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Project Weekend February 2009
remodeling
brittadotcom
Last year was the first year my dad was retired, and my mom wanted to go to Stitches West, so the plan was for both of them to come stay at my house, I would take some vacation days, and my dad & I would build the two gates I asked for as Christmas presents while my mom was at the conference. This worked well enough last year that Stitches Project Weekend has become an annual tradition. This year my mom even brought a friend for the conference, so I had 3 guests for Mardi Gras, then only a couple days later, another 3 guests, so I'm glad my guest room & office have gotten good use!

When I make my wish list of projects to do, it is truly a wish list of things I want done eventually, but usually a stretch goal I don't expect to complete, so I prioritize, plan out what we think we can do in the time we have vs. daylight hours, and see what we can do. We actually got EVERYTHING done on my list this time...wow! Thanks Dad! :)

To read details about each project, click the links.


Day One (only afternoon/evening):


site survey & shopping

After doing enough small tasks to know what we needed to buy, it took us WAY too long at two different stores to try finding the parts we needed or wanted to use. Ah well! This is exactly why I only scheduled ONE major project for this day! :)



leaky sprinkler valve = $13 already, not sure if fixed yet
new solenoid = $4 in January but didn't fix
new diaphram = $9
(could have bought whole new valve for $12 but would have to cut off old one, etc, big mess)

Now that I have a pretty windowbox with drip irrigation, that is the only sprinkler valve that decided it doesn't want to shut off after the timer ends. It stays dripping forever unless I notice and manually crank the valve back on then off again. That seemed like an electrical problem since it turned off with manual intervention, but when I just bought a new solenoid, it didn't help. My dad's next guess is a new diaphragm, so that has been purchased & installed, but now it's been too rainy to test the timer setup so I'll find out later if we've fixed it or not...to be continued...?



new kitchen light = $175
new track light fixture = $140 (purchased last year but waiting for kitchen remodel plans)
25ft romex wire = $13
wire staples = $1.29
wire channel = $12
round white ceiling junction box = $5
compression fittings for ceiling box = $3

I have always hated my white track light in my kitchen, and the special bulbs were pretty expensive, but it was functional. One of the most problems I've had redesigning my kitchen was what new lighting could be with my open beam ceiling, since track lighting is logical, but that would not work stylewise. Lo & behold last year at Home Depot I saw a track light that matched my style! Since I know things can come & go for stock and it was only $140, I decided to buy it & keep it in my garage until I remodeled my kitchen. Since there was really no reason why I couldn't start enjoying the new light before my new kitchen even began, I asked my dad if he thought we could do this ourselves, and he said sure.

The white track light was on a plug into an outlet above my cabinets, but the new fixture needed hardwiring to a circular junction box, otherwise I would have done it by myself, since I'm no stranger to replacing light fixtures. Since my dad has done this many times, I wanted to learn the proper way to install a junction box from him. Since it was an existing outlet we converted, there's no extra draw on power in my kitchen so all should be well. We ran the romex through the drywall from the existing outlet, then up along the beam inside a plastic wire channel that looks quite neat & tidy instead of wire staples. Figuring out the best way to install it on the beam or behind the beam was the trick. I thought it would hang down too low if we mounted the junction box under the beam then the fixture under that, but my dad had no problem walking under it, and at 6'5" he's probably the tallest person who will ever walk through my kitchen...whew! The beam is angled however, so we mounted the junction box level so the fixture would be level, which means we used a super-long decking screw and left it open vs. the angle of the beam. We had to use a couple shims to stabilize the box against the beam too, but it's solid now...it just looks a bit funny to me. After painting it all white which I will do soon, my dad thinks no one will notice, but it will bug me when I see it every day, so before my new kitchen is considered complete, I will figure out something to hide the weirdness. My uncle the contractor swore it would not be enough light, but it is so much brighter than the other light! Having 4 lights to aim makes a lot of difference, and the center can downlight is nice too!



Ugly old kitchen track light before...now prettier & brighter new kitchen light!



Day Two:


proper drainage from 3 downspouts = $60
two 10ft lengths perforated 3" drainage pipe = $10
8 elbows = $40
2 reducers = $4
drainplate = $5
gravel = free!

I have 3 downspouts on the front porch side of the house that drain only to the house, not farther from the foundation like they should. Since I'm doing the new pathways this year, this is the time to put the drainage in properly so it goes underneath the pathways farther from my foundation. The two where the white gravel & stepping stones are were just a matter of lots of digging, but the front corner downspout ended at the front concrete walkway. On Wednesday before my parents arrived, I cracked out just enough of the pathway around the downspout so we had room to install the drainage, but I discovered that unlike the back concrete path, this one has mini-rebar mesh underneath, and I didn't have anything that could cut wire that thick...bah! During our main shopping trip I invested in $20 "lineman's cutters" with which I could use ONE HAND to cut the scrap wire we brought with us. I foresee this being an excellent investment in my tool collection! We discovered it also cuts 4-wire romex very easily in one fell swoop!

We bought parts on Thursday, so we were ready first thing Friday morning for lots of digging with my dad's skinny trenching shovels. Since I didn't want to dig up my entire flowerbed for one long pipe down the length to the street, we dug 24" deep with my dad's posthole digger in my flowerbeds and filled it with extra gravel. The rest of each drainage channel slopes towards that deep hole, and after lots of hose testing that day, plus lots of rain this past week, it looks like were good! I have a whole garbage can filled with dirt plus another large pile, but since the ground level under the gravel is already the perfect depth for the full bricks in sand to meet the new paved porch level, I will keep the dirt around to fill in around the brick pathway when it is finally finished. I'm not sure where the gravel will move to yet since it's good stuff that might be able to go around my back roses & other plantings to help with weed control, but I have always wanted pretty plants around a pathway vs. that boring gravel & plain house wall.

My mom's idea for a birthday present from my grandma was a "rain chain" which I had not heard of before, but quite pretty, especially this cup style for my house I thought. The only reason I didn't rip out the entire front wall three years ago was because the frame structure was covering up the ugly downspout. Putting a rain chain instead I could make that a feature & finally remove the last bit of that wall. We have a flat black drain covered with nice white gravel for the rain chain to drain. I made short work of the wall with my reciprocating saw, and the downspout is just wedged back in temporarily until the rain chains arrive. I hadn't decided until after they left to use a matching cup rain chain by the front door too, so I when I install the chains, I will convert that one to another drain with gravel.



Drain ditch in process




paving front porch with half-bricks to go with new brick pathway = $144
200 clay half-bricks from Home Depot = $100
2 bags brick mortar = $30 (3/4s one bag leftover)
brick chisel to cut bricks = $10 (will use for future pathways too)
extra dremel cutting wheels = $4

My grand plan, which was inspired by my mom's suggestion, is for all the walkways around my house to be brick to go with my brick chimney on my front wall. I have always liked the charm of brick, and I like how it ages, and the rust red color contrasts nicely with so much garden green. This plan started my first year with the brick patio in back that continued as the walkway across the backyard to the side gate. Then I cracked out the back side concrete walkway for stepping stones & planting, which was finally transformed into my tomato garden last spring. I continued this past year with adding the pathway across the front from my driveway to the existing concrete front path. Since I can get rid of concrete scrap for free at the curb on March 16th, I'm cracking out the entire front path by then to get rid of the mess, then I can put in the new brick pathway later. Since it should be easiest with the least digging and no existing concrete, the last piece will be the path from the front porch to meet the pathway where it stopped at the gate, bringing it full circle!

So with this grand pathway plan decided early on, I wasn't sure for awhile what do to with my front porch, since it is a thicker pad, plus I wasn't very comfortable with cracking out concrete so close to my front door & house foundation. The concrete pad had no cracks and was in good condition, so I figured to pave over it to match the pathways on either side, but full bricks would make a large step up from the pathway. I found matching half-bricks a few years ago at Lowe's so that was my plan, since I could gently grade the pathway up to meet for only 1.5" extra porch height. Unfortunately this year no one is carrying those half-bricks any more, even eliminating special order, but the Home Depot in Foster City by my office still had almost a full palette! I drove the Honda to work 2 days to get 100 bricks home each time, since any more than that I was afraid for the weight in my poor little car.

While I was cracking the concrete away from the downspout, I realized I should crack the pathway away from the porch edge too, otherwise later I would risk accidentally bashing the new brick edge, so I got that done on Wednesday before my parents arrived. Before our shopping on Thursday, I laid out the bricks, marked the ones I needed cut, and we brought them with us in hopes of paying to get them cut. I had tried using my dad's ancient brick chisel for my pathways, and that resulted in inexact edges, not good enough for the porch. No luck with getting them cut by anyone, and trying the brick chisel on a few of the buffer supply bricks didn't go very well. I looked up "brick cutting" online, and found about scoring first, then whacking properly on non-concrete, so I got out my dremel, scored all the way around at my cut line, set the brick on my bark flowerbed, aimed the chisel with the flat side & good brick towards me, and gave a good solid whack. Voila! I burned my cutting wheel down to the nub on only a few bricks, so I kept working while my dad went to the store to buy more along with plumbing valve supplies, and now I know the technique!

After all that we didn't get started with the mortar until almost 5pm, but at least we had the porch light to keep working, and the cut bricks fit perfectly & looked professional! My dad agreed he was too sloppy & I was doing a better job of setting the brick, so he would slop the mortar on the porch for me, then I would go behind setting the brick in, matching edges with my fingers just like I've done so many times before with the sand, only smushing into mortar vs. hammer-pounding into dry sand. I can say I like the sand better. :) The porch bricks are set flush intentionally since that's how the pathways will be since they'll be set in dry sand like the rest. We finally finished at 8pm, thanks to Dad's cleaning & scrubbing afterwards only a few bits here & there that look sloppy, then we walked to get our well-deserved steakburgers...sure felt good to walk after all that bending & squatting, plus digging all morning too!



Voila! Front porch before I moved in & now! So much more charm than the pebbly concrete before!




Spillover Day Three (morning only):


hallway linen closet doors closing properly = $25
4 pairs new hinges = $8
metal file = $6 (not sure if I'll really need it after all since we got the wall screws out)
wood filler = $4
chemical stripper = $7
leftover trim paint = $0

My hallway linen closet doors have never closed properly, so with my recent hallway painting making things look so nice, I wanted to finally have doors that would stay shut. My dad made them a little better when I moved in by sanding & adding some magnet closures, but they were still really annoying having to talk to them nicely and still popping back open 5 times before they'd stay closed only if I tiptoed away. I tried to tackle this myself when I was painting, but I got stuck when I couldn't get the screws out of the wall hinges. My dad suggested drilling them out which he has done before but I haven't, but my mom said "Aren't you having a party in 2 weeks? What if you can't get this finished before then? Why don't you just wait until we come after the party?" so I agreed and added it to the list I was trying to keep shorter for Dad's sake. ;)

Thursday my dad drilled out the wall side from the 50 years of paint buildup, leaving the hinges on the doors, and we bought new hinges on our main shopping trip. Due to the drainage & brick being priority for Friday, we didn't get further until Saturday morning. By then my dremel had gotten lots of use scoring bricks for cutting, so I was able to not damage the doors by using my dremel to get enough paint off to unscrew the hinges. We hung the doors properly so now they close - Hooray! Now that I know where the holes need to be to put the new hinges back in, I've already taken the doors back down to fill the awful scars we left in the frame trying to get the old hinges out, and to strip the paint off the doors properly before repainting, since unfortunately the top coat peels off with a fingernail & just peels when trying to sand down to other layers, so I'm doing it right. You can see after 2 full coats of chemical stripper & lots of scraping that there are at least 5 colors on these doors...too bad it totally clashes with my color design or it's a pretty cool "painted desert" effect I think! ;)



Linen closet doors with new hinges that match my hallway doorknobs...and should I repaint the fronts but leave the insides of the doors the "painted desert" effect as house history? ;)



restabilize pipe organ = $0 (used scrap wood)
My Halloween pipe organ is too heavy for me to lift by myself since it's made from a real electric organ in a solid wood case, so my dad helped me add caster wheels to it before. Even though I was very careful, one front wheel broke off when I was moving it into the shed for Halloween. I had a scrap of 2x4 loose under that corner to balance it, but that was on the list so I had the extra hands to lift it properly. We bought a matching caster, and I had moved everything out of the shed, but when I was very carefully scooting the organ out of the shed, the other front wheel broke off - argh! This was Saturday morning when we were already trying to rush the last few projects before they got on the road, so no time to buy another caster, so instead I had matching 2x4 scraps we just screwed to the front as semi-decorative legs. Hopefully I will still be able to move it carefully by lifting the front and wheeling the back.




old kitchen light installed on wall switch in garage = $4
recycled track light from kitchen
metal splice box w/ plate $4
wire leftover from new kitchen light
wire nuts from stash

The old kitchen light was ugly, but quite functional, so instead of junking it, I decided to install it in the garage so I could finally see my laundry AND the garage sink! You don't know how many times I've thought I got all the paint off my hands at that sink, then come inside and still had a mess. We bought a splice box and used leftover romex wire to tap into the existing garage overhead light on the wall switch, since I didn't want to mess with a power strip or plugging in the light every time I wanted to use it. We unwired the plug on the track light & wired romex to it, then since we cut the wire to the existing overhead light, we didn't have enough slack, so ran brand-new romex into the existing fluorescent fixture to have plenty of wire to reach the splice box. My fingers were so tired by that point I could not twist 3 stiff copper romex wires together to get into the wire nut, so I had to use pliers...that stuff is stiff! Since it's in the garage, the metal box is just on a beam, but the wiring is contained in the box just as it should be. I am so happy with being able to see so well in there now!



Track light from kitchen now illuminating the garage



new fridge water supply valve in kitchen = $35
two threaded elbows, two 6" threaded copper pipes, one 4" threaded copper pipe = $35
teflon tape from stash
caulk from stash

When I moved in I noticed a valve on the garage side behind my kitchen wall. It looked like a water extension pipe with a valve at the end, but it didn't go through the wall, just stopped the opposite side of the fridge. Maybe someone's icemaker plan they never finished? Yes, I measured several times from where the vent hood pipe comes through the garage wall so I knew it was not behind the stove or a cabinet. With my kitchen plans, I'm keeping the fridge in the same location, so we drilled a test hole through the wall to check how thick the wall was (boy that surprised the kitties watching inside!), took off the existing valve after making sure the valve upline was off, bought copper extensions & 2 elbows, installed with teflon tape, and voila! My dad drilled the holes so well that it's a nice close fit so I just caulked vs. worrying about any faceplate. I checked again the next day for any possible leaks and we're all good. Depending on the fridge I get, I might need conversion from the valve to fridge line, but I won't worry about that until I actually have the fridge.



new water pipe extension through garage wall...and the valve moved inside ready for a new fridge!



stabilize screened patio structure to be ready for outdoor patio carpeting = $0 (adhesive in stash)

The screen structure at the patio screen door was loose couple weeks ago, but with recent rain the ground has swelled enough so it stays put unless I kick it loose. I used the prybar to lift just enough for Dad to squirt some Liquid Nails underneath, so hopefully now it will stay put even when the ground dries out again. If the screen structure stays in place again, my free samples arrived this week, so after the kitchen project is all finished, I will be buying wall-to-wall outdoor "sisal" look "Chesapeake" carpeting to finally cover the cracked aqua concrete patio flooring. :)



so...

leaky sprinkler valve = $13
new kitchen light = $175
proper drainage from 3 downspouts = $60
paving front porch to go with new brick pathway = $144
hallway linen closet doors closing properly = $25
restabilize pipe organ = $0
old kitchen light installed on wall switch in garage = $4
new fridge water supply valve in kitchen = $35
stabilize screened patio structure = $0

...project weekend with Dad = priceless! :)


P.S. I did get the living room, dining area & hallway all painted with a "wheatland beige" base coat then a hand-rubbed "wam oats" topcoat all in January! Those photos are here if you'd like to see...

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