Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gettin' Some Trim

Trim is another low effort high impact project, but it sure is tedious… the precise measuring to within 1/16th of an inch, the cutting 45 degrees this way and 22.5 degrees that way, the priming and painting only to have to prime and paint the trim ends again after you’ve made your cuts, the furniture moving and following your work with wood filler and touch-up paint - ugh. Lucky for us, our friend Matt owns and was happy to share his miter saw, compressor and pneumatic brad nailer, which saved us a ton of time.

In the hallway, the floor was a bit far away from the bottom of the baseboards due to some floor sag around the chimney. This gap maxed out at nearly 1 ½ inches at its worst, so we couldn’t use the standard quarter round we used elsewhere. Instead, we decided to use casing, and we selected a style that tied in to the trim above the baseboards.

Eighty-six cuts and forty-three piece installations later, we finally have finished trim in our guest room, upstairs hallway, office, and two of our upstairs closets. It really does make a huge difference – the gaps between the baseboards and the floors are gone, and the rooms finally have a clean, finished look to them. Hooray!

Down the Drain

There’s some water infiltrating our basement – not a lot, but enough to hamper our future plans to finish it into living space. The cause is obvious – on the east side of our property, the drainage is inadequate, we have two downspouts, our neighbor has two downspouts, and our neighbor’s property is slightly higher than ours. As a consequence of the curvature of spacetime, water will always follow the easiest downhill path, and in our case, this path hugged the corner of our foundation. Hence the infiltration.

Enter the French drain. French drains are very effective at intercepting and diverting water, and they’re fairly simple – all you need is a sloped trench, a perforated drain pipe, and a bunch of drainage rock. For less than $90 in materials and a day of labor, we now have a 60-foot French drain and a dry basement. C'est fantastique!

Trivia note: You might think it’s called a French drain because it originated in France, but think again! It is called a French drain because it was invented by Henry French, a judge and farmer who lived in Concord, Massachusetts, in the mid-1800s. Rumor has it he also made excellent fries.


We recently took on a few smaller projects which we've been putting off for months, mostly because we'd had bigger fish to fry. The nice thing about these is that they're what I like to call LEHI - Low Effort High Impact.

The first of these was a closet remodel for Kelly and myself. When we moved in, the closet configurations upstairs were a very inefficient use of space - each had a single shelf with a dowel under it stretching the length of the closet. Given that the closets have nine-foot ceilings, they had SO much more potential. I'm a big fan of utility and options, so I decided to go with the ClosetMaid system, which is available at all the big box hardware stores. It allows easy configuration, and is pretty straightforward to install. And, best of all, kits were on clearance at Lowe's, so I picked up everything I needed for about $85 per closet.

Step one - tear out the existing stuff so you have a blank canvas to work on.

Step 2 - Find the studs and set the hang strips. Finding the studs is pretty easy in a “normal” house (where they’re spaced 16” on center), but of course our 100-year-old house has them irregularly spaced, and we have plaster walls so a studfinder wouldn’t work. I ended up rapping my knuckles around to find them and drilling holes with a 1/16” bit to confirm. Grrr.

With the studs found, enter my Hilti PML line laser. I love working with lasers. So precise, so time-saving. The laser shoots a straight line right up the whole wall, which allows you to easily hang the strips straight and even/level with each other (which is important if you want your shelves level, and if you want to make sure that the sheer load on the shelves is evenly distributed across your anchors).

Step 3 – throw that sucker up. The kits are modular, so you can configure the whole closet system however you’d like. Given our high ceilings, I was able to create two rows of hanging space and several shelves, and still have room left to push my dresser in there. Finally, no more retrieving my clothes from piles in the basement. Not bad for a couple of hours of work!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Dave spend a grueling three hours at the permit office today and we have our stamp of approval! We'd been told it could take weeks, even months, to get the city's approval but we got same-day approval. Yahoo! 2 1/2 car garage with rooftop deck here we come! Now we move on to getting bids...

Shopping Spree

We finally found window treatments for the 2 office windows. Of course the windows were not the same size, one was 34" wide and the other was 32". Finding something that matched the room and fit both windows was a challenge. In the end we decided upon very affordable bamboo shades from Lowe's that matches the floors very well.
We got some killer deals at City Liquidators. If you haven't been there, they have awesome deals on furniture. We got two bookshelves that match the floor and tie in the bamboo shades.
Another City Liquidators find was new barstools for the kitchen island. They're super comfy and the brown leather matches the leather on the dining chairs. Only $45 each! Can't beat it.

Browsing through City Liquidators you find a lot of crap, but some crap can be made pretty with a little work. I found this plastic gold 24" x 36" beveled mirror for only $19.95!! I took that sucker home and spray-painted it my favorite color (oil rubbed bronze). It lives above the fireplace.