes I did wear a respirator mask while cutting them.

At this point I told Lyle, the painter, to just consider me to be part of his staff. He’ll still need to sand the corbels, but I saved him at least a day of work by tackling that project. I actually had fun. This degree of woodwork is in my wheelhouse. Speaking of woodwork projects it is back to the drawing board on my headboard project.

I got the trim pieces stained, coated, and attached. My cousin Zachary came over to help me carry the three pieces upstairs. I wanted to apply one more coat of Danish oil to the front panel before getting him to help me carry it upstairs, but I put the three pieces together and placed them where they’d reside in the room. I thought I took a picture of the top and sides assembled in my bedroom, but I didn’t and I’ve already gotten Zachman (my nickname for Zachary) to help me carry it back downstairs. It’s too big/bulky for the location. All I really wanted was the top shelf. Scotti from the WoodShop expanded that idea to include the side shelves, which seemed like a great use of the dead space being created by the top shelf. However, in addition to looking bulky when I had my mattress elevated at the top to allow me to sit up in bed, I can’t reach the top or side shelves. Elevated I’m about a foot away from the headboard; something I had not anticipated.

Fortunately I have two more pieces of the oak boards. In my minds eye my new design will be 100% better as it will eliminate the Aspen wood side boxes altogether. What I haven’t grappled with is how to deconstruct the top box. The bottom shelve is just screwed in place, but the top is glued and screwed and the screws have already been concealed with dowel rods, see post All I Needed Was The Right Jig. Actually let me rephrase that. I know exactly how to deconstruct the top box, the question is do I have the guts to do it. I got a lot of practice with straight edge cutting with a circular saw during my shed project. I need that same mastery of skills to manifest again. Stay tuned. I’d really love to have the headboard completed in conjunction with the house painting completion.

Preparing for the Icing on the Cake

Per the suggestion of the son of my father’s good friend, who owns a painting company, I decided to remove the trim from the 14 lower level windows and replace with new. There are at least 4 layers of paint on the trim of my house and it is peeling heavily in some areas and what isn’t peeling has alligatored. Because I wanted the windows scrapped to the wood he was not interested in my project stating it would be labor intensive and he didn’t have the crew to take on that large of a project. I loved the suggestion and quickly calculated the cost of the moulding and the cost to pay Tom Milfeld, my go to man for just about anything (he hung my cabinets, crown moulding, and repaired my foundation just to name a few projects). These pictures show my efforts to scrap the paint from the two front living room windows. Clearly replacing was a great idea.

At this point the painter I was leaning towards had submitted a second proposal, double the first, but it included a description of the work that was in line with the prep work I felt was needed before any new primer or paint was applied. He was estimating 6 hours per window (prep and paint). Based on my painting experience with the back door, I mentally decided 5 of those hours would be prep. His hourly fee and Tom’s are similar. Based on working with Tom on so many other projects I estimated Tom’s time to hang the new trim at one hour per window, a four hour swing in time. I have 14 lower windows, only 10 upstairs, so with my sweat equity in removing the trim and remaining paint from the wood and Tom’s fee for just hanging the trim the reduction in the painter’s time more than offset the cost of the new trim, which is made out of PVC that will never rot. I got it from Hyde Park Lumber, Azek, and it’s the same product I installed around my shower windows, but in a profile that was close to the window trim. This was a no brainer decision at this point.

I decided to move forward with Lyle Home’s Painting and initially he said he couldn’t start until the end of the month, which was great as that didn’t put pressure on me to get all 14 windows prepped. He then contacted me and said he could start on June 12th. At that point I let him know that I had made the decision to handle the prep of the lower windows myself. He actually came to the house and I showed him what I planned to do. I knew I couldn’t get all windows done by the 12th, so it was decided he’d start his work on the second level. I felt pretty confident I could be complete by the time he finished that level. Well the 12th was moved up to 9th. Tom was scheduled to start work the next day and my plan was to try and stay two windows ahead of him. Lyle brought ladders and scaffolding and a worker. When I came outside to start working Lyle had left and his worker was working on the side living room window (1st floor). I sent Lyle a text asking why and he said his taller ladder was at another project. I let the worker continue working. The trim came off relatively easy. They used 6d, 3″ nails to put it up, but as you can see removing the trim removed a lot of the paint that was on the remaining wood.

With the trim removed it left a flat surface. For the loose stuff I hand scrapped with my carbide bit scrapper, but once that was gone I used my grinder with a 40 grit flap disc, which I eventually changed to a 60 grit. In the beginning I had some control issues. Once the disc ate through the paint it sanded the wood and in spots it went too far, which is why I changed grit. Now, conversely the worker Lyle left used a heat gun and putty knife. At the end of that first day my four windows looked like this:

The painter’s four windows looked like this:

The next day I finished removing the paint from my fourth window and then returned with the palm sander on all four windows to try and smooth out the areas where I had ate into the wood. The painter continued removing paint and trim from the other lower level windows. He had removed the paint and trim from all the remaining windows, leaving them in the condition above, except for the three windows on my neighbor’s side of my house. He used a paint eater pad to remove the paint the heat gun and scrapper did not remove and then a palm sander at 60 and 120 grit. I’ll admit his windows were much smoother than mine, I only went to 80 grit with the palm sander and clearly a heat gun isn’t going to eat into the wood the way the grinder did. He also pressure washed the front of the house, which at this point I had to interject and have a frank conversation with Lyle. The 2nd floor was not getting the focused attention I thought we had agreed upon, I thought pressure washing was way premature, and I’m now loosing the savings which was paying for the new material Tom was installing. Day three marked the last day that worker came to the site (to date) and I used my method to finish the windows he started. Tom worked a total of 12 hours, I probably put in about 20 hours over the course of 4 days, but the lower level windows now have all new trim.

With the windows done, I turned my attention on the back porch portico.

New Columns and Landscape Prep

The headboard project got bumped again as this weekend was spent outdoors. My new columns arrived, so I decided to cut out my flower beds as the plan for the front landscape had been finalized.

I hired Mike Tanner Construction to install the columns. Mike installed my master shower floor. They were scheduled to arrive Saturday morning, but Friday night curiosity got the best of me so I removed the corner columns on each side. I knew the one on the right would give up easy as if you leaned on it, it would move. The left side gave up almost as easy. The decision to go down to four was made as soon as I was told six was not needed to support the structure. That was done for the aesthetic pleasure of the original owners. I always thought six was overkill. Up until I removed the two corner columns the plan was to leave the two in the front. Removing the corners gave me insight as to how it would look with them staggered. I decided the new columns would be installed in this manner.

Mike and his crew (Ray and Bobby), arrived promptly at 9am Saturday with four of the six. Two are on back order, but not needed immediately as they will be used to support the pergola that I’ll build to the left of the door. I won’t install the pergola until after the house is painted. They started by removing the front left. That came out fairly easy also. That left only three columns holding the entire structure. They then tried to remove the front right, but could not, even with a reciprocating saw. The weight of the structure was firmly barring down, so it was decided they should shore up the structure. I ran to Schuloff Tool Rental and rented two adjustable shoring poles. I kinda feel I may have caused the problem by removing the two, but if I hadn’t I would not have considered staggering them. Anyway, I returned with the poles, but the heat was already becoming unbearable. They only got two installed on the left before calling it a day.

I was able to return one of the shoring poles and while doing so rented a sod cutter, so that I could start laying out the design of my flower beds. That tool looks like something straight from Amish country and it worked me for five hours, but the flowerbed footprint is done and very close the the drawing I had laid out. Most of the sod I cut up I placed in an bare spot between my two cluster of trees. This is not the right time to lay sod, but it was free, the spot needed, so hopefully if I keep it watered it will survive.

Starting from the left on the side of the patio will be three Buck Thorn shrubs. These will grow and become a natural privacy fence. In the center of the circle will be a Forest Pansy Redbud. It’s red leaves should stand out since all the other trees around it have green leaves. 3-4 coral bell plants will be placed in front of it. At the corner of the porch and at each side of the front door will be Green Mountain Boxwoods. I’ll have fun keeping its shape over the years. Two Bobo Hydrangeas will be placed directly in front of the porch. On right side of door I’ll have three Green Velvet Boxwoods, one under each dining room window and the third in the gap next to the Green Mountain. In between the dining room window I’ll place a Limelight Hydrangea Tree. It’s blooms are similar to the Bobo. As with the Redbud, I’ll place 3-4 coral bell plants in front of it. Wha-La, my first landscape design. I’ll have color without annuals, which was the primary goal.

Sunday morning Ray and Bobby returned and made quick work of the remaining two columns. They were up in about two hours. Some people will view the old columns as trash. My minds eye sees a new upcycle project. I sprayed the insides with insecticide to get rid of the ants that had taken up residence in a couple of them Before the next rain I will move them to my basement until I can start that project. With the columns up I decided to finally buy plants for a 22″ flower pot that I bought weeks ago. Cassandra Jones, a colleague and friend who makes AWESOME pies and pasta dishes (#sugartinpies) helped me pick the plants. She studies plants to find those low on the pollen spectrum. I got two purple wave pansies, two ornamental peppers, three variegated ivys, and for the center a beautiful Tahiti Wind Hibiscus. The beautiful yellow bloom is a perfect compliment to my yellow door.

Handcrafted, Heirloom Quality Box by Conjure Craft Woodworkers

Several months ago I started working on a headboard project at the Manufactory and one of the members, Kendall Glover, owner of Conjure Craft Woodworkers, was lending his expertise. In my post You Can’t Replicate It, So Save It, I talked about the beauty that comes from old wood. In restoring my 1924 Cape Cod style house I threw away NOTHING. I repurposed wood shelves for my headboard project and Kendall took a piece of scrap wood I had thrown away and created this beautiful design.

Thin slices of 100 year old pine shelf from my house

Little did I know Kendall would turn that scrap into this beautiful, heirloom quality box and give it to me as a gift. The other wood for the box was scrap from 100+ year old pine floor joist that was given to me. Kendall made a garden bench from some of it.

Kendall recently had a flood in his basement following a heavy Cincinnati rain where he lost almost everything; family treasures, photos, and some of his wood working tools. Insurance will allow him to recoup replaceable items and he’s going to focus on replacing tools that will allow him focus on creating more of these beautiful boxes for sale. Every box will be unique as the milling/finishing process will be done with hand tools, planers, files, etc. If you’d like to purchase a box you can contact him at 773-358-8000.

My box is #4. He’s entering the first three in a juried art show. Last year Kendall created bird houses and entered them in the 2019 Art of Soul juried art show held at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, OH. He won 1st place in his category. The houses represent the evolution of his family. Slave shack of his ancestors, to suburban ranch of his childhood, to Chicago townhome where he lived before returning to Cincinnati to care for his now deceased mother.

I am super motivated to finish my headboard, so stay tuned for the next post to see the finished project.

Take Two, but Worth It For the Sweat Equity Cost Savings

The time, energy, and money on a quart of Sherwin Williams’ All Surface Latex Enamel Primer for the work I did last weekend was a complete waste. Just days after applying a coat of that product to my metal areas rust stains were bleeding through. I knew Rust-oleum had the product I needed, but I called my local SW store in hopes I could get an equal product, but have it tinted to my final house color. I got a young kid that clearly did not know their product line well and he steered me towards the latex enamel and sadly it turned out I couldn’t get an exact tint anyway. I did speak with the manager who said I should have gone with the oil based enamel instead and he was willing to give me that can at no cost, but after reading a Bob Vila article I decided to get the Rust-oleum Clean Metal Primer from Lowes. Hopefully that manager will apply credit on a future purchase.

The manager told me I could apply his oil based product on top of this, but I decided to remove it prior to applying the Rust-oleum product. My Don’t Take a Knife to a Gun Fight analogy came to light again. I decided to invest in a Dewalt corded grinder. I had the ENTIRE house cleaned and painted in about five hours. I put my stopwatch on when I did my neighbor’s side of my house and I had the entire side cleaned in 10 minutes, 39 seconds.

I bought another 4.5 each grinder, but now wish I had gotten the 7″. Cleaning the paint from the flat areas of my windows with the grinder works great, but once the flap disc begins to wear down the blade guard interferes with keeping the grinder flat. The aggressive grit will get into the wood once it eats through the paint and preventing/minimizing that is hard if I hold the grinder at an angle. I’ve never worked the grinder without the guard, but i’ll try that before investing in a 7″ model that would give me more depth to stay flat even with a worn disc.

My painter has quoted me based on the time he thinks to scrap and paint my house. I won’t touch the upper windows (I don’t have the proper equipment to work with heights), but all the prep I can do on the lower level is less they’ll need to do, so that saves me money. I wouldn’t have half of the features I have in my house if not for my willingness and ability to put in sweat equity.