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Archive for April, 2012

Little changes make me enormously happy. Our linen closet door (in our “hallway”) used to look like this:

In contrast to our bedroom door:

But after painting the door, the trim and the door knob, it looks like this:

Yes, the whole-house trim painting project continues (notice that strip to the left of the linen closet above – it’s still yellow and the quarter-round is still natural wood). We’ll get there.

I decided to take a gamble and spray paint the doorknob rather than buy a new one. I’m happy with the look, but I didn’t bother prepping it very much, and there is already a little wear on it. You can see it on the plate in this picture:

I can live with it for now, and I can always touch it up if it gets worse. Besides that, I’m in love with my “new” linen closet door.

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No More Wet Blankets

Over the weekend, we realized one of our friends had never heard the phrase “wet blanket,” as in “No, don’t invite Sally; she’s such a wet blanket!” Anyway, it reminded me… we have a working dryer!

Did I manage to fix it? No. I got my new thermal kit off Amazon, and a project that I thought would take 5 minutes took waaaay longer. We ended up having the version of the dryer that required some modifications. Long story short, I now [sort of] know how to strip and crimp wire, know that I don’t need all of the copper strands in a wire if I don’t want them, and don’t at all know how best to communicate with Jamaican electricians who work at Home Depot.

A little bit about wire connectors. They should look like this:

See how the metal part above the rubbery casing neatly contains those copper wires sticking out at the top like hair? Here’s how my stripped and crimped connector looked after struggling with my wire-stripper/crimper for 20 minutes or so:

Horrifying. But it was the best I could do. My metal part wasn’t big enough to wrap around and contain all those copper wires. I wasn’t trying to burn the house down, so I went to Home Depot to find a part with a bigger metal-wrap-around piece. There I met an electrician with a very heavy accent. I don’t know all the wiring lingo, so we tried to communicate by drawing pictures. After about 45 minutes of that, he told me I could just snip off the extra copper wires. They don’t matter. He saved me a few bucks, but after all these shenanigans, my new thermal kit did nothing to help the dryer situation. In a couple of last ditch moves, I checked the heating element, hoping one of the wire coils was broken, and I cleaned as much lint as I could out of the vents and hoses. Still, our dryer did nada.

(here's what our heating element looks like)

Time to throw in the [wet] towel. Yup, I gave up and called in a pro. His name was Robert, and he had the stupid thing fixed in, like, ten minutes. It was the door switch.

Remember British James? With all the videos? I went back to find where he talks about the door switch.

Around 4:40 of video 11, British James finally shows us the door switch, and you can tell it’s an afterthought. Then he notes, “they hardly never ever go bad.” British James, you steered me wrong.

So there you have it. Our dryer is special and unique, and I sort of know that machine intimately now. Robert the handyman did seem pretty amused when I followed him into the basement to find out what the problem turned out to be. He commended my “noble effort” to fix it, but in the end, the dryer won this round. I guess if you think about it, we’re all winners because Andrew and I can do laundry like modern people again, Robert gets to make a living off non-handy people, and my friend from the beginning of the post knows what it means to call someone a “wet blanket.” Also, I honed my pictionary skills with the electrician at Home Depot, so I’m super prepared for the next game night. Or dryer-repair scenario.

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Bathroom!

Okay! I did promise a bathroom update, and Andrew hinted at our [slow and gradual] progress, so without further ado, our bathroom tile:

Yes, it’s mostly still boxed up, but you guys know what white subway tile looks like. The real showstopper is the floor tile. The beautiful, marble floor tile.

It makes me giddy.

Look at that veining.

I drove up to the tile store Saturday, and the guy loading the car for me seemed really concerned. He kept saying things like, “all this tile weighs more than 600 pounds; that’s like four of me” and, “your brakes are going to work differently, so drive slow.” Then he let some of the air out of the tires and sent me on my way. Obviously, I made it back okay. Bonus: unloading that 600+ pounds counts as a workout, right? So it’s okay that I haven’t gone to the gym in three-ish weeks? Ok, cool.

It feels good to have one major purchase checked off, but daunting to think of everything else we need to acquire before late-mid-May.

Here’s the tub we’re thisclose to ordering:


It’s an American Standard Americast tub, made of enameled steel. The reviews on Home Depot are promising, and American Standard has a good reputation, so it might just be time to pull the trigger.

We are further from finding everything else we need. We’ve seen vanities we like… at around $1,000. Not including the sink and top or the faucet. That just seems like… a lot. I haven’t found him yet, but I’m still hopeful that the perfect vanity at the right price is out there for us. I wish there was a match.com for bathroom vanities. “Young, contemporary-traditional couple with champagne tastes and beer budget ISO small, dark and handsome vanity cabinet. Must be easygoing, classy, hardworking, and in it for the long haul. Dog-lover a plus.”

Moving right along, we’re also having some trouble finding faucets. There are a LOT of faucets out there, but we want something pretty classic looking, and cross handles seem like a good fit for the age and feel of our house. There are economical versions:

Delta’s version is $99 at Lowes, but the reviews are not great, and it seems to only come in the chrome finish. According to my mom, they’ll special order anything you want, so we could probably get this in brushed nickel or whatever finish we decide we want. Also according to my mom, “you get what you pay for,” so a $99 faucet might break or leak ten minutes after install.

There are pricey versions:

The list price on this Kohler is $1,072.25. That’s not a typo. There is a comma in the price. And those are pretty much the only two faucets I’ve liked. Dirt cheap or ridiculously expensive. So, the search continues.

Also on the shopping list still:

  • shower head and bath faucet
  • vanity top
  • paint for the un-tiled portion of the walls
  • electric heated floor mat to install under the floor tile?
  • the “unpretty” supplies: thinset, tile spacers, cement board, wax ring, notched trowel, buckets, etc., etc…

Aside from trolling craigslist, does anyone have any hints for finding some stylish bathroom bargains?

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Gearing Up for Spring Projects

I guess I should attempt to defend myself for not posting since December 7.

As you saw in some previous posts, we had a great Christmas and New Year with family and friends, and as it usually happens with me, I become consumed in January with the NFL playoffs and watch way too much football on the weekends without doing much else.

But, I will say that we have been working here and there since the New Year, and a lot of my work has involved a brush and glossy white paint. If I can remember correctly, in the last two months, I painted the fireplace mantle, the trim for three windows, and the floor trim in the living room, and the window trim in the dinning room. I also helped Katie paint the fireplace wall in the living room. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re doing multiple coats and letting things dry, it takes time, and as Katie said, it just seems like this trim-painting project is never-ending.

And, we’re obviously ramping up for the big bathroom project, which is now just 6 1/2 weeks away. Katie is off to pick up our bath and floor tile this weekend, and I’ve made calls and had discussions with our neighborhood plumber on the professional work we’ll need done after we do 2-3 days of demo work. The hope is that Katie, my father and I can clear the bathroom out the weekend of May 19-20, so that during the following Monday and Tuesday, the plumber can come in and help us install the bathtub, bathtub drain and water controls.

We also have made contact with a window replacement professional, who will also come in at this time to replace the window hiding behind the current shower stall.

After the professional work is done, it’s up to us to finish the deal, which means cement board, bath tile and floor tile (there has been some talk of installing a heating mat under the floor tile, which would be tremendous to have), installing the new vanity, etc. etc. etc. This is going to be a beastly project and I can’t wait to document it–and have a new bathroom.

So, there’s that to look forward to, I think. But until then, I’m doing what I can in the yard now that spring is officially here and everyone in the neighborhood is mowing, cutting, planting, and mulching non-stop on the weekends.

I made a big move this past weekend: I bought a riding lawnmower. Check it out, a John Deere:

John Deere RX75

Not my photo, but this is our new riding mower.

Found a guy in Harford County who rehabs lawnmowers and sells them online for his “beer and crab money,” as he told me when my neighbor and I picked the mower up on Sunday. Got what I think is a very good deal when you consider new riding mowers are usually four-digit expensive. Took it for the first cut of the year on Sunday (about 90 minutes) and the lawn looks great; also my back is already thanking me for a summer free from pushing a mower across the lawn for 3-4 hours every 10 days.

Happy spring.

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