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!.

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.  

20200914_192317

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!

Porch Ceiling Restored with Penofin

On multiple searches for the best oil to apply to bead board porches Penofin Penetrating Oil came up, so I went to their website to do further research. I watched their video on how to apply and it focused on deck application. Just to be sure it could be applied to ceilings I emailed their customer service. This is a great tip for DIYers; don’t be afraid to reach out directly to the company whose product you want to use. I have rarely had a negative exchange when doing so.

Kaylee Simii, Penofin Customer Service Manager, replied within a day with detailed instructions for utilizing their Ultra Premium Red Label product. She shared it offered 99% UV protection with mold, mildew and algae inhibitors and it is the same application process as seen in the videos. The preparation and application is a three step process and I must admit I wasn’t thrilled. I went to Amazon first for the product and no one carried small sizes, so I was looking at $150 in products. Their website offered a product locator section, so by typing in my zip code I discovered that Doppes Building Material, less than 5 miles from my house, carried the product. Fortunately they carried quart sizes in the step 2 and 3 products she recommended and they were only $16 each. The actual oil only comes in gallon cans, but I’ll still be well under $100 so I decided to move forward with their product.

The first item in her instructions was: pressure washing is not recommended. Well that ship sailed as I had to do that to get the Peel A-Way product off. Oh well, forge on. Item 2: Penofin Pro-Tech Step 2 Cleaner. Mix 1 cup of Penofin Pro-Tech Step 2 Cleaner to 1 gallon of water in a garden pump sprayer. Prior to applying the Penofin Pro-Tech Step 2 Cleaner solution, sufficiently wet down the surface area with a garden hose. Now you will mist the surface with the Penofin Pro-Tech Step 2 Cleaner. The solution needs to sit on the surface for 10-15 minutes without drying, so you may need to mist with the solution occasionally to prevent the solution from drying on the surface. After the solution has sat on the surface for 10-15 minutes you will lightly agitate the surface area with a push broom or soft bristle brush. Finally, you will rinse the surface area with a garden hose. This is their video on applying the product.

Item 3 from her email stated: Penofin Pro-Tech Step 3 Brightener. Be sure to cover/protect metal surfaces. Mix 1 cup of Penofin Pro-Tech Step 3 Brightener to 1 gallon of water in a garden pump sprayer. Prior to applying the Penofin Pro-Tech Step 3 Brightener solution, sufficiently wet down the surface area with a garden hose. Now you will mist the surface with the Penofin Pro-Tech Step 3 Brightener. The solution needs to sit on the surface for 20-25 minutes without drying, so you may need to mist with the solution occasionally to prevent the solution from drying on the surface. After the solution has sat on the surface for 20-25 minutes you simply rinse off with a garden hose. This is their video on applying the product.

Amazing results and very easy to execute. I plan to build a deck off the back of my house and thanks to Covid-19 I won’t be able to justify the cost of composite wood for it (bummer), so it’s nice to know I’ve found a product that will make maintaining a wood deck feasible. Item 4 in her email said to allow wood surface to dry for 24-48 hours before application of the Penofin penetrating oil finish.

Ultra Premium Red Label Wood Stain Finish | PenofinI waited 48 hours before applying the oil.  The hardest decision for me was deciding which color to apply.  The cleaning and brightening steps really lightened the wood.  Fortunately Doppes offered sample tubes of the stains, so I got Cedar, Redwood, and Western Red Cedar samples and applied them to the house.  I found a lumber mill in Indiana that sold to order specification Eastern Red Cedar, which I planned for my pergola.  My thought was to find a stain that would hopefully match the cedar.  Given I’ve never seen Eastern Red Cedar I was working from photos of the wood, which I new would change colors as it aged.  I didn’t like any of those options, that I applied to an area that would be painted Incredible White, so I emailed the color chart to my father who thought Bark or Mission Brown would be the best options.  I went back to Doppes and retrieved those samples and decided to go with Mission Brown.  As luck would have it they did not have the Red Label or Blue Label (99% and 90% UV protection respectively) in that color in stock.  They could order, but I wouldn’t have until next week.  This was my weekend to finish this project, so I brought home samples of the colors they had, Sable, Sierra, Hickory, and Clear.  Mission Brown was my color.  The next closes business that sold the product was over an hour away in Georgetown, KY.

20200816_105916Someone else had ordered 4 gallons of Penofin Transparent Penetrating Oil Finish Stain & Sealer in Mission Brown, but had not picked it up. Doppes was willing to sell me a gallon of that, so I went home and looked up that product on Internet and decided to go for it. That area will never see sun, so I didn’t think the high UV value was relevant and I thought the added benefit of the sealer would be, but lets face it…..the color was right. Kaylee had sent steps for applying the Red Label, but I followed the instructions on the can instead. This product called for two thin coats, so I taped off under the moulding being stained and went to work. It applied darker on the bead board than in my sample patch, but it was still the right color. What the first coat revealed were areas where I still had paint in the grooves, so instead of resting in the hour between coats I pulled out my scraper and pick and removed more paint. It chipped out easily, thankfully, in most areas. I didn’t get it all, but enough.

The second coat went on like the breeze that started blowing as it looked as though a pop up shower was headed my way. It never did, but I enjoyed the drop in temp. I applied the product to my door step also, which allowed me finally install the metal strip that had come with the door. My door installer told me to wait until I painted to put it in. My porch is absolutely beautiful. The ceiling now ties in with my brown stained doors that will greet you as soon as you enter. It even ties well with my light fixtures, mailbox, and door hardware. One would think I was a born designer, lol. I did manage to get stain on my concrete. The gray areas don’t concern me as that will be painted, but I hope I can get it off the red areas or at least lighten it greatly.

This project is the lemonade that came from the lemons of selecting the wrong painter. I’m thrilled with the final results, so much so that I am no longer going to use Eastern Red Cedar for my pergola. I found a lumber mill, Wilhelm Lumber, only 30 minutes away that also cuts to order. I spoke to them and they are recommending Poplar or White Oak as they furnish it to some of the top landscape designers in the city specifically for pergola projects. Poplar will be far cheaper and it should stain similar to the ceiling providing more of a cohesive look.

Peel A-Way Clean-up to Prepare for Oil Finish

After getting all the crown moulding on the front cleared of paint and ready for Joe and crew, I finally turned my focus on the porch ceiling bead board. Thanks to working on other projects for Mike Tanner, Joe is very familiar with painting my type of columns, so it is very important for me to get this project done before he starts working on the front of the house. His plan is to paint fully the Stock Street side, followed by my neighbor’s side. These areas call for his tallest ladders and will be the most difficult to paint. If I’m finished with my project he’ll paint the front next, saving the rear for last.

I had received the sample pints from Alan Bensen, National Account Sales Manager Dumond Chemicals, Inc., but I started with what I had left from the crown moulding. Alan sent me an email with reminder tips from our phone call. Somehow I forgot reminder one and paid the price for it.

  1. Apply Peel Away 1 like you are icing a birthday cake, and you like icing! 😊  
  2. Don’t let it sit too long or else it may dry out (24 hours max).  It may even work overnight (apply at 5-6pm at night), remove before noon the next day….it’s trial and error.
  3. When removing, use water, nylon scrub brush, and/or scotch- bright pad to remove. Don’t be afraid to use the garden hose!  Water and elbow grease working together does the trick.

When this product dries out on your surface it does not scrub off. I had to use my pressure washer and unfortunately in spots I furred up the soft pine boards. On the phone he had told me, based on the pictures I sent that the product wouldn’t need to sit for more than a couple of hours. It was drying so fast that for the third section I only let it sit for an hour. Applying it liberally is truly the key. The paint that was in the groves, especially around the edges was my primary concern. The re-treatment with the Peel A-Way did nothing around the edges; about 60% came out of the grooves thanks to the 20200813_081636pressure washer. The very thing I was trying to avoid, using my heat gun with a metal pick, is exactly what I ended up doing. The white along the edges I think was caulk and not paint because it was really gummy once hit with the heat gun. I burned the wood in some places. That didn’t concern me much as once I discovered I had furred up the wood in some areas I knew I’d need to sand the surface. The burns weren’t deep, so most would go away with the sanding.  I started with 80 grit, followed by 120.  I may go a step further before applying the oil.

I did the ceiling in three sections over the course of two days. My arms were so tired, as all the work was above my head with extended arms. I still love Peel A-Way and would highly recommend it, but given how much manual removal I ended up doing I could have eliminated the need to use the pressure washer and sanding if I had just started with my heat gun and pick.

Ceiling Before Peel A-Way

Amazing what the right product and elbow grease can accomplish. After doing some Internet searching I have decided to use Penofin Ultra Premium Red Label Pentrating Oil. I’ll let the Peel A-Way neutralizing agent set for a day before starting the Penofin prep processes. If all goes well I should be finished with my outdoor projects by the end of the weekend.

Peel A-Way Product Review

With all the scraping Lyle has done on the 2nd floor dormers over the past 5 weeks, which exceeded my expectations, I decided I wanted the paint from the front porch removed also. When Lyle first walked the property I said that didn’t need to be scraped as I assumed the bead board would be difficult and time consuming to clear properly. After all that is why I rebuilt the rear portico. Lyle said Peel A-Way would be the product to use, but it was expensive (approximately $40/ 1.25 gallon from the Oakley Paint Store; $55 at Sherwin Williams). I told him I’d buy it if he applied it, so I did and he did. I watched the product video several times before he applied it and thought if it works that well maybe I can leave the wood natural.

The product stayed on approximately 24 hours before Lyle removed it.

Honestly I wasn’t impressed at that stage. My thoughts of leaving the natural wood were dashed, but at least I felt the new paint would look cleaner. At that point I was contemplating painting it white or Lullaby Blue in keeping with southern porches. I had bought 3 pails and Lyle had used 1.5 of them, so he suggested applying another coat which he did. It was early evening, around 5pm when he applied. By the next morning when I let out my dogs I discovered that the paper had already fallen. I sent Lyle a text and he said he couldn’t come for another hour. I remember him warning it was important to not let the product dry out, so I removed the final piece that had not fallen and all the product that was still adhered to the boards.

I could still see paint and product in the grooves, so I used the edge of my carbide scrapper to remove it. Where it was still moist it came off easy. Lyle did arrive and I asked to use his paint eater tool I saw him use on the windows. He said he’d do it, I let him, and when he finished I knew I wanted to keep the wood natural. Peel A-Way removed so much that it was worth the extra sweat equity I’d need to perform to get it clean enough to leave unpainted. At that point I told Lyle I would take over this portion of the project. I will take the time and effort to remove all the traces of paint, but so worth it. I need for him to focus on the house he started on June 9.

I didn’t want to buy anymore Peel A-Way as I thought it would be overkill for what paint was left, so I went up to the Clifton Ace Hardware store to see what product they’d recommend. I showed the pics above and the owner was so impressed that she went to Dumond’s website and is going to look into carrying it at her store. Another worker recommended that I use Citristrip. I knew that wasn’t a good option as I used that product when I stripped the doors (sure wish I knew about Peel A-Way then). It would work, but be messy. What I really liked about the Peel A-Way was the ease of clean up. The sheets went in the trash and any paint that did fall to the ground swept up easily. He then recommended Goof Off, which I bought. When I got home I decided to contact Dumond Chemicals, manufacturer of Peel A-Way, made in the USA, directly to see if they had a spray on product that would work. Their website list the names, phone, and emails to people in their corporate office so I emailed my pictures to Customer Support; Dave Martin, Dumond Senior Chemist; Matt Bartolotta, Product Technical Manager; and cc’d the President, Richard Grear.

Customer Suport replied stating to apply more Peel A-Way, but Matt responded back stating that Alan Bensen, National Account Manager, wanted to speak with me directly and he asked for my number. In my initial email I did mention my blog, so Alan actually had reached out to me through that and asked that I call him between 3 and 5 Friday, which I did. What a great conversation. He’s another old house restorer himself and had done a similar project on his own home. He confirmed what Customer Support had responded, but stressed that I only needed to apply it to the areas in question. From the pictures he didn’t think I’d need that much, so he offered to send me their free samples. He shared I’d only need to let it set a couple of hours and I didn’t even need to use the paper sheets that came with the product. I let him know I had bought extra, so had plenty I could use. He then said to use a nylon brush and water to remove the product. He also recommended that I get the Scotch Brite pads for scrubbing. This is what I call great customer service. It ranks right up there with the owner of Thermasol, Mitch Altman, calling personally to assist with my shower.

I’m excited to share the final results, so stay tuned.

Window Sill and Frame Restoration

20200622_201043My prized stained glass window, exterior frame, was in rough shape.  While removing the paint I discovered two areas where large chunks of the frame had been filled with something that looked like plaster and it was not done well.  They were already loose, so I decided to remove them and search for a better product to use.  I was already familiar with wood epoxy, I used it to restore the inside frame, but I wasn’t sure if the product I used could be used outdoor.  I turned to Google and stumbled across several YouTube videos that talked about Abatron’s LiquidWood and WoodEpox.  I decided this was the product I wanted to use and with luck the Clifton Ace Hardware store carried the kit.  After watching Abatron’s video several times, I decided this was the product to use to also restore the window sills.

Since I wanted to finish installing the new plinths, I started with those sills first. As per the video I prepped the wood making sure all paint was removed and I used my vacuum cleaner to remove all dust and in the case of the bathroom window, suck out all the paint chips that had fallen in the huge cracks. I mixed equal parts of the LiquidWood parts A and B and applied it to the wood with a cheap bristle paint brush. The video suggest drilling 1/8″ holes in the wood to allow the product to seep deeper. I did this on the bedroom window sill since it was not as cracked as the bathroom window. That window sill felt brittle/frail to the touch. As you can see from the pics below the sill darkened after applying the LiquidWood.

The video states you should apply the WoodEpox while the LiquidWood is still tacky, so after about 30 minutes I began mixing equal parts of WoodEpox A and B. The video suggests you can add LiquidWood to the WoodEpox to thin it out, if desired. I did not do this on my first use, but did for the remainder of the project as I felt the frosting like consistency was easier to apply with my putty knife.

I let it dry a couple of days (I had things to do), but before installing the plinths I sanded them until smooth. First with 60 grit, then 120. They felt and looked stronger. This was definitely the right decision and right product, so I turned to the stained glass window next. It turned out awesome.

The original kit I bought contained 12 oz LiquidWood and 12 oz WoodEpox. I got the plinth sills and the stain glass done with that kit. I ended up purchasing two additional, pint sizes (pint each of A and B, total four pints) of LiquidWood and one pint size of the WoodEpox to complete all the window sills and some minor repair on the rear portico. The process did not change, but I would suggest not working in extreme heat or direct sunlight. I repaired the dormer window sills from inside the house and was holding the cup of WoodEpox outside in direct sun. The product sets faster in heat, so I ended up wasting most of that batch as it hardened before I could spread it. With that lesson I also started mixing smaller batches as it only got hotter as this project went on.

On a few of the windows the filler used to fill the notches that probably once held shutters were missing. The Abatron product is expensive and I didn’t want to buy any more WoodEpox, so to fill those areas I used a product called ScupltWood that I’ve had for months. I can’t even remember why I bought it, but it is also a two part epoxy putty like WoodEpox. I did apply LiquidWood to the area first in some instances, not all. The outcome was the same in both cases; that product worked great too.

The windows and doors are now ready for paint. I’m ready to see paint. We are now heading into week five since Lyle’s Homes started (June 9) and he’s still scraping paint from the second floor. I can only hope that once he does start with paint that it goes twice as fast as prep because at this rate a Labor Day Drive By Open House is questionable. He’s still exceeding my expectations, but clearly his three week projection was misguided and it all can’t be blamed on the weather.

Plinths Installation

Original Plinth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exceeding My Expectations, So Far

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

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

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

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

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

The missing pieces

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

I’m tackling the plinths and window sills next.