Sunday, February 28, 2010

My kingdom for a yardboy!

I've been scouting hardware store sales and craigslist for a lawnmower all winter.  Even used lawnmowers are expensive and how do you tell if a mower is "good" or not?  Can you even kick those tiny tires?

 Image source: Stories of Wisdom

Somewhere along the way I arbitrarily decided I didn't want to pay more than $40 for a used one.  It costs $30 to have a landscaper cut the lawn so if I ended up with a lemon at least it wouldn't be that much more than hiring someone to cut the lawn.

It made sense in my head.

I found a listing for a mower for $40 that was magically still available, so I headed out to Wilsonville yesterday to look at it.  When I got there the man explained how he started it up that morning and the starter cord snapped off.  Because I'd have to pay someone to install another cord, he wanted to give me the mower for free.  I was pretty sure I could fix it myself so I tried to get him to accept my money.  We bickered back and forth and he finally agreed to take $10, but "I had to give it to his son" who was standing right there.


They loaded the mower into the trunk of my Honda and even gave me an extra bungee cord to keep it in there.  These guys were so genuinely nice.

I bought a replacement cord at Home Depot for $3.98, bringing the total cost of the mower to $13.98.  I started to unscrew things that didn't need to be unscrewed.  Then I realized that and put them back together.

I almost gave up.  I couldn't see a way to get the housing off the top and fiddling with spring-loaded parts that can remove fingers makes me nervous.  Then I found this video and it seemed more manageable.

I actually didn't have to remove the housing at all.  I'm assuming I did it correctly because it works!  GO ME.

To reward myself for my thriftiness I mowed the lawn, cleaned my gutters, and did some weeding.  Seriously though, the surface of the moon has fewer craters than my back lawn.  In addition to replacing the fence I really need to rototill the backyard and even it out.  And then I think I'd like to get a yard boy.  Someone nice to look at who takes care of this stuff for me.  I'll make lemonade! 

I'm sort of overwhelmed by my yard right now, but I'm still floating from the knowledge that for every jerk on craigslist who wants to rip you off, there's a nice guy who cuts a broke girl a deal.  Thanks, Terry in Wilsonville.  You rock.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I have no words.  I never knew I could be so in love with a fake wood product.



Do you remember what my basement used to look like?

Skanky carpeting over mildewed foam over glued-down foam over vinyl tile.  I chose something called an "insulayment" which combines padding with a vapor barrier to go under the laminate flooring.  It's pretty easy to roll out and tape together.

But that's upside down, dumbass.  This is better:

Doesn't it look like a swimming pool?

I bribed Scott and Keith, they of the gigantic muscles, with breakfast and pizza to help me install the laminate.  They wouldn't even drink the beer I bought them because, apparently, it's unsafe to operate electric saws while drinking.  

We started in the alcove. The alcove I still need to paint.  Pick carefully when you start laying down flooring!  It guides the rest of the installation and EVERYTHING will have to originate from that side of the room henceforth.


You'll want to gather as many tape measures as you can.  You'll spend the rest of the day fetching them from the yard because Keith accidentally takes the measuring tape upstairs every time he measures, even though there's one right next to the chop saw, but that's okay.

They call these "special cuts."  Keith is masterfully accurate on a chop saw.

Once we got past the weird areas it was just glorious feet and feet of installing whole boards.  It went super fast.  Bill showed up to help and we were so in a groove that he was relegated to documenting our progress.


I'm totally tempted to buy a mirror and barre and turn this into a dance studio.  Couldn't you just pirouette for hours? It took us five hours, start to finish, which I think is pretty damn impressive.  I'm so pleased I want to start asking strangers off the street to come down to my basement.  But that might be weird.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's always something.

I'm prepping the basement for laminate flooring, which means Dryloking any cracks in the basement floor and moving everything out of that space.  It also means a little bit more scraping in the alcove, where there was no vinyl tile laid down; there was just padding glued down on the cement slab. 

Good enough.  I whipped up a container of Drylok (please please remember that Drano melts this stuff) and worked incredibly fast, filling the holes that were created by the carpet tack strips being nailed into the concrete.  


I missed a hole, can you tell where?  I don't know how I did that.  But a funny thing happened while I was trying to loosen little bits of vinyl tile from under the perimeter where the drywall made it difficult to scrape: I found crumbled bits of wood.  Sort of like you'd see with termites.  

I think.  

It's just in one spot and it could be dry rot.  Or it could be termites.  Termites in Oregon are subterranean, so it's totally plausible that they'd be in the basement.  The wood gives when you poke it with a screwdriver.  While I had my cheek pressed to the floor, peering into the half-inch clearance between the Drywall and the floor, I noticed that there was wood paneling underneath the drywall.  Awesome. Why remove that when you can just add more layers on top?

So I called my trusty exterminator dude and he's going to come out tomorrow to tell me what he thinks.  I'm just hoping he doesn't tell me that we need to remove the drywall from that area.  

He's probably going to tell me we need to remove the drywall from that area.  So it goes.

Super awesome update: No sign of termites but the guy did a quick spray for me, behind the drywall, just in case any termites think about coming in for a snack.  EcoTech NW is highly recommended, if you're local.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Painting the fireplace, for reals this time

I scraped up all the vinyl tiles from the basement floor and it looked like there was nothing else left for me to remove from the space, so I could finally paint the fireplace.

There's no unpainting a fireplace, so you have to be really really sure you want to do it.  I was sure.  But first I had to remove Hall and Oates. I was terrified there would be dead animals or something sinister (like SPIDERS!) in the grate.  I removed the screws and got my prybar and popped Hall off.  Then I scurried back super fast.

There wasn't anything terrible in there.  There was something pretty good, actually: one of the missing bricks from the right side of the fireplace!  Sweet.


I vacuumed the bricks really thoroughly to get any loose grit or mortar out.  I used a little TSP to clean the front bricks that were looking charred, though it didn't seem to do much.  Then I just grabbed plain old white latex paint and started painting from the top down.

I used a regular brush instead of a roller because the fireplace is made of clinker bricks and what looks like pumice stone.  The surface is very porous and uneven.  According to, "Clinker bricks were the result of wet bricks being placed to close to the fire in the kiln, resulting in bricks that were darker-coloured and in either ‘melted’ or ‘exploded’ shapes. The surface texture of the bricks could range from glassy to pock-marked from the uneven heat. Richer, darker colours of the ‘clinker’ bricks were another welcome result from the extra heat."

The funny thing is that I was absolutely sure I wanted to paint the fireplace.  When I posted the pictures on Facebook a friend told me they were clinker bricks, something I didn't know previously.  All of the sudden I felt despair over what I had done.  They were historical! Used in the Arts and Crafts movement! Now the only thing that could restore them was a sandblaster.


But I think it's going to be okay.  Next weekend we are installing the laminate and hopefully it will start to feel less like a basement and more like another room in the house.  I want to do something like this over the fireplace to warm up the space.  


And of course I'll hang Hall and Oates.  And the disco ball.  Too much?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy dance!

It came! The CanvasPop likeness I ordered of Hall and Oates came!

I still think the shipping rates are egregious, but it looks *really* good.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Unearthing the basement floor

Removing old vinyl tile from a basement floor is fun stuff.  Oh no, wait, what's the opposite of that?  It's the opposite of fun stuff.


It feels good to get this old mildewy stuff out of the basement, but I wish getting it out didn't make my wrists so sore and my hands so blistered.


People actually pay a lot of money to make their concrete floors look like this.

I would gladly give it for free if someone would remove the rest of the tile for me.