Interior mega-update: Part Two

Mega-post, continued!

1) Counters

So Jeff cut my new Ikea countertop for me, which I appreciated: my skills with the band saw are still a little rudimentary. When I got it down to the house, it looked like this:

While it was outside, I tried out the two colors of tung oil on it to see what looked better. I was Team Dark before I started, but once I put the dark oil on, I realized it was absorbing differently into the different woods used in the butcher block and coming out all splotchy.

A similar thing happened on the loft in the upstairs window frame: I did the trim in dark tung and the oil absorbed differently all over the wood (I think because the trim wood is compressed): it still looks kind of splotchy, even after a bunch of coats. So, lesson learned: I think the dark tung works better when you’ve got a single piece of wood, like my beams and stair treads. I am going to use it on the window seat today though, so more dark tung is happening, I promise.

So I ran a line of silicone over the top of the cabinets (to help adhere the countertop), hoisted the countertop up on top of the cabinets, and…



It turned out that there was a little tiny bit of stair runner wood that wasn’t perfectly flush with the rest of the runner, and that 1/8″ was enough to keep the counter from going in smoothly.

I tried my tried-and-true trick of “when in doubt, put a towel on it and bash it with a hammer”, which mostly works, but in this case just left me with a hole in the wall.

Double oops. And I cannot lie: there were definitely a few minutes where I was jabbing at the hole with a screwdriver hoping that if I made it bigger, the counter would slide down. Nope! So instead, I pulled the countertop off, put some wood filler in the hole in the wall and gave the countertop its first coat of tung oil.

Pretty! I have noticed that the lighter tung needs a bunch of coats to really sink in: you’ll see in the Day Two pictures that it looks lighter (because the first layer has soaked in). But ultimately, when it’s all saturated, it’ll look like it does here.

2) Fan, redux

Fan blades are up!

[Don’t tell anyone, but I am starting to dig this fan. It is so squatty and adorable!]

Also, I got some Howard’s Feed & Wax and went over the stair runners and beams, since I wanted a slightly shinier finish on them and they were getting pretty matte as they dried. I loooooove that Howard’s: I use it on furniture all the time, and I’m going to use it on the counters once they are all oiled up.

[ignore That Light]

Day Two! Jeff came down and helped me with Countergate. He ended up just cutting into the corner of the countertop, and once he did that, it fit perfectly. I sanded and painted the hole in the wall, we got the countertop on, and then, since he was there, we hooked up the sink and the faucet and got the plumbing all set. Hurrah! Here’s the finished product:

Gratuitous picture of my new on-demand hot water heater, which Jeff installed while I was gone. So tiny! So not an enormous tank!

Jeff also had a surprise for me: the countertop I bought was too wide for the cabinets (which I knew: it was in the Ikea as-is for half price, so I bought it), so Jeff cut it down, but then he used the scraps to make a little countertop for the other side (he just cut them down and glued/clamped them together). And it is gorgeous and perfect, and now I only have to buy one more 31″x25″ piece of countertop, so that saved me a hundred bucks. Doesn’t this look good? You would have no idea that it was made from scraps.

4) Then, we talked through the stair cubbies and horizontal bookshelves. Jeff took some measurements and is going to build the boxes for the cubbies while he’s recuperating: we’re making with doors on both sides so they’re accessible from under the stairs and also from the uprights of the stairs themselves (this will let me enclose that area if I want). I am going to build the bookshelves all by my lonesome, but I feel better about doing that now than I did before (today I have to measure and buy LOTS of lumber).

When Jeff left, I primed the uprights then painted them with a really heavy duty enamel paint (for ease of cleanup): it’s Benjamin Moore Advance, in the same color as the walls. It was super thick, almost ganache-like in texture, and it promises a very hard, durable surface, so I will let you know how it wears.

Primer: When You Want Things to Look Just a Little Bit Horrible


These guys will eventually be front doors for the stair cubbies. One of my projects for today is to measure and cut some of the leftover bamboo for the floor: that’s going to be the stair treads.

5) Upper cabinets!
OK, so here’s the thing: because the upper cabinets (which, if you recall, I felt pretty ‘meh’ about) are some kind of melamine/MDF inside,the holes from when they got screwed to the wall are pretty big and obvious (if you’ve ever tried to nail or screw a piece of Ikea furniture, you know what I mean.) This makes the cabinets functionally unreturnable, so now my options are a) move them to a different part of the house or b) work with them where they are. Right now I am going to give b) a shot, since no matter where I put them, I think I’ll want to paint them. So my plan now is to take the doors off, prime and paint them (I’m going to use the same white enamel I used for the stair uprights) and use them as open shelving: I think I am going to turn the one closest to the living room into a little bar shelf, which might actually be cool (I hope?) So I started by priming them. The primer is having a hard time adhering to the weird melamine, even though it’s all-surface primer, so I put one coat on and today I’m going to try another coat and see if that first coat helps the adhesion. They look bad now! Hopefully they will look better? We will see.



6) Backsplash!

So a few weeks ago when I was at Gersons, I saw a couple of packs of mosaic tiles (pretty cool ones: they’re natural stone and glass) for two bucks apiece. I didn’t know if I’d be able to use them or not, but I picked up six packs anyway since they were so cheap.

Cheap! Proof!

Once I got the counter on, I realized they’d fit almost perfectly between the countertop and the window frame. Yay! So I got some ceramic tile adhesive and glopped it on the back:

And started sticking them up! You’ll notice a little gap between the top of the tile and the window frame: that’s the almost perfect part. I might get some horizontal stone tiles to fill it in: I might also just decide not to worry about it, which seems easier 🙂

You will also notice that that gap seems to disappear as I put more tiles on. That….is true! And I don’t know why, except maybe something somewhere is crooked? Regardless, not worrying about it (maybe I will just fill that in with grout.)

When I got to the end part under the stairs, I had a little bit of room to fill in, but the tiles themselves were too big. However, I did have those little rows of glass tiles, and upon closer examination, they were all separate from each other and just held together with a little cloth backing. So I just got some scissors and cut them apart from the other stones:

And made a little triangle at the end! I AM BASICALLY EXACTLY LIKE MCGYVER, YOU GUYS.

I have to grout them still (I have never grouted anything before: it sounds…exciting?) and seal them, because they’re natural stone, but I am pretty pleased with it, and the whole thing, including the glue, cost $16.
And now I am heading back to do more projects. Think good thoughts in the direction of those cabinets!

Build: Day Nine

First off, in the battle of Me vs Door, the current (and probably final) score is Door: 1 Me: 0. I spent three straight evenings trying to get all the old paint off the door, only to discover at the very end that there were a couple of places where it had been patched and wood-filled. This jettisoned my plan to stain it–the patched sections would have been SUPER obvious–and so after all that work, I am just going to paint it again. Boo! It’s in the garage with a couple of coats of primer on it, and I am probably just going to paint it white since I have some white exterior paint left over from doing the floor. Why yes, that is the color that the door started (at least on one side): don’t rub it in. That said, if any of you guys come up with awesome ideas for more fun door colors that would look nice with dark blue, I am all ears.

In better news, I now have rafters on the whole roof, as well as roof boards! Jeff finished the siding while he was working by himself on Monday, so yesterday we started by putting on the flashing (it’s a moisture barrier that you put at the join between two horizontal siding panels).

Galvanized metal! How can you say no? If I can get some Cor-Ten steel in there somewhere, the house is going to be a very small ode to Richard Serra.DSC00254



And hey! you might have noticed those fancy roof panels in the picture! That’s because we spent most of the day cutting the beams for the back ceiling (over the loft), schlepping them up the ladder, then covering them with enormous panels of ply, also schlepped up the ladder. No in-process pictures of this, because I didn’t realize ’till I got down there that I’d only brought my telephoto lens (not useful for close house shots) and because of the aforementioned ‘carrying heavy things on ladders’.


I climbed up the ladder to take pictures from atop the roof, but couldn’t get them with only the telephoto. So all I managed was a couple of up-close shots of the elevated living room ceiling.



Laying on my back inside the houselet, looking up at the ceiling

Always nice to see this kind of stuff on your plywood! Formaldehyde-free since 2013!

Then, because the forecast calls for freezing rain (*shakes fist at sky), we tarped the top: Jeff said that if it rained, he’d just come down and work on the electrical indoors, no big deal. To which I responded, “Or you could just stay home and NOT be out in the freezing rain!”, but he just laughed that off because he is a crazy person.


Still stressing over paint color. What I found today is a) the Benjamin Moore paint covers beautifully and dries to a really pretty matte finish: definitely my leading contender for Brand of Paint, and b) the color, which is my favorite on the light side of the house, looks very grim on the dark side of the house. I still love it, but seeing it dry and on the shaded side gave me pause.

I don’t know if this will translate on your screens, but here it is on the light side:
DSC00250My shaded side comparison shot didn’t really turn out: I’ll try to get another today. But suffice to say, the warmer colors hold a lot more light on the shaded side (duh, I guess, but it took seeing it in person for me to really get that) and are a lot prettier in the shade, though I still contend they look too bright on the light side.

All of this stressing is because I am going to have to paint SOON, probably Friday if the weather is OK, because Jeff wants to get the trim up and that is going to be a lot easier if I paint first. Jeff, by the way, hates all the colors I’m considering (“they’re all so dark!”), and I can tell it’s going to break his heart a little to see his baby all clad in what he considers unsuitable colors (he says that if it were him, he’d go with a baby blue with white trim. Sorry, Jeff.)

Scrap pile! Still not enormous! Still lots of useable bits!

Rafter scraps. So pretty!

Fauxlarium, sided


Build: Day Six

Now that I have (nearly) all of my exterior walls finished up (waaaaaalls!), today was the day to start on the ceiling framing (we just did the front section of the house today). This was weirdly fun, even though it involved a LOT of sawdust in the eyes.  I have learned a ton from this build, but today was especially like OJT Woodworking School; this was in part because almost everything we did today had an identical copy of (we were framing two identical small ceiling sections), so the way things evolved is that Jeff did one thing, then I watched him and tried to duplicate what he did for the second thing. Fun! Jeff and I talk very little during the build (Jeff, who is a very nice guy, is nevertheless not a talker). Also, the generator is loud, and makes it hard for anybody to hear anybody. So we conducted a lot of today’s Intro to Ceiling Framing in mime: Jeff would do something, and then he would mutely hand me some wood and a pencil and a power tool and I would copy it. It was in this manner that I learned how to make rafters.

But before we even get to rafters, let’s talk ceiling beams! (sorry! FUNNEST BLOG EVER, right?)[Oh, PS: Sorry for the picture quality today: I realized when I got there that I’d left my camera’s battery in the charger at home, so all of these were taken with an elderly iPhone that features a half-busted LED.]


So apparently there are two ways you can go with beams: you can either get huge, heavy thick cut pieces of wood like you might see in a mead hall of the sort featured in an early Anglo-Saxon text called “How To Slaughter A Thousand Men in a Mead Hall”. Orrrr, if you’re working in primarily 2x4s (like we are), you can take two 2x4s, glue them together with hard core construction adhesive, fire a bunch of nails in them, and boom! instant beam! This has the benefit of still being strong without being so heavy that it takes out your entire ceiling (though they’re still pretty heavy: I was lifting them over my head all day and now my shoulders are mad at me.)

Step one: glue (this is Beam #1, which Jeff is doing, but I built Beam #2, go me!)

Step two: Nail

Step three: cut a little notch in the wall framing on both sides and slot the beam into that.



Step four: profit!

Dos beams (and one thumb)!

Actually, there’s a step 3.5 in there: cut down the temporary lintel over the door that held everything together, pre-beams. Once we cut it down, I put it to the side and said to Jeff, “I’ll just put this over here in case we have to fight any orcs”, which I am telling you about now because it ACTUALLY GOT A CHUCKLE OUT OF JEFF! This was the greatest accomplishment of my day.


Next, we cut the rafters, fourteen little ones that sloped down just on one side (for both eight foot ceilings) and seven bigger ones that sloped on both sides (for the 10 foot ceiling). Cutting rafters is so fun!

Jeff did a little measuring, then drew out a the shape he wanted the rafter to be on a 2×4 (you can just see that in the picture): he cut that shape out and then used it as a template for the rest of the rafters.


This went very fast. Here’s our pile-o-rafters:

Then we arranged them from the side of the house to the beam and nailed them in.

This all was done up on the ladder: when Jeff was installing his side, instead of putting one rafter up, coming down the ladder, moving the ladder, going back up with another rafter, etc., when he was done, he just kind of did a pull up on the ceiling beams, then I moved the ladder a few feet, then he pulled himself over a few feet monkey-style until he could get his feet back on the ladder. When it came time for me to install my side, I just went up and down the ladder a lot, because I found that that shit was way beyond me. Jeff is kind of a superstar. I didn’t leave him hanging on the ceiling so I could get a picture–that would have been unkind–but here’s some more monkey stuff up in the ceiling.


I believe in that picture he is tiptoeing on one foot on the ladder and has the other foot just braced somewhere in space. BEST CONTRACTOR/MOST INSANE CONTRACTOR!

Right set of rafters installed

Left set of rafters installed! (that is MY SIDE!)

Next, we had to build  the inner edges of the eight foot ceilings up a bit, so the rafters for the ten foot ceiling would have something to rest on. One of the best lessons I learned in Woodworking School today was that if you have a complicated section to frame out, especially if it’s anywhere higher than at eye level, it makes the most sense to build the section on the ground and then just lift it up and install it.

…which is why Jeff is building these little hold-the-ceiling-up boxes on the ground

Once that was built, we lifted it up above the eight foot ceiling (harder than it sounds!) and nailed it in

After that, we had a level base on which to place the bigger rafters (the ones that go over the ten foot ceiling.) See how they’re resting on the new box we built on the ground? Incidentally, I don’t know WTH Jeff is doing there, but it apparently involves some epic veins.

All three sets in!


[Does the ceiling make a little more sense now? I was having trouble really explaining it yesterday]

The whole shebang

And then we called it a day, because come on, that’s awesome.

Oh, also: I have had another failure in The Battle For Denim Insulation, which is that the lady from Craigslist that had a bunch of extra denim wrote me today and said they’d run into problems with their build and were actually going to be using all of their insulation after all. And of course, I could just buy it from an actual store, but that starts getting somewhat spendy. We’ll see how it goes; right now, I am trying hard to convince myself of the merits of rigid foam board. The labeling on the side is trying hard to convince me that it is awesome!

Which, whatever, foam board, I know that you are functionally non-recyclable and I do not care for that, though I do appreciate your relative paucity of toxic chemicals.

After the day’s fun ceiling action was over, I ran home, let the poor dogs out, threw some dogs in the car and headed up to Lumber Liquidators to help resolve my floor dilemma. I got lost in some crazy construction-related detours, ended up getting there five minutes after they closed, somehow persuaded the nice salesman to give me some samples anyway and then came home. I got samples of strand bamboo in dark, medium and light (I don’t know which specific finishes they are, since I didn’t want to make the poor guy hunt: I just asked for the first things he saw in dark, light and medium.) Had I gotten there on time, I also would have picked up some cork (which I’m considering for the floor in the loft), but as it was, I didn’t want to press my luck. Tomorrow, I am going to brush all the animals and see what their hair looks like on each of the floor samples (I may try to figure out how to get them to dig at the board too, just to gauge scratchability). Also, while the nice guy was getting me samples, I took a look at that tiger-stripe bamboo, which turns out to be a lot more subtle and pretty in person (it is interesting, but not nearly as HEY LOOKIT ME, I’M A FLOOR! as it appears in the picture.) Strong contender, I think!

Tomorrow is the last build day before Thanksgiving, which Jeff is remarkably taking off: we’re only working in the morning, but the plan is to frame the rest of the ceiling out (over the loft/kitchen/bathroom.) Yay house!