Author Archives: Jason

DIY Tip: Always Buy the Cheap Wrapping Paper

What’s going on here? Why are we wrapping the kitchen cabinet in Christmas paper in April? Did someone dip into the absinthe again? Nope! This is just my way of using the cheap Christmas wrap that I bought on sale after the holiday to protect the painted cabinets while I strip the adjacent window.

And this is why we always buy the cheap Christmas paper! The big rolls of paper come in handy for all kinds of DIY projects. From protecting surfaces to creating paper patterns, rolls of wrapping paper are an essential part of a DIYer’s toolbox. Of course, you can always use it to wrap gifts next Christmas too!

One Thing Leads to Another: The Curse of Renovations

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, long before HGTV and the utter ubiquity of home and design shows, makeovers were relegated to daytime talk shows. Oprah or Sally Jesse or Ricki would host a group of guests who were sartorially challenged or stuck in the past. They’d bring the guests out and hear their tales of wardrobe woe for the first half of the show and then usher them offstage so that a team of stylists could transform them. In the final minutes of the episode the hosts would welcome their newly dapper guests back to the stage with some sort of flourish – standing next to a split screen of a “before” photo or breaking through a big printed copy of their old look a la a football player. The audiences would cheer and whistle and the guests would announce their happiness in their newfound beauty. But then what happened when the guests got home?

Even as a kid watching these shows, I used to think about how the lucky ladies and gents who walked away from the makeovers must have felt when they got home. When they took their new outfits out of the wardrobe bags and hung them next to their own clothes, it surely must have made everything look old, tattered and out of style. I can imagine them saying, “Well, I can never wear those again!” as they swept their hands across the contents of their closets. They might even look around their entire home and say, “I never knew this place looked so awful!” It wasn’t until they saw how good they good look that they recognized how bad everything was.

Renovating an old house is a lot like that. Every time one project is finished it makes it glaringly obvious that the old things around it are going to need some work too.

Sure, finishing a project like tiling the backsplash or stripping the painted fireplace can feel like a monumental achievement. But that sense of accomplishment is short lived. I’ll stand back and survey my handiwork, straining all the while to pat myself on the back, and be filled with a sense of pride in a job (usually pretty well) done. And then my attention will almost immediately dart to something adjacent to the finished project that is now begging for attention.

When we finished the fireplace, for instance, I noted the tile that needed to be replaced and the trim that needed repainting and the built-ins that needed to be replaced. As happy as I was that the fireplace project was finished, it merely opened the door to the projects around the corner.

And so it goes with the kitchen backsplash. Now that the tile is up and the grout is in, I’m noticing all the little things that need to be updated in order to really finish the kitchen. It started with the window. With the cabinets painted and the backsplash installed, it’s now glaringly obvious that the window needs a new finish. When the cabinets were old, dark and beat up and the wall was in no better shape, the window above the kitchen sink looked fine. But now that everything else is looking so polished, the window appears shabby.

As an act of pure torture, er, I mean planning, I sat down and made a list of all the little loose ends that need to be tied up in the kitchen.

  • Refinish the window
  • Install new flooring
  • Install wood trim around tile
  • Replace faucet
  • Replace outlets, switches and plates
  • Paint remaining walls
  • Replace toe kick
  • Install under cabinet lighting

Some of this stuff I knew would require repair or replacement in advance of the kitchen project. For instance, I knew that I’d want to replace the flooring and faucet before even one dab of paint was applied to the cabinets. Others didn’t make themselves apparent until just this past weekend. The outlets and switches, for example. They’re in fine working order and their off white color seemed just fine when the walls were painted. Now that wall is covered in white subway tile, however, the off white outlets stand out in a displeasing way. It’s never ending, I tell you!

Considering this growing list of projects for this one room, I should have the whole house in tip top shape sometime around 2030.

Before & After: A New Backsplash to Brighten Up the Kitchen

With all my posts about planning for the bathroom project, you’d think that I would have spent this past weekend working in that room. Well, you’d be wrong. A funny thing happened on the way to the hardware store. When I went to buy the hex tile for the bathroom floor I happened upon the perfect white subway tile for the kitchen backsplash. With our friend’s advice about finishing one room before moving on to the next echoing in my mind, I decided to buy the subway tile and finish the backsplash before doing any work in the bathroom. Continue reading

A New Vintage Look for an Old Bathroom

Vintage Style Bathroom on This American House - white pedestal sink, hex tile flooring and more

The Delbert Meier House was built in 1917. At that time the bathroom would have been pretty simple – a toilet, a bathtub, a pedestal sink and a built-in medicine cabinet. There was also a built-in closet that covered the entire west wall. At some point in the house’s 100 year history the bathroom was reconfigured. The tub and shower replaced the closet, the toilet was moved where the shower had been and the pedestal sink was replaced with large vanity. Oh, and the medicine cabinet (assuming that the plans we found for it were actually included with this house) was pulled out and the wall closed in. Continue reading

A Change of Plans for the Bathroom Project

In the immortal words of Joan Crawford (as portrayed by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest): This ain’t my first time at the (DIY) rodeo. And as such I’m quite accustomed to getting halfway through a project and starting to have some serious doubts about how it’s going to turn out. Usually I shrug off the doubts, forge ahead and by the time I’m nearing the project’s finish line I can see that it’s going to come together after all. As I was painting the bathroom vanity last weekend I had one of those doubtful moments. Only this time it’s stopping me in my tracks and urging me to change directions.

After painting the trim and patching and painting the walls, my plan had been to make over the vanity and call it a day. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through the time and expense of replacing the vanity because that would also mean replacing the flooring and trying to match and replace the baseboard trim. So I won’t get the bathroom that I want, I said to myself, but I will get a bathroom that’s presentable.

Well, fuck that. By the time I had painted the vanity and was stepping back to survey how the project was coming together I decided that this is no time to settle. I want new flooring and I want a new vanity and, dammit, I’m going to get them! Sure, it means that I’ll have to have the plumber come to the house and remove the toilet that he just installed over the summer. And, yeah, it’s going to be a real hassle to try to match the baseboard that’s missing where the current vanity sits. But won’t it be worth it!

And so we’re back to square one with the bathroom. I’m finalizing my designs this week and hope to start the new project next weekend. In the meantime I’ll be watching hundreds of YouTube videos about installing ceramic tile. Here’s to getting what we want in life!