Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I've been told that there are people who buy purses that cost hundreds of dollars. Or shoes. Or bottles of wine. I don't think I know very many of those people.

This girl pines for a very different sort of item. My current drool-worthy obsession?

Just look at that thing! I mean, I have a chop saw already. I got it off a garage sale website for $20, and it totally chops things, as long as those things are 6 inches or less. And I am grateful for the many boards it has cut for me.
I was putting up vinyl bead board in the bathroom (doesn't it look better already?), and each piece is 7.5 inches wide, so I had to cut it from one side, flip it over, and cut the rest. Argh. First world rage at the inefficiency!

Maybe for Christmas. Laura got an orange and a tin cup one year, and it was the best Christmas ever. I got an impact driver last year, and that was awesome. But a girl can always dream!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bathroom overhaul!

This bathroom was bad. Real, real bad.
 There's never enough storage, so they decided to set a cabinet on top of a shelf. There's no way that could go wrong, right?

Also, you can't tell from the picture, but the sink is too big, so the door can't open all the way.
 Yeah, there's that too. Also, notice the beat-up wallboard.
 It's hard to get a sense of the general filth. And you can't tell that the tile was poorly laid, so it's cracking all over the place.
Barely hanging on. Also, those lights are not my favorite. Eww.

And it gets worse before it gets better. It gets way, worse.

Ooh, check it out! Peel and stick tile under the ceramic. Who puts peel and stick in a bathroom? That might explain why the subfloor is a little spongy.

And that was some pretty fancy wallpaper border. Hmm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Holy transformation, batman!

 So, I freaking love this machine. The impact on these floors is amazing. They went from horrible beyond reason to merely slightly mangled. Which is a pretty big leap.
Amazing what some 32-grit sandpaper can do. Also, the Home Depot guy was right; this is not the easiest machine to run. I did my absolute best to keep it moving constantly, but I still did this a few times:
 Ouch. Nobody show this to Uncle Vic; he'd shake his head at me, and deservedly so. But, the floors are so much better than they were!

I put down a coat of dark walnut stain, the theory being that the water stains would blend in better if the floors were darker. That kind of worked. And the dark stain really made my sanding errors stand out. Definitely don't tell Vic; he could have told me that.

The end result?
 Much better.
Much, much better.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Floor resurrection!

Here's the starting point:

 Living room

When we ripped out the carpet, I was disappointed in the shape of the floors. Beyond the obvious paint spatters, they were discolored, water damaged, warped, and generally horrible. I priced out carpet, and was thinking about trying to lay new hardwood in the living room.

But then I mopped the floor and saw the lovely wood grain come through, and thought maybe it was worth a shot. Sander rental is a lot cheaper than carpet, and it would be delightful to have the original floors.

So I go to Home Depot and tell them I need a drum sander. The for real kind, because I'm trying to make warped floor boards appear flat again. The rental guy tells me it's a bad idea--he says 90% of people who rent this sander end up destroying their floors. I tell him that I can't possibly make them any worse.

This is the benefit of buying such a messed-up house. I am doing my utmost to do a beautiful job. But it's a rental, not my forever house. And it was such a disaster that there's basically nothing I can do that would make it worse than it was. It's a good practice house; I'm learning lots of things that I will do better on the next house. And there's always a next house!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More "before"

I finished painting ceilings and walls with the help of my lovely mom and my friend Kate, so it was time to rip out the horrible, stained, stinky carpet.

Yeah, that carpet. What the picture can't convey is how awful it smelled. This is carpet you rip out with long sleeves and gloves and a mask. And then you take a shower as soon as possible. I work with adolescents, so I'm pretty immune to horrible smells (sorry, middle schoolers. It's true). But P works in places that smell of fresh baked bourbon caramel rolls, and this job was almost too horrible for him.

And the big reveal: what was hiding underneath the carpet? Voila--hardwood floors! But hardwood floors that were stained and covered in paint.

And they're water damaged, so the boards are warped. Can they be salvaged? Are they too horrible to save? This remains to be seen. But, I'm looking at it as a chance to experiment and learn. The best thing about buying a wreck of a house is that I can't possibly make it worse. Even if I completely botch the floors, or they're beyond salvaging, we'll just carpet this room. And it'll be new, non-stinky carpet, which is a major improvement. And maybe I will be successful, and gain a new skill, and resurrect these poor, neglected and mistreated floors. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A legacy of strong ladies

Most of my tools are second-hand; many of them come from a former neighbor. When my parents' neighbor Jim passed away, his wife shared his tool collection with me. I'm using his tools pretty much every time I do any project, but there's one in particular that I love.

This vice grip has a name scratched in to it: Ruth Shenk. I have no idea who she was, or how this tool ended up in Jim's collection. It wouldn't surprise me if it was a garage sale find, maybe even Jim didn't know who Ruth was. But I'm imagining Ruth as a hardcore, independent woman in the 1950s. I picture her swapping out her floral apron for a pair of coveralls, because she was a woman who got things done.

 I was channeling Ruth Shenk last weekend. (Or, to be more accurate, I was channeling my imagined version of Ruth.) I needed to rip up the rotted bathroom subfloor, but the toilet was on top of it. I can unhook a toilet. And I can scootch a toilet across a floor. I can even lift one a few inches off the floor. But I needed it in the tub, and P was off at work. I'm a strong lady in the metaphorical sense, and even a little bit in the physical sense. But there is a limit to what I can lift on my own.

So, I worked it out. I created a series of steps using paint cans so I only had to lift it a couple of inches at a time, and got it where it needed to go. And this tiny challenge, which would have been so easy for someone burlier than I, was an opportunity to improvise. And then I get to feel hardcore, which is half the point of buying this house!