Monday, February 23, 2004

Most of Grandma's furniture is situated in our unpainted, un-refinished floors livingroom. The vacation days I wanted to use for refinishing and writing were pretty much consumed by the move-out-move-in-gotta-be-ready-by-Thursday-for-the-movers frenzy and the subsequent bad colds my dad and I both (probably deservedly) caught - gave each other.

If you ignore the floors and scuffed walls, we now have a beautiful adult living room. It's amazing how different the place feels. The cats are groving on the new comfy chairs and us humans are enjoying having real wood replacing our ugly paint over laminate bookshelves. Our favorite piece is an old trunk that one of my great-great grandparents brought from Norway that now sits in our bedroom. It has a simple rosemale-like design with "Peder" and "1857" painted on it. We are only caretakers of most of the furniture for my dad and uncle's families but it's likely to be a while before anyone in the family wants anything.

These are the home improvement things I've learned over the last two weeks.
1. Don't reuse plastic drop cloths. If you do, don't put the paint covered used side down on your waxed wood floors. Especially if you've been using black spray paint. This may also be true for any other type of floor finish.
2. If you damage wood trim removing it and need to use filler to patch things up, don't reuse the trim unless you are going to paint it. Filler stains very dark and it takes many coats before the color evens out. Luckily, we wanted the color dark. Also, ready to be stained replacement trim is available at your nearest home improvement/lumber center for mere pennies. The old trim can be given to a reuse center for some other poor soul to refinish. Believe me, measuring and cutting new trim is a snap compared to refinishing old trim.
3. When replacing a phone outlet, replace it immediately. If you just leave the wires loose, chance, the cats or other forces will bring two of the wires together and knock out your dial-tone. It is usually best to only replace one outlet at a time so you can tell which one is the one you screwed up.
4. For a temporary solution to ceiling leaks caused by ice dams, or just melting snow on bad flashing, a nylon stocking filled with ice melt to make a long tube and placed over the ice barrier will melt a channel for the pooling/draining water to escape. It also helps evaporate any remaining moisture around the leaky vent/outlet. Of course, there will be a lot more work to do once the warm weather arrives. Can anyone say home equity loan?
5. This tip came from any of five or six different TLC/BBC/HGTV shows but was recently confirmed in two rooms chez Livdahl/DeNiro. Curtains make an attractive and easy alternative to ugly, loud, bi-fold metal closet doors. You can then store the doors in the basement until the time you need to sell the house. Once primed, the metal doors do make a good canvas for those with paint and an artistic bent, though.
6. Although everyone swears you shouldn't mix oil-based and latex finishes, you can get away with putting a coat of matte acrylic polyurethane over a few coats of glossy, oil based, fast drying polyurethane finish that is completely dry. Just don't try to wash the brush off in mineral spirits, since clean up is easy with just warm soapy water. I'd recommend using two different brushes, though.
7. That evil necessity, mineral spirits, is reusable. You just need to pour it into a glass jar with a cover and let it sit so the sediment falls to the bottom over a few weeks. The spirits can be drained off for reuse and the remaining sludge can usually be disposed of in the normal garbage pick up once the mineral spirits have evaporated.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Battling Evil Spirits and the Ghosts of Grandma's Goods

My back is sore, our house is all stinky from citrus stripper, wood stain and mineral spirits, and I'm crabby and tired but I am writing this on my own home computer. Yay! After almost six months of nonworking internet and e-mail, I'm back online. The virus, trojan or whatever nasty struck right before or right after we got married this fall. I came home from our short honey moon to find all my internet related files missing. After repair failed, I did a complete reinstall of Windows, this was back in September, and found my PC still under possession. Whatever it was slipped by my simple, but supposedly strong firewall and my more sophisticated virus software. Once in residence, it evaded all search, scan, blocking and ferreting out attempts (with four different products and the advice of every security newsgroup I could find), proceeding to make my life miserable as it monopolized a wide range of outgoing ports. It was taking a full three minutes just to load Google. Getting past the front page of any other site froze the computer. I got tired of troubleshooting and decided to just let the beastie sit. I shut down my PC and ignored it. I do most first drafts by hand anyway. I had lots of home improvement projects to keep me busy. Most importantly, I had Internet and e-mail access at work. I used to enjoy playing around with my own PC. Well, now that I do it at work everyday, the magic is gone. A week's vacation spent at home forced me to face the evil thing again. This time I defeated it by switching around the boot partitions and formatting the heck out of everything. I was up until 4 a.m. last night reinstalling and updating Windows (I know, I know, I should have switched to Linux but my brain is too full right now) and my security software. I was rewarded with the true speed only a cable modem can provide.

Lack of sleep has contributed to my tiredness. My back is sore from a lot of other work, the most noteworthy a battle with an ancient queen sized sofa bed that needed to be out at the curb this A.M. It took a few hours, a hammer, a utility knife, a pliers, a screwdriver, a wrench and my winter coat and hat but I won. (Yes friends, the big ugly black couch from the porch is gone!) I left shaky and cold but whole with the sofa torn into five more manageable pieces. The battle to rid our house of Grandma's goods is down one sofa bed. Thursday, we will take a major one on the chin, however, as a newer hide-a-bed, four large antiques and numerous other furnishings will be delivered from Grandma's old apartment, as she continues her move from senior apartment to assisted care apartment to sharing a tiny room in a nursing home. Some of this stuff is "stuff we should keep in the family" and who in the family has room (we're speaking relative terms here considering we don't have access to most of our basement and all of our garage due to other Grandma stuff), who has the dependability that comes with being homeowners (rules out little brother), who can be nudged into it with only implied guilt (mom said a firm "no" to any furniture) and who will be having the mother of all garage sales with most of Grandma's other stuff as soon as it's warm enough? You guessed it. (There is always the hope that we will find Grandma another place with a larger room and she'll take some of it back again.) Never (this is a rule that you should never, ever forget), never buy a house that isn't empty, even if you are going to be the one who has to clean it out.