Saturday, May 2, 2015

Outdoor Painting Season 2015 has Begun


Last summer I did a commando paint project, the front of my garage, just to not have to look at mauve paint out my kitchen window. This spring it was good to drag out my garden stuff, and hang my green man. 

I also posted a similar photo to this one below, letting you know that it was very illusory, with more mauve paint just around the corner: 


(And weeds. And random rocks. And some scraps of rabbit fencing.)

I do intend to make progress on the house as well, but as my inaugural project, while I'm finishing up some indoor projects, I decided to do the north garage wall. It'll be a relatively easy incremental project while I'm juggling several different things (though this begs the question: When am I not?)

Here's a before:


That entry door? It's a hollow-core interior grade closet door. What's left of it. It has literally rotted straight off the hinges. I have no idea why the previous owners chose to install this. I have it nailed into the door frame to keep it up, and so it's non-functional at the moment. The light fixture is nailed into the siding rather than screwed. It's wiring is a mystery. I'm not sure whether it's wired to a switch in the kitchen near the sliding patio door (possible), or to the switch near the door on the inside of the garage (which also turns on an overhead light in the garage).

Here's how it looked after about 3 hours of scraping:


The mauve paint went over both bare wood and the remainder of that yellow paint without any primer. So it's very unstable. In some areas it peels off in big strips, in other areas you really have to put your back into the scraping. I'll be using the peel-bond primer on this side of the garage too, so I hope we'll have a good solid paint surface to paint when I'm done with all my prep.

We'll see how much we get done before November 1!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

No More Sad Door!

Remember when this happened?


My broken sliding patio door. That was in August. I've been living with it since then.

Even before it was broken, it was a leaky, builder's grade (or worse) door, with "curious" installation issues.

My house isn't that green. This is a weirdly-colored photo

Granted, part of that was my fault because I take forever to make a decision about large purchases. I really agonize over them. Since the screen porch (and a glass storm slider on the outside) protected the door from being either dangerous or leaky, I just let it ride. Winter in Iowa is a terrible time to do window and door replacement, too.

But it also was depressing. It made my kitchen seem trashy and uncared for in a big way, I was embarrassed when I had company over, and spending time in my kitchen gave me the sads. I know I'm going to sound a little overly tragic and possibly whiny by saying this, but I think the door was one of the factors in my winter blues this year. Seriously.

When I checked out patio doors at the big box stores, I wasn't enthused about their products; some of them seemed suspiciously low-cost. Installation could be purchased too, but those are subcontracted out and I had no idea who would be working on my house. I wasn't crazy about the store getting to decide that part. And sales people didn't seem particularly knowledgeable about their product, which made me nervous.

I also got a few bids from large-scale roofing/window/door companies, and got discouraged. Don't get me wrong. None of them were bad people, or bad contractors. But they are too big for their britches and do bulk ordering of just one or two lines of products. I decided I didn't want vinyl-clad windows or doors in a 1930s house. I just didn't. They may be what's economical. They may be "what everyone else is getting." But it wasn't right for my house, and in talking to just two contractors I got tired of being told why what I wanted wasn't what they wanted to sell me. It was also clear they didn't want little one-off jobs like mine. And the bids for the labor part were priced accordingly. Unreasonably high. Like they wanted their bids to be rejected. I think they did.

So I did. But that didn't leave me any closer to finding a) a patio door and b) an installer. In February I finally found a place, north of town, which is part of a small local chain of construction supply stores. They deal mostly with people in the trades, but also do business directly with homeowners. They have a recommended list of installers. They have people who actually know the products they sell, and explained it to me thoroughly, and were happy to price out several different options.

This wasn't the cheapest option of all the places I looked. But look at this!


Is that not the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? It was to me. I sorta peeked around the edge of the kitchen doorway, not knowing what I'd think, and......I actually had to stifle a few tears. The installation dude probably thinks I don't get out enough.

The green in this picture is much closer to real life. 

Clearly I've got some painting to do, and yes, my kitchen floor still needs replacing. But wow, wow, WOW.  I'm so glad this is done!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spring. Ish.


Spring is here. Ish.

If you don't count the frosts. And the clouds. And the rain.

Then again, Iowans are very familiar with the maddening weirdness of a windy April day, where the sun glows warm, almost too warm, and yet a steady and icy wind blows from the direction of Saskatchewan, with periodic banks of clouds. You spend half the day throwing your jacket off as the rays bake through the fabric, and then shivering in the bluster and putting it back on. Off. On. Off. On. Just when you think you've had enough, it rains.

This is sort of how the last month has been for me. I'm off (coming out of the winter blues) I'm on (the tomato seeds sprouted!) I'm off (persistent wracking cough for a solid week). I'm on (the lilacs are blooming!)

While I'm waiting for the weather to even out so that I can start some outside projects, I've been working on a bunch of different things. Some of it is self-therapy, so I don't go crazy with impatience. Some of it is the usual family busy-ness. It's all over the map. So is this blog post.

I've been having fun with baking lately. I used to make a lot of my own bread b.t. (before twins, and yes, I do realize they're eleven years old), and I've been doing more of that again. It's been good to have the oven on during these chilly rainy days.


Also, cake. Because if you're impatient for Spring, why not celebrate Not Spring? 


We're coming up on the end of the school year, too, and that means extra projects. Like turning this kid into Albert Einstein for his big biography presentation. I had to share and brag, because is he not the cutest theoretical physicist you've ever seen? 


I'm also taking a photography class this month. That's another thing I'd like to write a longer post about, but the fact that I'm taking the class means I've been short on blog time.

This is me, experimenting with apertures for an assignment, or as I'm beginning to call it, "effing with f-stops." And a chicken. With lemons and limes. No, I don't really know why those things either.


(Basically, the background details come into sharper focus at higher f-stops, changing the depth of field.)


The bathroom project mentioned in the last post has come along as well, but since a lot of it has involved tedious plaster repairs and big buckets of plain white primer, I haven't updated readers. More is coming on that soon as well. I may even have better photos of it, though lilacs are always better subjects than cramped and outdated bathrooms.

I'll be back soon. I hope spring will be too!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Post In Which I Start Another Mess, Instead of Finishing Ones I've Already Started

I feel like I'm trotting out my worst personality flaw in this post.

Anyway, this will be part confessional, part renovation post. And if my brothers and sisters in home ownership can offer me any absolution, please do.

When I start thinking about what I want to do to my house, I think a long time. A long, long time. Because I am afraid of making mistakes, or getting half-way through something and changing my mind.

Then I daydream and scheme. Also, a long long time. Because that's the most enjoyable part.

Sadly, this bath will never happen in my home (Image Source: Arts and Crafts Home)

In my head I can have anything:

Again, sadly, nope. (Image source: Better Homes and Gardens)

And I don't have to buy anything, demolish anything, get sweaty, angry, or discouraged. It's all magic and glitter and marble countertops and done-ness. Can we hear it for DONE?

That's what gets me started. That's what gets me to the local hardware store, list in hand. And then real life happens. Because man, this home renovation thing is UGLY. It takes forever. It's always twice, three times, four times more expensive than I thought. There's always some snag in the renovation that I can't think or spend my way around, and I stop, get discouraged, rooms languish, and I find myself living with unfinished projects for an indefinite period of time.

It's about then I begin to think my faith in this one thing, this relationship with this one old home, is completely superficial, and that I'd be better off in an apartment, a new condo, ANY place where I could just drink coffee from my sofa and call the landlord when I was displeased. Maybe buy some new toss pillows. Luxurious yawn.

Sigh. Right here, everyone, is where I start this process yet again. With the upstairs bathroom. At least we start with the ugly part, up front and in your face.

My house is a one-and-a-half story Cape Cod colonial, so the upstairs rooms are low ceilinged. There was no bathroom up here to begin with, but sometime (I think the late 1960s) someone carved out space in one of the two bedrooms for a very small and awkwardly-shaped 3/4 bath.


That is the view from the upstairs hallway. Inspiring, isn't it? You can see the shower stall to the right, and the sink vanity, further into the room, on the left. The toilet is hidden in this photo, on the other side of the wall from the shower. The roofline is sloped up from the back of the bathroom. Let's step further into this charmer, shall we?


To the left, the sink top may actually not be that bad, if the right colors were with it and it was updated with a new faucet. But it's sitting atop a vanity that may possibly be made of pressed cardboard or something similar in quality.


On the right, we have the door to a side attic, and the toilet. People who are on my personal Facebook account know I spent a very, VERY unpleasant day a few weekends ago thoroughly cleaning the toilet, inside and out, and replacing the seat. It's in much better shape now, but I was very close to the point of either trying to sterilize it with a flame thrower, or having it replaced.


And the end of the bathroom opposite the door. There's actually quite a bit of floor space here, but it's under the roof slope. It makes the layout rather cramped in the total perspective of the room, but also odd. Notice the black vinyl baseboard slopped with white paint. Awesome. The spots on the floor are also paint splotches of various colors, mostly teal and salmon pink.

It also has charming details like this:


There's been approximately 1500 towel bars hung in this bathroom over the course of its history. And the mounting holes from them have all been repaired, exactly like this.


Super shiny paint. With low ceilings and grubby surfaces, the only thing one could do to make it worse is to paint it all (sloppily) in high gloss paint, so the whole thing is bathed in an oily, lurid glow.

The one good thing? These sconces:


Now that I've introduced you to the challenge, some considerations.

1. My excuse for starting this project is the renovation of my bedroom, ongoing right next door to the bathroom. There's a relation between the two which I will explain further in a future post. But it makes sense that some of the work needed to these two rooms comes along at the same time.

2. I have maybe a $200 to budget for this room. That's not a lot; in fact it's practically nothing. What happens in this room is going to be mostly cosmetic.

3. I've already started in small ways-- deep-cleaning the toilet and replacing the seat, tearing out all the towel bars and vinyl baseboard, sanding and repairing the walls.

4. My goal is to make this bathroom something we can live with in the meantime. Because larger chunks of the budget are going to have to go, by necessity, to the downstairs bathroom.

There. I have officially started yet Another Mess. I'll talk more about Finishing Ones I've Already Started soon. Soon. Sigh.