Friday, March 14, 2014

"Handy chart of common fasteners"

I have wanted to share this cool 1959 Craftsman "Handy chart of common fasteners" for some time because of its fantastic design, typography and yes, it's about fasteners. It was a great birthday gift from a friend and now hangs in the garage.

Here are a couple of stores with fasteners aisles worth checking out, in no particular order.
Gilbert's Pro Hardware
Northside Hardware
Deronne Hardware

For more on this subject, check out Witold Rybczynsky's book
'One Good Turn, A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw.'
It's an interesting look at the evolution of hand tools,
fasteners the lathe and more.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Subway tile and a tub that's like new!

For this project we found some middle ground. It went like this... me "I can do a complete tare out and get it done the way we really want it." Wife, "in three weeks?"
So we put in subway tile, had the tub refinished and painted the walls and ceiling. Here's what we learned.

1. Pick the tile/materials you want. It's great to use leftover material and save money but not if that tile is something your going to regret later. We loved the old tile about twelve years ago and ended up using the leftovers to save money when we moved into our current home. Not too excited about it now though. So we decided on subway tile.

2. Consider how much time and money you want to spend. For us it was not worth a full demo and renovation at this time. Yes I want to tile the entire bath area but we have plaster and dealing with the ceiling would have added time and money that we didn't want to spend.

3. Check out all the options for your subway tile. Some are individual with tabs on the sides for spacing and they come in different sizes as well. We used the tiles that are glued together on the back and come in 1 square ft. sections, making installation faster.

4. For the subway tile with its smooth surface a hand tile cutter is great. You score it and then snap it. The cutter I bought was $30 bucks and works great.

5. If you have an old beat up tub like our was, consider tub re glazing as it's durable and looks great. They completely remove all the old paint and coat with several layers of new paint. It smells for about two days but is well worth it. We used Chip 'N Nick Porcelain Re finishers, 27301 Little MacK Ave St. Clair Shores, MI 48081, (586) 775-5600. They were great, and professional.

In the end this type of middle ground deal was great because it's not overwhelming, it's done in a few weeks with work primarily done on the weekends and it give us (my wife) something to look forward to doing in the future (20 years from now/dream bathroom) when the kids are older and we have more time on our hands.

New floor tile to come...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Getting that snow thrower to start

OK, so the biggest storm of the year just happened, but you never know when the next one will hit. You might have given up on your snow thrower that will not start. I would have, but it’s only a few years old and I was determined to get it fixed before the big storm. Here’s a couple things that seemed to work.

1. Remember to always run the gas out of the machine at the end of each year. I didn’t do this, and I believe it led my problems getting it started this year. Over time the old gas turns to a varnish, gums up and attracts water in the carburetor.

2. Change the spark plug and check the oil.
3. Drain the old gas by removing the screw at the bottom of the carburetor.
4. Spray some starting fluid into the empty gas tank and into the hole where the spark plug goes. Read the directions for proper use of the starter fluid.
5. Put fresh gas into the engine along with some fuel stabilizer.
6. Start with the choke on and with the run lever on slow. This might take a good 20 pulls, so keep trying. If that doesn’t work you can always take it to the shop.

Always work in a ventilated area and when draining oil and gas, make sure to dispose or store in the proper manner. Good luck.

Goodbye, Ugly Popcorn Ceiling!

There were two things that almost prevented us from buying our house – the kitchen stair area, which is a bit awkward, and the popcorn ceiling in the family room.

Our house was built in the 1930s, but there’s an 1980s addition on the back. And they did the popcorn ceiling effect. It was hideous, as most popcorn ceilings are.

 But it’s also forgiving. Our plan originally was to scrape away the popcorn, but we soon realized that wouldn’t work (there were countless layers of paint over it). So instead we created a beadboard ceiling.

A few things we learned – the cheap, pliable, paperboard “beadboard” they sell in the stores and say you can use on the ceiling doesn’t work. Or at least it doesn’t work on ceilings that aren’t perfectly level and flat. The popcorn, and the age of our house, prevented us from using it. (Frankly, it also looked very fake. I suppose it would be OK on a very high, two-story-ceiling because it wouldn’t be so obvious.)

So I went back to the store and purchased real pine boards. It was much more pricey, but the end result was worth it. I think you’ll agree.

The finished ceiling

Furring strips attached to the joists hold the planks.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Made-in-Michigan for the do it youselfer

Share your favorite Michigan-made products by going to Twitter favorite #Michiganmade

Here are two Made-in-Michigan products worth mentioning.

Kushgaurd Deck Stain, Made in Roseville, Mich.

This is a fantastic product that has brought our almost 20-year-old deck back to life. It’s easy to apply and looks natural. Kushgaurd Deck Stain is made with lots of linseed oil that really soaks into the wood and keeps it healthy. It has a UV barrier and a mildewicide to keep mildew away. Growing up, I had to help paint our wood pool deck each year and it was always a mess. We used that red paint/stain and each year the wood looked worse and worse, cracking and warping. The Kushgaurd Deckseal is a great product and it's reasonably priced.

Michigan Ladder. Made in Ypsilanti, Mich.

OK, I don’t do heights, so the 6-foot and the 2-foot step ladder made by Michigan Ladder are tall enough for me. They're durable, constructed of yellow pine and they’re made right in Ypsilanti. Mich. I like the look of the wood although they make many other ladders using other materials.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Easy molding and wall treatment

We live in an early 20th century home, which has a lot of great architectural details. We have beautiful molding in the dining room and interesting plaster work in other rooms, but our staircase was boring. Bland. Bare.

So, bring on the molding.

All it took was a little patience and an angle finder to create this wall. You are creating the illusion of a paneled wall that appears to look like one elaborate wall treatment.

The key: Getting a balanced design, and paying special attention to how you space out the boxes and molding. Keep it simple and use the angle finder for the miters. Finish it off with wood filler or spackling to get a more precise finish with the miters. And then paint the wall.

Although I was real tempted to leave the wall tan and the molding white as I know I would never be able to paint trim that well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The 2003 Blackout and the bathroom redo

The finished bathroom in our first house
You know that feeling you get when you’re thisclose to finishing something? The feeling when you’re ready to power down – in this case, power down the power tools – and step back and savor a job well done? Yeah, that was exactly what I was getting ready to do one day in August 2003. I had just broken out all of the tile in my 1940s-style bathroom. The room was covered in dust. I was covered in dust. There was wire mesh bulging from the walls. The last of the broken tiles strewn in boxes and ready to go into the Dumpster.

And then the power went out. 

August 14, 2003. Power was out across much of the Midwest in arguably the most memorable power outage in our lifetime. So there I stood in my bathroom, surrounded by mounds of broken tile and holding a circular saw that just stopped working as I was cutting some replacement wall studs. I thought I had pulled the plug out of the wall when I realized it was the power.
The bathroom project had to be put on hold. We spent time with the neighbors sitting around a campfire and listened to the radio, it was like a block party.
In the end the bathroom got finished. I became more passionate about home improvement. Several other projects followed in that house…until, of course, we moved. And then we started the DIY projects all over again.
And that's what I was doing when the Blackout hit in 2003.