"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Friday, September 27, 2013

celebrating zach's birthday and 50 years of james bond

I don't think I've mentioned much about Zach's movie room before, but it's pretty intense. It starts with movie posters lining the stairwell going down to the basement and continues down to custom-built, wall-to-wall shelves to hold this thousands of DVDs and Blu-Rays along with figurines from various movies, and ends with 7.1 surround sound and a 57" rear-projection TV. 

Awhile ago, it was the 50th anniversary of James Bond. As part of that, Zach got large postcards of movie posters from all 23 James Bond films (plus a special 50th anniversary card, for a total of 24). For several months, these cards have remained in their plastic bag on a shelf in the basement, but I keep thinking how nice it would be to frame them all. With Zach's birthday coming up, I decided to finally figure it all out and make a custom frame for all those cards.

My original idea was to hang them over the window, but that was before I realized how many there were. After some quick measuring and math, I determined that only about half the cards would fit there. I had wanted the frame to be a total surprise for Zach, but I decided that I really needed his opinion on deciding where to hang them, which would determine the dimensions of the frame. After some more measuring and discussing, we decided to hang them on the closet door. Now it was time to make my plan.

Each card measures 4.125" wide by 5.875" tall. I found this Lowe's project that doesn't require any routing; instead you basically make two frames, with the back frame a little narrower to leave a lip for the glass to rest on. I did lots of math multiple times to figure out the frame dimensions. The overall idea was one big frame with a grid of 24 mini-frames attached inside.

I went to Home Depot and bought poplar hobby wood. I decided to do the front frame and horizontal parts of the grid (called rails in frame parlance) out of 1/4 x 2 (which really measures to 1/4 x 1 1/2) and the vertical parts of the grid (called stiles) out of 1/4 x 1 (really 1/4 by 11/16). For the back frame (called horizontal and vertical cleats), I used 1/2 x 1 (really 1/2 x 11/16). Home Depot didn't have any 1/4 x 1 or 1/2 x 1, so I used 2" boards and ripped them in half with a table saw. All the boards were 4' long, which worked out fine for my measurements and fit nicely in my car :-)

My friend who helped me with mitering for the cat tree I made graciously said OK when I asked if I could come use his tools again. He even helped me for several hours one Saturday to get all the wood cut and assembly started. Pardon all the dust that got on the camera lens!

The Lowe's project didn't use mitered corners for the frame, but I thought that would look better, so we started by cutting the miters for the main front frame and gluing them all together. We left them clamped and drying while we went on to cutting everything else.

Next we ripped the 1/2 x 2s in half to make 1/2 x 1s. These were for the back cleats. We cut them to the measured lengths and drilled counter-sunk holes for #8 5/8" wood screws to help hold the back onto the front along with the glue. 

Next we measured and cut 1/4 x 2s for the rails. Instead of just going with the calculated measurement for all of the inside grid parts, we actually measured the lengths inside the now-assembled outer frame. Also, if you have a little extra wood, we found it's a good idea to cut each piece a little longer than you measured to allow for error. There were a couple of pieces that I cut right on the line that were then just slightly too short. If you cut your pieces a little long, then you can slowly shave off more until it fits just right.

Then we measured for placement and glued on the top and bottom rails. While waiting for those to dry a bit, we ripped the remaining 1/4 x 2s into 1/4 x 1s for the stiles and started cutting those. After the rails were dry, we started gluing in the stiles. About halfway done, we ran out of clamps. Also, it was almost 6pm, so we decided to quit for the day. 

Sunday, I went back over to my friend's house to finish the gluing of stiles and attach the back horizontal cleats.

After letting that all dry for 30 minutes, I sanded off all the oozed-out, dried-up wood glue from the front of the frame, wiped off the dust, and primed the front of the frame. I used Kilz latex primer. I prefer latex just because the clean-up is so much easier than with oil-based primers. The next weekend, I went over to my friend's house several more times to prime the back of the frame and paint both front and back with two coats of black Gliddon sample paint from Home Depot. I like getting sample sizes when I know I won't need even a whole quart for a project. After all the priming and painting, I finished off the frame with a few thin coats of Minwax spray polyurethane. 

My friend also helped me use his table saw to cut the plexiglass for the frame. I had found some old frames from Michael's that had seen better days, but between two of them, they had enough plexiglass for this new frame. I was pretty psyched to not have to buy any plexiglass for this project. I read on the Internet that it should be OK to cut plexiglass with a table saw if you put some tape on the plexiglass to help keep it from cracking, so that's what we did, and it totally worked! The frame fits 4 cards wide and 6 cards tall, and with the size of plexiglass I had, I could have done just two pieces with each covering 4 cards wide by 3 cards tall. However, to make the pieces more manageable for assembly and to add some more structural stability to the frame, I did one piece of plexiglass for each row of 4 cards. We also cut up the cardboard backing that went with the two old frames to use as the backing for the new frame.

After all the cutting, the plexiglass was pretty dusty, so I cleaned them up with some glass cleaner. However, even after that, there appeared to be some scratches, though many of them I couldn't feel when running my finger over them. I polished them up with some Pledge, which I read online might help. I think it actually did, at least with some of the smaller scratches.

Next, I used a 3/32 bit to drill holes for the screws that would hold the plexiglass, cards, and backing in place in the frame. For each section, I put one hole on each side and two each on the top and bottom.

Finally, it was time to put the cards in the frame! I used small pieces of tape to hold each card in place on the plexiglass.

And there it is -- a totally custom frame for around $50! If you've ever had something custom framed someplace like Michael's, you know that it can cost hundreds of dollars, so I consider all the time I put in to be totally worth it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

occasionally, father doesn't know best

Sorry, Dad!

This weekend, I painted our living room ceiling. Not the whole ceiling, just part of it where there used to be a hole and water spots. Here's the story. It's pretty long and not much DIY or pictures or anything, but I thought it was worth sharing.

Back in May, I was watching TV while Zach was in the shower one Saturday, when suddenly I noticed water dripping from the ceiling in front of the TV. Upon closer inspection, there was evident water damage on the drywall around one of the pot lights. Super. Although we're technically out of warranty on our house now that's it's about 2.5 years old, we contacted the builder anyway, in case they would still do something. They contacted the plumber they'd used and sent them out to have a look. Of course, when the plumber came, we ran the shower for 10 minutes or so and no water came leaking from the ceiling downstairs. Due to the fact that the leak seemed to be slow or intermittent, the plumber guessed it was probably not a leaky pipe, but something not sealed quite right in the shower. However, he didn't notice anything obvious, so he left and told us to keep an eye on it. Super helpful.

Well, we kind of forgot about it, not usually being in the living room while the other person is in the shower, until last weekend, I was lying on the couch and noticed that, not only did the water spot around the pot light seem worse, but there was now a second large water spot a few inches away. 

I still had the phone number for the plumber, so I gave them another call, and he came on Thursday. To try to better see what was going on, this time, the plumber cut a hole in the ceiling. Once the shower was turned on, it became very obvious where in the ceiling the drip was. As expected, it was not coming from a pipe, which then made it less obvious where in the shower the leak was. 

After further inspection, the plumber decided that there are a few tiles, basically right where the water hits, where some of the grout is missing. Fixing grout is apparently not part of this plumber's job description, so he asked if my husband knew about grouting and could do it. I said no, but I could. In my head, I was making my super grumpy face, and thinking, 'you sexist jerk!' (though maybe I didn't think 'jerk', maybe I thought some other word instead). 

So, of course, I went to Home Depot for the grout. I discussed sanded vs. unsanded grout here; again, I went with unsanded grout. The house documents say that the master bathroom has #06 harvest grout. While in Home Depot staring at all the grout color options and deciding which looked closest to our shower grout, I also saw several options for various types of grout sealer. Not knowing if I would also need that, I called my dad, who recently completely re-did the two bathrooms in my parents' house. I told him the whole story, he said yes, I should get sealer, I bought my stuff and went home. 

Saturday morning I woke up to a text from my dad saying to call him before starting grout work. When I did, he said that, upon further thought, he didn't think the grout was the problem. He explained that grout is not supposed to be water-tight, which is why a water-proof backer-board goes behind the shower wall, and that any water that makes it behind the tile should get funneled back to the drain. This led him to believe that something more fundamental was wrong with our shower. So, back to emailing our builder contact. This time, I included photos of the water damage to the ceiling and the area of the shower where the plumber had indicated lack of grout.

Long story short, it took a month before they scheduled a time to come take a look. Luckily, we have two other full bathrooms, so we started using the guest bathroom across the hall from our bedroom. Both Zach and I realized how much we love having a huge window that lets tons of light into our bathroom; the guest bathroom seems very dark in comparison.

And when the shower guys came last Friday to take a look, what was the first thing they said? You seem to be missing a lot of grout; fixing that should solve your leak. I said that I was under the impression that grout was not water-proof and so shouldn't matter that much, but they assured me that the grout was the problem and got to work fixing it (with the grout I had bought, so at least that wasn't a total waste). They said they would come back Monday to do some caulking as well and then fix the hole the plumber had cut in the ceiling. 

Being a big believer in my dad, I remained skeptical that simply fixing the grout would solve the leak. As instructed, we waited 24 hours, then turned on the shower for a test run. We anxiously watched the hole in the ceiling for several minutes, but no water came through. So Sunday and Monday, Zach and I went back to using our shower, keeping a towel under the hole in the living room ceiling, so we could tell if there was anymore leaking. However, no such leaking occurred, so when the shower guys came back on Monday, I let them fix the hole in parallel with caulking, since the grout seemed to have been the main solution. Even starting first thing in the morning, they weren't going to have time to get the ceiling hole sanded and painted, since the drywall compound/spackle/whatever would take hours to dry. They said they could come back the next day, but I didn't want to take anymore time off work for this, so I told them I could handle the sanding and painting part. After all, I'd done it before (though for smaller holes) when the electrician cut holes in our wall and ceiling.

So that was my project last weekend -- sanding and painting the patched hole in our living room ceiling. And thinking about how, if I hadn't listened to my dad, we could have had our shower and ceiling fixed (albeit by me, not professionals) a month ago. 

Now, you may recall that at the beginning of this post I said that I painted THIS weekend, and just now I said I painted LAST weekend. Yeah, I did both. 

When we bought our house, the builders left us a quart of wall/ceiling paint. After some other patching projects and using the paint for my side tables, I was getting kind of low, so I took the paint to Sherwin Williams to get matched. They looked at my leftover quart and said that it was actually their paint, but that paint and color are only available in a 5-gallon bucket. Well, I didn't really want 5 gallons, so I asked them to just match it. They said OK, but they couldn't guarantee it would match 100%; however, when they did a test bit alongside the old paint, I had a hard time telling where the old paint stopped and the new one started. 

When I went to paint the patched ceiling, I didn't think I'd have enough of the old paint to finish, especially if I ended up needing two coats, so I decided to mix in about an equal part of the new paint to even out the color and help the new paint match even better. Then I painted. And the new paint didn't match even a little. WHAT!? Yeah.

So I emailed our wonderful builder contact, said how pleased we were with the fixed leak, then begged for another quart of paint. And Thursday I came home from work to a little can of Cool Platinum waiting for me on the front step. So Friday evening, it was back to painting the ceiling. Since the new color was darker than the original, I figured I'd probably have to do two coats, but after the first coat, I couldn't tell where the ceiling had been patched, so I decided to call it good. Now we finally have our living room back together! I hope you managed to hang in for this really long story. Wasn't it totally worth it? Yeah, I thought so too :-)