Category Archives: home improvement

Vacuum Cleaner Bag of the Damned

I was forced to buy a new vacuum cleaner last year when my old vacuum cleaner died and the dead part couldn’t be replaced. I can’t remember the exact details or even if it was really last year.

I bought a more expensive vacuum from our local vacuum cleaner shop thinking that if I have problems, I have a handy place to get repairs.

I had noticed it didn’t seem to suck like it used to but my old vacuum cleaner made a discouraged beep and popped open when the vacuum cleaner bag was full so I was waiting for that cue.

I finally opened the canister to check and holy thundercakes — the bag was so big, I wasn’t sure if I could even get it out. I had to wrestle out the filter first and then yank it out.

Lesson learned to check the vacuum cleaner bag much earlier next time.

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Something New

We are not big on home improvement.

It’s not that I don’t like things to look nice but if I have some extra time and energy, the house interior is not even in the top 50 things I want to deal with. I’d rather endure home decor I don’t like than make a big effort for something new.

This is how we have ended up with the hideous great grandma’s living room window treatment since we moved into this house over 20 years ago.

I know. It’s hard to believe.

I have hated it for some time and had it on the long list of things I wanted to tackle.

What finally motivated me is that those slats began actively disintegrating. I grabbed them once to snoop out the window and they ripped. We had to duct tape one to hold it together. I wish I was kidding.

I was under the impression that having such a big window would complicate things and I didn’t want to pay a bunch for a specialty blind and take a chance that it didn’t fit. But I also couldn’t deal with the idea of hiring someone to come and measure and advise, etc.

I started doing some physical therapy stuff with Melonie in her new space and she has a giant window with cordless blinds like this and after asking a few questions, I hopped online, read the directions, measured, and ordered our new blind.

We did need a little help with the installation but it is like a MIRACLE in the living room now.

The only bummer is the wall where the curtain rods came out is all messed up. I’m not up for massive painting project and I’m not sure patching it is going to look so hot either.

Also, I’m considering putting some curtains up for when it’s super bright or super cold and we want an extra layer.

Check back in another 20 years!

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Pam Advisory Notice No. 77

This is a Breuer chair.

You might think this chair looks nice and not the kind of chair that can ruin a person’s day. Do not be fooled. If you have the choice between fixing a Breuer chair and buying new chairs, buy new. If your husband indicates distress over buying chairs over the Internet, even after you point out that the two of you are the worst shoppers ever, always pick the first marginally decent thing you see and you might as well just buy damn Internet chairs to solve your problem, just kindly listen and then buy the online chairs. He’ll forgive you.

Breuer chairs came into my life in the late 70’s. You can see proof here. I still have that Breuer chair. Many years later, in the late 80’s my Dad made me a kitchen table and gave it to me with 4 Breuer chairs. I still have those, too.

The cane gets stretched out and holes in it. I had a local guy fix a bunch for me once.

But the last time I needed help with my chairs, which was OVER FIVE YEARS AGO, I phoned him a couple of times and never heard back. This is the kind of project that I only looked at once every few months. Like maybe company was coming and I thought: extra chairs would be handy, so I’d make the call.

I eventually gave up on my guy and looked for another guy. I finally found a place and I thought I wrote about it here but apparently I wrote about it on Facebook.

In brief, I found a place in an inconvenient location and I made the time to go out there and carried my broken chair parts in and they were patronizing and rather than just saying, this is such a pain in the ass we don’t want to do it, they quoted me a ridiculous price while all looking down their noses at each other. When I said, thanks, but I’d rather buy new chairs, they said: Well don’t buy chairs like these.

If you know me, you can imagine how I took that. I stomped out of there determined to show them.

Using new information, I FINALLY got around to ordering replacement parts that arrived this week. You can buy replacement chair bottoms and chair backs for probably too much online. My parts arrived and this afternoon I fixed my chairs.

First of all, I totally violated the Uncle Joey rule about never letting an inanimate object kick your ass.

I could not get my screws to go in so I looked it up online and saw a demo, from the company I bought my chair stuff from, and they’re like, “Keep the screws you already used. Our parts are pre-drilled.” Well, I had the screws that I already used because I am my father’s daughter. But they are like 10 feet long and I couldn’t get them to fit. And “pre-drilled” my ass, they were like “pre-dimpled.”

Also I had to replace the chair back which is not pre-dimpled. They said either measure from the old chair back that you’re throwing away (too late!) or do whatever you want.

What?!?!?! He’p!

It took probably 3 times as long as it should have and I said a lot of bad words plus ruined the chairs’ self-esteem by telling them how much I hated them but in the end, we have fixed chairs (I was very creative with my screws) and I can cross something off my list that has been there for more than 5 years.

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The Door Knob Fixer

I thought I had an ongoing tale about the door knob but I can’t find it using search. Oh well, it’s so interesting I’m sure you won’t mind hearing it again.

Our front door knob started disintegrating awhile back and co-worker said door knobs are super easy to do yourself so I decided to try.

I stopped by the lock shop to ask a few questions and the nice man told me to bring it in. I figured out how to take it off and I put all the pieces in a box and drove back to the lock shop.

The nice man said I could probably get by without a whole new door knob and he sold me a widget. (Latch? Hasp? Shackle?) I went home installed the widget and put the door knob back on and couldn’t get the door to close.

These all sound like simple steps when I write it this way but they actually involved having to look for tools and wrestle to make the tools work and get the screws in the right way. Plus I had other things I wanted to do with my day besides drive back and forth with a shoe box filled with door knob parts.

I called the nice man and begged him to come down and fix it. At that point I would rather have paid money than deal with it one more second. He said it sounded like I had the bevel hackle knuckle upside down and to just turn it around. So I took it all apart again and spring bolted the tumbler around and he was right it worked!

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and the door knob disintegrated again. My husband, who is a prince but is perfectly happy to leave problems like this to deal with later if there is an acceptable alternative, thought we should just not use the front door until we got around to dealing with it. I did not find that an acceptable alternative. However, I also didn’t want to be in charge of calling the locksmith since I had already handled round one of this problem.

Then, during one long night of insomnia I remembered that we have the same door knob on the door between the garage and the shop — a door that we never lock. When I had time I swapped the doorknobs. Genius.

Except that didn’t work either because the widget part was still stuck — where this entire problem started — so one more time I had to go back, take both door knobs off, swap the widgets putting the new widget back on the front door and putting the craptastic old widget in the garage.

In sum, front door locks again and I know how to deal with basic door knob repair.

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The Shower Door Disaster of 2013

Two weeks ago I was wiping down the shower doors and they got gummed up so they wouldn’t slide on the track. In the process of trying to fix this, I knocked one of the doors completely off the track.

I very quickly learned that these shower doors are made of actual glass and weigh a million pounds. There was a split second where I was certain I would win a Darwin Award for bleeding to death in my own bathtub after cutting off my foot with a shower door — all because of cleaning.

I was able to control it enough to not hurt myself and screamed my head off and my husband ran in and lifted the thing off me. There was a handful of glass shards in the bottom of the tub and the door was chipped in one corner.

Once I got over the thrill of not being hurt, we had two problems. (1) The broken shower door and (2) the giant gouge in the tub. Also keep in mind that we aren’t even finished paying for this bathroom yet.

As is well documented here, I’m not good at household things and don’t want to invest any time getting better at it. I wasn’t even sure where to start. The people that remodeled the bathroom retired about 5 minutes after they cashed our final payment so that wasn’t an option. I went through the file and wrote down what I thought were relevant notes and I took a few photos of the shower door and went out for round 1.

First, I went to a local glass shop because they’ve replaced a couple of windshields for us and were always nice and I figured if they couldn’t help us they could at least point us in the right direction. I was wrong. It would be too long and boring to tell you the whole conversation but you can get the idea from this: after I explained what happened the guy said, “What do you want me to do about it?” He also told me that usually if tempered glass gets hit hard enough to chip, it shatters.

Eventually he was able to point to something in my notes that is apparently the manufacturer so I went online and found the local rep for that and phoned and the line was disconnected.

Meanwhile, my husband received my unhappy texts during this adventure. He saw a glass place when he was out and about and ran in there and they were super nice and helpful. They knew the company that did our remodel. They knew the manufacturer. Someone came by to look at the damage. He told us that he’d never seen a door chip like that and not shatter.

Why is this used to make shower doors?

He said he’d put together an estimate for us. I don’t know what this is going to cost us but I am hopeful that I will soon have a brand new, million pound, shatterable shower door.

For the gouge in the bathtub, I spent a goodly amount of time reading disheartening things online about gouged bathtubs.

After what I deemed enough responsible research, I found a do-it-yourself kit that looked promising but asked me 100 questions about my tub. Did you know that some of the color choices are: Artic, Snow, Cloud, Linen and Béchamel? (Barely exaggerating). White, I kept insisting. Then there was something about how to tell what kind of tub you have and you sand the gouge and then smell it. My bathtub smelled like my shampoo which was not one of the choices.

I made my best guesses and went through the order screens. When I got to the end, the shipping and handling charges added another 50% to the cost. So I said, Screw you. I’m not doing that. What the hell are “handling” charges? It’s like when you buy tickets and they charge you a $5 convenience charge to print them yourself. If they were shipping me an alligator I could see charging me a fee. But not for sticking some painty stuff and sandpaper into an envelope.

I did some more research and found the company that made my tub and they had a number to call. I got that lady on the phone and we had to go through the same questions about what color my tub is and what it’s made out of and what product line it is, because that’s something a person should keep track of. And we get to the end of that round and then she said it was out of stock.

She said they buy it from someone else and gave me that number and that’s when I talked to St. Nancy of New Jersey.

St. Nancy was super friendly and helpful and explained to me how she used the product on her sink.

“Are you handy or can anyone do this?” I asked.

“My husband says I have 4 thumbs,” St. Nancy said. “But I think I’m handy.”

My fix-it kit arrived the next day. At first I rigorously followed the directions but the filler stuff just shrunk and brushed out of the dent. So I gave up on the filler and tried to make light coats of the chip filler. That wasn’t looking so hot either. The directions said, “Whatever you do, don’t just glop it on.” But when I glopped it on the gouge was covered.

Not pretty but if it works, good enough for me.

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Whiter Shade of Pale

Sadly I don’t have a before photo of this. I wish I did because this looks so much nicer.

This is the rest of the shop clean-up project I started in the summer.

There was a crappy built in cupboard that we didn’t use because it was dusty and had spiders in it. I tore that out and I had someone come in and put in that light fixture and fix the wiring because it was weird. That project together with the cupboard destruction made a bunch of holes in the wall.

I patched everything up and painted it and it’s finally done. I keep going out there and admiring it because it looks so nice.

Today we went to the mall and bought a new refrigerator which will be delivered in a week. Then the old fridge goes in that corner.

In another 6 months there will be spider webs and dust but right now it’s beautiful.

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Typed with Shaky Hands

The window project is finally finished. I don’t remember if I ever explained that the blinds were broken, too. They’ve been sorta broken for probably a couple of years but I rigged something so I could still open them and then that thing broke, too. So then I had to leave them closed for about 6 months. It just seemed like too much trouble to figure out how to take them down.

But in order to paint the windowsill I had to take them down anyway and I found a guy a couple of neighborhoods over who repairs blinds. I picked them up this morning and wrestled them back up this afternoon.

I’m now sated on home improvement for another five years.

New dahlia blooming this week.

I drank a different tea blend than I normally drink this afternoon and now I feel like I’m having a heart attack. Not in a good way. I’m worried this means I won’t be able to fall asleep tonight.

Luckily I’m about 4 episodes behind on Being Human so I can catch up on that instead of staring at the ceiling.

I can see 6 pumpkins from the window at the kitchen sink. I should have taken the photo from that angle instead of this one but now I don’t want to go back out there. Besides those six there are two that are already orange plus about 3 more yellow ones. I’m sure there will be at least another 25 posts about it before harvest.

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This Is How I Do It

This is an ancient device I found when I moved computer cart for home improvement. I used it back in the olden days when I had a computer and telephone that had to be plugged into the wall.

I don’t have any knack for home improvement. I can see how a lot of it is just getting some practice but I hate doing it so much I don’t want to invest any more time into it than I have to. I was having a tough time wrapping my mind around how awful the windowsill looked after the first coat. I went online and looked up: Tips so your paint job doesn’t look like total crap.

I suspect it had something to do with drinking a couple of glasses of wine and then slapping on the paint as quickly as humanly possible. I didn’t find any tips that covered that precise set of facts.

In addition to the windowsill I had this small area on the wall where the paint looked wrinkled. I thought I could just sand it a little and then dab a little paint on it and it would look good as new. I sanded and it looked weird so I sanded more and then paint started peeling off in big strips. Obviously, that was the point when I opened the bottle of wine.

Then I got that patching stuff out and my putty knife and frosted the wall with it. There was more sanding but by the time I got the paint on it, it looked okay. I did a couple more coats on the windowsill and it looked less terrible.

By Monday the project was finished and I cleaned up the dust and put everything away. It doesn’t look too bad as long as you’re on the other side of the room and don’t put your glasses on.

Once I get the windowshade back on it, it will be good enough and at least it’s crossed off my “to do” list.

Here’s the basil from the seeds in my cracker box that I wrote about here.

The house next door to us turned into a rental about 8 years ago. The first tenants I barely ever saw. The next set were the ones with all the surly twenty-somethings coming and going and a mean barky dog and possible pathological lying. I can’t find the post to link to it. Ever since I had to move my blog I can never find anything.

Then we had the woman who just moved out.

A sign went up last week and a couple of days later was already gone. All I know so far is a Subaru with California plates and a loud child in the backyard.

This is everything I harvested today.

There has been no more sign of the mouse or mice and the traps remain empty. Good? Has he moved on? Gotten sneakier? Ran off to find his friends and bring them back? I thought maybe we could borrow the cat next door if it shows up again. Since he leaves his cat turds around the yard, he should at least do some work for me.

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Update

Home improvement: just as odious as I remember.

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Space Heaters Will Keep Us Alive

 Just over a year ago when we had our furnace serviced we learned that some sort of doodad inside was cracked and our furnace’s days were numbered. When we bought the house we knew the furnace had only ten to twenty years left in it so we weren’t totally surprised.

We had the crack patched and it worked just fine last winter but I wanted to replace the furnace during the summer, when we were prepared, not in January when it died and it was 30 degrees outside. I am part lizard and do not like being cold.

We borrowed money for a home improvement project and we borrowed enough to cover a furnace and starting in June, Bob made the first calls to ask about buying a furnace. We ended up talking to a couple of sales people about our options and did lots of homework and at the beginning of October we signed a contract to set the thing in motion.

We have the money, we did everything we were supposed to do so I’m not sure why the installation didn’t start until TODAY (and last we checked NW Natural STILL hadn’t installed a meter) and we have to go for 24 hours without any heat. WTF?

Fortunately, tonight will be relatively warm for this time of year so thick fuzzy sweats and space heaters ought to keep us alive.

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