Category Archives: home improvement


To give you an idea of what’s floating around in my mind tonight, I will tell you about some articles I’ve read tonight, in no particular order: scraping popcorn ceiling off, what asbestos is, what joint compound is, how to hang drywall, what metal beading is, how to apply joint compound to metal corner beading, and lastly, how to apply a skim coat to drywall. Judging by these topics it sounds like I’m going to gut a room and start from scratch. Luckily for everyone within a 10 mile radius, I’m not that ambitious (tonight).
Last night, we celebrated my youngest son’s 6th birthday. We had a little party here at the house with family and a couple friends, Batman themed. There are about two months between now and my oldest son’s 11th October birthday, plenty of time for us to get the playroom cleared out and prepared for him to move into it from a shared bedroom with his little brother. Maybe we will make a trip to goodwill tomorrow and stop at the hardware store for paint samples. I’d like a slate blue for that room, my son votes turquoise (?!). I am also anxious to rip up the carpeting in there and will probably put down some laminate flooring until I can get tile going.
As I watched videos here and there on the topics mentioned above, it occurred to me how familiar some things were to me, down to the boxes of product and the sound the knife made as it was scraping along the drywall. My dad was a carpenter for most of my childhood. I have no solid memory of ever watching him at work at any jobsite, but I could almost smell the compound as if I were in the room. A memory that’s lost without a tiny visual cue. I felt comfortable and at ease just watching. I also felt, as I watched one man mixing a little water into his compound, that each element of constructing, repairing, or resurfacing had its own set of supplies and techniques that all fit together. Layers that create a home. Each, to me, was its own art project. A tiny art project that I am fully capable of completing.


Your Drain Update, as Promised.

So, last week, I attempted to clear my shower drain the way I saw it done in videos and failed.


scene of the crime

To begin, I assembled all of my materials. Drain auger, standard screwdriver, rubber gloves, beer, newspaper,and courage. I started by unscrewing the plate underneath the faucet so as to work the snake down there and pull the clog out that way, clean and slick and all at once:

removing the plate

removing the plate

You can see that I have the newspaper over the drain for when I inevitably drop one of the screws and I am wearing my weekend jeans, just in case. I was paranoid about disgusting bugs climbing out of that dark hole and toward my face, just so you know. Once the metal plate was safely out of range of the drain (read on the floor outside and next to the tub), I got comfortable with shoving the business end of the snake down the pipe in efforts to find something to fish out:


Nothing. More shoving, more snaking, more snagging, more swearing.
Still nothing.
I haven’t been able to get the stopper out of the drain. I chalked it up to my lack of knowledge about different drains or else to HAIR holding it. I’ve been trying to unscrew it for months. I kind of started prying at it with the screwdiver. I don’t know what made me go get my little knife, but after I worked that around the base of the stopper, the damn thing finally came free.



Between my rubber-gloved hands, the snake, and the screwdriver, I removed the hair as best I could and snaked at the drain a little and very poorly. Then I flushed it with water and it’s been clear since then.



Week after next is the drain in the kitchen sink. I’m on vacation next week baby!

Step One

The drain in my shower upstairs is clogged. When I shower, water backs up and gets up to my ankles and drains very very slowly. It’s hair in there, I know it is. And I hate pulling hair out of drains. Who doesn’t, right? So step one was to check out for a video on how to clear the drain. This was the best one I found:

Informative and horrifying all in one. Entertainment, folks. This afternoon I gathered up some newspapers to catch the clog, a screwdriver for the plate in the tub, and my rubber gloves that thinly protect me from nasty things. I started to unscrew the screws and . . .


. . . paused to take a photo so you could see the process and what I found. I was looking for an attachment similar to the one in the above video that connects a long metal part from the plate down to a spring designed to hang near the drain and catch debris. The idea is that you can pull the plate off and with it the clog. Then you replace it and shower clog-free. I found that I have no such attachment and next week you will find a post from me on how to use a plumber’s auger, or rather, my experiences with a plumber’s auger. Also known as a “snake”. Sigh.

Take Your Time

Sit back, reader, and prepare to learn. Or laugh. Or yawn, roll your eyes, or X out of your browser. Today’s topic is Repair a Leaky Faucet. Officially. A few years ago I watched videos on how to do it. I don’t remember anything coming of it except for confidently dismantling my own faucets to clean them. I know, exciting! I noticed that the sinks in each of the bathrooms here in our humble abode occasionally leaked and it wasn’t until the boys left their sink stopped up one night and it was full of water the next morning that I knew we had an issue. I honestly put it off for so long because I’ve been irrationally dreaming about new vanities in each restroom and thought that repairing them meant accepting them forever.
So I began to review repair videos. This one I enjoy very much.

They pretty much all said the same thing, just a different moustache to pair with each sink. One comment did stand out to me though and that was to take your time and make sure you have everything you need. What a good point to make. Why rush through when the job will still get done and maybe done even better if I just take my time and enjoy it? I have both styles of screwdriver and a wrench and I’ve had “assorted washers” sitting in my glovebox for months from when I admitted to myself it was time to repair the faucets. I waited until after I picked the kids up from school to tackle this one. I have decided to give them every opportunity I can to learn about tools and building and breaking. I rounded up my wrench, my standard screwdriver, my phillip’s head screwdriver, the boys, and my washers and headed to their bathroom. We turned off the water supply to the sink and turned the faucets “on” just to be sure they were empty. We then plugged the sink, just like the video. I then removed the “decorative cap” from the handle like so:

caps off

After that, I unscrewed the center screw to release the handle from the valve beneath it. There was a plastic ring around the valve so I pulled that off too and arranged it so you can see all the pretty pieces. I would like to mention here that we took this opportunity to clean the handles.

handle off

These parts weren’t difficult to remove at all and didn’t have as much buildup on them as I thought they would. Next, my youngest helped me to pull the valves loose with the adjustable wrench we keep laying around:

loosen the valve

At last we could get a good view of the valve and this infamous washer I was supposed to remove, dispose of, and replace. valve removed

As you can see, there is no washer here. At least on the bottom. At this point the kids were ready to move on to something more exciting so I let them. I removed the other valve thinking that maybe this was just a singular washerless piece of equipment. None of the valves that I removed, including those upstairs, had a washer on the bottom like the ones in all the videos I so studiously watched.
I went back to the drawing board ( to try a more specific search on the valve, or “component” or to at least find a video that featured a faucet or valve similar to mine. So far and up to this minute, I have not found a video or product comparable to what I have in my hot little hand in that photo. No, no, it couldn’t be that easy.
I did inspect all four of the washers that are there and none seem to be cracked or damaged. They feel a little dry as far as rubber goes so I will replace them anyway. I just need to go to the hardware store again. I tried fitting some of the different washers on the valve at the bottom just in case they were just removed but never replaced. I put both faucets back together and this week I will replace the washers I do have just to be sure that they are not the cause of the dripping. Maybe that’ll do the trick.

I also wanted to briefly share with you all that the other day I came downstairs to find the ceiling fan not on. I usually leave it on just to circulate the air and I was upstairs showering while the boys played downstairs. I checked the switch and it was set to “on”, thinking the boys turned it off, flicked it on and off just in case, and checked to make sure the power was on. A few days later, I was relating this fact that the ceiling fan just stopped working when my eldest son interjected: “Mom, here’s what really happened. The other day I came home from school and took my shoes off and my socks off and I threw my socks up into the air and one got stuck on the fan! We had to get it off so we started throwing things at the fan — not heavy things — pillows and toys, to get it down. And then we threw a shoe at it and it finally came down but then the fa turned off.” I just stared at him. It’s incredible how many emotions we humans can feel at the same time. I was proud that he chose to come right out and tell me what happened, angry that he threw his socks, angry that he threw other stuff and disappointed that he didn’t find another way to get the sock down or at least come to me for help with it.
At least now I know.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Corn on the 4th of July!

We decided to have tacos for dinner on the 4th. You might be able to see in the photo above that I bought the burrito-sized tortillas so we ended up with burritos instead. Steak burritos with guacamole. And a couple beers for me. I was also the recipient of no less than four ears of corn courtesy of my mother, who bought them on sale. The boys and I could probably easily devour four innocent ears of corn on the cob in one sitting, but if you look at them all together, it looks like a hell of a lot of corn. Like magic, Bon Appetit magazine posted to Twitter:

Which led me to find this amazing recipe: Roasted Corn with Manchego and Lime. Never roasted corn in my oven before. I think I’ve shucked corn once. And I have never cut corn off of a cob before using anything but my teeth. This I sincerely believe I could not have done after three beers, people. But it turned out spicy and delicious and I should probably make it again. It’s sweet and spicy at the same time and the lime lends a nice zip to it. You should try it too.

It has been very rainy here lately. We have had lots of severe thunderstorm warnings and flash flood warnings. Luckily the power hasn’t gone out for us but the weather has done a lot of damage around town. Up here the worst I’ve seen is the roads around our house closed due to flooding. A wash runs over two main roads that we take to get home. Promises of a bridge in the next couple of years have been made. More importantly though, all this water has brought to my attention the need to rebuild my firepit to allow for more drainage. After it rained for several hours a few days ago, the firepit was reduced to the beginnings of a wishing well. backyard flood
Also, in the foreground of the above image, you will notice the lake that collects on the west side of my backyard. There is a small hole in the wall on that side of the yard for drainage. You can all see how effective it is. This adds another project to the list: leveling the yard and figuring out the lake situation. I don’t always want to have to put a towel down in front of the dog door. This could be particularly bad as the dogs get older and the floor gets tiled.
I will say that my sons had a spectacular time playing in the mud the following day. Also, we have an empty desert lot very near to our house that accepts a lot of the rainfall runoff from the street. My neighbor called to inform me that she was making us drinks — fresh strawberry basil lemonade with vodka, lucky me! — and the boys and I were to put on our shoes and meet her outside, as we were all going to the lot to meet and play with a few of the other neighborhood boys. Which we did and had a great time.
Lastly, I want to tell you all what happened in my living room when all the lights were off. The boys were freshly laid in their beds and I was reading random nonsense on my phone while sitting on the couch. My big [baby of a] dog started sniffing the floor by one of the walls and would repeatedly buck up like the horse that he is. That only ever means one thing: whatever he’s sniffing is alive. If it’s dark in the room and I can see whatever it is moving, it’s probably a tarantula. When my darling sons let the dogs back in, they were way too busy to close the door so the spider felt welcome. This is what he looked like right before I swore at him for being in the house, swore at the dog for continually attacking it (I later looked it up and they aren’t poisonous, just menacing), tried not to swear at the boys for getting out of bed to see why I was swearing, crated the dog, used a broom to sweep it off the back of the tv (those things make a loud thud if they hit the floor) and eventually swore and shooed it out of the house:

This was the first time I’ve ever had a tarantula in my dwelling. I’ve seen several and I think they’re pretty cool but it’s a little different in closed quarters with my precious dependents, furry or not. A couple nights later, I caught my big dog growling at the door, something he never does. I thought someone was walking by or had parked randomly in front of the house. Turns out the tarantula was hanging out on the front porch, possibly laying in wait for my beloved gecko. It eventually walked away. Guess dogs do have hard feelings.
It’s a lovely rainy breezy night tonight. Time to open up the windows and enjoy it while I sleep. Good night, readers. Thanks for stopping by.

In the Garage

I would just like to paint a picture for all of you tonight. For the last two to three days, my nose and sinuses have been going haywire. I’ve had headaches and sneezes and congestion and have generally been laying low. I have also been blowing my nose like crazy so it’s very red and irritated. I decided to [finally] start on the second, hideous, kitchen drawer. I bought sandpaper last week sometime with intentions to get started that afternoon. There are a few different kinds of sandpaper that I was introduced to that day. There’s a fine sandpaper for finishing your projects, an “in-between-layers” paper, a medium grade paper, and lastly, a stripping paper. If you remember, the drawer was FULL of paint, glue, nails, cracks, screws, and grief. Naturally. I bought the heavy duty paper ($8 for three triangles to fit on my Black & Decker Mouse sander!!).
SO I decided tonight would be the perfect night to treat my nose to a little Vaseline, put on mismatched pajamas, crack open a Sam Adams Summer Ale, start a load of laundry, plug in the sander and give that drawer what’s coming to it. I pulled a little stool I have into the open half of the garage. The plan was to use the stool as a table to avoid sanding any part of my fingers or legs. The only outlet on that side of the garage is conveniently located in the ceiling. If memory serves, the former owner had a work area in the nook on that side. I have a tiny stool and the sander does not have that long of a cord. There is a built-in cabinet close to the outlet (6 plugs can fit in at once if I so choose to do that) so I opened up the door so that I could put the sander on one of the higher shelves if necessary.
sander setup
There I was all set up to restore the drawer when I realized I didn’t grab or locate my safely goggles. We all know I need them. I looked everywhere in the garage, every hook, every drawer and shelf, even a bowl with paint stuff in it. Nothing. Then the dog started barking. Inside the house. I let him outside and returned to the garage when I remembered that the last time I used them was when I was sawing a hole in the wall for the dog door. I found the goggles! On a shelf with the incomplete dog door, but that’s neither here nor there.

safety/beer goggles

Ready to sand!

I finally got to work and I got some of the paint off but a lot of it is under an ugly layer of glue and nails and screws. What I think is funny is that the former owner built the cabinets and drawers and shelves that are in the garage by hand and they’re great. He did a really nice job with them. I just don’t know why there had to be this much glue involved. As I was sanding my oldest son came to the garage and scared the hell out of me. I didn’t scream that time though. He wanted to tell me about a dream he had yesterday about the power going out. After he went back to bed I tried to grind off the rest of the glue but some of it is here to stay, folks. post-sanding
In addition, some of the drawer itself is also damaged so I think I’ll need some different wood clamps to get everything to stay in place properly as it dries. I definitely need to invest in some quality cabinetry at some point though. Don’t want anyone lamenting the cabinets I left them with down the line . . .

I Guess You Had to Be There When . . .

    • I dropped the coffee carafe in the sink and it shattered all over the place. This was after I poured water into the coffee maker and set up a filter complete with coffee grounds in it.
    • The next to last light bulb on the light fixture above the dining table burned out. I am fairly certain I’ll need to purchase a ladder in order to replace those bulbs.
    • I found out that there is a space between the top frame of the front door jamb and the wall above the front door by dropping the only house key into it accidentally. The only other house key is locked in a fancy pad-box from the CIA From Hell that you need a remote control to open, which, naturally, I do not possess.
    • I found a leak under the bathroom sink.

On the other hand, I did manage to repair the first kitchen drawer. Bought wood glue at a hardware store for a couple bucks. Sorry team, I didn’t take any photos until phase one of Drawer Repair was complete; bear with me and my grand plan. The front of the drawer fell off because the edges of the wood that were holding the front on to the sides of the drawer began to pull away from the front of it and it eventually snapped off from our grubby fingers pulling the drawer open all the time.
So the first order of business was to glue those wooden pieces back on so that I could attach the front of the drawer to the sides. I tried at first to kind of hold the spare pieces of the front of the drawer in place to see if there was any way I was going to get it back on. Bits of the composite wood kept falling off and it became clear to me that I would need to remove the staples from the pieces that I had if I wanted there to be room for the glue. So I carefully pried those babies out with a small screwdriver lest the cheap drawer disintegrate in my hands.
As soon as I opened the wood glue I felt very reassured. My dad was a carpenter for most of my childhood and I had no idea that the scent of wood glue would put me at ease the way it did. After all, this type of task is in my blood, isn’t it? Sandpaper, staples, nails, classic rock, wood glue, a screwdriver, and swearing. I positioned the little wooded pieces that were snapped off and glued them down. I clamped each side and then I used a hammer to tap the particle board-like pieces closer together.

The groove you see is where the bottom panel of the drawer fits into.

Hah I just noticed you can see my dog in the background. He looks proud of me.
I believe in my heart that the clamps were what made this project successful. Without them, the glue would’ve ruined the fit that I needed. I left it clamped for a couple hours; the glue bottle only calls for 30 minutes, but I had to pick my children up. When I came home, it only took a little wiggling to get the front of the drawer to fit onto the drawer itself, which I then glued into place. I added a couple nails in each side to reinforce the drawer but I know it won’t last forever.
What I do know is that the second drawer will not be as cooperative.
This, readers, is a drawer of desperation. The previous owner clearly repaired it a few times. He didn’t remove the staples from the edges; there’s one at the top left of the drawer in the photo above. It looks like it broke in the same way as the drawer I just described.
There are chunks missing from the backing here. The original manufacturer’s screws are in place and then there are a couple he added after the fact. The drawer is coated in glue, nails, and paint. It looks like he nailed the front of the drawer in place a couple times but missed the adjoining walls so there are craters where I’m going to be attempting repairs:

What’s life without a few challenges? Hopefully I can just get it to stay together for me until I am ready to replace the cabinets down the line a bit. I also want to tile the floor and add cabinets and/or a bar. Also stay tuned this week for Amateur Leaky Faucet Repair. Fun.