And it’s No Longer Funny…

Surprisingly, my washing machine saga is NOT concluded today.

The repairman showed up at 8:20 (which I wasn’t expecting), and after a few minutes of tinkering declared that the washing machine had been repaired.

He came in with the timer, and after he left, I noticed that the timer in the box that he left behind looked awfully new. Hmm.

He also said to me “I’m surprised this wasn’t done already.” And I explained about the wrong timer being ordered – I think he was just trying to cover himself by pretending he didn’t know about that. I let it go. Continue reading

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The Never-ending Washing Machine Saga

This has been one crazy month. I flew over 32,000 miles in 34 days, in 10 flights.

Needless to say, I’m EXHAUSTED.

I’m finally home for more than five minutes, and yet, my washing machine saga continues. When I last left you, the part for my washing machine was on order, and I was hopeful that I could get everything taken care of in between my travels. Despite feeling like total garbage after my first trip (the London-Italy-KL trip), I had to spend about six hours at my parents’ house doing laundry. It’s not as bad as it sounds, because they have a comfortable couch, so I set myself up with my laptop and the tv, and realized I didn’t have nudgy puppies bugging me like at home. So it was actually fairly restful.

But three weeks’ worth of laundry, which included virtually everything I own, meant that things were air drying everywhere. I left it all there late that night, and returned the following day to pick it up. Originally, my mom was supposed to be coming to my house to watch the pups, so I figured that she could be on hand to let the washing machine repairman in, so that everything would be right as rain when I returned from trip #2 to Dallas. Continue reading

Small Home Projects

While I’ve always got an endless number of big projects planned, it’s the little ones that I end up procrastinating! So I finally started working on getting a lot of the little stuff done – I tweaked my back when I moved the closet doors from the guest room a few weeks ago, so I’ve been trying to be careful of it and not do too much lifting.

I managed to finally get every electrical outlet and light switch in my house changed out for updated ones.  No small feat, let me tell you, and one hiccup last weekend that my dad was able to solve.  It makes me so happy!

Since you can only seen an electrical socket so many times, I thought I'd show you the tools I use instead

I also did a few other electrical things. I replaced the back outdoor light with a matching one to the front (and PS, my next door neighbors’ front light just stopped working, so they replaced it with one not too dissimilar to mine. I’ve started a trend!).

I also wanted to replace the light fixtures in my upstairs and downstairs halls – they have a gold-ish base, which makes them look so dated.  I looked a number of fixtures, and couldn’t find any I liked that weren’t incredibly expensive.  So my mom suggested that I spray paint the fixtures with the same bronze paint that I’d used for the light over my sink. Brilliant!  There’s still one left to do, but I need someone to spot me while I take it down and put it back up, because it’s just a bit out over the stairs.  I’m still trying to figure out why they put it there in the first place. I’m not even sure I could change the bulb if it blew!

Before

And after! MUCH better

And speaking of light fixtures – you’ll remember that I said that the glass in the recessed fixture above my sink was broken.  I planned to get a new piece of glass cut, but saw instead a piece of plastic that they use for fluorescent lights.  I got a big piece and decided to cut it myself.  That’s not as easy as it sounds – the plastic does crack a bit when you cut it. I initially tried with a utility knife, but it wasn’t doing the job, so I got out my gardening shears (I’m all about MacGyver-ing it) and used those.  Even though it chipped a bit, you can’t tell when it’s in the fixture.

The after - looks good!

I also noticed that one of my smoke detectors was fairly old and dated looking.  I just wanted to replace the cover, as I did with my hardwired doorbell, so I picked up a cheap one.  Of course, it didn’t work! But I had an inspiration and decided to spray paint it white, since the paint works with plastic.  So I did that!

Before

After! Looks like it was always this way!

I also added a new shade to the back door and put up a wall cling in the kitchen…

Also during my vacation, I decided to give myself the gift of one of those address signs for the front of my house! I didn’t photograph the whole sign, since I don’t want to be publishing my address! But I did get a corner of it to give you an idea.  And as a note – when you’re going to be hanging a sign on brick, you want to use a masonry bit…and a hammer drill. I had a regular drill and wasn’t getting anywhere with it, until my neighbor rescued me and lent me his hammer drill. Much easier!

It’s been busy busy around here!

Updating a Light Fixture

So I managed not to get a before picture.

But, I may have mentioned recently that I fixed the light over the sink.  I’m so happy to have the extra light in my kitchen, which tends to be a bit on the dark side in the evening, but it called into sharp focus the dated worn look that the overhead light had.  It’s nothing special – just a recessed light with a broken piece of glass and a rust-spotted metal surround.

I didn’t replace the broken glass yet, but I knew from my many trips to Lowes that I could get a spray paint designed especially for metal that I could use to spray the surround with.  So I took it down – no small feat, let me tell you – and managed to slice my finger open on the glass without noticing. I’m clumsy like that.

I took it outside with some newspaper:

As "before" as we're going to get!

Then I sprayed it with a burnished bronze metal paint:

Already better

I was so excited, I tried to think of anything else metal that I could spray paint. I have yet to come up with anything.

It didn’t take very long to dry, so then it was inside to put it back!

Of course, I *could* have waited a bit longer for it to dry…since when I tried to put it back in, some of the paint scraped off on the top of the blinds.  That may have been the case no matter how long I waited, so I fixed it by spraying some paint onto a sponge brush and touching it up.  And now, it looks just fabulous:

I can’t tell you how happy this easy, small project made me.  Knocking those little things off my to do list make me so happy! Of course, it also made me realize how gross the paint job is on this little bit of ceiling here, but with my plans to update the kitchen next year, it just doesn’t make any sense to spend time painting this little piece now!

Fireplace Before & After

I really, really wanted to be able to do a special mouseover trick to show you the before and after, but unfortunately, wordpress doesn’t allow javascript – it’s a long complicated story that involves a lot of internet searching, which I won’t bore you with!

So instead, you get the old, boring before and after.

Before:

After:

Much better, don’t you think?

Here’s a broader look:

So pretty! And if you look carefully, you can see Barney and me in the reflection!

Small, But Nagging, House Projects

I am the queen of believing things will take longer than they do.  That’s why I always put off filling the Brita until there is absolutely no water left – even though I timed myself one morning and was able to fill it before the timer went off for my oatmeal.  Less than one minute.

So there were a few jobs around the house that I’d been putting off. They were small, but I just needed to stop procrastinating and do them.  It turned out that the electrical ones did take a lot longer than I anticipated, but there is something so fulfilling about getting things knocked off your to do list!

Curtain Tie-Back

In my upstairs bathroom, I added a single curtain across the window to add some privacy (it also makes the bathroom look very fancy, incidentally).  This is a great idea, but unfortunately, I have an air-conditioning/heating vent just under the window, so the curtain also blocked that. My mom had suggested getting some hardware to tie it back during the day – that would still leave me with privacy, but also free up the vent.

Not a major project, but I still dragged my feet on doing it! Finally, I found a piece of hardware I liked at Lowes and installed it.  I went from this:

To this:

Simple, nice – nothing major, but just enough to allow for more air flow.  And guess what? It’s helped my house be cooler upstairs.  Don’t know why I put it off for so long!

Electrical

I was also still in the process of replacing all of the outlets in my house (and some switches too).  There are still a couple left to do – those that major appliances are plugged into – but I finally pushed myself to get the rest done.  I went through all the outlets in the guest room to remove the extra tab, which tied them back into the light switch by the door again – I can’t tell you how much that had been bugging me!

I also went through all the outlets in the office and replaced those, as well as the switch plates – much nicer.

And then I needed to motivate myself to replace the GFCIs downstairs.  I needed to replace the one in the downstairs bathroom (the upstairs bath had been done by the previous owner), and the three in my kitchen.  Installing a GFCI is slightly different, because if you wire it incorrectly, it may not be a ground fault interruptor as it’s set up to be.

If you’re not sure what the difference is between a GFCI and a regular outlet – GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor and they’re used in locations that are close to water.  Water is a great conductor of electricity (did you know that you’re not even supposed to be using water from a tap while there’s lightning because you could be electrocuted? I just found that out recently) so you don’t want to have just a regular old outlet there.

Yes, even if you want to save some money, like one homeowner I just saw on Holmes Inspection. Spring for the GFCI, it’s not that much more expensive and it could save your life.

The GFCI is designed to trip whenever it detects the slightest variation in the electrical current – like if there’s water involved.  So when you’re installing it, you have to make sure that it is set correctly so that it will trip if and when you need it to.

I installed the outlets based on the wiring instructions included in the box (if you’d like me to go into more detail on that, just let me know and I’d be happy to do a separate post!) and reset the outlet to make sure it was wired correctly.  It was set perfectly! So I replaced all of the outlets, and even replaced the switch next to the sink in the kitchen – that, combined with a new lightbulb over the sink means I fixed the outlet/switch that I thought I was going to have to call an electrician for – man, was I tickled about that!

Ugly

Pretty

Fixed!

And I was also pretty pleased that I finally replaced the knob fan switch with a new one:

Before

After!

Shed Door Knob

Not long after I moved in, I picked up a new door knob and lock for my shed – my neighbor (yes the creepy one) had mentioned that he would have mowed my lawn while I was away one time, save for my shed being locked. It wasn’t, but the door often stuck.  But it clued me in to the fact that anyone could get in there.  It’s not connected to my house, so it wasn’t a safety issue from that perspective, but it was in terms of someone hiding out in there.

But my dad pointed out to me that I’d need to chisel the door to get the plate flush, and he knew I’d never used a chisel before.  I finally got comfortable using one on my interior upstairs doors, so I thought I’d give it a go.  What a nice difference.

Here’s the finished product!

Now I just have to remember to take a key whenever I’m working on something outside!

“Bush”

I use the term “bush” in quotes because these things growing next to my deck are HUGE.  The previous homeowner had never trimmed them (there are three, two unknown types and one holly) and they’d obviously been planted back in 1984 when the place was built.  They’d gotten to be almost as tall as the house, and my neighbor has been commented to me for pretty much the entire time that I’ve lived there that I need to get it trimmed.

I almost paid someone to do it last year, but he wanted $200.  So no.

But it was too big a project to tackle alone. My parents said they would help me out with it this year, so on a crazy humid morning after I’d already trimmed the part I could reach, my dad and mom came by with their truck, mini chainsaw and a ladder and we went to it – or rather, my dad went to it, and my mom and I piled up branches and tried to avoid falling debris.

My dad was concerned that I’d be left mostly with a bunch of sticks, since when you don’t prune a large bush like that, it only grows leaves on the outside.  I knew from watching an old episode of This Old House a few years ago that I was going to run into that, and I wasn’t as concerned with how it would look as I was with how overgrown it was.  So we chopped it way back and down, and although I’ve got less privacy on my deck now (not a big deal where it’s located), the bush is MUCH more under control.

I don’t have a before picture, and I’ll take an after picture at some point…but my plan now is (yes, I’ve always got new plans forming – for every project I do, there’s four more behind it!) to pull up the grass on that side of the fence (which is mostly weeds), put down some of the brick edging around the bushes and mulch in there, put some stone down for the rest of it to match the stone in my front yard, and then put down some more of those tire pieces to make a little path.  I’d also like to replace some of the front fencing with a gate so that I can actually get in and out of the backyard without having to hop a fence! So I’ll be working on that stuff at some point – the gate will probably wait until next year.

Apple Pie

And finally, just because I was happy about it – I used some fresh apples from the local farmer’s market (which I LOVE) to make an apple pie – it was fabulous:

Just about to go into the oven...

And just out of the oven....MMMMM!

 

 

Issues to Fix

I’m sure this happens to every Handy Homeowner, but as I work on my projects for this year, it either creates or inspires new ones.  Leading me to think I’ll never be done, but I guess that’s both the joy and the pain of being a homeowner.

Anyway, I thought I’d mention some of the projects that my recent projects have inspired/required, which I’ll have to start working on.

The first involves the bathroom door.

The painting looks great. The hinges look great. The doorknob looks…well, great.  But the door jamb plate? Uh, not so much.

I can’t close and latch the bathroom door.

Now, that’s not a *major* problem, since I live alone, but I do have visitors, and think a latching, locking bathroom door is not just a luxury.  So it must be fixed.

I’ve managed to suss out the problem, and that is that the latch for the door is lower than the hole in the door frame.  Fabulous.  I think the solution is to chisel out some of the wood, though this will leave a larger hole at the top.  I can either fix this with wood filler, or by screwing in a longer screw to the plate.

Or, I have vague memories that the real proper way to handle this is to remove that part of the molding, cut in a new piece to replace it, and then go from there.  But I’m not sure, so I’m going to research it first for the best way to handle it – anyone else come up against this and have some suggestions?

Another issue? The hallway paint.

I’ve never totally loved the milk toast color of the hallway, but it’s neutral and it works.  Er, it did.  With the new bright white paint job on the trim, it’s looking a little tired and drab.  In part, that’s because I painted it two years ago (even though it FEELS like yesterday), and in part because I own a basset hound who regularly flings drool everywhere. And in the hallway, there’s no furniture in the way to protect the walls.

I do, of course, clean it, but you can see the scrub marks.

So I’ve got to paint it.  I love looking at paint colors, and Good Housekeeping has a monthly featured set of colors. I love this.  They recently said that the color people are most afraid of is yellow.

Really, yellow?

I would have thought purple, and I’ve already gone eggplant in the bedroom.  But yellow? Of course, I don’t have any yellow in my house.  Anywhere.

But I like a challenge, so now I’m thinking I may paint the hallway yellow.  I found a neutral yellow color in Good Housekeeping that may be suitable, and not clash with all the paint colors the hallway runs into, but I’ve got to give is some though, and get motivated to paint the high walls next to my stairway again.  Ugh.

So those are my two upcoming projects. Not to say I’m giving up on the others, I’m just tacking these on for good measure. It’s going to be a busy year here.

Installing New Door Hinges

As you know, I’ve been working on painting the doors in my upstairs hallway.  And it’s taking probably three times as long as I expected it too, in part, because each of the doors requires a primer coat, and then three coats of paint.

But despite mentioning on Facebook the other night that I should really only do home projects on Saturday, so my exhausted self has a day to recuperate before going to work, I’ve actually been working on painting and changing hardware every night.

Call me obsessive driven.

Part of this updating process has involved changing over the door hardware, both the door knobs and the hinges.

After identifying that my doors needed the hinges with a 5/8″ rounded edge, I picked up a few packets of these at Lowes.

In installing them, I took the advice of the Lowes employee I’d spoken to last week, and only changed out one hinge at a time – this made it fairly easy.

The hinge "before" - you'll notice I wasn't overly careful when painting, since I knew I'd be replacing these

The first thing I did was to remove the six screws holding it in place.  In some cases, the hinge would pop off as I was working on it, but in others, it was sort of sealed to the door with paint, so I had to pull it off (gently, of course).

Next, I fitted in the new hinge, and attached it to both sides with a middle screw first, to make sure it all lined up correctly.

Slightly out of focus for the part I wanted to show you, but you get the idea

Next, I attached the remaining screws. I found they went in easily towards the beginning, but as I got close to having them all the way in, it was a bit tougher – this is because the new screws are slightly longer.  I’m happy about this, because I feel like it makes the hinge a bit more secure.

All done!

What a difference!

The new hinges are a little thing, but they make such a huge difference.  Doing them one at a time made the process very simple and easy, so I’m able to put them on after I let the door I’m working on dry for a little while. It will be really nice when it’s all finished!

Installing New Closet Handles

There are a lot of small upgrades around my house that need to be completed, so I’m doing them piece by piece.  Since I planned to paint my hallway doors and closets anyway, I thought it was a good time to update the hardware as well.  And it was a fairly easy process (though I’ll explain why and where I should have taken some more time).

Needs a bit of updating

I started by removing the handles before I painted.  Generally, the handles are screwed together on the inside of the door (which was the case here), with two Phillips’ head screws.  I removed those, pulled the handles apart to remove them, and then used my screwdriver to lever the side plate out.  I later unscrewed the side plate from the door jamb as well.

All out!

Left with an empty hole

After the paint had dried, it was time to install the new handles.

I went with the brushed nickel handles instead of the burnished copper looking ones because I didn't want them to be a statement piece.

I started with the door jamb piece

This part is where I could have taken more time.  As you can see, the previous piece was rounded.  The new pieces that I purchased were more rectangular and they were larger.  I could/should have taken the time to chisel out the edges so that the piece could sit flush against the door jam, like the previous piece did.  However, I didn’t do this – the door knobs fit, and the doors all closed properly, but to do a really good job of it, that’s what I should have done.

First, I placed the doorjamb piece to make sure the holes would line up

Then I screwed it in - I had to create a new hole for the bottom, but it was no trouble - I was able to do it by hand

Next, it was time to put the handle itself on.  I started with the side plate.

This goes in first, because the handles hook into it

As you can see, there is a center piece that looks to be square, and then a circular piece to the right and to the left – these circular pieces are lined up with the holes on the other door handle, and the screws are attached here.

At this point, it’s also important to make sure that the side plate is flush with the door – again, I should have chiseled out the door so that the side plate sat totally flush. I didn’t, but screwing it in tightly was enough for it to fit properly.

Line up the holes with the two holes on the other handle, and start the screws by hand

The screws needed to be started by hand, because the angle of the door knob makes it tough to use a screw driver here. Once they're almost all the way in, you can use a Phillips' head to finish tightening them

Then, screw in the side plate and check to make sure everything lines up and the door closes and latches properly

The difference between closet door handles and bedroom door handles is that bedroom door handles lock.  You don’t want to be able to lock a closet door (hopefully!), so it’s not necessary to get locking door for closets.

These are the only two closets upstairs with handles – all of the bedroom closet doors are on runners, so they only have those little metal circles to use as pulls. Which has me wondering as I write this if I can find replacement ones for those in silver…hmm…

Anyway, fabulous results, and I couldn’t be happier. Now the only thing I need to do for these doors is replace the hinges! Let’s hope that goes as easily as the Lowes employee made it sound!

I still can't believe the difference!

Sealing Vents

Shortly after moving in here, I learned that in the summer, you should seal your downstairs vents, to force the cooler air to go upstairs and in the winter, seal the upstairs vents to force the warmer air down.  The first time I did this, I used plastic wrap.  It worked well, but was a bit of a hassle to remember to remove the plastic wrap at the change of the seasons.

Recently, I found out that a company makes magnets that you can stick over the vents to cover them to achieve the same effect.  Bed Bath & Beyond carries them, so I ordered a package of three.

When they arrived, I was very excited!

They seemed pretty straightforward to use.

First, measure them against your vents to get the correct size

Then cut them to the correct size - I also notched out a piece for the open and close lever

Then, apply to the vent to cover it!

The magnets can also be painted to match your wall color if you’d like.  I’m happy to leave mine white, since the vents are white already.

It was a very easy process, and I’m mostly happy with the results – I say mostly because I’ve noticed that when the heater is on, the magnets don’t always stick in place.  The one in my office (shown above) does, but the one in my bedroom, not so much.  I have closed the levers so air isn’t escaping, but it’s still a bit of an issue.

Also, I needed to remember to close the vents before cutting the magnets to make sure that the notch was in the correct place. I didn’t do that to begin with, so that’s part of the issue in my bedroom – I need to fix the notch to make sure it can stick better.

But all in all, I think they’re a good solution.  They were about $15 for three, and I can use them year after year, so it ends up being more economical than using plastic wrap twice a year to seal various vents up.  And then  once I start using my air conditioning, I can move them to a few of the vents downstairs for the summer season!