Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to paint your fireplace

Do you want to update your grimy old fireplace?  A coat of paint is a good option, particularly if you're never going to use the fireplace for fire.  These bricks would look lovely with a coat of white paint.

Before you start you'll want to make sure that you put all the paint cans you've ever used (empty or full) in the basement, regardless of whether you'll need them. You'll want to trip over these later, especially since you'll be wearing contacts that are the wrong prescription, making walking a little tricky.  That's just the price you pay so your glasses aren't fogging up constantly with a ventilator mask on your face.

You'll also want to plan a dinner party for the evening.  Decide that morning to make homemade bread, despite the fact that you've *never* made an edible loaf of yeasted bread before.  Tonight will be different.

You'll want to remove the tack strips that surround the fireplace hearth, lest you accidentally kneel on one of those upward facing nails.  They were left from when you removed the carpeting.  Grab your handy floor scraper and start to loosen the rotting wood.

Accidentally take out half of a hearth stone with the floor scraper.  Whoops. 

You know what?  You never liked those that much and they aren't original to the house, so let's just get rid of all of them.

Some of the vinyl glue-down tiles popped off when you were scraping, so just scrape a few off around the fireplace.  You'll want to leave the rest alone because scraping up all the tile in the basement would be crazy.  

Shhhh . . . did you hear that? That was your friend Carrie, screaming "ASBESTOS IN THE VINYL TILE!" from a mile down the road.  But it's okay; you're wearing a mask and you're only removing a couple of tiles.


Crap.  That looks like water. Just a little bit, but water nonetheless.  Decide to switch to pulling up the tack strips that run along every wall.  

But first, run upstairs to do the first kneading of the bread. Finally read the recipe in full and realize that it requires FOUR rises and the bread won't be ready to go into the oven until 8 pm, never mind that you need to cook the chicken and the veggies too, all at different tempuratures.

Add "baguette" to your shopping list and return to the basement.

VERY IMPORTANT: put on the grimiest pair of work gloves you own so that you're sure to leave the highest number of smudges and smears on your freshly painted walls.  If something is worth doing, it's worth doing three times because you couldn't be bothered to be careful.


Wedge your prybar under the rotting wood and try to wrench it free from the basement floor.  Ding the drywall you so painstakingly mudded and sanded and primed and sanded and painted as many times as possible.  Once you finally have all the tack strips up, scrape some more tile from the SW corner of the basement, realizing that there's water in other areas, too.  

Realize that you really should scrape up all the vinyl tiles and put down some sort of sealant before you install the laminate flooring.  Sweep up as much of the vinyl tiles as you can and get them outside because they probably contain ASBESTOS, OH MY GOD, ASBESTOS and then use your shop vac to clean up all the debris you left.  Try to clog the shop vac as many times as possible.  

Hint: it's more times than you'd ever think possible.

Spray a bleach solution on the exposed concrete in the worthless hope that this might take care of any mold issues in the basement.  The hallmark of good home improvement is a smelly house, especially if you have guests coming over that night.  

Marvel at your updated fireplace.  Isn't it lovely?

The baguette?  It was delicious.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The backyard fence

No joke, the day the house passed into my ownership a huge wind swept through the valley and knocked down a portion of my fence. It's like the universe wanted to welcome me to homeownership by crushing my spirits and taking all my money right away.

The neighbors put the fallen section in my yard. I met one of them this summer and I asked her if she knew who owned the fence, and was it a shared burden?

"Oh, we think the fence is yours!" she replied. Of course you do!

Ryan helped me jury rig the fence one morning using some rope. It looks classy, I know!

The posts (which are sunk in the neighbors' yard) weren't sunk into concrete.  The wood is rotting and the whole operation is ready to fall into their yard at any minute.


 I checked out a bunch of books on Oregon neighbor and property laws and promptly put them in a pile somewhere and forgot about them. I called the city and asked if they could just tell me if the fence was mine.  I was told I have to hire a surveyor who would figure out the property lines.  I need to spend some money just to (most likely) have someone tell me that the fence is mine.  I'm not thrilled.

Luckily it's wet and cold out and I don't think cement would dry in this weather, so I'm hoping I can hold off on a new fence until spring.  Last night was especially windy and I was convinced the whole fence was going to blow down.  Luckily, just that one part fell down again.  That, folks, is what they call the silver lining.

That looks sturdy, right?  Portland wind, KNOCK IT OFF.

Friday, January 22, 2010

More progress on the basement

I'm finally at the point in the basement where I can paint. Huzzah!  The previous owner installed ceiling boards that remind me of carriage doors.

There's a lot of molding, all of which needs to be painted with a brush. As a result it takes five times as long. You probably did something fun for your three-day weekend, like go to the coast.  I did what I always do on long weekends: I covered myself in paint and went to the Home Depot without brushing my teeth or hair first.  It's just how I celebrate.

Have you really looked at the artwork on the fireplace?  It's amazing!  People have a lot of opinions on who it is--Beavis and Butthead, Hall & Oates . . .

I'm still trying to figure out what they were saying to each other.  I'm hoping it's something along the lines of, "Isn't this a lovely home, Daryl Hall?" and, "Rightly so, John Oates! Nary a ghost or critter here!"

I recently won a $25 credit at CanvasPop from Apartment Therapy.  CanvasPop takes your digital image and renders it on canvas, like a real painting.  I decided to have Hall & Oates committed to canvas.  I think they're worth it (though just barely--shipping was an unholy $14 for one rolled up canvas).

But back to painting, I had heard you want to use a saturated color in low-light areas like a basement because you won't have natural light to play it up.  My friend Mary has recently finished out her basement and used a lovely saturated seafoam color in her laundry room.  I loved the color so much she gave me the paint can so I could have it recreated at the paint store.  When I called the place where she had it mixed they told me it was $55 per gallon.

I just about fainted.  $55 per gallon?  I needed two gallons!  No way, nuh uh.  I firmly believe you get what you pay for in paint, but for $55 a gallon it should paint itself onto the wall AND mix me a martini while I watch.

I went down to Miller Paint instead and asked if they could color match it using Acro Pure as a base.  Acro Pure is zero VOC, low odor, and has an anti-microbial built into it.  Basically it's perfect for painting a basement with minimal ventilation.  The guys at Miller Paint were great and I'm happy to say that I didn't have another color-match mishap like I did with the dining room.  Lesson learned: get your color matching done at Miller Paint, NOT the Home Depot.  I had a coupon from my Chinook Book that was buy one get one free.  So I got two gallons of custom color paint for $31.

The coverage is great and the color is richly saturated.  The photos really don't do it justice.  I would absolutely use this paint again.  Two coats and I was good to go.



I'm still trying to figure out what color to paint the inside of the alcove.  It's presently white, but I think I want to do a chocolate color.  Then I just have to scrape the glue down padding, install the laminate my amazing parents bought me for Christmas, and this room might be usable.  Then I can move onto outdoor projects like the fence that's falling down in my backyard.  If good fences are an indicator of good neighbors, I am that homeowner with all the junkers on the lawn and the constant visits from the police.  But more on that later.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The closet hatch

This was in the floor of my closet.  It was taped over.  I studiously ignored it.

I wanted to set up my air conditioning unit in my bedroom but I didn't have any windows.  When I bought my house there were no roof vents, so during the summer my house was HOT.  Really really hot.  I eventually got the roof vents installed (thanks, Al!) but in the meantime I needed a way to cool my bedroom while I slept.  So I bought a portable air conditioning unit and figured I could maybe vent it out this hole and into the basement.  I got brave and took the tape off the hole.  I cautiously opened the hatch and found some sort of homemade lockbox. 

I slammed the lid shut and called Z.

Me:  "Hey, what are you doing? You want to come over and have lunch?"
Z:  "Actually, I'm not feeling well so I'm heading home."
Me:  "Okay, you HAVE to come over and help me excavate this weird box in my closet floor.  There could be spiders (OH MY GOD, SPIDERS) or severed fingers or guns or cursed doubloons in there."

He came over.  I have great friends.

There wasn't anything in the box, luckily, and Z helped me dismantle the thing.  Now I had a straight shot into the basement.

I used the duct in the basement from the old stove downdraft that I mentioned earlier to vent the AC unit out of the house. Thank you, former house owners, for not leaving anything scary in that box.  I'm not even going to think about what you might have stored in there.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I felt terrible about this

I'm so sorry, Rick and Andy.

Rita and Anders?

Rico and Aaden?

Whatever your names, I painted over you.

But I felt really, really bad about it.  I hope you kept growing, Rick and Axle.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Painting the kitchen

My kitchen was really grimy when I bought it.  A reminder:

It was also pretty matchy-matchy.  Yellow paint to match the yellow tile.  I wasn't crazy about how it played off the new Marmoleum.  The wall color and tile were very cool and the flooring was warm.  I felt like it needed to be bridged better.

There were a lot of holes in the wood trim to be filled.  I used a wood filler that has the annoying habit of drying out almost immediately, making sanding it afterward more difficult.

I have to use the spackle that goes on pink and dries to white or I try to sand it too soon.  I'm not good at waiting.

Once I got the walls painted a warm off-white I felt like the counters looked too cool.

I grabbed the leftover paint from the failed first painting of the dining room and painted the soffit.  I think it balances the warmth and coolness, even if I'm not totally crazy about the color.  I still think it needs to be more saturated.

The final product:

The funny thing is that now the soffit paint is now pretty matchy-matchy with the tile.  I CAN'T WIN.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mysteries in the laundry room

When I moved into the house I needed a lot of electrical work.  This is what my electrical panel looked like.  Wires sticking out, no cover . . . just a tiny bit hazardous.

Luckily I have a friend who is an electrician and would work for a reasonable rate (and access to the food in the kitchen cabinets).  He did a couple of really awesome things without my asking, like putting a motion sensor on the light in the laundry room.  So if I'm carrying a basket of laundry there's no fumbling with a chain in the dark--the light just comes on.  After five minutes without motion it turns the light off.  It's awesome. 

Fast forward to now.  A few weeks back I started noticing that the light would be on when no one had been down there.  I noticed that the dryer hose had popped off the window vent and figured that must have triggered the light to go off.  Some contractor had told me that, in the hierarchy of venting, rigid metal ducts are best.  They accumulate the least dust and lint resulting in a lower fire risk.  The only problem is that I couldn't get the stupid hose to stay connected to the window outlet. I kept finding it like this:

I kept applying more foam tape and the stupid thing kept popping off.  I finally decided to screw the pieces together.

Bingo!  Why didn't I think of that before?  The only problem?  The light was still going off.


My roommate and I had a very serious conversation about the light (we had both noticed it and gotten freaked out); my roommate solemnly informed me that it could be a ghost.  I was worried it was a mouse or some other critter.  I hunted around for signs of critters: droppings, nests, chewed stuff . . . but found nothing. 

So my latest theory concerns the old stove downdraft.  My house didn't have a stove hood so the previous owners appeared to have one of those stoves with a downdraft that vented through the kitchen floor.  There was a hole in the kitchen floor with a duct attached.


That hole was covered by the underlayment for the Marmoleum and I repurposed that duct into a vent for my portable AC unit in my bedroom.  But in the winter the duct was just hanging out doing this:

My theory is that it gets windy outside and air comes shooting into that duct and into the basement, causing the duct to swing.  I should have remedied this long ago.  I'm letting cold air into the house and basically left a fun slide for critters wanting to get into the house.  Like SPIDERS, OH MY GOD, SPIDERS.  Or mice.  Or whatever. 

So I took the cover off the exterior of the house . . .

. . . cut some of this stuff I found in the basement to fit . . .

. . . screwed it in and replaced the cover.

I'll keep you posted about the light.  I really hope this stops the light triggering because I don't want to consider the alternatives.  Like ghost-rats.

Edited to add: I did finally get a cover for my electrical panel.  It feels slightly less dangerous doing laundry beneath it now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Progress in the basement


The basement. My albatross.  When I bought the house the basement had been drywalled and taped.  The seams had been mudded but they needed to be sanded.

I hate sanding.  Really, really hate it.  I had primed the drywall but the corners needed to be taped and mudded and sanded and primed and sanded and painted and sanded . . .

You can't just leave rough corners like this.

You have to get some of this.

And some of this.

You smear some of the joint compound on the corner and then affix the corner bead.

Then you wipe away the excess compound and let it dry.  Then you have to put more compound on top of that, trying to make it as smooth as possible.

Then you let that dry and sand and sand and sand.  Did I mention I hate sanding?  Then you try to remove as must of the dust from the drywall as possible and then slap on another layer of primer.

It takes professionals no time at all to do this process.  I just watched a TV show where these pros came in and did a whole room in two hours.  It was beautiful.  I felt so lame.  This took me THREE WEEKENDS.

But I'm finally at a point where I can start painting.  I love painting!  Once I'm done painting I can scrape the foam padding off the floor, install the laminate flooring, and then install the disco ball.

Oh yeah. I own a disco ball. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fighting with the Flippers

My episode of My First Place ("Fighting with the Flippers") aired last night.  It was totally surreal.  Overall I'm thankful that HGTV edited me kindly, though I wish more of Bill's hilariously witty comments made it into the episode.  I also wish they had shown a *little* more of the charming details like the arches in the bathroom and the coved ceilings.  I also wish they hadn't played the soundbite talking about art deco tile when they were showing the non-deco tile in the bathroom.

Coved ceiling!


Even though I have a thousand pictures, I forgot how empty the room looked after the reveal when compared to now.  That was such a fun day.

Fun's over now, though.  I have to get to work on the basement.  I still haven't been given a vampire boyfriend so I have to do it all by myself.  Hmph!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holidays in the house

Thanksgiving was a screaming success.

Photo: Bill Tennant

My parents sent flowers!

We also had a Latke Off! for Hanukkah.  I made latkes from purple potatoes.  

. .  . and Scott's latkes came from a box.  They were beautiful looking.  They totally tasted better, too.


I didn't have any Hanukkah music so we settled on the soundtrack from Dirty Dancing. 

I made caramel corn for my mom from this recipe and promptly ate half of it myself.

If you had told me last year at this time that I would close out the year as a homeowner and the feature of an episode on HGTV I would have laughed and laughed.  Happy new year!