I’m on Fire (in a sense)!

Here’s one last look at the stone veneer fireplace that I’ve been wanting to demolish as long as the bathroom tile (almost eight loooooooong years).


Since we have the Bagster ready to go for the bathroom, it made the most sense to me to fill it up as much as possible — and what better way to fill it up than with fireplace façade debris?!

I wasn’t sure how easy/difficult it would be to remove the stone, so I wanted to test it out before the weekend. First I removed the mantel from the short end.


I’ve always known that this veneer is cemented to Durock that is attached to 2×4 framing, so no big surprise here.


With my trusty chisel, chipping away at the top released the stone from the mesh pretty easily. Others are a little more difficult and requires chipping from all different angles.

It only took about an hour (plus a bruised finger from whacking it with a hammer) to remove most of one side.




I anticipate that the top section will be a little more difficult and painstaking because it will be harder to access. Once the demo is done, there will (eventually) be plaster work to do in order to smooth out the textured walls that were covered by the stone. We were pretty much forced to cover the texture way back when — because there were so many cracks it would have been very difficult to match the original texture.

In any case, gonna be a busy, happy demo weekend!

This Finally Happened Today


That’s right people; it’s a drop cloth in the bathtub, which could only mean it’s the day I’ve been waiting for — for almost the past 8 years!

It was a pain to start, but while Pete worked on the one tub wall, I worked on the other.


After a couple hours, we were down to the Durock on both walls.



We were able to find most of the screws that held the cement board to the studs, and this is where we stopped for the day.


I knew the chimney was behind the wall opposite the shower head, however I didn’t expect that it wouldn’t span the entire width of the tub. Still, I’m planning to keep the brick exposed in some shape or form; possibly exposing that entire wall.


We probably won’t go any further until next weekend, but we’re on our way!

The Weekend Project(s)

While I’d much rather be demo-ing a bathroom, there’s still lots of snow on the ground and nowhere to put a Bagster (c’mon Spring!). In addition, this past weekend was frigid cold, and I don’t want to be hauling broken tile outside so might as well get some other little indoor projects done.

One thing was to move the laundry room shelving to another wall. I’m not sure what my rationale was at the time, but I had the shelves on the door wall, so they were parallel to/opposite from the washer/dryer. I decided it would look better and feel roomier if they were perpendicular to them. While it means a few holes to patch and paint, I think it looks and works much better here.


Next, I finished varnishing the shelves for the linen closet and put that back together. The walls still need painting but we have to repair a crumbling plaster wall first which we’ll address when we demo the bathroom.


Finally, in addition to adding a coat of Butcher’s Wax to protect the wood, we worked on adding a stemware rack to my grandfather’s antique workbench which we use as a dining room sideboard.


Using leftover trim from our attic remodel, I thought we could use some parts to make our rack. This is the cap to the baseboard.


Taking two pieces and putting them together like you see below would create the rails that the wine stems hang from. Pete took a small square piece of wood and glued it to the notch you see there so we’d be able to thread a screw through it to secure to the workbench top.


The pegs of the workbench were the right distance apart to center each rail behind them.


Et voilá!



Now I’m debating about building a little wine storage rack to fill the space below the stemware. Anybody have any cool/unique DIY wine rack solutions?

A Hole for Cats (or a Very Large Mouse)

In preparation for the impending bathroom remodel, we’re transitioning the cats to use the litter box in the basement. I never wanted to have one in the bathroom in the first place but the basement was such a mess that I was afraid their curiosity would get them into trouble. Over the past several months we’ve slowly rearranged and reorganized the unfinished part of the basement and think we’ve plugged every hole and put away anything that might have been dangerous.

I still had a giant litter box that I bought for Henry and Ella, so I set that up before we let them venture downstairs.

Lena is always the one peeking under the basement door when we’re downstairs, so although you could tell she wanted to explore she cautiously peered down from the top step when I first opened the door. I had to get Romy to lead the way, which she did immediately with Lena eventually following. They both took to the new litter box with no problem.

We’ve been leaving the basement door ajar to let them explore on their own, and for now we’ve kept the bathroom litter box in place to wean them from it. They’re still using it a little bit, but they’re definitely preferring the basement one.

We used an antique iron as a doorstop in the hallway to make sure the basement door doesn’t close shut, however my goal was to be able to keep it closed which is why a long time ago I bought a Cat Door (I bought it from Amazon). It’s really intended for doors only, but I definitely wasn’t going to cut a hole in one of our beautiful original doors. I thought we could modify it to work in the kitchen wall instead, which is just on the other side of the basement stairs.

Several years ago and before Henry and Ella showed signs of their Feline Leukemia, Pete had cut an arch in the drywall on the basement stair side using the paper template they provide. That’s as far as we got until last weekend.

We thought it would be a quick little afternoon project, but it took the better part of the day to finish it all off and make it look nice. Here is the spot in the kitchen that allows access to the basement stairs, which is immediately as you enter the kitchen from the main hallway.

First we removed the trim in the kitchen and punched starting points through the drywall from the basement side that would match up with the hole we already made there.


We wanted to make it as close to the top stair as possible, so it’s right next to the wall stud. Peek-a-boo!


Pete found some scraps from our attic reno trim project that would cover the bottom plate and I quickly stained the stud with the gel stain I recently bought.


He also found a scrap 2×6 to plug up and create the opposite “wall” of the access hole and then we screwed the arched cat brush (included in the kit) to the studs.


I put a quick coat of stain on the wood arch trim (on both sides of the wall), then Pete cut the baseboard trim to fit around the hole and we’re done! (I decided to just use the darker stain instead of using the kitchen trim stain since the walls and floor of the access were darker too.)


Lena was a little unsure about it on her first go-through as you can see, but she’s comfortable with it now.


I might take the bathroom litter box away sometime this weekend and then after a few days once they’re used to that we’ll be able to keep the basement door fully closed.

Shhhh, We’re Silently Removing Paint

We used the Silent Paint Remover for the linen closet shelf boards, which works really well on flat surfaces. There are also tools for it to scrape paint from uneven surfaces like the shelf brackets, but since you have to heat up the surface and put the SPR down to scrape every 30-60 seconds I felt more comfortable using the paste even though it’s much messier.


We bought the SPR way back when we planned to refinish the woodwork ourselves, but when we had sooooo many other projects to do, we decided it was worth it to hire that project out and I don’t regret it for one minute. We’ve used it on a couple other projects, but it hasn’t been used much and I’ll probably put it up for sale on Ebay at some point.

You can raise and lower the side panels depending on how close you want the infrared heat to the surface. It’s best to start at the highest point and lower from there.


I didn’t get a good shot of the surface once the paint bubbles up because you need to scrape it off as soon as possible before it cools. It cools and dries pretty quickly — unlike the goopy mess you get from the paste-style paint removers — and easily sweeps up with a broom or vacuum.

This board probably took about 10 minutes to heat and scrape.


The paint stubbornly adhered to knots so I finished those with a bit of the paste remover and wiped everything down with denatured alcohol and a scotch brite.


The underlying stain ended up looking kind of blotchy and uneven so I wanted to even it out with some matching stain. I had leftover wiping stain from the attic remodel trim project so I tried that first. Didn’t seem to work at all.

I went to my local Benjamin Moore store with one of the boards and talked to a guy there. He suggested that I might have to paint it, something I really wanted to avoid.

There were three choices in stains: wiping, penetrating and gel stains. Out of the three the gel stain was the best bet and he offered to test it on the board before I bought one. I chose American Walnut which was almost the darkest one and looked similar to our woodwork. Some of the blotchiness still shows through if you look closely, but since these are going to be hidden away in the closet it doesn’t bother me at all. The 2 boards in the middle, below, have been stained with the gel and look great compared to the others IMO.


Next I used it on the shelf brackets and the rest of the trim. It matches pretty well with the rest of our woodwork!



I’ll probably varnish it all this weekend. Soon, one more project off the to-do list and it’ll be on to the next (and final) closet!

Happy Pet Adoption Day!

Hard to believe that it’s already one year ago this weekend when we brought these adorable two girls, Romy and Lena, home from the shelter.


They were both about six months old at the time (but are not litter mates). It didn’t take long for them to discover the heated bathroom floor, where we often find them.


While they often hang out together and get along pretty well, they also fight over the coveted spot on my lap or chase each other back and forth over the length of the second floor.


Lena (tabby with white) was a feral stray and took some time to adjust and trust us. It took her two days just to venture out of the cat carrier. Today she’s our bossy little devil child. She is obsessed with chasing cast shadows or spots of light that reflect off eyeglasses or watch crystals and her latest trick is closing or opening doors (if they’re not completely latched). She’s a smart little girl.

Romy (gray) is an extremely friendly and loving baby. She still tries to suckle my ear lobe every now and then and constantly asks questions with a “Mmmmm?” whenever you talk to her or she comes to see you. While she can be a little needy at times, she’s also more than likely the one to find a quiet spot in the house to be alone.


We couldn’t be happier with our fuzzy little friends!

White Linen (Closet)

I thought I better take advantage of this burst in project energy while it lasts so I decided to tackle the linen closet. Since it’s adjacent to the bathroom and part of the hallway, it’ll be part of both the bathroom reno and the hallway repair and paint project too.

Of course I shouldn’t need to tell you, as you should know by now if you’re a regular reader, that it was completely painted in white.


And like everything else it was either a) a crappy paint job, b) not prepped properly before painting, or c) crappy paint (or a combination of all 3) because it was chipping and peeling over several layers of other colors (sage-y green, gold, peachy-pink…).


The walls are cracked, especially in the corners and on this left wall. It probably happened when the bathroom was demo’d and “remodeled” in the ’90s. This wall, at least this lower section will have to be replaced I’m sure because it doesn’t seem to be holding to the lath anymore.


What is that faucet doing in the linen closet, you ask? Why that was the PO’s idea for filling pails with water without having to walk a few more steps into the bathroom to fill from the tub. Yeah, that will be removed — I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to risk a faucet leak all over the hardwood floor.

I’m removing the paint from the closet shelves with the Silent Paint Remover which is going pretty quickly. For the shelf brackets, baseboard and framing around the tub access (even that was originally stained!) I’m using a “green” stripper. I already had a tub of Ready Strip which I used up on the brackets, plus a tub of Smart Strip which I used on the baseboard and tub access framing.

The Smart Strip seemed to work much better, but I wasn’t sure if it was just because it was applied to flat surfaces. It removed almost all the paint on the first go-around.



After applying the Smart Strip to the shelf brackets and letting it sit overnight, most of the remaining paint came off.


I’m not going to go crazy in trying to remove every last bit of paint since most of the bracket will be covered by the shelf, so I’ll see how these clean up with denatured alcohol and take it from there.


Dining Room Light Fixture

Once we sold the dining room chandelier I started searching for bungalow-appropriate ceiling fixtures. It was much harder than I thought!

For one, authentic vintage light fixtures were super expensive everywhere I looked, either locally or online, and reproductions really weren’t any cheaper. This was in late October and I was hoping to find something before we hosted Thanksgiving dinner.

After visiting various shops who specialized in antique lighting and getting sticker shock, I ended up buying a brand new, simple drum shade, but quickly decided it was too stark/too new looking and returned it without even taking it out of the box. Finally, I went to The Bellows Shoppe in Winnetka. The guy who waited on us was very helpful and I loved how he talked about each light fixture, referring to each as “she”.

They had a nice 3-light option which was in a Deco style and appropriate for the age and style of our house. On the down side, it was a little smaller than I hoped — I was looking for a 4- or 5-light fixture. BUT the price was right on this one and I didn’t want something too big either. I had had enough of too big. Plus I wanted something that would be more of a ceiling fixture instead of a chandelier because we wouldn’t have the table centered under it and I don’t like the look of “swagging” a light fixture off to one side with a long chain.


We were afraid it might not be bright enough for the room, but the three LED bulbs we bought give off plenty of light even with the dimmer on low. I also like how the painted glass shades look with our ceiling color.


It’s a huge difference from the chandelier as you can see in comparison to the photo below, but at least no one has to duck their head as they pass through the room anymore!


I’m happy with it for the most part, however I may keep my eyes open for slightly bigger options at flea markets, antique stores or auctions, especially something that we could get inexpensively that might need a little restoration and re-wiring.

Closing the Door on Dirty Laundry

We can finally cross the laundry room door off our To-Do List/2015 Goals, and it’s only January 15th!

This is another one of my Re-use/Re-purpose projects. The door was the original exterior door to the basement.


When we did the attic remodel in 2009, our contractor used a metal door that he had from another project at the top of the attic stairs to try to keep dust down. It was dirty and banged up a bit and he was going to toss it when he was finished. It was the right size for our basement and Pete thought it’d be a bit more secure, so we took it and replaced the wood door.

Like everything else in this house when we first moved in, the basement door was painted white, several times, and chipping and peeling everywhere. So waaaaay back in summer of 2010, we stripped it.


One of the wood panel inserts was cracked, but I wanted to replace them with glass anyway. Pete routed out the panels and patched up cracks and plugged the hole from the dead bolt.


That’s about as far as we got for apparently several years (sheesh, how time flies!). Our trim guy fitted and hung the door back in 2012, and down to the basement it went to sit on work horses. And sit…


Pete would work on it a little here and there, and last fall I finally finished stripping the decorative trim that framed each panel. Pete had to cut out one side of the trim to remove the panels, so we bought glass bead trim to frame that side once the glass was installed.

FINALLY, we were ready to paint! I wanted to do a slate blue color that goes well with the Marmoleum tile. I chose Benjamin Moore’s Montpelier (AF-555) and realized as I was painting that it was a lot like the basement gray color! Of course Montpelier sounds a lot better than “Basement Gray”.


I really wanted to use ribbed textured glass panels, but we needed thick pieces and the glass place said it would have to be tempered glass which would greatly increase the cost. Since this was a “free” repurpose project, it didn’t make sense to pay as much for glass as a new door would cost so we went with translucent white glass.


Over the past few days we put the finishing touches on the door, installing the glass panels with glazing putty and cutting and tacking in the glass bead trim.



Last night we hung the door (after a panicky search for the door hinge plates)!



Now that it’s finally done I’m motivated to repaint the master bathroom, another small project that’s been on my to-do list for several years. The door project was also one of the things I wanted to finish, along with cleaning up and re-organizing the basement, in order to move the litter box back downstairs. Romy and Lena have not been allowed down there because of what they might get into, and they’ve been dying to know what we’ve been up to!

Now that the Pool Table is Gone

Besides the fact that it took up so much space and we rarely used it, the main reason I wanted to get rid of the pool table in the basement was to set up a home gym.

I gave up my gym membership last summer. Even though I loved the place and the people who work there, the monthly fee was getting out of hand. As time went on I didn’t really use the pools, sauna, whirlpools and other amenities, so it didn’t make sense to pay to use similar equipment that I either already owned or could essentially buy on my own and save a bunch of money in the long run.


Even though it’s not as fancy as the gym version, we already had a treadmill and have had it for years, so that’s a major expense out of the way. We have a Nordic Track too, which Pete uses from time-to-time but I never really cared for all that much. Maybe I’ll give it another shot as an elliptical replacement. Pete used to have a set of barbells but we gave those to one of the nephews since we already had a set of PowerBlock adjustable weights.

So to complete the gym setup, Pete got a bike trainer for Christmas to turn his regular bike into an indoor bike, and I asked for and received various other things for Christmas such as a kettle bell, set of resistance bands, stability ball and BOSU ball. I used those things all the time at the gym for strength training rather than the weight machines.



With a gift certificate, we bought a few sets of interlocking foam floor tiles and decided to finally replace our one remaining tube TV (which went to the recycling center) with a 24″ LED. It was super cheap!

On Sunday we mounted the TV to one of the columns with a full-motion TV mount so we can turn it toward either the gym area or the sofa. I need to find or make a small shelf for the Wii, and I’ll use my laptop to play exercise DVDs on the TV.

With all that variety, we have absolutely NO EXCUSES not to exercise, right?!