Frank Lloyd Wright Quote

"Form follows function-that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union"

Frank Lloyd Wright

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lesson Learned: Crown Moulding

I found out the hard way that priming the crown moulding after it is installed is waaay more difficult than priming before it is installed. Luckily, I only got around to installing 2 pieces before the cabinets went up, so I got all of the other pieces primed and painted last weekend while I enjoyed yet another beautiful weekend. (Am I still in Portland?)

Now I'm off to fill nail holes, sand, and prime again. All over my head. Ugh.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Finishing Back Door

I started by sanding the back door and taping each pane of glass.

It's amazing how much time you'll spend taping if you know you're going to put your work up on the internet for the world to see!

Finished! I figure I've got about 14 hours of work into this door. Ugh! But the finished product looks pretty good, so it was worth it. (Notice my new crystal doorknob from Rejuvenation.)

Look What I Found

We started stripping the 3 layers of wallpaper off the dining room walls this weekend and were given a happy surprise. We had long been considering putting up plate moulding and wainscotting, but I wasn't sure how "original" it would be in this house. Plus I didn't know how it would match with the archway between the dining and living room. Apparently, this house had those mouldings when it was new. The white parts in the picture are bare plaster that has never been painted, presumably because there used to be moulding there!

Splinter Repair

Did you know that SuperGlue (a.k.a. cyanoacrylate) works great on wood? I'm going to show you how I used it to repair a splinter in my moulding.

OOPS! When I nailed the lintel to the cap moulding, I didn't have it straight and on the last blow from the hammer it caused a splinter on the face of the moulding.

After I applied a liberal amount of glue to the splinter, I clamped it with firm pressure and let it sit for several hours.

Here you see the repair after the clamp is removed and the spot is sanded.

And here's the finished product. There's no sign of the boo-boo anywhere.

Quick Tip: Painter's Tape Pointer

Let's try a video Quick Tip. I apologize for the quality, but it's the best I could get out of my camera.

Now for the tip... In order to get a nice clean paint line when using painter's tape, it is very important that the tape be well-stuck to the wall. I like to use an old credit card (or one of those fake ones you get in your junk mail all the time) to "seat" the tape, especially in hard-to-reach places like around trim. Watch the video for a demo.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Marmoleum Installation: Part 3

I finally finished putting the shoe moulding around all the cabinets and the reducing moulding between the kitchen and the hardwood in the dining room.

This is the base moulding behind the refrigerator, primed, filled, and ready for paint.

Here's a nice shot of the cast iron toe-kick vent I got from Signature Hardware. Pity nobody will ever notice it.

These are all of the tools I used to install the Marmoleum, plus my power miter saw that's not in the picture. I used my 12" miter saw to make all of the full-length cuts, which required me to cut most of the way through, then rotate the piece 180-degrees and finish the cut. A table saw would have been preferable, but I don't have one.

The hack saw was very handy for cutting small notches when needed.

The big black bar is absolutely necessary. Don't even thing about installing this kind of flooring without one. You can use a piece of wood as a tapping block when laying the tiles in the middle of the floor, but when you get to the cut pieces around the perimeter of the room there is no way to tap the pieces into place without the bar. Go to your local big box and spend the $10 if you don't already have one.

Read more in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Something Finished

I know it's not much, but with careful camera placement I was able to capture a shot that shows only finished surfaces.

And one with our cool retro phone. Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Door and Base Trim Get Started

Today I started working on the door casings and the few spots in the kitchen that will need base trim.

This is the corner between the door opening and the cabinets that needs about 12" of base trim. You can see that I've left the required 3/8" gap between the Marmoleum tiles and the wall. Here's a tip: when you're doing the drywall, don't think to yourself "Oh, the bottom few inches don't need to be perfect, it'll get covered by the base trim anyway." It needs to be perfect, otherwise your trim won't sit right and you'll have ugly gaps. I spent a few minutes with a rasp getting the bottom 6" perfect.

Here is the trim mocked-up. I'm using 8" douglas fir base moulding and a simple profile on the cap moulding that matches the door and window lentils and goes well with the cabinet crown moulding. I applied 2 coats of primer before making any cuts to the raw lumber. Now that the cutting is done, I'll apply the first finish coat, install, fill gaps and nail holes, and the apply the final finish coat. Notice how I rounded the end of the white shoe moulding to give it a nice finished end. I also beveled the ends of the 8" boards where they meet the cabinets and the door casing because they stuck out about 1/16". I think the bevels will look OK once they're painted.

Here's a look at how I assembled the doorway head casing before installing. I cut the head casing to be 1/4" wider than the installed side casings, and the parting bead to be 1" wider. When installed the bead will overhang the side casings by 1/2" on each side and the head casing will be 1/8" wider on each side. This assembly will get its first finish coat prior to being installed.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Has Anyone Seen my Koi?

I have a great view of my neighbor's koi pond from my upstairs window. I was quite surprised to see a great blue heron grabbing a quick bite for breakfast this morning! Between the raccoons and birds I don't think the poor fish stand much of a chance.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kitchen Window Progress

I need to keep reminding myself that just because I haven't finished a project doesn't mean I can't post an update. So here's an update on my almost completed kitchen windows.

I have all of the trim in place and it even has the first topcoat of paint. Nail holes are filled and gaps are caulked. All that's left is to sand the wood filler and apply the final topcoat.

I ran into one small snag while installing the head casing. Unfortunately, the windows weren't quite centered on the wall. They are offset by about 1" to the left of center. This meant the lentil for the windows needed to be trimmed asymmetrically. The pictures show how each side mates with the cabinet crown moulding.

To trim the left end of the lentil I made a paper template by tracing the pre-assembled head casing onto regular typing paper. I then put the template in place and cut the paper to an exact fit. Then I put the paper back on the head casing assembly and marked where to cut. I was hoping for a nice snug fit, but my hand-sawing skills are a bit lacking, so I had to fill the gap with caulking. (Please don't tell anyone!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Quick Tip: Kill the Grass in Your Sidewalk Cracks

This one is so useful I can't believe I only learned about it a couple years ago. The easiest way to get rid of the grass and weeds growing in the cracks of your sidewalk is to boil-up a teapot of water. While it is still piping hot, take it outside and use it to water the grass you want dead.

The grass in this picture was vibrant an healthy just 3 days ago.

If you want faster results, use Dihydrogen Monoxide instead. ;-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Couplings are Your Friends

I've been too busy with other stuff to work on the kitchen for the past week so I'll give you a Quick Tip instead of an update.

Whenever you're buying PVC, copper, or other types of plumbing, be sure to pick up a few extra couplings. You can use them to "glue" together 2 pieces of short pipe to make a long piece should you run out or make an incorrect cut. One time I found myself at the Home Depot needing a 10' piece of pipe, but I was in my 4-door with both kids so I didn't have an easy way to get the pipe home. Solution: carry the pipe over to the moulding section and use the saw to cut it in half, then re-assemble it at home using a coupling.

Happy Plumbing!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spring Bronze Weatherstripping

Spring Bronze Weatherstripping
I decided to go old-school and install "spring bronze" ( PEM-P51B17 ) weatherstripping. If you've never heard of it you're not alone. The only place in town I could find it was Wink's Hardware (which, bye the way, you must check out if you live in Portland). It's basically a thin strip of bronze that you nail every 1-1/2" into the sash channels on the sides, top, and bottom.

Kitchen Window with Weatherstrip
After a little trial and error I found the best way to install it is to cut a piece to length, mark every 1-1/2" with a Sharpie, and then tack it in place using only the two end nails. Don't nail them in all the way at this point.

Decide at which end you're going to start and nail that one in all the way. Then start adding nails one at a time moving down the line. Since you only tacked the last nail in place, you can pull it out and re-position it if you start getting extra length in the strip as you add nails.

Before I installed the spring bronze my windows were sloppy and drafty. With the weatherstripping in place not only will it eliminate the draftiness, but the windows don't rattle when opened and they have a more finished feel to them.

You can get the nice, heavy gauge product from Pemko. This is what I used and recommend.

You can buy a cheaper, thinner version with pre-drilled holes from Amazon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finding Your Center

Here's a technique for finding the center of an object whose overall length isn't easily divisible by 2. I'm using my kitchen window for this example.

Step 1: Estimate the total length
Measure your item and round up or down to the nearest length that you can easily divide by 2. My window is about 25 13/16" wide. I'll round that to 26", which gives me 13" when divided by 2.

Step 2: Measure from both ends
Take the number you got from step 1 and measure that far from one end. Make a mark. Repeat from the other end. You should now have two marks that are pretty close together.

Step 3: Eyeball it!
Yes, that's right, eyeball it! The two marks you made are equally distant from the center, and they should be less than 1" apart. You can eyeball the center with as much accuracy as you need for general finish work.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Window Progress

I spent every free minute of the weekend working on the kitchen windows and I'm still only half way done. I'm starting to see why people just paint them shut! Properly prepping and painting these old double hung windows is very time consuming and really tests one's desire to do a good job. Bear in mind that the first step in this kitchen remodel was to have these "restored". The restoration process only gets them back into original working order; I still have to paint them myself. Oh well, it will all be worth it when they're done.

Of course I couldn't just paint the inside. I had to go ahead and take the sashes out so I could prime the outsides as well. This is where the restoration really paid off; they were very easy to disassemble. I'm also going to install some bronze weatherstripping as well. I'll do a write-up on that later this week.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Finally, more progress

I started painting the kitchen window trim tonight, just in time for a freakish thunderstorm! For those of you not familiar with Portland weather, we're lucky to get 2 good thunderstorms a year.

Anyway, I sanded the uncut lengths of wood for the lentil, head casing, parting bead, and the side casings and then used a brush to prime them. I used floetrol to help eliminate brush marks (as well as a good quality brush) and so far I am happy with the results. I still need to sand the primer coat and then apply one or two finish coats before I know how well the trim will turn out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Can you tell? Do you need a hint? OK, it's 102 degrees outside. And we don't have air conditioning.

That's right! All of the dining room windows are painted shut! That means the only way to get any airflow in this house is to open the kitchen windows and the two small casements on either side of the fireplace. I consider this undeniable proof of global warming. Not even a crazy person would have painted these windows shut 20 years ago if it was this hot! I know what my next project will be.

In more window news...

This actually happened last summer. I came downstairs one afternoon to find this:

That's a hole in the original, wavy glass picture window in the living room. At first I was convinced we were victims of a drive-by shooting but a thorough search revealed no projectile. The working theory is that the neighbor kicked up a rock from his lawn mower, but I have my doubts. It's more likely a b.b. hole from the punk-assed kids across the street, but I have no evidence to support that theory, except that we have some punk-assed kids living across the street.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Quick Tip: Knot your Extension Cord

Knot your cords as seen in the picture to keep them from coming unplugged. This is especially handy when you're using your weed whacker, but I've taken to doing it every time I plug something into an extension cord.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Marmoleum Installation: Part 2

I got the bulk of the work done on the flooring. I thought it was going to take forever to do all the cut pieces around the perimeter of the room, but once I got in the zone it went pretty quickly. I still need to do all of the base shoe moulding and some of the perimeter pieces that are not visible in this picture.

I'll post a final message about the floor once it's 100% complete.

Read more in Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Marmoleum Installation: Part 1

I figured since I had the day off for the 4th, I may as well start installing the Marmoleum Click tiles for the kitchen floor. I will use this post mainly to describe the layout process. I'll add a second part when the floor is done.

Step 1: Choosing your First Focal Point

When installing tile on the floor, whether it is ceramic, porcelain, or in this case Marmoleum, you need to plan the layout so the finished product looks nice. This is especially true with a strong pattern like the checkerboard we have going in our kitchen.

For a typical square room, you should have two focal points; one for each dimension of the room (length and width). For our kitchen, the first and most important is the main entrance from the dining room. It is a 36" wide pass-through. If I had not considered this as a focal point, I would have started laying tiles against the cabinets on either the left or right side of the doorway, which would have left the pattern off-center in the doorway. That would not be nice to look at every time I walked into the kitchen!

Once I determined this would be my first focal point, I simply marked the center of the doorway on the floor. Since I am running full tiles down the middle (instead of having a seam in the middle), I measured a half-tile's width to one side and marked that as my reference seam. I setup my laser level on a tripod to mark this line.

Step 2: Choosing your Second Focal Point

Now that I chose the first focal point, I could have just started running full tiles centered in the doorway, but that would leave an off-center pattern somewhere else in the kitchen, in this case the sink. That means the next step is to find the center of the sink base. Since I centered a full tile in the doorway (instead of a seam), I also chose to center a full tile on the sink. I marked the center of the sink, and then placed a tile on the laser reference line from Step 1. The full sized light colored tile centered on the sink was the first to be laid. I then measured for the cut tile that goes behind it (leaving 3/8" gap per instructions). Starting at the center and the working my way back to the doorway will leave cut tiles at either end of the row.

Here you see me working my way from the center of the sink toward the door.

Continue to Part 2.

The Marmoleum click tiles are available from

Van Gogh