Happiness. Short-term, stupid, self-interest.

Home Improvement – A Whole Weekend

September 9, 2007

A whole weekend is actually just one day. Kids sports take up the entire Saturday and I somehow have to put this down between the patio door and the entrance.

We put down the backer board with thin set, screwed, and taped all the seams Saturday evening.

I actually had saved myself one day back in the summer when I didn’t know what to work on, so I figured out how the backer board needed to be cut with the precise dimensions to fit the tile. The backer board seams can’t line up with the floor seams, and I wanted a minimum number of seams. I also realized that the back board I had left over from the hearth project was not enough to finish and so that required one my many, many, many trips to Home Depot. It was a hot and humid day that day I cut that backer board… a lot of sweat and blood.

But that saved me, because it only took an evening to put it down. Sunday, we put down the tile. I got to use the wet saw again; boy that thing is great. I made one practice cut and I didn’t make any mistakes along the way. Not bad.

Laying the tile went pretty smooth; it actually goes pretty quickly. I would need to wait 24  hours before grouting, which I did the following Monday night. Grouting is the tougher part of the project, but I didn’t make the same mistake I did with the hearth. I used my cake decorating talents to bag it in so there was less clean up on the surface of the tile.

When I was done, I was done. And, the best part…? I didn’t destroy my MP3 player in the process!


September 30, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Improvement – The light at the end of the tunnel

September 2007

First up coming back from vacation, aside from school starting, work, playing soccer, the gym, coaching soccer, birthday parties, open houses, playing Russian chauffer with the kids ballet, basketball, and what seems to be an inordinate amount of doctor’s appointments and check ups… Ok, so playing soccer and the gym are gone for the foreseeable future, the rest I will have to work around.

But… I could see it done. The path to completion is within my grasp. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely in control of my own destiny.

I needed to return the lights I bought because they were damaged and missing a mounting bracket. They were special order, so that will take a couple weeks so I can’t work on that. That also delays the schedule for hooking up the circuits at the circuit box, something I’ve never done before.

I got right to trying to put the trim up. I started with the casement trim which is to be painted to match the windows.

Oh, and by the way, you can’t barrow someone’s tools forever, so when you have a tool that you use all the time for about a year, you should just buy it. Besides, I couldn’t let needing to return the nail gun stop me now. And so I now own a Paslode. (And let me tell you, if time were money, it’s been paid for.)

I worked like the Energizer Bunny and put up the trim on the windows. I can’t do the doors and base trim until the tile and carpet are finished. (Oh my… I need to lay a tile floor)

The trim I put up on the upper windows I had to design as I went, and I didn’t love it. It needed some modification that was going to require re-ripping, re-staining, and re-sealing more pieces. Well, ok, it wasn’t that many pieces and this would be the last time I’d have to do it.

I did all that on my own, in 4 days, during the week… not too shabby. Why such a rush? I wanted the whole weekend for laying the tile.

September 28, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Improvement – Miracle Weekend

August 2007

I call it miracle weekend because ripping and staining some wood to make my own trim was another first for me and there were just so many boards to be worked. The real miracle is that we got just about all of this done before vacation. It wouldn’t have happened, once again, without the help of my wife. (just to be clear, her helping is not the miracle part)

So the weekend before vacation, we ripped…

Stained, and sealed

The sealing I did each day before work; getting up early and spending 2-3 hours putting on a coat. Skipping going to the gym in the morning gave me a lot of time back.

I organized and relabeled all of the pieces before vacation so that when I get back I can blitz the project again. The question now is, can I keep up this furious pace? (and, will my family not kill me in the process?)

As a matter of fact, my wife started calling the porch my mistress. She would say, “don’t worry, your mistress will be here when we get back from vacation.” …and, “after dinner, I’ll clean up so you can get back to your mistress.”

I just came to the realization that when I finish this project, what the heck am I going to do with my spare time? (My wife has an answer for that, too!)

As much as this was a miracle weekend, my check list is long and daunting. The only way all of getting all this done is with an awful lot of motivation. Why not add to that motivation with an additional deadline? So we did, and before leaving on vacation we picked out and scheduled the carpet to be installed mid-September. That would force me to have the room done by then.

Now I have all the motivation I need for the real deadline. (and if you don’t know what deadline that is, you don’t know me very well.)

September 27, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Improvement – Slow and Steady Wins the Race

August 2007

Planning the Trim
With inspiration from my wife, we decided that the standard colonial casings found at Home Depot would be boring and the room needed to have a little more character than that. Her vision was for something simpler, actually. Something that looked more rustic and not flamboyant. She came across a style called “Arts and Crafts”, or “Craftsman”, which is a turn of the century style that pieces multiple rectangular pieces of wood and requires few tricky cuts and it also doesn’t require a router.

The hard part of this was that stock lumber doesn’t come stain ready and it doesn’t come in the all of dimensions required unless you special order. It turned into huge undertaking coming up with a plan that uses stock lumber that we can rip on my table saw to the proper dimension and without having to buy or rent a planer.

Note that somewhere around this time my wife got job. And even though she doesn’t start until September and thus we won’t be seeing a paycheck for quite sometime, that didn’t stop us from starting to spend it. We essentially opened the flood gates on the budget once again, hopefully to finish off the construction phase of the project.

The first go-around of the trim plan ended up with a list that called for a lot of lumber, priced out to about $700-800. This was more than I wanted to spend, but with some creativity of ripping larger pieces of wood, I was able to come up with a plan to save about $300. The only drawback now is that the simple trim project now turned into a complicated one. I even had to make my own coding system.


Lowes had the better cuts of the wood I wanted and I learned my lesson previously that stain comes out differently depending on where the wood came from. But, one store didn’t stock enough. I spent many days and hours after work running from Lowes to Lowes to find all the pieces I needed. (in good shape)

The first thing I did is sort out all the wood and organize it because putting it together was going to get very confusing.


The second thing I did was to make a sample board of the stains to pick out just the right one.


Another planning item was to pick out the tile we were going to use by the patio door. We had over a year ago picked out some nice porcelain ceramic tile that somewhat matched the slate we used for the hearth. It was in a series called “Crowe/Apache/Navajo” from a tile specialty store. We still had the samples, but a year later we still weren’t quite sure if it was exactly what we wanted; plus, imported from Italy, it was twice as expensive as some of the tile you could get at Lowes or Home Depot.

I re-looked at the tile at Lowes and found something with a nicer texture, but the pattern wasn’t as diverse and it didn’t match as well. But it was cheaper. Still unsure, I called the specialty tile store to see if they had the “Crowe/Apache/Navajo” in stock and they told me it has been discontinued. Discontinued, but they did have some leftover in the “back room” at half-price. So, without thinking it any further, I drove out after work one night to pick up some “Crowe/Apache/Navajo”.


A lot of little things got done so far with the Summer ¾ gone, but the room didn’t look much different. There were still several main pieces of the project yet to be done.

The last two weeks of August we will be on vacation. We are also up at the lakes every weekend leaving only Mon-Thurs evenings. If I didn’t have to work, I MIGHT get this done by Octoberfest.

Looking ahead to September with soccer and softball on Saturdays, my entire Saturday was gone leaving only Sunday. Plus one of the September weekends I am booked to be out of town.

The kids are going away to their grandparents for a few days before vacation leaving me with one solid weekend to get as much done as possible. I’d like to have the trim ready to install after Labor Day; but, to have to rip over 100 boards, sand them, stain them, then seal them, with 3 coats, drying in between each, I think will take me to the end of September.

But with one solid weekend and getting up early in the morning, do you think it can be done? … It would take a Miracle.

September 19, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Improvement – Keeping it Going in the Summer

July 2007

On the Fourth of July, I put up the ceiling fan in just a couple hours. I did this just because we have had it sitting around for awhile and it was a fairly simple job, despite that I had to remount the electrical box I was connecting it to. The circuits, however, are still not hooked up at the circuit box.


So, without a budget, I continued to work on things that I could which consisted of planning, and other little projects that I had the material for or cost very little.

I didn’t like some of the seams in my drywall; they definitely popped when the humidity rolled in. So, a free project was to cut up my not-so-perfectly good drywall and re-mud & tape them. This kind of work is good for something to do when you have only an hour free because it needs to stretch out over many days to let it dry.



We also needed to find the lights I was looking for. Only one specialty lighting store had something close to what I was looking for, and they still were not perfect. It would take several weeks for them to come in so it is a good thing I did this now. I would pick them up when I had a budget.

I had already bought the outlets and switches, so that was a simple project I could do after work. The outlets were fairly simple, though working with 12 AWG on some of the more complicated outlets was fairly difficult to work with and I wanted to do a professional job.( Never use the quick hook ups, screw the wire to the terminal; it is a much better connection. Then, wrap the outlet in electrical tape)


The switches were more complicated than I thought they would be. I had to draw it out to make sure I had it straight in my head.

The switches didn’t allow for many connections either, so I ended up with a lot of pig tails to get everything connected.

Wondering how that all fits into the gang box? Not easy!

I also hooked up and caulked the outside lights as well.

Although I could at this point hook up and test the wiring at the circuit box, I want to wait until I have in all my light fixtures, plus I want to schedule it on a weekend where I can also have someone around in case I electrocute myself.

I just need to keep things going by doing what I can, like this little stuff and planning for the next…

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

No More Screwing Around

Juicy Fruit, poison, drowning, pitch forks… nope… none of them are the answer.

My lawn continues to be destroyed by moles. I think the poison did work on one, but there is no way to know for sure without digging up the lawn to find a carcass. Something I did in addition to the poison was a few days later to swamp the area where he was with water. I started to do it just to break the tunnels back down and to find out if he was still there (by remaking the tunnels), but the pool of water that my lawn was holding compelled me to over do it to the point of drowning anything that may have been curled up with stomach pains in any of those tunnels. I don’t know if I got him, but that area has never been touched again. I think I got him.

My wife had told me earlier in the year that she would by me moles traps (at $15 a piece)… she said that’s what The Mole Man says is the only way to do it. But, I thought the poison and subsequent drowning was doing the trick.

I still had two other areas that were active from time to time. Moles quiet down in the summer, but that didn’t stop me from trying to poison and drown the suckers. Of course, about a week later, after thinking success, both areas became active again.

My cell phone rang while I was out looking at what the mole had done to my lawn… and what I had done to it in turn by turning up the soil trying to find him and how far the tunnels went.

It was my wife. Standing there, muddy and dripping in sweat, I answered and grunted, “Get me the traps. Just get me the traps.”

My wife “has a heart”, but it is for me, not the moles. She came home with the Victor guillotine mole trap. I set it per the instructions and we went away for the weekend.

I returned home to a big impaled fat-assed mole with sweet, sweet, glorious-o-glorious Black Death surrounding him. What I liked best was that his neck was pinned to the earth and his whole body was above ground outside the tunnel. I surmise he was trying to escape the grips of death, hopefully while the sun baked and burned him like a vampire in the morning sun.

I’ve never been happier. I had to show all my neighbors. I’m thinking of having a party.

I got #2 today; he was the smaller and sneakier bastard. Here is a picture of his slaughter.
I gave him my last respects in the form of a middle finger after I had stabbed him a few more times for good measure and then I flung him into the garbage can.

So now you have seen my dark side… and moles know not to screw with me. (anymore)

September 8, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement, Life in general | 2 Comments