Category Archives: home improvement


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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Sticking Together

While I was working on my Home Improvement Project I spent a lot of time in stores or store areas that I normally don’t set foot in. I made it a point to pay attention to all the products available, in case there were other items, not related to My Project, that might come in useful around the house.

One of the things I picked up was some glue that’s supposed to be strong and waterproof and impervious to weather, war, Jedi mind tricks or anything else you can think of. I had a bunch of things to glue but when I got home and read the directions it said things like dampen the surface or surfaces and then clamp after you applied the glue and that just sounded like too much trouble. Who has a clamp? Okay, Dad. But besides you?

A little tip on my fish mobile (it’s in the photo on May 29) has been broken for ages and I decided that probably no one ever does the dampening part and the clamp was for overkill and I could glue the tip back quickly and never think of it again.

And I did that. A few hours later I returned to see how it looked and wouldn’t you know the tip had fallen off and was now bonded for eternity to the table. Actually I was able to chip it off but there was no way it was ever going to be glued together now so I had to chuck it.

I have some things in the office that need to be glued and I optimistically brought my glue in today. Too bad I can’t get the top off.

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The Last Alliance of Shelves and Men

The reason the whole Home Improvement Project began was because I wanted more shelves in my closet.

Yesterday was my day for buying my new shelving system and installing it and then putting away all my crap. In addition, I swear somewhere I saw something called “collectible shelves” which are narrow, bracketless shelves that I thought I could put above my window. I could use them for my various little stuffed animals and Star Wars watches and goofy little doodads that I have crammed on my bookshelves.

First I went to Lowes because its parking lot is much more friendly than Home Despot. This is my first time to Lowes and you know what? Other than the better parking lot, it’s EXACTLY like The Despot except instead of orange, it’s blue.

They had a mile long aisle for “home organization” needs and you know I went soft in the knees when I saw that sign. I think they had what I wanted except it was hard to be sure because it wasn’t grouped together in handy “shelving kits for dummies” and I got all confused with the single track and the double track and which wall anchors and screws I should get (or even where they were since they didn’t have them handily in the home organization area) and which brackets and how many shelves I should get and what about these shelf stabilizers? Also the bracketless shelves were either ginormous slabs like a park bench that you’d bolt to your wall OR ugly colors OR burdened with unnecessary ornamentation.

Since I’d taken the time and trouble to get my ass out there, I was determined not to leave empty handed but the longer I stood there, the more unsure I became until finally I got mad and pushed my empty cart out to the parking lot because there was no other obvious place to leave it.

I vaguely recalled seeing something useful at Fred Meyer so I drove all the way up to Salmon Creek because that’s a better and bigger store. They at least had a handy sheet you could take with their shelving systems and it showed a handy picture and on the back told you what kinds of brackets and anchors and stabilizers to buy and those items were in the same area. BUT these were catastrophically ugly. Also, no bracketless shelves.

Then I thought it must have been Target where I was what I wanted so I headed over there. (Please stop for a moment to consider that I am going to my third store for one errand. This is something that I never, ever do except possibly if I’m looking for a perfect gift for a person of huge importance in my life.)

I didn’t grab a cart at Target but headed off to the back 40 for a little looksee and again some flimsy sad looking stuff. All these stores are big on that white wire shelving stuff which I would LOVE if I was in college and only had $5 to organize my dorm room but at this point, not what I have in mind. They might have those collectible shelves but they didn’t have them in stock at this store.

What they did have was this storage cubicle thing that I thought would be handy on the floor of the closet. I could put some crap in the cubicles and the sturdy surface of the cubicle would be good for the sewing machine and heavier things. So I had to hike back to the front of the store to get a cart because it was a tad too heavy to carry. Well, I could have done it if I balanced it on my head but I couldn’t bear the thought of pimply-faced Target employees running over to “help” because I’m sure it’s some sort of liability nightmare even though women in countries all over the world don’t have giant red carts to carry their crap in and they just pile it on their heads and probably have much healthier necks so not to worry.

I wheeled my assembly-required cube to the register and was back home in no time Phillips screwdriver in hand.

I found a catalog for the container store and they have a shelving system that looks pretty good but costs about 200% more than what I saw at Lowe’s. Plus I would have to drive to hellandgone.

In sum, I have no shelves, no solution, and I decided I don’t like the cubicle thing so we might try it in Bob’s closet.

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Home Improvement Wrap-Up Part 2

Things I’ve learned about Home Improvement.

1. Joint Compound, which I call Magical Compound, is my friend.

I think Magical Compound might have changed my life. Making holes in the walls isn’t quite as scary because I can fix them. Even big holes. There was a major crater outside our bedroom door. Now: fixed! with Magical Compound. I have a few more dings in the bathroom and hallway I want to fix before I put the Magical Compound away. Having said that, I have to admit that I winced as I was re-hanging my pictures. Those pretty, smooth (relatively) walls. How can I put holes in them and cover them up?

2. Everything takes longer than you think it will.

I broke the job into what I thought were small manageable projects thinking I’d spend the morning doing the day’s project and in the afternoon I could do other things like work in the yard or make dinner. Instead, I worked the entire day and only accomplished half the project and spent the evening on the couch whimpering with a damp washcloth on my forehead.

Even putting everything back. I had expected to have the time to be all organized about it. Instead I was throwing everything in as fast as I could, thus creating a new project for next weekend: organizing. (Organization is what keeps me tethered to this world.)

3. Everything looks shitty before it dries.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve shrieked at every point of the process because it was harder than I thought and didn’t look too great. But each step makes the step before it look better. Then you get all your stuff in the room and you don’t see the little bloops in the corners and your eyes aren’t drawn to the edges and it all looks great.

It’s like making pie crust. It’s all crumbly and falling apart and you have to patch it to get it in the pan and patch the top and it looks shitty. But then you bake it and it’s brown and smells good and tastes even better and it doesn’t matter. Yes. Pie crust is a metaphor for everything.

4. No matter what anyone says, wallpaper is a bitch to remove.

5. Your hair gets dirty.

6. Drywall is hard to cut.

7. Home Improvement gives you rich material for blogging.

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Home Improvement Project Wrap-Up Pt. 1

My Room: Before

My Room: After

I’m too tired for the full wrap-up. Today I hustled to get my stuff put back in my room.

I was amazed how all my books fit so easily on the shelves until I discovered a giant box of books stashed in a corner and then I couldn’t fit the books in to save my life. Doesn’t this violate some law of physics? I had hoped to approach the room re-stocking with more time and organization rather than shoving stuff everywhere that it will fit. But what can you do? I’ve learned that Home Improvement takes at least ten times as long as you expect. At least I finished this weekend.

In short: now that it’s over I am very pleased. I can see my biffs. When the sun hit the pitted wall I saw what a poor job I did of smoothing it. But, by the time I get all my pictures, etc. up, I don’t think it will look that bad.

I still have to purchase and install closet shelving (remember: where this project started) and I have a few other ideas as well so I’ll do more photos next weekend.

At least the weather was horrendous this weekend so while I was trapped inside, I didn’t feel so bad.

On the other hand, I was out in the yard this afternoon and saw clusters of giant weeds and items that needed dead-heading and I need to take the tomatoes out of the walls-of-water while I still can and get them into cages. So, still lots of work everywhere.

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The Project is Nearing Completion

I've Never Looked Sexier

Blue Room

I’m a little disappointed. Anywhere that a dark color and a light color meet pretty much looks like crap. I am pleased with the colors, however. I tried everything to make the seams look good: various painting applicators, tape, different barriers and even painstaking patience, often a combo of these. I’m hoping once I get all my stuff in the room, the bloopers won’t look so bad.

What does look great: my drywall patches. More photos to come.

Here’s my ceiling painting outfit. I didn’t have a cool bandana to wear over my hair and I pondered my baseball caps but I didn’t want to wreck any of them. At last, all I could think of was a shower cap so I used that. When I worked on the ceiling it felt like paint was getting in my eyes so I dragged out the goggles. The face mask was a strange crutch that helped keep paint off my face. I’m in clean up / exhausted sit on couch phase.

More tomorrow.

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It is SO Rocket Science

Professional Paint Kit

Frodo in the Kitchen

Why can’t I be a natural at something? Why can’t something come easy to me?

I thought I hated removing wallpaper. I’m starting to think that was the fun part. This paint thing sucks ass.

I got my primer layer on. I made an incredible mess. I’m guessing primer can live with some sloppiness. How am I going to make the real color look good? How do you get in the corners? How do you make the brush marks look smooth? How do you keep from touching the smooth part you just painted? Will this paint ever come off my hands? Thank God I read those web tips that included: cover your hair.

What about that extender thing? I felt like I was an I Love Lucy episode, wonking that stick back into everything. Where was the conveyor belt with the cakes? I keep feeling like there’s a hidden camera and I’m the entertainment for a painters convention in Miami. They can hardly get up from the floor they’re laughing so hard.

The guy who sold me the Professional Paint Kit (why not the Paint Kit for Dummies?) said I could reuse that fuzzy paint roller cover thing. I think he was high. Isn’t paint supposed to make you high? It’s not working. The only thing keeping me going is the overwhelming desire to be finished. I’m going to the hardware store to buy about 100 of those fuzzy things and throw one away every half hour. And a smaller paint brush. The professional one isn’t going to cut the detail work.

Meanwhile, I did end up getting desperate to plug in Frodo. Look at my amazing kitchen computer station. This is the most not-ergonomic set up ever. But I’m so desperate to avoid painting a few more minutes, I had to fill you in on the latest.

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Burning Arms

The minute I got home from work last night I changed into my work clothes, put Frodo and his various paraphernalia (keyboard, mouse, cables, cords, power strips, modem, etc.) in a safe place and got to work on the sanding.

Is there any part of Home Improvement Projects that doesn’t make your arms feel like they’re about to burst into flames? Even my Yoga arms couldn’t save me. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for some crazy arm balance poses. Yes, I can totally do that. For about .05 nanoseconds before gravity kicks in.)

I took periodic breaks to see what Jack Bauer was up to. I don’t think I’m going to watch 24 next season. I’ve had my season of free-for-all TV and now I want to cut back again. 24 is always the same thing: “We need X. X is impossible to get. But we must have it to save American lives. Okay, give me 10 minutes.”

Back to the sanding, it would have been helpful to know how magical the Joint Compound is and how responsive to sanding because I could have saved a lot of time from my meticulous application and careful scraping and smoothing and fretting over the lack of smoothness. Sanding makes everything smooth.

It also would have been helpful to know that bathing would be an absolute necessity after sanding. I had to wash my hair twice yesterday.

Last night, where I needed a second Magical Joint Compound application, I was fearless, even developing my own method for getting joint compound into corners which involved a dollop of compound and an index finger. The giant hole that I patched looks poorly but I’m praying the magic of paint to make it look less craptastic.

More sanding tonight. This or this are most likely where I’ll get my colors.

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Thunder and Rain and Joint Compound

Another View of My Room

Before I write what I intended to write, I have to tell you that it’s just started raining and the sky is rumbling. The light breeze coming from the window smells fantastic: like minerals and candy and summer. I’ve just got out of the shower and started sipping from a glass of wine. This is a great moment after a long tiring day.

Now let me tell you about all the crap moments that came before it.

No, just kidding. But you notice I haven’t been here so I must have been on the Home Improvement Project. I worked very hard this weekend, mostly even having fun but this afternoon I got discouraged and for about a 1/2 hour (or as my cousin Lisa would say: half of an hour. She had a big birthday yesterday: Happy Birthday Lisa!) felt like I was going to cry.

The worst part is that all my stuff is in chaos. I’m working on my room. My room contains all my stuff which means my books, notes, reminders, files, craft supplies, computer, calendar, photos, artwork, yoga mat and meditation area. Everything. And it’s all put away right now in boxes and on counters, all over the house. I don’t know where anything is and I can’t do anything. That part is making me the most crazy.

I spent all day Friday and Saturday washing the walls. It took forever to get the wallpaper off and then when I started washing it took another forever to get the wisps and titanium adhesive cleaned off. Plus it made my arms feel like they were made of noodles. They still feel like noodles.

Today I apprenticed with the joint compound and the patching and spackling. I really want to do a good job but it seems like there are more and more problems. Cracks where there shouldn’t be cracks. Stuff chipping off metal. Crackly paint that doesn’t behave. I now completely and fully understand why people do a half assed job on stuff like this. One wall where I removed wallpaper is completely pitted. I don’t think it’s all from the wallpaper I think the person who put the wallpaper up originally had another plan and gave up on it. That was a half bucket of compound right there.

Also I decided to remove the entire closet infrastructure so I can install my own which will be a bunch of shelves for all my crafts and boxes and yoga supplies and junk. I don’t need to put clothes in here. Turns out the infrastructure was installed to withstand Armageddon (is that supposed to be capitalized?). There were Paul Bunyon nails of a size I didn’t know exist, keeping these wood fragments bonded to the walls. So I basically destroyed large areas of closet to get them out. We’ll see what the Power of Joint Compound can do.

What you need to be aware of is that I am going to start sanding very, very soon and when I do that, my extra limb, Mr. Frodo Computer, will be put in another room, safe from The Dust. And Frodo only works in my room because that’s where the DSL hookup is.

Hm. Well, now that I think of it, maybe he can be plugged in elsewhere but that would be like the kitchen and I already have my crap taking up every conceivable corner. I’m not sure I want to put Frodo in the kitchen. We’ll see how twitchy I get without him. (Aside: seeing all my stuff all over the house is making me want to get rid of it which would be perfect because I started this farking project so I’d have more storage for my stuff.)

I can access my email and blog from my work computer so it’s not like I’ll disappear but I won’t be quite as reliable.

I’d make some sort of goal statement here except I don’t want to jinx myself. The Home Improvement Project will take as long as it takes. Stay tuned.

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