Archive for the 'Projects' Category

Weekend of plenty

Posted by Nate in Friends, Landscaping.
Monday, May 14th, 2007 at 2:06 pm

… plenty of busy, that is!  Friday was actually pretty chill.  Karen and I had been detoxing last week and Friday was our first day off, so we went to Town Talk for a quick dinner – it ended up being more grease than our fragile and recently cleansed systems could handle and we both regretted the decision.  But hey, hard to resist going when you know you can get a seat at the bar with the coolest bartender in the area.  We crashed early that night because Karen had an event the next morning requiring her to get up at 5:15!!

Scotty Fun Day
Our good friend Scott is leaving in a few days for Colorado to take some sweet acting classes which will hopefully segue into a masters program next year.  Before his flight from the cities, Karen and he made an informal list of must-do activities to do locally.  Starting things off would be a river ride in a Padelford paddle boat, followed by Italian pig out at Cosetta’s in St. Paul…

paddleboat1.jpg… as it happened, Padelford doesn’t do public tours until June.  So we (plus Sierra) headed to Lake Calhoun and rented a sweet 4-person paddleboat and hit the chain of lakes!  Fun!  Only, instead of a nice relaxing saunter down the river in a powered boat, we quickly discovered that moving a paddleboat of this size took quite a bit of leg power.  paddleboat2.jpgIt was suspiciously like exercise.  Still, the weather was beautiful and the lakes were gorgeous, and despite a nearly calamitous rage blackout by yours truly about which direction we were drifting, the ride was quite enjoyable.

chino.jpgIt turned out we were more in the mood for drinks than Italian pig out after our ride, so we altered course to Chino Latino in Uptown and made short work of a few martinis and margaritas.  Karen and Sierra kept things moving with a big "bowl of drink" — I can’t remember what it was called, but that’s what it was.  Whoa.  A few shared dishes later and we were all moaning about being stuffed…

A short hour or two recoup at DuoTeam HQ and we were off again!  We had a quick drink at Nye’s, regaled by the sound of Ruth Adam’s polka band.  Quite the place, I can’t believe I’d never been.  Next to an art opening organized by one of Sierra’s roommates in a warehouse gallery in NorthEast.  Fun, but full of hipsters and artists — great as individuals, but a roomful of them together sort of seems to turn into a big out-hip contest.  Ah well.  Some of the pieces were pretty cool, especially one demonstrating sound waves moving through non-newtonian liquids.  To me that belongs more in a Maker Faire, but hey, it looked as much like art as some of the other pieces.  :)

Then one last drink at the Kitty Cat Klub by the U, and finally home to bed.  Whew.  Scotty can now leave the cities happy.

Sunday Plants
pict0008.JPGWhile walking Bruno, Karen had made friends with some neighbors with a bunch of native plants who subsequently offered to give some to us.  Today was the day, so after cleaning the house all morning we headed over to collect some plants – and by some, I mean "a ton".  The rest of the afternoon was spent adding to and creating little spaces on the periphery of the yard for the new plants.  pict0009.JPG We used logs from the tree we cut down last year to create visual dividers between the lawn and the new plants, I think it works pretty well – especially with the new mulch in the pic at right.  Ahh, something about a fern with dappled sunshine on it just makes me happy…  :)

pict0010.JPGWe somehow still had some energy so we invited Justin and Juliana and Scott and Cody over for an outdoor wok-on-the-grill stir fry!  I’d never done this before but I’m happy to report it went very well – the trick is to tie the wok base to the grill face to keep it from sliding.  For dessert I brought out a very special purchase – local organic ice cream made with Surly Furious!!  YUM.

What a weekend.  Good times, good times.  And tonight is opening night for the St. Paul Saints — Cody’s first official game as announcer!  I’ll be there cheering…

Oh, hell yeah.

Posted by Nate in Projects.
Sunday, May 6th, 2007 at 12:21 pm


[Pretty much] done!

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Sunday, December 10th, 2006 at 4:24 pm

I’m sure there will be more pictures to follow as we fill in some of the furniture / decor gaps in the basement, but here’s the very latest look at things.  I was up early Saturday morning to keep working on the molding and door trim – it was slow and steady work, not too hard, but took time to get it all fitting right.  We knew we were going to be painting it so we saved a few bucks and got "paint grade" molding instead of the "stain grade".  12-9-2006-10-19-36-am_0001.JPGIn the store I thought it was something like MDF or a wood composite – it wasn’t until I started cutting that I realized it was plastic.  Weird.  I had a few pieces crack a bit on some of the less-than-straight bits of wall, but after I started pre-drilling everything went well.  Finally got to use my saw horses, and they totally saved the day…

12-9-2006-3-50-49-pm_0006.JPGHere’s a closeup of one of the pillar bases, you can see the profile of the molding.  The very bottom bit is actually a separate piece of quarter-round wood.  I wasn’t going to put it on but I’m really glad it’s there – it catches more of the light on the curve and just visually makes the base molding stronger to help delineate the floor and the wall.  That pillar in the pic is the level one – the other one by the drain was an enormous pain to get framed.  Lots of cheating, but it looked good in the end.

12-9-2006-5-57-20-pm_0009.JPGFinally, two pics of the room as we threw furniture together for the party.  Karen had gotten the grass from her old work, and on a whim added it to the room – and I totally love it!  Of course I put my Belgian beer glasses front and center under a light, and dart board is sort of behind where I took those pics from.  Not sure about that orange chair, but the green one actually works well…  We’re going to look at Target or Craigslist for a rug, and we’re keeping our eyes open for a futon.  Whoa.

12-9-2006-5-57-47-pm_0010.JPGI can’t believe where it was the night before – sawdust and plastic everywhere – but it looked so damn good at the party it made it all worth it.  Awesome.

Hopefully Sierra or Karen will post about the party.  Good times, great people, and the best piñata action of the year…  :)

Home stretch

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Wednesday, December 6th, 2006 at 5:47 pm

12-6-2006-7-47-03-am_0002.JPGWell, it’s done – but for the waiting.  The two coats of the gloss sealer are down, and we can walk on it tomorrow morning (or tonight in socks).  I’m hoping to buy base and crown molding tonight so I can prime and paint them and be ready to start installing Thursday or Friday.

12-6-2006-7-47-32-am_0004.JPGIt might be too early, but for the sake of anybody who finds this page in the future while researching a similar project, here’s a little floor post-mortem:

First, here are the previous posts about the floor staining: 1, 2.

On the advice of my mom, who recently tore up carpet, etched, and stained three (or four?) awesome new floors in their house, I went with Mason’s Select transparent concrete stain from Duckback Products, Inc..  My initial dream was acid stain, but my research made me think a floor this old wouldn’t have enough free lime available to react with the acid to create nice colors.  Older concrete is supposed to have more open "pores" which will accept the stain.  Finally, the acrylic stain is available in more colors, and is more repeatable in those colors.  The downside, maybe, is that the natural marbling and variation you get with the acid stain is somewhat lacking in the acrylic, hence my labor-intensive patterning.

The application technique we ended up with went something like this: tape, mask, spray, dab, dry, dab.

  • Tape.  Get good quality masking tape, at least an inch wide, and make sure to press it down on the edge you’re going to paint.  I ran out of the original tape and got a cheap brand from Ace for the final charcoal squares, and it ended up bleeding on most of the edges…  Damn.
  • Mask.  I was lucky enough to have a computer box laying around that had one side coated in plastic.  I cut this up into strips and used it to extend the masking tape while spraying.  Two things: make sure to spray from behind the mask and over it, never towards it, or you’ll get some stain under the mask.  Also, be sure to (carefully!) wipe down the cardboard masking every so often or it will start dripping and dragging stain.
  • Spray.  I used a quart sized handheld sprayer filled with stain, and it worked great for the small areas we did at a time.  One tendency everyone had was to start to overspray after we’d been working for a while – this ended up producing some puddling, which would have been trouble if we were looking for an even color, but actually produced some great texture for us.  On the whole a light, even coat is best and most "workable" afterwards.
  • Dab.  Immediately after spraying, while the stain was still wet, I would come in with a rag dipped in black stain and dab / sponge / stipple some patterns.  This was generally pretty random, but eventually started becoming granite "veins".  The dabbing had the side benefit of removing a bit of the stain as it went, creating more variety.  Next I would do the same with white stain, trying to go "next to" the black for more contrast.
  • Dry.  Let it wait.  You can do some touchup on the puddles if there are any, but mostly just wait 4 hours.
  • Dab.  Go back and add more pattern – you can do much more controlled effects (but with harder edges) once the base stain is dry.  I used the same rag for the black and rolled it in the pattern of the vein, then stippled, dabbed, etc, anything to start to get the texture I wanted.  It was hard because the black doesn’t really show up until it starts to try, so there’s a tendency to overdo it – I ended up doing a quick round on one block and moving on to the next, so by the time I came back it was drying and I could see what was what.  Finally I used a sea sponge to add flecks of white – again, the visual contrast is what we’re after, it really helps the texture seem more "believable". (for lack of a better word)

However, no matter how well you do the above, I cannot overemphasize the importance of prep work on the concrete.  You must get it ready to receive the stain or you’ll end up with a floor that looks nice but the stain either wipes right off or scratches at the slightest touch.  (don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got one tiny section behaving like the latter.  I’m hoping the sealer helped…)

That’s it!

Floor teaser

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Long night of staining last night – thanks to Sierra’s help we managed to get down the whole second layer, the red lines.  The tape was incredibly fiddly to get right, and the gap ended up varying from around 1/8" to 3/8", but the overall effect is fantastic.  It make the sections seem distinct and intentional, and I think to the unknowing eye it will look like grout lines!

12-5-2006-8-53-33-am_0002.JPGThis morning I did some quick touchup trying to even out the color intensity a bit and add some accents, and finally took up the tape.  I was running late, but couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures of the progress, so here you go…

12-5-2006-8-53-19-am_0001.JPGWhat’s left?  Taping a border for the intersection squares, and staining them black.  Hoping to get that done early tonight.  Once that’s dry (3-4 hours) I hope to slap down a quick coat of the glossy sealer, so I can do the second coat tomorrow morning.  The sealer says it needs 72 hours before furniture can go back on it, and by my math that puts us at Saturday morning — just in time to set up for Sierra’s birthday party that evening!  Down to the wire…

Now we’re talking

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Sunday, December 3rd, 2006 at 7:42 pm

Well, the tide has turned in the battle against the basement floor: I’m winning.  In fact, it’s a route.  I am so happy with how it’s turning out so far I really can’t wait to finish it and see the whole thing.  And I know Karen really can’t wait to have the laundry room back – it’s currently full of everything that used to be in our basement, and has been for the last… oh, two months.  Way too long.

So here’s the rundown:  Tuesday after work I rented a 5" hand grinder.  11-30-2006-9-03-49-pm_0027.JPGI’d decided to grind the parts of the edges and corners I’d missed with the previous (second) rental of the walk-behind grinder, and then chemically remove the last bits of pain.  (the second time I used grinding stones which worked pretty well but again couldn’t negotiate the bumps and curves of the floor)  After doing the edges and seeing how good it looked, I had to do the whole thing: 7 hours of horrible hands and knees grinding, shaking out and emptying the shop vac every 10 minutes, etc, etc.  But it looked great by Wednesday morning!!  It also removed the whole top layer of discolors cement and roughened up the surface enough it would take the stain really well.

12-2-2006-1-36-21-pm_0001.JPGVarious busy-ness and mishaps kept me from getting back to it until the weekend, and early Saturday I was off to buy the stain and some masking tape.  The taping actually took a lot of the day (see at right), but I wanted to get it right and have an even pattern.

12-2-2006-5-10-38-pm_0004.JPGBy Saturday evening I had about a third of the main pattern in place, and it was looking very good.  I was tempted to press on, but my back was killing me from all the bent over work and spraying and taping, so I called it a night.

12-3-2006-12-35-49-pm_0001.JPGSunday Karen had off work so she came down to help and it started going much quicker.  She would use the cardboard masks to shield the edges up to the tape, spray a base coat using a hand-sprayer, reposition the masks, etc, until the square was filled.  Then I’d come in with my accent colors – dark and light – and rag roll / blot in some texture and pattern.  12-3-2006-6-29-48-pm_0003.JPGAs the afternoon progressed I started doing some touchup on the last night’s work and found a really nice "vein" pattern that looks sort of like granite or marble.  Really sweet.

At left is where things stand tonight.  I’ve still got to go down and tape the edging for the next round – we’re filling in the grey with a really nice deep red, "Terra Cotta" it’s called.  I’m going to leave a 1/4" overlap of unstained cement, which should look like a grout line in tile, I think that will help the pattern pop a little more.  12-3-2006-6-29-36-pm_0002.JPGFinally the intersections will be stained a dark grey or black, which will also help provide some visual contrast.

Did I mention I love it so far?  I love it.  I’m going to make out with the floor when it’s done.  You can come watch.  $5 at the door.

Fall Planting, Projects, and … Beer

Posted by Nate in Beer, Home Improvements, Landscaping.
Wednesday, November 8th, 2006 at 8:24 pm

Decided to ride my bike to work today out of respect for national "You Should Probably Start Some Rehab On That Knee" day.  (That and the fact it was almost 70 degrees (!!!) today.)  It went well, mostly, some tightness on the way in, pretty ok on the way home, and now it’s kinda sore – but I still think it’s the right thing to do.  Gotta strengthen up the surrounding muscles, especially considering I haven’t done anything more strenuous than walk the dog since the injury…

11-7-2006-8-38-23-am_0001.JPGThe plant nursery at Karen’s work ended up giving away all their remaining stock with the disclaimer that plugs planted in the fall have probably only a 70% chance of survival.  Of course she snapped up as many flats as she could and proceeded to shove them in the ground all over our yard!  At left is the new view of Duoteam HQ from the front.  My biggest concern with yards I see with native plants all over is that I think it really enhances credibility ("No, really, our yard isn’t overgrown, they’re native plants!") if there’s a clear demarcation and sense of "order" to it.  So I pulled a bunch of leftover concrete pavers (?) and made a border along the walk.  Needs some touchup in Spring, but pretty sweet.  10-30-2006-6-36-10-pm_0002.JPGThe next night Karen planted the rest in the back yard, and since it gets dark shortly after 5 now I rigged up some work lights for her.  She’s crazy – but it should look great next summer!

Inside the house I continue to put off the basement.  (This weekend, really.)  But in the meantime I knocked off a long-time item from my list: shelves in the office.  Floating shelves, no less.  I pretty much followed the outlines described here, and it was actually pretty easy once I got started.

11-5-2006-2-23-56-pm_0003.JPGBasically you slice and dice a hollow-core door, attach a cleat to the wall, and tie the door section to the cleat – voila, shelves!  Above you can see the door cut and the cardboard "honeycomb" being knocked out.  At right is the cleat on the wall.  I feel really good about the strength of those cleats – two11-7-2006-8-12-28-am_0008.JPG 1/4" toggle bolts with the toggle grabbing onto the wood lath behind about 1/2" or more of plaster, so I was able to crank them down pretty well.

Cutting the cleats was the hardest part.  I needed a board 1 1/8" thick to fit exactly inside the door, but had no easy way to cut one accurately.  I knew the frame on my circular saw cut 1 5/8" from the edge…  And I had some 1/2" MDF left over from the kitchen shelves…  So I screwed the MDF onto a 2×4 with another board attached for the fence and ta da!  1 5/8" – 1/2" = 1 1/8"!  11-7-2006-8-31-36-am_0012.JPGIt worked perfectly, and after a good dose of wood glue and some 1" brads, those shelves are as strong as possible.  Still can’t load them up with a full bookshelf or anything, but they should handle a lot.

11-5-2006-9-23-36-pm_0005.JPGFinally, I took Karen on a mystery date on Sunday, which ended up being a Belgian beer dinner at the Birchwood Cafe.  Five courses, five beers, an accordian player, and it was all organic / local food!  At the end there was a secret bonus beer and we got to pick out a glass to take home – Karen grabbed hers early and is flaunting it in the picture.  After all that work, it was great to just relax, eat, and drink!

The battle rages

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Friday, October 13th, 2006 at 2:09 pm

So far I’ve put both a chunk of money and a ton of time into trying to get the paint off the GD basement floor, and I hate to say it but the floor is winning.  Every few days I have a brainstorm and – sure I’ve solved it – hustle off to the hardware store to get the last thing I’ll need to finish this project…  And so far I’ve been wrong.  Here’s a quick list of what I know doesn’t work:

  • ReadyStrip paint remover.
    • It actually works really well — in the places it works at all.  There are as-yet (wait for it!) unexplained patches of the floor that simply Do Not Yield Their Paint.
  • Manual scraping
    • Oh, it works ok for a little while, until you realize you spent half an hour and have (maybe) cleared half a square foot.  Again, as with the stripper, there are DNYTP sections.
  • A big concrete surface grinder machine
    • I feel like this may have done a slightly better job with the diamond cutting blades instead of the carbide ones I got, but in the end it basically amounted to manually scraping the entire floor only much quicker.  Still patches that DNYTP and a few pits in the surface that the blades didn’t get to.
    • The machine was like this one but without everything in that feature list that says "new".  Must’ve been the old model.
  • 3M Safest Stripper
    • Like ReadyStrip but even slower acting.  Does a fantastic job on the paint that will come up at all, but at this point there’s really none left.

So…  That’s discouraging, to say the least.  You may be wondering, as I was, will anything get this paint off?  Well, I’m sure there is some Dimethyl Toxic Whatever horror I could use, but at this point I’m not sure even that would work.  Why?  Well, here’s one thing that works:

  • A Makita angle grinder Karen borrowed from work.

Sweet.  But the thing’s so small already and because it’s an angle grinder you can only hit about a centimeter at a time which makes for really slow going.  Also it’s darn near impossible to avoid uneven grinding, leaving little scallops in the floor (tiny, but still)…

266942435_23df6bffcb.jpgThe revelation for me while grinding was the depth I had to go down to in certain spots to eliminate the color from the paint.  I had read about it happening in concrete but hadn’t seen it, but apparently somehow the paint had sunk down into the pores of the concrete and bonded itself there instead of on the surface.  I’ve also noticed while scraping that there was in fact a layer beneath the orange, a gray gloss that must have chipped up in places before the orange went down – and the places that took the most grinding showed no evidence of this gray!  So…  Seems like the gray paint bonded nicely to the surface and those are the parts I can scrape and strip, but where orange paint hit concrete directly it made patches that DNYTP.  And that depth and bonding make me think even a crazy chemical stripper wouldn’t work and might even make the paint sink deeper into the concrete.

Whoa.  So now I’m planning to rent one of these and grind the whole floor down.  Or call around and see if I can find a stand-up version of that.  Hell yeah.  You haven’t beaten me yet, floor!!

The weekend

Posted by Nate in Beer, Friends, Landscaping.
Monday, October 9th, 2006 at 1:19 pm

pict0071.jpgCody had to hold the cellphone while Frances took a call.

pict0072.jpgKatie’s eye fell out and she ate it.

pict0074.jpgI raked a ton of leaves

pict0077.jpgpict2542.jpgKaren’s dad helped us cut down the overgrown tree/bush in our backyard.

pict0080.jpgpict0082.jpgWe drank a ton of beer.

Stupid paint

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Thursday, October 5th, 2006 at 12:31 pm

10-2-2006-7-28-25-am_0011.jpgWe’ve been picking off bits and pieces of the basement project over the last week – on Friday, Sierra and I moved everything out of the basement and into the laundry room and the storage area.  Pretty tight fit in those areas now, but it left the floor empty and made painting the walls much easier.  We were painting on October 1 so we picked a color called "October Sky", it’s a nice creamy light color that should go well with what I’m hoping for the floor and trim.

10-4-2006-7-54-14-pm_0003.jpgI’ve been testing various methods of getting the paint off the floor and having limited success so far…  Manually scraping the hell out of it works sort of, but it’s really a lot of work and very slow.  While at Ace getting the paint I found a product that promises low-odor and great effectiveness – sweet, sign me up!  It worked great on the test patch I tried a few nights ago, so last night I spread it out on about 1/4 of the floor.  I had run the test with a really thin patch of the goop to see how thin I could go, and it seemed that it worked even with a super-thin application.  Awesome.

…only it didn’t work.  I got up this morning to go scrape the paint off and it wasn’t coming – or, it was, but only bits, or what seemed like "half" of the coat of paint, if that’s even possible…  I’m guessing I put it on too thin?  Or the fact that I kept misting it with water last night, thinking keeping it moist would keep it active in such a thin layer?  Anyway, no go, at least at that level of stripper.  So I mopped up the mess I’d made on the section I tried to scrape and went back over the whole thing with a thicker coat.  I’m not going to spray it at all, just leave it until I get back, and hopefully it will have worked its magic on the paint below.  Stupid paint.