Monday, December 20, 2010

Design on a Dime, eat your heart out.

Sometimes home improvement is really cheap.  To wit:

I finally got around to shimming the bathroom door.  It was really hard to get the lock to latch and you had to lean your body into the door to get it to close.  I used a cardboard box, cut to spec, as a shim:

A shoe box, to be specific.

Then I removed the door and installed the cardboard behind the hinge hardware.  Now it latches like a pro and I got to yell at myself for not taking the five minutes to do this a year ago.

The toilet was still rocking, even though Bill and I had changed the wax ring on it.  Aren't you glad I never documented that?

I bought toilet shims but they were so fricking huge that I couldn't use them.  All I needed was a single dime in the back. 

How good does that look?  I know, I should loosen the floor bolts and wedge that dime under the toilet all the way, but I can't get those stupid bolt caps off.  It's funny because that's precisely why I bought them.

But! The toilet doesn't rock.  FINALLY.

For my next trick I will update my kitchen using nine pennies!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's not janky, it's custom.

When I moved into my house there was this huge custom stainless steel plate around the floor register in the kitchen.  I didn't think long on it (I believe my whole thought on it was, "Weird.") because I had to tear out the kitchen floor shortly thereafter.  This is literally the only picture I could find of it.

When the new floor went in, they cut the hole for the vent to the exact same size as before.  Which in retrospect explains the stainless steel plate.  The hole is too big for the register.

For some reason, people like to stand on the register, which makes no sense to me at all.  People kept standing on the register and it started to bend and crack the Marmoleum beneath it.
Fun fact! Registers come in very standard sizes.  They are either 2 inches wide or four inches wide.  They are never 3.4 inches wide, which is what I needed.  I hunted and hunted and finally found a register at Reggio Registers with a two inch bottom and a 3.5 inch top.  The only problem is that it slid around, sometimes showing the hole beneath.  I thought if I could bulk up the base then the register wouldn't slide around and I wouldn't have a stroke every time someone decided to stand on it (but seriously, WHY).

One cheap paint stir stick from the Home Depot on each side, plus some 1/2" square dowels, stacked and nailed into place.

I'm sure this is how a real carpenter would do it. What else are those stir sticks for?

But it worked! Son of a bitch doesn't move!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On failure and shoddy craftsmanship

My kitchen cabinets have seen better days.  The drawers are especially beaten up, lacking any sort of track system to keep them from wearing grooves into the cabinet face.  The veneer is beginning to chip and the drawers make a horrible screeching noise if you don't lift them a little when you pull them out.

I decided to install center mount drawer slides to fix this problem. Follow along, I'll show you how!

First, pick a drawer that you don't use as much.  We want to get our technique down before we get to the problem drawers.

Empty it out.  Such pretty liner paper!

Leave these tacks lying face up on the floor. You're going to want to roll your leg or step on them as much as possible. If your home improvement project doesn't end with a trip to the ER for a tetanus shot, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

Separate the two parts of the hardware. They have names but I forget what they are. That's probably the lockjaw setting in.

Realize that the groove that's cut in the back of your drawer isn't wide enough to accommodate your hardware. Think about saying "Eff this," but then remember you have a dull hacksaw!  Inelegantly chop a wider clearance in the back of the drawer.

Install your hardware on the back of the drawer. Easy peasy.  This would be a good time to poke yourself with those tacks again.  Or you can just cut yourself on the screws that now poke through the inside bottom of the drawer, because the wood is too thin. 

Stop taking photos at this point because it's so fricking difficult to put screws in straight in such a tiny cramped space. When you're installing the base part of the hardware inside the cabinet, be sure to strip the screw. That way, if it's in the wrong spot, it will NEVER come out.

Marvel at the fact that the one drawer you had that worked well now makes a horrible clicking noise as you try to wrench it open.  Decide that it might just be easier to put those little plastic guards in the rut the drawers are forming in the cabinet face.

Plan to make friendly with a carpenter or a cabinet maker and hope that they can give you a good deal on cabinet refacing down the road.  Voila!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

A few times back I lived in a house with a wood stove and it was, to be a tiny bit hyperbolic, the best thing ever.  Because my house was a foreclosure, we had no idea if the chimney worked.  I guessed, based on the amount of deferred maintenance on the house, that it should be cleaned and inspected before I used it.

I finally had the money to have it looked at right before Thanksgiving.  Walt from American Chimney & Masonry came out and he got REALLY EXCITED because apparently my chimney had never been cleaned.  I'd wander out to get more coffee and Walt would grab me and make me look at the mounting pile of soot that was accumulating.  Look at it!  Look at all of it!

He informed me that the damper in the basement fireplace was deformed and stuck in a permanent open position. 

Which means these guys actually serve a purpose, aside from being awesome.  No cold rushing air or murderous birds shall pass Hall and Oates.  For the low low price of $469 I could have a top damper installed and the basement fireplace would become usable.  Walt started getting excited and I had to be all, "Whoa, buddy. Why would I want a usable basement fireplace when I could have awesome artwork instead?  Also, I don't have $469."

So instead he just cleaned the upstairs fireplace.  He also recommended acquiring a large pipe to use a wedge for the upstairs damper.  The damper is original, really freaking heavy, and being held open by a weak chain.  He couldn't replace the chain; the recommended fix is another top damper.  A pipe, in addition to being stylish, is $8 at Lowe's.  If the chain should break mid-fire, the pipe would keep the damper open and we wouldn't all die of smoke inhalation.  

So we got a fire going on Thanksgiving and all was well until I went into the basement and it was filled with smoke.  We extinguished the fire and got a number of brains on it.  We speculated (a little tipsily but IT'S OKAY TO DRINK AT NOON ON THANKSGIVING) that maybe the smoke was going up the living room chimney and getting sucked down the open flue of the basement chimney where Hall and Oates were clearly slacking on the job.  We sort of shrugged our shoulders until dinner when Carrie, my scientist friend (who had missed our conversation), was like, "Oh, of course! Science, air pressure, smoke density, basement, beep blop bloop," and we were like, "ohhhhhhh."

So yeah, I still can't use my fireplace.  But!  Bill and I were watching Boardwalk Empire, HBO's newest show, and The Commodore, who plays the former boss of Atlantic City and lives in a crazy mansion with all sorts of Victorian furniture, has my same fireplace screen!

Cool, right?

Edited to add: proof!  In a terrible photo of the TV!

I feel so hip.