Hangin’ Around

Have you ever learned something and that one, simple thing solves a bunch of problems for you?

I dragged a bunch of pictures out of the back of my closet and took them in to be framed. They’ve been lingering for a long time and I’ve put it off because getting things framed can be SO expensive! I finally just sucked it up and did it and I love them.

I had an idea that I’ve been ruminating on for a while. I love art nouveau art work, especially Alphonse Mucha who did graphic design at the turn of the century. This particular picture isn’t actually by him but the size and color palette were right and I liked it so this is the one I got. I wanted something that just about covers the whole space on the wall.

I’m not sure if it was exactly what I was going for but let’s face it, I don’t think these things through very carefully anyway. I was going for a big statement piece and that’s what it is. I framed it very simply and it just seems perfect. Nothing is competing with the busy artwork.

I do like it though. She’s pretty and it is the first thing you see when you walk in. That’s kind of fun.

When I got this framed, the lady at the frame store told me about French cleats for hanging stuff. Everyone else has probably all known about these forever. I did not know about them and I was so excited because they actually solved about three problems I had hanging stuff.

It’s two metal plates. You hang the first one on the wall. There is a wee level that you slide in a holder on the plate to make sure you hang the first plate levelly. It makes things super easy. The top of the plate is bent a little forwards.

Then you attach the second plate to the thing you are hanging. It has a fold that slips over the top of the plate on the wall.

Not only is it super easy to get things level (something I struggle with) but they hold a lot of weight. So now I could hang this:

That wooden fretwork is heavy and didn’t have anything on the back for hanging so the French cleat was perfect. It’s up there good and solid and I’m thrilled to get it up off the floor for the first time in months. Ignore the pictures flanking it. I just needed to get them up but they’ll reside somewhere else eventually.

Another thing that has been languishing until I solved the hanging-heavy-stuff problem were the “medicine cabinets” my bathrooms needed. Have I mentioned the bathrooms in this house kind of suck? Well, they do. No medicine cabinets meant a box in the linen closet which migrated to my bedroom and all over my bathroom counter. So I bought a couple and when I went to hang them, the anchor actually popped right into the wall and disappeared. This house was built when they were throwing houses up and it lacks studs in some walls. That wall is an interior one between the bathroom and living room and there are not a lot of studs in it. I even bought a fancy new stud finder to replace my old one and confirmed that there was not a stud anywhere in that space above the toilet. Yay!

The medicine cabinet is heavy so I was afraid to hang it with just wall anchors in the drywall. The French cleats seem to spread the weight across the cabinet so I picked up a couple that would hang 100 lbs. each (which the cabinet doesn’t even come close to). It worked and now the bits of medicine cabinet flotsam floating all over the house are corralled and easy to find.

It’s a small thing that makes me super happy. Yay counterspace! Yay ugly box gone!

Joey the foster dog is going to stay here. He’s bounced 3 times which means he’s gone to 3 homes and been returned. It’s crazy. He’s sweet as can be and beautifully behaved. I feel like everyone else got three tries and now I get to keep him. He’s a doll and has fit in so beautifully with my pack. I did my official adoption tradition of getting him a new collar with his tag that has my address. When I brought it home and put it on him, I explained what that meant. Well he’s a dog so I don’t actually believe he understands me but he grinned the rest of the afternoon. Seriously. He sat there like this with the biggest smile. I’ve never seen him do that before or even since.

Congratulations Joey and congratulations us! Also, Coco looks like she could use lessons on how to sleep on a dog bed.

How Learning DIY Ruined My Life

OK, that might be a little melodramatic. It hasn’t actually ruined my life but it does leave you with a filter that makes you see things differently.

I started thinking about this when a friend commented on my post where I examine the multitude of little things done crappily in my house. My micro-examination of details appears to have kicked in that filter as she looked around her home.

Up to hearing you point out your trim finishing flaws, I never would have paid mine a second glance. Now, I am overwhelmed with layers of incompetencies in what used to be my darling little home.

This made me feel a little bad. I’ve been to her house and it IS darling! But the moment I started learning how to do things around the home, I became aware of when it ISN’T done well. That can’t be helped. It appears, she now has this filter and you can never give it back. Sorry!

You all have a filter of this sort. Depending on what you do for a living or for a hobby, you all know how something is done well and when you see it being done poorly, you can’t help but start ticking off the things that are wrong.

For example, during a customer service interaction, I notice when they don’t acknowledge my feelings or offer a solution. I have a friend who sings and whose mother is a singing teacher and she notices when singers “noodle” to mask weak vocals. Have you ever worked retail? Empty shelves make me shudder.

We all have knowledge that gives us a peek behind the scenes.

This can get distracting. The DIY thing has been especially disruptive for me. Someone will be speaking to me and I’m focused on the crooked thermostat on the wall over their shoulder.

*sigh*

Today I’m sitting at my desk, trying to ignore the seam that runs down the middle of my desk. It isn’t the seam that bothers me, it is the jagged cut that keeps drawing my attention.

I just keep thinking, “if only they had used a finer blade on the saw or taped the edge, that chipping might not be that bad.”

What makes you shake your rage fist?

 

 

Painting All the Furnitures

When you take all your furniture out of your house for some reason and see it someplace else, you look at it through new eyes. When the new floor went in, I had to move everything out of half my house and put it in the garage. As I started to put it back, it was impossible not to see my furniture differently. Actually, I take that back. It was probably more like I was finally seeing some of my furniture and it was just white noise before.

So as I’m taking furniture back in, I see how something isn’t necessarily working anymore or needs to be freshened up. In other words, I started painting furniture.

It started with this little table. It badly needed to be repaired but I saw the scuffs and scratches that I had stopped seeing before. When I had it on the table to repair, I impulsively decided to throw a coat of paint on it. It isn’t a precious table so painting the wood wasn’t going to reduce the value of this table. In fact, I may have pulled it out of the garbage. I used to work at a consignment furniture store and got more than a few pieces that way.

I think this is actually a Franken-table. The feet clearly are not original to the spindles which are clearly not original to the marble top. But someone put it together and it is actually the perfect size table to have next to a couch. It is a little tall so your elbow won’t hit your mug of tea and knock it into your knitting bag all over. Plus, the marble surface doesn’t require a coaster. So I actually love the practical nature of this table, even if isn’t the greatest looking piece.

However, a quick coat of blue paint, and it’s looking better already! This is like the equivalent of a furniture face lift. It really did lose years off its age.

The color is Sherwin William’s Breezy which was a sample pot I had while agonizing over the future color of the kitchen.

It ended up much lighter than I had intended but I like it. It took me forever to do this because I would go out, see some spots I missed, do some touch ups and let it dry. But I was in no hurry to get it in so the timing worked for me. This weekend I felt like I had finally finished the painting. I might go back and put a top coat on to shine it up a little or I might just leave it until whimsy dictates it gets painted a different color.

Here she is in action. Please disregard the terrible looking door next to her. That is the door out to the garage and there is a LOT of prep work going on before I can paint it and the trim. I think I’m finally down to the task of removing the door, sanding, and filling before I paint it. When that door and trim are done, this little vignette will look even better!

It will also probably look better when I paint over all the test spots I put up on the wall.

I needed a higher lamp in that spot because a normal height lamp puts the shade right at the light switch which is annoying and looks funny. The little wooden table next to the painted one was a wedding gift to my step-father and his first wife. I love that little table. I rescued it and won’t give it up. Oddly, I really like it paired with the prim little blue table. But I’m all about contrast. Chocolate and cheese. Yum.

The table needed a little something so I put one of my African violets on it. These little violets do great with artificial light and since this room is SO dim, this lamp is one pretty much all day. The violet should do fine and I LOVE the little pop of color with the red as well as the round shape paired with the spindly-ness of the table and the lamp. Contrast. It makes me happy.

I really need to thin that violet. She is a very healthy, happy violet.

The other furniture I painted was another little table. I took before pictures but, for some reason, the camera didn’t save the pictures. Jerk. Just picture a cherry-finish table from Target. Nothing fancy or special. It was just a handy little side table. It still looked good but I wanted a change. I have a lot of dark furniture and I’d like to lighten it up a bit. I didn’t have any real plan for this so I just slapped a couple coats of Sherwin Williams Casa Blanche on it. Another sample pot.

Have I mentioned how dark my house is? Also, that lamp is wrong there. I have to try a bunch of them to find the one that will work. That one is jus the interim lamp.

I have set up some of my Halloween stuff. The black blob on the far right is a plastic cauldron. Normally, this holds the candy for Halloween night (I get a lot of trick or treaters) but I put it on the floor thinking Scarlet Kitty might enjoy jumping in and out of it. She loves it. She is in it all the time. This is the best picture I could get of it.

Trying to take a picture of a black cat sitting in a black cauldron in a dim house? Yeah, this is as good as it is going to get.

I don’t have a pull on the drawer yet. I have one that I think will be pretty here, just a plain cream colored one. I haven’t been able to find it. I suspect it is in the epic linen closet mess.

I’m pleased with both these little projects. They were easy to do, I didn’t have to buy anything new and they change things up a little which is what I think I need to do.

I have plenty more sample paint pots so hang on to your hats while I figure out what else I can paint. (TV stand I’m looking at you!)

A Little Paint Can Go a Long Way

I had another glorious weekend to just putter about the house and knock out projects. I love not having deadlines for work around the house. I will do a few things, read a chapter or two, do a few more tasks, make some toast, paint a few things, etc. It’s lovely to just knock things out without pressure behind the project.

I did finish the pantry and am writing up a little reveal. In the meantime, I thought I would share an “easy” project with a lot of bang for the buck.

Painting trim isn’t a difficult project but it can be fiddly so while it doesn’t actually take a lot of time to do, preparation can stretch the length of the project.

I’ve been caulking like crazy in the family room and kitchen. I’ve come to the conclusion that no one ever caulked in this house before now (other than the standard plumbing caulking). Caulking around windows is a good idea because it just closes up another gap that heat or cool air can slip through. Caulking around floor trim or interior door trim is really more of a cosmetic preference but considering some of the gaps I have between the walls and the trim, I’ll be caulking a lot more this year (and next!).

The family room is a cold room during the winter and now that I’ve removed the carpet, I need to do everything possible to close the gaps to the outside.

The kitchen window was caulked and I went around the trim filling the holes with wood putty and sanded them down. I also had to caulk along the mitered edges of the trim. They had some gaps that paint was just going to emphasize, making everything look janky. There was a lot of prep on the kitchen window trim.

Kitchen window trim before…

This weekend I was finally ready to paint the trim. This trim has never been painted so I used a primer+paint combination. Even with the primer included, I did two heavy coats. Heavy enough that was a little drippage and I think I need a third, and final, coat. But in the meantime, it looks finished and clean. Much better.

After

Even with all the prep I did on the trim, when I put the first coat of paint up, I found a lot more nail and staple holes and had to fill them before the second coat. With all the work on the trim, I think that if I had a bigger budget, I would have been better off just pulling off this old trim and installing and painting new trim. But right now I’m working with what I have!

A final side-by-side comparison. I think the white trim and the gray wall is a much better combination.

SideBySide

I still have the trim around the sliding glass door and the back door to the garage. These are turning out to be as preparation-heavy as the kitchen window was. Lots of gaps, holes, and rough spots that need sanding.

A sneak peek at another painting project I finished up this weekend in this sleepy Sunday still life I call Snoozing Dog.

Installing a Light Sensor

I’ve been looking for easy, inexpensive ways to update around the house. Big projects, like the kitchen, certainly are the best ways to maintain, or increase, value in your house but I think details communicate a lot about the house too.

I was looking at updating my light switches for aesthetic reasons and also to just look like a modern, updated, well-cared-for house. Plus, I have to admit, the technology geek in me saw these and immediately said, “cool!”

I kept telling myself, “Not now, one project at a time.” These don’t have to be expensive at all but it seemed prudent to save that expense for when I wasn’t in the middle of a major kitchen remodel. Still, I was looking at these pretty hard and making plans.

As luck would have it, two days later, I was reading Pretty Handy Girl and she had a giveaway of a Lutron unit. I was one of the lucky winners and received my unit in the mail this week.

I couldn’t wait, I came right home tonight and installed it in under 30 minutes. This is a super easy project.

This is what you may need:

  • A Philips-head screwdriver
  • A flat-head screwdriver
  • A voltage detector
  • Tape, scotch or electrical
  • A flashlight (if the room you are working in will be dark without the light)

tools

I want to swap out all my switches eventually with the touch light switches. I did want the sensor light in a couple of places: my garage and my hallway. My original thinking of the sensor in the garage is because I am generally going in or out of the garage with my hands full so having the light go on and off automatically would be really handy. I also wanted a sensor for the hallway because it is a really dark hallway and everyone always forgets to turn the light off.

Old-school fixture that I was going to have to swap out anyway because the plate is white but the switch was cream.

I was really happy to see the kit I had won was also a dimmer. Dimmers are great for mood lighting but they are also good for kind of a nightlight purpose. My thinking is that I set the dimmer to low at night when I have house guests, when they get up to use the guest bathroom, the light will go on in the hallway so they can see where they are going but it won’t be super, rudely bright. When they go back to bed, the light will turn off.

I’ve never installed a light switch before and I have certainly never installed a dimmer/sensor. On top of all this, there are two light switches that turn the hall light on and off. I was worried I might be in a little over my head. This ended up not being the case at all. This is a super easy, super fast project with a lot of va va voom (I think).

The first thing to do is shut off the power to the light switch. Even if you are pretty sure, check the switch with the voltage detector. My voltage detector only requires me to turn it on and wave it near the switch. It will go red if any voltage is detected.

I have two settings that check for different voltages and I can never remember which is which so I always check them both. I figure if it doesn’t detect any voltage in either setting, I’m good to go.

This is also about when I realized that the hallway was dim enough with the light on, when I switch off the power and the light goes off, getting good pictures is going to be a challenge. So I apologize for the image quality from here on out.

I took off the old-school plate and unscrewed the switch from the wall box.

The directions said the wires would be green so of course, mine are black. The directions also said to mark the wire on the bottom (since it is the same color as one of the other wires) so I just used a piece of scotch tape and made a little tab. It’s hard to see in the picture so I circled it.

I removed the switch so I just had the wires. I also had to start using the flashlight to see what I was doing. I immediately had trouble finding the ground wire so I had to dig around the wall box a little.

I finally dug it out along with another wire that hadn’t been attached to the switch. I just tucked it back in and ignored it (la la la! I don’t see you!).

According to the directions, I was to attach the green wire on the new switch to the copper ground wire in the wall box. Then I twisted on the cap (that came in the kit) and tucked it back into the wall box.

The directions then say to attach the wire that I tabbed with tape to the black screw. This was easy to follow. However, the next instruction is to attach the other wire of the same color to the blue screw. On the new fixture, the black screw is on the lower right of the switch and the blue screw is on the upper left. This would mean that a black wire is on the lower right and on the upper left but when I looked at the photo I took earlier, the black wires are both on the right.

SwitchConfiguration

I thought the wires would probably be put back on the way they had been but I went ahead and followed directions. I immediately tested the light though and, sure enough, it didn’t work. I turned the power back off, checked for voltage, pulled the wires off, and put them back on following the pattern they had on the original switch; the two black wires on the right, the red wire on the left.

I tested it again and this time it worked! I turned off the power again and tested for voltage. Then I screwed the switch into the wall box. You’ll put the screw in the large oval opening of the switch which should align with the holes in the wall box.

It was a bit of a challenge making sure it didn’t lean to one side. When I do it again, I will have my little level handy just to make sure.

The face plate came in a different package. It is two layers. You separate the layers. The inside layer (with the screws) will be attached to the small holes at the very top and very bottom of the switch.

I circled the screws that fix the inner plate to the switch. You can see the screws that fix the switch to the wall box through oval holes in the plate.

NewSwitchPlate

Then you simply snap on the outer plate.

NewFixture

Following the directions, I programmed the light so that it would turn on when someone nears it and turn off when there is no movement for a while. I can simply dim the light before I go to bed to make this the high-tech nightlight I want it to be. It also detects when there is light so if this were in a place that had sunlight coming through windows, the light wouldn’t turn on until the room got sufficiently dark.

Some of these sensor/dimmer products can really get up there in price. I found this particular Lutron sensor/dimmer online for around $30. It looks like my specific kit was on closeout but a quick search shows there are other options that have the same features. I know I was also looking at plain light switches like this that ran about $6 so, depending on how many light switches you have in your home, this can be a low-cost/high-impact update. Fancy pants.

I grabbed a little video so you can see how close/far away I am from the hall when the light goes on. You can catch a glimpse of the linen closet project that was abandoned when work on the kitchen started in earnest. I’ll be able to pick this back up in another week or so when the kitchen is done. In the meantime, prepare to be dazzled:

Replacing an Outdoor Entry Light

An alternative title to this post can be, “When Easy Projects End Up Being a Pain and Taking Forever.” It isn’t catchy but it might be more accurate.

I thought I had conquered the light and I had an hour before company came over so I jumped up on the stool and had another go. When I pulled the wires out of the recess, it confirmed that my problem was actually non-existent. True, the fixture had those cloth wires but they were still installed just like the new one would be so, “Voila!” I was able to remove the old fixture within seconds.

Imagine how bright I felt when I just pulled the wires out of the recess so I could actually see them.

Success! I was careful not to let it go to my head. I was fairly certain something would still humble me but I was feeling more confident at this point. Surely the hard part is removing the old fixture, right? I cleaned up the area (and the whole ceiling actually) so I’m relatively bug-free. What a nice feeling.

Black wire, white wire, and (copper) ground wire; just like the directions say!

When I brought out the new light fixture, I realized the new one had two bulbs where the old one only had one bulb. This meant twice the wires on the new fixture. Quick! Research! After a very frustrating search (I kept getting search results for light bulbs which I. Couldn’t. Care. Less. About.), I finally confirmed that it was OK to put both fixture white wires together with the single house white wire and the same for the black wires. You just take the like-wires (for example, all three black) and twist the ends together and then twist the cap on the end. That’s it. tuck them back up into the ceiling box. Repeat this with the next set of wires (for example, all the white wires). The ground wire, the copper ones, only had two so those two have their ends twisted together and then a cap screwed on the end.

OK. I could move forward again.

It was hot and I was working in direct sun. There was a very rude moment where I picked up a pack of old Christmas tags to fan myself as I waited for the laptop to boot up. The old glue on the tag package gave way releasing all the Christmas tags in the package spectacularly pelting me in the face. You never know when you should be wearing your safety goggles so just wear them all the time.

Insult to injury

The pictures stop here. Everything stopped here. For HOURS I wrestled with the new fixture. I was miserable because it was evening (which is the hottest time of day for us) and the front of my house faces west so I got overheated a couple of times. The real culprit of this project is the new fixture. It is ridiculously hard to install. The bracket is fine but it has these wee screws holding it in and some nut system that you have to get the light plate onto blind. You can’t see the bolts so you are trying to feel for the holes in the plate while sweating profusely and getting a charlie horse between your shoulder blades.

Honestly, at almost 9pm I called it. I was a little concerned with their system for fixing the plate to the ceiling. It just doesn’t seem very secure for something that hangs over your head and it is ridiculously hard to get up because you can’t see what you are doing. The cherry on the top is that the bolts have to be precisely right but the plan for that is to try putting the plate up, see they need adjusting, take the plate off, adjust, put the plate back up, see it isn’t right, take it off again and adjust again, etc.

Other house projects took center stage and my poor entry remained unlit with only visible wires above. Finally, during a break from hanging cabinet doors, my brother wanted to tackle the light. I hoped that the problems I had were limited to me but, sadly, he had the same issues.

We finally settled for “good enough” which means the light is mounted but it feels precarious with the wee screws barely in the mounting bracket. Plus, it is really difficult to get the light plate flush against the ceiling so the insulation doesn’t show at the top of the plate. We actually were unable to get that to work. To top it off, the fixture is twisted so it doesn’t hang lined up with any line in the entryway. It looks hap-hazard and sloppy. The only way to get it lined up would be to remove the electical box and turn it so the mounting bracket holds the light lined up with the door.

At this point, it feels like a ridiculous failure. I’m unhappy with the everything about the project. It wasn’t even a light I was in love with. I selected it because it was the best of what was available. I think the answer is going to be to find a circular light with a different installation process. I’m researching them now and have found plenty that I like but nothing under $100. I’m not sure I want to spend that much so I’ll keep looking for some kind of deal.

Any recommendations?

Builder’s Grade vs. Your Grade

My first home was a little mid-century condo in Pasadena. I was very spoiled by that experience. I lucked into a beautiful neighborhood in a well-maintained building with great neighbors. Looking back, I didn’t realize how swanky some parts of my house were. Things might have been a little dated but they were nice. They were good quality.

Fast forward to now and I’m in a little 70s ranch home in Oregon. It’s a cute little tract home in a cute, modest neighborhood. There have always been things about the house that kind of niggled at me. Nothing was bad enough that I felt compelled to make them a priority. Heck, in my busy life, there have always been plenty of priorities at the head of the line. Something that wasn’t quite right just didn’t demand attention.

Good enough

In the last three months I’ve learned more about houses and construction than in all my previous years (and there are a few stacking up there). The most surprising, and game-changing, was that my home, and many homes that are products of inexpensive building booms, are built using really inexpensive materials.

My contractor sneered at my new Ikea cabinets but they are nicer than what I had.

I know most of you are probably saying, “No duh!” but seriously, it never occurred to me that it could be SO cheap and flimsy. I have heard the term “builder’s grade” and I assumed that meant good quality. After all, they are the pros. They know better than I do what is good and what is not. In actuality, builder’s grade usually means the least expensive materials. That doesn’t always mean crappy. Something can be inexpensive because it is manufactured on such a large-scale but it is not a quality you strive for.

I hesitate to say I did not know this because I really didn’t think about it much. I heard the term and just assumed a definition and didn’t explore it further. This is a tough thing to admit to you because if you are the kind of person who reads DIY blogs than you have already figured this out and have rolled your eyes at me by now. In my defense, I’ll bet there are a lot of people out there like me. I’m not a decorator and I’ve never done this kind of thing before. I trusted the pros. What I failed to factor in, is that the pros are in business and a business must make money which means spending the least amount possible for a higher profit margin.

Notice the light fixture is way off-center towards the closet. That is because there is no light in the closet. I think the builder believed he could kill two bugs with one light fixture. This is supposed to be the room light as well as the closet light. It doesn’t really work that way.

This is not a criticism. Far from it, actually. I completely understand that and I have a sense of freedom now that I didn’t feel before. If my home is made up of builder’s grade materials then I have something that works for now. I don’t have to rush to change anything out because it is good enough to get along. It also means that I don’t have to protect anything precious or historically significant. I have a blank slate that I can shape to best fit my needs and whims.

This kitchen renovation project has been frustrating because I want to do it right. I want smart decisions made and good changes. The contractors just want to do it and move on. I find I have to insert myself at every step because they make assumptions and cut corners.

You can see the paint line where the old trim used to be as well as a nail hole. That trim was replaced by the previous home owner, when he installed this floor, with this single piece of quarter round which doesn’t match the old trim when ever it meets at a corner.

They assume we are going to put the same quarter round back even though it doesn’t match the floor and looks ridiculous by itself. They only finish part of the ceiling because they assume it will be covered with cabinets. It isn’t covered by a cabinet and I honestly think they would walk away from the job with the ceiling like this unless I insist it gets fixed.

See the big patch of unfinished ceiling and the big gouge in the wall?

I find that I go around at night taking care of little details they could have easily done but blew off. I spackle holes they ignore even though they patched a hole three inches away. I sand down the trim we are reusing because some wall paint has come away with it and is all clumped along the top.

At first I was really angry. I’m resigned now. I understand that no one cares about my house as much as I do. To me it is a home. To them it is a job. I don’t blame them really. At this point, I just want to get the kitchen put back together and then I can go back and fix the details.

The little things about the house that used to bother me now feel like an opportunity. I understand what is bothering me and now I feel like I can do whatever I want to change it. Don’t like the base trim? Don’t worry. It wasn’t expensive, you aren’t foolish to just throw it out and get new base trim that floats your boat.

It seems odd that I’m having this revelation now, this far into the project and AFTER I started blogging about DIY because I think I just discovered the reason to DIY. No one has your interests and home in their best interest more than you. The most appropriate person to feather your nest is you.

Not every project has to be as tough as re-doing a whole kitchen has been. The great thing about a kitchen re-do though? (aside from having a beautiful new kitchen) All the little projects I’ve always wanted to tackle but seemed like so much work; seem like a cake walk now!

I’m sort of drunk with the upgrade possibilities. I can change my doors! I don’t have to stick with these doors. They aren’t so great that I’m wasting anything. New doors. Huh.

My light switches? I can do something different. They have some awesome new options for light switches now. I can have high tech light switches. Cool. I don’t ever want to be in the position of relying on someone else to do the job the way I want it done again. I don’t ever want to be made to feel that I’m a nit picky, interfering busy body again because I can see there is going to be a problem and I point it out.

I’m going to teach myself as much about working on this house as possible so that I can do the job the way I believe it should be done and builder’s grade becomes my grade. If you need me, I’ll be wandering the aisles of Home Depot and Lowes.

To Spackle or Not to Spackle

I keep seeing people directed to my site as they search for spackle guidance. I feel bad that I have absolutely nothing of value to offer, so I thought I would write something up for them. Especially since all I’m doing is painting trim in the hallway. It’s a sad day when spackle is more entertaining than what you are actually doing. That’s really sad actually.

When do you spackle?

You may have heard of both spackle and joint compound for patching holes in walls. When do you use one or the other? Spackle is best for nail holes or smaller (although I’ve used them on cable holes too). Joint compound is for larger patch jobs. Joint compound needs drywall tape or a mesh patch to help create some kind of foundation for the compound since you are using it for something that doesn’t have it’s own support; aka, the hole.

Spackle is kind of powdery while joint compound is smooth and goopier. Spackle usually dries quickly while joint compound can take a little longer.

How much spackle do I need? I’ve always kept a little 8oz container of spackle around and used it when I had small patch jobs like the nail holes from re-positioning pictures (Because I never hang something in the right spot the first time. Ever.). I’ve never had a hole that required joint compound until recently when the process of removing baseboard glued to the wall caused some dents. These dents are about 2 inches wide and 1.5 inches high.

How much does spackle cost? The little 8oz container of spackling paste cost me $3.98 at Home Depot. I’ve never managed to use up a whole container. I keep them for a few years and then replace it when it starts to dry out. The joint compound in the first picture cost $5.98.

How do you spackle? We’re just going to spackle in this post. Because I have so little experience with joint compound, I don’t feel like I’m in a position to be authoritative about that, plus there is already a great tutorial for that here.

Materials:

  • Spackle
  • Palette knife (aka joint knife, aka drywall knife)

Big patch material on the left, small patch material on the right.

Step 1: Clean up the hole. There is often some paper from the drywall sticking out. Pull or tear it off so the surface is relatively smooth. You don’t want any bumps, only indentations that we’ll fill.

Step 2: Scoop a little spackling paste onto your knife. You will only need enough to fill the hole. Most of the time a scoop the size of a quarter is more than enough and you won’t use all of it.

Step 3: You will run the knife across the hole to press in the spackle paste. Take advantage of the flex your knife has and apply a wee bit of pressure. Not a lot. Your knife is at about a 20% angle. Don’t worry about the extra that will splooch out along the sides of the knife.

Step 4: Come back across and lightly scrape the surface taking up the extra spackle. I hold the knife at a slightly different angle for this; about 45 degrees. Don’t worry if you still see an indentation at the hole. It will take a few passes to get the right spackle ratio in there.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 several times, changing directions, to work the spackle in until it looks like no more spackling paste can go in the hole.

Step 6: If you feel like your feathering needs a little help, you can gently wipe your patch with a barely damp sponge (wet the sponge and then squeeze ALL the water out of it). You can also go back and lightly sand if you feel the surface is uneven. I find that spackle is soft and dusty enough that just lightly brushing my fingers across the patch will often feather it enough that I almost never use a sponge or sandpaper.

For really small holes such as from tacks or a really thin nail, I’ll just fill the hole with spackle and I don’t even worry about the feathering. I’ll just scrape and wipe off the spackle outside the hole. For these super small ones, you won’t even notice the spackle. This is great in apartments or somewhere the wall may be white already and you may not be painting.

When it is dry, run your hand across it to see if the surface feels smooth. Sometimes, when the spackle dries, it will shrink into the hole a little so don’t worry if you come back and there is an indentation again. Just spackle again using the same technique and let it dry.

Spackle does not take a long time to dry so you can paint over the patch very quickly. Check the drying time on your spackle container. I have one that says 30 minutes and the other says 3 hours.

When this patch dried, it shrank into the hole a little. Just go back and repeat the process and it will fill in nicely.

If you have a hole in wood, such as a nail hole in trim, it is better to fill with wood filler. The consistency will be a closer match which makes the patch less visible. This is a great resource for more information on wood filler.

Spackling holes is a great project for non-DIY people. It is very inexpensive and easy to do.

Sites I used as references:

http://www.doityourself.com/stry/what-is-the-difference-between-spackle-and-joint-compound#b

http://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/3376/how-big-a-hole-in-drywall-can-be-fixed-by-spackle-alone

http://www.diychatroom.com/f2/spackle-versus-joint-compound-13640/

 

Window Blind Quick Fix

I have an adorable kitty. This adorable kitty, Scarlet, likes to watch the birdies through the window. That sounds gentle and bucolic until you find out that what she’s done is bust through the blinds to sit in the window. These blinds must be kind of old and brittle because almost immediately, they started breaking which makes the front of the house look janky. It’s one step away from tacking up an old sheet.

In addition to broken blinds, they have always been miles too long for the window. I’ve just done what the previous home owner did and piled the additional blinds up on the window sill and pretend everything is fine. However, everything really wasn’t fine. When I went to take a picture of the blinds I saw blind bits on the floor and left it in the picture to help illustrate my point. My front windows were not classy.

I did not even know that I could do anything about the extra blind length until I read this post. It was like the heavens opened up and I saw the universe differently. So this evening I set out to do a quick fix on the blinds until I can replace them.

The last piece of the blinds is a chunky piece that has little tabs on the bottom. Pop out those tabs. They were pretty easy to get out. I didn’t even need a screwdriver. Tucked into that hole is a string with a knot. Just pull out that little knot and cut it off. Once that knot is gone, you can simply pull out all the blind slats one-by-one.

Pull the slat from its little string “ladder” which it just sits on and pull out the single string that is laced through the slat’s hole.

 

I did that all the way up past the broken bits. I set aside the slats still in good condition. As you can see, I was getting some help. She wasn’t very good at this because she just wanted to bite everything. I didn’t need to bite a lot on this project.

 

This is a good view of the string “ladder.” I’m going to replace the broken slats I removed with the good slats that were extra at the bottom. I found that it was easiest to just slip a new slat onto each step of the ladder all the way down to where I want to stop.

 

Don’t overthink this step. It is as easy as it seems.

You can see the new slats on the ladder at the top of the picture. I haven’t put the single string through the hole yet. I found it easier to just slip the slats onto the ladder first and run the string through the holes afterwards.

You can turn the slats to the position that makes it easiest to see the slat holes for the string. I found I liked them up but facing me just a skootch so I could see the holes. Just run that string straight down the holes all the way down.

Here is a shot of me threading the string through the holes. I found I needed to trim the string a few times to keep it from getting fuzzy on the end which made it difficult to poke through the holes. So leave as much length on the string until the very end. You’ll appreciate being able to trim a few times and have a nice clean end.

Thread it down through the last slat just above where you want it to end..

Slip the last, chunky piece into the ladder just like you did for the slats. Slip the single thread through the small hole on the top of the piece (you may want to trim again so it fits neatly into the hole) and make a single knot at the end.

You can trim off the single thread now. I left an inch or so and just tucked it all back up into the hole.

Pop the button back into the hole on the bottom of the chunky, bottom piece.

Trim off the bottom of the ladder. I left a little bit of thread and it doesn’t show.

It is now the perfect length.

There are no more broken slats giving the front of the house a dorm room look.

There is a bit of clean up however. This is never the glamorous part of a project.

Do we want to take bets on how long it will be before she pushes through the new slats and breaks them now? I’ll bet these don’t last a month. Ah well…adorable kitties are worth it.

For the Spackling Challenged

One of my goals for cleaning up the garage was to slap a coat of paint on the walls. Not so much for appearance (although it looks MUCH better all white than the drywall) but to help clean it up. The walls are really rough and the drywall is full of a LOT of holes and gouges and writing, etc. Over the years the spiders and cobwebs have taken advantage of the less-than-smooth surface and things look crummy fast. Slapping up a coat of paint cleans up a lot of the surface and looks better and brighter (it brings a lot more light into dark corners). I selected a glossy, white indoor/outdoor paint. I’m not cutting in at the edges or around shelving; just getting general coverage. If I really wanted a pro appearance, I’d have to replace the drywall.

When I was making a hardware store run for spackle, I saw this and thought it would be fun to try. Now I’m actually a spackling genius. Seriously. I ROCK the spackle skills. But there are SO many nail holes and dents and gouges that a short cut was gonna help!

It cost over $13 at Home Depot and the envelope contains three “pages.” One page is a circle that acts as support for a larger hole. Another page is a single, large, square patch and the third page has a bunch of smaller, different shaped patches.

The patches look like little paint splotches. I used the little ones to cover the nail holes and the smaller gouges. The stick on just like stickers. This could be a great way to put your little kids to work. They are pretty flexible so if you push against them, you feel the nail hole beneath them. These are strictly for appearance.

This is what the splotches look like painted. You can still see them pretty easily. I think they would disappear a lot more if I put a second coat of paint up.

If you step back from the wall and don’t look for them, you can hardly see them. I ran out of the stickers before I got all the nail holes covered. We just went ahead and painted the wall anyway. I’m thinking I could go back with the stickers after the fact to cover them up. I don’t think they would be a lot more visible than the ones that have been painted over.

This is the large patch up close. This has been painted over so you can clearly see it even after painting.

When you step back from the wall, at certain angles, it does actually drop back a little but this is clearly not something you try on a wall with high visibility. Also, one big caveat, these don’t fix or fill the hole so if you can’t see it and go to make a hole right next to it, you will have a mess on your hands because it is only a sticker over the surface.

Overall it was an interesting experiment. I probably wouldn’t buy this again because for the price, I can get spackle that will cover all the holes and wouldn’t show. However, for a wall in the back of a closet or a garage wall this isn’t a bad quickie fix. Especially if the hole is at an awkward place that is kind of hard to access. You can see it looks MUCH better than the holes that didn’t get patched at all.

Maybe I’ll write up a spackling 101 guide in the next few weeks. Holler if this is something you would find helpful. It might be a good excuse to do our first video! Oooo!