Furniture Repair

Long before a friend coined the phrase Sista Girl with Skills to describe me I have been doing projects for Funmi. We met in 2014. She was a client contact, but our business relationship has morphed into a friendship. DIYing is in my DNA, I can’t talk about myself without talking about a project I’ve tackled and Funmi listened with earnest. On one occasion, after we had finalized a hotel contract, she asked if I would be willing to come to her home and look at a soap dish that had come out of the wall in her guest bathroom. I said sure, but I had an inclination that this could be a serious problem. I was right. Her grout had failed, water was getting behind her tile and mildew had started infesting the wall. With just my hands I was able to pull tiles surrounding the soap dish off. The correct fix resulted in my removing tile up about 4′ from the tub, replacing rotted drywall with cement board, and reattaching all of the original tile and a new soap dish. I am still amazed I did not break one piece of her tile giving me the ability to reuse all the original tile.

That first project then led to me putting new flooring in that same bathroom and her master bathroom. Both suffered from the 70s design choice of putting carpet in bathrooms (lets hope that never returns). She and her husband were considering downsizing and saw the carpet as a negative for putting their house on the market. They didn’t want to spend a lot, so we found a peel and stick, groutable, Armstrong Flooring product at Lowe’s. The inside projects led me outdoors where I replaced rotten boards on her deck, did an improvise to cover holes caused by birds on the front of their shed (I covered the holes with a 2x8x16′ board) and replacing rotten wood around the shed’s windows with a plastic wood product. Sista Girl was born six years ago, she just didn’t know it.

Now that Sista Girl has been revealed, Funmi sent me a text to see if I could repair her kitchen table set. The set was sturdy, made out of MDF (medium-density fibreboard, an engineered wood material) that had the design applied with a coating of resin or epoxy. From visual inspection it looked flawless, but over the years of moving it around the screws holding the table and chair tops to their bases had stripped because they were screwed directly into the bare MDF (a flaw with using MDF to build furniture). Her brother had the same problem with his table set and someone attached plywood to the tops to fix the problem and she sent me his pictures to see if I could do the same.

I think this is the easiest project Funmi has ever asked me to do. I made the familiar drive to Springboro and brought home the table and chair tops and one chair frame. I took some measurements and went to Home Depot and bought one 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ sanded plywood that I had them rip down into sizes that would fit in my car. I decided to make a 24″ circle for the top. Instead of attaching with screws (which is what it looked like her brother’s repair person did) I attached my plywood with Loctite PL premium construction adhesive. The original screw holes had created a raised surface at each location, so to smooth it out I ran my hand planer over each hole. Once the adhesive was applied I used my window weights to press down and let it set up overnight. I purchased SPAX#8 x 3/4 in. Philips Square Drive Pan-Head Full Thread Zinc Coated Multi-Material Screws to reattach the tops to the frames.

The chairs took a bit more effort. I traced its shape onto the plywood and cut it out. Noting where the frame hit the seat, I decided to decrease the size by approximately 1.5″. Once I was happy with the size the first one became the template for all the seats. I used the same process I used for the table top, but this time I added the SGw/S brand mark. I totally forgot I had it from the charcuterie trays I had made as gifts last year. In addition to repairing the table set, I facilitated the repair of a ripped screen by taking it to my neighborhood hardware store, Camp Washington Hardware. Not sure how a screen at least 15′ off the ground got torn, but I was happy to get it repaired for her and only passed on the repair cost of $15.09.

With that the first official Sista Girl with Skills contracted project was complete. For now I’ve set my labor rate equal to what I paid other independent contractors that charged me by the hour, $30 per hour. It’s a starting point, not an ending.

Phase One – House Restoration 100% Complete

In September 2017 I purchased a 1924 Cape Cod styled home from the Community Board of Camp Washington. I searched almost a year with my agent Steve Petersen before this opportunity presented itself. I toured the house with Joe Gorman, former Camp Washington Board Executive Director, when another couple was going to purchase it. The vision for its restoration came to me during that tour. Almost everything I envisioned that day has materialized. It took three years, but my restoration journey is 100% complete.

I watch a TON of HGTV and DIY shows and I fancy myself an “advanced DIYer”.  I knew I wanted my first house to be a fixer upper, so that I could put my mark on it. I was empowered and emboldened by their shows to think I could handle a renovation project. Yes, this house was a bit more of a project than I set out to find. Interior design I did not consider one of my strengths. I spent the first 53 years of my life living in what my parents created. I didn’t know my decor style, so their network shows helped me find it. I enter their home giveaways all the time, but it was the 2017 Urban Oasis Giveaway that I fell in love with and it inspired almost all of my exterior and 1st floor interior color schemes. The pink door was my fastest departure, couldn’t do it. These are pictures of the areas I copied most:

I’ve already been asked if there is anything I’d do differently. I was able to quickly respond with one item, but there are three. I would have added a small can light above my stain glass window, similar to the one I put over the kitchen sink, so that window could stay illuminated at night. It’s one of my favorite original features of the house saved thanks to Architectural Art Glass Studio. I would have returned lights to the 1st floor bedroom closets. All three of the closets were reduced in size for duct work or a pocket door addition, so I didn’t think a light would be needed. I was wrong. The final item is I would have found the money and allowed Tiburon Energy to do foam insulation. I believe my master bedroom would have much better temperature regulation and I’d have less air seepage around my outlets if I had gone that route. It would have been an $8,000 investment that would have paid off long-term with energy savings.

Any regrets, many, but would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY! I shed a lot of tears and weight; not everything went according to plan, but it was a miraculous journey that I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to take. My life had purpose for the last three years. I learned and grew in so many areas. I’ve written this before, but what I’ve discovered is that at age 53 I truly enjoy working with my hands. I have a connection with the craftmanship that goes into old homes. I want to honor it and enjoy bringing it back to life. Call me weird, but my house spoke to me throughout this journey; she (her name is Janet, after my beloved mother) gave me a supreme sense of appreciation for saving her. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from my neighbors, which is also humbling and appreciated. This house was an eyesore on the street for a very long time. I learned that the last owner actually used the backyard as a junk yard, which now explains why I dig up so many random car parts whenever I do yard work.

20201109_091635On October 24 I hosted another open house to show off the finished project. Once again I forgot to take pictures, but about 30 people came through and each got a souvenir bottle of hand sanitizer (making personalized hand sanitizers may become my new side hustle). With the news coverage of Covid-19 cases escalating the week leading into it I’m shocked anyone came. Of those that did about 40% were first timers. A business client and her husband gave up OSU football to see her a second time. They’ve been steady followers of the blog. I loved having her filled with people and great conversation. She deserves more of that. I’ve restored a beautiful house. The hard part will be making it feel like a home, which is a struggle given one vision I had for my life in this house will never come to be. The day ended with some close friends joining me for dinner and a toast of the completion.  Hopefully the global leaders will quickly eradicate this pandemic, so that I can host more gatherings like that. 

No final post on a restoration is complete without before, during, and after pictures:

Exterior: The thing I’m most proud of outdoors is the front yard. Believe it or not the very first project I did at the house was using my drop spreader to treat for weeds, which outnumbered the grass. I’ve been regularly treating the yard ever since, either myself or with a service. I put down tall fescue grass seed the first two springs, wrong time of year as summer heat got me before it really established. Finally this fall I rented a dethatcher to pull out the matted dead grass and weeds and then an overseeder and put down approximately 25 pounds of seed. With the paint job, pergola, and landscape the house is stunning, but it will only look better next spring when the grass is really full and luscious.

Original Light Fixtures: The house had been striped of all copper and metal. The 20201116_074221looters took what they thought would make money at the scrape yard, but they left things of real value. All of the original moulding, unpainted, was still in the house and most of it was in really great shape, just dirty.  That is why I personally removed, labeled, and bound together rooms before my demo crew started.  All of the doors, even the ones too damaged to use, still had their glass doorknobs These sell for $20 and up on Ebay.  Many rooms still had original light fixtures, albeit covered in paint or nicotine. I was not expecting the brass when I boiled some in hot water to remove the paint. Every original light that was left I was able to salvage, clean, rewire, and reuse.

Entry Foyer: The doors, entry and closet, were the greatest transformation. I lived with that front door through one of the coldest winters in Cincinnati’s history. The idea to put wallpaper in the hall closet was one of my favorite suggestions from a friend. Hopefully guest will be inspired by the message. I found it on a site Murals Your Way. This will be my signature mark if I ever get to restore another house.

Living Room: This room is a blend of my new found style and my mother’s. The rug, sofa, and oversized chair I selected from Haverty’s, but the rest of the decor, was my mom’s. I told my salesperson that the lamp and table must stay. I discovered my mother and Elvis (yes Elvis Presley) shared the same taste as a similar white lamp is part of the tour of Graceland. The only thing this space needs is the gas log set for the fire place. Clearly large screen televisions were not on the minds of the original builders as the height of the fireplace forces the elevation of the TV to be too high. The work my father and I did to allow for the running of electric and cabling makes it look like it was always meant to be.

Dining Room: I love the placement of the original wall sconces in this room. They were originally located in the living room, but clearly three of them were missing based on the holes in the wall. Of course the biggest transformation of this room was the removal of the wall that separated the dining room from kitchen and hall. You may ask why I have pictures of the yard with the dining room? Well the walnut trees you see are what created my gorgeous dining room table. The legs I had a full year before I bought the house. I just thought they’d make a great table I’d like to make one day, little did I know. It truly turned out amazing and having the chairs match the legs the way they do……..my mind’s eye hit the bullseye with that project.

Kitchen: Even before I saw the HGTV house I wanted blue cabinets, my favorite color. That house just confirmed I was making a great decision. Without question saving the original built-in was the greatest accomplishment of this space. The profile of the doors from an almost 100 year old cabinet I was able to select for my brand new cabinets. I impressed myself with noticing and making that detail happen. I’m so grateful Sosa Flooring (Sergio and Martin) were able to restore the floors properly. Until I made that correction the kitchen was not enjoyable to use and it loomed as my worst contractor decision of entire project that I had trouble forgiving myself for making.

1st Floor Hall and Bedrooms: When I saw the hint of brick from the fireplace I knew something special was being revealed. My cousin and his friends used a hammer and hand chisel to uncover the entire brick wall. A coating of LastiSeal stopped the crumbling and flaking to leave me with a gorgeous statement wall. Nothing super remarkable about either rooms. The first acts as my office. I still can’t believe it took me two years of searching salvage stores in the region before I found a door at Columbus Architectural Salvage. It turned out to be the exact size and swing for my opening. I just had to strip the paint and stain it to match the others. The hall and guestroom are decorated in tribute to my mom, so they stand out as my favorite areas of the house.

1st Floor Bathroom: The demoing of this bathroom was the toughest part of entire house. The original tile was set in concrete and wire mesh. My cousin and his friends were put to the test moving the original cast iron tub. I had done tile work on a much smaller scale, so what I pulled off in that space still amazes me. I know a professional would have easily charged me $5,000 or more. My goal was to restore the original look as much as possible. I used 4″x4″ tile on the floor, repeated the chair moulding, used 1″ hex on the floor. The “rug effect” was a twist and challenge for a advanced DIYer. In retrospect I should have just gone with a gray grout throughout. Putting white on white and black on black was a nightmare to do. It turned out OK, but it was also the reason I moved into the house without a functioning bathroom for the first two weeks. Converting a $15 salvage cabinet door to a mirror and putting it on a barndoor rail for the medicine cabinet was one of my most creative moments in the whole restoration.

My master suite is oh so SWEEEEET! I purchased a two bedroom, one bathroom house. More than enough for my single lifestyle. However the first time I walked up the stairs to the attic space and I saw the full height ceilings I said “this would make a killer master suite” and that is exactly what I created.

Master Bedroom: The Pinterest project to recess a $50 dresser in the wall to save space (like I needed to) turned out great. I was shocked I actually had enough clothes and shoes to fill my master walk-in closet, but I did. Of course my favorite project of the room is the bedroom furniture set (headboard and nightstands) I made from bead board reclaimed from the basement. If it were in my control I’d make sure that set never leaves the space; as long as its functioning it should stay in the house.

Master Bathroom: The bathroom is the size of my former bedroom. The original bathroom for that floor was confined to a dormer that held a 4′ tub, toilet, and sink. That same space is now just my water closet. Having the laundry room upstairs is so convenient. Converting dead space into my linen closet repurposing the small closet door I removed for the dresser insert was another sign of my growth as a designer. I had never laid flooring, let alone use reclaimed flooring I had removed to lace in with the existing floor. It was another proud moment. Sketching out and having built by the Amish my vanity cabinet was pretty cool too. Amazingly the tile work in this room, even with the angles was easier than the 1st floor. Mitch Altman, owner of Thermasol, a steam shower company, helped me turn the lemons from my poor performing shower system to lemonade by making his steam unit affordable to me. The entire space, with its massive steam shower and deep soaking tub, is a true home spa oasis that I’m not quite sure I deserve, but glad I have.

I want to thank my friends and family that supported this journey financially, physically, and emotionally. I must give a special shout out to my father who left his home in Florida to spend multiple weeks each visit with me in the first and hardest year of the restoration to help me accomplish what you’ve seen in these pictures. He has said to me many times I waited until he was old (he was 77 when I started and will be 80 in January) to finally show interest in something that has always interested him. We fought and argued throughout, but I learned a lot and the job got done. I did not have the funds to pay a contractor for what we accomplished. Our sweat equity is in the multiple of thousands in dollars saved and quality was never sacrificed. I also want to thank everyone that followed my blog during this journey. Prior to this post I had written 212 others, which have received 67,000+ views from 7,557+ visitors that have come from 68 different countries from around the world. I’m humbled and honored by that level of attention and hope that I inspired anyone hesitant to take a similar journey or helped anyone already taking one.

This is the final post of My First House – It Is Well With My Soul. I’ll be changing the name of my blog to Sista Girl With Skills, but will continue to write about my DIY projects. Phase II is the new construction detached garage. Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the hospitality industry where I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I hope that’s not the case as my soul is yearning for another old house to renovate. I’ve found something I can be passionate about. They say a job is only work when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. That has definitely been the case for much of my career. HGTV has Flip or Flops in several cities throughout the USA. How about Rehab Addict Cincinnati starring…………Venus, Sista Girl With Skill!.

The Cherry On Top

The sheer curtains I hung in the windows when I moved in were always meant to be temporary. I had no idea they’d hang for two years, but with the house painted, landscape in, it was time for to address the window coverings. I turned to Google and played around on several sites, leaving contact me info. The only one to reach back to me was Budget Blinds; Missy Weinheimer. She was super responsive even after months went by after our initial contact. I grew up in a house with mini Levelor blinds at the windows and vertical blinds at the patio door. Because of that I was fixated on doing something different in my first house; specifically I was leaning towards Roman blinds.

20201028_110108The inspiration for my house interior design was the 2017 HGTV Urban Oasis giveaway house.  I was pulling pics to prepare for my final post on that house when I noticed that the kitchen had blue gingham roman blinds at the windows.  I had used blue gingham contact paper to line the shelves of my built-in, so I definitely wanted those for my windows.  I emailed Missy the picture and she got back to me in less than 48-hours with a very expensive option.  Of all her vendors only one carried that fabric and it was a vendor she called the Lexus of roman blind manufacturers.  I was looking at $1200 for just those two windows, so that idea went bye, bye.  I scheduled an appointment with Missy to come out on September 11 to show me other options.

Missy spent over two hours with me.  Prior to arriving she had spent time on my blog.  She had a great feel for my house before walking through the door, but she remembered our initial conversation 20200911_155041and my desire to do something different than blinds.  Missy made five trips out to her van bringing in fabric books, different shade samples.   At my request she held samples in my window so I could go outside to see what would great people. I wasn’t feeling any of it.  I guess I really didn’t know what a roman shade was or how it operated.  In the price range of my budget the backs of them look terrible in the window as you see all the mechanisms that make them function.

Missy never grew impatient with my lack of decisiveness. She even pushed back her next appointment.  On her last trip to her van she came back with a sample of faux wood blinds with tapes.  That was it!  I didn’t understand what a tape was until she showed it to me, but the width of the slats, the valance on top, and the tapes combined was exactly what my house and windows needed to stay true to my restoration journey.  The variety of colors was awesome.  I was able to match the blinds and tapes to the wood tones of my existing moulding.  I was able to select two different shades of white to match the two different whites I used upstairs and down.  Most importantly she assured me she could mount the blinds inside the moulding.  After months of restoring that wood I was not anxious to see screw holes go back in them.

Installation was scheduled for October 14, but FedEx shipping delays due to the California fires pushed it back another week to October 21. Missy’s son Alex is her installer and typically she lets him work on his own, but she fell in love with my house and wanted to be on hand and help with the install. They worked well together. She placed each blind and its related hardware at each window and Alex handled the mounting. He had to trim each valance as Missy intentionally gave some extra margin. Better too long than too short. They arrived at 10a and had all 21 windows done by 1:30p.

I didn’t think the blinds would have the impact that they did once I saw them installed. My house truly looks complete; they are the cherry on top of what has been a miraculous journey to restore my 1924 Cape Cod styled home. My restoration work is finished. It is home maintenance from this point forward. I held another Open House on October 24. Despite the alarming news coverage of the growing spread of Covid-19 about 30 friends, colleagues, clients, and family came through. No pics, but I’ll have a final post on this journey out shortly.

She’s 100% Complete and Beautiful

DIY Nightstands

20200613_152621With the plan to ditch the top and side shelves in my original headboard design, I needed to come up with something to get rid of the TV tray I had been using as a nightstand. My first thought was to buy something, so I started surfing various online retailers. Nothing I came across would compliment my headboard. I decided to check out Etsy, which is full of unique products made by independentEtsy Nightstand sellers.  After just a few clicks I came across several sellers making floating nightstands, which instead of purchasing I decided to make.  Doing so would allow me to use material that would match the headboard.

I still had some bead board, but not enough for an entire nightstand, let alone two.  I could have used the oak boards I had, but everything in the master is pine.  I didn’t want to mix wood.  I could have 20201026_000646purchased more reclaimed wood from Building Value, but then I’d need to join several pieces together for depth.  Then I remembered I still had the original shelves from the 1st floor bathroom linen closet.  They are 12″ x 24″, covered in paint and contact paper.  I bet myself that underneath was a solid piece of old pine and I was right.

I took the four flattest boards to the Manufactory and ran them through their planer. I really need to invest in one as I spent more time driving to and from their facility than I did working on the four boards. I took the clean boards home, measured the space, and decided I would make 18″x11″x6″ nightstands. First step was ripping all the boards down to 11″ depth. Second step was ripping down to 18″ length and adding the miter angle. I cut the miter on one side of all boards, set my table saw to 18″. Unfortunately I didn’t place the first board correctly and cut the angle in the wrong direction. I was able to make the right cut, but now they are only 17.5″ wide. With the tops and bottoms cut I focused on the bead board. I glued four boards together and once dried ripped off the tongue and groove to reach 11″. I then used the same miter cut process I did for the top and bottom to create the four 6″ tall sides. I applied natural Danish oil to the outside of the of the bead board, painted the inside Indigo Batik, and applied dark walnut Danish oil to both sides of the pine.

The only piece left to address was the back. I have so much plywood that I decided to use 1/2″ plywood for the back. I painted the inside Indigo Batik, but applied the dark walnut Danish Oil to the back. Keep in mind I have no plans to follow, but my instincts told me to create a channel for the back panel to rest in. I had no room for error since I only had the four shelves for the top and bottom. I decided to make a prototype out of scrap plywood. I used my router to create the channel. My instinct was right. The prototype was very sound. The top and bottom of the back locked in place and I cut the width perfectly so there was no gaps on the sides.

Now it was just a matter of replicating the process on the actual wood. I ran the tops and bottoms through the router table, cut the backs to the appropriate sizes, and then prepared for the glue up. I remembered to use the “sizing” process I learned from the Woodworkers Guild of America YouTube video. The process went remarkably well. I used my pin nailer to help hold the pieces together until the glue dried. The next day I applied three coats of polyacrylic to the tops, since I know I’ll be setting glasses, mugs, or bottles on top and may not always have something underneath to protect the wood from stains.

The final step was attaching them to the wall and for that I used hanging cleats I ordered from Amazon. I had to trim a bit off due to my early miscut. Due to the width of the headboard I was not able to hit two studs, so I went to Northside Hardware and purchased six drywall anchors rated to hold 40lbs each. I love independent hardware stores as I was able to buy only the anchors (I was able to use the screws that came with the cleat) and the exact number I needed vs. a full pack. I decided to put three plus the stud screw for each nightstand.

With that a picture on Etsy turned into actual nightstands and the completion of a custom bedroom furniture set. Goodbye TV tray.

I’ve decided I’m going to make more of these stands out of all that oak wood I have. They were asking $150 on up for those on Etsy, so Sista Girl w/ Skills my have a shop on Etsy real soon!

DIY Headboard

I started working on my headboard in July 2019 (see From Toilet Surround to Headboard post). At the end of that post I wrote “So what to do.  Use the oak I purchased or create a fully salvaged headboard and use the pine.  You’ll have to keep checking my blog to see how this project is going to end.  Anyone want to lay bets?” The winner was pine. Not the floor joist I referenced, but reclaimed barn lumber I purchased Building Value. All the weeks and hours I spent building the top shelve out of oak and side shelves out aspen were scrapped.

First step was going back to the Jen Woodhouse plan I purchased for her Evelyn King Headboard. I had cut off 10″ of the back for the top shelf. My first step was reattaching it. The only blessing in my stupid decision to cut it off was that it led to my not following her plan precisely from the beginning. If I had I would have had a 100% glued up headboard that would NOT have fit up the stairs leading to my master suite. The seam is noticeable, but by turning that end towards the bottom the seam is hidden by the mattress. After that I went back to her plans and added the other section of plywood it called for minus a couple of inches as I had made the bead board panel longer than her plans. I plugged the pocket holes and then decided to paint the back side the same blue, Indigo Batik, as the bedroom walls. I still had the sample quart, so no need to spend more money on paint.

Since I had gone back to the plans, I also decided to build the side and foot rails. I had plenty of bead board (it was going to be used for my beverage station project) to work with, but I also had two unique pieces that I thought would make great side rails. I had the sidelights from the original front door. After removing the remaining glass the outer frame was perfect. They were longer and slightly wider than what the plans called for, but a couple of passes on a table saw and chop on a miter saw made them the right size. They were covered in paint and peeling veneer. I knew this could be cleaned up with a couple of passes through the Manufactory planer. I used my heat gun to remove the remaining paint from the decorative edge. I only needed three pieces of bead board per panel to fill the opening. I wanted more definition between the sides and the bead board, which I had treated with natural Danish Oil. I used dark walnut Danish Oil on the frame.

The next step was preparing the side pieces. The plan called for 2x4s, but I didn’t want to use new wood for it. I didn’t want to rip down the floor joist given two me (I want to make a farm table with them), so I went to Building Value and purchased several pieces of reclaimed 2×6 pine beams. They were still filled with nails, so they only cost $1/foot. Once I had removed all the nails I ran them through the planer and joiner to create smooth surfaces. I could have left the rough saw marks, but that seemed too rustic for my bedroom. I was going for rustic chic given all the old repurposed wood I was using. I made all the cuts per the plan. I applied dark walnut Danish Oil to them. Once dried I attached the short legs to the side light panels and plugged the pocket holes. I decided to paint the insides blue just to clean them up.

With the side rails complete I turned my focus on the foot rail. The plan called for just one 2×4 on the top with the design boards underneath, but I made another slight alteration by putting what was basically a 2×2 at the top and bottom with the design in the middle. I was trying to replicate the side rail look. The plans also had the design boards running horizontal (same as the side rails), but I decided to run the chevron to match the headboard. I wasn’t concerned with precise cuts for the sides and bottom as my plan was to run the board through my table saw to trim the bottom and miter saw to trim the sides. I painted the back to cover the plywood board in the same fashion as the headboard.

With all the pieces complete it was time to move the pieces upstairs. The connecting of the headboard sides and top will need to take place in my bedroom and I’d need help carrying it upstairs, so I took the side and foot rails up and put them together with bed frame rails. I wish I had gone back to Jen Woodhouse’s website with the bed plan as she recommended a specific style rail. I purchased Surface Mounted Keyhole Bed Rail Brackets from Rockler. Rockler had the style she recommended also, but the one I selected allowed you to enter a screw for security, ensuring they would never come apart. I’m not sure why I was concerned about that. I was excited to get the headboard up, so I reached out to my cousin Zachary (young muscle) for help getting it upstairs.

I picked him up after his work shift. We carried it up the basement stairs, out the back door, around the house, through the front door, and then up the stairs to the master. It took us hours to get the side rails attached. Poor Zach had worked all day and then I held him hostage another 5 hours. I was so engrossed in attaching the sides, trying to get the mitered corners right that I didn’t take any pics, but finally we got it erected and leaning against the wall. Attaching the side rails to the headboard I thought would be the easy part since I had successfully attached the bed rail brackets to the foot and side rails. NOT! The rails I bought didn’t work the way the rails she recommended based on the headboard design. I finally gave up and took Zach home. I slept on the floor that night.

Clarity always comes in the morning and I had a plan devised. I needed to add pieces of wood to the bottom of the headboard to create a flush surface to mount the bracket. Fortunately I had plenty of scrap pieces to work with. Once I got those pieces glued and screwed in place I was ready to try attaching the rails again. I didn’t have the extra pair of hands, Zachary, anymore so I used my 4′ ladder and clamps to hold the headboard upright. I discovered I had actually installed the brackets on the bottom backwards. With all four pieces attached I then went back to the plans and attached the support pieces that would hold the box spring slats. I won’t need them, but I did want to put the support pieces in place for any future owner of the bedframe. Despite the splice at the bottom I think it turned out beautiful; not bad for an advanced DIYer. It’s sturdy and well built. My hopes would be that the headboard always remain in this space if I should depart this life while still living in the house. With the headboard complete I was back to the issue of what to do for a nightstand. Thanks to Etsy that problem was solved. Read how in my next post.

A Very Generous House Warming Gift

Getting the pergola completed this year was made possible when my cousins Marlon and Debbie offered to pay for my landscaping material as a house warming gift. I had already purchased the Forest Pansy Redbud, Limelight Hydrangea, and 8 coral bell plants, but still needed to purchase the green mountain boxwoods (3), green velvet boxwoods (3), Bobo hydrangeas (2), and buckthorns (3), plus mulch. Covid-19 was making it difficult for nurseries to get plant material, so I bought whenthey came in and the nursery took care of them until I was ready to plant them. While I had been a decades long customer of Lakeview Nursery they seemed completely indifferent to being a part of this project. I went with my drawing, so didn’t need landscape design work, but at a minimum I wanted to pay them to plant at least the two trees, but preferably all my plants. I paid 60% of the plant price many times at Inner Circle for that service. When I got a STRONG sense that didn’t want to work with me in that manner I started looking at other nursery options. Fortunately Mom and ‘Em, the new coffee and wine shop around the corner from me had recently installed their outdoor space. I called Theresa Ferrari, one of the owners (the Mom) and she shared with me her landscaper, Mike Acra, Acra Landscaping.

Mike came to my house. I shared with him the quote for the remaining plants I had gotten from Lakeview and he told me he could source those plants, even get larger buckthorns and green mountain boxwoods, and install everything including what I had purchased already. His quote was very close to just the plant material at Lakeview, so Marlon and Debbie approved them doing it all. While I was excited to design my first landscape, planting and yardwork falls under must do, not like to do in my arsenal of skills. I was very grateful to have this gift bestowed on my home. Mike’s crew arrived early on Friday, Sept 18 and had everything planted by noon.

The only thing I needed to do was finally properly daylight the downspout on the left side of house. After months of back and forth with the City on what I should, could do with that downspout I got an email confirmation that i could just daylight it, let the water run into my yard. I just needed to pull the water run off away from the house foundation. I’ve had an ugly, black drain pipe attached since the box gutters were repaired which had to go! My father sent me a YouTube video of what he thought I needed. It would have been a lot of digging and I knew I’d hit mass roots. I found another video that was simpler, although I did not follow it fully. With the gutter guards I had installed at the roof line I didn’t need a filter kit and I wanted the connection from the downspout to match what I had done with the rear downspouts. I also did not trench 10′ away, I did 5′ because it was still more than required and that was the scrape length of the PVC pipe that I had. I did use the pea gravel, T-pipe connector and drain grate. My hole under the t-pipe went down about 18″ and took the entire bag of gravel.

I’ll get some top soil and throw down seed to get some grass in that area. Fall is the time to overseed your yard and that is my next weekend project. I’m trying to get tall fescue grass to be the dominate grass in the front and side yard.

The final touch for the landscape was the addition of landscape lights. My father installed Malibu lighting at my old house. The technology for those lights have changed a lot over the years. We had incandescent bulbs that my mother and I had to change out every spring. I did convert to LED a few years ago, but it appears Malibu has gone out of business. For this project I purchased Hampton Bay lights from Home Depot. I had Mr. McGhee, my electrician, install another outside receptacle on the side of my house (I have one by backdoor and on porch, neither in a good location for accessing the left side of house). I purchased the Hampton Bay 120-watt transformer (2), 9.8-Watt Millennium Black Adjustable Light Color Outdoor Integrated LED Landscape Flood Light (10 – bulk price eligible when you buy 10 or more) and 14-2 landscape wire. I needed 75′ for left side and 50′ for right. These lights are even better than the old Malibu lights I’ve used. The stakes are metal instead of plastic. They have an extension plate you could hit with a hammer (vs. the top of light) and they have adjustable light settings. You can choose from 2700K Warm White, 3000K Soft White or 4000K Daylight light colors. These pics were set on 3000K, but I have subsequently gone done to the 2700K setting.

Stunning if I must say so myself.

Paint is to Foundation as Pergola is to Eye Lash Extension

With the house painting complete I was able to focus on completing the rest of the exterior renovation/restoration. I started by painting the front steps. I found extra wide, rubber stair treads on Amazon that should help protect the steps from foot traffic wear. Another item I added, but not visible, were gutter guards to help keep debris from clogging up my downspouts. I removed them to allow DJK Painting Co to paint behind them and discovered that one was partially blocked with twigs and leaves. I searched Google for options and found Joylight Gutter Guard also on Amazon.

During the final days of the paint job, I gave Mike Tanner of Tanner Construction a call to have RayRay and Bobby scheduled to install the final two columns that would support the pergola.  Sadly he shared that Ray had lost his battle with cancer.  Just three months ago he had installed the first four.  Rest in peace, Ray.  We decided to touch base on Monday, Sept 14 to check the weather forecast for the week.  I decided to move forward with the wood delivery for the same day.

With the beautiful restoration of the porch bead board ceiling, my original plan to build the pergola out of cedar was changed to a more affordable poplar wood as I will stain it to match the ceiling. What made the project affordable is I purchased “green” wood (not naturally or kiln dried) wood from Wilhelm Lumber located about 30 minutes away in Brookville, IN. My former neighbor told me about them. With delivery all the lumber was under $600.  

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The first task was cutting the design into the ends of the rafters.  My father made that easy by finding a PDF that provided templates for many different design styles.  I chose something simple, but also complimentary to my house. My beams were wider than the templates, so I took them to Fedex and had it blown up to 10″ and 7″ heights.  I cut them out and traced them onto scrape plywood and cut them out with my jigsaw. My plan was to use my router to cut the actual boards. Wilhelm had given me some 1″ thick sample pieces, so I used them as my test. My actual boards are almost 2″ thick. I purchased a router bit with a bearing and went for it. I failed miserably.

First I only clamped my template to the board. It shifted, so I got a notch into the board almost immediately. I ended up screwing the template to the board. I knew my bit would not cut completely through, but it labored cutting through half the thickness. Once I got through the first pass I went through again, this time letting the bearing ride against the cut portion. I got about half way down the board and it bogged down bad, so I pulled the bit out and started cutting from the opposite end. When the excess wood fell away I lost control of the router and it bounced along the edge causing ridges.

I knew I had the wrong size bit, learned to not cut against the grain, but when I lost control I also scared myself, so I called Kendall (the person that was helping me with the headboard and made me the heirloom box) and my neighbor Dusty for advice, sharing the above pics. Both confirmed my thoughts that I was trying to remove too much wood with a router and suggested I cut them out with my jigsaw. Kendall suggested using the router to clean the edges. Dusty said to sand the edges. Saving the cost of another bit I followed Dusty’s suggestion. I don’t know what I was thinking ever considering using my router. I purchased a 5-pack of Bosch High Carbon Steel Extra Clean Cut T-Shank Jig Saw Blades for Cutting Wood ($11 vs a $40 router bit) from Home Depot and that blade cut like butter and left a surface as smooth as a baby’s butt. I only sanded the edges to get rid of the tracing marks.

For the 2×2 top course I took the same design template, but reduced it to a size where at least half of the end would have a curve. Initially I only cut the shape on one end as I was not sure how long I was going to make them. Ultimately I made them 172″ long and had them extend approximately 5″ past each end rafter, so I did end up cutting the shape on both ends.

Bobby and John (they worked together installing my master shower) arrived on Wednesday and the plan was for them to put up the two columns, the two beams horizontal to the house that would support the other pergola rafters plus one of the perpendicular rafters so it would be stable enough for me to finish the rest. Their first step was setting the columns. I ordered two 4x4s from Wilhelm Lumber that would run up the center of the columns so the parallel rafters would have something to anchor to. They were bolted to the cement porch with ABA ZMAX Galvanized Adjustable Standoff Post Base and 1/2 in. x 4 in. Steel Hex-Washer-Head Indoor/Outdoor Concrete Anchors. They used my 2x2s to brace the columns until the 10″ rafters were installed. He also mounted a block of poplar wood I had cut to 9″ x 3.5″ and painted Sea Serpent, so there would be an anchor point to the house. I purchased OZCO 56628 1/4-inch by 5-3/4-inch OWT Timber Screws for this.

I selected Ozco Building Products fastners, specifically their Laredo Sunset series, for all of the visible fasteners of the pergola. Most I purchased through Amazon, but when I discovered I needed more 2″ Rafter Clips, I found them at the Home Depot store in Florence, KY. When it came time to put the parallel rafters up they discovered they did not have a 3/4″ drill bit that could go through both 2″ thick rafters and the 4×4 post for the OZCO 56650 3/4-inch by 6 to 8-inch OWT Timber Bolts I purchased, so they had to the company owner, Mike, to bring one. While we were waiting they set up one of the 7″ rafters that would run perpendicular to the house and discovered the board was too wide. I failed to take into account the 1″ extension of the fascia board attached to the soffit. Fortunately I have a table saw and Bobby and John ripped off the inch. I don’t have a feed table for my table saw (its a job site saw), so it definitely was going to take two people to rip the remaining 10 boards. Bobby worked with me to cut the rest and we got half of them done before Mike arrived with the drill bit.

The first thing he said to me was Venus, I cleared the day for these guys to work on your project. I over-estimated the time for the first four columns, so let us put up all the rafters, I promise it won’t break the bank. I knew I would struggle doing this by myself, so I let them do it. Nothing pains me more than to pay someone to do what I can do for myself given my limited financial resources. While John hung the ones we had ripped, Bobby helped me finish ripping the 1″ off the ones we had not done. They had all 11 up in just a couple hours. They also reinforced the ledger board by hitting the studs with 1/4 in. x 3-3/4 in. Hex Head Self-Tapping OWT Timber Screws capped with OZCO 56621 1-1/2-inch Hex Cap Nut. Theses allowed the screws to match the size of the Timber Bolts. I bought OZCO 56638 Laredo Sunset 2-inch HV (High Velocity) Rafter Clips to attach the 7″ beams (now 6″) to the 10″ support beams and OZCO 56639 Laredo Sunset Joist Hanger Flush 6 to 8-inch to attach to the ledger board that I had attached to the house when the box gutters were restored in 2018. I knew then I was doing this pergola. It was part of my vision from day one.

With the “heavy” lifting done, the only thing left for me was the top course of the 2×2 beams. I had planned on 12, but only had room for 11 with approximately 6″ between each beams. Once I got my calculations down I created a jig by cutting a block of wood 6 3/8″ wide, so that my spacing remains consistent. With two clamps and my impact driver I set out to attach 121, OZCO 56617 Laredo Sunset 2-inch Rafter Clips.

As I stated earlier, I purchased green wood from Wilhelm Lumber. It has to dry out naturally, contain less than 12% moisture, before I can stain it to match the bead board ceiling. I’ll tackle that project next spring and consider that “house maintenance” vs. a continuance of the house restoration. On to the landscape!

Her Make Up Is Complete

DJK Painting Co_Joe HallJoe Hall, owner DJK Painting Co., and his crew took over painting my house on August 6th. September 6 she was complete. They lost 7 days to rain, so in just 15 weekdays, two Saturdays, and one Sunday, the wrap up day, my house was transformed from an ugly duckling that had been cited by the City of Cincinnati for peeling paint on the windows (they didn’t care about the patch work look of the asbestos tile) to arguably the most beautiful house in Camp Washington. Elation seems like such a small word to describe how I feel right now. I’ve been waiting almost three years to see these colors (Sherwin Williams Sea Serpent and Incredible White) on my house. She’s beautiful.  I can’t thank Joe, Vincent, and Elijah enough for bringing my vision to life.

My family has told me that my post are getting to “wordy/long”, so I’ll let the pictures from their final week speak for themselves.

I thought it complete irony that “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was playing on Pandora when I connected the speakers.
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I got a new back door light fixture because I’m going to put a screen door up and the original one, which matched the front door fixtures, hung too low. Here are some before and after shots.

Now she needs her accessories and this restoration will be a wrap!

Continued Progress on House Painting

Joe and Vincent were wrapping up the Stock Street side when a young man stopped Joe to inquire about working. Elijah had well groomed locs, his pants were belted at his waistline, he spoke articulately. The next week he was part of the crew painting my house. His first task on my house was touching up the Stock Street side. Great job. He and Vincent really seemed to hit it off, working well together.

In week one, rain was forecast everyday. They loss one day to rain. In week two the forecast  was sunshine, low humidity, high 70s, no rain. Perfect summer painting weather. They lost two days to rain, 20200821_113450but the bigger blow was an injury to Vincent that will prevent him from continuing to work on the project.  Elijah now has big shoes to fill and from what I’ve seen so far he is up to the task. I’ve learned that Elijah is a graduate of Job Corp and he had joined a painter’s union.  He’s like a sponge. He wants to learn and he is humble. He has great basic skills and a strong work ethic grounded in wanting to be a high achiever. The young man already has his LLC, a company name and logo as at 23 years of age his aspiration is to own his own paint company. I have no doubt he’ll meet his goal.  We need more young people like Elijah to support, promote, and elevate.

The order of what was going to be painted has changed. Since my last post all sides of my house have been touched. The back of my house gets full sun early and it last well past quitting time, so the guys have been tackling the back and neighbor’s side together. If not for Vincent going down and the rain they would probably be finished with the entire house this week. The dormers really slow things down as Joe does not rely on my gutters to support his equipment. It’s a two-man job with one painting (Elijah) and the other bracing the ladders (Joe). They’ve started arriving earlier to capitalize on the shade as the asphalt shingles really put off heat, which I can testify to when I replaced the siding on the dormers.

The rear dormers are 100% complete. Only the Incredible White on the lower part of the rear needs to completed. The neighbor’s side is 98% complete. There is a small patch at the front gutter and dining room window that needs the Sea Serpent, but it will be easy to hit when they apply the Sea Serpent to the front. The front is 80% primed. I actually joined in on the painting by refreshing the basement/foundation color. Stock Street side looks even better now.

Rain came Thursday as forecast, so the day was cut short. Thanks to hurricane Laura it looks like Friday and Saturday are going to be a wash out too. As they were leaving Joe yelled if weather permits they may work Sunday. Barring more rain the house should be complete by mid next week. I’ve visualized these colors on my house since 2017 when I tried to win the HGTV Urban Oasis Giveaway House from that year. I had my color scheme before I had my house, but I found the perfect house to apply them to. My house’s outward potential is manifesting before my eyes; another vision coming true.

Sosa Hardwood Flooring – Making My Pine Floors Beautiful, Finally

A few times I referenced “drywall deja vu” with my first painter. What made it easier for me to pull the plug was learning from the mistake I made by allowing Roland Hardwood to continue restoring my hardwood floors when I had clear signs that the end result would not be right. I was under the gun. I had a buyer for my house that wanted a three week close. Once I got Roland confirmed from their projected start and finish date I would have approximately a week before I would be moving in. Delivery of my kitchen cabinets and appliances were set assuming the floors would be complete. After sanding the kitchen floors it was obvious the original flooring needed to be replaced, it was too far gone. Roland had five days slated for my project and they were unwilling to extend their time to do what was needed to do to make the floors right. I’ve only lived in my house two years and yet my first floor pine floors look like I’ve lived here two decades.

Sosa LogoThanks to old pine flooring given to me by a Camp Board Member, Lacey, I finally decided to make the floors right, With the outside transforming so beautifully, I could no longer stand the sight of my kitchen floors. While I thought about tackling this myself, I knew this was not a skill set in my wheelhouse so I called Sosa Hardwood Flooring, a company referred to me by a son of a longtime friend. He said he’d stake his life on the quality of their work. That was a good enough reference for me.

Sergio Sosa is so busy that it took three weeks to get on his calendar. When he came to give me a quote I showed him the wood and all my equipment, table and miter saw, router and router table. I said he was free to use all of it, which would save him from hauling his own. To prepare I had to move everything out of the guest room, office and kitchen that was movable, so stove, dish washer, and frig.  I had to remove all the shoe moulding. I also hung plastic to block off dining room from kitchen and zipper doors leading to my master and living room to minimize the dust that would be created.

Sergio and his crew man, Martin, took two days to rip out the rotten floor and replace it with Lacey’s boards. Her boards were wider than mine, so he not only had to rip them down to the right width, but router in a new groove. They also had to shore up under the kitchen counters. As a suspected, which is why this fix should have been done before the counters were set, they landed just shy of a supporting floor joist. Cutting the flooring flush to the cabinet would mean they weren’t supported. Fortunately I had plenty of 2×4 scrapes for him to work with.

The grain of Lacey’s boards weren’t as tight as my original, but I knew instantly that once sanded I would finally have the kitchen floors I expected. Wednesday they did all the sanding and filling where needed. In the office it was discovered that one area replaced by Roland Flooring was done without hitting the joist. Sergio had to go in the basement and shore it up otherwise the entire board could snap if something heavy hit at that location. Roland had also encouraged me to stain the pine floors. The oak floors in the dining and living rooms had to be stained as the new oak that they installed would never match the original. I decided to stain both sides the same. Once the stain was applied to the pine I knew I had made the wrong decision. That was corrected by Sergio’s sanding.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings they applied the protective poly coating. Roland only applied two coats because they considered the stain the first coat. I got to enjoy a nice staycation at the brand new Lytle Park Hotel, a $35 million re-development of the former Anna Louise Inn, since I lost access to my master suite and 1st floor bathroom. What a gorgeous property. It is now my new favorite hotel in downtown Cincinnati.

I can’t get over how great my floors are now. This is what I had envisioned when I made the decision to let these pine floors be my flooring versus covering or replacing. All the shoe moulding has been returned and I’ve even installed the moulding on the kitchen back wall and pantry, which I had left off intentionally until I got this mistake corrected.