Archive for the ‘house’ Category

The garden room

July 21, 2013

Behold a painting miracle:


I totally LOVE the paint color, it looks even better than I expected.  It is Sherwin Williams Independent Gold in a flat finish.   We primed the walls first in white, then painted the green.  We painted the trim in West Highland White, after priming first with pigmented shellac, then 2 coats of primer.  Unfortunately, the floor has some water damage; we know what our next floor refinishing project will be, but in the meantime, we’ll add an area rug.


The chair is slipcovered with a sheet that picks up a color from the simple curtains I made.  When I met him, Dan had that little green lamp on the marble-topped commode, and the barely discernible turquoise blue dishes are a gift from the room’s frequent occupant, my twin-sister-of-another-mother (mothers who are distantly related but don’t know it), Holly.


We still need to paint the door, but it will do for now.  The ceiling is a simple white and we replaced the light with the fixture we swapped for an LED light at the entrance to the dining room.


I sewed a curtain for the closet, I’d like to add a door, but the futon makes that challenging.


Finally, today I added the purrfect touch.

Updating plank ceilings

July 20, 2013

IMG_3285We had one bedroom in our house we had never painted.  Yep, sadly, it was still as it was on the day we closed in December, 2000.  The room, directly above the living room, overlooks the backyard and features the exposed brick chimney for the woodstove.  Leaving the chimney exposed adds a rustic touch, but more importantly, when the woodstove is burning, the chimney throws a little heat, adding some extra warmth to our cold New England house.  There was a problem, though.  The chimney had a leak, and the leak damaged, and continued to damage, the drywall ceiling.

We’d tried several different ways to address the leak.  New flashing, our roofer added more asphalt sealer around the chimney roof joint, a mason came and replaced the first course of bricks, all to no avail.  Finally, in spring 2011, we had Supaflu come and retrofit a new chimney liner, and that stopped the leak.  At last we could IMG_3289paint.  Someday.

Fast forward to the present, and taa daa, we are finally painting.  First, we had to come to some agreement about what to do about the plank ceilings.  The bedrooms in our 1 1/2 story Cape are all tucked under the eaves of the house, with cozy sloped ceilings.  The two bedrooms in the main part of the house had knotty pine tongue and groove planking on the slopped portion of the ceilings, which had been left unfinished since installation.  Over the years, it had darkened IMG_3293considerably, and on one wall, we had some water stains from the chimney leak.  I felt like it made the rooms dark and cramped, but Dan liked the natural wood.  We hemmed and hawed, and finally Dan agreed to try whitewashing the planking with white stain.  For the paint, we picked out a lighter shade of yellowy-green called Independent Gold.

Wow, what a difference.  A simple coat of white oil-based stain lifted the ceilings and made the room appear significantly larger and brighter.  First we treated the water stains with Oxyclean, which lightened the stains considerably, then sanded using our random orbital sander attached to the shop vacuum, to remove dust and dirt and open the pores of the wood.  Finally, we gave the planks a thorough vacuuming to remove any residual dust.  Then, fans in the window for ventilation, we stained.  The old wood just drank up the stain, we did not even have to wipe it off.  The stain needed a couple of days to thoroughly dry, then we finished with 1 coat of polyurethane in a satin finish.  IMG_3322

It should have a second coat, but I moved on to other tasks, namely, removing the hideous wall paper and border.  Ugh.  I understand at some levels the desire to wallpaper rooms, but after removing it from walls over a number of years, I can’t foresee a day when I will decide to add wallpaper.  But I digress.  Once the wallpaper was off, we got to the fun part, painting.  More on that in part deux.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you a sneak peak of the new color.

Project creep

June 28, 2013

IMG_3157It all started with deciding to paint the living room and the remaining unpainted upstairs bedroom.  We also wanted to remove some built-in shelving, so of course, we would need IMG_3193quite a bit of drywall repair, including a pretty challenging repair by the chimney.  Dan and I are not skilled at drywall work, we even put a beadboard ceiling in our laundry room to avoid putting up a drywall ceiling.  We decided to seek professional help, and asked around and found a great contractor, Jamie, who amazingly could fit us in right away.

We’ve always disliked the textured ceiling in the living room, and it needed a lot of re-taping and repairing, so we opted to have Jamie put up a new drywall ceiling, and repair the many other little problem areas, like our half finished repair from a leak in our upstairs bath.  Jamie’s work was amazing, he could put joint compound up so smoothly it barely needed sanding.  IMG_3198

Once we dragged out all of the furniture from the living room, Dan commented that the floor looks awful, we should sand and refinish it while the room is empty.  Suddenly, the scope of the project expanded dramatically.  Dan was right, much IMG_3210easier to do it now while the house is a wreck, rather than make it a wreck next year and have to do all that dust containment again!  We rented a floor sander, and in one long, long day, sanded the entire floor.

The rental place didn’t have an orbital sander, so we opted for a pad sander as the drum sanders were too scary.  We started with a 36 grit paper, but soon switched to 20 grit, or what felt like macadam.  It worked to sand off the remaining finish in the low traffic areas.  We then went to 36, then 60, 80, and finished with 100 grit. IMG_3203 If you can rent an orbital sander, that it the way to go, but we made the pad sander work, vacuuming frequently and changing the paper often.

It looks amazing.  It still has plenty of “patina” from years of living, which is OK with us.  There are some dents and scratches and dark spots from who knows what, but we love it.  If only we could leave it as us, it even feels good underfoot.  Alas, we need to protect it from daily living, so we will be re-finishing with a water-based low sheen polyurethane floor finish.

Unfortunately, we seem to have entered monsoon season here in Maine, and after a spectacular week last week, we have had humid, gray days since Monday, with rain, humidity and overcast skies predicted through Independence Day.   Yuk.  not great weather for polyurethane.  For now, we’ve covered the floor in plastic and have moved on to painting the ceiling and walls.  We’ll even (I hope) add polyurethane to the never-finished section of the wainscoting.  Maybe by the time we finish that, the sun will return?  I can hope.

The irony

March 3, 2013

The tiling is complete.  We’ve given the ceiling another coat to cover up some scrapes, and I touched up a few other dings on the beadboard.  We cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more.  I’m giving the wood vanity top a few more coats of polyurethane since we removed the sink and faucet for the finish work.  We cleaned some more.

At last, time for the final cleaning of the shower and to — drum roll please — take showers ourselves –hooray  So why am I blogging and not showering, you ask?  Good question.  Our furnace is cranky and we have No. Hot. Water.  AAUUGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

I’m having an out of body Alanis Morrisette experience.


Dan giving the ceiling another coat of paint.


I love the color name, Pale Moon, as much as the color.


I still need to sand the drywall patch in one spot, then paint, then reinstall the sink and faucet.


The music cabinet is moved in, and already loaded with towels.  I’m happy for the most part with how this turned out.  The door rubs a bit since painting, sigh.


All this would look even better if I could take a nice hot shower, I’m sure.



Thanks to our service plan, Mike from Downeast Energy replaced the circulator pump last night at about 7:30.  I didn’t enjoy a shower last night, but I’m happy to report that this morning we had hot water and plenty of it.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Paint project: repurposed music cabinet

February 24, 2013

IMG_2435After boxing in the vent stack in the bathroom, we had a narrow little spot in the bathroom crying IMG_1586out to be used as storage.  At just 24 inches wide including the radiator running along part of the floor, I wanted to find an old bookcase or cabinet that would fit in that spot to store towels.  Ideally, it would be off the floor to improve heat circulation and to provide a place to store a bathroom scale that would be accessible enough to encourage regular use (hahaha).

While wandering around Brunswick, Maine one day, we found an old music cabinet that seemed to fit the bill.  It IMG_2694was just 20″ wide, 14″ deep, and 39″ high.  We took it home and it was just right the right size for the space, but was just too dark.  IMG_2710It had IMG_2708a pretty inlaid decorated door, but had big scratches on the top and sides.  I debated for a while, but ultimately decided to paint it yellow to fit with the room’s color scheme.

Dan and I cleared off the dining room table and turned it into my paint studio.  We covered the table with plastic, and I set to work.  First, we took the cabinet outside where I sanded it lightly, then cleaned the dust off.  We then carried it back into the dining room and I primed and used some BIN shellac sealer where the wood seemed to bleed through the primer.  I then used the same paint I used on the vanity, but added a bit of the white trim paint to make it a slightly softer shade, and avoid making it look deliberately matched, more in keeping with the overall “design” aesthetic at Henbogle House.

A couple of coats of paint later, it is ready to go as soon as the paint dries enough to re-hang the door and the bathroom is finished.  I even have a mirror I bought at a tag sale a few years ago which will fit on the wall behind the cabinet.




Tiling begins

February 23, 2013

IMG_2691Tile is now being installed.  Even with a pro at the wheel, things moved slowly as we discovered some plumbing IMG_2692problems, then a few more plumbing problems, and some framing problems which required all new framing of the fixture wall.  Our contractor, Nate, is a good problem solver and takes these old-houseIMG_2717 issues in stride, which helps keep me from freaking out over them.  Did I mention this is our only shower?  Fortunately, Dan’s mom is welcoming us to her home for showers, but it is a tad inconvenient at 17 miles away.  Dan and I go back to work on Monday so we are really hoping to get this wrapped us soon.  Showering at the campus gym lacks a certain any appeal.

After a traumatic day, when we realized we’d had some bad advice about the shower valve, I ordered a different valve online and shipped it overnight from California and IMG_2718moved on.  Who needs a rain shower, anyway, I can stand outside in the rain.  Nate installed the new plumbing, then the cement backer board, squaring up the previously precarious corners.  I’d ordered shower niche forms and Nate installed them and applied Mapei Aqua Defense roll on waterproofing.  Our spongy old shower now feels like a rock.

After all the trauma and delays, today the tiling really began.  So far, it looks great. More tiling, then grouting, then clean-up.  Then we can use the shower, hooray, and clean up all the construction dust, and then we can do some touch up painting, hang some towel hooks, and move in.  The end is in sight, if you squint.

Bathroom planning

December 11, 2012


This is a budget remodel.  Our goal is to create a functional, comfortable, period and house-style appropriate bathroom for the least amount possible, ideally less than $2,500.  This means that we could not completely gut the bathroom.  We knew we needed to replace parts of the floor and completely redo the shower down to the studs.  We wanted to replace the old, thirsty toilet with a sleeker, easy to clean, efficient toilet.  We hoped we would not find rot extending under the heavy porcelain tub, that we could merely tear out the existing tile and rebuild the tub surround and replace the leaky shower valve.  We also knew that we wanted to keep the built-in vanity and to box in the exposed vent stack (I’ve been wanting to do that for that for years).

The old tile floor was cold most of the year and colder in the winter.  We wanted flooring that would be warmer and more forgiving underfoot, and in the case of this hardworking primary bathroom, that meant vinyl.  We found a DIY friendly product on sale, Shaw’s vinyl plank, in a warm faux-wood.

We were dreading the drywall portion of the project.  I hate drywall.  It is heavy, awkward to hang, a pain to tape, worse to mud, and terrible to sand.  And the dust!  It gets everywhere, yuk.  We had a flash of brilliance at some point and decided to box in the vent stack with, and add beadboard wainscot, which would also give us the option of sealing up some leaks and adding more insulation. Gotta love sealing the drafts, right?

Once we had those basic decisions down, we could move on the the fun stuff.  We opted for inexpensive 4×4 inch white tiles from Lowes for the shower.  The tiles are machine-made, but have a bit of texture to them, mimicking hand-made tile, and in the glossy white they reflect the light and have a bit of sparkle –and we need some sparkle in this old bathroom! Dan suggested a color scheme of gray walls, white for the beadboard, and we picked out a classic New England color, butter yellow, to repaint the vanity. With the wall color selected, we chose a 1″x1″ marble mosaic tile for an accent tile in the shower.  We’ll use the mosaic on the shower fixture wall — which we hope will make it easier to tile around the shower plumbing.  Instead of drilling holes in the tile, we’ll pick out the small mosaic tiles around the plumbing, and it’s marble!  It adds a bit of elegance to the room, right?

It was a pleasure to cart our old toilet out to the truck and on to the recycling center.  It still worked, but was a water hog at 3+ gallons per flush.  We chose an American Standard Clean Cadet skirted toilet.  It is a narrower toilet with a sleek design designed to be easy to clean.  The skirt covers the molded drain and makes cleaning around it a snap.  It was a bit more difficult to install, just because you can’t really see the bolts you are using to attach the tank or secure the toilet to the floor, but in the end, it was worth the hassle, and we haven’t even had to clean it yet!

We’ll keep the same lighting for now, but may at some point add a can light over the shower and replace the fan with a quieter model.  The one we have works, so we’ll keep it for now.  The vanity lights need something… and we have an idea.  More on those later.

I began putting things up on Olioboard to get all the details in one place, and reading home repair/renovation blogs and forums such as GardenWeb and the John Bridge tile forums to get ideas and learn the how tos.  The image above is a “moodboard” a visual representation of the materials selected for the room.  As we finish with various elements of the project, it is coming together.  It is hard work, and at one point we both were questioning our sanity, but as with all projects like this, it is very rewarding once you start seeing your progress.  And so far, we are on target for budget, with shower plumbing and tile shower materials still to be purchased.

Build it like Beckham

December 3, 2012

IMG_2093Behold, our hideously ugly bathroom.

It is hard to imagine it was worse, huh?  Well, trust me, it was.  There used to be a washing machine mashed into the far corner, and it was painted an uninspiring dingy off white/tan/beige color.  Ages ago (2003), we created a laundry room in the shed, IMG_2106partitioning off two thirds of the room and insulating it, and moved the washing machine out there.  We finally got around to adding a ceiling and floor in 2010, adding a sheet vinyl floor, beadboard ceiling and much improved new light fixture.

The bathroom sat ignored, quietly mildewing, until the tiles began showing signs of leaping to their deaths at the bottom of the porcelain tub, and the loose floor tiles clung tenaciously to the bottom of our wet feet.  It was time.

We knew there was some rot in the floor, so started there.  It was a highly unpleasant and difficult job. It took an entire weekend, and involved much colorful language.  The best part was carting off the old toilet to the dump IMG_2117aka known as the transfer station.  It sat so close to the wall we couldn’t paint or clean behind it.  Ick.

In places, we went right down to the original subfloor; some of the boards were almost 2 IMG_2172feet wide.  They were also spaced disconcertingly far apart.  Finally, we got 2 sturdy layers of plywood subfloor laid.  Even unfinished subfloor felt like a huge improvement.

Our next step was removing the Rubbermaid blue tile from the walls, and preparing for new beadboard wainscoting.  This allowed us to add some caulk and insulation, closing off some air leaks and we hope, making the bathroom feel a bit warmer.

We were able to close off the ugly vent stack that went up through the bathroom.  This room is located in a corner of the house, on 2 outside walls, which means the vent stack can’t run inside the walls due to the cold temps.  We instead tried to make a liability an asset by boxing it in, and adding a tiny little storage cabinet, the same width as the box.  It is just the right size to store t.p.

IMG_2208I took a vacation day and was able to get most of the beadboard installed.  An old house means plumb and square are rare, so the beadboard required some fiddly work in the corner, but it turned IMG_2201out great.  I was also able to give the new/old vanity top a couple of coats of poly.  When Dan found a fabulous old plank door at the dump, we decided to use it as a vanity top with a new vessel sink. The top is made from two planks each over 15″ wide.  I sanded just enough to smooth it out, then gave it a coat of satin polyurethane.  By the time it is installed it will have 5 or 6 coats, sanded lightly between each coat.

The sink is a small rectangular vessel sink, similar to an old farm sink.  I ordered it online along with a tall single handle faucet that reminds me of a pump handle.  Once we get the tile behind the sink installed, we’ll install the sink.  Before that, we had to get some flooring down, and install the new toilet.  I’ll save that saga for next time.

Front siding replacement

August 15, 2011

graded and gravelled

cutting out the rot

Remember the seemingly endless siding replacement project of last summer?  No?  Well, I do.  It was replacing/repairing some siding on the front ell of the house, and the window in the bath.  Ugh.  Well, I can happily say we are 99.9% complete after recently finishing up a few of the final project components.

We recently installed the new hose bib, graded the soil around the foundation, laid heavy duty weedblock fabric, then covered the fabric with a layer of gravel.  This is to improve the drainage and ventilation in this area, which is in the north corner of the house  and shaded by a flowering crab in the front garden.  The site gets very little

checking for rot

sun, and before we removed an old rhododendron last summer, very little air circulation.  Once that was complete, we moved on to repairing the final bit of rot in the corner trim at the far end of the ell.

Using a shiny new oscillating multi-tool, we cut away the rotten part of the trim, and of course, found more underneath.  Dan kept cutting and checking for rot, and continued

treated with wood preservative, with new trim ready to go in

cutting until only  sound wood remained. We ended up needing a 4 foot piece of the top layer of trim, and a narrow 3 foot section of the underlying trim.  This little tool made a difficult task so easy.  I am so glad we stumbled across it at our local hardware store.

While Dan cut new pieces of trim to fit, I coated the 100+/- year old

caulking the seams

lumber with wood preservative, and once dry, primed it.  We then fitted the new trim in, caulked well, and painted.  We need a final coat of the green trim in the column center, but that will happen once the weather cooperates.

The final part of the project was to replace the wooden skirting covering the last 4 feet of the foundation crawl space.

That section of the house was a porch at some point and was later enclosed.  We removed the old skirting, graded the soil, added some stainless steel chicken wire to deter burrowing critters who find that crawl space oh-so-tempting, and the made new skirting from rot-proof, no paint/stain required composite decking material. The final part of the task was to cover the wire with weedblock and gravel.

Final trim added

The house had old wooden gutters in the front, mostly rotten, of course, which we replaced with plastic gutters a few years ago, before blog and project recordkeeping began.  A big part of this rotten problem we believe was caused by the old gutters, but new gutters must also be regularly cleaned out — the many trees near the house regularly drop leaves and twigs into the gutters.  Water cascading out over a clogged gutter down the house certainly didn’t help this problem.

We also cut back some of the lilacs and hydrangea planted near this foundation, but will need to do some additional thinning to give the area a bit more breathing room.

crawl space and granite foundation, the large board is dimensional lumber stored there by the previous regime

new sheathing and gravel

It is great to have this project crossed off the list.

This ship has sailed

August 14, 2011

After the record heat in July, we decided we really wanted more shade for our deck.  We scored a nice used patio umbrella at a tag sale which gave us some relief last summer, but it still didn’t offer enough shade late in the day, the optimal time to enjoy some home-brewed beer on the deck.  As we drove through Belfast, Maine on our way to Cobscook earlier this summer, we stopped at a place that makes shade sails, Sunscapes.

In addition to shade sails, Sunscapes makes all types of tensioned fabric structures, and they are gorgeous and well-made.  You can be sure when we win the lottery we’ll be calling them right quick for a custom-designed shade sail.  Until then, we needed a more budget-friendly option.  Poking around on the interwebs, I found some well-reviewed shade sails on Overstock.  The price was right so we ordered two, a medium square and a small triangle sail, and installed the sails on an overcast day last week.

The sails are made of a UV treated poly knit material.  This is good, as air can pass through the sails, making them cooler and also less prone to sailing off a la Mayflower, headed for the Newe Worlde.  Nonetheless, the sails still need to be securely attached to the framing of the house.  We used lag-screw eyes through the fascia into the framing for the anchor points.

As our deck is bound on three sides by house, shed and barn, we could use the structures for anchor points.  For the final anchor point, we used 14 feet of 1 1/4 inch black iron pipe, drilled through with a eye-bolt.  The pipe comes in ten foot sections; we had a 4 foot piece cut and drove that piece at an angle almost completely into the ground cut end first, protecting the threads from damage with a piece of heavy rubber we had in inventory (this is why we need a barn).  We then used a coupling to connect the two threaded ends.  Once firmly screwed together, the pipe made an excellent anchor point.

The sails came with the needed hardware and line, although we opted for sturdier lag screw eyes.  The most difficult part of the process was determining where to place the anchor points.  We were lucky that our camping rain fly is the same dimension as the large square shade sail, only a lot lighter, so we were able to try some scenarios with a lightweight screw hook.  Once the anchor points were ready, it was a simple process to hang the sails using the included hardware.  We hung the square sail first, then worked under its shade to determine placement of the small triangular shade.

Once completed, our motivation to scrub the gutters and finish scraping and painting that area was rewarded with the shade the sail provided.  The sails have been up since Tuesday and we are very pleased with them.  I suspect that in addition to making the deck cooler, it will keep my laundry room in the shed and the kitchen a bit cooler, too, a nice extra benefit.