Saturday, March 18, 2006

It's over

Chez Ficus is closed for business.

Thank you for your patronage.

Update: I put all the old posts back up for your perusing enjoyment. Is anyone even listening?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ollie post

By popular demand, now a permanent Oliver post.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Looky loo

The living and dining rooms are painted. There are some smaller tasks still to be completed, but the drop cloth is off and the rooms are basically ready to be set up, after a little floor cleaning.

So here's a big bunch of pictures, with a few notes to follow.

Starting to tape off the living room

Work stereo circa 2005

Living room primed

Mantel primed

I get by...

Trim painted on mantel

Jeannie and the red sea

Man of the house

Tinted primer applied

Living room done

Mantel done

Tape off

Dining room set up

More dining room

Tasks still remaining:
  • Prime and paint closet door and mantel cabinet doors and re-hang
  • Prime and paint heat registers and install
  • Caulk a few places I missed
  • Touch up rough spots on the trim and mistakes
  • Stain the top of the mantel
A few thoughts:

The colors I used (all Ralph Lauren paint, harumph harumph) were Hunting Coat Red (TH43) on the dining room wall, Cottonwood (TH29) on the dining room ceiling, Palm Leaf (GH88) on the living room wall, Rustic Green (GH63) on the living room ceiling, and Cant Hook (GH89) for all trim.

Red paint is really thin. They warn you about this (and if they didn't, shame on them), but apparently to get that red color, the paint has to be thinned pretty heavily. I bought a gallon of primer tinted to my dining room color and it still needed three coats of paint, plus touchup on a few spots.

If I were to do this all over again, I would have rolled brown paper over every part of the floor and taped off to begin with, even well before painting. Cleaning some of the plaster drips off of the hardwood floor is a major pain. Also, if I do this, I only need drop cloth for covering furniture and maybe setting paint cans and supplies on.

Jeannie had the great idea to go to Value Village and buy a bunch of cheap bedsheets to use as drop cloth. They cost $4-6 instead of the $20+ you pay for a canvas drop, and they're not slippery like plastic. I'd still use heavy canvas over the furniture, but just for throwing on the floor, they worked pretty well.

I'm trying to tell myself I can live with that tile job on the fireplace but I can tell it is gonna get to me and I'm going to want to redo it. The library actually has a ton of books with home design and decorating ideas, so I'll have to run over there and pick some up to see what I think.

At last, I can get drapes. Confidential to my neighbors across the street: sorry about all those times I took a crap with the door open. Also, I can get some rugs, which should cut down on the reverb in the room and hopefully stave off having to refinish the floors for a little while.

My debt to Josh and Megan sinks deeper and deeper, way down, as they came to help me prime the walls last Sunday before knocking off for some of that delicious Ototo Sushi. Even more so, Jeannie contributed an incredible number of hours of help. I am truly grateful for all the assistance I've had.

It feels fantastic to accomplish something with such a visible effect. Rewiring is interesting, but at the end of all the hard work, you have something that is basically equivalent in functionality to what you had when you started.

In other exciting news here at Casa de la Ficus, there is a new member of the household. I got a 10-week-old chocolate lab puppy. One of my goals in buying a house was being able to get a dog, and when I saw him I couldn't resist. I named him Oliver.


Ollie by golly

Official mascot of Chez Ficus

On Saturday night, with the thin red paint barely dry, I was finally able to have some friends over for dinner. This morning, exhausted from spending all my free time and some of my sleep time in the last week painting, I sacked out for a nap on the couch in my newly green living room. Shortly thereafter, Ollie flopped down on the floor next to me and we both dozed in the sunlight. It was awesome.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A man, a plan, a mud pan

On Monday I called up a plastering contractor. He told me had just retired a couple months ago and wasn't taking jobs any more. I asked him for a referral and he opted instead to give me some advice. I told him I was using plaster of paris, which he said was "the worst thing you could use". I was too grateful for the expert advice to point out that, say, mashed potatoes would be far worse. Anyway, he suggested that I use drywall mud, joint compound, Beadex, whatever you want to call it, because it takes much longer to set and you can actually work with it.

I went to my special place this morning and bought a little tub of premixed joint compound and a mud pan, which I probably already had in the basement somewhere. Oh well.

I don't have a lot to say about it other than it went on really, really easily. The plaster sets almost instantaneously and is very hard to shape once you've got it on the wall. This stuff is going to take 24 hours to fully cure, but once it does, I can sand and finish it, no problem.

So I went berserk and did everything that needed to be done -- damage around the heating ducts, cracks in the wall joints, that enormous patch in the dining room with the topcoat missing. That large area will probably need another coat tomorrow, but other than that, I'm done with plastering.

Now I need to caulk around the door and window casings, strip and sand the mantel surface that I'm planning on staining instead of painting, and I can sand and wash the walls. Then, if the good Lord is willing, I'll paint this godforsaken place.

Big patch covered up

Flattened out

Area under the window

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Plaster of Paris

Well, I did all this stuff last Sunday and never got around to writing about it. My goal was to complete all the plastering that needed to be done in the living room, and I mostly got that done.
Most of the jobs were areas of wall missing around electrical boxes.

Sometimes it was just a little gap around the box that would peek out from behind a plate. Those ones were easy.



A little more obnoxious is when the plaster doesn't come in close enough to fit the box and so there is nowhere for the ears to grab on and the box doesn't properly sit flush against the wall.

Not enough plaster to catch the box ear

These ones suck because you have to take the box out of the wall. This is especially bad when using this particular variety of remodel boxes I have that hold a clip behind the box with a screw. To get them out, you have to remove the screw, causing the clip to fall off the back of the box inside the wall.

It's on the floor inside the wall

I have a telescoping magnet that is really useful for this kind of task, but I've only ever needed it at outlet level before, and it doesn't reach from lightswitch height. I tied a piece of twine to the magnet and fished the clip out. Hooray.

Magnet fetch rig

Got it

Then I could add a slug of plaster where the box ear wants to hang on and put the box back in the wall.

Porchlight switch filled in

I got all the boxes done, including the ones in the dining room. Unfortunately, flattening the area underneath the window that I replaced completely continues to elude me. I decided to call in a plastering contractor to come fix it. I've done most of it, but I just don't really understand how to make such a large surface flat. So the professionals can handle that one.

One of the many things I have to replace in these rooms is all of the heat register plates, as they have been painted mauve like everything else. So I pulled all of those off, and they are of course plastered in, so even cutting around them caused a little damage. Oh boy, more plaster work.

Some of the heating ducts are unbelievably foul. I estimate the plates haven't come off of the ducts in around 30 years (see below). I should probably get someone to come clean them out.

Some of these dustbunnies are over twenty years old

Much cleaner vent, surrounding plaster damage

I carbon-dated the last cleaning to 30 years after finding a bunch of stuff behind the plates, including a few cards from this United Airlines deck commemorating the bicentennial.

Celebrate a Proud Land Born 200 Years Ago

I have to get six new registers, and while I'm at it, all new hardware for these rooms. The door hinges, doorknob collars, everything. All mauve, all the time.

Stack o' registers

Saturday, April 30, 2005


As I mentioned last week, my yard, or yards, or relatively small patches of grass, were getting a little too big for their britches and I had designated this weekend for taking care of it.

I got up this morning and after digging around online for a bit went to Aurora Lawnmower. A really old guy (I'd give him 70, easily) in a mechanic's jumpsuit helped me out. He walked around at about half a mile an hour and took 15 minutes to write out my invoice, but I have a soft spot for old guys like him, so I didn't really mind.

I didn't want to spend too much money on a mower that isn't going to see a lot of use in my small yard, so I bought an old-fashioned push mower. They had a few used power mowers for $175 and up, but I decided since I don't have a lot of area to mow I'd rather get a good hand mower than a low-end power mower. I also got a line trimmer for working around trees and telephone poles.

Old fashioned

Line trimmer

While surveying the area, I realized that because I am on a corner lot, I actually have two sidewalk sections to mow. Whoops.

The line trimmer turned out to be really helpful for knocking the tall grass down to size so I could more easily push the mower over it. It is a really satisfying tool to use; sweeping back and forth slowly with it, you feel like George Peppard with a flamethrower. I evened it out with the push mower and raked the clippings out, nearly filling my yard waste container.

Compare to last week's photos:

Trimmed sidewalk (last week)

Trimmed yard (last week)

I am pretty pooped, so I probably won't get much else done today, but who knows. Last night at about 12:30am I was briefly struck by inspiration and finished plastering the area of wall next to the light switch in the dining room.

My minimum goal for tomorrow is to finish all plastering in the living room, which shouldn't be too tall of an order. The biggest plaster job remaining is a 6-8 sq ft area in the dining room, and I think I'm capable of getting all of it done tomorrow. But I want to keep my milestones small just for the sake of keeping myself unintimidated by large tasks.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Electric Version

A weekday. Be still my heart.

I did a little more poking around with that last outlet I need to rewire. I bent a lot of metal flaps trying to remove the section of heating duct that was obscuring it and realized I could probably replace it without taking the duct down, which is fortunate, because the duct was not moving.

I don't remember how I came to realize it, but the next big revelation was that the wire leading up over that piece of duct is not in fact the outlet I need to change at all. It goes to an outlet in my bedroom and fortunately seems to be set up in an identical way to the ones I replaced yesterday (Romex to the panel, illegal knob & tube junction). So I'll be able to knock that one out for extra credit whenever I get around to it.

The corollary of this is that the wiring for The Last Damn Outlet is not coming up from the basement, it's coming from the upstairs. I confirmed this by poking around a bit with my trusty inspection mirror. This also explains why the mostly-rewired second floor has one odd outlet on this circuit: it's right above the other one.

Not sure what I'm going to do about this one. I am loath to tear the upstairs apart much more than I already have.

Dear God, please back a dump truck full of money up to my house and deposit its contents on my front lawn. At least it will keep the grass down.