Living room is coming together!

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Living room almost ready for living! Just need to install baseboards, window trim crown, & finish the entryway white wall 

Our living room is SOOOOO close to being finished, which means we are DAYS away from putting furniture in the room and having a place to sit down!! I feel like a kid the night before Christmas…I’m so excited that I can almost feel those soft sofa cushions under my butt. You see, we have not had anywhere to sit since we purchased the house except for two hard kitchen chairs the previous owner left behind. When we moved in last month, we added three plastic folding chairs to sit at our island, but we still didn’t have anywhere to lounge or relax at the end of the day. We’ve been waiting to bring our living or dining room furniture into the house on a few outstanding, dust-producing tasks to get done.

But it’s a three-day weekend which means WE ARE GOING TO DO ALL THE THINGS!! Now that the plumber has replaced an old pipe we discovered in the front entryway wall and ceiling, we are going to close it up and paint it! Then we will install baseboard trim and re-finish the trim around our entryway door and two front windows.

Jeremy and I are already experts at installing baseboard trim because last weekend we installed a ton of it in our living and dining rooms. We only have a few pieces left to install after we finish the previously mentioned front wall.

How to Install Baseboard Trim

Difficulty level: Easy

Compared to some of the other tasks we’ve done, installing baseboard trim is pretty easy. We had to buy two power tools to get it done, but we think they’ll come in very handy when we tackle the basement renovation later this year.

Step 1: Measure wall

We bought extra long baseboards to ensure a single piece could reach from one side of the room to the other. We didn’t want any seams showing in the baseboard. I keep yelling “million dollar house!” and these details are how we’re gonna get there (I’m partially kidding).  We measured each length of wall that would need a piece of baseboard and accounted for the 45-degree angle cut the saw would make. The goal was to make perfect, 90-degree corners at each inside or outside corner.

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Step 2: Measure and cut the baseboard

We bought a 10-inch miter saw to cut wood at a 45-degree angle. Unfortunately the blade was not big enough to cut through our 7.5-inch tall baseboards…which we learned the hard way. The saw only cut through about 6 inches of the board and then we manually cut the rest with a tiny baby saw called a coping saw. I wouldn’t recommend this process but we didn’t have any alternative.

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This step was confusing because we had measured the wall but didn’t know HOW to account for the 45-degree cut at the end. After a bunch of trial and error, we figured out where to cut the boards to create nice looking corners. Not all of our corners are perfect, but hopefully our friends and family won’t be crawling around looking for slight gaps at each corner. Plus, step # 4 mostly made up for this problem

Step 3: Nail the suckers in

We bought an AWESOME new, light-weight nail gun for this project, instead of renting an old, big, heavy one from the hardware store. It is so much easier to use and got the job done so fast. We nailed the baseboards into studs located behind the wall. We were lucky there were studs integrated into the plaster/brick walls, otherwise we’d have to use liquid nails which is a fancy word for super sticky glue, which is a lot more stressful to work with. We used our feet to push the baseboard close to the wall, then nailed those suckers in!

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Step 4: Caulk the seams and edges

To hide any gaps, Jeremy used his trusty caulk gun to caulk the seams and edges along the top and corners of the baseboards. At each corner, he applied caulk BEFORE nailing it in place, to achieve a fully sealed-looking corner. For those corners that did not achieve a perfect 90-degree angle, I applied wood filler in the gaps to manually create the look of a sharp corner.

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Step 5: Put wood filler in nail holes and any dings, then sand

To make the baseboards look flawless, I crawled around filling all the nail holes and dings with wood filler. Baseboards are not made from solid wood–they’re super light weight so they’re easy to handle but they ding at the slightest touch! The wood filler dries very quickly, then I sanded it flat to create a smooth surface

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Wood filler in the nail holes, before I sanded it flat

Step 6: Paint, then paint again!

We applied two coats of super white paint in semi-gloss. and BAM, we suddenly have a livable space.

We’ve been sanding the trim around our two windows, and Jeremy is cobbling together a new set of window trim for a window in the back of the house from scraps we saved during demo. I’ll post more on that once it’s done. For now, keep your fingers crossed for a productive weekend that will end in me sitting on a couch!

Rage and tears on move-in day

We interrupt your regularly scheduled and curated DIY content to give you some real talk about home renovations: it is hard and stressful and anxiety-ridden. Today I’m going to be honest about some of the harder aspects of our renovation, especially in light of the fact that we moved out of Liz and Harry’s house before Christmas and have settled into our half-finished home.

We decided to move into our house after one bedroom and the guest bathroom were fully finished and our kitchen was almost fully installed. We moved in the week of Christmas and spent two nights in our home before traveling for 5 days to visit friends and go to a wedding in other states. When we arrived back to our house after 5 days away, I immediately lost my shit and burst into tears.  You see, we have worked on our house almost every day since August 15th, but we always had Liz and Harry’s warm and welcoming home as a safe-haven to retreat to each night. I feel like we have pushed ourselves out of the nest and barely know how to fly . But we wanted to move into our home when it became livable so now was the time.

In addition to feeling scared to live in a half-finished construction zone, I’m extremely upset with a major purchase we made that is impossible to un-do. I am fully unsatisfied with our new hardwood floors. I cannot believe how easily they dent and scratch. I feel rage pumping through my body every time I notice a new dent (which is constant), yet we are stuck with the floors now that they’ve been installed and our kitchen was placed on top of them.  The hard learned lesson that I impress upon all of you is NEVER to buy Birch floors. We had told the salesman our two priorities when selecting our new flooring were price and durability. He sold us garbage and I will never forgive him! But now I need to learn to embrace the “distressed” and scratched look, because it will be that way for the rest of time.

Finally, I am realizing that my beloved blue kitchen cabinets that I hand painted are very susceptible to dings and scratches. Cue more rage flowing through my body. I thought the expensive Benjamin Moore Advance paint (which is specifically marketed for painting cabinetry) would be durable enough but it is obviously not. So now I need to remove all the doors and hardware, and cover with a polyurethane seal. I’d prefer to wait until spring when the weather is warmer but then I run the risk of many more dings and scratches that would need to be painted over. UGH UGH UGH!! All I can say it thank GOD Jeremy has such a positive attitude, because if we were both miserable about these issues, our household would not be a happy place.

Besides being scared to live in an unfinished home and feeling frustrated at the floor and cabinets, I’m proud to say that our house looks pretty incredible. It’s only half done, but we have really brought it such a long way since we purchased it in the summer. We have a ton of work to accomplish this month, including installing the baseboard trim around the first level of the house, installing the toilet, sink, walls, and paint the soon-to-be new powder room, and put up walls and a ceiling in the back bonus room. Every week there is progress, and I have to keep reminding myself to control the tears and rage and look on the positive side.

The staircase makeover

before and after

Our staircase has undergone a major makeover. When we bought the house, the stairs were looking a little droopy– it was pulling away from the wall at each step to reveal a half inch gap at each tread, plus some treads were loose. The post and banister were extremely wobbly to the touch and clearly could not support someone leaning on it. Further, the wood steps looked pretty rough, and the banister and post had been worn down almost to raw wood. To make matters worse, someone wrote on the gorgeous post in sharpie (why!?) and the sealant was all bubbly and discolored.

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Before: faded, worn down, and sad!
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Someone defiled the beautiful post with sharpie!
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The 1/2 inch gap at each tread due caused by drooping stairs.

We knew we wanted the original stairs to be a beautiful statement piece immediately upon entering the home, so we got some quotes from floor refinishers on how much it would cost to fix her up. Let me tell you–it is NOT cheap. The estimates ranged from $3800 to pure insanity. These companies claim that it’s super expensive to refinish banisters and spindles, and recommended painting the whole thing white. We did NOT want to sacrifice the beautiful wooden details on our staircase, so we decided to tackle the project ourselves!

Task 1: Fix wobbly post and loose treads

Jeremy used a nail gun to literally nail the wobbly post back into a secure, immobile position. It was much easier than we expected. Our plan B that we didn’t resort to would have required us to install an L-bracket and cover it with baseboard molding like this:

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He also nailed the lose treads down so they don’t wobble on each step anymore! With just several nails, he was able to stabilize the entire staircase and avoid many thousands of dollars of work that several contractors had quoted us! The lesson here is ALWAYS try a simple fix first, before shelling out the big bucks.

Task 2: Re-stain banister and posts

We decided to remove what remained of the original stain and start over, to ensure consistent color throughout the entire banister and 3 posts. First, we stripped the stain off using Citristrip (which is a horribly messy process). Then we conditioned the raw wood to prepare it to take on the new stain. Then we applied to new stain (in red mahogany) in two coats. Finally, I applied four coats of polyurethane to seal the whole thing up. At this point in October, we haven’t turned the heat on yet to avoid construction dust infiltrating our HVAC system, so it took a long time for each step to dry properly.

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The freshly restored banister after the stain and 4 coats of polyurethane dried!

Task 3: Paint stringer and spindles

Unfortunately, it is simply too labor and time intensive to re-stain the spindles and wall stringer (a.k.a. the baseboard), so we have decided to go the route that many renovated row houses in DC do and paint them white. We will still have the beautiful wooden panel below the staircase in all it’s original stained-wood glory. These are the difficult trade-offs that we have to make since we are trying to do most of the work ourselves.  We primed and painted the baseboard trim, wall stringer, and the spindles to match the rest of the trim in our house (Benjamin Moore Super White). We were careful to not paint the steps white, but didn’t worry TOO much since we knew they’d be sanded and refinished the next week.

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Painting the spindles white
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We don’t look happy because painting spindles is NO FUN

Task 4: Paint wall

Around the same time, we painted the wall a beautiful dark blue. We decided to go with Champion Cobalt–a gorgeous deep blue that will also be the color of our kitchen cabinets. I had studied Emily Henderson’s rules for incorporating “Modern Victorian” style into my home, and I think I *nailed it* with this deep, moody blue.

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Newly painted wall, spindles and stringer (baseboard).

I painted the small, triangle-shaped wall under the staircase after we moved into the house, and Olive thought she could help somehow.

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We plan to install the baseboard trim next week

Task 4: Refinish steps

After completing the above steps, we had the treads and risers professionally refinished to bring them back to their glory. We had them stained red mahogany to match the banister and post. We decided not to refinish the floors ourselves for various reasons, but I’ll always wonder if we could have done it ourselves with the same lovely result.

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Our beautiful staircase has come back to life!

Task 5: Caulk the gap

We don’t know if we need to caulk the gap at each step anymore, as it is no longer such an eyesore. Perhaps we will wait til the spring to decide what to do.

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The gap at each step is still there but somehow less obvious

For now, we LOVE our staircase. It was worth the work to refinish it ourselves, and will hopefully bring beauty to this house for another hundred years.

How to put an outlet in a brick wall

You know that class in third grade science where you learn how to make a circuit? The one with the light bulb attached to a battery? Well that’s the last time I thought about how electricity works. So when Jeremy said “we can do it ourselves!” about installing new outlets in our house, I thought he was insane. Nevertheless, he persisted. This man was relentless in his pursuit of our new outlets.

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Figuring out where the outlets should go in our island

When the electricians told him it was impossible to install an outlet on our brick wall, he said “I will prove them wrong!” And prove them wrong he did.

When the guy at the hardware store told us to just hire a handyman and that we ‘wouldn’t want to buy any more tools,’ Jeremy said “screw him, I’m buying an oscillating saw!”

When I said let’s just hire someone to cut a hole in our kitchen island to install an outlet for appliances, he said “we can do it ourselves!”

And dammit, he DID do it. Jeremy is the most determined person in the world and meets these challenges head on. He views new tasks as learning opportunities and genuinely does learn from them. My career as an electrician may have ended in third grade, but Jeremy’s is just getting started.

We knew we wanted to install new outlets on the main floor of our house to comply with code and provide enough grounded, 3-prong outlets necessary for modern life. But most of our walls are brick, making it difficult to install the electric boxes that are normally hiding behind drywall in newer homes. So Jeremy bought a chisel and hammered away at the brick, chipping out a line for the wire and a rectangle for the box to sit in.

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He slapped some wet compound in the whole and squished the box in, letting it dry and cement in place. Then he compounded over the chiseled out area to hide it from sight—three layers of compound with sanding in between each one.

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Applying compound cement to cover the chipped out area
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Compounding over the holes

Now it’s nicely painted and you’d never know all the work that went into it!

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Final product! (Minus the baseboard trim)

As for getting an outlet in our island, he drilled a hole through the floor and pulled the wires up through the floor (we had asked our electrician to “rough in” the wires a month ago for this purpose–the wires were chilling in our basement, dangling from the rafters). Then he sawed a rectangular hole into the side panel of our island and installed an outlet in it!

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Using our brand new oscillating saw to cut a hole for the outlet
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So proud of our new outlet on the side of our island!

Now all we have to do is get the countertop installed and cover the outlet with a plate and BAM! We have a fully functioning island. Oh did I mention he did the same thing for the power to our dishwasher and garbage disposal?

I happily sat this one out but I certainly learned a lot about how electricity works!

Painting our kitchen cabinets

 

For our kitchen, we bought the cabinet frames from IKEA to keep the budget under control, but opted to purchase the door fronts from a higher-end vendor called Semihandmade. I had discovered this company a year ago and was so intrigued by their business model. They design high quality, real-wood doors that exactly fit all IKEA kitchen cabinets, for clients who want an affordable kitchen from IKEA but desire a higher-end, more custom look. We opted for the DIY option, which meant they’d delivered raw, unfinished cabinet doors that we could paint whatever color we desired. This option was appealing for several reasons: 1) obviously the budget–it was the least expensive product they sell and 2) I didn’t love their color options (they only had about 10 color options that were all very neutral) and was interested in picking the PERFECT color that was just right for me.

Well let me tell you, painting these doors was a WAY greater endeavor than I could have expected. I had read blog after blog of other women who had painted the DIY cabinets themselves but no one ever mentions how time consuming it is, or how heavy these doors are! I opted to apply one layer of primer and then two layers of color.  But since I could only paint one side at a time, that was essentially 6 rounds of spray painting. We decided to use a paint sprayer instead of a brush for a more even application of the paint.

We received the cabinets on November 9th, and had until December 12th when our kitchen was scheduled to be installed to finish all six rounds of spraying. We were limited to days when the weather was not windy, rainy, or snowy (since the spraying was in the back yard), and of course we had to start before 2 PM to beat the early winter sunset. We had less than 5 weeks. Could we make the deadline? We sure were going to try!

November 11: I borrowed the paint spraying gun from our trusted handyman and set to work on the first round of primer. I set up our two saw horses with 2X4s and immediately realized I would need a WAAAAAY larger staging area to paint all 37 individual pieces of wood doors, trim, and panels.

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After a LOT of troubleshooting, I started the first round with primer in the sprayer. I had to get the top of each door, plus the sides. The paint sprayer was a bit fussy and sometimes shot out a large glob of paint. To avoid this, I added water to thin the primer. It took me about an hour to do all 37 pieces, and I cursed SO many times I was afraid of what the neighbors thought. But I learned a lot that first round. We brought the doors inside after a few hours to finish drying.

November 19: I did the same set-up and spray painted the other side of each door with primer. This time was a bit easier since I had already painted the edges, I only had to cover the tops of each piece this time. Plus I applied the lessons I learned in the first round: thin the primer a lot so it’s almost the consistency of whole milk; hold a paper towel below the nozzle to catch those hated paint drips; never let the canister reach near-empty levels.

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November 21: I had the day before thanksgiving off of work and thankfully the weather was a sunny 48 degrees, so I hauled each piece into the back yard yet again for the first round of color application! We selected Benjamin Moore Advance Paint, which is meant for kitchen cabinets–it’s a more expensive paint but it dries extra hard for added durability and longevity. I selected the same dark blue color as our staircase wall, Champion Cobalt, so that once the kitchen is installed, the entire south wall of our home will be the same color.

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First application of the blue paint

November 24: On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my aunt and uncle came over and, like champs, helped to sand down any bumps and paint drips on the doors. Unfortunately some paint dripped down the sides during my previous application and resulted in small pools of paint along the edges. Cardinal and Joanie are professional handymen on boats in Annapolis, so they arrived just when I needed them the most: Cardinal showed me how to sand down the doors while Joanie carefully sanded and cleaned them off. They also helped us move 30 sheets of plywood from the curb into our house (god bless them)!! They worked in beast mode the entire time and I could truly see the Surette genes in action (we hate to slow down and are constantly cleaning things).

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My amazing aunt and uncle carried all our plywood up the stairs for us!

Luckily, this was the FINAL application for the 2 huge pieces and the 6 long skinny pieces, since I am only painting one side of them (they will be screwed into place so we’ll never see their undersides). There are two more applications to go for all the remaining doors. Unfortunately it’s starting to get cold and windy, which means i’ll be spraying outside then quickly bringing them inside to dry for the last two rounds.

November 28: On Friday, the weather was clear and a warm 48 degrees so I took off work and sprayed the remaining cabinets that need a second coat. Unfortunately, my previous spraying technique resulted in highly annoying and ugly drips of paint that dried in small mounds on the edge of some doors. I was not a happy camper. To remove the dried paint bumps, we had to sand, sand, sand down the drips (huge shout out to my friend Elizabeth who helped with 2 hours of sanding on Thursday night!).

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The dreaded dried paint drips!

For this 5th round of spraying, I implemented a new technique where I sprayed 6 doors at one time (the max amount that would fit on the saw horses), then quickly used a foam brush to gently wipe the side edges of each door to remove any excess paint. Then we walked the doors inside our house and laid them out on long pieces of wood to dry overnight. This technique worked SO much better and the next day we happily discovered no cursed paint drips to sand off. Allowing them to dry inside helped avoid small pieces of grass, leaves and other natural debris from landing on the cabinets.

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Friday December 7: Realizing we had less than a week left to finish the last round of painting and allow for adequate dry time, I did the last coat on Friday before leaving for a weekend away. This time I was HYPER efficient and whipped through all the doors as fast as I could. Unfortunately it was freeeeeeeezing cold and my fingers turned bright pink, but I survived and so did the doors! Huzzah!

Now that I am finally done with this gargantuan effort, I simply CAN NOT WAIT for them to be installed this week! We hired a company to install our kitchen for us because we aren’t completely insane and realized we needed help. After this painting saga, I’m not even sure if I like this color any more, but once they are installed I’m sure I will love them in all their glory!

Tips for anyone thinking about spray painting your kitchen cabinets:

  • Benjamin Moore Advance paint is designed for kitchen cabinets, but you need to wait a looooooong time for it to fully dry before touching or moving it. I would recommend a full 24 hours at least–during this time do not stack the doors or allow them to touch each other.
  • Try to set up 2X4s or something else for the doors to sit on as you paint and do NOT move them after they’ve been painted. We didn’t have this luxury but it would be best to keep them where they are after spraying to avoid touching the wet paint. I also noticed after I moved the doors away from the spraying area and onto a drying area that sometimes paint had dripped to the bottom where I couldn’t see it and then dried in and stuck to the surface on which it was drying (which brings me to my next point).
  • Remove any excess paint from the edges of your doors immediately after spraying with a foam brush. This will avoid paint from pooling and drying in bumps along the edge of your cabinets.
  • Spray paint in a garage or covered space if possible–little pieces of grass, leaves, and general nature debris would blow into my yard and get on the doors as they dried. I wish we had a covered place to spray paint but unfortunately we don’t.
  • Do your cabinet painting in the spring or fall! It was probably too cold to do it in November and December, but we had not choice. Paint drys better when the temp is above 50 degrees.
  • Think about where you will put your doors to dry and after they are dry to wait before installation. We moved these heavy doors around almost every room of our house two times during the last month during different phases of the entire home’s renovation, which was not fun (especially the long pieces).

Would I do this again? Not sure–it was a TON of work and I couldn’t spend that time on other renovation activities. Paying a professional would have cost a lot more but the finished product would presumably have fewer imperfections. Am I happy with the outcome? Yes, I’m feeling very accomplished and trying to embrace the small imperfections. Hopefully only I will notice them so please don’t point out any blemishes on my cabinets when you come to visit!

The tricky task of leveling our floor

The main level of our house has changed a lot since we purchased the home. We removed several interior walls, including a brick wall in the rear of the house. We also removed several radiators, which left behind holes in the floor that you can peer through to see directly into the basement. On top of that, the “bonus room” addition out back was half an inch lower than the rest of the house.

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Note the holes in the floor. The current floor flowed in all different directions, was different levels, and was uneven or missing in some places.

All of these issues were not conducive to installing brand new hardwood floors. So Jeremy and I did what we do best and set about making the floor level and even ourselves. We purchased 35 sheets of half-inch plywood and laid them across the entire first floor of our house.

Before screwing them in place, Jeremy had the bright idea to shore up the floor in the bonus room addition by adding a layer of thick plastic (to reduce heat loss through the floor) and a layer of metal mesh (to block mice and other critters from sneaking through the space where the floor meets the walls).

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These were covered by two layers of plywood to bring it up to the same height as the rest of the house. Jeremy cut the plywood sheets with a circular saw to fit it around walls, columns, and other annoying barriers throughout the house.

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Measuring where to cut the sheet of plywood.
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Cutting the plywood with a circular saw

Then we got to work screwing each piece of plywood in with approximately 24 screws. The goal was to screw them into each joist but after a while I gave up and just screwed them into the floor. They are definitely secure and not going anywhere–plus they’ll soon be covered in our new floor.

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For anyone thinking of doing this yourself, know that while it’s not technically difficult, it is physically grueling. My knees and back were killing me after the first day, and it took two days to complete.  Knee pads are a must!

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My face looks unhappy because I was miserable at this point from so much kneeling on my knees.

The house is now ready to have our floors installed tomorrow! EEP! We spent the whole weekend painting the ceiling and walls in an attempt to get the majority of the painting out of the way before the floors go in. Unfortunately we wont finish painting 100% of the main level of the house in time, but we got a huge chunk done.

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My life as a drywall expert

Two months ago, Jeremy and I installed drywall for the first time in two bedrooms. It was a true learning experience, and thankfully now we are able to put that knowledge to use!

The main floor of our house has gone through EXTENSIVE changes in the last month: We removed all the plaster from the walls and demolished the fake chimney, hired a company to remove the load bearing walls and replace with a single column and 3 support beams, had a team of four electricians rip out all the old wiring and install new wiring + recessed lights + light switches + outlets. The main floor is finally ready for us to close in all the open walls, beams, and column.

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We need to close in all the open beams and columns with drywall

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Last Monday, I got to work measuring the 4 sides of the support column, making sure to cut out square holes for the light switches and outlets. I felt SO proud of myself for getting it correct on the first try! Jeremy installed each side like a pro as I moved on to measuring and cutting the next side, until the entire thing was closed in!

By the end of the day, we had successfully closed in the column and were feeling very proud of ourselves!

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Successful closing of the column!

The next day we tackled the slightly more complex job of the beams. In no time, the first beam was covered!

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Successful closing of the beam! Please ignore all the crap around the room.

We are waiting to finish the other beam because the electrician needs to come back tomorrow to fix a tiny problem with a dead light switch. In the meantime, we hired a handyman to compound all the seams closed and the next step (hopefully this weekend!) is to start painting the walls!

Disappearing kitchen magic trick

Want to learn a magic trick? We made our kitchen disappear in less than 60 minutes flat.

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Before: Our kitchen the day we bought the house

The trick is to post your kitchen on craigslist for $100 or best offer. Jeremy posted our kitchen on craigslist and by 10 AM the next morning we had several offers from folks interested in re-using our cabinets, granite countertop, and even our old, half-broken appliances!

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After: the blank space where our kitchen used to be

We ended up selling our kitchen to a real estate investor who flips apartments in DC and Baltimore. I couldn’t believe our luck…he paid us $200 to remove all the cabinets from the walls and haul away the appliances. He even helped move the broken oven to our back alley for the city to pick up later that week! He brought a friend and was in and out in less than an hour!

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Midway through the disappearing kitchen trick.

This may seem like a small feat, but Jeremy and I have devoted every free second of our lives to this renovation since we purchased the home in August. The amount of time we saved not having to remove the cabinets and appliances ourselves, not to mention the cost of paying for dumpster removal of all that debris was an incredible victory to us!

Becoming a stripper

The only funny thing about stripping 100-year old paint off of wooden trim is all the jokes about stripping you can make. Jeremy and I have been stripping paint off our window and door trim in the bedrooms for what seems like an eternity. Stripping paint is time consuming and nasty. We are using a less harsh chemical called Citristrip, which does not produce any dangerous fumes and is safe to the touch. The downside is that it take a lot longer to work and doesn’t always do it’s job on the first try.

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Scraping brown paint off the trim

Our goal is to strip off several layers of paint to reveal the original profile of the wood beneath. Our house came with incredible original trim full of unique details that have been covered in gloppy paint over the years. Stripping them will allow us to start fresh.

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Some selfie action during the stripping

A few weeks ago during demo, Jeremy and I ever so carefully pried the trim off the windows and doors, careful not to snap or crack the pieces. They really don’t make trim like this any more. The wood is real and HEAVY! The trim is comprised of several pieces of wood that were nailed together to create the final look around the windows and doors. I was nervous that we might not be able to put them back after we painted them, there were so many pieces!

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Our collection of wooden trim, removed from all the windows and doors to undergo stripping!

Since then, we have stripped and stripped and stripped some more. I even created a playlist to inspire my best stripping. Some pieces were much easier to remove paint from than others. The difficult pieces are the bane of my existence.  The process to strip the paint goes something like this:

  1. Gather all the pieces that comprise one set of window or door trip to make sure you have all of them
  2. Lay them on the ground outside
  3. Realize they all have huge nails sticking out of them so you can’t start stripping them yet.
  4. Try and fail to pull nails out using tools laying around the house
  5. Purchase an actual nail remover tool–this one allows you to pull them through the wood with incredible ease.
  6. Slather on a thick layer of Citristrip.
  7. Cover in newspaper to prevent from drying (this step is hotly debated in our house)
  8. Wait 2 hours. Do not resist the urge to check if the stripper worked after only 45 minutes. Find something else productive to do during the waiting period.
  9. Use a plastic putty knife to scrape off the now liquefied paint+chemical goo mixture.
  10. Use a 5 in 1 metal tool to scrape the paint off the really hard to reach crevices in the wood, but be careful not to scratch or nick the wood.
  11. Proceed to remove all liquefied paint goo from wood, while covering your entire body, hair, and hands in it.
  12. Dip a steel scrub brush in water and scrub entire piece of wood down
  13. Dip steel wool into mineral spirits and rub across wood to remove any remaining blobs of paint and stop the chemical stripping process.

If after you do all 13 steps there are still spots of old paint on the wood, you must start all over again, to remove the even OLDER layers hiding beneath! It’s been incredibly time consuming to say the least. Hopefully it will be worth it and our trim will be a major showpiece in each room.

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Colleen and David helped us strip several layers of old paint in the back yard

Due to poor timing, we also had to strip paint off trim in the hall bathroom while it was still attached to the wall. We needed to finish it fast because we hired a handyman to help us redo the bathroom and needed to strip the wood ASAP before they started installing new tile and walls.

 

But the fun doesn’t stop at stripping paint! No no…as if we haven’t suffered enough, we decided to refinish the wood trim around the 5 doors on our second story landing.

 

The door trim were stained and poorly sealed with a varnish that dried in a bumpy, clumpy, discolored crocodile skin pattern. I attempted to sand the stain and poly off, but after a mere 10 minutes using a hand sander, it became clear that it would take several years to get through all of it. So we turned back to the chemical stripper. After several rounds of stripping stain and the sealant off the trim, it is finally ready to refinish! After photos will be posted in the next few weeks!

 

 

We are doing all of this because we really want to preserve some of the historical integrity of the house. 100-year old homes in DC have so much character, and all of this work to restore and reuse some original pieces will hopefully make our house stand out!

Open concept dreams coming true

When Jeremy and I first walked into this house, there was a LOT to take in–mostly the previous owner’s piles of possessions and garbage everywhere, with tons of walls cutting off the space into small rooms. But we also noticed the *potential* in this old, run-down house. So how do we get from this:

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to this?

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The answer is that we have to knock the walls down.

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This week, a construction company removed the load-bearing walls on the first floor of our home.  Now we have the fun task ahead of us of making it look like a million bucks. Our rough plan for the next two months is:

  • Figure out how to either restore or replace floors (it looks like we will sadly have to replace them because they are in really bad shape)
  • Rewire all electric that is currently dangling out of our ceiling
  • Install recessed lighting
  • Replace some old windows
  • Close in the beams and columns
  • Replace entire kitchen–many decisions and choices to make!
  • Paint

We have a lot of work ahead of us and tons of decisions to make on materials, styles, who to hire, etc. etc. but we are feeling good about the progress we’ve made. I can’t wait to see how it looks at the beginning of next year!