Rule #1: don’t kill yourself

Work here has come to a halt for a little while.

Several weeks ago I was working on our community dog run, shoveling wet wood chips like a teenager on dexadrine. I woke up the next morning with tendonitis in my right elbow. My next door neighbor is a chiropractor and told me to knock off the room renovation for two or three weeks to let it heal. I forged ahead as did my elbow pain. This morning I woke up feeling like I’d fractured the base of my thumb at the wrist. Back to Dr Joe, who reminded me what he’d said a month ago. Because of the pain in my elbow I’d probably been shifting leverage to my wrist. Now it’s injured too. And if I keep it up it will spread to my shoulder and neck. Then he’ll put me in a sling.

Oh, the ravages of age. This, by the way, is apart from the six-inch bloody gash I gave myself on the same arm yesterday, trying to catch a falling piece of plywood.

Well, maybe I do need some healing time so I’ll knock it off for a week and see. I’ve got other things I need to do, like my job. A bummer indeed but I’ll just replay the Ted Talks lecture and synthesize some happiness out of it.

I’m about three work days away from moving most of my tools back downstairs to the shop where work will commence on the cabinets, drawers, the closet doors and raised panels. Then I move them back up upstairs again for the installation and crown moulding. By the way, I decided to cut my own cap rail for the wainscot on my router table. I found a nice piece of 5/4 oak in my lumber pile, ripped it and cut an ogee profile. The remaining piece of 5/4 became the sill for the window into the hallway.

I also got the sectional concave baseboard installed. This job was a bitch. It would have been a breeze except for two complications. One is that I had to incorporate an existing electrical outlet in the baseboard. I built most of that baseboard on a jig but due to the tightness of the wiring, the last piece of baseboard had to be installed in place.

The second complication was that there was nothing to nail it to! Behind it is a piece of mangled and very flexible corrugated tin, which served as plaster lathe around an unused forced air duct. There was no way to stiffen it up. Even plaster wasn’t an option because of the large hole cut by the old electricians.

It was time to open my hacker bag of tricks. I positioned the board as carefully as I could then sealed around it with construction adhesive. The next morning the board was still flopping around a bit, which was a problem because there’s an electrical outlet on it. Once again, spray foam insulation to the rescue! I emptied half a can behind the baseboard where the urethane could expand and cling to the metal lathe and to the baseboard. Now it’s a rock. A little sanding, a little shoe moulding and a little plaster and it should look acceptable. The downside is that my entertainment rack will be in front of it. I’ll have to pull it out occasionally to remember the blood that went into this job.

What I probably should have done is construct a built-in cabinet for the TV, DVD, Tivo and sat receiver. That could have saved me a lot of heartache. But I also didn’t want to lock the room into one furniture/bed layout either.


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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.