Category Archives: Finish the House

Win some – Lose some

After living rent free in my head for 8 years or so, I can cross the tile job off my list. It went way easier than it did 25 years ago, when I last lifted a notched trowel. Instead of damp sponging after applying the grout, we sprinkled dry grout over what I had just finished and rubbed it in with a towel. Did that twice for each go round, there were 3, and sat down at the finish line to have a cool refreshing barley beverage. If I’m not careful, I may just work myself out of a job soon.

Continuing on the winning streak… Are you tired of winning yet? The 3 orphan windows, with big sad eyes, found new forever homes, replacing the horrid combination pieces of crap, in the upstairs west bedroom in the wood side of the house. And the beauty thing of it was, I could do the whole removal and install from in the house. When I was 30, I thought nothing of hoisting a 300 pound roll of carpet on my shoulder and trotting up 3 flights of steps. Now, when I’m within spittin’ distance of 60, I tend to think twice about crawling up ladders with a 50 pound window clutched in my arm with the busted shoulder. Time and gravity will do you in, if you’re not careful. So, with age and experience, comes conniving and plain old cheating. Remember kids, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.

Got the 3 windows in, painted the sills and it was all done before the fat lady even came out of her dressing room. Fat Diva’s are really quite useless at home remodeling.

But, there was still a gnat in our brandy, so to speak. My truck was still in the shop and the mechanic was telling me he needed just one more drive around town to make sure it was working. Every time he drove it, something new popped up. My original complaint was with cruise control on, the overdrive engaged, all by itself and disabled the use of cruise control, which just plain sucks when you are driving the long and winding roads where we live. I told him the lack of truck was holding up the whole show. One more drive he said, and then come and get it. I did and on the way home, wait for it, set the cruise control and 90 seconds later, my old friend, Mr Overdrive, took charge and the rest of the trip home was laced with some inventively blue language.

So I can drive the dang thing if I don’t use cruise control which is kinda like living in Cuba, I’d wager.

Details for Jesus

One last door this time, sweet Jesus
What? Another door in line?
Wrapping my finger with duct tape, it’s bleedin
Just one last door this time.

Jesus was a carpenter, so I think it all works.
Those lines popped into my head and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. Being 2:30 AM, that was a little inconvenient. At least the wife thought so.  And if you kids haven’t heard the song, here’s the real deal. One toke over the line

To say I am sick of installing doors would be an understatement. We are in the final stretch of getting this project finished and because my truck has still not come home from its summer vacation with the mechanic, I thought I would take this time to punch out some of the minor details needing to be done. Our original timeline had us running up to Menards with the truck to get the underlayment and vinyl for the dining room and a final piece of cement board for the tile in the living room. None of which fits into the wife’s SUV and without my truck, we be out of luck.

So close to finishing this project but can’t get the supplies needed to finish it. Without too much effort, I think I could wrangle a hit country song out of this deal, but I sing like a donkey braying and the dog howls in harmony, and who needs an earful of that, eh?

One of the other small details was the mudroom floor. It had not been installed with any degree of finesse and had then been treated poorly. The Mrs and I decided to try some self leveling floor and from the literature it sounded like it would do everything but whiten our teeth. We went about the job, mixing up small batches, ‘cause I don’t own a big enough drill to mix the whole bag, like the bag said I should. Doing what yah can with what yah got. Turns out the small batches didn’t like each other much and tended to ride over the top and well, all the holes and cracks got filled in and some of the floor even leveled out, but not enough that you’d notice it. I let the stuff dry overnight and sanded the ridges and filled in the voids with 20 minute hot mud. Then we went whole hog and splurged on a garage floor epoxy, with sprinkles, and now it looks pretty dang sweet, or as my Dad would say, “Like a diamond in a goat’s butt.” He always had a way with words.

Called the mechanic and he said what with the 4th o’July holiday, parts would be

late in coming and the truck wasn’t ready yet. Hmm. I had 2 storm doors waiting in my shop and they were next on the punch list. They always say that the first one you do is learning. You are getting schooled on how to put up with goofy instructions, missing parts and what to do when you have to make it up as you go along. And boy howdy, it was all that. The box says a 30 minute install. It took me all damn day. Shimming the door frame to make the new storm door fit was a lot of fun. The next day, second verse, just like the first, but now we got storm doors.

And if the truck don’t come home tomorrow, 3 orphan windows with big, sad eyes, are living in my shop, hoping for a new home. They might not have long to wait. At least it will be a glorious break from doors. Thinking strongly about renting when we finally move.

T Minus 2 Weeks and Holding

Houston, we may have a problem…

A slight hitch in our giddy up with the house this week. While I was rolling last week, I built a new back door to replace the 1910 version that had been beat like a rented mule and had seen better days probably about 3 decades ago. The bottom panels, which had both split, were about a quarter inch in width and tended to let more in than they kept out. I think all the doors in the stone part of the house had been store bought and purchased at the same time. Every one of them are much thinner that you would think for that time period and they all had chatter marks in the wood from a dull wood planer blade. I suppose, like everything else, they were offered a choice between good, better and best for doors and other household things. The homeowners here either were very frugal or didn’t have much for walking around money. It was about 25 or 30 years since the house had been built and it was time for a little remodeling. 100 years later, we show up and think the same thing. I am sure the 1910 owners would be surprised to see not much had changed since their time, about as surprised as we were at least.

And since I go by the old Red Green saying “If the ladies don’t find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy” this house was dang near full time employment for a guy that couldn’t afford a better door, but could dang sure build one. The Mrs and I dropped by one of the big box stores, ok, drove 32 miles ‘cause we live way out in the sticks, and picked out 3 of the straightest 2×6’s, came home and started making sawdust. Made a decision early on to go old school with the bottom panel. The old door had raised panels that were embedded in the door and a bitch to fix when they crack and they always crack. Instead, I milled up some moldings from barn wood to capture a 3/4 inch plywood panel I used. That baby ain’t gonna split and you’ll break your foot trying to kick it in. I got bonus Gaia love points for reusing glass from an old window that we had replaced in the bedroom. Painted her brown like the old one and stuck it in the hole, and if one door is good, 2 doors are gooder, I built a screen door to go with it. The material came from a door of a greenhouse that I had built on the South side of the house 3 or 4 winters ago. It needed just a few tweaks and bingo, now it’s a brown screen door.

So the mudroom exterior doors are finished and next up was tile around the brick wall for the wood stove. The living room floor kinda rolls around a bit, as does the ceiling, so installing the cement board was interesting, but nothing new. They didn’t worry too much about level, square or plumb back when they built the place, and I just followed the curves and hummed really loud. Something must have took umbrage with the lack of plumbness or my humming, ‘cause the next day my back had filed a hostile workplace grievance and we were not on speaking terms for a good couple three days. About the same time, my faithful Dodge truck, which has moved us to and fro for the past 2 decades, came down with a bad case of the rats. As in rats chewing wiring, again, and causing my cruise control and overdrive mysteriously to cost me more money. Into this life, a little rain must fall. My Dad was not a mechanic, so I never learned the mysterious art of making broken vehicles work, but he wasn’t much of a carpenter either, so I musta got that from my Mom.

Back sucks, truck’s broke and the work is waiting. Finally could bend a bit on Saturday and popped in the majority of the tiles. The Mrs helped with the laying part, which is nice so I didn’t have the danger of possibly going blind by going lone-layer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I had been a flooring contractor way back when and had done this kind of thing, oh, about 25 years ago, but it’s like falling off a bike. You never forget how. I had a friend ask me how my knees are doing compared to 25 years ago. I didn’t really think about it, when I have to get on my knees to do something, I get on my knees. They are holding up quite a bit better than my back, which tends towards high maintenance when it’s not feeling the love. A neurosurgeon that had looked at the problem a while back had stated that I appeared to have been stupid most of my life. “No,” I said, “just blue collar.” I think he might have mumbled, “same thing.” I was quite late on paying his bill.

Next up is the mudroom floor, *sad oboe*. It also looks rode hard and put away wet and we were advised to maybe spruce it up a bit. Our new realtor loved everything else, but was hatin on the mudroom floor. I flat out forgot where I put my dynamite, so I’ll resort to putting some floor leveler on it and maybe a garage floor top coat. We’ll see. More lipstick for the pig.

T minus 3 weeks and counting

This is it, the final offensive. The push to break our enemy, to drive him before us, and to hear the lamentations of his women, or just get the damn house finished, sold and move North. We called a local Realtor, one that had a pretty good rep for selling country property. Both the Mrs and I have been Realtors in a past life. We’re not talking reincarnation or anything hand wavy like that. Our time in Missouri, or Misery as I like to call it, was not built on the sound foundation of happy memories. Being a Realtor can do that to a guy. The people in the business had a saying, “Buyers are liars” to which I added, after having some experience in the field, “As are sellers and Brokers and so on…” Sure, it’s all supposed to be on the up and up, but so is the Government. You get my drift.

Anyway, our Realtors said they would be out in a week to see the place. Hmm. A week. Could it be these guys are so busy that it would take that long to come see the place and get a contract. Or maybe, they weren’t all that hepped up to come out and see another old house. Everybody knows everybody in these parts, and sure as heck these guys knew this place and had already formed an opinion from seeing it when the last people lived here. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

We let it ride and see what would come of it. 3 of them showed up, late, and did a brief tour of the place, didn’t ask many questions and didn’t really look the place over much. Said they would crunch some numbers and get back to us as to what the place was worth. A week later, a single Realtor showed up and told us what they thought the value of the property was, and that value was something just a bit North of what we paid for the place, 10 years ago. The Mrs glanced at me and I saw her tense up a bit. Back when we had horses, we mostly dealt with Arabs and Saddlebreds. Never had much truck with Quarter Horses but lots of people like ‘em. Arabs will let you know, early, if you and he are gonna have a problem. Like sometimes before you got out to the barn. Saddlebreds were pretty easy going, they had their moments sure, but tended to calm down quickly and not hold a grudge. In Kansas, we got our first Quarter Horse. I had always heard that you could never tell with them, until the last damn second when all hell broke loose, if you and him were gonna butt heads. Turns out to be true. Our Quarter Horse was Mr Congenial until he wasn’t. I’ve been told I’m a pretty laid back kinda guy, until I’m not. The Realtor found out I more resemble a Quarter Horse when push comes to shove. She left with us promising to talk about things and maybe call her, sometime.

We had a pow wow and decided to quit messin’ with the local yokels. The next day, Mrs Former Realtor called somebody in Wichita and he showed up the following day. He gets out of the car, Sweet Pea cuddles up to him and we spent maybe 15 minutes chatting, acting like we’re old friends, out in the front yard. He loved the place, took notes, admired my drones, talked about guns and hunting, and then we sat down to brass tacks. What do I have to do to make you happy, he asked and I told him. Mamma always said, if you get a chance to go, go big and so I told him what I wanted. He didn’t say no, just that it would take some time. I know we are not going to get what I want for the place, but given the time, I think this old boy might just get us what we need. I told him I needed about 3 weeks to tie up loose ends. He called today to ask how things are going. I told him I was in the process of breaking my enemy and hope to soon drive him before me. “So, right on schedule, then?” Yup, I said. He laughed and told me to keep him in the loop.

Kitchen Impediment

Our kitchen, newly revamped, gussied up and painted, has a particular problem. It had the same problem before we went to all of the trouble of spiffing things up to sell. And to be honest, it’s partly our problem because we insist on using the kitchen as our primary living space. If you ask the wife, she’ll tell you it’s really just my problem, but really, it’s not that much of a problem for me. I mean, I’m just sitting there, doing my own thing, not bothering anybody, well, unless the Mrs walks by and I feel it’s necessary to handle the goods, by which I mean, anytime she gets within arms reach. What’s the point of being married to a hot, retired hippie chick if you don’t at least make some effort?

Got distracted there. Back to the issue at hand. We call it the long dog syndrome. Ole Sweet Pea, when he stretches out, spans a good portion of the wife’s cooking area. And being I am the guy that has taken him on long walks, thrown sticks that never seem to come back, helped him put the kibosh on rats hiding under things that he can’t get at, well he likes to lay at my feet. And stretch out, all the way to the stove. Which causes the Chef to mutter some choice words when trying to choreograph the morning breakfast. We just look at her with What? in our eyes and can’t figure out who put a gnat in her orange juice. One would think that her solution would be a shorter dog, but nope. Her stated opinion on dogs with short legs is “what’s the point”? I nudged Ole Pea and told him that maybe irritating the person who feeds him, might be a non-winning idea. He scooched his one leg in, maybe an inch or so, and that was his concession to compromise. This boy has had a habit of being a bit hard headed. I gave him a Pro Tip that the lady of the house is just as hard headed and not to push his luck. He told me not to worry, hippies are non violent. I barked out a laugh and told him that was 40 some years ago, and it never seemed to slow her down when her inner Skandi Viking got her blood up. He gave me a hard look and right after that, his legs got a lot shorter.

Getting Plastered

It was 9am and I was starving. I wondered what the heck was going on, until it dawned on me that I had gotten up at 2am, and ate breakfast then. What? You don’t ever have early mornings when life has harshed your Zen? Did some small ‘rithmetic in my head and came to the conclusion that it was well past lunch time and dang near cocktail hour. Since the wife’s no longer here, life’s become a senseless blur. And with that happy thought, I made a command decision to save some steps and drink my lunch while working.

Oh, 39 plaster cracks on the wall, 39 plaster cracks, I mix up some mud, and give ‘em a rub, and drink yourself a beer,

38 plaster cracks on the wall, 38 plaster… Hang on. This is gonna take more than a 12 pack, isn’t it?

Momma told me there’d be days like today.

Things that aren’t so

Whilst doing my day job, not the dishes, laundry or any of the other trivial doodads that make up being a sweet little domestic drone with a nice set of gams, I happened to pinch one of my manly digits, which ended up causing me a WTF moment later in the day, and who doesn’t need one of those to give some perspective to one’s life? Not that getting a part of you pinched, abraded or even a full on and righteous blood sacrifice is a big deal or even out of the ordinary, ordinarily. It’s that the placement of this blood blister gave me a bit of mirth while doing a chore I normally find so soul-suckingly mirthless, I was kinda hoping that Mr Murphy would step in and liven things up a bit.

I think I was correcting a piece of trim that had gone all kitty wampus after Mr Nail Gun had pinned it to the wall. Pneumatic nailers are a big step up from hand nailing, but are fraught with peril. With hammers, you can without any effort at all, smack your fingers and curse a blue streak, but that’s old news compared to the new guys on the block. Pneumatic tools bring their A game and if you are not careful, you might just find a part of you nailed to the part you where nailing. Not that it’s happened to me, mind you. Well, only a little bit.

Quite often, when dealing with wood, it doesn’t like to lay flat against the surface you want it to mate with. Kiln drying and moisture have a way with wood that makes you wonder why we don’t just all build with concrete. So, when Mr P Nailer pins it, sometimes it moves, just a bit, or better yet, you change your mind and want a do-over. I think this time, I wanted a do-over. Got a look at things, had a flash of insight and next thing you know, got my pry bar and the BFP on the job. The BFP concerns a rather large pincher, you’ll have to parse out the rest of it on your own time. I used it to grab the nail and yank it out. If there’s another tool that is “fraught with peril” the BFP is that tool. Its little cousins, the side cutters, pliers, needle nose and others, are sneaky, devious sons of female dogs and quite often prone to being found air born, with a blue streak following it. I think it was the needle nose pliers that bit my finger, just enough to make a nice little blood blister, not enough to throw the stupid thing. Him and I have had our differences enough that I only use ‘em when absolutely necessary.

So you are working along and of course, just as you build up a head of steam, you have to break off, feed yourself and wash the damn dishes. After 2 weeks of doing this and to cope with the injustice of it all, I don’t pay much attention to the process and choose to think about butterflies, flowers and other happy crap. In the middle of this, I am washing a glass cover. My left hand is inside the cover, holding it up, my right hand is getting busy with the green scrubby pad. I see a bit of junk on the cover and scrub it. Now, I like a bit of suds when washing dishes. Keeps you from despairing at just how many dishes are left in the sink. The cover I was washing had a bit of suds on it and as I scrubbed the spot, it didn’t go away. If hard is good, harder is better, right? I bared down on the glass cover and applied a bit of ompf to the scrubber. Yet, the spot remained. I took a break from my happy crap thoughts and had a better look at what I was dealing with. Turns out, I was trying to scrub my blood blister, which was merrily mocking me, from the inside of the glass cover. I had to pause and let out a huge bark of manic laughter. It spooked the dog, so much that he didn’t want to make eye contact with me for the rest of the day. The really ironic part is, I turned out to be my own personal Murphy. Careful what you wish for, you quite often get it. I wouldn’t bend over when that happens. Just sayin’.

Judgement from Above

The wife was running late. She had an appointment in town and the washing machine hadn’t yet finished its job. She looked at me and I nodded. I am a full service man of the house. My only question was where the clothespins were, she pointed, and out the door she went. I finished my coffee and then headed out to hang the wash on the line. We gave up on a clothes dryer long ago. I installed a rustic clothes line along the backyard fence back in 2009 and it has worked out well ever since.

Clothes HangingSo, I am hanging out laundry and I hear a plane approaching. This one was fairly low and crossing right over our property. Something you want to think twice about as this is a noted geese highway, and there was lots of honking going on as he approached. It was bright red, with a fancy V tail and I looked up and tracked it as it flew by. As I was watching the plane, it did a double take. Well, as close as a flying machine can do. The pilot must have looked down and mentally did a “what the…” The left wing dipped a bit and the engine slowed just a little and it drifted some toward my side of where he was going. I was imaging the pilot craning his head to confirm what he thought he just saw. A guy, hanging out laundry, on a clothes line, in January. Admittedly not something you see every day, but nothing that should cause you to drop out of the sky. After a he got an eye full the plane righted itself, the engine revved, and he got back on course and left me in peace. I am not real fond of nosy neighbors, especially ones that are flying a bit lower than they should, and act surprised that we are living our lives in redneck splendor.

I was still grumbling to myself as I finished my domestic chore. Some hot shot bird man doing a What the F, Yo over me helping out my wife. So toNorth wall 1 right my mood, I went in and busted the North kitchen wall, just so I could fix it. It needed to be done and as always, no plan survives contact with the enemy. The door frame to the upstairs was a full 1 1/2 inches thick at the bottom and less than 3/4 of an inch thick at top on the North wall side. My new insulated bead board wall is 1 5/16’s in depth and that was going to swallow the right side door frame and just generally be awkward. Since the wife was gone, I did what Mr Red Plane would North Wall 2probably never do. I ripped the side door frame right out, which caused the plaster in that area to shout “Everybody out of the pool!” and down comes the top corner. After 140 years not all the plaster is in loving contact with the stone wall. Let just say, there have been a few divorces over the long years. Whatever. It seems that when you do a job like this, you’re always getting in middle of some domestic issues that didn’t start out involving you, but, welcome the party, Pal.

By the time the wife got home, the mess was cleaned up and yes, it looked a bit different, but that’s nothing new. Tomorrow, we turn it up to 11 and start the long awaited, somewhat dreaded, jackhammering out a path for the propane line. Always save the best for last, which is what my dear old Dad loved to say, as he was taking out the belt of Justice.

Breakfast Surreal

It’s at the point of the job where the kitchen is at the top of the list. Ideally, this would be done in summer, where, if need be, we could cook and dine outdoors. Yeah, I missed that by this much —>                                                  <— January is not much fun to cook outdoors. Sure, it gets warm, sometimes even 60 degrees, but for the most part, we like eating indoors during the winter months. As such, there’s been a bit of jostling about of schedules and foodstuffs and, well, just about everything.

Yesterday’s breakfast went something like this. The Mrs asking me what I would shelf-1like for breakfast. If some of you are clutching your pearls at the thought of a woman, asking a man what he would like to eat and making it for him, well, folks, you chose poorly. You see, she takes care of stuff like that. Heck she’ll even make me a samich if I ask. And what do I do to deserve such a domestic Goddess? Make stuff, break stuff, open a few pickle jars and the like. So when she asked me what I wanted for breakfast, this was not breaking new ground. In fact, this was such a well worn groove, that she’d made plans for this request and knew it would come up on certain days of the week. Apparently, I’m a bit predictable.

granolaGranola, I said, to her query. Not some hippy garbage that you’d buy at the store, her home made stuff. It’s really good. Oats, nuts, dates, raisins, dried cranberries with sorghum and honey for a bit of sweetening. High density energy that will keep you hopping on a cold day.

This is where the problem started. Normally granola lives on the shelves that used to be the front window, back when it was just a stone house. When they put the wood addition on, they made the window into kitchen shelving. Which is nice, because there’s not much else for storage in the kitchen. In preparation for installing bead board in the kitchen, we’d moved all those things into the dining room and mudroom. The fridge got moved to the dining room, too, but when she got busy moving things, I don’t think granola was on her mind, and it got lost in the shuffle.

So, there was a couple of minutes there where I was thinking I might need to get my .22 rifle and bag me a squirrel or 2, just in case the granola got real lost. But before I got ready to invoke plan B, granola shows up on the table. That’s how my breakfast cereal became a bit surreal. A stranger in a familiar land.

shelf-2But, a cool thing happened after breakfast. The window shelf had a rough sawn 3/4 inch board nailed into the back of the bottom shelf. Since the bottom shelf was the old window sill and had an angle that sloped toward the back, dirt and gunk tended to wedge themselves under that board. We wanted to paint the whole coin-under-shelfshelf, so I got my crowbar and tried to uninstall the splintery thing. Somebody back in the day, got a bit happy with a hammer and nails. There had to be at least a dozen nails holding that board in place. I seriously doubt the rest of the stone house has a dozen nails into anything. I got a bigger crowbar and a small block of wood for a fulcrum and that board reluctantly came out. In the process, I noticed a round disk wedged under the board. It was big and I got a flashlight and confirmed my suspicion. A silver dollar from 1921, about the time the wood addition was built. The Mrs thinks it might have been placed there on purpose. That would kind of explain the Fort Knox of nails keeping it from blowing away in our ever present Kansas breeze. I think, because the shelf is sloped to the back, somebody put their change on the shelf and Mr Gravity helped himself to some walking around money. Either way, it was a cool find.