I Built a Fence!

Status report: my inexpensive and talented but very flakey electrician keeps canceling (also known as not showing up), which means we haven’t been able to have the work finished, which means it can’t be inspected, which means stuff like the pantry and the ceiling-less dining room and the ceiling-less front room and patching the swiss-cheese walls in the entryway have more or less come to a stand-still. For a week or two, this led me to destroy more things (different post, different day) on the inside of the house, which is technically forward motion but kind of just feels like I’m making everything worse in our torn-apart house. It’s like I’m trying to figure out how many things I can break down before I start putting them back together again. It’s this fun game I play with myself where I end up totally insane.

I need a new electrician. And someone needs to confiscate my pry bar.

Honestly, I’m a little sulky and annoyed about the electrical thing, but secretly (except now, since I’m telling you) it’s also been a perfect excuse to finally get out of the house and get my hands dirty in, like, actual dirt instead of plaster dust and other types of dust and more dust. What a concept.

We’ve been in our house a whole year (and eleven days, technically) and thus far this is all we’ve accomplished in terms of exterior projects:

newporchlights

1. We added some new light fixtures. Big improvement, but I had very little to do with it beyond coordinating the electrical work and buying and installing the lights.

service

2. We had new electrical service run to the house, including a new service drop and converting to a single meter rather than two, since now the house is a single family. Hard to decide if it looks better or worse.

3. Mowing the lawn. Occasionally. Weed-wacking even more occasionally. We’re a mess.

yardclearing

4. Clearing a crazy jungle that had cropped up on the side of the garage, a bunch of grapevine that had run rampant from a neighbor’s property, and miles of Virginia Creeper that had overtaken the saddest and weediest flower bed ever at the back of the property. Much of which is creeping back a year later. Go figure.

roofbeforeafter

5. Getting a new roof, which was a hellish and drawn-out ordeal involving 4 different roofing contractors spread out over about 8 months and something I’d pretty much rather die than repeat. What. A. Nightmare. But it’s done. Or done-ish. Done enough. Fuck roofing.

We’re awesome neighbors. I’m guessing the neighborhood had higher expectations when the house sold and a couple of homosexuals moved in. Homosexuals are notoriously good at having good taste and making things prettier, and I feel like we’ve been letting everyone down since our beautiful tiny laundry room hardly qualifies as an appreciable improvement to the curb appeal of our house. Most of the houses on our block don’t have a whole lot going on in the way of landscaping and whatnot, so I’ve tried to stem my guilt by thinking about it that way, but I’m a neurotic Jew. Guilt is my #1 emotion and way of being.

ANYWAY. Let’s remind ourselves of our yard situation:

YARD

As you can see, there are a few different issues.

1. All the asphalt. It must go. I hate it with every fiber of my being, and I’d give my left kidney to have it disappear and be replaced with something. Anything. I don’t care if it looks like the fucking dust bowl. I don’t even care of the Virginia Creeper wants to colonize the entire thing. I just want it to be gone. I guess the previous owner of our house had several cars and decided to pave half the yard with asphalt, but we have one car and it is tiny and I don’t need or want it at all. Not even a little bit. I think we’ll still have some kind of a gate and parking situation next to the garage, but I’d much rather just have two strips of bluestone or concrete or something with pebbles or ground cover surrounding it. I hate asphalt.

2. I found out from my neighbors that the old foundation (cinderblock disaster/weed jungle) just behind the garage was actually a half-baked plan to extend the garage, which is a horrendous idea that I’m glad never came to fruition. The garage is actually a really pretty cute little structure and I shudder to think what any kind of renovation would have done to it. That said, now we are stuck with a wildly unattractive crumbling foundation of broken dreams that all needs to be excavated and hauled away. Boo.

3. The biggest problem here, strangely, is the fence. There is fencing surrounding the entire property, which is great. I’m glad it’s there. But the purple lines demarcate an old (original, probably) wrought-iron fence, which I love, and the black lines are all cheap and very crappy chain link that’s all falling apart and looking a hot mess. And as much as I love the wrought iron fence, it’s only 3 feet tall. And despite that the top of it is surrounded by a threatening row of spikes (so witchy!), I have a Pit Bull with a very impressive vertical leap who can clear it with a smile on her face. Not safe.

wroughtironfence

Now, we never leave the dogs in the backyard unattended, but there’s always the risk that Mekko will get excited by something and jump over. It’s happened three times in the course of a year, and she hasn’t done anything bad or anything like that, but it’s so scary. We live on a fairly busy street in terms of both foot and car traffic, and I’d really prefer if my dog didn’t get hit by a car or terrify an unsuspecting neighbor who wasn’t quite prepared for a Pit Bull to jump the fence to greet them. Even if it’s friendly.

So, when Mekko jumped the fence last week to go see her friend(ish…they have a rocky relationship) Bailey from across the street (an adorable 150-pound white Boxer…I don’t blame her), I felt very overcome with the need to do something and do it now in terms of getting our fence situation sorted a little bit. Panic is pretty much my main motivational tactic (aside from guilt, as we have established, but the two go hand in hand), and the idea of my dog’s safety being at risk pretty much brings my panic-meter off the charts. So I built a panic fence.

This panic-induced fence was actually kind of a good thing. I’ve been planning it more or less since we moved in, but fencing is intimidating. There are so many different styles and decisions to be made, and after mulling it over for so long, I was more overwhelmed than anything else. Vertical boards or horizontal? Pre-fab panels or individual pickets? Attractive gate hardware? Post caps? Paint? Stain? Seal? Let it weather naturally? I’m exhausted.

There is SO. MUCH. TO. THINK. ABOUT. This is the kind of shit that keeps me up at night.

Added to this is the exact location of the fence. I definitely don’t want my house to look like some kind of fortress, and the old wrought-iron fence had to stay, which basically left building a new fence behind the original fence as the best option. Which is a good option, since it gives us the opportunity to have a front yard and a backyard instead of just…a yard. Like so:

YARDnewstuff

Anyway, this  panic-fence didn’t have time for complex decision-making. It just needed to happen. I already knew the general location, so I just measured and took myself to the local lumber yard a few blocks away, made a quick decision between standard stockade fencing and dog-ear style fencing, bought my stuff, stole my friend’s truck, and hauled it all home.

Newsflash: even cheap fencing is expensive.

Newsflash: it’s also very heavy.

Somehow I managed to unload the truck myself (and splinter-free!) and haul my six 6’x8′ panels and 8 4″x4″x8′ posts into the driveway.

I was less than thrilled with the panels I purchased, but at the time they seemed like the cheapest and most attractive option. But they were not nice. The wood was either pine or spruce, and it wasn’t even pressure-treated. Each panel had a few super crappy looking boards, the pickets themselves were narrow and unsubstantial, and they were about $65 a piece.

But then I went to Lowe’s, which is basically my home away from home. The employees are all starting to laugh at me every time they see me there since I am there constantly. I was just getting some supplies for the fencing that I couldn’t find at the local place, and then I meandered over to the fencing section, and developed a serious case of buyer’s remorse. Lowe’s had MUCH nicer dog-ear style fencing. The boards were wider. There was a pressure-treated pine option for about $48/panel and a cedar option for $50/panel.

Now. I’m all about supporting local businesses. Don’t get me wrong. Really, I am. I’m willing to pay a little more to shop local, despite the sorry state of my bank account, because I feel like it’s the right thing to do when given the option. But I’m not willing to sacrifice on quality. Lowe’s was offering a much better product at a much lower price, and it just didn’t make sense to stick with the garbage panels I’d already purchased, particularly since we plan to install the same fencing around the rest of the house to replace the chain-link, and I’d like all the fencing to match. Them’s the breaks. So I had the lumber yard swing by and pick up the shitty panels, loaded my new cedar panels into my friend’s truck, and hauled that all home and unloaded it, again, splinter-free. Tiny miracles, small victories.

Posthole1

Deciding on the exact location of the fence turned out to be easy due to this weird section of missing bluestone next to the foundation a few feet behind the front of the house. The missing bluestone had been filled in with a thin-ish layer of concrete, which was getting in the way of digging my first post hole. So I rented a jackhammer, you know, like you do. This location turns out to be perfect since it’s about 4 feet back from the front corner of the house, and gives is over 18 feet of front yard space between the wrought iron fence and the new fence. 18 feet! Right now it’s all sod, but eventually I don’t want any grass whatsoever and I want it to be a luscious magical garden that both I and the neighborhood can admire. I’m so excited.

Back to the jackhammer. There is no photographic evidence of this, unfortunately, since I was mostly flying solo here, but I discovered that using an electronic jackhammer is not only really very easy, but also really very fun. I’m a tiny person without a lot of weight or muscle, so if I can do it, you can probably do it. The hardest part was carrying the thing around, since it probably weighs about 80 pounds. And then clearing out whatever you’re jackhammering.

concretepath

While I had the jackhammer at my disposal, I also decided to get rid of this weird concrete path in front of the house, next to the entryway steps. I don’t know why this path was ever put in, since it has no access from the outside or from the porch, really, but I figured the space could be much better served by plants than by concrete. Little did I realize that the concrete was VERY deep in spots and underneath it was a ton of rock, which all had to be excavated and hauled out before it could be back-filled with dirt. Luckily, digging fence posts creates a lot of displaced soil.

concreteremnants

Here are the remnants of the path and the rocky dirt, which I finagled Max into loading into a wheelbarrow and dumping onto the asphalt. It will get hauled away when the asphalt is removed. Which is hopefully super duper soon.

ANYWAY. Once I got the jackhammer situation sorted out and my first whole dug, it was time to place the first post!! EEEEEE! Progress.

post1

BETCHA WEREN’T EXPECTING THAT. Maybe you were. I decided that the fence should be black. I really want it to look as unobtrusive as possible and really recede, and I think the black will do that perfectly. I don’t want a “statement fence” and I don’t want it to detract at all from the architecture of the house. And even though the cedar panels are pretty brand new, they’ll fade over time and I hated the idea of a light wood fence next to the house, calling attention to itself. I’m very, very, very happy with this decision. I used Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Siding Stain (tinted black, obviously), which goes on much like a paint and looks like paint, but should still allow the wood to breathe while also protecting it a bit from the elements. The benefit of using a stain rather than a paint is that it shouldn’t chip and peel over time and need to be redone like paint does.

For the posts, I bought 8 foot long 4×4 pieces of pressure-treated lumber. I dug each post hole about 30″ deep (which, by the way, is really fucking deep), then threw in about 6 inches of drainage gravel, and then filled it in with fast-setting Quickrete, which you just dump into the hole, soak with water, agitate a bit to mix it up (I used a stick), and let it sit, all the while checking that your post is super duper level and won’t move. The concrete sets up in about half an hour. One thing I didn’t account for is that while the local hardware store employees claimed I’d need one 50-lb bag of Quickrete per post, I averaged more like 3 bags per post. Back to Lowe’s! This section of fencing is about 30 feet long, and I think I used somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 bags of Quickrete for the posts. Luckily it’s cheap.

I bought a post-hole digger for this project, but ended up returning it immediately. Soil in Kingston tends to be really rich and kind of sandy, which makes it really very easy to dig. I averaged about 30 minutes to dig each post hole with a shovel. The post-hole digger I think is better if you have really hard soil, but I found it completely worthless for us.

gatebuilding1

After the first post was in and setting, I built the gate! To do this, all I did was cut down one of the 8 foot panels with a jigsaw and added vertical 2×3 supports, which are attached to the original 2×3 horizontal supports. All in all, very easy. It seems super sturdy to me.

gatebuilding2

gate

After it was stained and the second post was in, I put it up! You’ll notice that it’s a bit wider than the path (the gate is little over 3 feet) but I wanted it to be wide enough to cart a wheelbarrow through with ease. I’ll find a way to tastefully widen the path a bit, I think. I picked up a gate hardware kit from Lowe’s (I can’t find the link, sorry!), and two gate hinges. I think I may add a third one to the middle, just for some added support. All are made by Stanley.

L-brackets

The one thing I did do to complicate things for myself was that I decided to space the rest of the posts evenly, rather than 8 feet apart and end up with a shorter panel on the end. Then I decided to attach the panels with stainless steel 5″ L-brackets (spray-painted black) rather than screw the panels into the front of the posts. The L bracket is screwed into the bottom of each of the horizontal 2×3 supports, and then into the 4×4 post. This leaves the front of the post exposed, which I think looks a little nicer and more custom from both the outside and the inside. I was assured that I wouldn’t have a problem with the brackets rusting or falling apart, so I’m hoping for the best. If we run into problems down the line, I think I could replace the brackets with vertical pieces of pressure-treated lumber (exactly like the gate, pretty much), and screw those into the posts. If that makes any sense.

trench

Once all of the posts had set for 24 hours, it was time to put up the panels! Before doing this, I decided to dig about an 8″ deep trench under where the panels would sit and fill them with drainage gravel. We used about 15 bags, which added about $60 to the overall cost of the project, but the gravel should help keep weeds from growing at the fence line, and provide drainage underneath the fence so that the bottoms of the pickets don’t rot out. Additionally, because the fence is black, the gravel should help keep the color looking good when it rains and soil crap would splash up onto the fence if the rocks weren’t there. I think it was worth it.

chainlink

I’m sorry this picture is so awful, but I also wanted to address the section of chain-link fence that would now sit in front of the new fence, which separates our yard from our neighbor’s. Chain-link is just such a bummer, particularly when it’s so close to the street, and I wanted to find something better that would tie in with the original wrought-iron fence in front of both our properties.

fauxwrought

I searched a couple salvage places for something old (no dice), but then on another trip to Lowe’s I found this stuff! It’s nothing super fancy—galvanized steel that’s been powder-coated black, but the size was good, the price was good (about $30 for a 4′ section), and installation seemed (and was) very easy. I really hope it lasts. I thought removing the old chain-link would be a huge pain in the ass, but it was super easy. I used bolt cutters to detach the chain link from the posts, and the posts—which I thought would be set in the ground with concrete) just pulled right out of the ground with a little of my manly brute strength. Awesome. To fit our dimensions, I just had to cut one of the panels down with my Sawzall, which took roughly 30 seconds, and attach it to the last post. Overall, it’s not the fanciest thing in the world, but it does look good and feels pretty rigid, and it ties in nicely with the original fencing.

noraandmax

Did I mention my wonderful and long-suffering friend Nora was here during all of this? Poor thing thought she was coming up for a nice few days in the Hudson Valley and got sucked into my insanity. While the panels were going up, I put Nora and Max on staining duty, which they were obviously loving. It was pretty much the time of their lives. As you can see.

paintingprocess

EEEEEE! Almost done! I include this process image mostly to show the difference between the cedar and the black. See how the cedar is super visible and kind of obtrusive, whereas the black just kind of disappears? I think so, anyway. I also like that it ties in the with the black window sashes and other black accents I have planned for the exterior.

fromback

Annnnnd, DONE! Here’s the view from the back, which I know is nothing amazing but I think a hedge or something will do wonders. The gravel should settle down a bit and look less ugly over time, besides. After all the panels were up and stained, I used my Sawzall to cut the posts to the same-ish heights and topped them with these generic and affordable fence post caps from Lowe’s. I think they look nice!

corner

In the front, I’m super pleased with eliminating the area of chain-link while we were doing this anyway. The fencing on the left is the new faux-wrought iron, which I think looks pretty damn good for what it is. Again, it’ll look better with some plants and whatnot, but it’s just so much more inviting and pretty.

cornerwithpvc

I secured the last faux-wrought-iron fence panel to the wood fence with some super cheap plastic PVC connectors I found in the electrical aisle. They do the job. I spray-painted them black. Exciting stuff, I know.

gatefromoutside

I’m really pleased with how the gate turned out. Nothing fancy, but it opens from the inside and outside and it looks good. Obviously we need a better situation for the hose, but I’ll save that for another day…I have a couple ideas. Let’s just all ignore the vinyl siding and the missing end of the downspout and the foundation work we might have ahead of us. This is about the fence!

fencefromacrossstreet

I really like how it looks from the street, which was obviously a big challenge when thinking about this project. Setting it so far back keeps it really unobtrusive, and I’m SO excited about our new dog-free front yard! I think the fence will look a million times better once we get a bunch of plants growing in front of it and some real landscaping going. All in due time! In the meantime, I have pretty much no experience with landscaping and could use some plant suggestions and ideas for how to use the space…hint, hint.

frontgarden

I’m also really glad I broke up that concrete path and got back those couple of feet of gardening space in the front next to the entry. I backfilled the hole and obviously need to plant some things and mulch, but I think it already looks better. I also went on a MAJOR weeding/pruning spree to try to get the Rhododendron under control a little. I actually really don’t like Rhododendron in general and I don’t like them here (too tall!), but the pruning definitely helped me like them more. Someday I’d like to get rid of them altogether (or at least the one on the right) and replace them with a bunch of other stuff I like more.

header

ANYWAY, I’m so excited to have this new foundation to work with as we start to plan some more landscaping! As for the rest of the fence, I’m not sure I have it in me to DIY-it (it’s a TON of fence…) but we’ll see. There’s also the whole matter of cost—I haven’t added up every little thing, but I think I probably spent about $700 for just this section of the fencing, including the faux-wrought-iron business, so I might continue to just do it in sections where it’s most necessary and go about things that way. For now, I’m just glad to have this section taken care of—not only do I think it adds some curb appeal, but it definitely gives me some peace of mind where the dogs are concerned. They still have plennntttyyyy of space in the backyard to run around and play and poop, and this just goes such a long way toward keeping them safe. So that’s good!

I want to plant stuff. Tell me what to plant.

The Laundry Room is Done!

I’m sure if you had asked me about the laundry room after we first looked at our house, I wouldn’t have really remembered anything about it beyond that it was disgusting. Little details like the lack of a dryer seemed insignificant (and I didn’t really think about the fact that dryers need their own electrical supply and vent and stuff…which they do, FYI). This was still in the rose-colored glasses days, when all I saw were all the amazing original details I wanted the opportunity to save, and all the potential the house had. Even when thinking seriously about all the work we had ahead of us, the tiny little laundry room off the kitchen was so overshadowed in scale and biohazard-ness that I really don’t recall considering it at all. It’s just a laundry room, right? The idea that we might someday even have a washer and dryer in our place of residence seemed more than posh enough for us, so I really didn’t even think about how it would look or what form a renovation of the space might take.

But then things changed. Demo and dust and debris and general filth became a huge part of our lives, which meant that laundry became a huge part of our lives. And when you’re in Obsessive Renovation Mode, as I am between 99-100% of the time, having to stop everything for a few hours on a Saturday to get your tushy to the laundromat carting so much gross laundry really kind of sucks. I’m well aware that this is the reality for plenty of people for whom having their own laundry isn’t an option, but for us it was an option. All of a sudden, having a working laundry room couldn’t come soon enough. Added to this is that Max—while hardly involved in the nuts-n-bolts of renovation at all—loves to do laundry. All I had to do was renovate a room, and then I could pass the torch to my boo to actually use it. So, since I like to think of myself as both romantic and stylish, I decided to build that boy the best damn laundry room this little space could handle. The room had to be utilitarian, yes, but it could also stand to be beautiful and fancy-feeling, so that Max could really commit himself to removing the frequent blood/grease/filth stains from my clothing with panache and style.

You guys. I totally did it. My semi-evil semi-romantic plan is working.

1beforefromkitchen

Let’s take a horrifying look back, shall we? Way back. Here’s a picture of the kitchen looking into the laundry room after about a week in the house. The funny thing about this room that separates it from basically all the other spaces in our house is that pretty much any nice architectural detail that perhaps once existed had been stripped from it years ago. On the kitchen side, 1×6 pieces of lumber had been cut to various thicknesses (why? Who knows! But each side was different!) to frame out the doorway. Inside the laundry room, the same 1×6 lumber had been used for baseboards, and dinky 1×3’s surrounded the super crooked window in a super crooked way. The window itself is old, which is kind of nice, but that’s about it. The original plaster had been covered over with drywall, and anything that may have been nice about the room way back when had just been lost in the process. So unlike in other spaces, where I want to highlight all the original architectural details, the task here ended up being to basically recreate them to give this room back some old-fashioned charm.

1afterfromkitchen

Ohhhh yeahhhhh. That looks a whole lot better, can we agree? I hope we can agree.

I ended up slightly decreasing the size of the doorway (both width and height) to accommodate an old door I found in the basement. The plan was to erect this poor forlorn door as a swinging door between the two spaces, which I still intend to do, but it just hasn’t happened yet. But that’s OK! It will. Some other time. After some careful/creative drywall, tile, and baseboard patching, it really looks like this doorway has looked like this all along, which I’m so happy about. If we ever get to gut the kitchen, I think this doorway will be one of the few things that just stays put as it is.

existingmillworkinside

The molding on the outside of the doorway actually came from the only thing that was really worth salvaging from the inside of the laundry room, which was the original door casing! I carefully pried off the pieces (which, due to the later addition of the drywall over the original plaster, were basically sitting flush with the drywall—not cute), and then verrrry carefully cut them down to their new size to accommodate the smaller opening.

1progressfromkitchen

In the process, it looked kind of like this—which was a whole lot of sadness, considering the kitchen was looking pretty good before I had this bright idea to destroy it again. Whoops!

millworkprogressoutside

This is a truly horrendous picture, but after cutting the old pieces to their new sizes and nailing them up, I wrapped them in 1×2’s and then added this stock piece of pine base cap molding from Lowe’s. These added details do a nice job of matching the original 1850s moldings in the kitchen, and after it was all primed, caulked, and painted, it looks really authentic!

OK, enough dorky molding talk (jk, there will be more). Shall we go inside? WE SHALL.

before

Just look at this sad awful mess. It was sad and awful.

7afterfromkitchen

I don’t even know where to begin. I’m overwhelmed.

1. You can read all about how I replicated the original moldings for the window casing and baseboards here. I’m so proud of how this turned out! Even if they don’t look 100% original, they definitely tie the room together with the rest of the house and really make the space feel special. I obviously tell everyone that I made all the millwork, because I have zero shame and a developed need for praise, so for that reason alone they aren’t fooling anyone.

2. I am in LOVE (LOVE LOVE LOVE) with our machines. We wanted to get machines that were the largest capacity we could, while taking up the smallest footprint, and of course with good ratings. These LG models (washer & electric dryer) fit the bill perfectly—they’re slightly shallower than competitive brands, meaning they fit the space between the back wall and the doorway like a glove, they have amazing reviews, large capacity, fancy features, and even sing a very jolly jingle when they’re finished with their cycles. I could go on and on! I can’t imagine being any more satisfied with them. One thing of note is that we purchased them at full price, but a couple weeks later Lowe’s was running a promotion (10% off, I believe) on large appliances! We brought back our receipt, and Lowe’s was happy to honor the current promotion because it was happening within a month of our original purchase. We got about $300 back in store credit, which I immediately spent on…wait for it…A TABLE SAW. There may have been tears. Table saw = life-changing.

3. Since this room is attached to the kitchen, we wanted to tie it in visually with our earlier kitchen renovation—which meant subway tile, and lots of it! I’m so happy with how the tile came out—combined with the millwork, it really makes the space feel finished and fancy, not to mention how nice it is to clean and everything. Regular 3×6 subway tile is really inexpensive, too, so tiling the whole room was only a few hundred dollars. Can’t beat it! These are American Olean white subway tiles, and the grout is TEC unsanded grout in Raven.

4. Are you seeing that little cabinet next to the dyer? Are you seeing it? Well…

guts

There’s about 8 inches of space next to the dryer, which I didn’t want to go to waste. To keep the machines as close to the back wall as possible, I had the electrician install the dryer plug to the right of the dryer itself, and we chose to side-vent the dryer for the same reason (lots of dryers offer this option nowadays, and the conversion is easy with a couple special-order parts). This left an awkward little ugly space that I didn’t want to look at, and it seemed like letting it go to unused would be a wasted opportunity.

rollingcartout

So, out of some scrap plywood, I cobbled together this little rolling cabinet! It holds all kinds of stuff that we don’t really need for every single load of laundry, but do end up using frequently. As you can see, it isn’t even full, so we do have some room to expand where our laundry potions are concerned.

For the top, I just cut down a piece of our old fir countertops (gone, but not forgotten), gave it a good cleaning, and sealed it with three coats of water-based polyurethane. The polyurethane is a HUGE improvement over the original oil finish in terms of keeping it clean and wipe-able. I made it extra-long so that the back edge of the countertop hits the wall before the back of the cabinet can hit the plug or the dryer vent. Sneaky!

rollingcabinet2

I’m so happy with how it came out, and the wood top adds a nice natural element to the space to keep it from feeling too cold. The handle is just a cheap brass sash lift I had lying around for some reason. I painted it in Bedford Gray by Martha Stewart’s line for Glidden, color-matched in semi-gloss to Valspar paint from Lowe’s. I love this little thing! Even though the decorative paneling elements on the front are a little more traditional than my style tends to skew, I feel like it fits right in in this space.

outercorner

On top of the machines, I made a simple ironing board out of a piece of 3/4″ plywood cut to size, cotton batting, and a piece of a canvas drop cloth, which was inspired by a Martha Stewart project. The original concept was to make a removable cover that could be washed, but once I broke out the sewing machine, I quickly got overwhelmed and just stapled the fabric to the underside of the board. I still have plans to make a removable cover…if I can figure it out with my rudimentary sewing skills, I’ll do a whole DIY tutorial. For now, though, this is totally fine and a functional way to take advantage of the top of our front-loaders, and the natural cotton texture is really nice in the room.

Also, SHELF! The copper-coated brackets were a lucky find from a local coffee shop/vintage store in Kingston, Outdated (who also have an Etsy shop!). They were super rusty when I bought them, so I soaked them in CLR, scrubbed them with Barkeeper’s Friend, and spray-painted them with matte varnish to keep them from rusting. I love them. The enamel tray is vintage, and the stainless steel spray bottles and medicine droppers are from the Container store.

The shelf is a piece of super old salvaged wood from the attic, which I cut down to size, sanded, and coated with water-based poly. Really old far-gone-looking wood cleans up so well!

woodsealing

I figure it’s been like this for about 150 years, so I’m not too worried about it warping.

staintreatmentguide

One of my favorite things in the room is this ENORMOUS poster that Max designed—Martha Stewart’s Household Stain Treatment Guide! We defer to Martha for all things home-maintenance related, and homegirl knows a thing or two about doing laundry. I know the writing might look illegible, but that’s just the picture…it’s easy to read in real life and reference in a stain-fighting conundrum. We had it printed at Staples for a few bucks (it’s just one of their cheap 4’x3′ posters, cut down to size). I wish I could offer the image as a free download, but I fear it would violate all sorts of copyright laws and I can’t have Martha on my bad side.

Sorry.

stainguidecorner

I made the frame myself out of some scrap wood and a few inexpensive trim pieces from Lowe’s, and painted it the same Bedford Gray as the rolling cabinet. For the glass, I had a piece of plexiglass cut to size at Lowe’s, which was awesomely easy and cheap.

The walls, by the way, are Benjamin Moore’s “Calm” color-matched to Valspar in matte. I’m really glad I tried out this Valspar paint—I went one level below the top-of-the-line option, and the paint is SO nice—especially for the price (like $34/gallon). I used the color recently in a client space and I love it—it’s such a nice super pale grey that contrasts nicely with white trim and doesn’t go purple or blue. It’s my new leading contender for the entryway!

innercorner

At the end of the shelf are a couple of enamel canisters from West Elm, which hold our powdered detergent and Borax, which Max uses as a laundry booster. We use these for pretty much every load, so it’s nice to have them accessible but also pretty and decanted into these containers. The labels are from the Martha Stewart collection at Staples. (are you sensing a theme? no? WE LOVE MARTHA THAT IS THE THEME.)

innercornermillwork

The shelf is hung just above the outlet for the iron. Check out how pretty the doorway molding is! I MADE THAT. Check out how cute that frame is! I MADE THAT TOO.

Other side of the room? Other side of the room.

2before4

Obviously, this was a bummer. I only include it for the DRAMA.

3afterfromkitchen

There’s only about 14″ of space between the doorway and the wall on the other side of the room, but I fell in love with the idea of installing a hanging rack for things that need to hang-dry. Enter the WOODi! It’s the same idea as the very pretty Sheila Maid that a bunch of readers suggested (thanks, guys!) but I found it at one of my favorite Brooklyn shops, Dry Goods, and I liked that it was a little more contemporary and American-made. It lifts up or down on a pulley system attached to the ceiling, which sounds intimidating but it was really simple to assemble and install. So cute, right? It fits the room perfectly, and I love the functionality.

WOODi2

The rope for the WOODi (which could be exchanged for a cotton rope or something else, but I used the stock nylon rope it came with) is held up by a little chrome cleat that comes with it, which I attached to the new doorway molding.

window+WOODi

window1

Can we just talk about the window some more? I think it’s my favorite part of the room. It’s the little things! This window was such an eyesore before since it was so small and crooked, but adding beefier moldings (and installing them LEVEL) changed EVERYTHING. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a new window, I spent maybe $50 on lumber and made this one work, and I’m SO glad I did. Now it feels like the perfect size for the space, and I even like the crookedness of the window itself in its own funny little way. The whole thing makes me happy every time I look at it.

millworkduring

I swear I’ll shut up about the moldings at some point, someday, but man—it just made all the difference. From this, up there…

millworkafter

To THIS. Worth every bit of time and effort and expense. I probably dropped about $300 on lumber for just this little room, but I can’t imagine it any other way. Trying to make all the tile work with the existing moldings would have been an ugly nightmare!

The trashcan is by Brendan Ravenhill for West Elm (and currently on sale!)—the top part lifts off to become a dust pan, and the little broom is held on by magnets! So smart. We originally bought it for the kitchen, but there isn’t really any space for it in there, so now it collects dryer lint and whatnot. I love this trashcan, so I’m glad we found the perfect place for it!

innercorner2

rollingcabinet3

washingmachineandpad

I’m so, so incredibly thrilled with how this room came out—and I can say, really and truly, that it’s changed our lives in such a great way. I so appreciate all of the input and encouragement from you guys along the way, and I’m so thankful to Lowe’s for helping us make it happen! Getting this little room checked off our incredibly long list is such a morale boost, and I’m so excited to start working on all the other spaces calling out for attention!

Yay, clean clothes!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Lowe’s has generously provided funding for this project, however all designs and opinions are my own.

lowes2

Beyond the Laundry Room: Where do we go from here?

OK, NEW RULES. I AM DECLARING THEM:

1. No more tearing things apart.*

2. No more starting another major project until the other major projects are wrapped up.**

*Unless I really want to.

**Unless it seems like maybe it won’t be a major project but instead something quick and easy. I can’t control where it goes from there.

Now that the laundry room is this close to being done, we’re starting to decide which thing(s?) we’re going to focus our energies on now.

If you have followed this blog for a while and paid some attention, it might occur to you that there are a literal wealth of options.

1. The dining room, last seen with a gaping hole in the wall where a door used to be, no ceiling, old electrical, and crazy patterned walls. Doesn’t make sense to do much about this until the electrical is done.

2. The front parlor room adjacent to the dining room, last seen with a gaping hole in the wall from an old stove vent, no ceiling, old electrical, and the coolest corner radiator. It has since become my workshop because I choose to live like an animal and need somewhere to do my crafts. And by crafts, I mean making piles of sawdust bigger than Linus. It doesn’t make much sense to do anything about this until electrical is done. It’ll be so weird to use this room as a proper room someday instead of the place I make baseboards and stuff.

3. The entire entryway/hallway/staircase situation. It’s a huge amount of space but not really a room, but it is the heart of the house and it looks like crap. All the walls are bare plaster now, but they do need significant repair in places and a nice skim coat in others before paint can happen. Since there are already so many holes from electrical being added/removed, I’m requesting that any holes the electrician needs to make for adjacent rooms and spaces come through these walls, where possible. I’d rather have one wall that looks like swiss cheese to repair than a dozen that all need a few patches here and there. ANYWAY. It’s a huge job. I can’t wrap my mind around the amount of joint compound I will use.

4. The mudroom? Which I (mostly) gutted in a fit of crazy? (Did I even mention that??). I don’t even know what to do about this mess. I want to torch it.

5. The downstairs bathroom? Gutted down to the studs. The contents are now sitting in the living room.

6. Our bedroom, where the bare plaster walls are pretty much ready for skim coat and paint…except for waiting on the electrical to be installed.

7. Oh god, don’t even TALK to me about the yard. Someone casually and politely told me yesterday that they do ticket here if you let your lawn get too long. I don’t think we’re at the point where it’s breaking any laws, but it is breaking all laws of taste and decency and looks like an overgrown weed patch. The lawn is one of the few things that is 100% Max’s domain, so if it isn’t mowed this weekend, I guess I’ll be single and ready to mingle on Monday.

There’s more, but I’ll stop there, since I’m going to have a panic attack if I keep going.

Basically, the house is a whole lot of chaos, but it also maybe looks worse than it is.

The electrical I can’t do legally in our county. We have a great electrician who I love and is super affordable, BUT he is impossible to nail down. I can usually get him for like most of a day, and then he’ll come back two weeks later but only if I call him every other day and sound really sad about my ceiling-less rooms and under-electrified second floor. It’s annoying, though, because updating/adding electrical is a big hang-up for getting this stuff done. We can’t close in ceilings or even really repair walls until it’s complete, not only because it’s MUCH easier to run this stuff with open framing but also because I don’t want to make holes in already repaired walls. Let’s just get it done and get on with things!

SO!

I think we’re going to make a pantry.

A quick n dirty, no-major-frills, simple, semi-temporary pantry. It’ll hold lots of stuff, and right now another place to stash things is nice. One of the things about living in a major renovation is that even though you have all this newfound space, there’s comparatively little space to actually put anything where it’ll be safe and clean and hidden away.

pantry pantry2

Here are some fun and attractive pictures of the the outside of the pantry when we bought the house. That door on the left in the first picture of the kitchen when it still looked so scary is the door to the pantry. It used to be the door to a back staircase, which was removed a long time ago. I have zero interest in restoring the old staircase. As cool as it would be, this house just isn’t that big and having two staircases in the year 2014 just seems silly, and it’s already gone.

Probably when the stairs were removed, this closet in the dining room was added. It’s obviously a later addition because the door and trim don’t match even a little.

wallframing

SO, I knocked out the wall in the middle that separated the pantry from this closet, ripped out the door and frame, and framed in the opening.

cavernouspit

Then it looked like this, from the kitchen side. Like a shit-stained cavernous pit of despair and wreckage. There used to be a doorway into the kitchen at the back left corner (the exit of the stairs up from the basement!), which was framed in presumably when they renovated the kitchen last, but they never did anything more with the inside of the closet. So on the left we had about 2/3 of a wall (the plaster on the left is actually in fairly decent shape, wood-paneling-patterned wallpaper notwithstanding), no ceiling, and a wall on the right that was a TOTAL mess. The plaster was all failing and miserable and falling apart everywhere.

This was back in January. Nothing happened since then.

Stop judging me.

BUT! This week! Things occurred!

1. I put Max to work on gutting the right wall down to the studs, since this is the wall we’ll drywall and I wanted the electrician to have super easy access to make his whole job faster, in the hope that he could then dedicate himself to other things.

2. Max managed to remove most of the plaster and some of the lath, so roundabout 2 in the morning the night before the electrician showed up, I finished the job myself. What are you gonna do. (save me from this abusive relationship)

3. My friend John and John’s Truck and I went to Lowe’s and bought DRYWALL! This was incredibly exciting. I drive a ’02 VW Jetta that can fit in the trunk, at most, four salted almonds, so any time I get to haul something enormous or approaching me-sized, I get VERY jazzed. I feel really empowered with my drywall stock.

4. The electrician came and roughed in all the electrical in the pantry. HALLELUJAH.

SO. In order, a photo journal.

maxemo

This is, without question, the sexiest outfit Max has ever worn. He took off the Tyvek suit after about 4 seconds (too hot!), but it makes me happy when he takes on something renovation-related. He can totally handle demo.

drywall1

On the dining room side of things, I was itching to get the drywall up over the framed in doorway I’ve been staring at for 5 months. First, I had to clean up the edges of the plaster. To do this, I used a 4′ level and pencil to draw a clean, square line around the doorframe.

oscillating

Then I used my new VERY FAVORITE TOOL EVER, this oscillating tool I picked up from Lowe’s. Admittedly I cheaped out and got the most inexpensive one in the store, which I made a semi-serious resolution to stop doing, but I have to say…this thing is AMAZING. It comes in handy CONSTANTLY now that I have it. It has lots of different attachments (sanding pads, rounded blades like this one, straight blades of various sizes for wood and metal…), and it seems more than powerful enough for me.

ANYWAY, this thing is perfect for making clean cuts in plaster (or drywall) quickly. I’ve actually asked the electricians to start using it when they’re here and making new holes—they seem excited to have a tool that makes the job a little easier and less messy, and I’m excited to have less repair work to contend with afterward.

Anyway, for this wall, I pretty much just ran the blade up my pencil line until I hit the lath, and the unwanted plaster fell away and the remaining plaster stayed beautifully intact. Like so:

wallprep

I proceeded to use my nail gun to nail scrap pieces of lath to the new framing, like large shims, to bring everything out to the same level.

drywall

I marked all my studs on the wall above so I would know where I could safety screw the drywall into, cut the drywall to size, and screwed it up. Cleaning up the edges of the plaster really allowed for MUCH more precision, which should make the patch job much easier when I get to that!

The drywall is about 1/8″ below the surface of the plaster, which is perfect. After the seams are taped and mudded, I’ll skim coat the whole wall and it should be pretty much imperceptible once it’s all said and done. I’m sort of excited about it. For now, even just having the drywall up feels VERY WEIRD after looking at the gaping hole for so many months, and makes the dining room feel less janky. And to think, someday it’ll even have a ceiling!

Don’t ask me how I’m going to patch in that elaborate baseboard. Fuck if I know. It’ll be OK.

As you can see, there is a coaxial cable sticking out of the wall, as well as a space for a new receptacle next to it! YAYYYY! Right now our coaxial cable comes in through the basement, up a radiator pipe, and into the front room that way. My hope is that the credenza (or some piece of furniture, undecided) will sit on this wall and hold our modem and airport and crap, all concealed, and we can get it out of the front parlor room. We also plan to split the coaxial cable down in the basement so that we have cable hook-ups in a few rooms, just in case, but those cables need to be run another day.

It’s also exciting to have another outlet in the room! The dining room has ONE outlet currently, and I have a plan to add one more, so that’ll be three. I know that’s still less than modern standards, but I think that’s OK. I’m not sure how many we could possibly use!

ANYWAY, back to the pantry…brace yourselves…

pantry1

Ouch, so scary!! Someday it will be nice and bright and cute. Promise. Although the light really does make the condition extra apparent and extra horrifying…

newspaper

I did find this scrunched up piece of newspaper in the wall—the Kingston Daily Leader from July 8, 1936. Cool! I’m going to try some methods to flatten it out. No piles of money (yet), but plenty of old newspapers and masking tape in this house! The date is probably also a good indication of when the staircase was removed, and makes sense given the context of the Depression and the house being divided into multiple living units.

lights

We have LIGHTS! It’s so weird being able to really see this room without a flash light or work lamp. Clearly there’s been some water damage or something over the years to that top part of the back wall, but all of the framing looks great. The space is 8′ long and less than three feet white, so two lights seemed to make more sense.

outlets-pantry

We also have outlets! YAYYYY! The receptacles aren’t in place yet, obviously, but the wiring is. I had the electrician install them at countertop height as sort of a last-minute decision, just in case this room does eventually become part of the kitchen and somehow it isn’t necessary to demo it again? I know, I know… #wishfulthinking

floor

I gotta say, I’m super excited about the floor in here. It’s not original since it would have been open when the stairs were here (so probably installed in the 30s), but it is beautiful unfinished pine! I’d love to sand and seal it.

beadboard

Naturally, I seem to do nothing these days that does not involve messing with the kitchen again…and this time, I set my sights on the weird beadboard panel above the pantry door! I sort of love this thing, to be honest, just because it’s so strange and creative and weird, but I love the idea of restoring the transom window more. Soooo…

transom

BOOM. Sorry kitchen. (Again). But with a little extra work and a pretty piece of glass (I have a good idea!), there will be the prettiest little transom window over this weird little door. It’ll allow a little more natural light into the pantry while also providing a little ambient light in the kitchen when the pantry light is on. It’ll be nice!

So, yay pantry! We’re waiting until more of the electrical is done elsewhere, then getting it all inspected, and then we can start closing up the walls! This will be a good chance to try drywall for the first time and maybe test some techniques I’ve been pondering for the ceilings. It’s nice to start small like this and learn on the way before taking on the bigger jobs. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

BUT THEN. CEILINGS. YOU’RE ON MY LIST.

Grout! Caulk! Paint!

grout

A little while ago, Max and I were discussing the prospect of drywalling our own ceilings in the dining room and front parlor.

Me: “I don’t know, I think it would be kind of hard, but not that hard. I bet we could handle it.”
Max: *heavy sigh*
Me: “What?”
Max: “You’re already doing it.”
Me: “Doing what?”
Max: “This is just going to be another one of those things where when you write about it on your blog, you’ll be all like ‘I thought it would be so easy but it turned out to be really hard and everything is hard and woe is me.’ You really have to stop being so negative all the time. You’re such a Debbie Downer.”
Me: “OK, number one, I am not a Debbie Downer. Number two, I’m saying right now that I think it would be hard. I’m admitting up front that it will be hard and unpleasant, so it will come as no surprise when it is hard and unpleasant. And number three…yeah, I guess I do that sometimes.”
Max: “Like all the time. It’s your schtick. It’s your entire narrative. It’s boring.”
Me: “But that’s how things are most of the time. I want to be realistic.”
Max: “Well, I’m just saying.”

So clearly Max has a serious gripe with my blog, which in turn has inspired a mini existential crisis about why I am the way I am and why I am delusional at the start of projects and then, consequently, quickly overwhelmed, and why I subject myself to the same cycle over and over again and then additionally photograph, write, and broadcast it for the wilds of the Internet to observe and scrutinize. Have I no shame? Have I no dignity? I’ve been blogging for over four years, serious Old House Rehabbing for almost one, and evidently I am too thick of skull to have figured out much of anything in that time about the way I think and operate.

NEWS. FLASH.

I’M BREAKING THE CYCLE.

(at least for this post. I make no promises regarding the future.)

I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s the promise of spring/summer after this truly horrendous winter. I don’t know if it’s the promise of easily and accessibly washing our undies. I don’t know if I’m just getting used to this whole reno thing and therefore more realistic and therefore less convinced that I can renovate rooms in 2 days. I don’t know if it’s just because this room is really small. BUT what I do know is: the laundry room has really been a fun little renovation. There haven’t really been any major moments of agony and/or despair. I have no major regrets thus far. The pace seems reasonable. I am engrossed in the process and having fun.

IT’S LIKE A WHOLE NEW ME.

grout1

So, pretty much, here is a semi-lousy update with semi-lousy photos artfully shot with my iPhone of the progress in the laundry room. Things are really coming together! I think this will probably be my last update before the *big thrilling reveal*, since I don’t want to give it all away before it’s all done.

I grouted. Grouting is a mess. It’s really not very hard. You just read the instructions on the package.

You want to use non-sanded grout for grout lines this little. This is TEC Powder Grout (the color is Raven). It’s basically like smearing black peanut butter all over your walls and then wiping it off.

The thing I’ve learned about using black grout is that you really need to put a little extra effort into making those grout lines nice and crisp. The hardest part of the whole grouting process is getting the hang of rubbing the excess grout out of each individual grout line enough that they look uniform and clean. I learned this time around that getting the final grout haze off with a microfiber cloth (instead of a sponge) is much, much easier. After everything is dry, I like to go over all the grout lines one last time with my finger covered in a microfiber cloth, rubbing each line back and forth a couple times to get the edges of the grout extra-crisp. I think the trick to using subway tiles with black grout in old houses is really thin grout lines, since it more closely mimics old fancy subway tiles. It just looks more natural. Take it from me.

Or don’t. I don’t care. You do you.

caulk2

After the grouting was all done (and my unfinished wood moldings were sufficiently stained black…I told you, it’s messy!), I started priming the moldings! I used my favorite Zinsser BIN Shellac-based primer (two coats), which should block any oils from the wood from bleeding through the final coats of paint.

After I primed but before I painted, I caulked all of the places where the moldings meet the subway tile, so that everything will look fancy and finished. For caulking like this, where the entire surface won’t get painted over, it’s a good idea to use painter’s tape to get a really crisp line. All you do is run your tape (make sure it’s really stuck, just like you’re painting!), then apply caulk, then smooth it with your finger, and then immediately remove the tape. Do not wait until the caulk is dry because you will be so sad.

caulk1

I used paintable silicone caulk, which is great! With silicone caulk, you definitely want to wear latex gloves if you’re touching it with your fingers, like to smooth it. The silicone should hold up much better than latex, which I only like to use for caulking gaps in moldings and stuff before painting. Since this caulk will be partially but not fully painted, it’s better to use silicone because it’s cleanable and should stay looking good for years. I’ve learned that unpainted latex caulk usually catches dust and dirt and looks super crappy within a couple of months, and easily scrapes off unless it is sealed in with paint.

window

I had to basically work on the room in two halves since I had to push the washer and dryer back and forth, but so far I’ve gotten all of the moldings on the left side of the room painted…and they look SO GOOD. I’ll take better pictures later on, but seeing the moldings painted (especially the window and door frame!) makes me so, so happy. I kind of can’t believe that I made them and that they don’t look at all crappy. They aren’t a perfect match to the original moldings in the kitchen, which is just fine. The point isn’t really to fool anyone into thinking they’re original (although I doubt anyone would think otherwise unless they were looking really closely), but to make the room feel like it belongs in the house, and to give it back some character that has presumably been lost over the course of previous renovations. They really make the room, for me anyway.

doorframecorner

The moldings on the other half of the room are patched, caulked, and ready for paint! I used caulk (latex) rather liberally, which makes the moldings look like one piece and keeps everything from looking quite so brand new. I have a little drywall repair left to do around the door frame (I had to patch in some new drywall and tape/mud it after the doorway was made a bit smaller), but then I can paint the walls! We originally painted this room the same color as the kitchen (and the upstairs office…the only two rooms I’ve painted in the house…let’s not talk about that…), Casa Blanca by Clark + Kensington. As much as I really love the color, I do want to experiment with something just slightly more grey. I really do think I want to paint the majority of the house white, but finding the perfect white that won’t read too stark or two yellow or too something might make me lose my mind. I feel like a bit more contrast with the trim and the tile will go a long way in here, and it’s a good opportunity to see how another color looks as I consider the larger spaces like the dining room and foyer and stuff.

So! Here’s what’s left:

1. Finish priming and painting all moldings.
2. Finish repairing drywall.
3. Paint.
4. Create, print, and frame art.
5. Make oversized ironing board for top of machines with removable fabric cover.
6. Purchase pretty containers for detergents, powders, etc. Label said containers.
7. Hang hooks on walls.
8. Sand, repair, prime, paint door. Find glass for door. Install door on two-way swinging hinge.
9. Make and hang shelf.
10. Rolling storage cart?
11. Change light fixture? (maybe…maybe not…)

Is that it? I think that’s it?

EASY PEESY.

(maybe.)

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Lowe’s has generously provided funding for this project, however all designs and opinions are my own.

Replicating Millwork and Stuff in the Laundry Room

Things have been moving right along in the laundry room! So far, smooth sailing. Zero complaints. Looking good. PLUS I got to buy some new tools and try some new stuff and it was fun, which is mainly the subject of this post.

SO. MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS RECAP:

recap

1. The washer and dryer were delivered and they are WONDERFUL. Backing up a bit: we picked out our machines online and ordered them from a sales associate (Frank) at our local Lowe’s store. Frank was truly a delight. Since we’ve never bought a washer and dryer before, Frank really took us through everything we’d need to know about installing and using our new machines, anything additional we needed to buy (dryer vent parts, which dryer plug to use, stainless steel supply lines, that kind of thing), what kind of detergents to use, etc. Since we wanted our dryer to vent out the side instead of the back (so that the machines could sit as close to the wall as possible), Frank also helped us locate the exact part number we needed to order from Lowe’s separately (which, incredibly, was delivered the day after I ordered it over the phone). We scheduled our free home delivery in the store, which was also great. The guys who came to deliver the machines were super nice and very knowledgable. Since we weren’t ready to put the machines in place yet, we opted to leave the shipping bolts in, and the delivery dude showed me where they were and how to remove them and all that. He also advised us to run the dryer empty for an hour to burn off any lingering shipping oils. These guys were excellent is what I’m saying—the whole experience, really. FYI—Lowe’s has not asked me to talk at all about any part of the buying experience or anything like that—I was just legitimately very impressed. Customer service! AND the machines themselves? They work SO WELL. I’m thrilled with them in every way. In case you’re curious, this is the washer and this is the dryer.

2. Both plumbing and electric have been installed. SO EXCITING. This is another one of those things that feels like a really big improvement to our house, and that makes me happy. This house has NEVER had a dryer, and the old plumbing for the washer was tooootttalllly not to code and really old and just no good at all. This also means that the second half of demo-ing the downstairs bathroom went well. Post coming up soon.

3. I started tiling. Then I almost finished tiling. Spoiler: looks great; I’m very good at subway tiling now.

4. I installed the dryer vent. This involved cutting a 4-inch circular hole through the house, which was moderately stressful because I had to go through drywall, plaster, lath, brick, clapboard, styrofoam insulation stuff, and vinyl siding to reach the outdoors. But I did it and then I used some spray-foam insulation around it before closing it back up on the inside with a piece of drywall. Success!

SO. ALL THAT HAPPENED. And that’s not even what I want to talk about.

windowbefore

Remember that little window in the laundry room I talked about in my last post? Basically the deal is that the whole thing—window and surrounding casing—were installed very crooked and it drove me crazy. The rest of the room is surprisingly level, but this window sort of made everything look fun-house-y and sad and strange. The window is fairly small and doesn’t open, which is kind of a drag, but replacing it is just not at all in the budget, and trying to level the window itself seemed like potentially a HUGE project that would involve a lot of opening walls and causing general disaster and despair, and it really just didn’t seem worth it at all.

Back when we painted the room we also patched up and painted the casing, but now that we’re really renovating the room I started to have more ambitious ideas. The casing was obviously nothing special, so what about prying it off and trying to replicate the type of millwork that is original to this part of the house? And if I installed all of that level, maybe it would give the illusion of the window also being level.

Cool. Good Plan.

moldinginspiration

Here is the molding situation I wanted to try to copy. Fancy. From what I can tell, our house has three original different molding profiles, which are basically related to the fanciness of the room. This is the least fancy molding, used in the kitchen, the upstairs office, and adjacent original servant’s quarters which became the upstairs kitchen. It’s still pretty bulky and awesome, but the windows just have simple sills (instead of paneling detail to the floor) and the baseboards are this super simple shape.

Anyway. This door/window molding is basically 3 separate pieces: on the bottom there’s a 1×4 with that innermost detail routed out, then a fancy piece of trim molding, and the whole thing is encased in 1x2s. Seems simple enough.

The one complicating factor is that these moldings were made when lumber was still the actual listed dimensions (so a 1×2 is actually 1″ x 2″, not 3/4″ x 1.5″), so I had to get a little creative with my lumber selections. If I used the modern equivalents of the old lumber dimensions, things would looks sort of wimpy and wrong. Soooo…

1x2cutting

Luckily, Lowe’s sells a 5/4″ x 6″ board (actual dimensions = 1″ x 5.5″), which I could rip down to 2″ strips to make my dimensional 1 x 2. So that’s what I did.

stairtread

Luckily, Lowe’s also sells these long pine stair treads for about $10, which are the perfect thickness for old school window sills, AND have the necessary bullnose edge to match the original one upstairs. Dope. So far so good.

For the innermost piece, it wasn’t so hard to cut one of the 5/4″x6″ pieces of lumber down to an actual 1″ x 4″, but then there was the matter of the fancy routered detail on the inside edge.

I NEEDED NEW TOOLS. NEW TOOOOOLSSSSS!!!

router

BOOM hello router! You are lots and lots of fun and can do so many exciting things, like help me convincingly replicate old molding.

I’ve used a router maybe once or twice in my life, but its really a very easy tool to get the hang of. Along with my router (this one!), I also picked up a plethora of bits (these ones!). I basically just combined two bits to get the shape I needed. The first made the rounded edge, and the second cut a groove. Once it was all done and sanded, it looked pretty legit.

molding2

That little trim piece in the middle was just a stock piece I found at Lowe’s. I wish it was just a little more substantial and interesting, but it’s good enough. I can’t have EVERYTHING.

sillinstal

I’ll spare you all of the nitty gritty, but basically I wanted to install the sill first. This involved cutting down the stair tread, routing out part of the bottom, cutting away the sides, and using my router to chamfer the outer edges. Pretty fancy stuff. Then I installed it very level, using my handy level and lots of shimming magic. Then I installed everything else. It was relatively fun and relatively fast.

windowmolding

And there it is! I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but once it’s caulked up and painted, I think it’s going to be gooooood. I’m so happy with how it came out, and while the window itself is still crooked, the level casing really does completely distract from it in real life.

glamorshot

Glamor shot of the corner, just because it looks so damn profesh.

apron

If you’re very observant, you might note that the apron on this window is quite a bit longer than the one on the original window upstairs. I originally made an apron that small but it looked silly, so I pried it off and just eyeballed the proportions. I chamfered the outer edges with my router, like the original apron, and it looks…really good. It’s the little things!

So woodworking is fun and exciting and the window victory made me feel like I wanted to work more wood. I started to get all ambitious and stuff.

doormoldinginside

Part of the fun of this room is that at some point, the previous owner drywalled right over the original plaster and didn’t remove the door casing—meaning that the edge of this casing was basically flush with the drywall. It wasn’t a great look, but it would be an especially BAD look once I started tiling the walls. Additionally, I had ideas about the doorway. What if we added a door?

door

This door. I found it in the basement. It was covered in spiders. I braved spiders for this door.

I like this door because aside from being free, it has a big glass panel cut-out (no glass, though…so we’ll have to get something cut), which will still allow plenty of light to get through from the laundry room window into the kitchen but will still help the rooms feel like two separate places. The plan is to hang this door to swing in both directions (using this business from House of Antique Hardware).

This door is smaller than the opening between the kitchen and the laundry room. Rather than try to enlarge the door, I decided that the doorway between the two rooms was sort of big anyway and it made more sense to enclose it a little bit, thereby increasing the space for the machines.

Yeah. I made a doorway smaller. I’m so counterculture.

kitchenprogress

To do this, I had to pry off the molding on the inside of the laundry room (salvaged) and on the outside in the kitchen (plain new 1×6, not cute, not old). This was fun and exciting because the kitchen is basically renovated and nice and here I am destroying it again. WHY NOT, RIGHT?

doorwayshrinkage

Then I added some pieces of wood to the inside of the jamb to make it smaller, like so. The right side lost .75″, the top lost 1.5″, and the left side lost 1.75″. Nothing too drastic, but now the door should fit AND the slightly smaller proportions of the doorway fit the kitchen better. I’m happy with it.

Then I just milled myself a TON more wood, just like for the window but on a larger scale. I made door frames. I made baseboards. I made a LOT of sawdust.

doorframe

Here’s basically what the door frame looks like, but I still have to attach that middle piece of fancy trim molding to make it complete. Then patch, caulk, prime, and paint!

baseboards

Here’s the deal with the baseboards. It’s a subtle difference from plain 1×6 boards, but I really think it makes a big difference in this case. The gap between the tile and the baseboard will get caulked and everything will get patched and painted.

Here’s an idea of how it all kind of looks together! I think it was SO SO WORTH IT to take the extra time to really sort out the millwork situation in here before just slapping up the tile. Adding back some architectural detail to this space with moldings that look like part of the house is what’s going to really make it feel special and nice when it’s all done, and it makes me happy to make this room feel like it belongs.

Patching up the kitchen side of the doorway is a little more involved since I’m working around existing cabinets and tile and it entails some creative patchwork, but it’s going to look way better than it did before when it’s all finished.

It’s getting close! Next up is grout, caulk, paint, and some finishing details I’m pretty excited about, but right now we’re just THRILLED to have a working laundry set-up, even in a half-finished room. We’ve basically been washing things non-stop for days and it’s bliss.

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

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