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Old 09-25-2011, 09:31 PM   #106
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1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project


The wife and I went from a $140/month cable + internet bill, to a $40/month internet bill. When I deployed, I taught her how to use Hulu and how to watch her shows for free with other means. So, why not just cancel your cable? Get like an AppleTV, jailbreak it and stream movies/tv shows/etc from your computer to AppleTV through your network?

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Old 09-25-2011, 11:00 PM   #107
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That's certainly an option we've explored. I have a buddy who's a CSM at Comcast, so he hooked us up on this amazing 6 mos intro rate. It blew away anything that they offered on the website or when I called in.

I'm testing right now to see what our data usage looks like. We've got two smart TVs and a web-connected Blu-ray player, and I've been keeping an eye out on Roku's. I may end up with a Boxee, we'll see. We do take advantage of my Amazon Prime membership and, until this last week, we were considering going with Netflix streaming.

Once this promo period is over (end of December), we'll probably be keeping the connection and dropping the TV, doing much the same as what you suggested. We may have to switch over to a business-class connection to bypass the 250gb/mo cap, but so far the constant stream of free Blockbuster Express rental codes are keeping us rather well stocked with free movies (and thus keeping the bandwidth low).
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:01 PM   #108
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1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project


How the time flies! Lets see... what's happened recently.

This weekend was one of the few where I haven't been volunteering for a MADD-style foundation, so I certainly took the opportunity to have a drink or two. It's amazing just how nice a well-paired flavored Vodka & Kool-Aid can taste at the end of a autumn day. I was tempted to attempt a sangria from my one buck chuck, but decided to experiment another time. While I would typically rather have a red-base sangria, I think the chardonnay could make for a very light-spirited, refreshing white version. I think I'm going to go a non-traditional route with some fruit liqueur in place of fruit brandy, frozen juice concentrate (Hawaii's own, perhaps) in place of fruit juice and fresh strawberries and strained pomegranate from the tree out back. Anyhow...

Not too terribly much has happened with the house since last I posted. I chipped some of the excess grout to the desired shape in the laundry room, then we sealed it with a light coat first, and then a very liberal application second. The water heater, washer and dryer went back in, and we've gotten caught back up on laundry. I certainly didn't expect we'd fall that far behind. The result is beautiful, but something seems to still be off-gassing, as the room will get a somewhat musty masonry smell if left closed up all day. We assume this will fade to nothing, given enough time. I cut the trim pieces on the rear door a bit higher so we could reinsert the threshold after it gets sanded a new coat of black spray, but we haven't installed it yet. I think we're leaning in the direction of drilling through with a masonry bit, then insert soft lead anchors to bolt into. If any masons have a better idea, I'd love to hear it.

I finally took back all of those Lowe's receipts that didn't have the 10% discount applied. Unfortunately, it's not a simple matter of scanning the receipt barcode and then returning 10% back - no, that would be too easy. Only the shift's head cashier can handle these type of requests, and they are forced to return each item one-by-one from the original receipt at full price, then re-sell it all at the discounted price. This ended up with me standing at the returns desk for nearly an hour while a fistful of receipts were returned and re-rung. To compound matters, I brought back a handful of items I didn't use in the projects - a spare inner gutter corner, some 3/16" spacers I decided against using, a bottle of de-hazer, etc - so the complexity of the process magnified when some of the items came up "insufficient quantity - already returned". To make matters worse, I shop at 3 locations (depending on what other errands I need to run), so many had to be overridden, and different transactions used different combinations of cash, debit, and credit.

I ended up with, as best I can tell, nearly $200 back after returns and adjustments, some cash, some credited to debit account, some credited to some credit card or another. The cash went right back into the ATM, and I managed to avoid buying a single thing. I really had my eyes on replacing the odd, worn mixture of knob styles, manufacturers, and finishes with a new Schlage set in brushed nickel, shown here...

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...but I somehow managed to keep my money in my pocket.

The wife's medical and dental goes live tomorrow, so I imagine I'll need to keep a fair bit around for co-pays and whatnot this month, as she's been uninsured for quite some time. My car needs to have the registration renewed, and hers needs to be registered in this state. I just switched my homeowner's/auto policy from Liberty to AAA, saving about $20/mo for myself, and another $25/mo when I switched her insurance to my policy. Every penny counts.

The county tax bill arrived, so I spent half a day sorting out the particulars with my lender to pay it from the impound account, and for the county to be prepared to accept it. Also had to fiddle with the impound account when switching insurance policies around, oh boy. The joys of the first home purchase!

Finally located the socket cover for the wife's motherboard, so it finally went out for RMA. Also tested each stick of RAM in both computers one-by-one for two hours, and found two failed sticks. Their RMAs have been created, but I forgot to ship them yesterday, so they'll go out tomorrow.

Couponed my way through another 40% off grocery trip, this time full of essentials like ground beef, canned chicken and bread. I'm sure it would have been much more savings if I had bought massive amounts of junk like they do on that TV show. Looking forward to another high-savings trip next week at the not-for-profit Commissary prices.

Also been trying to pick up reading a bit more. Worked my way about a third of the way through Cataclysm: General Hap Arnold and the Defeat of Japan by Herman Wolk and almost half of the way through Dune by Frank Herbert. All I can say is wow... what a novel! But it is certainly a long read. Have the second one set up to go afterwards. Also picked up a couple history books from a county library book sale, the second book from Asimov's Foundation series, and the first Wheel of Time novel. Just the Dune series alone could keep a guy busy for a year, so I expect by the time I finish it, I'll have pieced together a full second-hand set of the Foundation and Wheel of Time anthologies.

And... hmmmm... yeah, not much else. Little done to the house. Trying to find the projects that use materials I already have, so... the next projects will probably to slap a coat or two of paint on the office (or master bedroom), run some more grounds to existing outlets, and maybe refinish the front door.

Anyhow, it's bed time. Goodnight.

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Old 09-30-2011, 04:30 PM   #109
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1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project


Quote:
Originally Posted by Thadius856 View Post
I like those knobs. The ones I went with were very similar in the master bedroom and eventually I'll put them in the rest of the house. I'm hoping Home Depot doesn't decide to stop making the ones I have started using. I guess I need to wise up and just buy 20 or 30 eh?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Thadius856;739007[/ATTACH
And... hmmmm... yeah, not much else. Little done to the house. Trying to find the projects that use materials I already have, so... the next projects will probably to slap a coat or two of paint on the office (or master bedroom), run some more grounds to existing outlets, and maybe refinish the front door.
What's this grounding you speak of? Can I get a how-to? We are all ungrounded in our house. While we will be rerunning all the wire to the kitchen and bathrooms, every othe room is fine, but I'd like to ground some of the outlets. Have any good information for me bud?

And I know how you feel with the house - sometimes you just need to take a breather I think.

Thanks,
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:55 PM   #110
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1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project


Need a breather? Hardly. Finances necessitate it.

As for grounding, I remove the receptacle cover, receptacle and electrical box. A 3/8x54 cable bit goes down in the wall cavity, then I drill through the subfloor at an angle (in case I land on a stringer, so I don't have to drill another 6 inches or so). A piece of 14 gauge green THHN is attached from the crawlspace to the bit, the bit is raised back out of the hole with the wire, and the receptacle put back together and reinstalled with pigtails. I run the new conductor to a central junction box I installed and connect it to a homerun back to the ground bar in the main panel.

It goes much faster and easier with the carpenter topside working the boxes while I do the work in the crawlspace. By the time he has gone to the next box, I've run the line to the junction and stapled appropriately. I do the connections in the junction after we've done our fill of receptacles, while he reattaches the wiring.

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Old 10-05-2011, 01:25 PM   #111
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Been a few days since I last posted. I'm going to try to post daily from here on out, but no promises just yet while I try to work it back into my work schedule. Lately, most things seem to be revolving around the first rains of the season.

The forecast called for rain the last night and the night before and beautiful days between. I welcomed it, as we haven't seen rain since we moved out here in last April (not counting one night of 0.01" light drizzle that lasted all of 5 minutes). Of course, the first decent rain in a new home is always a nail-biting mix of excitement and fear that the roof will hold up well. I've been keeping a close eye on the corners of each room for runs in the paint and haven't seen any new ones yet... I made sure to sand the old runs down a bit when we were painting so I could tell if they started running again. So far, we look good.

The carpenter's been keeping an eye on the gutters for leaks, for much the same reason. So far they're holding well against the fascia everywhere, but we've discovered leaks on a few of the splice pieces, even though they've been gooped up well with sealant. We'll be re-coating once we get a dry day again. All of the downspouts seem to be well-placed, and I think we've alleviated the water sitting against the foundation on the front (Southeast) wall as much as possible without putting in a french drain.

Unfortunately, the older gentleman two doors down still doesn't have his roof done. The thing was obviously lumpy when seen from the street when he started, so we knew he'd find some warped wood in places and quite a few sagging rafters. My guess was that they'd been too widely spaced when it was added on - all houses in this tract started with a flat chip roof, and about 15% still have them. When the shingles and paper came off, he exposed the same 1x6 sheathing that I have.

Instead of replacing the sagging rafters, it looks like he just threw some solid decking on top and somehow hoped it would pull it flat... fat chance of decking pulling 20-plus-year-old rafters in any meaningful way. I think he knew it wouldn't be a permanent solution, as the dips would cause water to sit in places, but kept going anyway. The unevenness will still be visible once he's done.

To his credit, he did extend and overhang past the front door and paper the whole thing quickly. But then work seemed to grind to a halt for a week, when I'm told he found rot in the rear (where we can't see his progress). It must be fixed now, because he's moving along again. However, he only had the additional overhang over the front door and paper and composite shingle bundles up top when yesterday's rain came. No tarps. He got the new overhang and about 5 rows done on the front before last night's rain. He's back up there today, but I doubt he'll have even the front half done before tonight's rain hits. I seem to remember doing much larger areas much faster as a helper, without the benefit of his compressor and gun, so I'm not sure what's holding him up. A plain rectanglular floorplan of ~1200 sq ft, at 4/12, with only one ridge, seems like it would go fairly fast.
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:53 PM   #112
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1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project


Anyhow, onto some (half-) real progress!

The office has been re-tidied up about 10 times now, but we're still waiting for the wife's motherboard to return from RMA, the wife's RAM is still being RMA'd, and the printer is still broken (out of warranty). That presents two majors problems: there's no use putting her case back together since I'll just have it tear it all apart again, and we can't afford a decent printer replacement at the moment. That means both are splayed open on the floor!

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My desk seems to get fuller, then emptier, with each passing day. Stamps for bills, paperwork, etc. just seems to keep building up with no other place to put it. Thus, the wife started cleaning up the "junk drawer". It's now relocated deeper into the kitchen instead of being the furthest outmost drawer (which I dislike, but it's her domain) and is much emptier than it was previously. Most small hand tools have been moved back to my project box, and others out into the tool shed.

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Since the printer's out of warranty, and cost me more than $200, I figured I'd give it a go at repairing it. All I have to do is get one dislodged arm of the CD tray back into its correct position, but I can't find a way to do that without disassembling the entire thing. Servicing it may easily run the price of a replacement. At this point, I have nothing to lose by trying to repair it myself (since it's worth $0 in its current state), but it's slow going. There are so many hidden screws and tabs, very tight working spaces, and absolutely ZERO instructions or how-to's or people's experiences in doing so online. If I could just remove the lid it would be so much easier, but it's held on some way that I just can't seem to understand.

I'm a very... organized person. The fact that it won't turn on to even let me scan annoys the bejebus out of me, since I normally scan and shred everything short of Birth Certificates and other official documents. The pile of paperwork is probably passing 500 sheets now, with a stack of handwritten notes and many receipts that I need to get scanned in before they fade. I expect my home improvement deduction will be pretty large this year.

Also notice the extension cords, power taps and surge protectors. There's only one outlet in the entire fracking room. That's going to change in a radical way.

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The wife and I try to supplement our food budget as best as possible with a combination of shopping at the base commissary, couponing, and not eating out. It's certainly not easy to feed 3 people on an E-3's pay! While we're nowhere near the ridiculousness of that Extreme Couponing show, I find it's necessary to have good organization to get anywhere in the process. We skipped over the cut-coupons-in-giant-binder method for the whole-inserts-in-filing-cabinet method, and have saved tons of time not clipping coupons we'd never use.

It was a pretty lengthy undertaking to get it all together, probably no less than 15 hours of sorting, labeling, ordering, etc. The stack not in the filing cabinet is half of our expired coupons that we'll be sending to military familiar stationed overseas (where they can use coupons up to six months past expiration).

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Old 10-05-2011, 02:05 PM   #113
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The house next door finally closed the sale. After the $20k in termite damage and rot, it passed inspection. However, I'm told the realtor contracted out a ton of tiny jobs (like re-painting the front door trim) that ate away quickly at what the last owners got for it. It's a shame too, because they were a very nice family, and just wanted to get the deceased mother's house sold before it went into disrepair.

The electrical company was out to the rear of the house no less than half a dozen times doing a fair amount of work. The overall goal seemed to be to replace the old meter with a new smart meter, as well as one for the gas line. It looks like the house was on less than 100 amp service, had both ancient meters, had a very worn weatherhead, needed the drop from the pole replaced, and was still on a fuse box. I shudder to think of what it cost if the utility company wanted all required and piping up to code before they'd allow for the main panel to be replaced. I don't know if they did, or who put up the cash for it, but it wouldn't have been cheap.

There's nothing new to take a picture of - the grass is still overgrown, the windows still don't have coverings, the landscaping hasn't changed - as the new owners are still moving everything in. They're a mid-twenties couple who seem fairly nice, though we haven't really talked too much yet.
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Old 10-05-2011, 02:34 PM   #114
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The wife worked last night, so dinner fell on me. Typically, I like to do a one-pan meal (brown hamburger, add with other things to crock pot or a Hamburger-helper type meal solution), but I wanted to be a little more traditional. I pulled together some pork strips front the freezer, some fajita seasoning, and red/green bells together for some amazing fajitas. In the process, I realized that the only pan we have was a 9". Cooking fajitas for 3 adults in something that size was certainly challenging.

It dawned on me that this alone must make cooking dinner incredibly frustrating for the wife. I wanted to wait for a good sale on Amazon and use up the last of my gift card, and some $5-off offers I have saved up, but it didn't seem right to make her wait for all of that. I picked her up a much nicer quality T-Fal Elegance 12.5" stainless saute pan (but still not pro-quality), and placed it on the stove with a pink bow.

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While I was at it, I realized we didn't have any glass casserole dishes, so I picked up a Pyrex 3-qt/2-qt combo set with lids...

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...and a Chicago Cutlery chef's knife, utility knife and paring knife to match the vegetable knife (note: the only half-decent knife) we already have.

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I also tossed a bag holder on the wall for her (up-side-down from what the instructions called for) that came with the absolutely worst quality anchors I've ever seen.

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And replaced our make-shift silverware tray repurposed as spice rack with a real one that folds down to be closer to her eye level.

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In the end, I won't get the door hardware, baseboards, etc. that I wanted because I used what I did on the kitchenware. It wasn't break-the-bank expensive stuff, but it isn't throwaway cheapo stuff either. Hopefully it all lasts us a very, very long time.

She was so happy that she ended up re-arranging the kitchen storage into a configuration that makes a lot more sense... except for the junk drawer.

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Old 10-05-2011, 02:57 PM   #115
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One last thing for the day before I get started on my other chores!

As I was writing my last post, the wife came into the room and showed me something she rigged up. I thought it was cute as hell and decided that I just had to share it with the world.

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At this point, I was thinking she just tossed some batteries in it or something. Hardly that simple.

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It's a makeshift key rack! It only seems to hold the two key sets that we never use, but hey, it didn't cost anything to repurpose!

Simply. Adorable.
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:03 PM   #116
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Apparently posting daily isn't so easy as I thought.

Have a new supervisor at work and, as expected, things have been turned on their head. He's a good guy, and I think he's looking out for me, but I'm now buried in work to try to get where he wants to me to be. Namely, he wants every action I've ever taken at work since I got here in April in a spreadsheet. I understand the importance for performance reports and awards packages, but it's simply not easy to go back and create such a document accurately in retrospect.

That aside, I had dental appointment #3 this morning. #1 and #2 tackled fillings on each side, and I expected this one to be a cleaning. Instead I had my gums poked with a sharp tool for a solid 30 minutes while the hygienist read off huge strings of single digit numbers and location terms that made my head spin. I did get a water picking that hurt a whole lot less than I expected and a third round of painted-on fluoride. This one was stronger and turned my stomach up-side-down in no time flat.

Now I have two followup cleanings. Why two? Because she wants to numb me up on each side, giving herself a full hour per side. It already sounds painful.

I started this weekend out with a 15 minute nap in the library parking lot, a scolding from a librarian, a solid 3 hours of sleep last night, and an attempt (in vain) to clear out the DVR box a little bit by watching consecutive episodes of How the Universe Works and Dark Matters: Twisted But True.

I'm putting off cleaning, grocery shopping and errand running until tomorrow morning. In the mean time, I managed to managed to fix an error with my PC's backups that had been plaguing it for a while. The dreaded "Error 0x81000031", which the description indicates is because of missing BitLocker encryption keys, despite the fact that my drives aren't encrypted. As it turns out, it can also happen if one of your Windows 7 libraries is unavailable at the time of backup, which is what happened when I moved my videos drive from Y: to X: without updating my Videos library link. Lame sauce.
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:20 PM   #117
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I already know that I won't be available very much tomorrow. I have to pick up something to grill, get some ideas ready for what to make, and all that jazz. My brother-in-law and two nephews are stopping by for the first time, so the wife's suddenly really into cleaning. She got called into work tonight, so it looks like I'll have to pick up some of the slack. I had originally planned this long weekend for the demo on the raised portion of the living room, but that's pushed off to the side now for family's sake.

In other news, I've been working on backups of my DVD collection. I came into a few box sets and quite an amount of not-so-great films a while back. However, I have this rule that I never watch the originals or put them out on a shelf because invariably somebody will mess them up or leave them out of the case for weeks on end. I've been slowly recopying them all to DVD-R so I can store the originals away, but it's a long process (especially for TV DVDs, which are always DVD-DLs and need to be split).

One of those box sets is the Battlestar Galactica set, including Razor and The Plan. I've only seen about half way into Season 4, so I'm really antsy to finish the series. The same is true for Stargate Universe, which I still haven't seen the last 10 episodes or so, and the whole last season of Doctor Who.

In the book world, I'm now piecing together print editions of Ender's, Foundation and Dune series. I'm stalled about half way through John Green's An Abundance of Katherines. I really like his writing style and the Vlog Brothers videos, but something about this book makes it feel like it's targeted at a much younger audience, and I'm a little disappointed at that. Perhaps I'll give Will Grayson, Will Grayson a try next.

Anybody have plans for a DIY time machine? Yeesh.

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Old 10-09-2011, 04:23 PM   #118
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Yesterday, as expected, was pretty hectic with family in town. We got to see my nephews and their father for quite a few hours, so I was pretty happy about that. They finally got their birthday presents, so they were just as excited. I think we all had a pretty good time.

Of course, that meant that the table needed to have the two additional leaves put in and the rest of the chairs brought out. This mean that the table needed to be moved into closer to the front door, which gave just the right amount of space. In fact, we like it so much where it is, it's going to stay there at the fully expanded size.

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They made off with close to 20 lbs of large, juicy pomegranates from the tree, and there's still plenty more left. The local birds have been going nuts on the husks we threw under the tree.

I went a little overboard with cooking. I dislike time spent cooking, though I very much enjoy the results, so I cooked a bit more than we needed. And when I say a bit more, I'm talking 12 1/3lb burgers, 10 chicken thighs and 10 hotdogs. There was certainly leftovers.

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I made a half dozen of the burgers with sharp cheddar and green chiles inside, covered in a pepper jack, and the other half dozen plain with some Worchestershire mixed in and covered in a mild cheddar. The green chiles really held in the moisture. The chicken thighs were marinaded and basted with a mixture of Maui Luau marinade mix, a can of pineapple chunks, a squeeze of honey and a small amount of Strawberry Smoothie for moisture. The result was a very crispy, sweet skin and a very moist meat. Mmmmm.

I also whipped together an traditional butter/brown sugar baked acorn squash and a 4lb butternut squash cubed in a garlic Parmesan sauce. Unfortunately, nothing special with the salad or hotdogs, as I ran out of prep time. I would have liked some giant croutons and almond slivers, but had neither on hand.

Desert was a store-bought coffee cake and a traditional American apple pie, with a side of french vanilla ice cream (or mint chocolate chip).

I made two pitchers of Sangria as well. The first was a mixture of the $1 Chardonnay, a tropical punch mixture and diced strawberries. The second included chunk peaches, raspberry juice and a mango-guava mixture.

Needless to say, I rolled to bed after packing up all the leftovers.

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The previous dining area is now empty, so we tossed a new rug on the spot. We found it on Craigslist for $50, though we think it was originally made as a tapestry since there's split rings on the back along one side. The lack of baseboards is really apparent now without the table to distract the eye, but we're okay with that.

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Old 10-09-2011, 04:31 PM   #119
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This morning we awoke to find a garage sale just a few houses down. Even after 10am, we were only the second customers. There were still some good finds left.

The first was a Time Life books series, ranging from Woodworking to Major Appliance repair. At $1/book, they were a steal.

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The wife found cookbooks. Need I say more?

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And a full set of dishes, setting for six. Not sure what we'll do when we have to serve eight, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. They're some Chinese Walmart brand and not top-quality, but we paid $10 for the whole set (while the sticker said $25).

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I also picked up a set of three older 4' pipe clamps for $5. They'll come in handy for re-gluing some of the chair legs today.
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Old 10-09-2011, 04:56 PM   #120
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1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project


Today's mini-project was removing the paint from the hallway hardwood. It seems that we're the only owners to have every drop-clothed the hallway while painting, so there was random smears and specks (from rollers) in trim white, the previous light brown color, and the dark blue-grey before that.

A latex paint remover seemed to do the trick pretty well. I spot tested to make sure it wasn't going to strip the entire floor. I sprayed, let sit for 1-2 minutes, then agitated with a Rubbermaid dish brush (the same amazingly sturdy one that scrubbed every inch of fence before staining and every inch of stucco before painting).

Before/After
1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project-165.jpg1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project-166.jpg
1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project-167.jpg1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project-168.jpg

Much of the roller spray I couldn't zoom in far enough to show. You'll just have to take my word on that one.

After all was done, I cleaned it all down with a bottle of orange-based oil and a Swiffer WetJet mop (without the Swiffer floor spray).

1958 Ranch Home, Full of Character - First Home, First Major Project-169.jpg

It still looks beat up without the baseboards, but at least now I know when I put them on that there won't be huge paint glops everywhere, texture overspray peaking out from behind, and the world's worst caulking job left over.

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Last edited by Thadius856; 10-09-2011 at 04:58 PM.
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