Laundry Loft Back to the Drawing Board

Bless my husband for being willing to take my directions on this and for being tall enough to do so.  Also bless him because it’s his birthday today and he’s 28.

We did, however, encounter two very major problems in our attempts to put the shelf up on its brackets.

The first is that the wall above the fuse box is, predictably, full of wires and the Pie was unwilling to have himself electrocuted today.

The second, and perhaps the more cogent to our purposes, is that for some reason, despite the fact that I measured it several times and it always came up as slightly smaller than the space I needed to put it in, and despite the fact that I managed to get it in place all by myself less than a week ago, THE BLOODY THING DOESN’T FIT.

We can’t get it turned sideways and lying flat.  The Pie thinks that the particle board has expanded in the recent spate of ridiculous humidity that we’ve had.  I remain skeptical.

So we’re rethinking our approach.  Stay tuned.

Laundry Loft Part Two

Enough thinking about my plan.  Today I did it.  Or at least part of it.

Today I dismantled the busted old changing table that I told you about back in May.My idea here is to take that top piece, with the little pieces on the front and back, and use that whole thing for the shelf.  That way I won’t be able to push anything off the back of the shelf and neither will anything fall off the front, onto my poor little head.  The width of that piece is only one half-inch narrower than the distance between walls in the “laundry room” so it should fit nicely.

Of course, to get the top piece off I had to dismantle the whole darned thing. And really one of the handiest things for a job like this where you have to work in confined spaces, and, let’s face it, you’re feeling a little lazy, is the ratchet screwdriver.  And mine has a nifty deal where you can turn the handle to different angles to make your life easier. 

First I slid out the drawer.  I kept it intact because I might be able to use it for something in the future.

Then I took off the little magnet thing that would have held the doors shut had the whole thing not been busted.  Check out that water damage.  Lovely.

Next went the door hinges.

The most trouble I had was with those funny half-screw things that you stick in other things to make other screws tighter.  If you’ve ever made anything from IKEA, you’ll know what I am talking about.  Getting those out of the tiny little holes was a real pain.

Then I pried/pulled/tore off the back, using an Allen-key shaped slot screwdriver (like a tiny crowbar) and my own two feet and hands (two of each of course).

Finally I could pull the sides apart enough to remove the middle pieces.

Then I figured I might as well dismantle the whole thing, if only so it would store better.

This is the stuff I am planning to use for the laundry loft.  The two gray squares I scrounged out of the garage.I plan to have this finished this week, though it will take the help of the Pie’s long arms and legs.  So stay tuned.

Laundry Loft Part One

My entryway is a mite crowded.  You have to stand up on the bottom step in order to open the door without interference.  I’m still amazed that we moved in all our furniture up that narrow flight of stairs.

This is also my laundry room, and I’m definitely feeling the lack of space.  You can see how the washing machine comes right to the door jamb.  I like to keep my potting soil and grass seed on top of the dryer.  That box of kleenex has been there since my parents visited in October 2008.

But if you look up, there’s so much space that I could be using.  Of course, I’m not ten feet tall so I’ll be limited in what I can do, but at the very least there needs to be a shelf up there.  I tried storing things like laundry detergent on top of the dryer, but the vibrations knock it to the floor within a day.  The potting soil has stayed there simply because it’s flat and heavy.  Anything else would be on the ground.

I’ll have to be careful of the fuse box, which you can see on the right side of the above picture.  The door of the box doesn’t open all the way because of the laundry.  Again, it’s a tight space.

The point of this particular project is to see if I can do it through scavenging alone.  I have a huge shed where my landlord’s contractor stores all his stuff.  I am determined that there are scraps in there good enough for what I’m intent on doing.

You’ll notice that the paint job in the entry way is the same horrible beige we eradicated throughout the rest of the house.   The ceilings are just too high for us to get the job done.

The plan is to lay a piece of wood so it sits about 6 inches above the top of the dryer and can be removed easily for maintenance purposes.  Because I don’t want large brackets to interfere with the dryer space I am going to prop the shelf on two pieces of wood that will be attached to the wall and will run flush to the wall along the depth of the shelf.  These will save me the space I need and will mean that I can just pop the shelf down whenever I need to.  I’ll put some small scraps running perpendicular to the wall-wood, just at the back, to prevent me from pushing the shelf backwards off its runner.

The shelf itself needn’t be super heavy duty.  All I plan to use it for is a repository for my one jug of detergent and maybe a box of Borax.  No biggie.

I need a piece of wood that is no less than 34″ (the width of the entryway).  This could be tricky.

Fortunately, Kª has volunteered the destruction of this changing table which is taking up space in the garage.As the both of us are of the school that the lower to the ground you change your baby the smaller the distance he can fall, this changing table is only gathering dust and mildew and Kª is thrilled that it can be repurposed to something else.

It looks like it’s a basic IKEA-style construction, so dismantling won’t be a big deal.  I measured and the long horizontal pieces of fibreboard are just barely 34″.  The vertical end pieces, however, are about 36″, so if I can cut the fibreboard carefully enough so it doesn’t splinter, then I can use those as well.  At least I have four different pieces of wood to screw up.

As for the ‘brackets’ that will hold up the shelf itself, I need two lengths of small-gauge board, preferably of a 2″ thickness, and about 14″ long.  There is a ton of that in the garage, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be missed.

These pieces are about twelve feet long.  The middle one is probably the ideal size for my job.  I’ll make use of it if my conscience doesn’t smite me.  I’m sure no one would miss it if I took two feet off it.  I had to unearth it from a dusty pile in order to put it on that rafter so I don’t think anyone will notice.

These pieces are less ideal.  They’re a bit narrow, thickness-wise.  I need something that the shelf can balance on securely that will distribute some of the weight.

These pieces are ones that I know nobody would mind me using, as they’re obviously remainders from other things (I used one of these to create the reinforcement on my fireplace door to keep out the mouse).  They’re even less ideal, being of varying lengths and thicknesses.  They are a last resort, for sure.  Although that little stack of squares might be useful to me.  I hadn’t seen those before in the scrap pile.  I’ll have to think about it.

Now I’m just being silly.  Though it might be interesting to see if I can make some outdoor pot stands and things from this stuff.  It’s not like any of the fireplaces in our house actually work.  What use is a whole wall of firewood?

Anyway, that’s the plan.  If I can get two days running of good weather I’ll start working on it.  In the mean time I need to pick myself up a stud finder and some nice long wood screws.  I will keep you posted.

Hob-Nobbing with Rust Paint

There is an iron grate, or hob, in front of my blocked-up fireplace.  It came with the apartment, to distract, I suppose, from the hideousness of the wooden door that obscures the hideousness of the fireplace itself.

In any case, it’s rusty.  It attracts dust and cobwebs and because it’s all rough with rust it’s hard to keep clean.  My dusting cloths just catch and don’t remove any of the crud.  It looks like it was painted at one point, but that it’s almost all worn off by now.   What isn’t worn off is the marking on the inside:

Design Copy Righted

by W. L. Sharp & Sons

1893

So it’s old.  And it’s kind of cool.  And I don’t want the rust to destroy it any further.

I’m going to re-paint it black.  I find that’s a good solution in this house.  If something is rusty and/or gross-looking, I paint it.  The paint seems to protect it from any further damage, and it makes it look a little better.  There’s a cupboard in the kitchen that I painted the top of black, to hide some horrible stains and to mimic our black counter tops.  I also painted the rusty light fixture in the bathroom to save me the eyesore.  I think it’s a good approach.

I got some eco-friendly CLR-type stuff I picked up at Shoppers a while ago.  It’s amazing how well it works.  Unfortunately I don’t seem to have it anymore, nor can I find it again.  Fortunately the hob isn’t THAT rusty, so I think I can just paint over it.  It should at least stop it from rusting more.

***EDIT: I of course found the CLR-type stuff under my sink at the very back the DAY AFTER I painted the hob.***

I did, however, attempt a vinegar/baking soda concoction to blast away some of the rougher stuff first.  I scrubbed it with a stiff brush, like the kind you use on your barbecue.

Rinsed it off with the hose and left it in the sun to dry.  We actually HAD sun for once.

Now to paint!

I’m not too concerned with a glossy finish here so I used semi-gloss rust spray paint (Tremclad, to be more accurate) and I’m not sanding down the hob because I don’t want to rub off something important.  I’m also doing this outside because none of my windows open and I want to live to plague the Pie a long, long time.  I painted in my little quarry because that’s where I do all my painting.  It’s out of the wind, nice and sunny, and if I get some paint on the rocks who is going to care?

Make sure to follow the instructions on your paint can for proper technique, like distance from object and drying time.

I did the first coat, waited the requisite time for it to dry, then did the second.

I brought it inside after a while because I was afraid of rain.

And there it is.  A definite improvement.

Fountaining Fiasco – Elizabethan Explosion

***WE INTERRUPT YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOGGING FOR AN IMPORTANT SYSTEMS BROADCAST.***

It's hard to see, but the street is more or less flooded.

Sunday night: a raging downpour that continues to Monday.  Kº hears a steady dripping sound in his bathroom ceiling.  Is it the rain, or is it something else?

Monday evening: the dripping continues, despite the fact that the rain has stopped.  All Elizabeth residents, Il Principe included despite his age, are called in for consultation.  The bathroom ceiling is noticeably bulging.  The Pie, given his freakish height advantage, gives the ceiling a good poke.  Everything is squishy.  The dripping can be heard by all present.  This is obviously an internal leak, and as our bathroom is directly above KK’s bathroom, the culprit is either our ancient sink or our even more ancient toilet, which our landlord has decided not to replace, as the matching green fixtures are kitschy and cool.  Landlord and contractor are notified.  We wait.  I didn’t take pictures, sorry.

Tuesday morning: the ceiling, full of water, gives way (obviously).  Elizabeth is full to the brim with unintelligible Newfoundland handy men and their tools.  The carpenter’s pickup is pulled into KK’s driveway (the bed is full of pieces of wood, that’s how I can tell), and the plumber’s pickup is pulled into our driveway (the bed is filled with tubes and piping, that’s how I can tell).

Plumber's truck

Tuesday afternoon: the ceiling comes down and is taken away.  KK’s bathroom is full of people fixing it, but the water is turned off in our apartment, because the pipe behind the toilet is spraying water everywhere downstairs.  Nobody can pee.  My research proposal takes a back seat to the chaos that reigns in the house (and the fact that my new kitchen scales and artisan bread book have arrived).  At one point the plumber comes in and drills a hole in my bathroom floor, and sticks a tube in it.

The new tube.

Later he comes back and attaches a small pipe to the toilet.

A little pipe to bypass the old burst one.

Later, the water comes on and spurts and burbles all over the place.  Then it goes off again.

Air in the water pipes.

Tuesday evening: the super-nice plumber leaves for the night.  KK’s ceiling is completely missing but nothing is leaking.  The contractor will replace the ceiling in a couple days.

The new white bypass pipes.

Interesting information: the carpenter tells Kª before he leaves that Elizabeth is actually one of the oldest houses on the whole street (which is a freaking long street, for that matter), and that back in the day (this is circa 1920 or so), it was quite the fancy establishment.

You can see the high old ceilings in this distance shot.

More interesting information: you can see the old crown mouldings in the bathroom after they removed the ceiling.

The contractor told me there was a double floor there that they have removed.  Lending credence to my belief (judging from the decor of my kitchen) that the house was converted to apartments in the 1960s, the carpenter found a beer bottle in the ceiling, an old one (India Beer is a local brew – the logo is a Newfoundland dog – it’s not bad).

The date on the inside of the label says 1 63 5 (5 January 1963? 1 May 1963?).  The modern stuff is made by Molson and looks like this, but I just found a link that told me bottles like this from the sixties are selling on eBay for $20.  Go figure.  Kª saved it for me, and it’s on my mantle now.  I think my dad might get a kick out of it.

What’s awesome is I took a ‘before’ picture of the bathroom to get a good perspective if they were going to take out the floor or whatever.  Aside from that little pipe, nothing has changed.  I feel bad because the leak was all because of our toilet, and it’s KK’s bathroom that got destroyed.

KK's chaotic bathroom.

Kª has taken some pictures, too – I’ll post them if I can get ’em.

Stay tuned!

***THIS HAS BEEN A TEST OF OUR EMERGENCY SYSTEMS BROADCAST.  WE NOW RETURN YOU TO REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOGGING.***

Death to Beige – Painting Elizabeth, Summer 2009 and Winter 2010

Elizabeth is our house.  On the outside, she’s kind of pinkish, with an orange roof that leaks, and windows in need of replacing.  On the inside, she’s a cozy nest that we adore.  When we moved in, however, we were confronted with wall upon wall of the most disconcerting beige I had ever seen.  In no one’s conception could this beige be considered a neutral.  It looked to me like someone had taken a brown paper lunch bag and vomited on it, then left it for dead in the rain.

In other words, I hated it.  The Pie didn’t really care, but he’s a boy.  Something had to be done.  We had to paint.  We had an agreement with our landlord that we could paint the apartment any colour we wanted, and if she didn’t like it, then we would simply have to repaint when we left.  That is a good deal.  We had to leave the hallway as it was, because the ceilings were too high for us to paint safely, but the rest of the place was fair game.

We went with ICI Dulux Inspirations Paint for its low odor (very few of the windows in this place open so we didn’t want to fume ourselves out of house and home).

Office

Before

Because I was spending a lot of my spare time in my office, this was the first room to be painted.  I’ve always found green to be a good colour for productivity, so I went with “Kiwi Fun”:

I managed to only spill paint on the linoleum once, which was a high achievement on my part.

After: Nobody here but me and the freezer.

Bathroom

Cheers! was the name of the bright yellow I used in this tiny room.  All our fixtures are 1960s green, and all our accessories have blue in them, so it seemed only appropriate to make a tiny dark room a cheery yellow.

I taped up the toilet to avoid drips.

This was the job from hell.  This particular paint came out super thin and runny, and it took me SIX COATS to get it done, and that’s working with a tiny roller and sponge brush around all the fixtures.  I had also decided to re-do the woodwork and trim in the bathroom because years of dampness had caused it all to crack and mildew.  There’s nothing like scraping black mould out of crevices you didn’t know existed.

I had a really hard time getting the enamel to stick to the woodwork.  I think even that too four coats or so.  A smart thing I did was paint the ceiling with the same enamel, as well as the rusting out light fixture and the air vent.

I used rust paint on the ceiling.

Three lessons I learned from the bathroom experience: (1) don’t leave painter’s tape on any surface for longer than 5 days; (2) make sure the paint has fully cured before you stick stuff to it (even painter’s tape); and (3) sand the crap out of shiny surfaces before you paint them.

The sunny bathroom, finally finished.

Bedroom

I had hung curtains in this room that we were very pleased with: vertical stripes of brown, taupe, turquoise and green (sounds weird, I know, but they’re quite nice).  Having spent all that money on the curtain fabric ($250!) we wanted to paint the room to match them, as well as coordinate with our black bed and brown chests of drawers. 

Bramble Tan was the one we went with.  In the sunlight, it looks more like a warm, wet clay than anything else.  It’s relaxing and inviting at the same time, and I love it to pieces.  The consistency of the paint in this can was more like pudding than anything else, and we finished the room in a day with only two coats.

Living and Dining Rooms

Dining Room in progress.

Pie thought we should paint these rooms the same colour, so as to draw the eye to the magnificence of our kitchen, which we intended to paint a bright red.  I wanted something plain because our furniture in these rooms is a jumble of everything, and a bold colour would only make the place look cluttered.  In the end we went with Stowe White, an off-white that reminds me of cream.  It makes our hung pictures really stand out and yet it’s not a sterile white – cozy is definitely a theme in our place.

Photo stitch of the finished living room.

These rooms we did about two weeks before we left town for our wedding, so they were a little rushed, it was hot, and we had many other things on our minds.  Nevertheless, they turned out really well, and we made very few mistakes.

Stitch of the finished dining room.

Kitchen

We went with Cranberry Zing, to match the red tiles in the floor, and to make the white and black fixtures really pop.

The chaos before I began.

This room, I was determined, was going to be my pro job.  I was going to do it right, just like my dad does, and not take any shortcuts.

We had a leak in our roof the previous fall, which had since been repaired, but it had left some damage on the ceiling and the wall above the stove.  I took a wide, flat putty knife and used it to carefully lever away the damaged paint so I could assess the drywall underneath.  While spotted with dried mould and water-stained, it was still pretty solid, and so I just patched over it with Drydex.  I like this stuff because when it’s wet it’s bright pink, and you know it’s ready to sand and paint when it turns white.  It also doesn’t smell and is easily washable.

Step 1: Assess Damage
Step 2: Remove loose paint.
Step 3: Spackle!
One wall at a time.

I washed the walls down, then I sanded them, then I washed them again to remove the last particles.  I taped everything up well and I worked wall by wall, so we could still use the kitchen while I was painting it. It took three coats.  I didn’t spill anything, nothing broke, and it turned out really, really well.

I did this in January of 2010, while procrastinating on studying for my final comprehensive exam.  This is why I had the time to get it right.  I even managed to wait a week before putting all the stuff back up on the walls.

The one issue I had is one that had to do with my roller.  For some reason I can’t explain, the roller this time left bubbles on the walls as it passed, and when they dried you could still see them.  In certain spots it looks like I have sparkles on the walls.  It’s not entirely unpleasing, but it is a little weird.

In any case, we are both in love with our ‘new’ kitchen and we spend a lot of time in there.

Finally finished. My favourite room.

Experiments with Tintex Fabric Dye

“it doesn’t look like you dye-it” – Stef

In February of this year, as I was procrastinating studying for my exams, I decided to try to dye my dining room curtains, just to see if I could.  Before the wedding last summer, the Pie and I painted both the living room and the dining room a cream colour, and the white cotton curtains (from IKEA) I had in there made the room look too stark. We didn’t have the money to purchase new curtains, so something had to be done with what we had.

I thought, why not purple?  A rich, deep, eggplant.  Yes.

I’d always passed the boxes of Tintex fabric dye in the grocery store and wondered how the process worked.  Now was my chance to find out.  While I was picking out my purple, I also picked up some forest green (in case the Pie objected to purple) and I read the instructions on the back of the box.  It suggested I remove all traces of the old colour or stains on the fabric with the Tintex colour remover, so I picked up two boxes of that, as well as two each of the purple and the green.  The dye amount is by weight, and I figured each curtain panel would warrant its own box.

Now, if you know me, you’ll know that I have a tendency to spill, drop, tear, break, or otherwise destroy things.  The idea of me in charge of a vat of purple dye was enough to give the Pie arrhythmia, but I promised to be careful.  And, to my credit, I was, very careful.  Nothing got dyed that shouldn’t have been.  I wore long rubber gloves, tied my hair back, and wore my oldest clothing.  And I didn’t spill a drop!

Everything ready and waiting for the colour remover.

In order for fabric dye to set it requires that the water in which it is dissolved be as hot as possible, boiling if at all possible.  There was no way I could put an entire curtain panel in even my largest pot, so I needed a new venue.  Luckily I had an extra-large Rubbermaid bin, and I set this in the bathtub to avoid spills.  I boiled up some water in my big lobster pot, and poured it into the tub.  I followed that up with water from the faucet.  Fortunately our water heater is brand new and about three feet from the bathroom, so the water that came out of the tap was near to boiling itself.  I also turned up the heat in the bathroom (which normally hovers around sub-zero).  This was the best I could do.

The instructions on the box also recommended that I dye each piece of fabric separately, but I didn’t trust myself to either time it properly or get a uniform water level between the two batches, and I needed these panels to come out the same colour, so I did them at the same time.

Having the colour removed.

First, I boiled the water and dissolved the colour remover in the tub.  I plopped in the curtain panels, which were white, but which did have a few stains and marks on them that could have stood to be removed.  I sat on the edge of the tub for the time allotted, stirring my cauldron of smelly, steaming liquid and poking the fabric back below the surface with a long metal slotted spoon (from Lee Valley – I highly recommend them).

When my time was up I tipped out the liquid and rinsed the curtains as best as I could.  It is really backbreaking work, and quite hard on the wrists to bend and squish (but not wring) a huge pile of wet fabric from your knees.

I repeated the boiling water process with the purple dye.  The powder itself looked black, and billowed up in a multicoloured cloud as I poured it.  I was wiping red, blue, green, and black dye particulates off the walls of the shower for a week afterward.  Once the dye was dissolved it made an opaque, wine-like liquid that steamed and smelled quite evil.  I dumped in my wet, rinsed curtains and poked at them for the requisite amount of time.

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble.

Already tired from my rinsing of the colour remover, and solidly bored from having to sit by myself in the bathroom for over an hour, I was not all that enthused about rinsing the newly dyed curtains.  The Pie, bless him, helped quite a bit, running the removable showerhead over the fabric as I worked it with my gloved hands.  Eventually, after about the ninth rinse, I gave up and put them on an extra rinse cycle in the washing machine.

Draining the Vat

I figured there wasn’t enough dye left in them to do any real damage to the machine (we had a residual bleach accident when we first moved in that made us reticent to put fabric altering substances in the washer), but there was enough still in the fabric that it might rub off on something else when it was dry.  The nice thing about the rinse cycle is that it did a better job of wringing out the fabric than I ever could, so I didn’t have to worry about drips while it was drying.

Hanging from the shower rod to dry.

I hung the fabric to dry, and the next day I hung them in place in the dining room.

They weren’t a perfect job, by any means.  There are several patches of white remaining on the fabric.  I think this is either the result of me not rinsing them enough after the colour removal stage, or the dye didn’t penetrate that far into the folds of the cloth while it was in the tub.  Next time I might just time and measure it better and do each panel separately to ensure better coverage.  But for a first attempt, I’m quite pleased with them.  They turned out the colour I wanted them to and they really make the dining room much cozier.

Back in the dining room.

Cleanup was nearly a breeze from this experiment.  I was very careful to have no spillage, so anything and everything was fortunately contained within the tub.  The tub, however, is very old, and a lot of dye worked its way into the tiny scratches on its bottom and sides while I was doing the rinsing.  It took some scrubbing with vinegar, baking soda, and borax to get it out, but it was easier than I had expected.

Cleanup was a snap.

Flushed with my success, I took the remaining dye (the forest green) to one of the lampshades in our living room.  This lampshade is one of the cheap ones from IKEA, and is made of paper overlying some sort of plastic.  It was getting dingy and dirty, and during the day, when the light was off, it looked quite yellow.  I dusted it off with a clothes lint brush and took it into the kitchen.  I laid down a garbage bag and then several layers of newsprint on top, and took one of our sponge brushes from the closet.  The lampshade was too wide to fit into a pot, and I was concerned that the paper part of it might dissolve if I were to submerge it.  Instead, I planned to paint it.

Painting on the Dye.

I filled a 4-cup measuring cup with boiling water and emptied in the green dye, which also looked pretty black, and dissolved the whole thing.  I let it cool slightly, and then set to painting.  I let the sponge brush fill with dye and ran it gently up and down the sides of the shade.  I had to let it thoroughly dry between coats so that I didn’t destroy the paper, but I managed four coats before I was satisfied.  An unexpected effect was that the paper on the shade was actually crinkled, with wrinkles running here and there along the sides of the shade.  The dye darkened the wrinkles more than it did anything else, and so now the shade looks sort of like dark green leather.  When the light is on, the lines stand out even more.  It’s quite nice, actually.  Another decent first effort.

Finished, Greenskin