Saturday, June 23, 2007

All Smiles

Today was a beautiful day in Albany. Not too hot, nice breeze, lots of sunshine. We were happy to be working on the house and so was the Wolf Pack. Just look at these smiles:

The Bumpy Wall (Formerly Known as The Hole)

The Hole has been a problem for us for a while. It is the thing that started the whole kitchen project. I have waffled and flip flopped about The Hole for months. To plaster or not to plaster? Should we really install a hood ourselves? How much rot do you think is under the lath? Oh no, what do we do about the rot? Where do you buy plaster supplies? etc.

Today we finally dealt with The Hole. Here's the sequence of events:

1. Start cutting hole for hood vent.
2. Break all bits for saw. Send Chris to HD for more.
3. Start cutting 2x4's for new studs and header. Saw batteries are all dead.
4. Too lazy to drag 2x4's to table saw, go to den and lay on couch.
5. Eat Lindt truffles and take nap.
6. Finally get up and complete reinforcing wall and installing vent.
7. Go back to HD for nails for lath, stare at sinks and faucets, eat early dinner.
8. Nail up lath, drop 50% of brads on floor.
9. Mix plaster recipe. Glop plaster all over. Mix more plaster.

Here's Chris putting the finishing touches on the scratch coat. Hopefully it will still be on the wall in the morning.

Painting the Whole World Pea Soup Green... One Room at a Time

This week while I was at work Chris finished painting the main part of the kitchen.

It was not supposed to be this color. The color is called suede, it's supposed to be a yellow toned medium brown color. Looks like pea soup to me. Now nearly every room in the house is green.

Then, today we painted the island:
The color is library pewter. Looks kind of like olive green, right? We freaked out after the first coat thinking that we were being sabotaged by the kid at Sherwin Williams, but the second coat looks much more pewter-ish. Of course, we picked the pewter color to match what we thought the suede color was going to be. For once I didn't do anything rash and we are going to wait until the room is finished before thinking about repainting anything.

We also installed some new switch plate covers and drawer hardware. If you stand in front of the hole and look at the kitchen it looks like it's nearing completion, but then you turn around and see this:


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Masonry Supply Monday

I took the day off yesterday to work on the kitchen since I'd like to be cooking again sometime in '07 and I am pretty happy with the results. I finished sanding the skim coated walls, primed and painted about 80% of the room and the results are good. They look like the walls of a much younger kitchen. Some spots weren't quite perfect, but I usually subscribe to the "It's better than it was" philosophy. I figure that if I work on something for any amount of time and use tools on it, a good outcome would be at least as good as the original condition, and a great outcome would be any improvement on the original state. I'll post photos soon.

The highlight of the day was buying the plaster for the hole project. Recently I accosted some bricklayers in my neighborhood and they told me where to go for plaster supplies. They also told me that there would be a mean old man there and that he would help me.

It's the kind of place that you have to drive between the warehouse and the office and park in the courtyard area, so there's no going back once you turn on your blinker.

In the event that anyone reads this blog who is not related to me, I'll take a moment to describe myself. I consider myself to be young, many women my age have lived a lot more life with babies and divorces, but I am still a spring chicken. My usual historic home preservation attire is a pair of capri pants and flip flops that are covered in paint and plaster dust and 80% of the time I am driving around in a zippy German sports wagon with lumber in the back. (The other 20% of the time I am driving something far more sinister, the smelliest, dirtiest jeep ever).

Anywho, I pull into the courtyard and skip into the office. It smells like the cigarette smoke of 1000 bowling alleys and it looks like things haven't moved in years. There's a stack of calendars on the wall where they have never taken down the old calendar, just tacked the new one on top, but they stopped doing that in 2005. This man emerges from someplace beyond the stuff and I'm thinking that he celebrated his 80th birthday some time ago. I ask in my best cheerleader voice if they carry the plaster supplies I was looking for and before he answers he asks how I am going to pay for it. It seems that they don't take credit cards and I guess I don't look like a cash kind of girl. I tell him that if he has the stuff that I will go to an ATM and come right back. We walk out into the warehouse and he points to the base and finish plaster that I asked for and I zoom off to get the cash. When I went back, there were two other customers there and I'd rather not meet either of them in a dark alley. I waited around feeling like the most ridiculous person who ever lived and finally it was my turn. I paid with my new cash and I tried to make a joke about using German Shepherd hair for the scratch coat, but that didn't go over well. I asked if I could help myself to the 4 - 50 lb bags that I needed, but he insisted on getting the fork truck and bringing them out. Finally he got over to the wagon and I loaded them into the back. I can't imagine how it would've gone down if I couldn't lift the bags. If the old man breaks while he's loading your car, are you responsible to take him to the hospital?

I bought extra so I don't have to go back anytime soon, but I will definitely drive the jeep next time or maybe even send Chris. I'm not sure how he would fare with all of his book learnin' and his uncallused hands. Maybe if we got him a stick on moustache...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

No Fun Sunday

Here's a recap of our whole weekend as it pertains to our unusable kitchen:

Friday morning the plumber and electrician showed up to move the gas line for the range, add some light fixture boxes, wiring for the range hood and split up two of the four circuits that run the whole house. While they were working I continued scraping the texture off the ceiling. They felt bad for me. That's when you know it's bad, the contractors are pitying you.

The ceiling was covered in some ugly texture and I probably wouldn't have done anything about it except there was this faux medallion around the light fixture and I wanted to put a hanging fixture there and it wasn't centered over the island and you see where this is going, and it's not good. I went on the forum at OldHouseWeb and the helpful people there told me that I should be able to scrape it off so I gave it a shot. In typical Tricia fashion I was looking at the ceiling one minute and the next minute I was standing on the island with a spatula in my hand and a febreze bottle full of water in the other. I happily scraped for some time this way and the ceiling soon looked like this:
And the floor looked like this:

Then we cleaned the floor for twice as long as it took to scrape the stuff down in the first place. This time I was smarter and I got some moving boxes from the attic and put them down all over the kitchen floor. Anyway, I managed to get the rest of the ceiling scraped without incident.

Then Friday afternoon I lured Chris with the promise of burritos to my formerly favorite lighting store to choose some fixtures and we stared at catalogs until past closing time without any success. It seems our price range is VERY limiting for the three fixtures we need.

We also went to Harbor Freight to pick up a rotary cutting tool for my other project, 'The Hole'.

Saturday morning I awoke with tons of motivation for the very exciting kitchen project, but I just needed breakfast and a few things from the Home Depot. This can never end well. We ended up being out for nearly half the day and it wasn't even a successful trip. The masonry supply place was closed so we had to go to the Home Depot twice. That place is like a time warp. We also went to a decorating store to look for metallic paints for the faux finish I'm planning to do on the ceiling. I told the nice woman that I am planning to hang Anaglypta on my ceiling and paint it to look like tin. First she told me that they don't make Anaglypta anymore which is weird because I just received 10 rolls of it from the ups man, then she told me that they won't be carrying metallic paints anymore. Bust. At least they had wallpaper paste, so I got some of that.

When we got back to the house Chris screwed up the ceiling with the plaster washers.
He's very thorough. I tried my hand at skim coating. I did a small section. It was messy and hard to get the hang of, but I was satisfied with my first attempt and I had to get ready to go to a folk music festival, so I couldn't mess around all day.

This morning I sanded the skim coat test area and realized that it was actually a really terrible attempt and I was going to have to do something about it. The people on the old house web forums seem to love the Magic Trowel, so I thought that maybe it would save me. Since I needed to wait three hours before Sherwin Williams would open I decided that I would work on the hole.

It seems that holes of this variety get bigger before they can disappear, and this is what the hole looks like now:
There's a section of header that needs to be replaced because of rot and I'd like to add some reinforcements to two of the studs that have some water damage. Also, the hole needs to be cut for the range hood vent before I can start the plaster work. I pulled out some nails and took some measurements and then I got out my new rotary cutting tool to even up the remaining header after I tore out the rotten parts. Within seconds the bit broke and flew across the room. Naturally I had no other bits, so I went downstairs to find my reciprocating saw and I had no blades for that (I guess I haven't used it since Grand St.), so I just sort of pottered around until SW was open. I couldn't go to HD for bits or blades or we could have had a repeat of Saturday.

I returned home triumphant with the Magic Trowel and... it worked like crap. I was so frustrated, and I couldn't understand why everyone loves this stupid thing and I can do a better job with a taping knife and... if you take the protective cover off the magic trowel it actually does work like magic. I finished skim coating in no time flat.

All this while Chris was sealing the flat roof over the stairwell on the side of the house. He's a champ. If you saw the size of the window he shimmied out to get onto the roof, you'd be impressed.

Tonight we went to some friends' for a fabulous dinner and then we came back and I sanded the kitchen, I felt oddly compelled (like by the power of satan). I'm pretty proud of it. I'm not sure how good it really is, but it must be better than it was before, right?
I'm finally getting to bed now. Tomorrow is a vacation day for me so I can work on the kitchen project. I'm definitely still in the part of the tunnel where I can't see any light except from behind me. Why was I so eager to do this again