Archive for the ‘House’ Category

Shed Update

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

So you all remember that last post about the shed where Tina and I were trying to figure out if it was going to look too big?  Well, thanks to all the input we got from our readers, we’ve decided to go ahead with it.  This is a highly desired project to free up some space in the basement.  Although we had great intentions of getting this done last summer, work, life, travel, other projects, budget constraints, and the fact that I haven’t finished the design stage yet have kept us from finishing it up.  We have made significant progress with the time we have found to work on it though.  Let me catch you up on what we’ve done…

We started by stringing out the three-foot offset from the property line that is required by the town.  Then, we staked out the potential corners of the shed.  This led us to building the rough frame to get an idea of the size of the shed:

The next step was laying out the actual corners of the shed. I built batter boards so we could put up some string:

We used part of the temporary sidewall frame to get the rough location of the shed:

Tina and I surveyed the topography of the land in the vicinity of the shed to assess potential drainage issues:


Then, we installed the batter boards and strings. Once the strings were in the correct position, we cut grooves in the boards so we could quickly get the strings in place to check our work:

Now it was time for the hard work:

The soil here is actually very nice for digging as it is very sandy with only a few thin clay layers:

The biggest rock was about 2 inches in diameter and the worst problem I had was with roots in the northeast hole:

I finished the holes in one day but then we got busy and they sat covered for 2.5 months:

By November, I was anxious to try and make progress before the weather got unpleasant so I ordered some of the materials to get the site work completed and the deck built. Here’s a pile of 5.5 tons of 3/4″ stone. It’s more than I need for the shed, but I have a few other ideas for it and I didn’t want to pay multiple delivery charges:

Here’s the pressure-treated lumber for the deck and 15 80-lb bags of concrete mix:

And the tubes for the concrete pillars. Also, some of the 500 square feet of tile that we bought that we’re not going to use. Does anyone want any tile? Let’s make a deal:

I cleaned up the holes to get the concrete tubes installed plumb and then started mixing. It was easier than I expected and I was able to finish off the 6 pillars in one afternoon:

I graffiti-ed up the posts:



The following weekend, I was back out in the yard to remove some soil to make room for the stone. That corner of the yard is always damp and I didn’t want the shed sitting right above the damp soil so I’m putting a few inches of stone to keep things a bit more dry.  I marked a line 1 foot beyond the edge of the shed and got to work.  The first task was moving the soil that I had removed for the pillars.  I transfered these piles to a pile up near the driveway.  I’m going to have to find some place to haul this to because we don’t have anywhere on the property where we need that much fill:

Next, we pulled off a couple of inches of really nice organic soil:

We hauled this to the other side of the back yard so we can use it to build some raised beds near the bird feeders in the spring:

I continued digging until I had a nice slope from the center of the shed toward the edges to keep water from pooling underneath. I also dug a ditch around the outside to catch the runoff from the roof. I didn’t finish on the weekend and with some cold weather coming I raced to finish this off one night in the rain by the light of a Coleman lantern:

By mid-December, snow stopped my progress:

When we had a warm spell the week after Christmas, I took the opportunity to continue my work on the site. I shoveled off the remaining snow and laid down some landscape fabric to keep the stones from mixing with the soil and to keep weeds from popping up around the edges:

After countless trips from the driveway to the back yard with the wheelbarrow, I had filled in the hole with the stone:


It took about 2/3 of the pile of stone. It’s nice to be able to walk from the driveway to the front door without climbing a mountain:

Meanwhile, we’ve been stockpiling materials as we come across them. Pops found a couple of replacement sashes at his local lumber yard that were never picked up:

And he had some shingles left over from one of his projects that he was willing to get out of his garage:

I’m hoping that weather and schedules combine to allow me to finish building the deck sometime this month. I will also get serious about finishing up the plans so I can order the lumber and get the rest of the shed built!

Basement Shelves

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

With work closed from December 23 to January 3, we found ourselves with plenty of time to get some things done around the house. There is plenty of work to be done on the shed but I wanted to plan an inside project in case the weather didn’t cooperate. With some extra money from a credit card rewards check, we decided to move forward with some shelving for the basement. We haven’t unpacked a lot of things because we still have work to do in almost every room of the house. With all of the tools I’ve been finding on craigslist and the assorted piles of lumber and other materials for the house, it was getting hard to move around down there, let alone find anything. I drew up some quick plans for two sets of shelves in SketchUp and ordered the lumber. The plans were for one 16-foot wide set of four shelves for large items along the front wall of the house and a smaller four-foot wide set of six shelves near the basement stairs for pantry-like storage since we don’t have a pantry upstairs.

After a wonderful long weekend spent celebrating the holiday with both of our families, we drove home from my parents house in a raging blizzard. This was perfect, I thought. I’ll be able to focus on the inside project while the weather is bad. When we woke Monday morning, the unusual silence told us that there would be no work done with power tools. The electric company estimated that power would be back by 11:30 PM. Then they called back and revised their estimate to 11:30 AM. Later in the morning, the called again, saying that the power would be back by 4:30 Tuesday afternoon. Undeterred, Tina and I headed to the basement with our headlamps to move the boxes and furniture out of the way.

Power was restored by 2:30 in the afternoon and I was able to get started cutting the lumber. The first and most time-consuming step was routing dadoes into the vertical posts to provide additional support for the horizontal rails. For the large set of shelves, this required removing over 296 cubic inches of material. I really need to invest in a dado stack and tasks like this make me thing that a radial arm saw would be a more useful cross-cutting tool than a chop saw (one of which will probably be my next tool purchase). I could have been done in a quarter of the time. Once I finished the routing, I started cutting the horizontal support pieces. Again, this was more time consuming because I was using a circular saw, which required more measuring between cuts. Just about when I had all the pieces cut, Pops arrived to help out. We were able to quickly assemble the shelves thanks to the labor saving framing nailer. I’m sure glad I found that and the compressor at a yard sale!

Once the big shelves were finished, Pops helped me cut the lumber for the smaller shelves. He headed home for a New Years party but I was able to quickly assemble the small shelves.

Here is the space before the big shelves were installed:

And here are the big shelves:

You can also see the smaller shelves to the right:

The big shelves were assembled by building the ladders first, then nailing in the horizontal beam. The plywood was tacked on top and finally, the trim piece was added to stiffen the whole unit:

Here is a better view of the smaller shelves:

These were constructed by building the shelf frame first, then adding the plywood and sliding the whole unit into the dadoes on the vertical supports. This was quicker and easier but I was only able to do it this way because I had full access to both sides of the unit for nailing:

In the end, we added 172 square feet of shelving to the basement.  Hopefully this helps us get more organized.  We’ve already begun filling up the pantry shelves.  We’ve committed to going through all of the boxes and purging some unneeded items before they are put on the big shelves.  We’re saving that project for another snowy day.  The total cost for this project was about $225.  That money wouldn’t have bought anything nearly as big or sturdy, and it only took about 16 hours to get it done.  I wonder how long before the shelves are full?

Does my yard make this shed look big?

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

So we need to build a shed…  The basement is full to the point where we only have paths between the boxes, furniture, kayaks, yard equipment, and tools that are down there.  Plus, I’m sick of dragging the lawn mower up and down the basement stairs every week.  We need to get some stuff out of there so I can spread out the tools in the workshop and so that we can organize the furniture and boxes until we find places for these things upstairs.

Naturally, we want to maximize our storage potential while observing local regulations and without taking up too much of the yard.  There are a few local regulations that constrain our design.  Sheds are restricted to the side or back yards.  Any shed under 120 ft2 does not require a building permit and must be 10 feet from the property boundaries.  Since our house is set quite far back on our narrow lot, the 10-foot offset would put the shed too far into the yard.  Fortunately, any shed under 100 ft2 only needs to be 3 feet from the property boundaries.

With those constraints in mind, I set to work designing a nice 8′ x 12′ shed in SketchUp.  We want the shed to match the style of the house as much as possible.  With that in mind, I’ve roughed out a wood-clad  cape with a 12/12 roof.  I’ve designed the shed with 8′ walls so that we’ll have plenty of room to hang tools and so that standard-height doors can be used.
SketchUp Shed

After we had the rough design, I started working on the actual framing plan.  At some point while I was doing that, I really began to wonder how this was really going to look in the back yard.  My calculations where showing a roof peak just a touch over 13′ above grade.  I couldn’t decide if that seemed too high or not for the space it will be in, so I decided that the best thing to do would be to build a mock-up of one of the gable ends out of scrap wood and actually see what it would look like.  So we did.  Here’s how it looks:
From the bedroom:

From the living room:

From the kitchen:

From the deck:

From the west side yard:

From the east side yard:

From the start of the walkway:

From the driveway:

Please leave us a comment and let us know what you think…

Stain and Finish the Guest Room

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

We finally had a nice weekend where we would actually be home so we planned to finish our work on the guest room floor. After running out to get some supplies early Saturday morning, Tina and I began applying the whitewash stain to the floor. The stain went on easily, and the low-VOC formula was quite pleasant to work with:

While we were giving that time to dry, we turned our attention to the yard, which had largely been ignored since we bought the house.  There were tons of leaves to be raked and lots of things in the gardens to be trimmed.  After a couple of hours, the floor was ready for the first coat of polyurethane.  I dragged myself back inside to prepare for the first coat of finish.  The first thing I did was to change in to some clean clothes.  Then, I gave the room a thorough vacuuming.  After I was certain that I’d sucked up every last animal hair and bit of dust, I began applying the finish.  This is also a low-VOC product and it wasn’t bad to work in the room at all.  There was none of the eye-burning, dizzying off-gassing that we experienced with the polymerized tung oil that we applied to the hickory.  I removed a few stray dog hairs that appeared as I worked may way across the room, but otherwise, the first coat went on without a problem.  When I was done, I closed the door and gently pressed a towel up against the bottom to prevent any contaminants from entering the room that way.  When we checked on the floor a few hours later (you can re-coat in 2-3 hours), we were very pleased with what we saw.  The first coat was streaky and uneven, just as we expected, but where the finish had started to build, it looked fantastic:

After a nice long walk this morning with Lilly, I headed back into the room to prepare for the second coat.  I went over the whole floor with a 3M maroon pad to ensure cleanliness and good adhesion.  While I was doing that, I noticed many more embedded contaminants than I had seen while I was applying the finish.  I’m sure they made their way in through the heating system (even though it was turned off) and settled in to the floor as it was drying.  I did my best to remove as many as I could without damaging the floor.  After the light buffing, I vacuumed and wiped the floor with a damp rag.  For the second coat, I applied the finish to two boards at a time, and then vacuumed the next few again before applying the finish to them.  I was hoping this would reduce the amount of pet hair that was somehow finding its way in to the room.  That technique seemed to work pretty well, so I repeated the obsessive vacuuming when I applied the third coat a few hours later.  This is how it looked when it was finished:

Now we just have to wait 7 days for the floor to fully cure and we can get to work on replacing the baseboard trim. We’re really happy with how this came out!

Finish Installing Guest Room Floor

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The first order of business today was to mill the splines to join the two grooved sides of the planks in the closet and nook. Pops had been sketching out the design using a scrap piece of wood last night. With his test piece in hand, we headed down to the workshop to see how we could make this work. The tongue is tapered and rounded at the end with the groove being shaped to match, so it’s not as simple as cutting a thin rectangular strip of wood that is twice the width of a tongue. With some trial and error, we were able to get the angle and blade height set on the table saw to get very close to what we needed. With some additional sanding, we had two pieces of spline that fit snugly in the groove but left some room for expansion:
After test-fitting the new splines in the pieces that would be joined, we headed out to breakfast at Betsy’s.

When we returned home, we got right back to work getting the rest of the floor done. We only had 3 full boards plus a 1-1/2″ filler in the closet and in the nook to get installed and that went pretty fast. We cleaned up all the tools, vacuumed up the sawdust, and we were admiring the new floor by 3:00.


Now all we have to do is get the floor finished. After seeing how bright the room is with the pine, we’re reconsidering whether we should use the dark brown stain that we had planned to apply. My father suggested white-washing the floor, which would be totally appropriate for a Cape. Now we have some decisions to make. Stay tuned to find out what happens…

Begin Installing Guest Room Floor

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

I got up early today and got the guest room set up for installing the floor. I cleaned out all of the painting supplies and brought up the necessary tools for the flooring project. I checked in with my father, who was coming up to help with the installation. He was just leaving and would be arriving in about 2.5 hours.

The timing was perfect, because before I could get started on the floor, I had to head out into the warm nor’easter to help a fellow 300 Committee land steward erect an osprey pole on the parcel for which he is a steward. I was especially excited to help because it’s a parcel about a mile south of our house on the same salt pond. There were plenty of people on hand and the installation went quickly.

Pops beat me to the house by about 15 minutes, and when I got home, we got started right away. Once again, we are dealing with a 90-degree intersection between the floors and we needed to be certain that we would be perfectly square in the doorway. Initially, I was planning to start on the far side of the room after laying some careful baselines and hope that things were still square by the time I got to the doorway. That way, I would only be face-nailing in the closet and in the nook that will probably be covered by a built-in (someday). Instead, we decided to start on the other side of the room with the first board in the doorway. This would require us to make some splines to reverse the direction of tongues into the closet and nook, but we decided that would be easier and safer than my original plan.

After hauling the 16-footers out of the basement (wrapped in plastic to protect the wood from the driving rain), we got started on the floor:

We have enough long boards to span the whole room for all but three rows of the floor. Rather than cutting some of the longer boards to establish a balanced pattern, we decided to tuck the three short boards in the corner of the room where the bed will likely be so they’ll never be seen. The first board illustrated a slight problem with the squareness of the room, but we were able to get the board nailed in with a difference of less than 1/4″ to the far wall:


We had a little bit of trouble with the boards that met the hickory in the doorway. The smaller hickory board in the doorway was not quite square to the room and maybe not cut quite straight either. There are many possible causes for this that we didn’t bother to investigate. We just soldiered on, marking and sanding each board to match the angle and contours of the threshold:

The pine went in very easily. It took about 50% of the effort to put each nail in, and aside from the few boards that we had to cut for the threshold and the two around the heat vent, it was just a matter of chopping one end and gluing and nailing the board. We only paused for a brief burrito break in the middle of the afternoon. By evening, we had made our way all the way across the room and we decided that was a great place to stop:

We Finish Painting (On Time!)

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

I got up early this morning and headed down to the guest room to flip the stacks of pine and get a coat of finish on the rest of the planks before work. I have to say that I’m loving working with the water-based polycrylic. I’m not sure that I like the look of it (but it’s just the bottoms of the planks so I don’t really care) but the lack of the noxious odor is fantastic!

When we got home from work, I stacked the pine in the middle of the room and covered it with plastic. I headed down to the basement to finish the bottoms of the remaining four planks. After a quick dinner, I got started painting the second coat on the walls. Tina was still scrambling to finish up a poster that our boss needed to take to a conference, so I was on my own for the beginning of the night. I feel less confident about my painting skills when compared to Tina’s, so I started in the closet for practice. I also moved very slowly. Tina came in when she was finished with the poster and took over rolling. We got through the whole room by 1 AM. We had totally transformed the walls in ceiling in less than a week. Best of all, we are ready to start installing the floor later in the morning (but not before a few hours of sleep).

Even More Painting and Wood Sealing Too

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

We had to leave work a bit early to take Lilly to the vet for her annual exam. While we were out, we stopped at Sherwin Williams to get the paint for the guest room and some Minwax Polycrylic for the floor bottoms. When we got home, Tina started painting in the guest room and I went down to the basement to start coating the bottoms of the floor boards. We had 8 16′ planks in the basement (because they didn’t fit anywhere upstairs). I had to clean up the workshop and get the big tools out of the way so I could stack them in four piles, face to face, on the floor. Once I had everything set up, I set to work finishing the bottoms. I was having difficulty seeing what I had done because of the poor light and the fact that the pine didn’t change very much when I applied the finish. As a result, it took much longer than I expected as I needed to be extremely careful not to miss any spots and not get any finish on the tops.

Once I finally finished the four boards that were on top of the piles, I headed upstairs to help Tina with the painting. She was about half-way done with the room. I took over the cutting brush and she continued rolling. By 10:30, we had finished the first coat on the walls.

After cleaning up the painting tools, we moved the shorter pine planks from the stack behind the couch to the floor of the guest room. With the boards spread out, I put a coat of finish on the bottoms of half of the boards.

With that task wrapped up around midnight and still on track to finish on time, we gave up and went to bed.

More Painting

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

We had another marathon night of painting tonight. I got started painting the ceiling right after work while Tina took Lilly for a walk. When she got back, she took over cutting duties so I could concentrate on rolling. We had a quick dinner and then went through the room and painted the trim. I waited the necessary four hours and started the second coat of the ceiling at 10:30. We had everything cleaned up around midnight. Another night of hard work and we are still on track to meet our goal of installing the floor this weekend.

Priming the Guest Room

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

After a nice long walk with Lilly and a delicious dinner, Tina and I kicked into high gear got to work priming the guest room. My father has offered his assistance installing the floor this weekend and we really want to be ready for the help. Once again, we’re using BIN on the ceiling and walls to get rid of the funky smell (which has mostly gone away now). The worst part of the whole process is dealing with the fumes. Our respirators block the smell but our eyes were burning! We were able to get through the whole room in 2.5 hours. We finished up around 10:30.

Tina might have felt overwhelmed at the start:

We had many test patches of paint to cover up:

Guest Room Wall Prep

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Tonight, Tina returned to fixing the walls in the guest room. She continued patching where I had stopped and fixed some of the patches I had started on the larger holes that hadn’t turned out quite right.

Of course, she had plenty of supervision:


I Finally Finish A Project (And Continue Another)

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Today, I returned to the epic closet remodel. I had picked up a nice pine shelf for my closet the last time I was at Lowes. I took the necessary measurements and finally cut the shelf to fit. A few minutes later, it was in place and the closet was done.

With that behind me, I headed down to the guest room to start patching all of the holes and dents that we had discovered in the walls. The worst was the closet, where the wire shelving unit had been attached to the wall. Once again, there were many tiny holes, knicks, and dings all over the room.

Underlayment in the Guest Room

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Earlier in the month, we decided that we really needed to get moving on the floor in the guest room. It was getting toward the end of winter, and soon, there would be more moisture in the air.

We got started on February 7th. The first step was to cut the rest of the door casings to allow for the increased height of the new floor. I also removed all of the baseboard molding that I could access. Then, I got busy gluing and screwing the half-inch plywood to the subfloor.
I got a few sheets installed before it was getting too late to be cutting the wood outside.

Back inside, Tina and I moved the pine planks out of the guest room and back in to the livingroom. We tucked them behind the couch on a layer of sheets to protect the floor. I ripped out the rest of the baseboard molding and then filled in the gap between the wall and the floor with some spray foam insulation. Hopefully that stops the wind from blowing into the room.

Fast-forward 20 days… I finally made time to get back to the guest room project. I started by trimming off all of the extra foam from the bottom of the walls. Then, I took measurements for the remaining pieces of plywood and headed to the basement to do some cutting. With all the pieces cut to size, I returned to the guest room and motored through gluing and screwing the rest of the underlayment. It was that simple. We’re one step closer!

Closet Work Continues

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The slowest moving closet project sees some progress. I finally cut and mounted the closet pole. I’ll finish this someday!

A Bit of Plumbing

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Tonight’s after work project was plumbing. It was time to get the sink hooked up again. I had finally found a cheap, single-handle faucet to replace the leaking faucet. We’ll upgrade to a nicer faucet when we upgrade the sink sometime in the future. Here’s the bare sink:

Waiting for me to reconnect the supply and drain lines:

We have running water in our kitchen again! No more washing dishes in the bathroom: