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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

christmas doors

OK, so I'm a little behind on my posts. Sorry about that. I have no good excuse, so I won't try to make one up. 

For Christmas, I promised Zach that I would make him doors to go on the display shelf I had made him for our anniversary. This project wasn't too hard; I pretty much whipped it off in a weekend. The main trick was just getting the pieces just the right size to fit in the grooves I'd already made in the shelf. I made each door 1/3rd the total width of the shelf, so one section would always be open and the other two sections would be closed.

I'd planned to use the same wood as for the rest of the shelf and had even done a dry test when I'd originally cut the grooves to make sure of the fit. But I guess with the addition of a couple of layers of paint it was just enough to make it too tight because when I cut my first piece and went downstairs to test it out, it was too wide to fit in the groove. So I figured down a bit narrower and went to Home Depot to see what I could find. What I found was pressed and sanded plywood for making cabinets that was just the right size. I was psyched to not have to get a giant sheet of plywood that wouldn't fit in my car. 

Each door took several iterations, from the initial cut, test the fit, then slowly sanding down more and more to get it just right (because I always erred on the side of a little too big to start), plus all the edges nice and smooth for good sliding action. Then it was time for priming with my usual Kilz latex, then painting with my usual Glidden black sample pot. I had also gotten handles to make it easy to grab and slide the doors back and forth.

Zach isn't one to get super excited about a lot of things, but he was impressed by the knobs, thinking they made the doors look fancy. And I think having the doors makes the shelf look a lot nicer overall, hiding most of the disembodied superhero heads from view!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

some things are better to not diy, but some things you have to

We have a cat room. I believe I've mentioned it before. It's one of the spare bedrooms in our house where the cats have a big cat tree and some climbing shelves, their food and most of their litter boxes. Plus we shut them in there at night so they don't bother us. They really like their room and hang out in there a lot during the day, even when they have full range of the house. 

Even after our forays into the world of animal behaviorists (which you can read about here and here), we still seem to go through phases of bad behavior in the cat room, though I'm happy that it's at least confined there. The problems are definitely worse at night, so it may have to do them being shut in there and just something we have to live with in order to get better sleep.

The real problem with all this is the floor. As mentioned above, the cat room is a spare bedroom. It is carpeted. When we first moved in and made it the cat room, we covered a significant portion of it with a plastic dropcloth and rubber puzzle mat, like they have in nursery schools for kids to play on. This has been a HUGE help in cleaning up messes, even just the litter and food crumbs that inevitably spill all over the place. However, it's not perfect. It buckles, and there are little cracks between the puzzle pieces, and every now and then we have to pull up most of the pieces and clean them, which is a hassle. Plus, the mat doesn't cover the entire floor, and recently the problem area has been in one of the few areas not covered by the puzzle mat, i.e. on carpet. This caused me to finally say enough is enough, we need to replace this carpet with something more cat-friendly.

My initial thought was ceramic or porcelain tile. I know that to be quite impervious to liquids. My dad had recently redone both the bathrooms in their house, so I called him up to see if he might be available sometime to come help. He said sure, but also brought up vinyl as a really good option. When I thought of vinyl, I thought of cheap old linoleum, thin and pealing and gross, but my dad said a lot of vinyl is thick and good and long-lasting. So I did some research and decided that vinyl sounded like it would be just as impervious for our needs as ceramic or porcelain and would be a lot less work and expense. 

Then came the decision of what kind of vinyl. Back when my parents put the vinyl in their laundry room that is still there today, there was only sheet vinyl. Today, there are also plank and tile vinyl and loose-lay vinyl. We visited a local flooring store, Bode Floors, to talk to some folks about what would be the best choice for our needs. Although the woman we spoke to and pretty much everything I read online claimed that any of the plank, tile or loose-lay options would be completely water-proof for our needs, I remained skeptical. Plus, like hardwoods, most of these options required an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. Even though moulding would cover it up, I still worried about liquid sneaking in there. After debating back and forth for a couple of weeks, we finally decided to go with the old sheet vinyl stand-by. 

I was told by both my dad and another DIY-er I trust that, if we chose sheet vinyl, we should not lay it ourselves. It's just big and heavy and awkward, and you have to lay it just right in a tight area. So, we listened. We went back to Bode Floors and ordered some floor to be installed. 

There was one part we DIY-ed though -- the carpet removal. We wanted to take it up to have time to clean any potential stains that may have made it to the subfloor. As we were going through the contract, it turned out we would have had to do it even if we hadn't wanted to -- their contract states that, for health reasons, they won't remove urine-soaked carpet. 

We scheduled the floor install for a Monday, so we'd have the weekend to clean out the room without having too long of a disruption to the cats. The initial part went pretty quickly -- take out the bookshelves, cat tree, litter boxes, assorted other miscellaneous bins and cat things that live in there. The toughest part was figuring out where to put the cats' food and litter boxes for the few days they'd be evicted from their room. Our house doesn't give us a lot of options. We settled on the dining room. Yay, litter boxes in the dining room. 

Next came pulling up the carpet. The guy from Bode Floors had told me exactly where to cut the carpet at the door threshold, which was very helpful because I would have cut it in the wrong place. You want the vinyl to only come to the inside of the door, so it kind of depends which side of the jamb your door sits on. If you close the door, it helps you visualize it. Indeed, the area of carpet and carpet padding near the door was super gross. We'd had it covered up with carpet runners for the past few weeks, which held the smell in, but pulling the carpet up let everything out. If only you could take pictures of smell. Actually, it's good we can't do that yet because it would be really nasty. 

Underneath that gross carpet were brown stains on the subfloor. I sprayed them liberally with Nature's Miracle. This has been our go-to cleaner. It's an enzymatic cleaner, so it breaks down all the urine into particles that don't smell anymore. I'm not saying this is better than any other enzymatic cleaner out there. It's just what we use. After letting it soak in for awhile and then letting it dry, I'd paint over it with Kilz primer to seal in any remaining odor, just like when I did the stairs

Zach pulled up all the tack-strips while I corralled all the carpet pad and disgusting carpet into trash bags. Since the cats really like to sit and roll around on carpet, we decided to keep some of the good condition carpet pieces for their room. The plan is to keep a few pieces, but just put out one at a time, so if they ruin it, there's more. Zach also did most of the staple-pulling. This is pretty much the worst part of removing carpeting, pulling out all the staples left behind from the carpet pad. He did great. Then it was vacuuming everywhere with the shop-vac to get all the little left-behind bits to leave a nice, relatively clean subfloor.

It turned out that some of the baseboard was also in pretty bad shape, so replacing that quickly got added to the to-do list and that "no, we shouldn't need any help" that we told our awesomest friends ever turned into a "yeah, actually, i could really use your help and your miter saw" phone call.

I had a big piece of baseboard that had somehow I guess been a free gift with purchase of the stair nose. Super weird, but it was in the box when that arrived, and I didn't seem to be charged for it, so I just stuck it in the garage. It looked super long, so we didn't actually measure it (bad idea), and just started cutting. Then it turned out to not be quite long enough. However, if we hadn't cut it, it would have been long enough for the main wall, and the old piece had a big enough good section to cut for the small wall. Of course, now we'd cut it up, so that wasn't going to work so well, so now it was off to Home Depot. Lesson: MEASURE FIRST. 

Actually, first it was off to homedepot.com to see if they even had anything in stock that would match. A lot of times, things are only available online. Luckily, we found something in stock that looked like it would be a close match. From the online description, it sounded exactly like our moulding, though when we found it in the store, it wasn't a perfect match. However, for the cat room, with a strict time deadline, I said close enough. 

We had now measured the exact amount we needed. We got the new baseboard cut and installed. Then we all ordered Chinese takeout to make all the work worth it.

Sunday, I finished up painting the floor (I did 2 coats). I also finished the baseboard, filling nail holes, caulking, painting. I also had to spackle patch up the wall a bit where the drywall had ripped up some when I was pulling the old baseboard out. 

Monday, the vinyl floor guys came. They put down additional plywood subfloor to get the new floor closer to carpet height. Then they laid the vinyl. It took several hours, a lot longer than I was expecting, but they did a great job, and we're very happy with the result. Plus, a few months in, and maybe only one peeing incident. We did also rearrange the cat room, the bookshelves and litter boxes to make it a bit more open where the litter boxes are. That may have helped as well. But we couldn't have done that with the old flooring arrangement. The cats also did so well for the few nights they were out of their room during the floor reno that we've also been letting them stay out of their room at night, so I'm sure that has helped as well.