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

Friday, August 15, 2014

a new place for coats

This is another project that has been stewing around in my head for a long time. I really like wall-hung coat racks, and I like the idea of a place to display some little things in the entryway, so when I stumbled upon this post, it was just the sort of coat-hanging decorative shelf I wanted. And then it took me several months to get around to actually making it. Partly it took me so long because I don't own the necessary tools, and I don't like to impose on my friend too much, mostly because he usually helps me with my projects, which is really nice, but I know he has more than enough of his own house projects to work on. Also, other things kept coming up that seemed more time-critical. However, as mentioned here, I had my friend's tools living in my garage for awhile, so I finally got around to this project. The project instructions I found online consist of a large piece of crown moulding, two boards, and a smaller piece of moulding for a decorative bottom. 

The first thing to do, of course, was to pick out the moulding that I would use. There was a lot of looking at existing moulding in our house, on door frames, baseboards, and the fireplace mantle. Then there was a lot of looking at options on homedepot.com. I picked out a 9/16" x 3 5/8" crown moulding for the top of the shelf. It looked good in the picture and was available in the store. A lot of the moulding options online are not available in stores, which I find very annoying because moulding is, I feel, one of those things that is better to see in person. I went to the store and found that, then walked around the moulding aisles looking at all the options for a smaller moulding for the bottom. There actually weren't that many choices, in the end, so I just picked one.

The tutorial indicates that the top shelf board should have a rounded front edge. It briefly mentions cutting or sanding the edge to make this. I didn't have appropriate tools for cutting it, and sanding sounded like a lot of work, so instead I bought a piece of half-round moulding and glued and nailed it to the edge of my board.

Next, I glued and nailed the back piece to the shelf. It seems I was really focused on this project and forgot to take many pictures. I apologize. Next, I primed all the wood. The crown and bottom moulding pieces were pre-primed, so I primed all the bare wood before attaching those pieces.

I found this video that shows how to cut crown moulding to get the correct mitered angles. Basically, you set the miter saw at 45 degrees and hold the moulding as if you were holding it against the wall, only upside-down. This turned out to be really hard. I couldn't seem to get uniform cuts so the corners would line up nicely. When my dad was out helping with the stairs (which you can read about here and here), he helped me make a little jig to hold the moulding in place to get more even cuts. Then I was extra glad my dad was there because gluing and nailing the crown pieces together turned out to be a two-person job. My dad put glue on two pieces and held them together while I used my 23-gauge pin nailer to put a couple nails in to help hold things together while the glue dried. Then Dad helped me hold things in place again while I used my 18-gauge brad nailer to attach the crown to the top and back of the shelf. Things weren't quite square, so there were some minor gaps. At first, I thought I could cover it up during the painting process, but in the end, I ran a line of caulk around all the seams where the crown met the shelf.

After painting everything with the same white gloss I used on our trim, it was time to attach the shelf to the wall. I used a stud-finder to locate and mark the studs. I had hoped I could get things to line up such that the coat hooks could cover up the screws holding the shelf to the wall, but no such luck. I used 2.5" #14 wood screws. Zach held the shelf in place while I drilled pilot holes and put in the screws. We couldn't get the screws to go in flush with the wood, so I borrowed a special countersink drill bit from my friend and went back and redid all the holes.

The picture above only shows four screws, but I added two more in the middle stud. After the screws were all in slightly below flush with the wood, I filled over them with wood putty. I had to do a couple of coats to get the holes filled in well. After that was all dry, I painted over the holes for a seamless look. 

I ended up getting the coat hooks on amazon.com. I looked at Home Depot and Target, but they had pretty limited selections, and I didn't see anything that I like very much. It was annoying to have to put my project on hold until the hooks arrived, but it was worth it. I marked the screw holes for the hooks before putting the shelf on the wall, which made it easy to lay them all out, measure, and get them all aligned properly. Then after the shelf was screwed to the wall, it was just a matter of drilling pilot holes and screwing the hooks on.

This project definitely goes in the category of more work than originally anticipated, mainly due to the crown moulding. I'm really pleased with how it all turned out, though it has made me less interested in any other crown-related projects for awhile!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

trading carpet, part 2

And now, the conclusion...

I left off the last post with painting the landing with odor-sealing primer. While that was drying, Dad and I got started thinking about the stair treads. We gathered all the smallest pieces of flooring and measured how long they needed to be for each step. Since most of these small pieces would be cut from larger pieces, most of them would lose their tongue, which is supposed to fit into the groove in the back of the nose. Dad figured we could use the table saw to shave off part of the plank to create a tongue. I didn't get any pictures of this, so I'll just try to describe it. There should still be tongue sticking out on the side, so set the table saw height so the saw just comes to the bottom edge of that tongue. Measure how deep your tongue should be and set up a gate so you can get a nice, straight cut. Then just run the plank through at that depth, then slightly less and slightly less until you've shaved off all the way to the end. Now you have half a tongue. Then turn your plank upside down, reset the saw height as the two sides aren't necessarily equal, and do it again.

I worked on making tongues and Dad took the newly-tongued pieces and trimmed them to the correct length on the miter saw. When measuring the length, be sure not to include the tongue, or your piece will end up too short!

Once we had all the pieces cut, we laid them out on the step with the nose. Even with careful measuring and cutting, the pieces weren't all exactly the same length. This was OK since the step wasn't perfectly uniform depth all the way across. We did a lot of musical chairs slots to get the best fit of all pieces across the entire step. With all the pieces in, there was a gap at one side that was too narrow for a full plank-width to fit, so the last piece on each stair had to be custom cut to the necessary width.

Then it was time for gluing! The planks on the stair treads didn't get nailed in, just glued (with liquid nails, so in a sense, I guess they got nailed). After the planks were glue down, the stair noses got glued in. Then we taped the noses to the treads, both as a little extra security while they dried and to remind us not to walk on the stairs. It's important not to walk on the stairs for at least 24 hours while the glue sets. The glue can continue to harden and strengthen for up to a week, so, since we only had those couple of stairs, we stayed off of them for a whole week.

Now it was finally time for the feature presentation -- the landing! First, we cut and laid the underlayment. Underlayment helps keep the wood from creaking. It only came in a HUGE roll, but I figure I'll use it eventually when I get around to converting the rest of the stairs to hardwoods, which is definitely in the long-term plans.

Then we started planning the landing planks. We started by finding the longest pieces we had. We had two that were long enough to span the entire landing, so we put one of those near either side. Then we filled in with alternating sizes to give it the right sort of random offset pattern that wood floors have. The spacing of the planks on the landing didn't work out to match up perfectly with the planks in the powder room, leaving a narrow gap. More on that later. After we had our plan in place, we cut pieces as needed to get everything to fit just right and dry fit them one more time. Then we took most of the planks out, keeping them in order, and it was time to start nailing!

We started at the side next to the stairs, opposite the powder room, but we didn't start with the planks right up next to the stairs. There's a little jutting in part, and we thought it would be better to have the long plank fit next to there perfectly, instead of cutting a notch in it, which we would have to do if we started right up against the step. Also, the step wasn't perfectly square and level, so we'd have to do some fiddling with the pieces there for them to fit properly and line up with the truly straight planks of the rest of the landing. We worked our way across toward the powder room, fitting the planks in, tapping them into a nice, snug fit with a rubber mallet, and nailing them with the floor nailer. Eventually, we got too close to the wall to fit the floor nailer in, so then we just surface-nailed with my 16-gauge finish nailer. Then we custom-cut the pieces to go up next to the stair and glued them in place.

As you can see in the photos above, there was a gap between the end of the landing wood and the start of the powder room wood. It was pretty narrow, less than an inch in most places, but also not uniform. Instead of trying to custom cut and fit and glue in plank pieces, we got a matching T transition piece at Home Depot. We just set it in the gap and surface nailed it in place. It sticks up a little bit, but it blends in well and is barely noticeable. 

Now that the floor was in, we could put the baseboard back on and add shoe moulding. Now that the baseboard was going on top of the floor, we had to cut off the height of the floor, about 3/4". We did that with the table saw, then nailed it all back in place with the 16 gauge finish nailer. The baseboards had gotten a bit scuffed up taking them out, so I gave them all a fresh coat of the trim paint the builders had left for us. 

I had taken off a couple of pieces of the existing shoe moulding for installation of the bottom riser, so I took that to Home Depot to find a match. I added the moulding all around the landing and also along the bottom step to have continuity with what was already there.

And here are the stairs and landing with everything finished and the blue tape removed. I love how it looks, and we haven't had anymore cat problems there, so I'm glad we did it. Thanks for all the help, Dad!!