Sunday, July 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes: In Which A DIY Lifestyle Moves Slowly

(vol. 8)

It's not that I find the work of a DIY lifestyle enjoyable. To be honest, I would happily pay someone else to do all of our work, if I didn't have that nagging sense of budget and fear of debt.

Happily, Google interprets my nonsensical home maintenance questions (what to do if my toilet is overflowing -- #1: don't wait until you've flushed it twice more to look this up). And between Youtube, home improvement store seminars, and "This Old House" reruns, we have free access to every how-to video ever, occasionally accompanied by the patience to actually watch them.

Unfortunately, the previous owners of our home also had strong DIY tendencies, albeit expressed more superficially. Someone drilled the gutters, sans brackets, unevenly into the side of the house; so they're more of a leaky trench than a water-draining system. Someone painted over rotten eaves fascia and structural cracks. Someone didn't paint walls behind overgrowth or trees. It seems all of our home projects begin with undoing whatever the previous owners "fixed."

1. The Unfinished Refinished Kitchen Cabinets

My mistake here was a failure to realize just how many layers of paint a kitchen cabinet can hold. And how many layers of paint the hardware and hinges of a kitchen cabinet can hold. Just getting the doors off the frame took hours. Now my system is a messy time-consuming combination of chemical paint stripper and sanding, and chances are, there will be an indefinite hold on the project after the butler's pantry is complete.

I also plan to experiment with cutting plywood to fit our custom cabinet door sizes (which are about 45 years old and don't fit any standard replacement cabinet doors, which means replacing the entire cabinets, if we want to replace the doors, which is super expensive, super labor intensive, and super out-of-budget). It sounds a little ghetto, but I'm holding high hopes for what a little sanding, staining, and polyurethane can do for plywood.

Stalled-out butler's pantry, because I can't bring myself to finish sanding the doors.

2. The Toilet Replacement

We have a tiny bathroom with a giant water-guzzling toilet. The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store (if you haven't been -- go visit!) has toilets for $40 each, and we found this little jewel that will slide nicely into our bathroom, once we replace the laminate floor with tile, and pull out the oversized sink and vanity.


Old Giant Toilet (left); New Sleek, Yet-To-Be-Installed Toilet (right)

3. The Gutter Install

We're about to find out just how far we can stretch the Home Depot customer satisfaction guarantee. We meant to replace the gutters last April, which is when we bought all the supplies. But a combination of working on Saturdays, weddings, and rain delays have brought us to a project workday that is 10 days past the returns date on our receipt. Here's to hoping...*

4. The Vanity Replacement

For a 25-square-foot bathroom, there's no reason for the vanity to take up 10 square feet. However, I recently found out that Ikea sells a 10-inch sink. I've marked out in blue painter's tape where the new sink and side cabinets will go, and cannot wait to attempt bath time with toddlers with the extra 14 inches of space!


[Soon?] to come! Space in the bathroom!

5. The Deck Replacement (a.k.a. "Please let us give you our money!")

We've spent a year planning the replacement of a rotting, splitting deck across the back of our house. It's a feature our kids love and is an ideal place for toddlers to toddle. In the interest of longevity and low-maintenance, we've decided to replace it with composite decking, which is significantly more expensive than pressure-treated decking. You'd think we were trying to replace it with moon dust.

Composite decking isn't popular enough for home improvement stores to carry it in bulk, but their customer service desks and websites and promotional flyers are full of DIY-friendly promises about deck planning and special orders.

We called Home Depot to see how to place a special order. "Just come in and talk to Javier!" they said. We scheduled babysitting for the kids, and went in to talk to Javier. He dismissively said they don't special order composite decking; it's just not something they do. So we went to lunch instead.

We called Lowes to see how to place a special order. "Just schedule an appointment with John!" We scheduled an appointment with John, scheduled babysitting for the kids, and then John no-showed at Lowe's. He didn't really sound interested in follow-up when we called back. Actually, he didn't really sound that interested in decking either.

6. The Vegetable Garden


We stocked up on lawn timbers when they were 99 cents each at Home Depot's 2012 Memorial Day sale.

I suppose the picture below simply indicates where vegetables fall on our life priorities list.


Future vegetable garden.

7. The Completed Projects

Just for some encouragement -- lest I communicate that we're stalled and not just slow -- here's a list of our completed DIY projects (supported by much Googling and Youtube how-to videos), since April 2012:

- Replaced carpet with wood laminate in living room (after removing carpet and tiles that we're pretty sure were full of asbestos, but we just held our breath as long as we could while scraping)
- Insulated the garage door
- Insulated the large sliding glass door
- Replaced the kitchen shade with blinds (my favorite upgrade -- sunlight!)
- Built an inset desk in place of a vanity (with open shelving for stowing laptops)
- Replaced the rotting wood in the eaves fascia
- Removed overgrowth and 5 trees (and some beautiful oleander, because we didn't want to kill our kids or pets)
- Removed wallpaper from entryway and re-painted
- Sanded and painted wood paneling in living room (so much wood paneling...)
- Installed new kitchen faucet (a retractable spray faucet with one lever for hot/cold water -- a huge upgrade for us, and purchased for $45 from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store)
- Built an insulated box for the attic door
- Insulated the attic fan
- Installed new ceiling fan in kitchen
- Moved kitchen ceiling fan to master bedroom
- Removed brick privacy walls from front entry (rented a concrete saw)
- Cleaned the main sewage pipes under the house, removed a major blockage
- Installed lots of shelving and organizational aids throughout the house and garage to try to give everything a place
- Repainted and replaced hardware of bathroom vanity
- Repainted entryway light fixture
- Repainted bathroom light fixture
- Repainted bathroom towel rack
- Replaced entry door
- Replaced locks with keyed deadbolts on every exterior door
- Built garden and planted bushes across front of house (twice, because we let the first ones die)

Visit Jen for more Quick Takes! No doubt more interesting than incomplete DIY!

*Home Depot accepted our returns, 10-days past the deadline, no complaints, no questions asked.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's alot of work to be done and completed. You all should be proud of yourselves for what you've already accomplished...with kids in tow! And yeah for Home Depot!

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