Steve's blog

Electrical Gremlins

Posted by Steve on Sun, 09/03/2006 - 2:09am

Just when I think I've got this electrical stuff all figured out, something tosses me in the weeds. This morning I noticed that the clock on my four-year old Frigidaire stove wasn't working. Neither were the buttons. Great, the computer's shot. Of course, it's got an electronic starter that depends on the computer so the oven's not working either.

Well, I guess it's about time. The Frigidaire microwave I bought at the same time had to be replaced last fall. Nice quality control, guys. I remember when companies like Frigidaire and Maytag had good reputations for durability.

But that wasn't the end of it.

Those of you who have followed my X10 home automation articles know that I have a love/hate thing going for these devices. Or rather, like Frigidaire, I'm annoyed by the sub-standard quality of X10 hardware in general.

Skim Coat (almost) Like a Pro

Posted by Steve on Sat, 09/02/2006 - 1:33pm

Most people seem to like the flat, clean effect of drywall. Drywall is cheap, goes up easily and doesn't take much acquired skill to learn how to tape, mud and finish the joints. Even drywall repairs are relatively painless. So what's not to like?

Maybe I'm just weird (well, there's probably no contesting that regardless) but I like plaster. I like the way side lights create shadows and textures over the natural unevenness of a plaster wall, giving it density and bulk.

Compound Casings (or What To Do With Scrap Lumber)

Posted by Steve on Sat, 09/02/2006 - 2:09am

One question I used to get asked on the old blog was, "where did you buy your window and door casings?" As any old houseophile knows, in the olden days trimwork wasn't something you picked up at The Borg. Even in modest turn-of-the-century homes those mouldings were often designed by the home's architect. Constructing them was the job of a master carpenter. Elaborate trimwork is one of the major details of an old home as well as one of its greatest attractions today. People with old homes go to great lengths to carefully strip and rehabilitate old baseboards and casings.

The Plan

Posted by Steve on Fri, 09/01/2006 - 9:35pm

So I psyched myself up and put down the plastic for the next and final major renovation project here: the master bedroom and hallway.

The way I figured it, if I had a pile of lumber in the shop I'd want to do something with it. I didn't spare much expense in this project although I'm not completely irresponsible with my money. For instance, I'll be using red oak plywood in much of the window and doorway trim rather than solid oak. That alone will save me several hundred bucks. And while an engineered floor is actually more expensive to purchase than a 3/4" raw hardwood floor, it's cheaper to install and maintain while also providing a more durable finish against doggie nails, or so the sales literature says anyway.

"I've always wanted to renovate an old house!"

Posted by Steve on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 11:40am
The popularity of home improvement shows demonstrates that people are fascinated by the idea of taking something old and beat up and making it new again. But as anyone who has undertaken a large scale home renovation knows, the reality of doing it yourself lives on another planet from the romantic, everything-works-the-first-time impression that these shows portray.

For one, you won't have a professional contractor standing out of the shot, ready to yell "Stop! Stop!!" before you slice through a BX cable with your demolition saw. Nor will you have a bunch of off-camera laborers to unload the truck, clean up the mess, lift bags of cement, dig holes, chop up concrete, strip plaster, haul debris and all of those other tasks that seem to take care of themselves on TV. These shows do a great job of introducing viewers to the details of home renovation. But never forget that Bob Vila goes back to the Ramada Inn for a nice dinner and a hot shower at the end of the day. You might not have a functioning kitchen, or even water.


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