Friday, July 25, 2014

Old News

I don't know if I have posted these before, but I found one in the ceiling of the living room and I'm not sure where I found the other.  But either way, its a great way of dating a renovation. Its only fair to continue the tradition.



Both are from June of 1977, when a major renovation, ahem, dirty "renovation" took place at the site.  And by "renovation" I mean: installation of drop ceilings and wall paper on every other surface in the house.  I'm pretty sure that's when the dreadful hardwood floors were "refreshed" with beautiful, lustrous shag carpets as well.  Pure genius.



I don't have much to say about front page sidebars... obviously, its still an issue with these guys.

Although I don't have an entire newspaper, I found pieces of a paper from 1954 which I found packed around the front window, but nothing worth keeping.  However, I did all that casing around the window and its now all jamb extensions for a more elaborate casing. Thus, that paper is still in the wall in its balled up form.

Anyway, I love this tradition.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fixing the front window stool

I don't know why these things bother me, but they do.  Perfectionism may warrant a twelve step program.

Router tear out? Looks like it

Perhaps in my haste to redo the entire house in two months, the window stool may have been the recipient of a rush job.   In truth, I cut and scribed this thing in, out of a piece of 5/4, in probably 45 minutes.   In the last week of renovation during operation baby-countdown, I know this was on a long list of things to get "pushed" because the project was just going to fail.  However, I managed to pull yet another sleepless week out of thin air, and as a result... everything got done.  I remember this night in particular, because it was a Friday night and I got four (4) major things done in one evening after work...which I thought would take a full day (and a full work day on the Occupy site is, in fact, a full 24-hours. What's up with people thinking a work day is only eight?!)

Either way, I checked the archives and it looks like I don't have any photos proving that this was router tear out.  But it looks like it is.  I wouldn't be surprised considering the rush job and the condition of my very-well-used 3/8" round-over bit.  I used that bit on basically everything.

So, while the wife and baby were out of the house for the week, I went back into insanity (normal?) mode and blitzed the house for a few 24-hour periods in rapid succession.  While waiting for joint compound, primer, and/or paint to dry, I decided to go around the house and touch up a few things that needed a little TLC.  I figure while I have the can of spackle open, I might as well... you know... keep the can of spackle open.

It was worth it. After two coats of spackle, two sands, and two coats of paint... voila:

Goodbye router tear out!  The stool and casing reverts back to a profesh job.

Just look at those smooth curves and lustrous shine! Wait... this stool was messed up? I can't even tell where. I'm serious.

These are those rare moments when I actually feel like a "normal" person.  This is the type of "weekend project" that I imagine most homeowners do; in between like spending time with their families, having some leisure time, or just plain ol' enjoying life.

If only all home improvements were as easy and satisfying as this one.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back Bedroom: Friday Night Sand

Fridays sure aren't what they used to be...

Back bedroom - dusted

I guess this is why I dread painting.  In reality, its not the actually painting that I despise.  Its all this prep.  Perhaps I am just an idiot, but the prep for painting just takes me days and days and days.

Again, probably my fault.  I like smooth walls and corners.  This is an extremely tall order in this house.

Basically, I mud all the big gaps between my baseboard and walls with either some lightweight joint compound (blue bucket) or my new favorite, MH ready patch.  The ready patch sets up in like 30 minutes for reasonable size cracks and nail holes, and has a better grip.  I have no idea what its made of, but i'm sure its carcinogenic like every other building material I touch.. thanks refineries.

Sanded with a fine sanding sponge

Ready patch, in all its glory

Old plaster rounded corners.  Take a guess how long it will take for these to crack?  I guess two months.

Moving on to the problem areas:

Problem area #1

Problem area #2

Oh yeah.  Did I mention that I am also painting the bathroom too.  As much as I love that finished sheetrock look, its probably best in a moisture-prone area to seal this with a semi gloss paint ASAP.  It only took me what... 5 months?

Oops, I guess I should case this door before paint day.  Hopefully I have something in the basement.  I'm sure I'll have to rip something down to fit against these tiles.  *sigh*

Even though I stayed up through the night on a work night in December framing these walls to laser precision everywhere (no small feat in a bathroom this size), there are still really large gaps between the walls and sheetrock.  Fill 'em with mud where ever possible.



Well, its 1:39 AM and sheetrock Friday Saturday is coming to a close.  Good thing because I have to get up early.. again.  Note to self: July is not the best month to do this.

I'm beat.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Back Bedroom: Pre-Paint Clean Up

Loyal reader, this is nothing that exciting, but sometimes it is fun to document the process.

Prepping for painting is sort of like taking a 20+ year old car in for state inspection (trust me).  You know its gonna to suck, and its also gonna be costly.

It's amazing how many light fixtures I have currently dangling off spliced romex in this house.  I'm going to purposefully not count them to maintain my chipper spirit.

Why is the largest radiator in the entire house in the 2nd smallest room?  Obviously the builders of this residence didn't take as many boring, horrible years of HVAC mechanical engineering courses.  I'll never get that tuition money back.

Door makeover still lookin sharp

Say what you will about this crappy, hot room... but the floors look gorgeous.


And, by nightfall, rosin paper on the floors and a fresh coat of joint compound around the windows, corners, and the intersection of the wall / baseboard around the entire room.  I also joint compounded the bathroom, not pictured.

It is unbelievably hot in here with the door closed so my daughter can sleep in the wee hours.  I should have taken up close photos of the sweat drips on the rosin

Next steps, more compound and fill the nail holes with MH ready patch.

It smells like a job site again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dining a la Occupy

Future dining room table for the dining room room full of baby crap?  The preliminary designs are in:

To follow the lame city trend of all things "farmhouse"

The good thing about doing the over-done farmhouse table, is that I can basically just use a bunch of ripped down 2x6's and poly 'em.  What does that translate to? cheap.  Since I'm the last of the big spenders, it'll work for me.

"Trestle"-style legs

Now, the wife doesn't like the table legs.  Which sucks because that's what I spent all my time on with this design!   I have a love for all things complicated, what better way to help celebrate this unhealthy obsession than do a bunch of complicated joinery with some crappy wood?

Honestly, I want to make this out of super thick hardwood, like oak, chestnut or walnut.  But its just going to cost too much.  If I could come across a dumpster full of old framing lumber (in Philly, that's long leaf pine), I would glue them together and hand plane the top.   But, I'm just not out digging in the trash much these days.

A few nights in a dumpster sometimes leads to ten free round-trip flights, pre-occupy archives

Anyway, for you people who studied architecture... the elevations*:






The goal is to have a dining room table by summer's end.  Will it happen?  I think so.  Maybe if we count summer all the way to the official equinox.

* Faceless Asian woman not included.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Back Bedroom - Paint

It's about that time..

From the "We just flipped a house in Philly, let's just paint this thing the most neutral color possible and hope this thing sells to a sucker real fast" collection at my local paint store

No one hates picking colors more than me.  Except for the other me who hates painting even more.  Luckily, for the sake of saving time and the fact that I have a newborn at home and can't really use a nail gun on the regular, this room is the first room without crown molding.  I know, loyal reader.  I have let you down.  Before you delete my blog from your reader, please know that I intend to build bookshelves over the enormously oversized radiator in this room.  Which, of course, will be wrapped in crown. I also intend to do a ceiling molding to match.  Don't hold your breath, I don't expect to get this done by summer's end.  Especially with the impending doom of a kitchen renovation looming over my head.

But... picking colors means renovation-closure.
And.. renovation-closure means one less thing to lose sleep about

We've lived in the back bedroom before and its nice and quiet, has amazing Sahara-like sunlight, and you can lay in bed in this room and watch the fireworks at the Phillies game when they have them.  It's really not bad.  Add some freshly sanded floors, new wiring, and a ceiling that is not collapsing from water damage... and you have... well, almost a regular room that normal person would have!

I'm currently using it as an office, so we're going the neutral route as I don't really need any distractions.  Plus, the house is pretty colorful already nowadays.

The office, its its 108 degree glory.  Shirt is not required in this office.  If you would like to feel what a heat stroke is like, spend a few hours in here.  Perhaps I should just change this into a sauna.

Anyway-- I'm off to get the paint.  This annoying spreadsheet about paint coverage will be upgraded and featured in version two of the Major Renovation Mobile App (read about it)

Spreadsheets, where good information goes to die.

I will document the progress. And back-post when I can.  Your viewership of this blog is very important to me, loyal reader.   Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Major Renovation Estimator mobile web app (alpha)

Loyal reader,

I have released on the web a alpha tester of the Major Renovation Estimator mobile web app.  It is a project I started about two years ago, and just re-opened a couple days ago... you know, because most of the major part of my renovation is done.  Perfect timing: this app will really come in handy now!

Anyway, the idea was that the frugal homeowner/renovator could use this mobile web app while they were at the lumber yard to create a number of scenarios and get a rough idea of price for a room.  If you have followed this weblog at all the past few years, you probably know that I sometimes enjoy moldings.  But, I'll let you in on a little secret: these molding selections don't just come naturally to me.  I usually have to draw up a few scenarios, and figure out what is right for the room size, aesthetic, feel, etc.  More often than not, the decision is often based on price.

Here's my personal secret to designing/building built-up molding profiles:


  1. Use stock moldings, or make your own!
  2. Get the complete molding listing sheets from a few different lumber yards.  I used to have them on my wall at work and on a wall back at the job site.  Get these things in your face constantly, as its never to early to begin thinking about the finishing touches.  Just do it.
  3. Pick one (1) special molding from the yard's "legacy" or "vintage" series, and build that into your profile.  These are often at least 3x the price, so (a) choose wisely and (b) go big or go home.
  4. Do not be afraid of nagging the lumber yards for prices over the phone.  Every yard has service reps because they are interested in your business, regardless of your project.  Develop a relationship with your local crew, and call them even if your list of prices you need to quote is two pages long.  Lumber yard prices change like the NASDAQ (actually, its more commensurate with fuel prices and supply), so your quote from three months ago is likely obsolete.  Call again.
  5. Check your pricing against the few designs your have for your built-up moldings.  See if you can sidestep to a similar profile if one of your molding is $40 for a 16 footer.   Or, perhaps you can afford that $40 piece if the length isn't too enormous and you just really need to have that detail.  (Trust me, I've been there).
Occupy Archives: Textbook lumber order,  from New Years Day.
I've since blacked this era of my life out from mind, which has strengthened my will to live.


So, this is where the software comes in.  I'm always jotting down prices in my notebook, calculating lengths in spreadsheets, and sometimes I just need to know is something is feasible; or, if its worth doing at all.  With this mobile web app, you should be able to punch in some rough details about your room in question and get some answers about how much its going to cost.  

*** Be warned: renovating a house is much more expensive than the average joe thinks. This software will probably scare you off from doing anything to your house.  You can thank me later.

It goes beyond just moldings.  Thinking about taking a ceiling down??  Use the Sheetrock sector of the Major Renovation Estimator and price it out before you reach for the sledgehammer (and before your wife reaches for the divorce papers!)

Before you go blasting me about how crappy my software is.. just remember: this is the alpha version.  Its available for testing.  I've left some garbage in there because its a work in progress.  Just try it and see if it works.  
  1. If it doesn't, let me know in the comments.  
  2. If it does, but you have ideas for making it better, let me know in the comments.  I have a ton of ideas too.  Please share your thoughts because I want to make this useful.
  3. If you would rather help me with the coding, the source code is here.  Fork the code. and let's take this thing to the next level!
Major Renovation Estimator: screen shot of input screen


Click through and add your own profile for a room. If you are lazy, I put a Random Number Generator at the top of the app, because its easier to have the computer pick fictitious number for you to test the app.  Obviously, this will not be in the final release.  You are special, loyal reader.  It's as if you've won the Wonka golden ticket...  you are an alpha tester for the Major Renovation Estimator mobile web app.

Honestly, this thing has been done for over two years, I just never "wired up" the Sheetrock and Paint classes, because the thing was built so modular-ly (no classes) that inter-relationships between each "renovation sector" was difficult to facilitate.  At that stage, the project was really just a pet project to get me familiar with jquery mobile, and I figured I had already achieved my own personal goal without actually completing the software.  While I'm not particularly proud of the code that I just released, its working complete to my vision for now.  I plan on improving it at some point.

Major Renovation Estimator: screen shot of results screen


My renewed interest in the Major Renovation Estimator was fueled by another project that I am collaborating on with an old friend... the javascript modular clock.

Hopefully you find this app useful for your next project.  Give it a test drive and see.  


Unfortunately, I don't own a smart phone so I can't even test it, let alone use it.  But this isn't for me.. its for you, loyal reader.

Your welcome.