27 Aug



Hate to say it, but summer is wrapping up and as I got closer to the idea of school starting again I realized that I was going to have to start taking my To Do List a little bit more seriously. There were thee things on it that I had been putting off – add a flagstone retaining wall around the front flower beds, replace the furnace and change the railing on the front steps.

Knowing nothing about building a railing. I decided that building one would be the easiest (and cheapest) task to knock of. Believe it or not, I was right. I don’t even have a long story about all the things that went wrong or how I went insanely over budget. I even did it on one Saturday afternoon. Win.

There were some moderately tricky parts which I will outline below here:

Figuring out the angles was just a little slow, and I’m sure that there are fancy ways of doing it but I don’t really care. I just took whatever needed to be cut and used my miter saw to just trim a tiny bit off at a time until I found the cut that worked. It took a little extra time but I didn’t really mind. Turned out my spindles needed to be cut at about 35 degrees for anyone who might be wondering where a good starting point is.

I wasn’t really sure how railings were built. Thankfully, it was easy to find out. All I had to do is look around my street and there were all kinds of good (and bad) examples to consider. I then went to the hardware store and looked at the pieces and parts they had and kind of assembled it in my shopping cart based on what I saw on my street and what I knew I wanted it to look like.

The other part that was a little challenging was attaching the posts to the step. Most people lag bolt them into the sides of the steps. But that was not the look I was going for. So I was able to use a metal Strong Tie which I found at the hardware store to make the attachment. This way my post sits on  top of the step which I think looks more traditional. later I’ll cover the metal with some base moulding.

The last hard part was when I needed screw or toenail the railing tops and bottoms into the bottom post. It takes a little finess to get it right and done solidly since you are coming in from the bottom and the spindles (on the top) and the steps (on the bottom) are in  the way. At any rate, I did a mediocre job at this.

But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. You know why? Because the railing is totally solid and looks just like it has always been there (or it will, once I paint it).







Fresh Blacktop

20 Jun





So, I realize driveways are not exactly the most glamorous things to read about but I’m going to write about mine anyway. Aside from the fact that longtime readers will know that this driveway has been nothing short of a saga, it’s a been a real game changer for me. Coming home after work and pulling onto a flat, solid and tidy surface makes me feel much better about coming home. The first thought when I arrive home is no longer a reminder that I need to have this damn driveway paved. Its also a much nicer greeting to visitors in contrast to the faded, buckled and crumbling one I had before.

I had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that driveways are not DIY projects. I think in part to quell my fears, I had about 10 estimates done; which was about five more than I really needed. I talked to neighbors, checked references, made spreadsheets and found phone book coupons. In the end, I went with a local company who exceeded my expectations in professionalism and quality. They worked with me to solve an issue I had with drainage and worked incredibly neatly along my flower beds as well as in between the house and the fence, which I’m sure was no easy feat.

Do I wish it was done with stone, pavers or stamped concrete? Yes I do, but the return on investment was just not there. So, in the end it was a practical choice and I’m happy with it.

After it was all done I realized the walkway to my front porch looked like trash so I removed all the old pavers, rebuilt the base with new sand and stone and then laid them back down. I would have liked to replace the existing concrete pavers with brick or tumbled cobblestone, but I decided to use what I had. The more I thought about it I liked the contemporary twist that the larger, sleeker concrete pavers gave in juxtaposition to the house anyway.



I did have to purchase a few new ones, that’s why some are brighter than others, but after a while I’m sure that the colors will bend. You might also notice the unpainted section on the steps. That’s there because when I replaced the pavers I had to remove the front steps and the railing that was attached to them. That railing needed to go eventually since it was an aluminum one that was likely done whenever they put the siding on the house. This summer I plan to fix that by  building a new wooden one in the Craftsman Style to suit the house. If you look closely you’ll see that this picture also is a good way to get a glimpse at the twin house next door built just one year prior to mine in 1929.

Both the new walk and the new driveway need to mellow out a bit and then I can seal the driveway and contemplate staining the concrete pavers down to a richer, less concrete-y color.

In the meantime, I’m going to start gathering ideas for that railing.

IBB Myth Busters Edition

23 May

I finished off the floors a few weeks ago and I ‘m happy with the way that the project turned out. During the process I was pleasantly surprised to find out a few of the things I thought were not true.

Myth one: Its expensive
It was really not that expensive and not as difficult as I thought it might be. The biggest expense in the whole project were the sanding pads and the polyurethane. I think I spent $400 total.

Myth Two: Its labor intensive:
I rented an orbital floor sander from Lowe’s and was able to do all four rooms and the hallway in one day. Most of the time I was just standing around holding the sander. As for the staining and poly. It was even easier.

Myth Three: Its dusty:
True, there was dust; but not nearly as much as I thought there would be. The sander really helped out a lot in this regard as it had a built in vacuum which sucked almost everything up. Including every elusive pine needle form the Christmas Trees of the last 75 years. 

Myth Four: Its stinky:
Ok, that one is true.

While doing the sanding I came to the conclusion that this is the first time my floors have ever been refinished. The boards were extremely uneven. It took a while to get every part of each board sanded down when some boards were lower than others. The floorboards are narrow and very thin, almost like yardsticks, and they are face nailed down to the subfloor.  I don’t think the floors were ever sanded down as a whole together. If they were there would be no way that they could have been so irregular. Is it possible that these were prefinished and then installed?

Once the finish was all off and I used all three grits of sandpaper, I stained the floors with a 50/50 mix of English Chestnut and Provincial stains. I did this because I wanted to go darker and I though that this mix looked best with the Gumwood baseboards. Speaking of the baseboards I also sanded the toe kick (because they were really beat up) on all of them and then applied a mix of Gunstock with a touch of Chestnut which matched the color of the rest of the Gumwood right on. 

Finally, I used three coats of water based poly to protect the floors. I suppose oil might have been better but the water based dries much faster and frankly, I needed my house back.





PS. Guess who’s getting a new driveway today?

Preparing To Refinish The Floors

30 Mar


In about two weeks I’m going to be ready to refinish my floors. I’ve left this project for the end because I ‘m not the neatest painter and for the first couple of years that I owned the house there was a lot of painting going on and furniture that was moving around. The floors don’t look too bad from far away but in person, there are many areas that are discolored, scratched, uneven or worn. Refinishing the floors is going to take a little gumption though since the entire house, aside form the kitchen and the bathroom contains hardwoods.

I know that there are lots of folks out there who have already been through this process so I’m looking for any tips or pieces of advice. Specifically in regard to the following:

Should I do half of the house at a time or the whole thing at once (remember I only have 860 sq. feet).
What about changing the color to a 50/50 mix of English Chestnut and Provincial wood stains?
Is Minwax the way to go?
What’s the best product to seal the floors with? Is it easy to work with? 
Just how much dust is this going to make? Is it worth the trouble to seal off the house with plastic?
What is the best way to apply the stain and sealer?

I’m also wondering about what to do about these small gaps you can see in this picture. In two of the highest traffic areas of the house there are these small gaps in between a couple of the planks caused by wear. Can I fill these with wood putty, just ignore them, replace the entire plank? What’s the best thing to do here? 

And how about that shoe molding? It matches the Gumwood baseboard but its very worn in some spots, should this be sanded and re-shellacked? If so what’s the best way to do that?

Neighborhood Association

1 Mar

When I was house shopping, I never imagined that I was going to buy a house in the suburbs. However, here I am – three years later in the ‘burbs. I’m only a couple miles from the city line, heck  I could walk there if I wanted to and people who are more in shape than I am can, and do, run back and fourth but that’s not for me.It’s an inner-ring suburb so from the looks of it, you might guess my neighborhood was in the city anyways, the houses are close and there are lots of trees, we have sidewalks, street lamps and the houses are all old and each different. So it has a lot of the character of the city.Thankfully,  I know a lot of my neighbors. Mostly because I am nosey, really, really nosey; but I think that being nosey is a quality of a good neighbor. Anyways, I’ve decided to build a little community around these parts and see about meeting the rest of them. Or at least officially sanction my nosiness.

It all started about a month ago. I laid out a map and drew a circle around all the streets near me and then I made a flier. I stuffed fliers in each of the 700 doors inside the circle I drew. The flier stated that I was starting a neighborhood association and that we would be having a meeting in a few weeks. I was worried that nobody would show up. I made a nice little agenda, bought some tiny cookies and stood at the doors to the little church with big red doors that offered me a space to use.


I waited…

and I waited…

and I waited…

It was dark and cold out so I had to keep blowing on my hands in order to keep them from freezing.

I suppose that when you go to a meeting in the dark, at a rather isolated little church, in response to a random flier stuck in your door its not exactly an event that you want to arrive early to. In fact, if it were me it might be something I’d try to arrive a few minutes late to and survey the activity at and then decide what I was going to do. But I guess that that’s not my neighbors. My neighbors came and they filled the little room in the little church with the big red doors. By the time the meeting was over we had almost 40 people inside. I was pretty flabbergasted.

So on Monday we’re going to have our second meeting and I feel hopeful about it.

Deadbeat Blogger

2 Feb

I have not posted in quite a while. The reality of the situation is that there really hasn’t been that much to talk about. After the kitchen was finished off this summer, school started and I was dead to the world for about two months while I worked feverishly to get back in the saddle in a new school and with a new content area. Then the holidays came and my focus was diverted again. Now that its January I thought I’d update and bring the blog readers (if there are any of you left) up to speed.

First and foremost, the magazine article I mentioned forever ago finally came out this fall. I was really thrilled with the exposure and felt really validated after all my toil on the house. It was photographed by Girdley & Graves and  published in the spring issue of Small Room Decorating and will be on stands until February, 24th so it’s not too late to get a copy.





In November I got a great deal on  beautiful Jenny Lind style bed for the spare bedroom at an antique shop nearby.


And in December I tore open the attic floor and installed two light fixtures. One over my kitchen sink and another over the bathroom vanity.



And so that’s pretty much all that’s new. Exciting huh?

Truth is… I’m working on saving up for the driveway and want it done as  soon as the weather breaks the spring. So  a lot of frivolous house projects have taken a back seat. I am tired of talking about it, looking at it and trying to shovel snow off the uneven pavement. I’ve saved half of the money so far and am in a good position  to be ready by May. I should say though, that I’m not putting in crushed stone. I’m just going to pave it and be done with it.

There are a few pre-approved items which will be completed during the project freeze and those are refinishing the floors over Spring Break (myself) and once the driveway goes in I’m going to make some minor modifications to the short front walk and steps, mainly revolving around new pavers and replacing the short aluminum railing with a more appropriate wooden one. This fall I will also replace the oil furnace with a favorable financing deal from NYSERTA which is actually going to be saving me about $100.00 a month, rather immediately. Lastly, in the further off future I may look into finishing the attic in to a master bedroom and small second bath.

And that my friends, will be a wrap. I’ve got to stop tinkering and learn when it is appropriate to call it quits. I’ll be nearing the maximum return on investment value  at that point but with a healthy lead. Which might just lead to bigger and better things down the road.

I’ll also encourage you to follow along on Instagram at Ittybittybungalow


Kitchen Completion

17 Aug



Alright! the big,giant, never-ending house project list is starting to wrap up. The latest item to be removed was the kitchen. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spent a lot of time finishing out the space to be more like what I want, and to make it more functional. To start, I removed the old countertops which I had painted with the Rustoleum countertop paint and replaced them with butcher block which I stained and sealed. I knew I wanted them to be dark and I also knew I was never going to be cutting on them so I didn’t really care if they were food safe. The stain I used was Special Walnut and then I sealed them with several coats of oil based glossy poly. The countertops came from Lumber Liquidators and I got an eight foot section for about three hundred dollars, which was much more reasonable than a Granite or Soapstone remnant . As far as installation was concerned it was easy peasy. Thankfully, my Ikea Domsjo Sink was square and went the entire distance from the wall to the front of the countertop so I only had to make two cuts in the butcher block. I then placed it on the the counter top, leveled it, and screwed it in from the bottom with L brackets.

Here was the kitchen before, with the old doors, sink and countertop:
(it looks cute in that picture but I was very hard to keep clean)



Next, I added the sink which just sort of dropped in and hung on the edges of the countertop. Once that was placed properly. I used compression fittings to add a dishwasher hook-up and then installed the new faucet. I really wanted to stay with a double handle but the sink only had one hole (it had places to drill more, but that seemed to risky) so I compromised on a single handle with pull out sprayer which is a little modern for my taste but it works well. I then added a garbage disposal.

That old sink might have looked good in that before photo, but here is how I looked most of the time:

Here is the new gaint sink:


With the sink in working order I ventured on to the dishwasher. The dishwasher was the whole reason this project got started. I knew I needed a compact model but they were so expensive. They ran from about 400 dollars to anywhere near 700. So I happened to be trolling around Craigslist when I saw one about an hour away in Naples, NY. It was a better model than I was planning on purchasing and looked to be in good condition. Needless to say I was off for an afternoon road trip through the Finger Lakes wine country. When I got there I noticed it had a small dent in the front panel and the kickplate was missing, allowing me to talk them down from 100 dollars to 80. Sold. When I came home and installed it I called Sears and ordered the missing kickplate. I almost ordered a new front panel but when it was installed you could barley tell that there was a scratch so I figured I’d let it go for now.


The last(ish) thing that I needed to do was sort out what I was going to do with the cabinet doors. I had gotten quotes for all new cabinets in the week prior. I needed about four cabinets, Two uppers and two lowers but no matter how I laid out the stock cabinet options I was loosing space or was not going to be able to center my sink on the window. Plus all the cabinets I was willing to buy were not as well built as my current, solid wood, 50’s custom numbers. So… I bought a table saw and with the help of Old Town Home and this old timer on YouTube built my own. Now I am not a woodworker and have zero skill in this area. I have to say aside from a few issues, the doors turned out great and I’m pretty happy with them.



So with all this done, I’m in a pretty good house project position. I’d say we are leaving the renovation zone and headed into the maintenance/task zone and it feels great. The big projects that are left are to refinish my floors and do something about that driveway, and in the distant future change my furnace from oil to gas. And that’s it, even better is that only one project (the floors) is really a DIY job so I’m mostly off the hook.

Before I sign off, I have to mention that that yellow/gold color of my kitchen does not read well in any images I take.I’d say it looks most true in the second/before image and to be honest I’ve flirted with the idea of changing it to taupe several times. My main concern is that they yellow with the check floor reads too retro while I’m aiming for more of a vintage/classic look. I’d like some feed back on that so chime in.


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