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?

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.

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.

Garage: Siding Finished

Sheesh, this garage project never ends! The hardest part is still just finding time to work on it. A couple hours each weekend just doesn’t cut it.

But here’s the progress so far:

Garage Siding Finished
Garage siding finished!

We finished the siding last weekend. Tomorrow morning, I’ll spend a couple hours caulking all the joints in the siding and we’ll be able to turn our primary focus to the inside of the garage. The exterior is still far from “done”. All the trim still needs to be painted the same deep maroon color as the trim on the house, but that may not happen yet this year. That may be a job for next spring.

Items that still need to be finished before hibernation begins for the winter:

  • Finish the firewall (drywall) assembly on the back wall
  • finish electrical
  • build shelving & a workbench
  • install electric garage opener

Garage: Slowly Making Progress

Progress on the garage is creeping along very slowly. It’s tough to find time to work on this. Weekdays are useless. I get home from work around 5:45. The official sunset time for Minneapolis today was 6:19 PM. Just enough time to get out all the tools and put them away again.

Weekends are my only chance to work on it, but of course I’m also juggling other weekend activities.

And oh yea, turns out I also have a daughter and I would like her to know me as more than “that guy who is always making noise in the backyard.

But we’ll get there eventually. The siding is on one side, and we’re almost done with the siding on the back, too.

Siding – one wall complete.

And check out these great knee braces. This is my favorite part of the garage so far. I think they look pretty sharp! What do you think?

Knee Braces.

And in case you didn’t notice, we have doors.


There’s still a lot to finish up here, and we’ve set a goal to be finished by Thanksgiving. Here’s  a rundown of what’s next:

  • hang soffits – 1 wall
  • finish trim – 1 wall
  • finish siding – 3 walls
  • caulk siding – all
  • paint trim – all
  • finish drywall firewall on inside – 1 wall
  • electrical
  • build shelves

What do you think? Can we finish all this by Thanksgiving if we only have a few hours each weekend to work?

Garage Sneak Peak

Why won’t you post pictures of your garage so we can see all your progress?

Boy you guys just can’t get enough of this garage project, huh? I log off for two weeks and you’re banging my door down trying to get a look at my garage.

Ok, Ok. Here’s a sneak peak at what we’ll be working on tomorrow:

Knee Brace

Sorry if I just blew your minds with these Knee Braces I made out of a couple of 4×4’s.

But wait, isn’t your house like a Tudor Revival style, and aren’t Knee Braces more of a Craftsman style embellishment? Are you mixing and matching architectural styles?

Deal with it, bro. We do what we want.

Garage: Shingled

I’m not saying it was a productive weekend or anything, I’m just saying that I shingled the whole garage in a day and a half.

Fortress, a.k.a. garage.

Yea, I get it. A professional could have had it done in about 6 hours. But I’m not a professional. I’m just some guy.

Some guy who shingled his own garage. Boo-Yah.

Mo’ Toilets, Mo’ Problems

Well, if having a half-built garage in my back yard wasn’t enough, now I’ve got this to deal with too:

What’s happening to my house?
What is all this gunk?
Problem I don’t need.

Don’t worry, though. We got it fixed, I think.  Not really that big of a deal, just a standard replacement kit for all the guts and gaskets and stuff, although the project involved an angle grinder a few too many times for a project like this.

Garage Marathon – Still Going

Ok, we’re nearing the end of our garage-building marathon. We’ve spent 5 days working 10-12 hour days, and this is what we’ve got so far:

Blank Wall.

Tomorrow, we’re skipping church, and hoping to get the roof on.

After that, here’s a list of things to finish:

  • build portico
  • build gable supports
  • hang doors (hire out overhead door?)
  • soffits
  • siding

Hmm… still sounds like a lot!

Garage: not done yet

Ok, well at the end of Garage Marathon Day II, this is what things look like.

2.5 walls.

I get it, you’re thinking it doesn’t look like we made much progress today. I’m thinking the same thing. I think we made more progress than it looks like… or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. Part of our problem is that we lost 3 prime working hours wandering around Menard’s lumber yard. Honestly, that place wears me out more than building a garage does…

Next up, how are we going to lift our massive five ply header into place? I dunno.