Portland Day 6: Puttering

Since Chandler was still grappling with that nasty cold, we took things pretty easy on Day 6. After running an errand or two in the morning, Chandler took a nap and I got to work.

Chandler is an exquisite napper, much like a cat. Combine that with a mean cold and the girl could be out for a couple days. So while she worked on sleeping illness right out of her system, I got started with toiling over one of my passions in life: painting dark wood trim white. It’s one of those noble, time-consuming and satisfying tasks with semi-immediate results. Statistics show that white paint fixes most ugly things 99% of the time, so the odds are on my side here.

Before anyone even THINKS about jumping down my throat about painting the trim, I can assure you, it’s not pretty. This whole apartment was really sloppily painted, and the wood trim felt the brunt of it.

Since it’s all original to the apartment (probably built in the mid-60s), it was also full of gaps and gouges and separating from the wall. Grungy stuff like that.

It took about a tube and a half of caulk to fill all that stuff in (each corner of the door frames, where baseboards met door thresholds, basically anywhere with any type of gap). I can’t stress the importance of caulk enough. It’s really important. Like, really really. Use it.

I started with one coat of the Bull’s Eye 1-2-3 All Purpose latex primer (the guy at Home Depot recommended it over Killz, but I have my doubts about its superiority), quickly realizing that painting baseboards around shaggy-ish wall-to-wall was going to be hell. To work around it, I laid some painter’s tape next to the wall and went along like this:

See that? One hand holds a spackle brush to press down and protect the carpet (tape just wasn’t working, but it’s good for some extra protection), while the other hand sort of moves the brush up and down, making stabbing motions into the floor as if you’d murder the carpeting if you could. Not that I’m saying I would. Well, yeah I am.

Then you just go along the top horizontally with a more saturated brush and carefully get as close to the carpet as possible without touching it. I later picked up a 6-inch plastic spackle knife, which made this whole process much less obnoxious. After priming all the trim (just in the living area and hallway, but still, SO MUCH DAMN TRIM), I had to be done for the day. Painting walls sucks, but painting trim really sucks.

Oh, and a couple people asked about the conditions of the wood floors, so I figured I’d show a picture of the, er, teensy corner I pulled up to put the curiosity to rest. Yeah, definitely a refinishing job. Not happening. Boo-hoo.

Chandler had woken up by then, so she worked on addressing the kitchen window.

Chandler didn’t like the metal venetian blinds, the lack of privacy when they were open, or the view, but wanted to keep plenty of light in the kitchen (it definitely gets the best natural daylight of any of the rooms). So we bought vinyl window frosting from Home Depot, which is super easy to install—just a spray bottle of soapy water and a credit card to squeeze out the air bubbles does the trick. I haven’t gotten a daylight photo yet, but since we did this after dark, we immediately noticed how pretty this stuff is! It’s great in the daytime, but check out what it does at night:

Pretty, right? I can’t wait to get back to New York and use some of this stuff in my place. Definitely have a couple windows that could use some frosty love.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 1.14.11
    Hayden said:

    I normally like your blog, but I am *loving* the Portland dispatches, partly because of the idea I have of a house-out-of-a-box, where you’re trying to do as much as you can in a short span of time to leave Chandler with a home.
    Keep up the updates, please!

  2. 1.14.11
    ModFruGal said:

    If you ever have to paint around carpet again, use one of these..same concept you figured out with the spackle spreader, but bigger. It has saved me many times..protects hardwoods just as well. http://paint-and-supplies.hardwarestore.com/47-248-paint-shields-and-guides.aspx

    • 1.14.11
      Daniel said:

      Ah ha! The whole time I was painting I was thinking “there MUST be a tool for this!” but I was too lazy to look it up. Thanks!

  3. 1.14.11

    That trim is ugly. You were right to paint it. And I’m with Hayden, I love the Portland series!

  4. 1.14.11
    Vera said:

    The window treatment is awesome.

  5. 1.14.11
    Anne said:

    I love your blog. Really. Thanks for entertaining me so well the last days when I was laying sick in bed. I just red your blog from the beginning to the end. Großartig! As we say in German. Greetings from Hamburg.

  6. 1.14.11

    Frosting is the best thing ever! Looks amazing with those shadows.

  7. 1.14.11
    kirsten said:

    I was pushed back in my chair ready to have a covering-the-beauty-of-wood freakout, and then I saw, and sat my ass back down. Hopefully Chandler is EXTREMELY grateful, as this looks like crazy making work. I am intrigued by the Home Despot window cover. So this means people can’t see in at night? I have a lovely garden outside my windows along with lovely neighbors. I’d like to see the greenery and yet spare them the sight of my wandering around in my underwear.

    Great post! I’m sick now and this is the only thing I have to look forward to, so keep ’em coming!

    • 1.14.11
      Daniel said:

      Yep, people can’t see in with the window frosting. Of course this means you can’t really see out either, just a blurry suggestion of what’s outside. But it’s perfect for creating privacy and keeping your natural daylight. I think it’s about $25 a roll (for something like a 36″ x 72″ piece). Feel better!!

  8. 1.14.11

    Sorry, but I agree with the HD guy on this one — Bull’s Eye is better than Kilz. You might not feel it going on, but in the long run, it’s going to block the wood oils and and stains much better. I wish I’d discovered Bull’s Eye before I was already a few months into painting my house!

    • 1.14.11
      Daniel said:

      I really love their oil-based primer, but the latex seems really, really thin. That combined with bad quality off-the-shelf trim paint amounts to SO MANY more coats than I anticipated. Ughhhh painting. It’s killing me.

  9. 1.14.11
    theresa said:

    Hi Daniel,
    So glad you brought up caulking gaps! Been wanting to ask you about this. I am about to attempt to fill some LARGE gaps between my baseboards and wood floors, and I read somewhere that caulking shrinks. Do you find this? Any tips on a good caulk? The gaps are sometimes a centimetre or so and quite deep. Can i shove something else in there and caulk over the top? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, I am about to do my new apartment in its entirety due to shit landlord.

    • 1.15.11
      Daniel said:

      Hmmm, for gaps that large, I’m not sure I’d recommend caulk… I think it’s really better for smaller applications. What about putting some quarter-round shoe molding between the baseboards and the floor? If you go to Home Depot with the exact measurements, they should be able to cut it for you and it wouldn’t be too expensive (or you could rent a mitre saw… it’s not hard, even if you’re scared of power tools!).

    • 1.15.11

      Jumping in here…sorry, Daniel!

      Theresa, if you don’t want to add on another level of molding, you can buy something called “backer rod” to stuff into the gap before caulking it. It’s like a long coil of dense foam that comes in several sizes. It’ll save you from having to use, like, three tubes of caulk to do one wall. You just jam it into the gap (using a putty knife to get it in there, if necessary), and then caulk over it — the caulk will stick to the foam. As long as you’re using a high-quality acrylic caulk that specifies you can paint over it (my favorite is Red Devil in the blue tube, but DAP Alex Painter’s Caulk is more readily available), you shouldn’t have issues with shrinking/cracking for a good long time.

      This is the stuff I’m talking about:

      If you’re looking at Home Depot or Lowes, it’ll probably be in the same area as the weatherstripping products, and it might just be called “foam insulation”.

    • 1.27.11
      theresa said:

      delayed response anna sorry! thankyou for the suggestion. My super is coming to do the job tomorrow I will get him some of that backer rod stuff. Fingers crossed!

  10. 1.15.11
    theresa said:

    Ok thanks, I’ll look into it. It really needs to be done professionally as there are already two layers of quarter round from centuries ago and three million layers of paint. Damn cheap landlords!

  11. 1.16.11
    jay said:


    I was just wondering which window film you purchased for the windows. I was at Home Depot today and they carry so many different ones. The 2 that stuck out the most were the Gila Privacy film which mirrors reflections and the frost.

    But they also had one that was “etched glass”

    love your blog. wish I was as handy.

    • 1.16.11
      Daniel said:

      Thanks! The window film is the Artscape “Etched Glass.” I’ve used it before in other places and it looks fantastic as long as you cut carefully!

  12. 1.13.12

    How does the frosting do for privacy? I am with Chandler on this one…metal venetian blinds are hideous. The frosting, though, is an interesting concept…but I am hoping to use it in my bedroom, in which case privacy is at a premium. Also, how easy does it come off the window (if at all). I am renting my apartment, so when I leave I would probably need to put it back to normal. Lastly, with the “frost,” does it help protect the window? I know things like plastic coating helps glass stay together if it shatters. I live in a sketchy neighborhood, so that kind of added protection would be nice.

    • 1.19.12
      Daniel said:

      Frosting is great for privacy, that’s what it’s for! This type removes very easily, it’s only held on with soapy water!

      It’s not going to protect your window at all though, unfortunately. Hope that helps!