Tuesday, August 19, 2014

0 Fix the Dang Roof!

In the band garage, we had some spattering of mold on the wall, which is why we tore the drywall out a couple weeks ago. Luckily it was just surface mold, but it was pretty obvious it came from some failures in the roof - the water running down the joists and onto the drywall. So I called up my good friend Larry, who's father, Andy, owns and operates Kole Roofing, and he said he and I could get it done in a couple of days on some weekend, so I waited for the call.

This past weekend, he finally had time, so my Friday and Saturday were spent on the roof of the garage!

PLEASE NOTE: this post is not meant as a how-to. This is one of those projects that is best left to the pros - I was assisting Larry, but by no means would I have done this myself. This was a pretty straight-forward repair with no flashing needed or anything like that. You may use this information to do small repairs, but do not attempt to reshingle your roof without the supervision of a professional. I've also recently had an acquaintance fall off a roof and break most of his body, so even if you get brave and want to attempt this, PLEASE be careful.  Alright, enough disclaimers.

The part of the roof we worked on is part of the original house, so there were two layers of shingles to remove. Judging by the amount of granules in the gutters, the top layer was really starting to give. The great thing about the house is that we're able to do the roof in sections instead of having to get it all done at once. We also took Andy's advice and went with a dark gray shingle instead of the brown, which is going to look fantastic when the whole thing is done.

To start, they brought in a Skytrak to get the shingles up onto the roof, cause carrying them up a ladder is way old school.

We were planning on starting on Saturday, but it called for rain all day, so we decided to do the tear off on Friday evening instead. I'm glad we did - that split the job up into two days instead of one long day.

Larry determined our starting point based on where the garage met the house, then we grabbed our tear off tools, and started pulling up the first layer.

You can see the layer underneath was in bad shape, hence them adding a layer on top. We worked our way down with narrow rows of shingles so they'd be easy to toss into the dump trailer, but then we got what Larry referred to as a "super roll" going - which although effective and quick at the time, pulling it apart to toss over the side was not as fun.

We moved onto the second layer, and the tar paper underneath, and started discovering the weak points.

There were several spots where the plywood had separated from the nails, and created some gaps, but most didn't appear to have any water damage. Then we found the spots.

This was about halfway up, and maybe 4 square feet, just enough to be problematic. The other was near the edge of the roof, and not quite as bad, and not really worthy of  a photo. The whole tear off took maybe 2-3 hours, which was pretty amazing. We called it a night and started in again bright and early Saturday morning.

Saturday - 9am. Not super early, but I'm not standing on a roof at 7am - I need to be awake and have some balance before I get up there. \

For both weak spots, we broke out the circular saw, set the depth to 1/2", and cut it out. The one above we cut to be 4'x4', just to be sure we got all the rotting, and the other was about 2'x8', so we could use one 4'x8' sheet and patch both holes using a pneumatic nail gun.

We then took the nail gun around and inspected all the other seams and made sure any that were popped out were nailed back in place.

Once the base was all secure, we rolled out a couple rows of ice and water shield at the edge of the roof, and DiamondDeck underlayment on the rest using staple hammers, which are awesome, and although I have no reason to own one, I still want one.

Larry added the drip edge around the perimeter, and then it was time to start laying shingles. The first row is no fun, since I hate being on the edge, even when it's only 6 feet to the ground (because of the berm on the side of the garage), but once we got the initial row out of the way, just like flooring, it was a breeze.

To start, I had to cut a couple of starter sets using the 6-12-18-12-6 rule, where I would cut a shingle at 6", and put the two pieces in separate piles, then the next at 12", and so on. That way the seam is staggered as you move down the roof, instead of having the seam in the same place every other row.

We had two nail guns, and the shingles have this blue line on them to show you exactly where you should place the nail, and again, just like flooring, the outer nails should be close to the seam, and then two more in the middle, so each full shingle gets 4 nails. Before I knew it, we were done.

The worst parts of this project were the tear off and the clean up afterward, as a result of the tear off. Applying the roof was actually quite fun, and although I was sore, it was way worth it. I love that the new shingles mute the siding, making it more gray and less tan. The shingles are also double thick and the color varies, so it hides dips in the framing more than the brown did.

Overall we're very happy with it, and can't wait to get the rest done, but it will have to wait till next year!

Friday, August 15, 2014

0 All the Small Things 2014

With all the big DIY stuff outta the way, and the big hire-it-done things on the way, we're starting to focus on the smaller things around the house, and this past week was all about closets and lighting.

We had always planned on doing something with the bedroom closets, but we weren't sure what. Originally, two of them had the wire Rubbermaid shelving that somehow continues to be the most popular solution, and mirrored sliding doors. Neither were our style - they reminded me of the apartments on campus.

I didn't want to spend a fortune on closet systems just because I didn't like the look of the norm, but I also didn't know how to design the closets so that they would be most efficient as the kids grew up and not have to change them again and again.  So I started with just basic shelving and a curtain rod in the new nursery.

I bought 8' 1x2s and 8' x 16" x 3/4" white melamine shelf boards, mimicking what I did in the pantry. I cut the shelves down to the right length using a circular saw and some painters tape - this was a trick I learned from our friend Dave (used to own a great bar called Jukes that really gave a good push to all the bands I was in the past 6 years) who told us that if you put the tape over the cut line, it reduces splintering and cracking when working with plywood or melamine.

I also bought just a basic primed bifold closet door system - the problem I had with the sliding doors, aside from the gold and mirrors, was that you could only access one side at a time. I like the bifold so you can get the full width of the closet at once.

Since we moved the changing table into nursery #2, we put the extra changing pad on Ollie's dresser, and I added a shelf in his closet, and with one board left, I added one in the spare room as well.

I love that all three closets already had lighting in them with switches. Much thanks to the original builder for those.

Speaking of lighting, this house has an unbelievable amount of lighting in it. Most of it we don't use because they're just your typical "nipple" lights, but I really believe that a great light fixture can make a room.

Our good friend Marisa reminds us why they're called nipple lights with this illustration:

Let's start with the music room.

Super old photo, I know, but it's the only one where I caught the old light. We were walking through IKEA, and walking through the lamp section looking for bedside table lamps, my eye immediately was drawn to this huge hanging shade, the NYMÖ, and I had to have it. The music room deserved to have a statement piece in it, and this was it. We bought the shade for $35, picked up a mini pendant light from Lowes for $18 (they sell mix-and-match, so you can buy the light without a shade), and we had an awesome statement piece.

Now for the entryway.

Again, super old photo, but here's one of the flush mount lights.

Probably 10 years ago, I found a pair of diner-style lights at a garage sale or thrift store or something - it's been so long I can't even remember. I bought them knowing I'd someday have a house worth putting them in,. so I've been storing them all this time, and they've been in the back of my mind through this whole renovation process. Originally, the chains were long enough to hang down nearly 3 feet, but because we don't have raised ceilings, I just took out all but two links and it worked perfectly.

And lastly, there's been a light above the stairway that we never use, and with the new look of the stairs, and how that was designed with that big open atrium, it also deserved a cooler light.

Once again, we bought a hanging light about a year ago that I'd been holding onto, looking for somewhere to put it, and now that the railings were in, I was able to actually put the Little Giant on the stairs and reach this junction box without fear of the ladder slipping. I can't recommend this ladder enough - they have them on Woot all the time for much cheaper, but honestly even if you pay full price, it'll be worth it. You can climb both sides, the sides raise up independently (so you can use it on uneven surfaces, like STAIRS!), and it folds completely out so you can use it as an extension ladder. This is not a sponsored post, I just love the damn thing, and it makes jobs so much easier.

Usually I don't use touched-up photos on here, but with the window, it was really hard to get a clear image of the light without boosting some highlights and contrast. The clear glass and Edison bulb are great. Again, the chain was too long, but we opted to add a hook to shorten it up, since the location of the junction box was not ideal anyway, and gave us a chance to better center up the light in the opening.

Now, if the rain holds out, we'll be roofing the band garage tomorrow, and hopefully adding some very cool chandeliers using the drum shells I picked up for super cheap on Craigslist. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 11, 2014

0 How Can a Floor Be A Wall?

When we first bought the house, the master bedroom and hallway was all just subfloor, and what is now Ollie's room had just some old tight weave carpet. The other two rooms had a laminate flooring that was still in really good shape, just wasn't our style.

Since it was a floating floor, and the planks were just snap-together, it came up really quickly and easily. We were also in the very early stages of the house, so I was still in keep-everything mode, in case salvaged materials could be used in other areas of the house.  I stacked all the planks in the garage for later use.

In November of 2012, I had decided to create an accent wall in the band garage using the laminate. Having seen tons of photos of people doing it with pallet boards or reclaimed barnwood, I thought the laminate would look great and go up easily without much hassle.

My first mistake was starting at the ceiling. Since the garage slopes, I thought the best way to get the boards straight would be to start at the top of the drywall where it would be (mostly) level. The biggest problem with this plan is gravity - trying to snap into place while the plank wants to fall to the ground. The second problem was not understanding what to look for when judging whether a plank's tongue or groove has been damaged. Many boards had a tongue stuck in the groove, preventing a board from being snapped into it, so I spent a good amount of frustration trying to dig those out using a hand miter saw.

Because of this difficulty, and other projects taking precedence, the room looked like this until recently:

It was an impressive amount completed, but I hated doing it so much that I just stopped. Then, the roof started leaking. Mold began to form. It was a problem. So this past week, with Becky pushing me to get it done, I tore the wall down completely to make sure there was no mold behind the wall.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy destruction, but watching Rehab Addict had made me quite jealous of that feeling of having a room down to its bones. It was only one wall, but it was a great feeling.

The drywall before was actually right to the floor, and from the flooding before, it had been damaged. I decided to instead just go to the height of the landing around the outside and then do some super tall treated baseboards in case that were to happen again.

I also hung the drywall vertically instead of horizontally. I know that's not the way you're supposed to do it, but it was quicker to just cut all the drywall sheets to 7', especially since I didn't need to tape or mud since I was just covering it up immediately.

Now, I should have used the next step to actually hand the drywall, but I instead just stacked some 2x4's to the right level and shimmed each sheet as I went along.

The next day I started on the laminate. Hanging the drywall would have been much easier if I'd thought of this before - for the first row of laminate, I screwed in a ripped 2x6 and some scrap 2x4's I had laying around, leveling each board to make sure my starter row was perfect.

I used Liquid Nails on each plank, and a Bostitch 18ga finish nailer with 1.5" brad nails, punching two nails into each stud.

I also clicked in each plank from the top and then used a 2x4 block and rubber mallet to tap it into the previous horizontal plank. There were a lot of difficult boards, but it went a TON faster not fighting gravity. Still, after 4 hours, I was only this far.

The next day I picked it up again, determined to complete the job. The hard part was over, and by this time any leveling imperfections between planks had been remedied, so it was smooth sailing. In just over 2 hours, I'd completed the job.

With only a few damaged boards in the bunch, the wall looks nearly seamless. I'm very happy with the results.

Monday, August 4, 2014

0 Beer Fridge Relic Refresh

A few weeks ago, I went out to the beer fridge in the workshop and all the beer was warm. The light was still on, the dial was up, but the fridge was just not keeping things cold. Not having time to deal with it, I just opened the doors to prevent mold, unplugged it, and ignored it.

Soon after, I was looking through Facebook, and a friend had posted a free, working fridge, and upon first sight, I jumped on it.

Vintage Westinghouse fridge, in perfect working condition, just cosmetic issues, all of which were easily addressed.  I wish I could have kept the vintage "Bud Man" stickers, but they weren't in great shape, and in pretty random places on the exterior, so they had to go.

This guy is really heavy, obviously, so in order to get it out of the car by myself, I quickly added some 3/4" plywood rails to the bottom and attached casters. There are holes for bolt-on casters, but I don't have any laying around, so I improvised with what I had.

I started by peeling the stickers off. The Bud Man and Superman stickers went well, but the iPod sticker was paper, along with the faded circular sticker in the center. Since the glossy enamel coating was still intact, I took the mouse sander to the entire front, obliterating the sticker residue and roughing up the finish enough to get a great surface for the paint to stick to. I should have done it to the whole fridge instead of just the door, but I was impatient, and didn't want to spend any more time on this than I had to.

I took some Scrubbing Bubbles to the exterior and with some serious scrubbing, all the staining on the top and sides came right off.

The next day, I went to Ace to grab a couple cans of glossy turquoise spray paint, and after walking the aisle several times in their new supposedly-all-inclusive paint section that they've been advertising, determined they didn't have anything close to what I needed. That evening, I had to go to Meijer to pick up some photos, and thought I'd just check out their selection just in case, and lo and behold, there was the perfect turquoise. Unbelievable that "Thrifty Acres" had exactly what I needed, and "The Helpful Place" did not.

Now that I had the paint, I set forth to taping everything. I had originally thought I would just tape the emblem and handle and call it good, but the embellishments on the front were just too cool to not highlight.

I really took my time making sure that the lines were perfectly straight. Also a note here about painter's tape - don't buy generic blue tape. EVER. I made that mistake once when working on our last house, and the only tape that gets clean lines consistently is 3M's version. That being said, I've never tried Frog Tape, but I would assume they do a great job as well, just no generic blue tape - you'll regret it.

The first coat made me glad I'd decided to highlight the lines. It was too much turquoise without them. I was so excited to pull the tape off and take a look, but it needed another coat. You'll notice I didn't drop cloth - fear not, there's so much dirt in our garage, it acts like a drop cloth. We've been waiting for our driveway guy all summer to fix it so sand doesn't get washed into the garage every time it rains, but keep getting pushed back.

A second coat and I was able to pull the tape off.

Gorgeous, right? After it dried, it didn't end up as glossy as I expected, but it still looks great. I was also going to paint the lines a clean white, but I like the roughed up look, so I'll probably just throw a clear protective coating to prevent rust, since I'm down to the bare metal at this point.

So this month is experiment month, see if our electric bills shoot up like crazy for having this thing running, but so far it doesn't seem to kick on that often, since we don't open it nearly as often as a normal fridge. Here's hoping it's not an issue!

Monday, July 14, 2014

0 From Dirt to Deck - How to Build a Ground-Level Deck

Ever since we moved in, there has been a spot outside the house that has been absolutely useless and bothersome. Heading out the back door, past the newly installed pantry shelves, you step down about 8 inches onto a dirt patch full of weeds. It's lower than the land around it, as if begging for a deck or patio, but we just haven't had the time or money to focus on such a project. It was so boring, I never thought to take a photo of that section of the house. But with the project list dwindling, and the budget opening up a little, we decided it was time to finally take that plunge.

I recently helped Becky's dad, Paul, and her brother-in-law rehab a deck on her sister's house, so I understood the basic idea of how the posts and joists worked, but still needed some assistance in building from scratch, so Paul agreed to help.

I started with a whole lot of planning.

Two of the sides would be on exterior walls of the house, adjacent to the laundry room and the band garage on one side, and the living room on the other. Novice as I was, I made a couple mistakes in these drawings.

One, I assumed that we would need posts along all sides, when in fact you only need them in the opposite direction of the joists. Two, I also assumed that the double 2x6's we'd be using on the front and back (where you see "DOUBLE") would be attached to the side of the posts, but we used a bracket to place them on top. Three, I planned for 5 posts per side, and we really just needed four. Four, we were able to get 16' deck boards, so the 12' spacing you see above is not accurate. So, these drawings helped me visualize, but they are by no means to be used as plans.

Here's the real rundown:

Materials List:
(4) 4x4x8 Treated Posts
(25) 2x6x16 Treated Joists
(48) 16' Standard Deck Boards
(8) Joist Brackets (the ones that slide on top of the 4x4 and hold (2) 2x6 beams)
(19) Joist Brackets (U-shaped that nail to the side of the cross beams and hold the joists)
Post Hole Digger
Bracket Nails
(2) 5lb boxes of Outdoor 2-1/2" Decking Screws

About $1,000 for a 15'x24' Deck


Using a post hole digger, we dug four holes along the house for our 4x4 posts, spacing them 8' apart on center.

Each hole, we were able to get about 3' down, where we actually hit the gravel base of the foundation, and the buried wooden plate. Having that made it really easy to get them straight. We then took our 8' posts and cut them in half using a 10" compound miter saw and dropped them in the holes.

Once we had them all in and up against the buried foundation plate of the house, we poured a half a bag of dry Quikcrete into each hole. You don't need to mix the Quikcrete - the ground water will set them for you. Next, I dug out around the front and side of each post, just a few inches, to get a pencil and reciprocating saw to ground level.

Then we built the first double 2x6 beam. Because the deck is so wide (24 feet), we had to create the double beam using (3) 2x6x16 joists. We cut one of them into two 8' pieces (16 + 8 = 24), and then assembled it so that the seam was staggered when screwing them together, creating a 4x6 that was 24 feet long.

We set the beam on the ground up against the posts, made sure it was level, and marked each post with a pencil. We then took a reciprocating saw and chopped each post in place. That's the quickest way to do the ones closest to the house. If you mark them, then take them out to cut them, you'll most certainly have to make little adjustments with dropping dirt back in or taking it back out, or pounding with a sledge to get them down a little. Neither method is perfect, since using the reciprocating saw is touchy if you don't get your cut exactly level. We had to shim a couple of the brackets for that reason.

We put on the brackets on the posts, and dropped the header in place, making sure the end of the header was about 1" off the wall of the house.

For the posts on the other side, we used the 3-4-5 rule. We used the in-place header and laid a 2x6 on its side on the ground perpendicular to that. We measured 3 inches on one 2x6, made a mark, 4 inches on the other, made a mark, and then measured diagonally across to each mark. Using the Pythagorean Theorem, the measurement across should be 5 inches, and that would make the corner exactly 90°. We marked that with the post hole digger, did the same thing on the other end, and then used those posts to make sure the two in the center were lined up.

You want the deck to slope away from the house, so we cut these 1" lower than the posts next to the house. Again, we used a 2x6 lined up on either side, used a level to make sure it was sloping away, then made our marks. We then used those marks to make the marks on the two posts in the center.

We pulled these out of the hole and cut them on the miter saw, and then made adjustments by adding or removing dirt to get them all level, and then adding the Quikcrete. It was easier to do that since there was no wall to brace the post against as the reciprocating saw moved through the post. Neither option is perfect, but it worked well enough in both instances.

With the other posts in place, we built another header and nailed it in place with the brackets.

Now that we had all the posts and both headers in place and solid, it was time to hang the joists. Because the exterior wall is actually about 15.5 feet, I rounded down to make the dimensions actually 15 feet, which required cutting all the 16 foot joists down to fit between the posts.

We measured between the headers, and luckily it was the same all the way down. We then set up the 2x6 joists on some cinder blocks and got out the circular saw. My saw will only go through one at a time, so we couldn't stack them, but instead, we put two side-by-side, so that as I made it through the current cut, I'd be marking the next board with the saw. That made it so we didn't have to measure each one. We did stop every third or fourth just to make sure we weren't getting to long or short, and made adjustments accordingly.

Now, the worst part about deck building is installing joist hangers. Seriously, it's no fun. Especially with an on-ground deck. We decided because we have such a huge span that the joists are running, with no posts in the middle, that we'd do a 16" spacing instead of the typical 24" spacing, just to be sure it was solid when all screwed together, with no bounciness that you sometimes feel in older decks. We marked both headers with 16" spacing and started nailing in our first joist hanger.

Because the ground was not exactly level, we did have to dig small trenches on most of the joists to get them to seat properly. It was a long, exhausting job, but when it was done, it was a huge relief, and it meant the end was in sight. NOTE: In hindsight, we should have done double joists 8' from each end, so that when I screwed the deck boards down, I didn't have to get so close to the end of each board. They tend to split and crack, and over time that seam might break and I'll have loose boards. I would recommend you do double joists wherever you're planning your deck board seams.

When we moved the joists from the lumberyard to the house, we did it in an 8' trailer with a gate that stuck them on a diagonal into the air, creating a very nasty bounce and potential fishtailing as we drove. It was terrifying, and I couldn't imagine moving all the deck boards in the same manner. So we did a little creative thinking, and realized that my Paul's boat trailer is 17' long, so I sent him fishing as I went off to pick up all the decking.

We took an interior 2x6 board Paul had laying around, cut it into a couple pieces, and strapped them to the front and back of the trailer about 14' apart to use as a base.

The guys that helped me load it were a little surprised, but I'm sure it's not the first time they'd seen something so ridiculous. It worked perfectly, and I got the boards home without worry or incident.

It's worth noting that a 16' deck board is actually a couple inches longer, so if you have to cut the boards to meet a joist, cutting them in half won't work. Because the deck is 24' wide, we had to cut 1/3 of the boards into 8' sections. But when you start at a wall, and have an overhang like we do, you can always allow the boards to go long on the end and then cut with a circular saw once they're all in place.  So we measured one board to 8' and used the same cut-into-the-next-board as we did with the 2x6's.  With each cut, we kept them separate, so there was a "short pile" of boards that were exactly 8' and "long pile" that was the remainder of each, usually about 98" inches or so.  With half of the remaining 16' boards, we had to trim that last little bit off the end so it would meet the joist, so we quickly did that as well.

We then laid out all but a couple rows on the deck surface so we could just pull the next row in while we were screwing it all down, and so the trimmed and long pieces were all in place and we didn't have to worry about pulling from the wrong pile. We also started on the outside, so that if we had to cut boards lengthwise in the end, that short board would be up against the house and not on the outside.

When laying the boards out, we made sure that the curve of rings was always pointed down, so that water did not collect but rather roll down. I'm not sure how big a difference it makes, but it should prolong the life of the wood.

The first row is a trimmed 16' board and a 98" board (the remainder of cutting 8' off a board), and the next is an actual 8' board and an untrimmed 16' board, and then repeat that pattern. This way, the seam alternates sides, and you don't just end up with a line all the way up the deck.

We also wanted to make sure we had spacing in between each board, so that water could drain through, so we used thick framing nails, tapping them temporarily on every other joist and then pulling the next row of boards into place.

The whole project took nearly 1,800 screws - that's the problem with spacing the joists a little closer. At 2 screws per joist, each row took 38 screws, and with 47 rows and no fancy auto-loading screwgun, this stage is no joke.

With standard decking, you'll get some boards that are warped like the one you see below. The way to fix this is to line up the center of the board and screw that down on at least the center joist, if not also the joist left or right of center, and then you should be able to use your foot to kick and bend the ends into place. On some that were more extreme, we had to use a crowbar - I'd stand on a loose board and have Paul crank on the warped board to get it to get as close to the nail as possible.

Just as you would "measure twice, cut once", you should also always check your math, and when in doubt buy more than you need. Otherwise, you'll be on a roll, and end up two rows short and have to drive back to the lumber yard, like I did.

To save myself from having to haul 16' boards again, I bought (3) 8' boards and (2) 12' boards to finish it off. That way, the seam would remain split (using the 12' boards first), and I could just strap them to the top of the car instead of getting the trailer involved.

Once I got the last row in place, I snapped a chalk line along the uneven side and ran my circular saw all the way down. Luckily, I'd trimmed the last two rows before screwing them down, so I didn't have to worry about getting all the way to the wall, but a reciprocating saw would have finished it off no problem.

FINALLY, it was done. After four long days, a ton of screws and a handful of beers, we got it done, and it's fabulous. Now instead of stepping down into a dirt patch, we can walk right out the back door onto a nice clean deck. Unfortunately it means I have to now powerwash that wall. Sheesh.


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