Painting the Attic Bedroom

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that we were trying to spruce the attic up a bit by just throwing up a bit of paint and making only very minor repairs. Like I mentioned in the previous post, the walls are made of plywood, with a thin skim coat over the top. It’s not holding up well, and the skim coat is chipping off in a lot of places. There has also been some water intrusion over the years, so we were left with a lot of little things like this to repair:

Paint over plywood.
Paint over plywood.

We’re not really putting a ton of effort into it, we’re just mudding it up to conceal the holes for now. It’s not a great long-term fix, but like I mentioned previously, we’re operating under the assumption that the whole attic will be gutted within 5 years, so good enough.

We spent last weekend throwing up some paint on the walls in the bedroom area (we haven’t tackled the hallway yet). Here are a few before and after shots showing the walls as they’ve looked for the past year. The walls were a really awful salmon color. White-washing things really went a long way towards brightening this space up.

Attic Bed Nook - Before
Attic Bed Nook – Before
Attic Bed Nook - After
Attic Bed Nook – After

Nice, huh? We updated some of the electrical, and mounted a couple new lights right above each bed. There is a new outlet right at the head of each bed, which isn’t exactly the most convenient place for an outlet, but whatever. That’s where the wires were and moving wires around was out of the scope of this project.

Try this before and after on for size:

Attic Bathroom Door - Before
Attic Bathroom Door – Before
Attic Bathroom Door - After
Attic Bathroom Door – After

We didn’t paint any of the doors – we might in the future, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do right now. These are beautiful solid wood doors, and I haven’t totally ruled out the possibility of stripping them sometime in the future.

How about this one?

Attic Side - Before
Attic Side – Before
Attic Side - After
Attic Side – After

What do you think? The space is almost livable now, right? We don’t have house guests all that often, but when we do, I think they’ll appreciate the updated look.

My Very Own Online Lewd Photo Scandal

Huzzah! A new question in the inbox! This comes from Andy, with whom I have been friends for many years.

Actually, it’s more of a scolding than a question:

This isn’t really a question… more of a request/demand.

Please add at least 5 new photos to your flickr stream. At least once a week flickr wants me to see that picture of you with your sweatpants pulled harshly into the crack of your ass because and I can’t take it anymore. It’s haunting my dreams.

I have a pair of gray sweatpants I wear to bed sometimes, and every time I pull them out of my drawer the image of your drawers pops into my head. I’d rather see a pair of drumsticks or a bike and think of you, but instead you’ve become the sweatpants in the ass-crack guy. I really don’t think that is a fitting place for you in my memories and I think you’ll agree.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

First off, I have a flickr account? Are you sure?

Hmmm. I have forgotten all about it. I don’t really use flickr. I really want to like flickr, but for heaven’s sake it keeps wanting me to use a Yahoo email account to log in and I don’t even know what that means. I think I have about a dozen Yahoo accounts that I have logged into once and only once, each one created only if I’m trying to access flickr. Or something. Flickr does whatever flickr wants.

Anyway, I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, as lewd photos of myself have no place on the internet. I can recall the offending photograph, but I can hardly recall the sordid details of why the photo exists, and what would cause me to upload such a thing to the internet. You’ll soon notice that I have removed the offending photos, and replaced them with several new photos (which are actually old photos that will be familiar to any readers of this very blog).

I wish you the best of luck with all your flickring, and I hope you are able to expunge the image from your memory. I do not want to lose you as a flickr contact, as you are my only one. Well I’m glad we have taken care of this awful mixup.

Any more questions?
Ask Me Anything!!!

Attic: Tearing Out Carpet

We’ve started a new project around the house. When we bought the place a year ago, our very first task was to rip up all the carpets and paint all the walls to try and get rid of the cigarette smell. It worked pretty well, but we only did it to the main floor. Since we didn’t really have a use for the upper floor of the house, we didn’t bother to do anything to it.

However, the attic has been getting some use as a guest room, and it still smells like cigarettes and has dirty filthy walls. We want to spruce it up a bit to make it nicer for guests, but we don’t want to put too much effort into it since we know we want to gut the whole floor within 5 years or so.

Our plan is just to pull up the carpets and paint the walls. The walls are in rough shape, and still won’t look that great when we’re done, but they’ll be better. The walls in the upstairs of our house are plywood, and every 4’x8′ sheet is clearly visible through cracks in the paint. We won’t fix this by just throwing up some paint, but it will be an improvement anyway.

So we’ve pulled up the carpet and spent a few hours pulling staples out of the stairs. Here are some before and afters:

Carpeted stairs from below.
Carpeted stairs from below.
After carpet removed from below.
After carpet removed from below.

The original stair treads are in rough shape, but they sure have potential.

Carpeted stairs from above.
Carpeted stairs from above.
After carpet removed from above.
After carpet removed from above.

Glad to get rid of this nasty carpet.

Carpet at top of stairs.
Carpet at top of stairs.
Top of stairs after carpet removed.
Top of stairs after carpet removed.


Hallway with carpet.
Hallway with carpet.
Hallway without carpet.
Hallway without carpet.

We aren’t sure what to do with the stair treads. They’ll either need to be sanded and re-stained, or painted. For now, we’ll probably just leave them. That’s something we’ll worry about when we finally get around to gutting all the walls.

Stair treads without carpet.
Stair treads without carpet.
Stair landing without carpet.
Stair landing without carpet.

Up next: throw some paint on the walls. We’re still trying to decide if we’re gonna go old-fashioned with paintbrushes and rollers, or if this is the job where we invest in a  paint sprayer. I’m leaning towards paint sprayer. What do you think?

How Do You Learn How About DIY Projects?

Huzzah! A couple more questions in the inbox! Do you guys remember that you can submit questions to the inbox which I will answer if I feel like it? I am an expert at nothing, but that doesn’t stop me from pretending to be. Submit any questions here.

Our first question comes from loyal friend Greg (who I previously thought was dead). You may recall the last time Greg submitted a question, it was a pretty heavy topic. This one is a bit lighter:

Hey Reuben! Another one from the grave. (I emerge about once a year.)

I always tremble of the thought to do work on my house, mainly because every time I start a project it turns into a nightmare, and half the time I don’t even know how to fix or start what needs to be done.

How do you motivate yourself in accomplishing so much with your house? Also, where do you learn to do it?

And we’re glad to have you back, Greg. Thanks for the great question.

Tip #1: When you’re blogging about house projects, if you spread it out over a few months and write 35 posts about the same project, it looks like you’re doing a lot more work than you actually are.  Your question is a bit flawed, as it assumes I’m “accomplishing so much.”  I think, if you came over to my house and I gave you a house tour, you’d be surprised at how little we’ve actually done to the place.

Tip #2: Invite your in-laws over to do a bunch of projects, then take the credit for it after they leave. Yea, there was that one time we built a garage, but we couldn’t have done it without the in-laws help. That’s about all we’ve done to this house so far. We’ve painted some of the walls, and even then it was really more like my in-laws painted the walls while I went to work all day. That’s it. The in-laws have done a lot of the heavy lifting on a few of the projects we did at our last house too.

Tip #3: Whenever someone asks what you’ve been up to (or if someone at church asks you to help out with something), respond with something like, “Oh, I’m so busy with this darned renovation project.” If they ask for more details, avoid the question with something like, “Yea, what aren’t we renovating right now!” They will think you are doing all sorts of stuff to your house when really you’re just doing clown plumbing. Am I right?

Tip #4: Work on your friends houses. Keep your ears open for opportunities to help friends out. They’ll think you’re a saint for helping, and you’ll learn what NOT to do on somebody else’s house. You might pick up a trick or two along the way, too.

Tip #5: You-Tube. Seriously. Just google any question you have and somebody else has had the same question and the answer is on You-Tube. Nothing can replace actual experience, but You-Tube comes pretty close.

Tip #6: Quit being a scaredy-cat and just try it. Really, if shit’s already broken, you can’t make it worse. Ok, sometimes you can, but you’ll have a good time trying. And really, I don’t know what condition your house is in, but in a lot of older houses (including our last house), even if our work turned out pretty mediocre, it was still better than what we started with. You might be in the same boat. So what if the finished product isn’t perfect? It ain’t perfect now either.

Next question! Long time reader David sends along the following question:

Recommendation for web design software or service?

Ah, designing a website? You’ve come to the wrong place. You must be an RSS reader and have never actually clicked through to the actual website or else you would know that I know nothing about web design. I think there is a program called DreamSlayer or something. If I had a question about web design, I would ask my friend @andyguzman, who designed this for me. Good luck with your project.

Ok readers,
Any More Questions?
Ask Me Anything!!!

Winter Hiking: Kawishiwi Falls

Welcome to another installment of Your North Woods Hiking Guide, your guide to exploring the MN North Woods on foot.

I wrote previously about the lovely little stroll that is the Kawishiwi Falls Hiking Trail, 0.5 miles of trails that lead to a splendid little set of falls along the Kawishiwi River. On our most recent trip back to the North Woods, we stopped in on the trail again, this time completing the easy walk on a chilly 10 degree day in December.

To refresh your memory, here’s what it looks like during the summer:

Kawishiwi Falls Jumpers
Kawishiwi Falls Jumpers

And now in winter:

Kawishiwi Falls in winter.
Kawishiwi Falls in winter.
Below Kawishiwi Falls in winter.
Below Kawishiwi Falls in winter.
Kawishiwi Falls Hiking Trail in winter.
Kawishiwi Falls Hiking Trail in winter.

KP was my co-caption, a job she excels at, except for when her hands get cold. Then she just screams, which she started doing right after this photo. Darn, she was even wearing her monkey hat with matching mitts, but I guess it just wasn’t enough for her. She’s kind of a baby.

Still, the rest of our hiking team enjoyed the trip very much, and if you’re in the Ely area in the winter and are looking for an easy way to get out and walk through the woods with the reward of great views of the falls for very little effort, this is a great option.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Your North Woods Hiking Guide.

Snaking a Clogged Bathtub Drain through a Drum Trap

Things have been a bit quiet around here on the blog lately, but I assure you I’ve been keeping busy. Why just today I did some plumbing! I plumbed all sorts of things!

Ok, just one thing. We went on vacation for 10 days over Christmas and when we got back, our bathtub was completely clogged. I’m not really sure how a bathtub clogs while nobody is around to use it, but ours did.

Normally you’d be able to run a drain snake right down through the bathtub and be done with it, but that wasn’t really possible with our old tub for two reasons. First, we have an old-timey drum trap rather than a modern p trap, which generally doesn’t allow a snake through. Second, our tub has an old-timey pop-up drain that also doesn’t really allow a snake through.

Here’s what we were dealing with:

Old-Timey Drum Trap on Bathtub Drain.
Old-Timey Drum Trap on Bathtub Drain.

A lot of folks recommend just getting rid of the drum trap altogether and replacing it with a more modern P trap. But I wasn’t confident I could do that without opening a can of worms that I didn’t want to open right now. I just wanted to be able to clear the pipes without having to replace them right now.

Theoretically, the top of that cylinder just unscrews from the rest of it. However, a quick google search turns up dozens of accounts of people who weren’t able to get the top off because the threads were all rusted shut. My experience was similar. I pushed and shoved on it as much as I could, but it wouldn’t budge. The previous owners of the house left some Liquid Wrench, which I applied liberally, but no luck.

Liqued Wrench from the 70's or Something.
Liqued Wrench from the 70’s or Something.

Again, I turned to the internet, and people recommended using a reciprocating saw to just cut the top off. I also found a few recommendations to drill a 2″ hole in the top, but cutting the top off just sounded easier. And it was. It took me about 2 minutes to saw the top off the trap. I was worried that it would be difficult to keep the saw from riding up or down, and I’d wind up with a jagged mess, but the blade just seemed to guide itself and I had a smooth cut with little effort.

Open Drum Trap
Open Drum Trap
The underside of a Drum Trap after it was cut off with a reciprocating saw.
The underside of a Drum Trap after it was cut off with a reciprocating saw.

After I had the cap off, it was simple to run a drain snake through the pipes. And when I say “simple”, I mean easy, but that job totally sucks because when the drain snake starts spinning, you are literally flinging poo around the room.

Anyway, after the drain has been cleared, the only challenge is trying to figure out how to cap off the top of the drum trap. Since we cut the old cap off, it’s not as simple as just screwing a new one in place. A lot of folks on the internet recommended using a rubber test cap. I used a 4″ cap, and it was just a little bit large, but it was simple to just cinch it down.

Rubber Test Cap on Drum Trap
Rubber Test Cap on Drum Trap

Success. This set-up is water-tight, and still allows easy access into the drum trap in the future.

I’d recommend this strategy to others if they are in a similar situation and want to be able to clear the pipes without having to replace them.

Catching up on Questions

Huzzah! New questions in the inbox! Actually, I’ve gotten a number of questions over the past several months that I haven’t had a chance to answer yet. I feel a little bad about it, since I definitely do not want any of my dear readers to feel neglected. I LOVE getting questions, I’ve just been swamped with this garage project. However, now that it’s wrapping up, it’s time to catch up on questions.

First question comes from Andrew:

If the Mormon church did not launch the satellite then who do they subscribe from

It’s a pretty neat story, actually. Back in the late 1950’s, when the US government was trying to launch their first satellite, one of the biggest challenges they faced was funding. Traditional banks weren’t interested in the project, but turns out that this happened to be right when the Mormon Church was developing some deep pockets and were looking for areas to invest. Long story short, the Mormon Church proved to be a significant funding source for the first several US Satellite launches. In return, the US government agreed to make some portion of satellite capacity available for church use.  Don’t believe me? Look it up.

Next question was asked anonymously:

What did you do to stick the astroturf on the car?

This question is referring to this post where I shared this photo:

astroturf car
Bitchin’ Dude!

The answer is 28 gallons of maple syrup.

And another anonymous question:

I don’t work, so you get back to work, SLACKER

This is not a question, but thank you for the suggestion to improve my productivity. You have inspired me.

Finally, another anonymous question:

How do you know that its the Best Blog???

One time, I asked a friend if he read my blog. He said he didn’t know what a blog was, so I gave him the web address and told him to go read it. The next time I saw him he was like, “cool blog, bro.” That’s how I know.

I’ve got a couple more questions in the hopper, so sit tight if you haven’t seen an answer to yours yet.

Any More Questions?
Ask Me Anything!!!

Garage: Exterior Finished

Ok, it’s about time for another update on the garage project. I know you guys are just aching to hear what I’ve been up to. I haven’t posted anything about the garage in about one month. And gosh, I can not express how frustrating it is to find time to work on a project like this, so progress has been slow.

The last time I wrote, I mentioned that we had finished installing all the siding, but hadn’t finished painting it. I didn’t think the weather would allow us to finish painting before spring. However, an unusually warm November weekend allowed us to finish all the painting (thanks, global warming!). With that finished, the exterior is officially done.

Here is the official before shot:


And the official after shot:


That after shot doesn’t quite do the structure justice, I don’t think, but it’s the same angle as the before shot. And ignore that blue painters tape near the top that has never been taken down (it’s scheduled for 2015). How about this angle? Is this better?


And from another angle, before:

Not so bad from this angle.

And after:

Finished front of garage.

That’s a pretty dramatic difference, right?

Actually, I’m just realizing that it’s a little early to declare the exterior finished since we haven’t hung any lights outdoors yet. We’ll get to it one of these years.

Speaking of electrical, that was also on the list of things to finish. I really struggled with what approach to take with the garage electrical. I had it narrowed down to a couple options: 1)the easy way that would have provided plenty of power for anything we’ll ever need; 2) the hard option that provides WAY more power than we’ll ever want or need and is really just a little ridiculous.

I went with option 2 – the subpanel. Except the hilarious part is that I went through all the trouble of installing a subpanel, while also selecting the smallest subpanel available, which makes it really not much more useful than if there wasn’t a subpanel at all.

All the work, none of the benefits. That’s how I do it. Here’s my wee little subpanel:

Garage Subpanel.

And here’s the inside of the garage right now.

Firewall almost finished.

In case you’re wondering, no, we haven’t parked a car in there yet. Mostly because it’s been too full of junk (I need an even newer, bigger garage…). There’s a foot of fresh snow on the ground outside today, and our car was parked on the street the whole time, rather than inside our new garage. Awesome, huh?

We still have a few odds and ends to finish up before we’ll be ready for the final inspection by the city. We need to finish up that firewall (we have to hang drywall on the inside of the gable in the photo above…), and we’ll be ready for inspection.

Gilgal Garden

Mel and I took a quick trip back to Utah a couple months ago and we made sure to fit in a trip to my favorite Salt Lake City attraction, the wonderfully unique and quirky Gilgal Garden.

I love the bizarre intersection between art and faith in this park, and the unique connection to Mormonism.

Gilgal Garden Entrance

My favorite part of the garden is always the Joseph Smith Sphinx. I’m sure there is some symbolism in this sculpture that I have never bothered to familiarize myself with, but I just love the bizarro statue.

KP cozies up to the Joseph Smith Sphinx at Gilgal Garden.

KP loved it, too.

KP at Gilgal Garden.
KP taking a set-down at Gilgal Garden.

Here are a few of the intriguing sights to see at Gilgal Garden:

Weird stuff at Gilgal Garden.


It’s like this little person is in a little house or something.


A stack of giant stone books at Gilgal Garden.


Stone heart at Gilgal Garden.

I always love the stone grasshopper, too.

Dismemberment at Gilgal Garden.

I always love this depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that I always refer to as “Dismemberment Garden”.

Dismemberment, lol.


Stone body parts strewn about at Gilgal Garden.

If you’re ever in Salt Lake City and need to kill an hour near downtown, I can’t recommend enough that you check out Gilgal Garden. Any fans of the garden out there?