Tag Archives: cape cod house

In the closet

Home improvement continues around these parts…

I called in a contractor for shits to price out the bathroom reno I’ve been having trouble with, and of course he charged in with the rallying cries of:

Gut it!

Take it down to the studs!

And I get that when a place really needs to be insulated and the plumbing and wiring needs to be replaced – to a degree – but for a very simple remodel? I shudder to think what would unnecessarily be going into the landfill, and all of the older, better built things replaced with newer crappier things. But we’ll see when the quote comes in – I am willing to pay a bit more for the convenience of showering within a day or two rather than a week – and we know our limits with some plumbing re-installation, so we’ll need at least some professional help, but without seeing the quote yet, but knowing it’s going to be at least 3 times what I budgeted, I’m gearing up for another DIY job with the help of our friendly (but not cheap) plumber instead of a crew… But we’ll see.

During this process, I went to the bathroom store the contractor uses to price out the fixtures. We’re in a weird area of big wealth, muddy farmers (some wealthy too), and semi-scrappy “artists” and ageing hippies (again, either wealthy or hand-to-mouth). In our little town at the fancier hardware store and green building center, everyone is friendly and doesn’t make assumptions based on how you look on your budget – sometimes I want the fancier, better quality higher-priced things, sometimes I want the budget line, but I want to talk about both to see which is the best option. But the bathroom store was out in the vast mcmansion acres and the salesperson pegged me as a penniless shack-dweller and rushed me through to get to the next (bejeweled) customer. This sets my teeth to grind – I want to support the local businesses and I’m willing to pay a bit more for them, but when I can get the same toilet/tub/sink/faucets at the big (blue, not orange) box for a bit less and without attitude it’s hard… but one shit salesperson isn’t the whole business, so I’m thinking too much about it.

But we’re still a few weeks out on that project.

In the meantime, I finished the wood of N’s cubby for the “cloakroom.”

closet-cloakroom

This coat closet added an endearing element to the house during our search – too many of these mid-century cape cods that we saw around here lacked any interesting nooks and crannies apart from the ubiquitous knee wall closets, but this place has a few more closets and turns than the others. Some days I’m tempted to put a little desk in there ala a  windowless cramped dickensonian accounting office or something, and occasionally the dog wanders in to consider making it his den.

It still has evidence of the original children that I didn’t have the heart to paint over.

closet-kid-graffiti

(But I did get rid of the original lime green also seen here.)

And then there are the bedroom closets that aren’t so great. One is large and was built-out with shit paneling in the ’70s or so that I painstakingly spruced up (still need a better solution for the sliding doors, but at least they’re painted nicely now) that N uses. Another is a small, but not-too-tiny size, but with a fairly narrow door that makes reaching for anything not in the middle absolutely annoying, especially before dawn. This one is mine. It is lined in thin dark plywood that should have been some sort of wallboard but wasn’t, and I should have installed some but didn’t, so I thought painting it was the best other option – a lighter color could help me see in there a bit better and the acidic wood needed to be sealed to protect my clothes.

closet-early-during

But I should have used the shellac-based primer, but I didn’t want to get gassed out, but instead got slowly gassed out by three coats of the regular stuff… And I went against my always-should-be-followed advice against cheap paint – it’s like trying to coat the walls with skim milk even after all the primer. But I wasn’t satisfied with a fresh coat of paint and the seams caulked up – the floor was still gappy in a few places at the bottom edges and the plywood didn’t reach all the way down, or evenly.

closet-trim

So I added some trim – a bit of over finishing for a closet perhaps, but it’s something I feel oddly strongly about – if something looks sloppy, then it brings down the place – it shows thoughtlessness, carelessness, and makes you wonder what other hidden things are wrong like a fancy meal made with factory farm meat…

And I’d also like to pause here for some unashamed bragging – the closet floors still have the original finish on the oak , and I managed to match it perfectly – seen in the doorway and to the left. (That BFA paid off, right?) The hard wax oil I used has been holding up well and I would use it again, but I just touched up several areas of scratches after two or so years – mostly from felt furniture pads capturing a piece of grit, and a few from the dog, but his claws seem to slightly dent it more with the finish intact rather than scratching the finish off.

closet-floor

And now I’m waiting for paint to dry so I can put on a second, maybe third coat, let it cure, and then put it all back together (and maybe have the electrician put in a light if they’ve got a bit of time left after their next job here.)

closet-almost-after

So instead of a project that should have been done and dusted in a day and a half, it will have taken nearly all of a four day weekend and some time off of my lung lifetime.

And there’s another just like it in my workroom that is next, along with trim for the pantry, and hall (kitchen equipment) closet, and linen closet, and maybe the office, but I’d have to move the filing cabinets out first to check…

(And that big Heywood Wakefield double dresser peeking in from the left still needs to be refinished as well, but it is so impossibly heavy and it would be stupid to sand and refinish it in place, right?…)

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Floored

I went on a floor sanding and refinishing bender recently and I am still recovering…

floors-diningroom

…but the dining room and my studio room are now mostly done.

Only four more rooms and three hallways to go – will I or won’t I endure?

floors-half-sanded

floors-studio

We had a guy in the other day to look at something that seemed to be beyond our abilities.  He came somewhat unexpectedly as people are wont to do in this small town which leaves me occasionally on edge since my work (not work, work) clothes are the shrunken bits thrown in the charity bag (I can’t find my stash of work clothes!) and I don’t want to be seen in busty gut-baring teeny t-shirts and sweatpants with burst seems.  We were in the middle of sanding the dining room floor by hand – with little electric sanders, so at least with the aid of some power…  he smirked and said “well you could do it that way, but I’d rent a sander.”

No f*ckingshit you’d rent a sander – most people would.

But floor sanders are big and heavy and use a lot of sandpaper and cost money to rent and we can only do one room at a time since we’re living in the house, so for about $10 worth of sandpaper (and a whole day) I can do it myself.  (And I mostly did it myself since N quickly looses interest/endurance on these sorts of mind-numbing vibrating tedious tasks, and I’m able to call up the genetic reserves of my peasant ancestors from time to time).

And I also like the way it looks.  In our old house, I sanded a few rooms by hand, and a few with a sander – the floors done by hand still looked old in a good way – they had more depth and patina and character.  The ones done with a sander looked 1,000 times better what they had (and a heavy grind down really was necessary) but they were a little too clean and bright even though I matched the stain with the old.

I also chose to use a hard oil wax product on these floors instead of polyurethane.

floors-hardoil-wax

That one gets another smirk from the work guys – “you could use that, but nothing wears like poly!”  But poly looks a little bit like wood in plastic coating and I wanted something a little more rich and velvety.  Again in the old house we used poly – the oil based stuff so it would take on a bit of an ageing amber tone – and I liked it, but after four or five years I was finding a few flakes and scratches and I was able to repair a few areas, but I felt sick to think we’d have to go through the whole business of sanding and re-coating the entire floor in a few years.  But I could eat these words since we’ve only had the hard oil wax for a week* and I’ve no idea how it will hold – especially once there’s a four-footed creature about, and dinner parties.  But I should only have to hit the worn areas with a fresh coat every few years instead of the whole sanding down and re-sealing business.  And this stuff doesn’t require buffing like old-timey wax.  So we’ll see.

floors-before-and-after**

You could be wondering how the linoleum  floor patch looks now?

kitchen repaired linoleum

It’s holding up just fine – the rug covers about half of it, but it still gets walked upon plenty.

We’re still looking for new rugs though…

But this linoleum will  certainly not be saved…

floors-bad-linoleum

…and is a tiling project next on the list.

*I coated a few broken steps with it a couple of months ago and so far the test areas have held up well.  And for the record, it’s Fiddes Hard Oil Wax in “American” tint.  I got it online, but it can also be had in a few actual shops in Brooklyn and other hipster places in the states (it’s a British product).  I used two thin coats with a bristle brush and I’m contemplating a third, maybe of clear, in the highest trafficked areas.  It stunk a bit, but much less than the common brands of oil-based stain, and it dried in a few hours, but I waited to put rugs and furniture back in for a few days.

**The colors aren’t right in these pics – the trees around the house are throwing green light into the place, so everything – floors and walls – is a warmer, less yellowish more orangeish tone – I’d call the floors a bit of a warm pecan shade.  And those big black rectangles are naked radiators without their front cover pieces.

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