Relocating an out of alignment strike plate

The door to the closet in our master bedroom hasn’t correctly latched shut since we moved into this house 3 years ago. The door rests ajar, and even when we pushed it shut, the latch bolt didn’t line up with the appropriate hole in the strike plate.

I dunno how it got this way. It’s possible that when we removed all the doors on day one in the house to paint that something got swapped and put back on the wrong door… but unlikely. It might be settling in the house, but nothing else seems to have settled and nothing seems out of square. Who knows. At any rate, I finally got around to fixing it.

Fixing the door so that it would rest shut rather than a few inches open just required inserting a few business cards behind the lower hinge as a shim. It worked perfectly. Getting the latch to line up took quite a bit more work.

Anyway, here’s the door (resting ajar as always):

This door is not shut, does not latch.

It’s hard to tell in the photo, but this strike plate is not the original strike plate that was here. You can see that the chiseled out area to recess the strike plate is larger than the strike plate itself. It’s similar, but different. Who knows what happened to the original strike plate.

I decided that the easiest way to fix this mess was to move the strike plate. Just sounded easier than trying to move the hinges or knobs or anything.

Strike plate is not original, not the right dimension, and not in the right place (and missing a screw).

To fix it, I did the following:

1) I removed the strike plate, and filled the old hole up with generic all purpose wood filler.

Old holes with wood filler.

2) I sanded off the excess wood filler.

Jamb sanded smooth.

3) I chiseled in a new recessed area for the repositioned strike plate.

You can see where the new and old chiseled areas overlap, and where they do not.

4) I screwed on the new strike plate & chiseled out the recess for the latch bolt.

I only chiseled out the top hole for the latch bolt. I didn’t bother with the deadbolt hole. It can be chiseled out later if desired.

5) I repainted the surrounding areas with one of my kids toy paintbrushes.

It could use a second coat of paint but I bet I’ll never get around to it.

That’s it. Huzzah for doing something productive!

Building a Fence

My goal in life right now is to complete one useful task every 4-5 months. I’m right on track with this next project.

I built a fence in my mom’s back yard. The whole thing is only about 15′ long or something. My mom had a waist-high chain link fence and gate, but she didn’t love it. She wanted more privacy, so she asked me to build her a fence. Digging out the old fence posts was easy.

A neighbor lent me a gas-powered auger to dig the holes. I used  it on one of the posts, but the motor kept cutting out on the second one. Luckily the ground is so soft and sandy around here that I had the hole dug in about 5 minutes anyway. I spent more time messing around with the motor than it took to just dig it by hand.

During - fence posts set in concrete.
During – fence posts set in concrete.

I used an 8″ sonotube to set the 4×4 posts. Probably a bit undersized, but i think it will be fine. Here’s the finished product.

After - Fence and gate.
After – Fence and gate.

The thing that surprised me the most is how wet the wood was, and how much it shrank subsequently. I used precut treated fence pickets from the big-box store and I could literally see the moisture oozing out of the wood with each screw I sank into it. Typically it’s a good idea to leave a bit of a gap between each picket, but I didn’t in this case since privacy was the primary reason for the fence and I wanted to limit visibility between the pickets as much as possible. Just a couple weeks after the fence was in place the pickets had shrunk enough that there was now probably a .25″ gap between the pickets. Word to the wise, if you’re using pressure treated lumber like this, plan on it shrinking quite a bit.

There was also a weird little corner of her yard between her garage and her neighbors garage where I built a goofy little fence. In this case, I left the 4′ metal poles from the chain link fence in place and bolted the new wooden fence right onto it. I did this thinking that it would save time by not having to remove those posts or plant new ones, but in the end it was a wash. I spent way too much time dicking around with trying to bolt the new fence onto the old posts that I wish I had just removed it and started fresh.

After - little corner fence.
After – little corner fence.

Painting the Basement Storage Room

Ok, I finally pulled my ass off the couch long enough to do something useful. Or at least long enough to make a mess.

So we’ve got this basement, right? And it’s mostly just a place to store stuff. It hasn’t seen any investment in a long time, so it’s starting to look a little ragged. Previous owners had painted the concrete block walls and some of the interior walls, but it’s all yellowing, dingy, flaking, and pretty unsightly. Also, it’s just not very well organized. There are shelves, but not the right kinds, and not where we want them. Other spaces are undefined and not particularly useful.

Our goal with this project is pretty much just to paint everything, probably build a few new shelves while we’re at it, right? We have too much crap laying around to do the whole basement at once, so we’ll have to do it one room at a time. We’ll start in the storage room. It’s a decent sized room. Almost too big. Big enough that if you don’t have stuff stacked up in the middle of the room you feel like you’re wasting space. When we built our garage, a lot stuff ended up in the basement that should be in the garage, and a lot of it hasn’t made it’s way back out to the garage again yet. First we just had to haul all the stuff out. It’s just stuffed around in other places of our basement, which is now mostly unusable because of crap.

Ok, on to the pictures. Here’s what our basement looks like full of useless stuff.

Basement storage room is full of stuff.
Basement storage room is full of stuff.
One little shelf on that wall is dumb.
One little shelf on that wall is dumb.
Boxes and stacks of stuff next to the laundry chute.
Boxes and stacks of stuff next to the laundry chute.
Stuff stacked under the stairs.
Stuff stacked under the stairs.
Massive set of shelves.
Massive set of shelves. I never loved the doors on these. They’re always awkward.
Flaking paint. Looks like water damage, but dry to the touch.
Flaking paint. Looks like water damage, but dry to the touch.
Flaking Paint.
Flaking Paint.

After we had all the stuff moved out, we heavily debated what to do about the massive shelves. They are as sturdy as 200 elephants, but the wall behind them was in pretty rough shape. We wouldn’t be able to do a great job painting the wall with them in place, so we decided they needed to come out. We salvaged a lot of the lumber to use elsewhere. Anyway, the basic tasks here were as follows:

  • Use a wire brush attachment on a power drill to power scrape all the loose paint off
  • Use a hand wire brush as necessary in problem areas
  • Vacuum the walls
  • Scrub the walls
  • Use quick-setting hydraulic cement to patch some of the holes
  • Place three coats of DryLok paint on the masonry walls
  • One coat of primer on the interior wood framed walls

Here are some before-and-afters. More accurately, these are still in-progress shots since we don’t have the final coat of paint on any of it yet. The “before” shots are also after we’ve already brushed, vacuumed, and scrubbed the walls.

View 1 - Before
View 1 – Before
View 1 - After
View 1 – After
View 2 - Before
View 2 – Before
View 2 - After
View 2 – After
View 3 - Before
View 3 – Before
View 3 - After
View 3 – After

Really brightens up the space, huh? Even after three coats of the heavy paint, the walls are still yellowing a bit. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone with white paint?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Next steps are to finish painting the walls, scrub the floor, paint the floor, then build some new shelving in here. Stay tuned.

Dining Room Farmhouse Table

Hey guys check out this thing I made. It’s a table:

This is a farmhouse table I built with my own two hands.
This is a farmhouse table I built with my own two hands.

It is a “Farmhouse Table” as named by Ana White. Ana first posted the plan set for her Farmhouse Table back in 2009. It caught my eye back then as something I could easily do myself (especially with the help of her cut sheet), but I never got around to it and then forgot about it. Then Ana posted the updated version of the plan in 2012, which brought it back to the front of my mind. Well… that, and the fact that every single house blogger I follow via RSS is also building their own farmhouse table.

Seriously, everyone is doing it. Go ahead and check. Google “Farmhouse Table” and see what comes up. I’ll wait.

See what I’m saying? I had to jump on the bandwagon. This table is more or less Ana White’s design, but with a few minor changes.

Wood is made from trees.
Wood is made from trees.

Right now some of you are thinking “Damn, Reuben! You built yourself a fine ass table. I bet it was way cheaper than buying one and yours will probably last way longer, too.” You are wrong. You do not know how many poor decisions I can make throughout the course of a project like this.

The table is entirely cedar, which means at least two things:

  1. Cedar is not cheap.
  2. Cedar is soft.

Cedar is a great, but for something like this, we probably could have gotten more or less the same look and feel using pine and paid a lot less for the lumber. This table is definitely sturdy. If there is an earthquake, I’m huddling all of my family under this table. But cedar is soft. It’s gonna take my toddler about 6 months to completely bash the top of the table. Once she figures out that slamming the end of her fork on the table top will leave “fun little holes”, this thing is doomed.

This table is shiny.
This table is shiny.

Other than that, I’m pretty happy with it and proud of my handiwork. There are a few flaws that seasoned woodworkers will notice immediately, but most people won’t notice. It’s comically oversized for our house and our chairs, but that is typical of things I build.

Farmhouse Table legs.
Farmhouse Table legs.

Well, that’s what I’ve been up to recently. How about you?

Regrading the Yard

Last weekend, some of you may have seen that I posted the following photo on Twitter:

12 cubic yards of top soil
This is what 12 cubic yards of top soil looks like.

This is 12 cubic yards of top soil, dumped on my front yard, waiting to be spread across the yard to fill in all the low spots and to make sure that water would drain away from the foundation rather than towards it. KP had a blast nibbling away at it.

KP eating dirt
KP discovers 12 cubic yards of top soil, eats it.

My wife and I worked all Friday afternoon and evening, and most of the day Saturday, but we finished it up.

Here’s what the yard looks like now:

Backyard. This dirt is like 8"-12" deep.
Backyard. This dirt is like 8″-12″ deep.
Drainage towards garage valley gutter.
Drainage towards garage valley gutter.
Old tree stump hump.
Old tree stump hump.
Draining away from foundation.
Draining away from foundation.
Backfilling around walkway.
Backfilling around walkway.

Our lot is so flat, that most of the positive drainage away from the foundation is subtle at best, but we just don’t have any other options. It will have to do.

Here’s a nice before and after that demonstrates our progress pretty well. Back in 2012, I posted about doing some work on the flower beds  in front of the house. I posted the following picture – notice how much of the stone pavers are showing. At least 6″ – Maybe 8″.

little wall
little wall

Then a couple weeks ago I posted some photos of the new concrete walkways, and pointed out how high the new walkway was poured compared to the ground and the pavers. Notice that the pavers are just totally eclipsed by the walkway, and the front edge of the concrete is completely visible.

New sidewalk. Notice how high it is compared to the ground.
New sidewalk. Notice how high it is compared to the ground.

Now here’s a similar angle after spreading all the new top soil around. Notice we removed the pavers (and stacked them up next to the house since they weren’t doing much anymore now anyway. Also notice that we’ve completely backfilled around the walkway.

Final grading.
Final grading.

Again, the drainage is subtle, but it’s all we can do without either raising the house up, or lowering the street elevation, neither of which is going to happen.

Oh yea, I also pulled a muscle and can barely move my arm now, lol.

Painting the Basement

Insert something here about how I never post anymore.

Welcome back to ReubensCube. Here today with another DIY project that most people could have finished in a weekend but it took me a month because that’s just the kind of person I am. I’m talking about painting the basement. Here’s a refresher of what our basement looked like the day we bought the house.

Basement when we moved in.

My favorite part of the room was the little counter on the left there with the hole in the wall. I guess previous owners used to throw parties down here or something and that was the dry bar? I dunno. But 70’s faux wood paneling, drop ceiling, brown electrical outlets, harsh florescent lights.

Where to start with a space like this? Long term, this whole space just needs to be gutted and reconstructed from scratch, but we didn’t have time or budget for something like that right now, so we just needed a bandaid fix to last us a few years. My wife and I agreed that neither of us were up for the task of removing the paneling and drywalling – too many unknowns and too big of a project to do it right.

But we did put a lot of thought into the ceiling. We both hate the harsh lights and the drop ceiling and wanted to remove it, but what to replace it with? Like I said, neither of us were up for drywalling the space right now. We spent a lot of time  looking for design ideas. I was really drawn to the open joist look and thought pretty hard about giving it a shot in this space. I love the look of fully finished floors and walls with completely raw and rough ceilings.

But, ultimately, even that was more effort than we wanted to put into it right now, so we agreed the whole space would just get a coat of paint, including the drop ceiling. We ended up buying a handheld spray gun to do the painting – that experience probably deserves a post of it’s own (that I’ll never write).

Here’s a before shot of the room:

Basement - Before
Basement – Before

And here’s an after shot of the room:

Basement - After
Basement – After

Pretty big change, huh? The walls are a light grey color, the ceiling is white. In the photo above, you can also see that we collected our three mismatched bookshelves along the back wall, and used some 4″ lag screws and 2×4’s to anchor the things into the wall to keep them from toppling. The shelves have always been a bit wobbly and unsteady, and we have been worried for some time about one of the kids trying to climb the shelves and winding up in an awful situation. Not a very attractive solution, but it gets the job done.

We also finally got around to hanging a bunch of bike and Minneapolis themed posters.

Blank Wall.
Blank Wall.
More Bike Themed Wall Art.
More Bike Themed Wall Art.
Bike & Minneapolis Themed Wall Art.
Bike & Minneapolis Themed Wall Art.

We also swapped out the brown electrical outlets for white, but we’ll have to live with the awful florescent lights for the time being.

Long term, we’d like to buy a second TV an hang it on the wall. I didn’t take a picture of it, but we removed the old counter/bar, and (poorly) patched the hole in the wall – that space would work nicely now for mounting a TV. This is shaping up to be some sort of family room or play room or something, so you know, kids gotta watch Curious George somewhere…

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Play Kitchen

My daughter KP recently celebrated her 2nd birthday, and Mel and I decided to make her a play kitchen. We thought about buying one and spent a few minutes perusing various options online. We both agreed that it would be easier and quicker to just buy one online and financially it would be about a wash. We are both regular readers of Ana White’s great DIY blog, and recalled seeing her plan set for a play kitchen from 2009.  It looked like something we could tackle, though we even agreed that whatever we came up with probably wouldn’t end up being as durable or well-rounded as something manufactured. So despite there being perfectly acceptable options available for purchase online, we felt like making it ourselves anyway.  Gluttons for punishment or something like that, right?

We used Ana White’s base plan set, though we added a set of doors to the front of the sink rather than using a curtain. Here’s what we came up with:

DIY Play Kitchen
DIY Play Kitchen
DIY Play Kitchen
DIY Play Kitchen

We wanted it to be bright and colorful, so we decided to go with the bright red and white colors. We used standard aerosol spray paints. Part of the reason this wasn’t a totally cost effective project is because we ended up buying a real faucet, which ran us about $30 at the big box store. We looked around for play faucets to use, but turns out they all come attached to full play kitchens. We thought about buying a full play kitchen to cannibalize things like a play faucet and a play sink, but that would be dumb. So KP gets a real faucet and a meat-loaf pan.

By the way, this is the nicest faucet in our house. Our actual sinks still have leaky, drippy ancient faucets we’ve been meaning to replace but haven’t had the time.

The stove burners are painted. We painted the whole top of the stove black, then applied some adhesive vinyl rings, painted it red, then peeled off the vinyl to reveal the black beneath. I think it turned out pretty well.

Mel stocked the thing with a bunch of toy plates, pots, and silverware, and KP’s aunt bought her some wooden food stuffs (not shown).

Mel also sewed KP a totally adorable apron, but KP has no idea what it is or what she’s supposed to do with it since she’s probably never seen anyone anywhere wearing an apron (she certainly has never seen either of us wearing one).

Full Spread
A full spread
well stocked DIY Play Kitchen
Well stocked DIY Play Kitchen.
DIY Play Oven
Putting stuff in the DIY Play Oven

Anyway, time got away from us, so we haven’t had a chance to build the companion fridge that goes with the set, though it’s still on our list of things to do. So far, KP has played with it a few times and really has a good time with it. I hope she gets some good use out of it.

Garage: Barn Lights

We put some finishing touches on the garage project this past weekend. I bet you thought we were done with the project already, huh? No, we’re still working on some finishing touches.

Last time I posted some photos of the garage it looked like this:

Finished front of garage.
Finished front of garage.

Now it looks like this:

Garage: Barn Lights
Garage: Barn Lights

Hint: It’s the lights.

All the house bloggers out there are going nuts about barn lights, and we’re no different, I guess. We think it’s a pretty cool look. Ignore the white around the light on the right – I’ll get around to touching up the paint sometime in 2017. With the lights in place, we had our final inspection by the city a couple days ago, so I’m gonna call it. This project is Dunzo.

Painting the Attic Hallway

More painting in the attic. We threw a few coats of white paint on the hallway and stairway. Unlike the bedroom, we didn’t paint any of the trim. We didn’t want to paint the stairs or the trim along the stairs, and we didn’t really know how to transition from unpainted stair trim to painted baseboards, so none of the trim got painted. Here are some before and afters:

Hallway before.
Hallway before.
Hallway after.
Hallway after.
Top of Stairs before.
Top of Stairs before.
Top of Stairs after.
Top of Stairs after.

Now if we could just get around to getting rid of those awful pink blinds on the window… someday.

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.