Today was a good day for a GREAT day!

Road trip!!!!  Today my bestie Joan and I made a trip to Mount Hope, Ohio to pick up my master bathroom vanity and what an AWESOME day it was.  Great conversation, beautiful weather (going, rained coming home, but nothing severe), we had so much fun as we always do on our road trips.  This makes the 3rd time we’ve hit the road together, but first day trip.  We did long weekends to Memphis/Nashville where we ate and museumed our way through Tennessee in route to a wedding she was invited to and San Diego to celebrate my 45th birthday where we were the only two people to fall off our Segways at the San Diego Zoo/Safari.   This was after we both talked smack about who we thought in the group would fall based on our tutorial before entering the park.

Our route took us through Newark, OH where from the highway I saw the giant basket that was once the headquarter for Longenberger basket, which sadly closed it’s doors just this past May.  I had seen pictures of this headquarter, but never in person, so we jumped off the highway to get a picture.  You know I’m having a good time when I pop a selfie.

20180829_125920My vanity was made by Homestead Furniture, an Amish owned store referred to me by Diane Sphar, owner of Ohio Travel Treasures, who host many great tours of Ohio’s Amish country.  We arrived around noon and before loading the vanity was given a tour of the plant by Ben Hershberger.  First stop was what I told Joan was the secret room.  It’s not a secret, but an awesome way for Homestead to dispel people’s image of Amish furniture.  The hall leading to the rooms is lined in hand applied gold leaf (they can do silver too).  Once inside there are 4-6 rooms of some of the most stunning and beautifully crafted pieces you can imagine.  Ben said if you can think of it, they can build it.  They create cutsom wood and metal pieces.

From there Ben walked us across the street to tour their actual factory.  In route you walk past a beautifully landscaped property and small lake.  I got great ideas for my future landscaping.

In the full loop of the factory, which included a cat walk where we can overlook men at work we got to see many pieces in all phases of production.  I was able to ask questions and got some great tips I will use when I create my dining room table, office desk, and master bed headboard (I have lofty goals).

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20180829_125020The tour ended at my vanity and it was just as I had sketched out.  I wanted a floating vanity 55″ long.  It seemed stores stocked 48 or 60, but not 55.  I decided to use the same shade of blue that will be on my kitchen cabinets.  Ben took us in the color matching room where he said they have over 2,000 colors.  They can match anything and all I provided to him was the Naval paint chip card from Sherwin Williams, which is what Shiloh Cabinetry, manufacturer of my cabinets, uses.

After two of their staff loaded the vanity in my rental van, we went for lunch (no roadtrip is complete for us without food) to Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen.  No pics, but we had the buffet and the best darn fried chicken, meat loaf, bread, and home-grown vegetables you can imagine.

The trip did not end there.  We left Mt. Hope and headed east to I’m not even sure where to look at mini bulldog puppies.  Joan and her husband Rick lost their beloved bulldog Chloe this year.  Joan found the breeder and we went to take a look.  Who could walk away from this face, so Poppy (current name, but not final – I’m pulling for Millicent, Millie for short) made the road trip home.

Apparently she’s already feeling right at home as Joan shared this quick video of her getting aclaimated to her new toy.

Now I’m super anxious to get the paint finished in the master bathroom.  It’s going to look marvelous!!!!




You Must Know Your Local Resources

I’ve been labeled a “purist”.  I frequently say my goal is restore my house, not renovate.  I have mass appreciation for the craftsmanship that went into my house.  The level of detail, quality of work, and character can’t be found in modern homes.  Restoration, however, can be very expensive if try to buy new, old, meaning reproductions.  This is why when it comes to restoring old houses you must know where you can find used treasures.

Nicole Curtis (@nicolecurtis, #rehabaddict) stresses utilizing rehab stores to find old parts.  I frequent three places in Cincinnati, mostly in search for doors, but recently I have also found some very affordable trim pieces.  Here are the stores I frequent most:

Building Value is an Easterseals social enterprise that salvages reusable materials for sale to the public. They are sustainability: their efforts help the environment, reduce the cost of disposal, invest in the local workforce, and give architectural gems a second life.

Months ago I bought the doors on the left for my Master laundry room and water closet.  They were the right size and color, but not the right style.  All of my original doors on 20180818_152624.jpgthat level are two panel.  I’ve now decided to paint the doors and trim in the Master bath and was lucky enough to find a two panel door in the jam for just $50!  They let me return the doors, so no extra money out of pocket.  I also found some molding pieces that I used to dress up the #2 pine under my kitchen and 1st floor bath windows.  I bought 27′ of this trim for just $6.81.

20180818_152606Another score was 12, 8′ pieces of primed 4″ baseboards.  A normal DIYer would probably ignore the inside of closets, but I’m not normal.  I’ll rip these pieces down to the right widths and trim out all the closets and use it as baseboard trim in the 1st linen closet, kitchen pantry, and master laundry.  No reason to put the expensive stuff in those areas.  Those 12 pieces cost $40.  New at a big box store would have been twice that or more.

Reuse Center of Cincinnati is dedicated to taking materials headed for the dumpster and re-using them to help others build their own American Dream. Not only do they have old items, they have building grade products that are overstocked by their partner suppliers 20180813_170857or are donated by companies and private individuals all across the Cincinnati and Lexington.  I will get my hand rail from them at pennies on the dollar and when I build my garage apartment I’ll get all the tile I need for the bathroom and/or kitchen from them. On the same day I found the two panel door above (for laundry room), I found this two panel door in the jam for the Master water closet.  They are pricier than Building Value, but $100 still beats the cost of a new one.

Although I have yet to find anything useful, I also frequent Habitat Restores and the Wooden Nickel Antiques.  Habitat Restores are home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price.  They are independently owned operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations. Proceeds are used to help build strength, stability, self-reliance and shelter in local communities and around the world.  Wooden Nickel buys and sells back bars, fireplace mantels, architectural salvage, stained glass, chandeliers, furniture, decorative arts and fine arts. They seem to focus on high-end pieces.

The other place I’ve had great success in finding door knobs is Ebay.  Just add vintage or antique in front of any item you’re looking for and you will surely find someone selling it on Ebay.  The original doors I bought didn’t have knobs and I wanted to match the existing doors (picture on left) on that floor.  I came pretty darn close with these and was also able to find one side of a 6 point glass knob to replace one that was missing and a full glass knob set to put on the pantry door.  I am using the same door, but it had a metal door knob.  In its new location it will be next to the kitchen entry door that has a glass knob.  The “not normal” me wants them to match.  Knobs came with mortise lock and I paid under $100 for all.

Two none local places with websites I check frequently are Columbus Architectural Salvage, in Columbus, OH, and Black Dog Salvage, featured in another one of my favorite 20161025_234037DIY Network shows Salvage Dawgs, located in Roanoke, VA.  As with my mecca to Waco, TX I have to get to Roanoke to see the store that inspires me to upcycle.  My college trunk turned bench idea came from watching their show.

I’m still shy two doors in my house, so if anyone is aware of  2-panel mission style doors (vertical, side by side panels) let me know.  I need 32x80ish.  I prefer unpainted, but now that I have a good stripper I will consider painted also.  In the jam is bonus, not required.


Very Productive Days Last Week

Natural light brightens a space and today the installation of the upstairs windows was finally happening.  What a difference it makes having natural light shine on the steps leading to upstairs.  Thanks to a great referral from my electrician, Paul McGhee, I contracted Donald Jackson to install the windows for upstairs.  When he came out to size up the the job he let me know that my 1st floor windows were Earthwise windows and that Tri-State Building Supply carried them.  Tri-State is located in downtown Cincinnati and I only wish I had gone with their windows from the beginning.  They look better and sturdier than the Earthwise obtained from American Window Co and installed by John Guilfoyle, a company and installer I would not recommend.

My friend Joan gave me another day of her time and she tackled putting primer paint in the master bath, laundry and closet.  Unbelieveably the upstairs is very close to being move-in ready.  If I have the floors restored I could move into the upstairs if my house sells fast, so getting the final colors on the walls may get pushed ahead of finishing the priming downstairs.

A few months ago I was asked to join the Camp Washington Board and I offered to host the August meeting at my house.  Of course I thought I’d be much further along by now.  I wanted the first floor bath functional for the meeting, so while Joan worked upstairs, I worked on the first floor bath in hopes I could get it finished.  Clearly that was not going to happen, so another board member, Mark DeJong, hosted at his house, the very popular Swing House.

I’ll host the October meeting, but in my gallant attempt to get the bathroom finished I was able to put the final coat of paint on the walls and if I much say so, the Sherwin Williams, Incredible White, looks awesome.  I also installed the exhaust light/fan, vanity light, and put the first coat of RedGard on the walls in preparation for the tile work.  I still need to apply the semi-gloss sheen on the trim, which I’ll do once I apply the second coat of RedGard.  As with the master I have purchased all the fixtures, so it’s just a matter of getting them installed to complete this room, minus the tub reglazing.  Unfortunately Oct 4 is the earliest appointment I could get.  I am using Miracle Method, who reglazed my tub in Forest Park.  I’m open to using another company that could complete sooner, IF, I can get a strong referral.  Shoot me an email if you have one to recommend.


Time for Finish Carpentry Work

The first floor bathroom can be the first completed room in the house as I have all the window trims, fixtures and tile purchased.  Laying the tile can’t start until the casing, molding, and aprons have been placed around the windows and doors.  While I could have tackled this myself, I know I lack proficiency that would lead to material waste and a lack of efficiency.  I want to move in my house this year and start my new journey, so I found a finish carpenter through a referral.  He charged by the hour.  I was pleased with his work, but he became combative so I would not refer him to anyone else.  I won’t pay you and argue with you.

The 1st floor bath, when I went to remove the trim from around the window disintegrated, I assumed due to decades of moisture build up.  In the kitchen, I resized a window and relocated the pantry, so the original trim will not work.  As you can guess my exact trim is not made any longer.  My budget does not allow to have it custom milled, so I decided to get a close match with trim I found at Hyde Park Lumber.

Fortunately I took a lot of before pictures, so I was able to show him how the original trim had been applied, so he’d have a guide.  Here are some before pictures:

Here are some after/work in progress pictures:

I turned the entrance to the 1st floor bath into a pocket door, but still plan to use the original door and glass knob.  What I needed to add was a pocket door locking mechanism, so he handled that too.


Against his recommendation I had him place the new lock in the location of the original lock and because the original screw holes were so ate up, the new lock won’t secure, making it difficult to notch it for recessing.  I’ll have to do some wood epoxy patching, but the hard part (drilling hole in door) is complete.   I feel comfortable finishing it up myself.  Per the instructions from the Johnson Hardware pocket door kit, I need to paint or stain the top of the door before attaching the hanging hardware.  I still need to match stain colors, so he can’t complete this project at this moment anyway.


The Battle of the Strippers

One of the things that I loved when I first toured my house was the fact that the doors and trim were unpainted, except for two doors.  Actually 1.5 doors, the 1st floor bath linen closet was painted white with a white glass door knob and the inside of the bathroom entry door was painted white.  White glass knob on inside, clear glass knob on outside with a dark brown stain.  Both were peeling badly and would need to be stripped just in order to refresh the paint.

I decided to turn the entry door into a pocket door as I had three doors within a 3′ area (linen closet, hall closet, and entry door), why too much swinging in tight quarters in my opinion.  In order to use the original knobs I will need to turn the door around, causing the painted side to be on the outside.  Just to avoid needing to completely strip the painted side I looked into boring a new mortis lock hole on the other side, but a professional carpenter advised me against that.  I have only that one door, so no room for error.

20180804_190354I had started trying to strip the linen closet door first and was getting absolutely nowhere with the Jasco Premium Paint & Epoxy Remover.  This was recommended to me by a Home Depot employee.  States is starts working in 15 minutes.  It did, but removed one layer at best.  I followed that with the Star 10, a product recommended to my by an employee at Woodcraft.  Stripper of choice by wood craftsmen, or so he said.  It didn’t do much either as you can see.  Both gave off strong fumes.

Nicole Curtis (#nicolecurtis) of Rehab Addict (#rehabaddict) always talks about an orange, safe stripper, so while I am not sure of the exact product she uses I went back to Home Depot and got CitriStrip Stripping Gel.  The carpenter pointed out to me that I needed to have the door inserted before putting up trim and I need the trim up in order to lay tile, so the entry door moved to the head of the line.

I started stripping about 11am and believe I could have gotten the entire door done in a late night, but I had to get home to let out and feed my dogs.  This is how it looked at the end of day one.  I believe one treatment went through at least three layers as I saw white, yellow, and mint green:

20180804_212132I actually applied a second coat, but when I realized the time I knew I couldn’t give its full time to work.  In the short time it was on it did not bubble as you see above, it actually got milky white.  As I rubbed one area with the paint brush I could actually see wood.  It was liquefying the remaining paint.  I wasn’t sure if I would return the next day, so I  wiped the door clean instead of letting it sit overnight.

I did return the next day, applied another coat that sat for about two hours before I used a putty scraper to get to the picture on the left.  A third coat aided by a bladed scrapper and small steel brush (for inside panel edges) got me to a completely stripped door shown on the right.   The directions suggest using Odorless Mineral Spirits with an abrasive stripping pad to loosen remaining residue.  I dipped my brush in it, but did not try a pad.  Before staining I’ll use a fine grade sanding pad on my rotary sander to open up the pores.  I used the entire 64 oz bottle on this door and about a 1/4 of a new bottle.  I believe I could have gotten by with one if not for the abrupt ending on day one.

20180805_181635I won’t strip the stained side, just sand it, apply a primer, and then paint it with semi-gloss paint.  The harder challenge will be in matching the original stain.  Stay tuned.


Hot Freakin Mess

The bulk of the drywall installation is complete and I have some major clean up on my hands.  Thankfully my friend Joan has jumped in to help.  I don’t know what I thought would happen, but I most certainly never imagined the magnitude of plaster and dust left on my floors.  Early in the project, when I was considering hiring a general contractor (brief consideration) I met with one gentleman who said his drywaller would want $86/sheet and in the end the amount of dust remaining would fit in the palm of my hand.  I’ve already filled two, 16 gallon shop vac bags.

20180705_190535To refresh everyone, pictured is Rogelio Soto (green shorts) and his crew.  I never learned their names and Rogelio used their statures to distinguish them to me, so from left to right are Muscles, Skinny, Shortie, and Rogelio.  We were all smiles on day one, but I’m not smiling now.  This experience has been a painful lesson to learn.  Selecting Cesar Filipe of Cesar Home Remodeling, who in turned gave my job to Rogelio (some guy he knew from church) is without question the worst decision I’ve made in this entire project.  When I pulled the plug on Cesar, I should have pulled the plug on Rogelio too.

I wish I had the luxury of meeting them on day one, handing them the keys, and then returning when all was done.  If that could have happened, even with all the dust and plaster left, I would have been happy with the outcome.  Rogelio shared with my father that he doesn’t like to hang drywall, but he’s a good finisher.  He needed to be because the gaps they left in some areas required an expert finisher to hide and he hid them well.  A few people have walked through my house and commented positively on how well the drywall looks and it does.  Once I share the entire experience they quickly change their minds.

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20180711_115603Day three started with me entering my home to find one of my communication cables dangling from the ceiling.  They had cut the line.  When I pointed it out to Shortie he immediately said it was already like that.  Shortie understood the most English and was the translator for everyone else.  I went to Rogelio, made him take down the piece they hung, to revel the other end.  At that point he showed remorse and took blame for it being cut. Fortunately it was an RG6 line that my father was able to splice together, but if I had not been there they would have covered the cut line without saying anything and I never have known why my TV signal was not working from that location.  Needless to say I became very concerned over other lines that could have been cut.  All of my communication and audio lines were run along the strapping in the ceiling.

That’s when I was ready to pull the plug on them, but my father talked me out of it.  He thought they were doing a great job and I needed to calm down given that problem was easily fixable.  Rogelio assured me that was the only ceiling piece cut after it had been hung.  I forged ahead, but instead of using the drywall install time to prepare my current house for sale, I spent everyday at the house, basically babysitting.

20180804_220704.jpgIt was necessary too.  Over the course of their hanging they covered up 8 outlet boxes, two can lights, and as late as yesterday I discovered a covered cold air exchange, which I cut out myself.  If I had not been there these things would have stayed covered.  I was told 1-2 covered items is to be expected, but 11 is ridiculous.   I know my daily presence was annoying and concerning to them, but their performance was the same for me.

With the removal of Cesar, my payments went directly to Rogelio and he wanted half after all the drywall was hung.  I created a 3-part payment with him.  1/2 after hanging, 1/4 after taping, and final 1/4 after I had dressed all my gang boxes with plugs and switches, to ensure they were operational, and primer coat had been applied, so it would reveal any touch-up that was needed.

Back Story:  Right after we finished hanging insulation I had a panic awakening one night with the thought of my electric not working.  I knew once the drywall was hung it would be very hard and expensive to trace a bad line, so against my father’s wishes I dressed every outlet and switch to test every light and plug.  Everything was working prior to Rogelio’s crew starting.  When Rogelio did his walk through prior to starting he asked me if I planned to take the outlets and switches off and I said no.  I asked if he was capable of measuring and cutting for the holes and he said yes.  Later that day Cesar called and asked that I remove them as they could be faster and more accurate with routing out the holes.  Reluctantly I agreed to remove all, but the 3-way and 4-way connections as I had paid my electrician to make those connections.

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It has taken me 4 days to dress my gang boxes and it revealed 31 nicked or cut wires inside them.  That works out to be about 1 in every 3 boxes.  Fortunately I know how to make the repairs, but there is no way I should have needed to do so.  I actually had to call in my electrician to help with the bedroom lights circuit because none of the bedroom lights worked after I did what I thought was needed.  Despite my leaving the 3-way and 4-way switches in place, they managed to cut through two of them and that somehow impacted all the bedroom lights.  That was a $233 expense that I feel Rogelio should cover.  He does not agree.  He actually feels I should pay him more money because the job was more difficult than he expected.  Remember he walked through the house and accepted the job from Cesar based on that walk-through.

I don’t have a picture of the final crew, but the project was completed by Rogelio, Shortie, and Rogelio’s pre-teen son.  Muscles went back to Mexico and Skinny left for a roofing job.  What I was told would take 10 days, took 17.

Lessons Learned:

Make sure the person hired is actually doing the work.
If a sub is involved, vet the sub.
Demand that at least one person on crew speaks and understands English fluently.
Protect my floors myself, don’t assume the contractor will.
Don’t hire a contractor under 40 years of age.  Experience can only come with time and you need a person with experience.