Moving Small Mountains, Literally

Mother nature has shown her wet side over the past several weeks.  I’ve wanted to take advantage of her free water after re-seeding the front yard, but needed to till the area in order to loosen the dirt and change the grade first.  Since tilling super wet soil would be next to impossible, I’ve been waiting for a rain free weekend, which has not been forthcoming.  Wednesday marked three straight days of sunny dry weather with rain returning the next day, so this was the day I decided to rent a rear-tine tiller and knock this project off my list.

It’s hard to tell from the featured image, but the area was like a rolling hill.  When the lead line was replaced last year Cincinnati Water Works dug up most of the area and did me a favor by removing the sidewalk to nowhere that cut across the front (Side Story:  20190509_161510Prior to my purchase, my neighbor decided to widen their driveway by moving their fence about two feet onto my property negating the ability to walk around the side of my house and leaving me a sidewalk to nowhere.)  It lowered the soil at the foundation and left an improper slope.

The easy way to fix that area would be with a small bobcat, but I’ve never worked one of those and a landscape company wanted $500 or more.  Tilling the area to break up the soil allowing me to shovel and move it with a wheel barrel or rake it was something I could 20190508_193617.jpghandle.  It took four men to lift the tiller into my PT Cruiser and all swore it wouldn’t fit.  With ramps I got it out and in by myself.  Out by putting it in neutral and using gravity to let it roll down the ramp; in by driving it up the ramp. Men.

I started in the area around the clump of mature trees I allowed to stay when I was clearing all the other trees from the backyard in anticipation of the garage apartment I plan to build.  I was getting such grief about cutting down so many trees that I decided to leave these, but I removed the rusted chain link fence that was not encompassed by the trees.  I also had to create dirt to fill the tripping hazard trench I created when I dug up all the flower bulbs someone had planted.  The plan is to fill bare areas with grass and then I’ll make small flower beds with mulch to make it look intentional.

I won’t address the backyard or the tree stumps until the garage construction begins.

20190509_123401I had a couple of bare spots that I made worse, intentionally, just so I could have the seed in loose soil.  Then I turned my sights on the primary area.  I called my cousin Zachary to come by the house about 2pm to help me load the unit back in the car (I called him after watching 4 men struggle, I hadn’t used it yet to know in gear 1 it moved slow enough to drive it into the back of my car).  Well at 2 pm I hadn’t made a dent, so thankfully when my aunt brought him over he stayed until his mom got off work and picked him up, about 3 hours

He helped me install most of this small retaining wall (short 8 blocks) I needed to hold the dirt that I wanted to fill in around the downspout connected to the drain (made necessary due to the fence move, I lost the space to create a natural slope).  I’ll probably need a few bags of top soil to fill it in more, but I’ll deal with that when I put the landscaping in.  I got most of the tilling and dirt hauling done with Zachman’s help.

I moved to the backyard and the area around the air unit as I needed to lower the side in front of the unit and I want to get some grass in the area.  Eventually I’ll build a deck off the back door, but until then I’m tired of my dogs tracking in mud.  Dark fell before I could get the seed down.  The worst part of physically taxing projects is being forced to stop before you’re done.  My lower back, arms, and shoulder ached and I knew I’d be stiff the next day, but rain was in the forecast.  I had to suck it up and finish in the morning.

On the wall I needed two half pieces, so I pulled out my trusty grinder and cut as deep as I could on all four sides.  I then put my chisel in the groove and hit it with my small sledge hammer, three whacks before it cracked, clean.

I used a drop spreader to apply the seed, racked it slightly before applying the fertilizer.  I am not going to put down straw.  At the last minute I decided to purchase 6 pieces of sod to place on the curb section.  It was only 3′ x 12′ and my hopes is that by seeing grass my neighbors won’t drive on it when they park in my spot.  I tried seeding that area last summer, but didn’t water it enough it keep it growing.  I had 1 1/2 pieces of sod left so I placed them along the wall to hopefully stop the soil from washing out onto the sidewalk when it rains.  With the change in slope it should happen less, but having instant grass in that area should stop it altogether.

Hopefully in about two weeks I’ll be posting pictures of a yard with grass.  I’m hoping this, along with planting some shrubs on the right side of house will give her a more satisfactory curb appeal, as painting may not happen this year.  Come on rain!

Houston, We’ve Got Air Conditioning

I don’t think I could last all summer, especially on a super humid day, but for the few warm days we’ve had thus far I’ve enjoyed sleeping under my fan.  One of the things I was looking forward to was the cross breeze I’d have due to the number of windows Iin my master suite.  I’ve gotten some of my best sleeps when I was in a place with an open window and cool air blowing in.  Spring allergies kept me limited on the frequencies thus far, but watch out fall.

I didn’t want 80+ temps to catch me off-guard, so with the concrete pad in place, I scheduled the air conditioner unit install.  The crew from Baker, Bauer & Fish completed their HVAC install on Wednesday.  I only have two pictures because I was doing yard work in the front while they worked in the back and basement, but James put in a half-day (left) and Rasheed a full-day with overtime to make sure I had air that day.  I can’t say enough about how pleased I’ve been with Tom Bauer and his staff.  I highly recommend them to anyone needing service on an existing unit or a new unit.  I will definitely use them again on my garage apartment project.

 

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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Visitors Are Welcomed

It finally arrived.  My long-awaited front door was delivered to the shop for painting/staining on February 28.  I huge thanks goes to Anna Petersen, the young lady that welded my basement sink stand for allowing me to use her studio.  Due to the delay, the door arrived during very cold temps, too cold for my painter, Britt Sang to work on the door in his house shop.  Due to the size of the door he wasn’t able to get it into his basement where he normally works on door projects.  He was not able to warm his garage to a temp needed for painting and staining, so I was forced to either find a new painter or a place for him to work.  Since he was referred to me by Hyde Park Lumber and they were now paying for his services as part of my reparations, I called Anna who did not hesitate to say yes.

Hyde Park Lumber arrived promptly at 10am.  The same two men that delivered the first door brought the new and they nervously removed the cover in anticipation of my reaction. It was beautiful.  It had the right sidelights and with a quick measurement was the right size.  Massive relief.  Britt and his partner Bernie got busy right away.  Initially Britt told me it would take him 10 days to paint and stain the door, but Bernie tackling the stain side and him the painted they were able to have it done in a week.  Unfortunately for me I was scheduled to be in New Orleans with a client the first week of March, so it was decided that I would not schedule the install until I returned, which gave the paint and stain extra time to cure.

I had Doug Routt owner of Sentry Doors scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, although we didn’t confirm until Monday the 11th to ensure the weather would cooperate and it did.  That gave me two days to find and clean up the inside trim pieces from the original door.  The top trim, between the door and transom, was missing when I purchased the house, but thankfully I had a suitable replacement from all the saved trim from doors that were removed during demo and not part of the rebuild.  I also cleaned up the transom, all using my tried and true denatured alcohol and Restor-A-Finish process.

Doug’s installer Eddie and his wife Jen (this husband and wife team did not disappoint like the Roland Hardwood couple) picked the door up from Anna’s shop and brought it to my house.  As fate would have it, Duke Energy was working on power lines in the area and had turned off power to my side of Camp Washington.  He was able to remove the original trim (the goal was to keep it in tact as it would be impossible to find new which match the trim around the transom), but he soon reached a point where he needed power to run his tools to cut out the old door.  Fortunately I had a battery-powered reciprocating saw he was able to use until the battery died.  At that point I left to retrieve my generator from my storage locker.  Power was restored before I returned and thankfully Jen took pictures of this momentous occasion in my absence.

I returned in time to see the sidelights and frame being carried from the truck.  Eddie suggested that I should work to remove some of the paint built up on the trim he removed, so I turned my attention to that in between taking more pictures.  I love seeing the handwriting from the mill on the back of these old pieces of wood.

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20190315_124848I had 16 weeks to pick out and order the lockset for my door.  Incredibly I forgot and Monday was forced to do a Google search to see if a can find one locally.  I wanted something similar to the original handle and a higher quality than what I could find at Home Depot and Lowes.   I found Bona Decorative Hardware located in Oakley.  What an awesome display of cabinet and door hardware they had among other items like fire place inserts and faucets.  If I am fortunate to restore another old house, this will be my go to place.  They are family owned and operated and what struck my eye when I first saw their website were the words “architectural hardware”.  I had no doubts that I would find something, the more pressing question was could I get it in two days.

Fortunately they had a vendor, Emtek Assa Abloy, located in CA that shipped same day if ordered by noon.  Their product line was exactly what I was looking for, actually more than I was looking for as I was able to customize the lockset and select my inside and outside pieces.  I selected their Nashville set, which offered 8 different finishes, 10 different lever options, and 19 different knob options.  Since I have the original 8 point glass knobs throughout the house I selected a 8 point glass knob for the inside.  All in oil rubbed bronze to match my outside lights.  They arrived Wednesday morning and I was able to pick up while Eddie and Jen took a lunch break.

With the time lost with the power outage, Eddie had to return on the next day to finish putting the trim back on.  That gave me extra time to apply stripper on the outside pieces to remove more than what scrapping could remove.  I got down to either the wood or original white color after removing gray, dark green, and yellow layers.  The original inside pieces as a stand alone looked darker than the door, but once attached to the door it made the door look like it had been there forever.  It proves the weeks I took removing trim prior to demo was worth the effort.  I love the front door and I’m so glad I held firm on the decision to maintain the 40″ opening and wood.

The Rest of the Story

With the tub reglazed and moving into a house without a functioning kitchen or bathroom it was time to crack the whip on the 1st floor bath.  I had to resume working on the tile around the tub so that I could at least take baths.

Since a few days had gone from when I started the walls, when I went to resume I quickly noticed that the tiles on the long wall were not lining up with the shower head wall.  The bottom row is the only row I had to cut to size and at some point I did not pay close enough attention to keep them aligned.  The American Olean 4×4 had built in spacers, loved that about them, but I knew if I didn’t correct alignment by the time I got to the top my chair rail tile wouldn’t line up.  Thankfully I had bought 1/8″ spacers, so I used them to slightly widen the space until the corners lined up again; four rows with spacers meant I was 1/2″ off.  So fortunate to catch that when I did.

The first real challenge I had was the soap niche.  I had never done one, but YouTube and a few visits to look at tile shop displays was all I needed to feel comfortable with moving forward.  Planning the location of a soap niche is very important.  I purchased pre-fabricated soap boxes for both showers, which had to be screwed to the joist before the cement board.  I measured up approx 22″ from the tub, which is where I thought five, whole pieces of the 4×4 plus the 2×6 bullnose border would fit.  Missed it!

First, the tile actually measured 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ and I didn’t know before I started that the bottom row would not be a whole piece, so I actually needed a 3″ wide border.  I was stymied for a couple of days until I had another one of my MacGyver visions.  I had initially bought the wrong cove base, but hadn’t returned it yet.  It was 4×6 with a bullnose, so I cut it down to the 3″ I needed.  The mitered corners were easier to measure and cut than I thought they’d be.  10 days after moving in I took my first bath; no more inconveniencing friends and former neighbors.

Once I got passed the soap niche and tub area I turned my focus back to the floor.  I had grouted the white area, but not the black as I wanted to do it with the soap niche.  In hindsight I should have chosen a neutral grout color, like gray, and used it on the floors 20181225_175135and walls, but noooooo my mind/vision was fixed on black on black, white on white.  Before I could apply the black I had to use my Dremel tool to clean out the grooves where the white grout had gotten into the wrong areas.  I was on my hands and knees for hours.  After getting all the areas cleaned out I vacuumed and applied blue painters tape around the edges in hopes that would be enough to stop the black grout from bleeding into the white areas.  Theory and reality did not match on this occasion.  When I pulled off the tape the “rug affect” looked like a hot mess and I cursed myself for thinking I could pull that off.  At least the soap niche turned out alright.

Fixing the bleed over was more hours on my hands and knees using my Dremel tool to clean out the black.  In some areas I had to mix more white grout to touch up, but amazingly, given my amateur status, the “rug affect” was a success and I could turn my attention to finishing the rest of the walls.  All tile work was completed on January 8, over three months from the day I started.

My birthday gift to myself was going to be the completion of the bathroom by installing the toilet and sink.  Unfortunately my Signature Hardware hardware fixtures, purchased in Spring of 2018 did not allow that to happen.

I started with the sink.  I had purchased their Carden Pedestal sink.  I really wanted a console sink, but I decided to be prudent given the master bath extravagance and save the $400.  I got the base in place and set the sink on top and placed it against the wall.  It did not lay flush.  I thought for sure it was my tile job, so I pulled out my leveler and it was not the wall.  The sink was defective; there was a hump in the middle.

I turned my sites to the toilet only to find that one of the two tank bolts were missing.  I was PO’d.  So much for that birthday gift.  I called Signature Hardware, had to send them 20190112_193101the pictures and video above, but once received they agreed to replace the sink.  Fortunately for me I live about 15 minutes from their warehouse, so I didn’t have to wait for delivery.  I returned it myself and was told they had to open four boxes before they found one that was flat across the back.  Apparently they had gotten a bad batch.  I got a new pack of tank bolts too.  This cost me another week.  When I was able to work on the bath again I started with the toilet.  Easy, peasy, I had it connected in about 30 minutes, flushed it once all was well.  Back to the sink.  I had to connect all the faucets parts first and as I was working on that, the toilet started to run.  Long story shortened they sold me a toilet that had been returned/defective.  That was why there was only one bolt originally.

I am now beyond PO’d.  My track record with my Signature Hardware fixtures up to that point was not good.  I had already dealt with two bad drains, two bad aerators, the sink, missing bolts, and now a defective toilet.  There customer service with each call was stellar, they always replaced parts quickly and without question.  For my inconvenience with the sink they refunded me 10% of the purchase price, a whopping $21.99.  In a previous blog I had talked about ordering sink faucets with the wrong reach that they would not let me return, so needless to say I wanted a manager to explain how I got a returned toilet.  I wasn’t overly irrate, but I listed all the issues I have been having with their products and shared I had never had problems like these when purchasing from Home Depot or Lowes and that they were supposed to have a high end product.  I told him I regretted ever buying from them and that I feared connecting the fixtures in the master shower (the only items of theirs left to install).

He asked me what he could do to make me happy, as my experiences weren’t a true reflection of their workmanship and quality.  He opened the door and I burst through it.  I asked for the console sink I really wanted and he gave it too me with no hesitation.  Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened to you; can I get an Amen!  Once again, good customer service can overcome negative situations.  I’ve already purchased a rob hook and toilet paper dispenser of theirs for my master via Build.com (I had a credit to use othewise I would have gotten from them directly).  The sink top was the same, so all I had to do was pick up the new toilet and console, which they had ready for me in less than two hours.  It took another two weeks before I had everything in (fear of drilling holes into my tile was the biggest hold up), but on February 9th I had a fully functioning bath.

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The sink, toilet (I went with a round toilet as they would not have had an elongated in 1924), tub overflow drain cover, and shower curtain rod came from Signature Hardware.  The overflow drain looks like its smiling at you when you take a bath.  The towel rod, and toilet paper dispenser are American Standard TR Collection and the sink and shower faucets are American Standard Hampton Collection all ordered from Build.com.  The original tub filler that came with the shower set I had to swap out for a longer one, Delta 7″, as when I filled the tub about half of the stream went directly into the overflow due to its cup design.  That also came from Build.com.  Next to Amazon that is my favorite online store to shop for my house.

Trying to be a more positive person is something I’m seeking on this new journey, so that is the inspiration behind my decor.  It is a tribute to all the positive people that have come into life keeping me sane and motivating throughout this restoration journey.  The wall paper that line the shelves in the closet and the back of the medicine cabinet is called Dream Big from Wayfair.com.  The shower curtain, filled with motivational quotes and hooks, double sided so curtain and liner don’t share a hook, were great finds from Amazon.  My other accessories: soap dispenser and trash can came from Bed, Bath, while the paper hand towel dispenser  and linen like paper towels came from Amazon.  All complimenting my black and white color scheme.  I may have mentioned this item in an earlier blog about the electric, but I absolutely love my exhaust fan/light.  Purchased from Build.com the fan comes on automatically whenever it senses humidity in the room.

I still need to touch up some areas with paint, hang the doors and medicine cabinet, but the functionality is complete.  Of all the things I’ve done in this house, I think I’m most proud of this bathroom.  My goal was to restore it to its original look and I think I accomplished that.  I see the flaws, but I also marvel every time I walk in it amazed by what I accomplished with no assistance.  I actually tell myself I’ve done good.  I’m giddy, excited, to get the medicine cabinet complete.  It will be an inspired by DIY/HGTV project with salvage material.  Check back often to see the COMPLETELY restored bathroom.

 

And Then There Were Two

20190301_111545I was able to remove the yellow electrical permit from my front window today.  I passed the electrical inspection.  Of all the things my father said we could tackle, this was the one I had most doubt.  I have a healthy fear of electrocution and electrical fires.  My house had already survived one fire in its past, so I most certainly didn’t want to cause another.

HOWEVER, although physically taxing (pulling stiff wire through small holes above your head is no joke) I will never doubt my ability to tackle a project like this again.  I saved $1000s by doing the work myself and learned a great deal thanks to my father and my resident licensed electrician that stepped in when needed, Paul McGhee.

No More Tape Pulls and the Start of the Crown Moulding

My finished carpenter, Tom Milfeld, returned today and I finally have all of my cabinet hardware installed.  I had a theory on how to create a template out of some scrap wood, but had tremendous fear in trusting my measuring skills and drilling holes.  I told Tom I could forgive him if he drilled wrong, but I’m so hard on myself that I wouldn’t quickly forgive myself.  He put my plan into action and in about two hours had all my drawer pulls installed.  HEAVEN.  The knobs and pulls I got from the same company the cabinets came from, Ohio Valley Solid Surface.  Emily Womble, my sales rep, was a big help in steering me in the right direction on the hardware.  I had the mindset of putting a similar pull as to what is going on the restored built-in, which I’m so glad I did not do.  I selected Jeffrey Alexander, Tiffany Collection.  They look awesome; perfect complement to my bridge faucet from Signature Hardware.  I’m going to start calling myself an interior designer soon.

With that done he got to start on putting up the crown moulding.  I’ll have two levels of moulding that will go all the way to the ceiling.

Tom decided to start with the single small cabinet.  He got the first layer on with no issues.  His measuring skills are always right on point.  This is a flat piece that just needed a simple 45 degree angle cut to allow the corners to meet.  The actual crown piece poses more of a challenge as it comes off at an angle creating a compound miter cut.  He had the perfect tool and made it look super simple.  He intentionally cut the length over, so had to make a few trips down to the basement.  He decided to glue and pin nail the corner, which needed to dry before it could be hung.  He’ll finish up next weekend.

Since the rain held off today, I also got the flood light replaced on the outside, so now I’m ready for my electrical inspection.  My electrician recommended a unit from RAB Lighting, which I was able to pick up from Richard’s Electric.  I got the STL110HW model and unlike Ring it works from 13 feet off the ground.  Piece of cake to install thanks to a hanging hook, so I never felt I was in danger of falling off the ladder.  Today was a GOOD DAY!

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