Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Eek! It's a Mouse in the House!

Last night, at the hour of midnight, we were awoken by the sound of chewing.

Gnaw Gnaw Gnaw,
Chew, Chew, Chew.

My husband rolled over and said, "Is that a mouse?"
We tapped on the wall, and the sound silenced.

Four hours later, we were again awoken to the sound of chewing.

Gnaw Gnaw Gnaw,
Chew, Chew, Chew.

Again, tapping on the wall silenced the interloper.

When I awoke at 6 am, there was that unmistakable sound again.

Gnaw Gnaw Gnaw,
Chew, Chew, Chew.

We have mice.

I took a trip to store and bought 2 live traps and a Pest-a-cator 2000. Hopefully, we will catch the mice in the walls in the live traps, and drive any we don't catch out with the Pest-a-cator.

First, a nice dollop of peanut butter in the bait tray.
Then, trap placed along wall.

Then, we wait. I hope we catch them. I plan on releasing them on the banks of the canal down the street, which is likely where they came from, looking for warmth and food. I bet they LOVED the peppermint bark!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Peppermint Bark! (and yes, it's related to home improvement)

I was inspired by Aimee at Aimee's Blog to make peppermint bark. It looked like such a good (and easy) idea for coworker gifts. Her pictures make it look truly elegant and scrumptious, too.

My own made-up recipe:
2 bags (24 ounces) of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 bars (12 ounces) of Ghirardelli white chocolate
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
18 Candy Canes

First, I smashed the candy canes with the hammer wrapped in tinfoil. The best tool for the job, I must add. I love my hammer. This was FUN! (Hint: Don't crush fingers... only candy canes)
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Then, I melted the chocolate chips in the microwave on 50% heat. Start with 1:30, and then stir. If it's not melted, heat for :30 and stir again. Repeat until creamy. Add 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract.
Smear (I love that word) the chocolate all over a tinfoil lined baking sheet and chill for an hour.
Then, melt the white chocolate (same process as above). Stir in 1/4 tsp peppermint extract and the crushed candy canes and smear over the hardened dark chocolate. Chill overnight.
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In the morning, use your HAMMER to break the peppermint bark into pieces.
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I wrapped the peppermint bark in candy boxes and tied a pretty gift tag on for decoration:
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How is this home improvement related? It uses a hammer, of course!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Before and After the Fence...

Before: (Last year in 3 feet of snow)
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After: (This morning in 1 foot of snow)
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The dogs LOVE the fence. LOVE it. Happy snow day!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Color Choices and Beadboard?

The very first home improvement project we undertook when we bought this house was to paint the bathroom. We attempted to paint the walls the same grey color we thought the tub tile was... except, when that color covers entire walls it's actually a lavender/blue shade.

My bathroom in it's current purply-blue and white glory:

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We would love to paint a different color. We are thinking one of the shades below.. probably the second or third saturation level.

The great part about #1 is that it is from the same tint family as the living room and bedrooms. The living room is the lightest color on the swatch, and the bedrooms are one color lighter. It might make a nice visual connection between the bathroom and the rest of the house to stay in that family. Of course, the green in #3 is nice, too and the chocolate in #4 just makes me hungry!

Suggestions of different colors are more than welcome...

Also on a slightly different note, I've been toying with the idea of adding white beadboard around the bottom of the bathroom and just painting the upper portion the above color choice. It's a small space and wouldn't cost much. Would it be too much of a contrast/too white?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More Bathroom Plans...

Our bathroom is coming together. We are a backwards sort of people, so we did the floor first. Here are more plans:

This window in the shower needs to go. It is rotting, and covered with a small piece of vinyl shower curtain. Definitely not attractive.

The plan?
To replace the window with glass blocks.

The problems?
The window is 24 inches wide. Glass blocks are 8 inches wide. If I put 3 blocks in the window, there is no room for mortar. Also, it is 35 inches tall. What should I use to fill the gap? Must research this further.

I HATE the tub surround tile. It is fake marble. FAKE, FAKE, FAKE. So fake that you can SEE the pixelation from the printer that created the pattern. Each tile is exactly the same, too.
Even WORSE than the fake marble tile is the accent tile. It is a baby blue/slate grey concoction that gives the appearance of being rope.
They do not match our bathroom at all.

The plan?
To carefully chip out the blue accent tile and replace it with slate tiles cut to fit. I'm trying to decide whether to do long pieces of slate or short (1 inch) pieces of slate.

Our bathroom needs more storage.

The plan?
I am going to build two extensions to the vanity that will fill in the area between the vanity and the wall. They sell cabinet doors for fairly cheap, so I will be able to match the existing doors.
I'm going to put marble countertops on top of the two units, to "match" the fake marble shower surround.
I want them to look different than the existing white counter, since they will never look like "part" of it.

Fourth through Seventh:
Replace the shower curtain and rod.
Finish the doors.
Finish the molding and trim.
Paint and texture.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What in the World IS My House- Part 2

Thank you all for your wonderful comments! I am a few steps closer to figuring out this house's origins and style.

This comment from LisaCarol of NunkProTunk's houses sent me off on a google search to search "pyramidal roof vernacular". I found many houses that looked similar, but lacked the "flat" top and centered chimney/vent. They were generally rectangular in shape, as well. Very close, but not quite!

A few of you suggested a cottage style might be more correct. I searched for "pyramid cottage" and found this picture, courtesy of the Park City (Utah) Historical Society and Museum:

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Pyramid cottage
"Named for its characteristic pyramid roof, the pyramid
cottage is described as a four room square building with
a pyramid roof and front porch."
Information from: Deborah Lyn Randall, Park
City Utah: An Architectural History of Mining Town Housing, 1869
to 1907
It's my house on the outside! The porch is a little larger, but everything from the flat topped pyramidal roof to the two windows and the simple porch columns is the same. The floor plan is quite similar, also. Our house does not have an entrance hall and the left two rooms are open to each other. There is also a small bathroom tucked between the right two rooms. I will be interested to see if we see signs of previous walls in those places when we re-floor. There is a square "inset" in the middle of the house, as noted in the floor plan above, as well. This is where our furnace and hot water heater are. I think we might have found a match!

I wanted to find out more information about this house style in Colorado. I expanded my search to include hipped roof houses as well as pyramidal houses and cottages. The houses are very common in railroad, mining, and timber towns of the west.

From the City of Longmont's Historical Preservation, Planning, and Development Services: (all emphasis is mine)
Vernacular Wood Frame
By far the most common style of architecture, vernacular wood frame structures have been built throughout Colorado since 1860. With an absence of architectural features and ornamentation that can distinguish a specific style, these simple, modest homes are divided into types according to floor plan and roof shapes.

The hipped box is a small, one-story structure with hipped roof and usually a front porch. These structures are commonly confused with the more elaborate classic box (Four Square) or Bungalow. Ornamentation is the key to distinguishing between these styles. The hipped box has no decorative elements.
So my house is now a hipped box. BUT WAIT! A survey on history buildings by the city of Pagosa Springs states this:
...the “Hipped Box” classification... is a building type, rather than an architectural style. Hipped Box type buildings are simple one story square (or close to square) buildings with pyramidal hipped roofs. They may have a small covered entry or stoop, but they do not have porches
mmmmm... time to do more research, this time at the library to settle these contradictory statements. I'm hoping to find out more information about the earliest occupants, and possibly even information about the original existence or absence of a front porch.

It is pretty clear that it isn't a classic cottage, as those have a dormer and are generally longer.

Conclusion: My house is either classified as a pyramidal cottage, a hipped box, a pyramidal box, or a hipped cottage. OR... all four are right.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Our Faucet Find

We went to Habitat for Humanity ReStore the other day to browse and LOOK at what I found!
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It was $15, and just perfect for our bathroom! It is a perfect replacement for the cheap builder's special faucet that was previously on our sink. It is a new faucet, never used... the "display" faucet from a local big box store. I love the ceramic handles. I hate our sink (but it's new)... this small change helps me like it a lot more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Our New Slate Floors

This weekend we installed the slate in our bathroom. It took us 2 days from start to our current stopping point. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that my previous mistake was not noticable on the installed floors.

How to install slate on top of HardiBacker:
1) Dry lay the tiles to make sure they fit. The rubber spacers they sell were somewhat useless with the inconsistent shape of the tiles, so we didn't use them.
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2) Use a diamond blade to cut the stone. We dry-cut using a diamond blade on a jigsaw for the detail cuts (such as the circle around the toilet) and a diamond blade on a circular saw for cutting the long straight cuts.
Hints: The jigsaw cuts a nice, smooth, even and nice-looking line, with little to no breakage and crisp edges. The circular saw, on the other hand splintered the edges of the tiles, and chipped off a considerable amount of stone. We used it only for edges that would be hidden.
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3) We used a rapid setting mortar so that our toilet (only one in the house) would be usable before sundown. I spread it on the floor with an old rubber spatula and used a 1/2 inch trowel to create those "grooves" in the mortar. After 4 hours, we were able to replace the toilet/
Hints: A drill with a mixing paddle makes quick work of the required 5 minutes of mixing.
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5) We installed the grout using sandwich baggies to "pipe" the grout into the cracks. We did this because we are inexperienced at grouting.
Hints: Use lots of warm soapy water to clean up... and wipe every tile at least three times to remove the excess grout.
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The finished and dry grout lines. The grout looks darker in real life; it is about the color of cement.
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The finished floor!

What and Where and How Much?
  • Laticrete Tri-Poli Sanded Grout- Habitat for Humanity ReStore- $2
  • Ultra Flex Thinset Mortar- All About Floors- $18
  • 1/2 inch trowel- Habitat for Humanity ReStore- $1.25
  • Diamond Blade for jigsaw- Lowes- $5
  • Sponges- Grocery Store- $2
  • Slate Tile- Craigslist- $30
  • Sealer- Habitat for Humanity ReStore- $2
  • Hardibacker- Freecycle and Lowes- $30
  • 1/4 inch trowel- Habitat for Humanity- $2
  • Wax Rings for Toliet- Home Depot- $5
Total Cost for Bathroom Floor: $104.25

Our New Dishwasher

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What in the World IS My House?

I have no idea what the architectural classification of my house is. None. I've puzzled over this for quite some time. It doesn't help, of course, that ANYTHING original (except the windows) was removed sometime between 1950 and 1980. So, there are few interior clues.

What I know...
  • It was built in 1911.
  • It sits on a street with 7 other houses that all have the same shape and floorplan (but different construction). There are probably 100 of this house in my city... and I've seen them in other places, as well. We even looked at 2 other versions before buying this one. Some of those houses have Victorian accents, some have very simple accents, some even have Craftsman-esque accents. Some are brick, some are clapboard, some are asbestos (like mine).
  • It was originally a square. A small square, with about 700 square feet, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room and kitchen.
  • The house is laid out with a living room/kitchen open space on one side, and the two bedrooms and bathroom (in between the bedrooms) on the other.

Any ideas? I would love to have them!

Refinishing Mahogany Doors

A while ago, we went to Raven Architectural Artifacts in LaSalle. The owners showed us some mahogany veneered solid doors they had accidentally left outside... the finish was peeling, and there was some weather damage to the veneer. They offered them to us for $25 each, so we bought all three. The color is beautiful, and they had original hardware and crystal doorknobs. The finish is very thin, too, and came off quite easy!

These doors were all from the university's 1930's faculty apartments... the apartments were turned into dorms around 2001, and so were gutted of anything nice.


This door is back in business, as it is going to be the bathroom door in just a few days. It was a closet door in a former life, and so has a full length mirror (in excellent condition) inbedded into it on one side.

We originally stripped this door with a "gentle finish remover". A couple hours, 2 eye masks, 4 pieces of 00 steel wool, and 2 pairs of rubber gloves later, the finish was stripped. We plan to use a random orbit sander to complete the next two.
Yesterday, I spent the day gluing some peeling veneer back into place. I used rubber tipped clamps to hold the wood in place while gluing.
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I also used #18 5/8 inch brads to reattach the molding that was holding the mirror into the other side. I need to go buy a small finishing hammer to complete the job, as whacking at the tiny nails beside a mirror was a bit like being an elephant in a china shop.
Today, I may refinish. I may not. The door is incredibly heavy, and I can't lift it myself. But, I may try!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Intalling Hardibacker! YEAH!

We spent Saturday installing Hardiebacker on the floors and walls in preparation for slate. This job went a little better than the sealing!

First, I had to uninstall EVERYTHING. Everything includes the sink and toilet and baseboard. This is the ONLY bathroom in the house... what was I THINKING?
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Our new kitchen chair
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Removing the sink
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This is what the walls look like underneath the baseboards.

First, we cut out the drywall six inches from the floor to accommodate the new cement board. I discovered an old mouse nest, complete with book order forms from the 1980's, a business card for a plumber, and the original floor to the next room, hidden under plywood and carpet.

Then, we cut the HardieBacker into 6 inch strips.
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Kirby helped cut with the utility knife
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The utility knife version of cutting HardieBacker (score and snap) was essentially useless and time consuming. We had much better luck with a diamond blade attached to our jigsaw. (I LOVE our jigsaw).

After cutting and dry-laying everything, we spread thinset with a 1/4 trowel, laid the HardieBacker on top, and then screwed it down every 4 inches or so, according to the directions. I'm reading directions more carefully these days.

We then replaced the toilet, flushed it, and... WAIT! There's water EVERYWHERE!
After a quick last minute trip to Home Depot 5 minutes before closing for a new wax ring, we have a working toilet!

The (somewhat) finished product...
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To be finished this week!

Tips and Hints:
  • Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThis is the best tool. It does EVERYTHING! I used it to scrape caulk.
  • Don't cut the hardiebacker inside. The dust is caustic. It HURTS!
  • When a screw doesn't "screw", don't keep trying and strip the ONLY drill bit you have that fits those screws, forcing yet another trip to Home Depot.
  • Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketDon't force the HardieBacker into any tight spots. It will break. You will cry, since it is $10 a sheet. Then, you will pretend you never broke it, and lay it down anyway.
  • Always replace the wax ring on a toilet whenever you mess with the floor height. Even if it is only 1/4 inch!
Where is it from?
  • Hardibacker- Freecycle and Lowes
  • Thinset- All About Floors (a local tile shop)
  • Diamond blade- Lowes
  • Wax toilet ring and drill bits- Home Depot
  • HardiBacker- $20
  • Thinset- $18
  • Diamond Blade- $5
  • Wax Ring- $5
  • Drill Bits- $2

What Have I DONE?

My beautiful slate! It's watermarked and stained! If you remember, last week I sealed the slate with a penetrating sealer. Apparently, I didn't follow the directions well enough, because this happened!

The directions call for pouring the sealer on, waiting 10 minutes, and wiping the excess off. This seemed like a huge waste of sealer, and somewhat impossible with individual tiles, so I opted to brush it on a few times, wait until the stone was no longer soaking sealer up, and then wipe off the excess sealer. That's what I get for not following instructions!

I have bought a bottle of sealer REMOVER. The current plan is to install the tile as-is, and then treat the whole floor with sealer remover. Then, re-apply the sealer using the EXACT instructions! Sigh.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Look at all the Energy we SAVED!!!

One of the first things we did to our house was install a programmable thermostat. We chose this Honeywell 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat. $30 later...

This is what we set the thermostat to:
Year 1: 62º (No programmable thermostat)
Year 2: 62º During the Day, 54º at Night and While Gone

Table 1, Monthly Therm Usage

Year 1, Year 2
October: 47 Therms, 30 Therms
November: 24 Therms, 19 Therms
December: 96 Therms, 75 Therms
January: 113 Therms, 63 Therms
February: 69 Therms, 71 Therms
March: 72 Therms, 50 Therms

Average: 70.16, 51.33
Total: 421 Therms, 308 Therms

Table 2, Monthly Outside Temperature

Year 1, Year 2
October: 53º, 56º
November: 44º, 46º
December: 32º, 29º
January: 29º, 38º
February: 37º, 29º
March: 39º, 36º

Average: 39º, 39º

We saved 19 therms a month, simply by installing a programmable thermostat! Installing the thermostat took about 20 minutes of our lives. WELL worth it! We have definitely saved our $30 many times over.

Cost: $30

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sealing the Slate

Our bathroom is getting new floors! Goodbye, peeling and cracking blue vinyl... HELLO SLATE! I have been gathering slate for this project for a few months. It's nice... blues, beiges, and greys. But, before I can install it I need to seal it with sealer so that the grout will not stick to it. I am NOT a good grouter, so this is a preventative measure.

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Notice the nifty picnic table workbench... it is incredibly useful! The pallets I have gathered to make compost piles (what a slacker) were useful, too. And, maybe when I'm done I can compost all of those LEAVES in them!

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To seal the slate, I used a penetrating sealer, brushed on with an old paint brush. I have put two coats on. It's pretty hard to keep the sealer off of the edges of the tiles... I am hoping that a little sandpaper on the edges before installing will help prevent any problems!

I found the sealer... TileLab SurfaceGard Penetrating Sealer at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $2 yesterday. It was full, and looks hardly used. There are so many jars, bottles, and cans of such things there, from people who buy it for the 1 tablespoon they need and then donate it.

Where is it from?
  • Slate $30
  • Sealer $2

The Great Kitchen Remodel- 70% done

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Notice the white Melamine lower cabinets...
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...the window into the laundry room, the badly painted wood upper cabinets, the formica countertop...
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...the impromptu "pantry" cabinet and appliance shelf and aging white refridgerator.

After 70% of the work:
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What we did:
First, we painted the whole kitchen a nice brick red. It's actually a brown color, but it looks so red! (Hint: Paint AFTER you rip down the old cabinets, not before)
Then, we ripped down all of the existing cabinets. And then we stared at the mess we created!
(hint: ALWAYS use screws to put up cabinets. It makes life so much easier on those who will take them out in 20 years!)

We decided that it would be better to remove the huge window above the sink altogether. This window is on a wall that use to be an exterior wall... and taking that window out took 2 days of carefully hacking away at that exterior wall, and then carefully prying out the NAILS that held it in (ALWAYS USE SCREWS!). Actually framing in the new stained glass window, drywalling, and painting took just a couple hours.
Putting the new cabinets up was much easier than carefully ripping down the old ones.
  • MEASURE THREE TIMES before drilling the holes. We have quite a few random holes in the back of our cabinets to fill because the studs "moved" on us.
  • Use good clamps to hold the cabinets together.
  • Take the doors off first... it really is easier to install a cabinet without doors.
Where did it all come from?
  • Cabinets- Came from a wholesaler in Denver. We searched for about a year for salvaged cabinets that fit our measurements and our requirements, and unfortunately were unable to find any. They are Merillat Cabinets... the cheapest they make, in maple.
  • Microwave-Freecycle
  • Refrigerator- My in-laws. They remodeled their house this past summer, and bought new stainless steel appliances. We got their old almond fridge WITH ICEMAKER! It matches the existing almond and black stove.
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  • My gorgeous kitchen light that I drooled over for months- Lowe's... on clearance the week we were redoing the kitchen!
  • Pot Rack- Pier One (a gift card purchase)
  • Table- My in-laws again!
  • Jigsaw- Pawn shop
  • Stained Glass Window- Ebay
  • Nails, screws, drywall, drywall tape, shims, spackle, paint- Lowes
  • Cabinets $1450
  • Ceiling Light $45
  • Above Sink Light $15
  • Jigsaw $10
  • Drywall, Screws, Nails, Studs, Shims, Trim, etc-$40
  • Stained Glass Window $50
  • Microwave, Fridge, Table, Chairs- FREE
  • Paint $20
Total: $1630

But it's only 70% done... what is left?

We have granite countertops to make, using a salvaged countertop. This will require us to get up off the couch, drive down to Denver, and use the shop. Here's a picture of the granite... notice the dark red crystals in it (same color as the walls).
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We also have flooring. Should have done that first. Post about the flooring (which isn't done yet) soon. Hindsight is so 20/20!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Drip Bowls!

Our lovely black and almond Amana stove just got a facelift! The old stainless steel drip bowls were very nasty and stained from years of abuse. I went to Home Depot and found BLACK drip bowls that look ever so nice with the black front and black control unit on the oven. I am going to scrub and freecycle the old ones. Sometimes it's the most simple things that make me happy!
Cost: $16
Waste: 4 Nasty drip bowls, hopefully recycled in some way