Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fall Projects 2013

WARNING:  If I sound cranky, it's because I'm exhausted.  This is a blog - an online diary where I pour out my innermost thoughts for all to read, so I am generously sharing all of my house-related innermost thoughts with all of you now.  I hope you at least feel lucky you're not me, hahaha.  And on a more cheerful note, I'm actually looking forward to my least favorite time of year - winter, because it'll be too cold to work out in the yard for a few short months.

"'s the house coming along?"  That's the question that people who perhaps get some sort of sadistic pleasure out of seeing my personna immediately transform from moderately cheerful to bitter and depressed seem to like to ask me.  I know some of them don't mean it, but the same ones always ask, so what am I to think?  Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, nothing significant beside getting gutters has happened in the 3+ years since we've been back in our house.  We are still without baseboards and window and door trim throughout the majority of the house.  Those things have not been worked on at all.

I have been focusing my energy on the outside of the house because it's less expensive and a better match for my skill set.  Eventually I might have to break down and learn how to do finish carpentry and finish destroying my hands, knees, and back that way, but for now I am going to enjoy damaging my poor fragile self with activities that take place out in the fresh air and sunshine.

Sometime in August, I gave up on the weeds on the liriope hill and decided that the peeling front steps were starting to be a much greater source of embarassment, so I redirected my energy towards getting them painted.  Now these peeling risers were supposed to have been covered with Azek a long time ago so that they would never need to be painted.  That was the plan.  I don't know why that didn't happen.

Anyway, with that in mind (them being covered with Azek) I figured that a coating of primer would be sufficient until the Azek happened, supposedly within a few weeks at the most, especially since they were primed and ready to go, right?  So five years later the primer-only coating is peeling, and it looks horrible.  If I'd done a topcoat, which would have been wasteful considering the imminent covering of the risers with Azek, there would be no peeling paint for at least another few years.

So as I get down to work scraping it down to bare wood in preparation for painting it right this time, somebody says to me "Maybe we can put the Azek on there this fall."  Maybe, as in yeah, right.  So I said "I'm just going to paint it so that it doesn't look ugly any more and you can take as much time as you need to put the Azek on and I won't have to worry about when you're going to do it, and in the meantime the steps will look nice instead of ugly."

I am now completely tired of this topic.  The steps are painted and they look great, at least from the front.  Doug was extremely helpful (probably due to guilt) as the fall progressed and I am once again hopeful that his intentions will become reality next spring.  Here's the before picture, actually the "year before" picture, and I don't have an after picture, because, big deal, they just look like normal painted steps that aren't peeling.

Sometime in there some chatter occured about the eventual under-the-porch lattice.  Sometimes, but not always, the best way to get help from Doug is to ask for advice about something I plan to undertake myself.  I was figuring that we'd just have the same kind of lattice everyone else has, except I wanted the square openings instead of the diamond shaped ones because it would be a better match for our porch trim.  So it comes in 4x8 foot plastic sheets that never need painting and you figure out what shape of frame will work best with the contour of the ground and cut the lattice sheets to fit the frame.

Now previously, sometime during the more than several years I had available to spend time looking forward to eventually having lattice under my porches, I saw a porch somewhere that had wide vertical slats instead of lattice and I thought that looked pretty cool.  But I realized that it would be a lot more work, and they'd have to be painted and maintained, so I decided it would be better to just admire the lattice on that one house and be more practical with mine.  Because what's wrong with having the same kind of lattice that everyone else has?  Normal lattice is perfectly nice.  I'd been wishing I had some good old normal lattice under my porches for years.

So in August I went out of town for a few days with my roommate from college.  Sometimes Doug fixates on some of my not-that-weird ideas and finds a way to make them weirder.  This has happened several times during the course of building our house.   And he seems to enjoy conducting these experiments when I'm away.  This time while I was gone he suddenly decided to present me with his own design, based on what he thought I had in mind, and he included a special little touch of his own.  Apparently he had forgotten, or chose to ignore, the fact that I had bagged the idea of vertical strips and wanted to just have normal lattice.  So surprise surprise, he emails me this picture:

And this one below - look how cute it is with the little picket tops.  Except the strips he got are really skinny and that picket top business is kind of strange looking.  And why in the world is he suddenly so interested in porch lattice when I'm not even there?  But I did appreciate the gesture and was able to successfully (this time) encourage him to follow up on his good intentions.  There was still a lot of waiting involved, but we actually got some significant work done for a change.

So he talked me into the much more labor-intensive, but way cooler looking vertical lattice, instead of the low-maintanence, easy to assemble, plastic stuff.  But I told him that it needed to look the way I wanted it to look, and those pickets needed to be wider and not have pointy tops.

Doug put up some framing and I did an initial calculation of how many of the wider pickets we'd need and started painting them.  And then Doug went on tour so it looked like this for a while:

And now it's time for me to bitch and moan about the cinderblock.  It looks a whole lot better since I had a chance to borrow a power washer this summer and clean all of the disgusting brown mud splash stains off the front of our house that happened as a result of not having gutters for several years.  It's still pretty ugly though.  If the long ago promised stone veneer doesn't happen pretty soon after the last bit of lattice is finished, I AM going to paint it.  It's ugly.

This is the back porch before anything got started.  My friend JoAnn's beautiful hydrangea bush, which got split into four sections, is doing very well, except for the fact that the flowers have switched over to pink in my soil.

I bought a bag of soil acidifier but I haven't gotten around to using it yet.  I don't really want to mess with nature too much, but I DO want those hydrangeas to be blue again, so I'm kind of torn.  Maybe I'll sprinkle some of this stuff around them the next time it's warm and see what happens.

So back to the pickets - he put up the supports for the eventual pickets.  Meanwhile I spent all of my spare time painting and painting and painting and painting.  It was unbelievably tedious and took absolutely forever.

Doug actually ended up doing all of the cutting and attaching.  But that only took about a quarter of the time the painting took.  And then I had to wait for the paint to dry so that I could put on another coat, and another - one coat of primer and two top coats.

Since I had time to kill in between coats of paint I decided to paint the hideously ugly charred bookcase that had been in the fire.  It was the only other piece of furniture besides our dining room table that wasn't completely destroyed.  I don't know why Doug saved this bookcase - it was a homemade yardsale bookcase and it was all burned and filthy, but the structure of the wood was still there, so I guess he figured it was worth saving.  It's been sitting out on the back porch with all of the other junk we don't need.  Anyway, between the three coats of paint and the many batches of pickets, I managed to get it painted and it's all clean and white and shiny now.  You'd never know that it was once in a fire.  It's in the house now, and it's MINE.

Our back porch stretches for most of the length of the back of our house, so towards the top of the hill there were many short pieces to cut.  This section reminded me of a marimba, especially with the unpainted pieces.  I did all of the initial painting while they weren't attached, so that the coverage would be thorough.  Doug was just checking to make sure all the lengths are correct before he took them down to be painted.

Finally, you can see the finished product in the back.  Well almost - hopefully we'll do the sides in the spring.  But in the meantime I am thrilled at how this turned out.  It's a nice clean look - and not nearly as fussy as the regular lattice would have been.

There was lots more time to kill in between coats of paint after I got that bookcase painted.  It's always a problem when you're outside, all dirty and sweaty, with maybe some partially dried paint in unknown places on your paint-spattered painting clothes.  I can't bring myself to go inside and sit down and potentially mess up my house with dirty, sweaty, wet paint-spattered clothes, so it makes sense to keep painting other things while waiting for the main stuff to dry.

So next up was another item that Doug had saved.  He saves EVERTHING.  Originally this old cabinet was in the laundry room of our old house before we started the addition.  Then it was hanging out in the basement, serving no purpose whatsoever when the fire happened.  Of course it didn't get tossed.  So I decided that it would be really nice to have a cabinet to store all of the smaller gardening stuff in.  Eventually I would like my back porch to actually be attractive instead of ugly and trashy.  So I painted it the same color as the back door, and now I can hide all of that gardening clutter inside it.  WIN!

It started getting to be too cold at night to leave it outside to dry between coats, so I ended up putting some tarps down in the living room and painting part of it inside.

I had time for one last little painting project in between the pickets.  This little chest of drawers was in the as-is section of IKEA.  I paid a grand total of $17.00 for it.  It's all wood except for the masonite drawer bottoms.  I put new knobs on it and painted it blue and now it looks cute.

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