Sunday, November 25, 2007

One step back

Two steps forward with new cabinets, one step back with plaster removal

I have finally conceded to the north kitchen wall.

The other walls were either so damaged that drywall was a given, or the cracked areas will be covered by cabinets or the tile backsplash.

The north wall, I tried to save. It clearly was the best of the group, but that's not saying much.

It had a funny rise in the center, a gentle speed bump running vertically. There already was a thin layer of something -- not quite fabric, not really wallpaper -- that I presume was added to conceal cracks at least 30 years ago.

So I tackled it with patching plaster and sandpaper, hoping to save a little money.

When I began another round of work, the previous "fabric" layer had turned brittle and pulled away from the wall. A tiny bit of probing created the holes above.

I looked around the kitchen at the new maple cabinets, the smooth drywalled corner awaiting a fridge. The north wall was the big flaw in an otherwise upgraded room.

So out came the crowbar.

Plaster removal tips:
  • The ceiling had already been drywalled. Blair the contractor told me to slice a line along the top end of the wall with a utility knife. This cut the drywall tape in half. Otherwise, the tape would have ripped off the ceiling, too, and created even more work.
  • Smash the crowbar hook into the plaster about every 3 to 6 inches in a vertical line.

  • The plaster may crack, connecting the crowbar indents. Sometimes it needs some extra encouragement from a hammer.

  • I then use the crowbar's flat end to pry off the loosened plaster.
  • I cleaned up the wall's edges by taking a smaller pry bar with a sharper edge and hitting it with a hammer.

See the vertical line that is different than the rest? It was a section of 4-inch lathe, where the rest is about 4-feet long. That's where the wall's "speedbump" was. It seemed to have an extra thick layer of original plaster. Go figure.

In the upper right is the hole where the original electrical box was. The wires come up from the basement and connect to the upstairs wiring there.

Of course, I realize now that I should have done this at the beginning, but live and learn.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Need rock?

Lowe's is having a super sale on 1/2 cubic foot bags of gray rock -- 58 cents a bag, down from nearly $3. One bag covers three square feet.

I'm using it for a bulb garden along the south side of the house.

Now this is one of those things I didn't have to do.

There is a one-foot-wide flower bed between the house and sidewalk (see above).

To me, the dark lava rock looked tacky against the white foundation. Nothing but weeds were growing there.

I worried that some perennials would crowd the sidewalk. Instead, I planted clusters of daffodil, tulip and crocus bulbs, which bloom at different times in the spring and early summer. They have a tight growth pattern and will spread naturally over the years.

Altogether, it was an afternoon of work and about $25.

This also happens to be my view from the window over my kitchen sink. Perhaps my motives were not entirely pure.

Web sites:
Bulb garden basics
Naturalizing bulbs from You Grow Girl

Gorgeous copperwork

Des Moines artist Ranee Roed makes beautiful Arts and Crafts style metal house numbers, mailboxes, push button switch plates and more. She's having 10% off holiday orders.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One more piece

The countertops have arrived!

Again, this was an area where I felt much more comfortable using a local company than a big-box store. The kitchen has a wall that jogs over twice (like you could put a Murphy bed in the center), making the floor plan unusual.

Ahleeya at CFO knew exactly what I needed from my kitchen plan and measurements. The dude at Menards just kind of stared at me.

CFO orders the countertop materials, then their on-site carpentry staff makes the custom cuts.

In an old house, nothing is quite square. CFO called to double-check the measurements because "they didn't add up." 26 inches+100 years=an unplumb wall

The countertop design allows for some forgiveness because it does not have an attached backsplash. The tiled backsplash will protrude about 3/4" over the countertop, so the countertop will not have to be perfectly flush against the wall.

In other kitchen progress, the electrician is adding kitchen outlets this week. Somehow, "Aunt June" managed with one four-outlet pod almost in the corner.

Then Blair the contractor will return to finish putting the kitchen together.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tips for idiots

This weekend's revelations:

  • Put the lid on the paint can before tipping it to read the side.
  • Maintain a good grip when using the cordless drill over the toilet.

What's going on

I'm working on getting the "half done" done. The house flip is littered with aborted projects when something seemingly more pressing arose, supplies ran out, weather changed.

I've been able to cross off small retaining wall, exterior concrete patching and main floor plaster work in the last weeks. I got the front door and lattice work under the porch painted over the warm weekend. The first coat of paint went on the bathroom woodwork.

But there's a lot more finish work to go ...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Baby your mitts

If you spend the day clawing in the garden or mixing mortar, try Burt's Bees Hand Salve. An $8 tin will last a lifetime. Or wear gloves, sissy.

As long as I'm pimping Burt, if you get poison ivy, Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap is a savior.

Speedy delivery

The kitchen pieces and parts keep arriving. On my doorstep.

That's a bone-colored acrylic sink on bottom on the photo. Bought it at Lowe's, and it showed up at the house (funny, the Lowe's folks didn't mention this, but whatever). Cool.

I found the antique copper faucet online (antique describes the color, not the age of the faucet) at 1StopLighting at half of the manufacturer's price. It matches the cabinet knobs and vintage bin pulls for the drawers. Sweet.
I'm getting the kitchen ceiling light from the same company -- only $15 shipping for both.
The color samples in the pic are the sage green tile backsplash, cherry cupboards and yellow pine floors.

It'll all come together one of these days.

Mortar magic



Check out this stuff.

Quikrete Mortar Repair is a caulk that has little sand bits mixed in it to make it resemble mortar.

(p.s. use plain caulk for hairline cracks -- the sand is too large in this stuff.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Puss in cement boots?

What does it mean when a black cat crosses your concrete project?

This is not our cat. We had never seen her before. She spent almost the whole afternoon waltzing in our concrete projects.

Kitty's gonna have some cement boots if she doesn't knock it off.

Concrete jungle

Now - my first concrete patch

This was so easy. I couldn't believe it.

  • Get guidance at Quickrete before you go to the store and determine what you need before you wade into the dizzying selection.

  • Have more than one project? Black and Decker's masonry book covered four projects on my list. I got it from the magazine rack at Menards.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Wainscoting solution

The master bedroom upstairs had been rewired long ago, by smashing holes in the plaster, which had been covered with masking tape instead of repaired. (I have no idea why the pile of tan bricks was there.)

Wow. This picture sucks.

You can see a few holes on the left.

My friend Jenni had the great idea of installing wainscoting rather than adding to my lengthy plaster-patching list.

I picked a few photos from Pottery Barn and ran them past Blair the contractor. Look at what he's done.


He also routed a little line in the chair rail so pictures can be propped on it. Sweet.

A coat of paint and this room is going to be sharp.

Medicine cabinet glory

Sometimes you have to do what's right, not the cheapest. Perhaps that's not a good flipping mantra, but ....

In the piles of stuff left in the old house, I found what appeared to be the original medicine cabinet door. The rest of it was long gone.

My contractor built a cabinet to fit the door and the recess in the bathroom wall. It looks like something out of the Rejuvenation catalog.

I had the old beveled mirror resilvered (not installed in photo above), a dying trade still offered in Omaha. Resilvering a 16x20 mirror cost $62 -- a new one would have cost about $75.

Wooden Ways & Olden Days
2823 S 87th St, Omaha (402) 393-2607
mirror resilvering, caning, furniture repair

Now I could have just gotten a stock cabinet at a big box store for $100 or so.

All told, I spent about $150. Well worth it.