Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Door'd (part 2)

The doors in this house: they are terrible.

From Occupy Archives: Typical door in this house. I have nine (9) of these in various shapes and sizes.  Flat panel, hollow core.

I must actually purposefully frame out the doors in every photograph I take. I took a trip down to the Occupy Archives, and the above photographs was really all I could come up with.  It's revealing: I must be really ashamed of these doors.  Ashamed of myself for buying a house with doors like this, and ashamed that humankind would produce something this terrible for general consumption.

I could write a book about how much I despise these things.  But, in the interest of keeping all four (4) of my loyal readers, I'm going to keep this weblog post positive and productive.  If you guys know me at all, you know what a challenge this will be.

So-- what's an occupier to do with doors like this?

Well, I pulled all the hardware and labeled everything, including which was is "up" on the doors.  My first idea is to paint these things. For those of you who aren't locals, South Philly row homes are basically caves, with windows are the front and back... most have "cut-ins", between houses, in the back of the to allow light into the middle of the house.  Thus, it only makes sense to begin by brightening up the doors a bit with a fresh coat of paint.

First, I tried to sand off all the polyurethane on veneer in order to get good adhesion with the primer.  That took a little longer than anticipated (half a day! ugh).  Again, its not always about difficulty of task.. its more about moving giant objects around in cramped quarters and trying to do that task in shifts.  I sanded these out on the slab, three at a time.

The good news is that these guys are flat, so I can roll the primer and paint right on.  No brushes!  That means no brush strokes and no washing brushes!  I swear that whenever I paint, my water bill goes up by about 15%.  Its from spending twenty minutes in the basement trying to get paint out of my brushes.  I'm ready to here any and all suggestions on how to expedite that process.

The players, all lined up after a first coat.  Not all doors are created equal.  While most people prefer the rectangular shape, I sometimes like the parallelogram shape featured in the center here.
I didn't want to sand in the house, but after that its time to some of the fellas inside for a coat of paint and primer.

Ad hoc paint station. aka: a new dining room table 
Some people like to enjoy the company of friends and family in their dining room, especially around the holiday when its time to give thanks and break bread with our loved ones.  Obviously, the Occupy Crüe does not buy into that silly notion.  We are thankful for some time away from our day jobs to actually get some stuff done at the site!

Anyway, things are brightening up for these doors, but I'm not done yet.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Middle Bedroom Paint, 2nd Coat

That title just about sums it up folks

I'm running out of things to do in this room

You be the judge and jury of this color in the comments... I gotta get back to work.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Green Space

Here in South Philly, green spaces are few and far between. Observe below:

Can you believe I live here?

The new google maps is so annoying. The link generator is just not working. Thanks for coming through, Yahoo.

 Which is why us folks on the Occupy paint site have decided to add a little green to the region.

Things are starting to look different.  Except for those freakin' doors.  Renovation: ba-woosh!
Ye,s loyal reader: This is step 12 of the program. Otherwise known as: the first coat of paint.  Its a doozy. It took me about 6 hours to do in one night.  Sure, maybe I just suck at painting.  But, as always, there's a lot of cutting in to do.

This floor lamp has been a trooper, thanks bud.

How do I feel about this green? I don't know.  It's nice. I'm honestly so bewildered and shocked by the room transformation that all I can do is think "wow, this is so different."  For now, I am going to suspend judgment.

We sort of live in a cave, which is fine by me since I'm a bit of Neanderthal, but my housemates like it brighter.  And really, I do too.  This renovation has revealed to me that I really like classic styles... Victorian, Arts and Crafts,  Craftsman, etc.  Thus, we are trying to keep the colors antique looking and simple.   In all honesty, we have no idea what we are doing.

I don't know what this photo is.. I assume I was trying to show the cut-in areas on the baseboards and plinths.  But, it just looks like an old towel and some trash.

The "trouble spot" on a steady path to improvement.
I just hope my new roommate likes the color... because I really don't feel like re-painting!

My only pals: ladder + beer

South wall of plaster board actually turned out the worst.  I was surprised.  But still, a fresh coat of paint always seems to work wonders.

While this site is wrapping up.. its a good reminder that there is a lot of jobsite left to do in this house.  Hell Hall Awaits.

Evidence of first coat---the paint is thin on the closet wall.

A little contrast.

A LOT of contrast.
Boy, my hallway looks like hell.  Its funny how less than two months ago, this green room looked exactly like the hallway. A glimmer of hope.  And, a mantra I will continue to chant to myself as I work toward the completion of thirteen step program.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Paint It White

Cutting in on crown molding is hard.

That's why I switched to a new painting methodology. (I really should make a reference material section of this weblog).  Paint the crown sloppy as hell.  Cut in on the ceiling. Cut in on the walls.  It is about 100x easier to cut on a flat service then along the complex profile of a piece of molding.

To make your woodwork look good, you better sand the s*** out of it.  I kept my baseboard, and I'm about 99% positive its covered in lead paint.  So I just knocked down the high spots with a 5-in-1 tool.

Even though I despise busy work, I do stick to the plan.  Being diligent about sanding, vacuuming, and cleaning the paint surfaces with a tack cloth pays dividends.  Considering how much I loathe painting: its time to do this right and do it once.  Proper set up is paramount.

Crack kills, but I gotta clean these baseboards in order to get good paint adherence.

I don't know why, but I use Windex exclusively for this task with an old towel.  Somehow I have got it in my mind that Windex is my best cleaning agent.  I guess it dries fast.  My aim is to get this part of the job done as fast as possible.

Disheveled and haggard from days and days of painting.  This picture looks like a 'cry for help'

Let's just get to the results:

Notice the semi-gloss paint overlapping sloppily onto the walls.  But who cares.  We will take our time and cut in over that carefully with the wall paint.  End result: time is saved.

Same sloppy style applies to the baseboards

You can really see the overlap in this photo, particularly on the right hand side of the door trim.

The trouble area is starting to clean up well. Custom plinths.

View into hallway.



Crown looks good. Period.
The painting never ends.  This completes step 9 and 10 of the 13 step program.  Serenity now.

Monday, November 18, 2013

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

My house is small and filled with three things
1) tools
2) bikes
3) guitars

Incidence rate in that order.

I would say that honestly, in the 3.5 years that we have lived in this house, we probably actually haven't "lived" a day in it.  But the memories of a life we once had continues on in one of the many giant tupperware buckets.  Not only are these things great for shelving your life completely, they also act as great transportation vessels for your tools.

In this post I chronicle the following milestone in moving toward a complete project:

Moving out the genral carpentry stuff
Moving in the paint stuff

I hope you guys enjoy this post as much as I do

Goodbye router, nails, titebond, combo square et al: see you guys down the basement

Hello unorganized collection of miscellaneous paint crap

There's only one thing better than the misery of going through the entire thirteen step process of painting: walking extremely heavy buckets of tools up and down two flights of stairs.  Well, let's just get real: that's a constant throughout any step in the renovation.  I'm going to guess that on any given day, I drag things up and down those stairs at least twenty-five times a day. On average!  Anyone want to take the under on that bet? Because I really think its higher.

I shouldn't complain. I just received my one year token of paint sobriety this month (I haven't painted in a  year!)  At least the program recognizes my efforts.

Back to work.

Prime time

The minute the nasty oil primer hits the walls, the place starts to look better.

Now, with all the fumes it emits.. you make not actually make it to the end of your renovation to actually enjoy it.  I definitely spent an entire night (my birthday, no less!) throwing up.  Was it the primer's fault?  Who knows.  I had been working tirelessly for days and days on end, and I don't really think inhaling paint fumes helped that much.  I do wear a respirator, but who knows how long the cartridges are good for in those things.  I will admit that I am a wimp when it comes to paint fumes.  Still, I caution you to take breaks when working in a row home with minimal ventilation.

 Regardless, I actually think these pictures (below) are from immediately after putting the ceiling paint on.  Its hard for me to tell at this point, the paint fumes have taken whatever brain cells I have left.

The shimmer of fresh paint on the ceiling

Foreshadow picture: Will this room follow in the neighboring room's footsteps?

Main doorway to middle bedroom

A little natural light

A sneak peek at the color spectrum we will be using. Greens seem like a real gamble.  There are three (3) potential undesired outcomes, all of which have very high hit rates if you use green:  1) neon effect 2) puke green or 3) the dreaded  late 1990's SUV green

Wet ceiling

I added these couple glamour shots of the ladder, because he asked

I'd say this is his best side here

One more for posterity

The project inches closer to completion.  I'm happy with the pace of the project, even though it seems a bit glacial when you think about the house as a whole.  Oh well.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Although it's not quite like getting door'd by a car when biking, looking at the existing flat panel hollow core doors in this house is disturbing to say the least.

From Occupy archives: There are nine of these fine fellows on the site

I can say quite honestly, that these doors are absolutely ruining my renovation.  I have been painting a dark and dingy cave of a row home some brighter colors, in concert with adding a ton of painted white woodwork.  The house is brightening up; however, these cheap doors keep anchoring this renovation back to the dark ages  early 1970s.  I'm not sure what people were thinking back then.   I suppose there was a certain faith in cheaper and more mass produced materials.  If I only I could have been there to intervene: Wait! you guys are going to eradicate all the jobs from the states while simultaneously filling it with useless, poorly-constructed junk via planned obsolescence.

I'm not alone in thinking that. Even my 85-year-old neighbor regrets her 1970's renovation of her house.  She laments over losing her beautiful woodwork, 5-panel doors, and rich hardwood flooring now covered in shag carpet.

Well, its time for a refresh.

While I do despise there doors, I am going to try to save them.  Mainly because I am a cheap bastard who doesn't want to pay for a full set of solid core doors for the entire house.  I just don't think its worth it.  I thought about buying used door slabs from our local architectural salvage place.. but even the crappy ones are $40 each.  There would be no way I leave that place without dropping about $600, and then I have to spend the next few weeks trying to cut the doors and notch in hinges, etc to these already wonky jambs.  Forget it.

I'm pulling the doors today.  Stay tuned.  Here is the layout of the doors, with numbers. I'm doing this so I know which door belongs where.

1st Floor

2nd Floor

Can I clock another 40+ hours this weekend?  Probably definitely.  I haven't lost my sanity... yet.  The clock starts now.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mo' Woodwork, Mo' Cutting In

You know what the best part of painting is?

Being done with painting.

When it comes to the trades, I personally don't like anything that has goopy or mucky substances involved. It is messy, gross, and entirely imperfect.  These trades also require drying times, or what I like to call "Progress Destroyers".  How can you get your renovation done while you are waiting for some inanimate object to dry?   Tiling, sheetrocking, plastering, paintings... its all for the birds.   May God have mercy on the souls of any individual who has to exchange that type of misfortune for their daily bread.

Now, if you like to dress up your rooms with more than just the obligatory woodwork, your painting time is going to increase.  Not exponentially, but possibly by an order of magnitude.  There is simply more coats, more drying times, and most importantly: more cutting in.

From Occupy Archives: Master bedroom
mo' woodwork, mo' cutting in.

I have learned my lesson from the last room I painted, and I will this time follow what many other painters like to do.  Paint the woodwork first.  It is a son-of-a-b cutting into crown molding, with all its nooks and crannies, where it intersects with walls and ceilings.  Especially, when your final edge can be a delicate angle of 1/16" trim.  This way, you can just paint the moldings and be sloppy.  Focus your cutting in skills on a flat surface like the walls and ceilings.  It makes way more sense.

Yours truly, painting the crown in middle bedroom.
Walls and ceiling primed.

Here is my personal playbook for painting a room (I'll throw a nod to this guy for even making me acknowledge that there are physical steps to manage through this process).   It is a thirteen step process, and thus, it is officially one step longer then the twelve step process we all are familiar with.  No, step 1 is not admitting that I have a problem.  However, that would be very good candidate for my next revision of this list.

Painting steps:
  1. Brush woodwork with primer
  2. Roll ceilings and walls with primer
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for second coat if it seems necessary.  Use your own judgement here.
  4. Brush the crown
  5. Repeat step 4, second coat
  6. Cut in the ceiling
  7. Roll the ceiling
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7, second coat
  9. Brush door trim, baseboards, wall moldings, wainscoting, etc.
  10. Repeat step 9, second coat.
  11. Cut in the walls
  12. Roll the walls
  13. Repeat steps 11 and 12 for second coat
I'm on step 4 in that picture above... just look at the shine on that woodwork!  Semi-gloss all the way.

Stay tuned. We're finally getting somewhere on this project.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coming Clean

After designing/building some custom plinth blocks to help facility some problematic dimensional adaptations in the room, the final install of some standard trim from the lumber yard is quite easy. Basically, that whole long process helped make the transition from old to new.  After the stage was set, casing the three (3) doors in the room took one afternoon.  Most of that was due to setting up the miter saw out back, and carrying my cuts up and down the stairs.

Trust me when I say this: there were no 45 degree angles cut for these miters.   Now, 46.75's? yes.

The tricky spots wind up looking OK.

Door trim continuing on to existing baseboard... cleaned up walls as well.

Door to hallway, cased. View on south facing walls.

At this point, I've probably coated the walls and sanded them at least twenty times.   I'm at my limit. And, the law of diminishing returns is in full effect at this point.

Time to whip out the pole sander and do a light sanding of each entire wall, and ceiling.  Followed by some vacuuming of the floors and walls with a HEPA filter.  Finally, I will wipe down the ceilings with a damp towel to pick up the remaining dust.  I have been in this room for weeks making a mess, the clean up needs to be pretty thorough.  This is the final prep before paint.

West wall, cleaned.

East wall, cleaned.

Another wall, cleaned.

Its about time to hit this room with some nasty oil primer.  I gotta give it heavy dose.  These walls are thirsty.  I know oil primer is bad for the environment and probably even worse for me and a pregnant wife.  But, I have no options here.  100 year old walls that have never seen the light of day are so thirsty that they just take all the water out of latex primers, leaving behind a weak and thin veil of pigment.  I would probably have to do ten coats.  It will probably take one coat of oil primer.  Unfortunately, this a no brainer.

The good news: less than a month and half later, this thing is ready to paint.

Monday, November 11, 2013


This place is a straight up disaster, right?

I love coming home to this

We've got a situation on our hands here, and I do not have a great picture for it either.  The transition between the old baseboard and new trim is going to cause us some issues:

  1. Depth: The baseboard is a true 1x (1" depth).  Most modern trim is 3/4" depth (true 11/16"); visually there will be 5/16" gap between the new door trim and existing baseboard.  To that end, what I like to call the 4th piece of baseboard overlaps the door trim which will make said gap even more deplorable.
  2. Width: Even without any reveal at all on the door jamb, the dimension from edge-of-jamb to edge-of-baseboard is a variable that hovers are 2 7/8".  Door trim typically comes sized as 2 1/4", 3 1/4" or 3 1/2".  That means we are in for some customization.  
My first idea was to use a thinner trim.  A fluted+rosette casing would bring the trim dimension down to an even 3 1/8".  However, it still leaves a couple issues on the table

  1. No reveal:  It just looks bad.  I'm not going to explain.
  2. Door hardware adjustment for larger casing depth: Fluted casing is 3/4" depth on both sides of the casing.  Why does that matter?  The door hinges and strike plate are set up to lay against really low profile clamshell casing.  This means I have to get into moving (or replacing) the hinges so that they do not hit high profile casing, and probably replacing the strike plates.
  3. Plinth width:  Fluted casing usually is capped at the bottom with a plinth block.  That is fine as it solves problem #1 above as I can make it whatever depth I want.  Unfortunately, if the plinth width can only be 3 1/8" as dictated by problem #2 above, I can only use door casing that is smaller than 3 1/8".  Likely, I need to use something 2 full 1/4" smaller on both sides of the plinth (to include a decent reveal and create some symmetry with the door casing.  
  4. The connector door between the middle bedroom and master bedroom butts right up to the closet leaving only 2 3/8" to 2 3/4" for trim (yes, it varies that much).  Which means a rosette would be cut in half and the fluted trim would need to be scribed across vertical lines.  I'm just guessing here, but I am imagining it would look hideous.

(The next to pictures are not occupy, do not be alarmed!)

With Plinth
(Used without permission, someone else's weblog)

Without Plinth
(Use without permission from someone else's flickr)

I thought I had a good solution with the fluted casing.  Back to square one.

Sure I could go down to 2 1/4" casing after the plinth.  But the wall are absolutely hammered. I need to use the trim for precisely what it intended to do: Hide imperfections and gaps.  In my case, the imperfections on the existing plaster extends beyond 3" from the edge-of-jamb.

From archives: wall damage extending outward from each jamb.  It goes past 3".  I need to use a larger door trim.

I am kind of screwed here.  But I came up with a compromise solution.  I will make skinny plinths (3 3/16" width) with a height that overcomes the existing base cap (7"+).  Then, I will create a crown piece that makes a platform to transition to a wider standard casing size.   Thus, I will be able to use 3 1/4" colonial or 3 1/2" colonial like I did in the master bedroom.  Its cheap ($9.99 for 16' piece), and then I do not have to make any hardware adjustments at all.  Furthermore, the scribe cut on the pass through door will disappear A LOT better over the rounding portion of the colonial vs. the vertical lines of a fluted casing.  Its all about the optical illusions.  A break in vertical sight line with the crown piece will hopefully conceal this dirty trick of using wider casing than plinth.


I'm not even sure if I understand! Let's just get to work.

The players:  Fluted casing (on the left) you're out.
Tag in some pieces of 5/4 stock I have laying in the basement.
First, 5/4 is too thick.  We need to cut this thing down a bit to the 1" depth of the existing base.  It's actually more like 7/8".

Now cut it to width

Make a quick-n-dirty cross cut sled, paying close attention to professional architectural specs provided on scrap shim.

Put stop block on sled (top), begin cross cuts 

Dimensions are true to design.

With the jig working well, the 6 cuts take about 10 seconds.. and now we have a stack of plinths.  All the same size.

Now, let's take a piece of 3/4" preprimed and route a profile into. I personally feel the ogee profile has a ton of portability: it almost always looks good and can be squeezed in anywhere.

I'm going to work directly on a scrap I found at the bottom of the stairs to basement.  Route down one edge and around each corner
My table saw also acts as a workbench..  My tools also double as a dangerous obstacle course.

Corner detail

Another view

I won't bore you with the details any more than I already have.  But I need to cut these into smaller pieces, then scribe them to the wonky walls to give the illusion of level and parallel to the naked eye.

Scribing back side

Also, since I like to make my life impossibly hard... I am going to put a tiny return piece on the my plinth cap, just so there is no end grain exposed at all. It wouldn't be proper.

Well, here's how it looks mocked up with a scrap of colonial trim on top.

Its hard to tell, but you can tell if you look close, that the trim on the top is wider than the plinth block.  I would pull a Mike Ditka and draw on this like a NFL playbook to help highlight the vertical lines,  but I'm too lazy.

I think this is going to turn out OK.  Lets go ahead an install the rest of the room.

I'm very lucky to have a neighbor who is 85 years old.  She can't here the nail gun going past 10 pm on a weeknight.

Difficult corner.

Middle bedroom to master bedroom door
That's it!

Did I go overboard? Probably.
Was I kind of screwed? Definitely.
Will I ever do something like this again? Maybe.

In the end, this was all an attempt to save my existing baseboard.  Next time, I will probably just take it out.  All in all, its tough to repair the plaster at the intersection to the baseboard cap anyway.  It's a lose lose situation as always... but I tried my best to turn it into a win.

Who knows? I may actually look nice when its all painted up.