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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…).

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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?!

Dismantling the Pool Table

One of the things the PO left behind was the pool table in the basement (I think every homeowner tries to leave behind their pool table rather than moving it!). We used it from time-to-time in the early years, but it became a rarity after a couple years. Practically the only time it has been used in recent years is by the nephews on Thanksgiving Day.

It takes up way too much space for something that’s used once a year, so it went on the hit list during my Purge Splurge.

Last summer I tried to find a new home for it. I called a couple places that refurbish and resell old pool tables, but this one is nothing special: fake wood formica veneer over plywood, plastic for the pockets, etc. One guy seemed interested in taking it to fix up and donate to a community center, but when I called him back a few months later he said ‘no, thanks’.

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I didn’t want to deal with trying to get rid of it on Craigslist. It’s a bitch to move and it really wasn’t worth anything, especially my time to list it, arrange times to show potential buyers, etc. Instead I started researching what to do with a pool table, especially ideas on repurposing it.

slate-farmhouse-sinkThat’s when I found some posts on using pool slate for countertops, like herehere, here and here in addition to the image at right.

Hmmmm! Having some type of solid surface countertop in the kitchen is pretty high on my wish list (but SO out of our budget!). I’ve changed my mind about what type of stone over the years: at first I wanted soapstone, then a recycled glass/cement counter, later quartz. I would totally love slate though, especially if it’s free!

I read that the slate is usually in three parts, so I figured out approximately how big the pieces would be and if they would work with our kitchen counter space. Lo and behold, I believe it will (we’ll probably keep the butcher block in the corner so that will help)!

This YouTube video was a helpful tutorial for breaking it down. Not all of it applied since we wouldn’t be putting it back together elsewhere but it has some good tips. In no time at all we removed the rails, took it apart and left the metal out for the scrappers.

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Removing the felt was next. There were a zillion staples to remove but they came out pretty easily for the most part.

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And here are the 3 pieces!

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The seams were filled with plaster or joint compound, but not very well. They easily came apart. There are screws in each corner to secure the slate to the base and they were also filled with the plaster/joint compound that we had to chisel out to remove the screws. Not too difficult though.

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The opposite side of the slate looks nicer than this side, and of course each piece of slate was super heavy to move! Right now we have them propped up against the bar. I forgot to take a shot of the good side so that will have to wait.

Finally, it was down to the legs and all the scrap lumber.

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It was a pretty simple construction all-in-all. The slate is definitely the most valuable part of the table and will be put to much better use in this house! Now to get rid of that pool table light…

Workbench, now Sideboard

Finally, and as promised, here is my grandfather’s wonderful workbench in its new role as our dining room sideboard.

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When we initially moved it inside, I wasn’t quite sure I liked it and my heart sank. I was hoping it just needed some balance with other things. I moved a large plant near it, added some others along with extra dining chairs and a torchiere lamp from the breakfast room that we never used. I could never find the right spot for that lamp but it seems to fit pretty well here. All that seemed to do the trick.

My grandfather kept an old board across the leg braces to use as a bottom shelf, but it wasn’t secured to the bench and didn’t fill the bottom.

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I wanted to use the bottom area to store liquor bottles, but it would be too easy for a bottle or more to fall off the back of the existing shelf.

Then I had the brilliant idea to reuse the beadboard that I insisted on salvaging from the cottage remodel (yes, that’s still going on and I should post an update on that). The bathroom was originally the porch when the cottage was first built, and we found the beadboard after tearing out the bathroom ceiling. It was painted on one side and peeling a bit so it was going to be tossed but I knew I could find a good use for it someday.

The opposite side was fine though and just needed a good cleaning. We sorted through the best pieces, notched the front and back boards around the workbench legs, and simply fitted the tongue and groove of the boards together. It’s solid, sturdy and matches the patina of the workbench. Love it!

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Up on top, the recess at the back of workbench was the perfect setting for my Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer vignette at Christmastime.

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There’s one other little thing that I want to do with the bench, and I haven’t yet decided what to hang now that I have wall space. More on that once it’s complete!

It’s a New (Old) Bathroom Floor

I finished the bathroom floor mid-afternoon on Sunday, a relatively short 3-day weekend project. Once we remove the sink and toilet so I can get the remaining blue-and-white tiles out from under them I’ll be going over the floor again it in more detail to be sure I removed every little speck of cement and thinset.

There’s my little helper again!

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2015010801I found a lengthy article on the history and preservation of ceramic tiles in the U.S. from the Old House Journal. Although they state that “abrasive cleaners (including powdered cleansers and even “mildly” abrasive creams)” can damage ceramic floors, in my case I found that Barkeepers Friend had no adverse effect on our floor as the small section in front of the can shows.

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One more small section left! In the photo below the area in the upper right is where the (cat pee scented) cement build-up was. I was able to clean it off completely!

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Here’s the completed floor! In addition to restoring it to the original tile, it also means that we’ll be able to save a BUNCH of money (and time) by not having to replace it.

It has been almost 2 years since I crunched the numbers on the remodel. I grossly underestimated the total tile cost at the time. At $15/sf, it would have cost us more like $600 just for the flooring! And how funny is it that I was leaning toward almost the exact same tile as the original floor?!

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Well, Hello Gorgeous!

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Of course I couldn’t wait to get back to work on it today! I can be a little OCD when it comes to certain things, and this qualified. Sooooo satisfying when the tile pops up cleanly and leaves little residue, or when the thinset or cement chips off in a nice big chunk.

After doing a little research on how to clean the tile, I decided to go with Barkeeper’s Friend and a Scotch-Brite, both of which I had on hand.

Quite a difference between the left and right side.

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Lookin’ fabulous after only a little scrubbing!

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Not to say it’s all beautiful. Here is the crack near the sink that we’d have to deal with (or maybe just cover with a rug).

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And there are a couple of holes plugged from the old upright radiators. The previous owner replaced those with baseboard radiators a long time ago (still a boiler system). Note the rust stains on the floor here.

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After a little elbow grease, stains are virtually gone!

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There were two corners that were a bit of a problem. Both were built up with cement before the tile was laid so they were much more difficult to chisel away. This is by the tub, which is where the water leak was. It also appears that the wall where it jogs was moved back a little bit, so there are a couple inches without tile. I think we can work around it when we rip out the wall tile and redo the walls (can’t wait for that!).

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I found that the small chisel worked pretty well for thicker chunks, but a 4″ putty knife worked well for the thin, feathered layer of cement. By tapping it very gently, the vibration of the knife seemed to release the bond to the tile and the cement flaked off.

Then I discovered that if I let a damp towel soak the area, it softened the cement a little and helped it chip off easier. In the opposite corner next to the door (below), after I soaked it for a while (about 10 minutes) I started chipping away the cement when I noticed an all-too-familiar smell: cat pee.

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Ugh, I really didn’t expect to come across that smell in this house again. I now have a towel soaked with Nature’s Miracle in that spot (luckily I had some left over). I think once the newer tile and cement are gone the smell will go away.

In any case, I think this is gonna work! I’m so happy!