Archives For Home Projects

And…we have sod

October 17, 2012 — Leave a comment


Construction season

September 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

New sewer, new water main, new street, new storm sewers, new curbs, new boulevards, new sidewalks, new trees and lots of noise and dirt. And cutting down century-old trees…



And still a long way to go.

The front porch of our 120 year-old house has a painted floor, and it was peeling badly. It was painted an unfortunate emerald color at some point, and upon scraping, I determined it once had red shag carpeting. Classy!

Here’s a side-by-side before/after shot:

It made a great weekend project. Scraping took about three hours. I used Kilz primer and Glidden Porch & Floor Paint tinted to “Chocolate.” Only needed enough for 150 square feet, but they only sell each of them in gallons.

I actually did three coats of the brown, so I used almost all of it. Three coats seemed smart considering I don’t want to do this again for a very long time, and we actually use the porch on a daily basis.




After four years of living with the gray and pink color palette our home’s previous owners slathered over our 1890 home in historic downtown Chaska, I’m thrilled to share these before/after pictures.



What a difference a little paint makes!

Last week in pictures

February 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

Batman brought me to New York again…

Including a stop at Wollman Rink…

My colleague Wade tried to cast a spell on me with the magic wand he carries in his knapsack (for real)…

Our flight out of LaGuardia was cancelled. Took a speeding cab ride to JFK. Got the last seat on the last plane to MSP. Tiny plane, back row and Angie’s seat has no window! We are basically rock stars…

The floor drain in our 120 year-old house backed up…

And here it is after I removed the shower on top of it and snaked it out…

The kids helped me clean the kitchen…

And we cheered for the Vikings throughout the Super Bowl. Maybe next year!

Goodbye Hot Tub

August 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

The main circuit board and ozonator on the hot tub fried. Partner the expense of fixing those parts (and whatever else was wrong with it) plus the idea of reclaiming part of our small backyard, plus the fact my Dad was in town, and we had a heck of a project this weekend.

Hot tub vines


We had to take down the wooden lattice, cut out all of the vines (took forever), pull down the walls, haul the hot tub out (which required disassembling our chain link fence and cutting down trees with a hatchet, and building a wooden walkway up to the decking. Then finding someone on Craigslist to pick it up and haul it away.



Now we just need to get some lawn furniture, and we’re set.

My grandpa built a toy kitchen set for my mom decades ago. It was my sister’s growing up and then ended up in a storage unit since the late 80s.

It’s pretty great compared to the plastic kitchens you can buy at big box stores. It has “real” metal faucets, “real” stove/oven knobs and multiple shelves in the refrigerator and freezer.

I took it home earlier this summer and spent a couple weekends sanding it down (splinters galore!), priming over the bear stencils and repainting the hardware.

BEFORE: Toy Kitchen Set

Grant helped me paint:
Grant helping out

AFTER: Toy Kitchen Set

AFTER: Toy Kitchen Set

We’re getting ready for our new baby daughter coming in less than three weeks.

One of the outstanding items on my to-do list was to paint a couple dressers. One of them I had painted yellow in anticipation of my son coming more than four years ago. It was surreal to have him “help” me paint the dressers to get ready for his little sister.

This dresser was originally painted bright red with wooden knobs. It cost $5 at a garage sale.

It took two coats of primer and two coats of white paint to get rid of the pink hue you get when you paint white over red. We topped it off with some pink flower handles for the drawers. I also hung that pink curtain up in lieu of a closet door with this cool hook my wife bought. It turned out pretty good.

This dresser was originally fake wood grain with gold plated handles. It was free at a garage sale.

I painted the entire thing white (drawers had been yellow) and spray painted the hideous golden handles a satin brown. It turned out really great.

Also, I did a whole bunch of laundry this week, including the new baby’s clothes, and boy was I surprised at the explosion of pink.

My white t-shirts need to be afraid – very afraid.

Last summer my dad and I built an epic fence along the back of property. For my birthday that fall, he bought me three gallons of Behr wood stain sealer and left his sprayer for me. We were still adjusting to Baby #2, and the project just never happened before it snowed.

Fast forward eight months, and it was a Memorial Day project in the making.

Fence Stain: Before

Fence Stain: After

Fence Stain: Halfway

What you can’t tell from the pictures is that a shadowbox fence is super hard to stain. Each board has six sides, and getting an adequate amount of stain between alternating slats without over-coating is practically impossible. And once you finish the front of the fence, you have to do the back. Even 30 feet of fence is a huge undertaking.

The folks at the big box store paint department highly recommended using a nylon foam applicator and doing it all by hand, so that’s how I started. After more than an hour I was only six boards in on one side. As the sun heated up, I started eying the sprayer, and I’m so glad I switched. It may not be coated on as thick or last as long, but it was worth it to get the project complete in just under five hours.

Lessons learned about staining a fence:

  • Don’t shake the stain. Stir it. Bubbles = enemy.
  • Test in the least seen area first. I was very glad I did this as I got used to the nylon pad and then the sprayer.
  • Wear a mask. It seems basic, but I was fairly surprised how much paint covered my respirator mask when I was done.
  • Wear eye protection. Unless you like soaking your eyeglasses in mineral spirits (like I had to do), put your shop goggles on when spraying.
  • Use a cardboard box to cover for overspray. Big boxes for big areas and use a little box in your free hand for little areas.
  • Once you have all your materials out, do more projects. I went ahead and stained my extra piece of fence and a small deck where I keep my grill. I had the sprayer hooked up, mask on and stain mixed up. In hindsight, I would’ve had a few other ideas in the works.

Grant did help me out for about five minutes before declaring the project “boring.” He thought we should get out more colors, like pink and blue. I tried to explain, but then I was boring, too.

That was fine, as it gave the boys a chance to get in some pool time.

We turned our air conditioning on this week. I personally love sleeping with the windows open when it finally gets warm outside, but with my wife’s allergies we have to keep things closed up.

One of the first things we did when we bought our 120 year-old house was install air conditioning. In fact, we had the a/c folks come out in February to give us a quote so we could factor it into our budget (they thought we were crazy…especially in Minnesota…asking for an air conditioner quote in February). But with a pregnant wife and little baby, we thought it was an important investment to make

It’s definitely nice to have, but since the house wasn’t built for nor ducted for a/c, it’s not exactly the most efficient. The first floor gets very chilly and the second floor — where our bedrooms are — gets semi-cool, but definitely isn’t crisp. For one, there aren’t any cold air returns on the second floor, so the cold air blows up and that leaves the hot air nowhere to go.

Potential Project:
I talked to a guy about installing some manual vents, but I’m not a big fan of digging into century old, plaster-coated, load-bearing walls. My grandpa once rigged up an attic fan system to suck hot air out of an old house. We do have attic access in the upstairs hallway, but we just had the attic insulation topped off and that door sealed a year ago. I guess overall I’m not really up for that level of project this summer, but it’s something I’m thinking about almost every night.

So for now, until I’m ready for a re-ducting or venting project, we freeze in the living room and sleep under fans in the bedrooms. I think this sums it up the best…