Thursday, April 18, 2013

Getting a Green Thumb

Thanks to the end of winter and warmer weather moving in, I have found myself very motivated to get outside and do work around the house instead of in it. Because of my surgery last October, I wasn't able to get to the clean up around the exterior that I wanted to, so I've spent the past few weeks working towards that.

The most frustrating aspect of that cleanup has been raking up the remaining leaves. Unfortunately, the backyard received no attention last fall which meant it was covered with debris. Sadly, the lawn suffered because of that. I say this was a frustrating task largely because the wind would undo much of the work I was doing piling up the leaves. Eventually, I got the leaves piled up and moved out to the back end of the property. Franklin does offer yard waste pick ups every so often but I am hoping to use the leaf piles as a means of killing off unwanted plants that are growing along the end of the property (primarily the stinging nettles). There is still work to be done on both the front and back lawns - random leaves and sticks, but I can pick at those at my leisure.

The nice weather has allowed me to start planting for the year as well. I have degradable pots with a variety of seeds in them that will hopefully begin sprouting soon! Additionally, I've cleaned up one of the clean beds in the front yard and planted more blueberries and strawberries (to replace the ones that died over the winter) as well as two grapes by the big boulder. I am considering replacing the scrubs that are growing along the driveway with grapes as well, but I'd like to see how these two handle the front yard first before I go to the effort for a larger removal and planting project.

For the backyard, I've changed things around a little bit. The grill has been moved away from the house and placed next to the house-side pool fence. I've moved the larger plants that were in there (snapdragons and a rose bush) to make room for the grill and to also set up my garden bed to be a single plot instead of two plots broken up by bushes.

Another experiment I am undertaking this year is utilizing the black raspberry bushes that seem to grow just about anywhere as a  privacy screen along the fence of the pool. They seemed to do very well on their own last year, but this year I will be attempting to direct them to weave through the fence instead of reaching towards the pool. Their leaves should make for a nice screen and their berries will be a great snack!

All of my major planting efforts are now handled and the rest of what I am going to be doing outside will be clean up. I've got a lot of small trees and bushes to cut back and try to manage as well as 6 small arborvitae that I need to figure out a home for (perhaps either along the downhill side of the pool fence or at the back of the property near the old grill).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Oh Yeah - I did something recently!

This is going to be a quick post because what I did accomplish wasn't some huge feat of home improvement - but it was a small step towards things feeling to some degree done.

I recently wrapped up the work I was doing in the hallway closet on the second floor. Originally, this closet with a tiny thing that was lucky to hold the linens and towels it had in it. While working on the second floor bathroom, the decision was made to remove the closet from the adjacent bedroom and make one for the bathroom. This also meant that I could make the hallway closet a bit deeper as well.

After some slow starts, I did complete the hallway closet to the extent that I am happy with it. Well... not entirely happy... the back wall of it isn't square (off by 3/8s of an inch) but it is dry walled, painted, has flooring (which I recycled from the flooring of the old bedroom closet) and has shelving in it for linen and other storage such as the vacuum cleaner.

If the end results was more interesting to look at I'd have pictures to post but it is a small primer-painted closet, not really an exciting photo subject.

Next I hope to get some work done on the closet in the bathroom. To start, I'll need to remove the interior door casing so that I can get at some of the dry wall I need to replace. After that, I am going to work a bit on the framing of the bathroom closet itself so that there is some symmetry between the sides. Then it is more joint compound, painting and finishing.

Neither of these projects are particularly exciting but with my current state of employment, they are nice and easy projects I can do with the materials I have handy around the house or with minimal expense that will help put me in a position to move forward on to bigger projects more easily (such as the update on the bathroom).

Friday, December 28, 2012

Surprisingly Motivated

Now there is a title to start a post with! But seriously, with number of ugly events of this past fall that hit my family, I've had little motivation to work on the house. Being unemployed at the moment, you'd think it would be the perfect time to get some simple work around the house done but I haven't (in part because the job hunt and small business side projects are eating up my day time hours).

Well, that lack of motivation changed a bit yesterday. For a while now, I've had a couple of projects on the back burner (projects that keep me from wanting to bring in an appraiser to look at the place for eventual refinance). One of them I don't have the aptitude to manage solely on my own (the bathroom) but the other I can easily get out of the way.

Yesterday I started work on finishing the hall closet. Its a small task but the cramped space did actually make getting in there and slapping joint compound on the walls daunting. Very little elbow room. All that remains for the first coat is the ceiling, which I might get to later tonight assuming I get the first floor picked up and vacuumed (preparing for a LAN party). Once that is done, I can do the second coat next week, sand it, prime it and see about putting in the floor (I had flooring left over from removing the adjacent bedroom's closet, which should be plenty for what I aim to do). I am going to try to get it done by the end of the week and, if my employment status does not change, I'll start in on finishing the bathroom closet.

This year was the first year I have had a Christmas tree as an adult. With Jay and his kids living here, it felt right to have one for the kids at least. I'll be picking up pine needles well into next year. It did end up looking good but I think I'll need to find a different spot for it. The corner it was in was the best place for it to be in the room but its proximity to the heat dried the tree out fast - if another tree is bought for next year, I think it will be placed next to the porch door, well away from the heat though less conveniently positioned.

While I was cleaning up the pine needles, I also decided it was time to put a door stop on the porch door. I noticed a dunch in wall from the door handle and figured it was time to install the stop, considering I'd bought it months ago.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Living Room

With the one year anniversary of my house purchase fast approaching, I made a vow to get the living room functionally complete by that point (NOTE: I changed it from Complete to Functionally Complete, aren't I clever?). Happily, I was able to get the living room to that point and have a party to celebrate being a home owner!

Thanks a ton to my Mom and Dad and Jay for helping out on bringing this room together. There are still a few things to do on it but those things won't keep the room from being enjoyed!

Things left to do, because what house project is ever really finished?

  • Install Track Lighting
  • Purchase, Stain and Install Molding along ceiling, fireplace and over heating
  • Purchase and install blinds and curtains
  • Build/Purchase and Install a Mini Bar and Liquor Cabinet
  • Build and Install a Storm door (similar to the ones on the front and back door) for use as a rail-driven sliding door to close off the living room (additional zombie fallback barrier maybe)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Small Task Journal - 10/26/12

On the bright side of being laid off, I now have plenty of time to devote to working on the home renovations! That's it Matt - keep looking on the bright side! I kid, I kid (weeps softly).

Anyway, on the serious side of things, the living room is nearing functional completion! Over the course of the week, the floor has been sanded and stained. It's a little darker than I originally wanted but once the final coat of polyurethane is on, I think it will grow on me.

Speaking of polyurethane, the second coat is drying as I type this. In order to do the floor proper, I had to rent a square buffer/sander from Home Depot (they are making bank off me...) to scuff up the floor between coats.

After the first coat had dried, I hit the floor with the buffer. And that's when I got a little worried. The richness of the stain seemed to vanish. I knew this was going to happen and that the next coat of poly would bring back the color but it still worried me in the time between buffing and applying the poly.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be hitting the floor with another pass of the buffer and then applying the third and final coat. I'll have to be motivated earlier in the morning than I usually am on Saturday mornings so that I can be done with the buffer and return it as soon as possible (perhaps convince Jay to get started on the third coat while I am driving the buffer back).

Once the floor is done, I have to install three lights (2 wall scones and the track light) and cut and paint the quarter-round for over the heater (I'll need to buy some more, I don't have enough). I'm also going to try to get CAT5 and COAX wires run in the basement to support the new location of the router and the cable box. If all goes well, I should be able to move everything into the living room Sunday morning!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Small Task Journal - 10/22/12

After spending the past couple of weeks painting and touching up painting mistakes, I've finally done something on the room that feels like I amounted to something. I took the day off today for a Doctor's Appointment (one of my sinuses needs a makeover) and decided to spend the rest of time I wasn't at that doctor's office working on the living room.

What does one do when one has a sinus condition? Clearly, the answer is "Sand a floor with rented machinery!"

This morning I opened up the container of putty I had in the basement since last year to start filling in holes left by the carpet. Once that was done, I picked up the Drum Sander and in the late afternoon got to work sanding down the living room. That went surprisingly fast and I was able to return the drum sander and pick up the edge sander before they closed up shop (for some reason, I was completely refunded the rental on the drum sander, not sure why). I brought the edge sander home and finished off the heavy parts of the room (I'll still need to go in and sand some spots by hand tomorrow).

While at Home Depot getting the edge sander, the cashier kindly informed me I was using all the wrong grits for the sand paper. Not wanting to go through the rental and effort again, he suggested I use a satin finish on the floors instead of something glossy. This will make the Living Room the odd-man-out compared to the rest of the house but I don't think I mind that too much considering I'd rather have fewer reflective/shiny surfaces in the room anyway.

Tomorrow I will be touching up spots by hand, vacuuming and cleaning the room and either Wednesday or Thursday I'll be laying down the base coat.

At this point, I've separated the remaining efforts for the room into Must-Have and Would-Be-Nice categories. The floor is really the only remaining Must-Have. Trim on the top of the heater and molding on the ceiling are Would-Be-Nice. I also need to pick up some blinds for the room - I am thinking of going with some bamboo Roman shades. Home Depot had some nice options. I also need to install the new track light (easy) and find something to at least cover the scone boxes on either side of the fire place (maybe the lighting store in Franklin will decide to be open during hours other than my work hours?).

As for additional work on the room, I still need to figure out what to do for curtains. Sadly, the Curtain Store (that's its name) was not open today. I want to get some nice shelving for the room and possibly a bar and liquor cabinet but I don't need either of those for the end of the month.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Small Task Journal - 10/21/12

Things are slowly coming together. This morning I finished the last major paint effort on the living room (the beams in the ceiling). Painting the ceiling and the beams over yesterday and today made me realize that I really had the effort order on painting backwards. I really should have done all the ceiling work first - because now I have to do another touch-up pass on the walls and some of the trim due to white ceiling paint splatter (and a few missed trim paint spots).

Happily though, with the ceiling done, I can move ahead later today and tomorrow with the floors. I have to go to Home Depot later today to buy myself a sander, sealer and polyurethane to finish off the room. Tomorrow I plan on visiting a few local stores for lighting and curtain/blinds to see what people with a better design sense than me suggest. I am completely uncertain about curtains and not sure how I should handle the bay window (one big set of blinds/curtains or something for each window so that I can still use the bay's shelf when things are closed up).

The molding for the ceiling and trim along the sides of the fireplace and over the heating elements need to get done but those pieces will be painted first and then installed to save some headache. Also, if they don't get in by Sunday, its not the end of the world.

Its nice to see the room coming towards the home stretch. There will still be more to do on the room after Sunday - but that is mostly in terms of setting up shelving and maybe a bar (or at least a liquor cabinet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Small Task Journal - 10/17/12

I've been stalled a few days on getting some minor tasks done. Originally, I had planned to get a lot done on Saturday but had to shelve those plans as a date got reschedule (and then... cancelled). Because of that, my motivation wasn't really there on Sunday but I got a little bit done towards the end goal.

As of this moment, the trim has been painted and both walls and trim have been touched up on spots where paint bled or tore from the wall when I was pulling the tape. I do have to hit a couple of parts of the walls with another coat as the prime is showing through in some parts.

This evening, I dug out some heavy blankets and stuff them in the windows while I worked on painting the bottom window panes. I am going to try to get both coats on by the end of the night and get the panes back in the window tomorrow morning.

The ceiling got a little attention tonight as well. There was a hook hanging from the ceiling that was annoying me so I asked Jay if he had anything to remove it. After trying various pliers and grips, he just snapped it off. I suppose that works. With the hook out of the way, a couple of holes in the ceiling were patched and drying.

At this rate, I am hoping to have the window panes and ceiling painted by the end of the week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Small Task Journal - 10/11/12

This week, I've been trying to do something in the living room each evening. This usually means I get home around 5, get started on some project between 5:30 and 6 and wrap up my effort around 8. It helps me feel like I'm accomplishing something and keeps me from just being in front of the computer all evening (though, I do need to spend some time there to work on Cam and Mel's tattoo designs).

Last night was spent putting another coat of Normandy Blue on the walls of the living room. I have the floor covers down the night before and all I needed to do for prep last night was tape around the various casings. Ava was all about being there in an overseeing capacity, asking many questions (often repeating some) about what I was doing and why I was doing what I was doing. She was chased out of the room when I started painting.

The coat of paint went up quickly and easily. Most of the walls just needed a quick second coat to fill in spots where I had put the paint on too thin on the first pass. The sections that had primer on them I went a bit heavier on. Happily, I had bought the second gallon of the color and was able to finish the room with plenty of paint left. Tonight, I plan on getting a start on painting the casings. That should go pretty quickly.

As of now (not including my plans for tonight), I have the following left to do on the room:
  • Prime Windows
  • Paint Windows, Window Muntins, Casings, Baseboards and Ceiling Beams
  • Paint Ceiling
  • Install, Prime and Paint molding around ceiling
  • Install, Prime and Paint molding around heating elements and fireplace
  • Clean, Sand and Seal Floor
 Looking at that list, it still looks like a lot but each of those except for the floor are pretty simple things. I am hoping to have this list cut in half by the end of the weekend.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Small Task Journal - 10/9/12

The nice thing about deciding to do a one-year sort-of Open House at the end of the month is that it has motivated me to do work in the living room. Granted, by the time I get going at night after work, it is already decently late so I don't have much time to get work done, but I am working on getting to the goal.

Yesterday evening was spent working on priming the remaining walls that needed a new coat of primer as well as getting the easy faces of the woodwork prime. The hard stuff is still there to do (inside the casings mostly) but I am going to try to get that done over the weekend. This evening, I had started out planning on getting the walls re-painted but go distracted with dinner and emails so what I actually accomplished was not amazing by any means (laid down tape/drop plastic, took outlet face plates off and installed an empty plate for one of the outlets I have no intention of using).

It is actually a good thing I didn't get to painting tonight as I discovered a need to rewire one of the outlets - I managed to trip the breaker while plugging a light in, which leads me to believe I need to rewire things and double check the ground (and maybe clip the extension box around the outlet a little).

Tomorrow, once I get the outlet fixed up, I'll dig into painting.