Monday, December 31, 2012

Fireplace: Reveal

Yesterday we finished stripping paint from the fireplace. With no decent light for photos, I didn't post any. So here are a few shots of the finished brickwork:

I checked out Carrie's post about sealing brick and Wendy & Alex's post on repointing. Crumbling is minimal. There is one crack, above the opening. We've decided against repointing at this time. We may revisit that later, or may seal the brick and mortar to prevent further crumbling. Whichever way we go, I know these posts will come in handy.

If you are considering doing this project yourself, I would definitely recommend it. Find some links here and check out those links above. These other blogs have lots of great tips, and gave me a good idea of what I was getting into.

You may remember when we started this project, the first step was softening the first layers of paint with heat guns, and scraping away the gummy residue as much as we could. That took care of roughly three layers (white, red and tan), revealing the first layer of butter colored paint on the brick.

The second (and sometimes third, fourth, fifth...) pass was made by applying chemical stripper, allowing the recommended wait-time, and scrubbing the residue off with wire brushes and steel wool soaked in mineral spirits.

When I figured I removed as much as I possibly could, I walked away. When I came back, I could see the progress. I took some sand paper the a few places where paint still adhered to the mortar, which was much easier than getting the chemicals and brushes back out.

The smell was awful, of course. This is totally a summer project. You'll want the windows open as much as possible. You may also want to consider odorless mineral spirits.

We had to protect the floor from the stripper, and the residue sprayed about while brushing against the brick. We started with a few strips of painter's tape.

Then, metal duct-work tape. I admit that I felt like a big genius for thinking of it. I used paper bags instead of regular rolls of paper to protect the floor. The "puffiness" of the bags kept the wet paper from resting against the floor while it dried. This system worked great, and the floor was not damaged. Plus, I over-save these bags, so we have dozens of them available.

So there it is! The gray brick is really growing on me. It's going to steer our decision on a wall color for this room. I'm thinking something pale- either a taupe, or some other off-white color.

On this side of the project, my two cents is that every one's fireplace is different. For example, the heat guns saved us tons of time, but were completely ineffective for others. I get the same impression when I compare stories with other bloggers on stripping paint from woodwork. So try different methods, and figure out what works best for you. And blog about it. And post pictures. So many pictures :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Almost there

The entire fireplace has been stripped. There's a bit of residue to strip on one side, but then we'll wrap up paint stripping.

Rather than go through the steps of learning to repoint, match mortar, gouge out mortar and repoint the brick, we're going to seal the brick. There is one crack, but crumbling is minimal and the fireplace is structurally sound. Carrie, over at Brick City Love, wrote a great post about how she exposed and sealed her brick walls. I'm hoping I can have similar success.

And if you're looking for a little more, check out Wendy and Alex's repointing project over at the Old Town Home.

The remaining question is about sealers. Do I use an acrylic based sealer, or a water based poly sealer?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fireplace: 90%

Paint stripping on the fireplace is at roughly 90% completion. Half of one side still needs to be stripped. I've applied one area of stripper, and hopefully will finish tonight. I hope I have the motivation to finish this project tonight.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We've been working

Stuff has happened at our NE Portland Bungalow. We built a shed. We figured out a great painting trick. We painted stuff. But I haven't blogged that stuff.

Excuse #1: My camera was basically broken. But now I have a shiny new Canon with lots of megapixels and a decent lens.

Excuse #2: If I don't have a whole day to dedicate to a project, it's infinitely more difficult to get motivated to work.Whenever I force myself to use those spare 90 minutes to work, I see lots of progress. So why is it so hard to get motivated when there is less than a complete day to work?

Among the bloggable things we've done:
  • Fireplace stripping is very nearly done. I want to post pictures to fish for opinions about the color of the brick.
  • The shed is built. Primed, but not painted. We've been using it for months.
  • The bathroom is painted. And the broken tiles are replaced.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Salvage these doors!!

I just found some doors on Craigslist. I want them.

In a few years, we are building another house. I would love love love to have these doors for that house. The doors come from City Hall (I assume Portland City Hall). I will keep my fingers crossed that these doors will be available in a couple years when we start stock piling building materials...

These doors are available in Sherwood (at Sherwood Liquidation). If you haven't been there, it's a cool place to poke around and find miscelaneous goodies, including tools, antiques and building materials.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fireplace: 85%

Most free minutes of the last two days have been spent stripping paint from the fireplace bricks. The front is this close. One side is almost done 90%, and the last side is yet to be stripped. If I buckle down and finish the front and first side tonight, that only leaves that last side, which I'm estimating is about 5 hours of work. So, probably 10 hours, right?

I'm not sure how much we'll like the gray brick. We haven't settled on a wall color yet. The wall paper still needs to come down, and the woodwork still needs to be stripped. But eventually, we'll need a decision on the wall color.

I will be so glad when this is done!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fireplace: Phase One Complete

With a friend's help, we finished using the heat guns on the fireplace. Next up, we'll use chemical strippers to remove the rest of paint. The mortar is weird- some places look very dark, other places match the brick. When we finish with the chemical strippers, we'll see what shape the mortar is in. We'll definitely be repointing, so we'll have a chance to make it all match.

No pictures tonight- that was surprisingly exhausting!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Revisiting the List

I've been stalking my own blog. We're getting things accomplished, but I don't feel like there's much to show. In reality, there is. There definitely is.

I'm thinking a re-visit to the 2012 List will help put things in perspective.

And finally, the 2012 List
  • strip the wall paper in the front room
  • strip the wood work in the front room
  • build a shed **Construction complete. Needs paint.
  • paint the front room
  • level the front yard **We might nix this one.
  • landscape both yards
  • build retaining wall **We might nix this one, too.
  • install paver patio
  • repair driveway and add pavers
  • repair plaster in bedroom **STARTED!
  • strip paint on bedroom woodwork
  • paint bedroom
  • finish plaster repair in office
  • finish stripping woodwork in the office
  • paint office
  • repair 5 sash windows

We might nix the front yard work because, really, we're going to rent the house in a few years and a retaining wall won't likely make this house easier to rent.

Also, not on the list: Lots of pruning, and the fireplace is about 25% complete. New dining room light fixture, new railing on basement stairs and roller blind in the bedroom. Painted the bathroom, completed plaster repair everywhere except the bedroom walls, and pressure washed the front sidewalk and steps. The next big thing will be painting the exterior of the house.

And after all that? We'll probably try to refinance. Phew.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stripping the Fireplace

I've been looking at this paint job for four years, wondering what beautiful bricks might be beneath the tan, white, maroon and peach layers. 

I like to do my research before tacking a new project, soI've read a few other blog posts about stripping paint from fireplace brick. Checking these posts helps me get pumped up to take on the project! I want to give a special shout out to a few of you:
I went into this project expecting the worst. I expected difficult labor, lots of time, elbow grease, strippers, soda blasters, brushes, drips, stink and a very unhappy husband.

So I gathered some supplies... I am using a few different brands of each product that we have left over in the basement. On the woodwork we've been using Smart Strip, but I wanted to polish off the other cans of product in the basement.

Then I ran some tests. First, applying chemical stripper straight onto the painted brick. A test with stripper applied to the paint:

Stripper alone doesn't cut it. Even two applications didn't get to the first layer of paint. This might be a point where a specific product would be preferred (insert your favorite product here).

In another spot, I tried hitting the paint with the heat gun, scraping off what I could, and then going after it with the chemical stripper. The heat gun made a huge different, as you can see. It really loosened the paint's grip on the brick. It wasn't too impressive though- it felt like trying to comb gum from your hair. Really stick gum. And not your hair, but maybe a teddy bear's hair. But after the heat gun, the stripper worked very well.


The heat gun takes roughly 3-5 minutes per brick, and I use my painter's tool in a chiseling fashion, scraping away some of the paint.

The chemical stripper sits on the brick for about 15 minutes. Then I scrap off some goo with a plastic scraper. Next, I dunk a wire brush or steel wool (I use either and my preference varies as I work) in mineral spirits and scrub off the residue. It takes about 5-6 minutes to scrub each brick and the neighboring mortar.

I haven't used the vinegar to remove the residue yet because when I went to grab it from below the sink, I saw a Magic Eraser and thought that would be an interesting experiment. Of course, the eraser disintegrates quickly, but it definitely did the job. However, it doesn't really get into the crevices well. I'm hoping vinegar and a towel will have better results. But still, not bad. This last picture shows a few bricks that I wiped down with the eraser. You can see a slight change in the color- the flatter gray is residue stained by the mortar. The bricks themselves are a color similar to sidewalk concrete.

I took this picture before finishing for the day. I have about half of this side of the fireplace cleaned down to the brick and it took about half a day. It's really not bad at all. I feel very lucky that it's going this well!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Closing the Doorway

Between the spare room and the bathroom was a doorway. The extra doorway occupied valuable wall space, and went unused for three years in the house. When it came time to close this door for good, we enlisted the help of our amazing neighbor David, who is also a carpenter.

First, remove the trim. We tried to save as much as we could, to reuse when we finish the basement. Our woodwork is easily replaced, so I'm not sure it's entirely worth the effort and having to save a bunch of boards in an already small basement, but oh well.

(This picture doesn't entirely capture how bad that green was. 
We have since painted it, as a temporary solution.)

Then, select straight studs. For this small opening, we needed five total. We measured the opening and  cut the boards accordingly. We couldn't get the 16" on center spread, so we spaced them pretty evenly- I forget the exact measurement. We laid everything out, then nailed it in place (two nails at each junction).

We tapped the frame into place with a hammer, working carefully. We measured how deep the frame set within the wall, to get as close as we could to the depth of the drywall. Then we nailed through the new frame into the existing framing.

We used regular drywall, although looking back I might have selected a specific product that our plastered recommended. I forget the name, but will try to track it down. It's a type of drywall that works best with plaster. But it's the same idea, and our regular drywall worked fine.We used drywall screws roughly every foot down the length of each stud.

Apply a plaster bonding agent to the drywall, and use a lightweight plaster. Spread it over the wall. We liked a product our plastered used- it sets in 20 minutes. That means you've got to work fast and will likely have a big a wasted material, but it sets much faster than some other products we used. Everyone has their own favorites, but we're happy with it.

After working for hours and hours and more hours to make the wall look good, we did eventually hire a plasterer to skim the wall. It took him no time at all, and the finished look is great. We use a bonding primer before painting over plaster. Not sure if that's always necessary, but that's what we're doing.

So there it is! In a nut shell, that's how we removed the doorway, with tremendous help from an experienced neighbor and our plasterer. While I mostly watched the framing process, it's absolutely doable.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Free Fencing in Portland!

Hey, all your Portland-area home owners! Just found 180 FREE cedar fence boards on here! They are "weathered." Wish I had use for this load of free fence boards!

What about posts- do you need some round fence posts for free? Get those here!

You're welcome :-)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Light of My Life

We finished the dining room almost two years ago, but something kept nagging me. You can see it photobombing my dining room before shot with the faded-safety-vest orange walls.

It's the basic, "traditional style" light fixture. I suppose it is an ok fixture- provides light, probably pretty cheap too. But it didn't seem to be the right style for the room, or this house.

So I've wanted to find a light that would update the room with something simple and solid, like a bungalow. However, I lacked any opinion whatsoever. I would look at light after light and each looked fine, hideous or ok. Nothing wowed me.

Until this morning, when I was shopping for shingles. I wanted to take a quick peak at lighting, just in case there would be a good deal on something for my parents' house. I didn't know I was about the meet the first light I would get excited about.

I thought this light looked very cool, but why was it just sitting on the shelf, with no box? Shouldn't it be hanging, or in some sort of packaging? I moved in for a closer look.

Then I saw it- the deal maker.

YES! And yes, this deal is available near you: 8-Light Dark Oil-Rubbed Bronze Chandelier

I asked a store associate if there was anything wrong with the light, and he assured me there wasn't. He kindly took it to the front of the store for me, so I could continue on to ...

... what was I looking for? Oh yea, shingles.

I've never replaced a hardwired light fixture, and I admit I was intimidated. But I turned off the power, grabbed heavy rubber gloves and rubber sandals, and learned as I went. I pretty much just looked for things that would slide apart and untwist. The old light came down easily.

The new light had a five foot long chain and is 2-feet long already. That's way too much chain for our 9-foot ceilings. I had to figure out how to adjust the chain. 

The links on either end open up, but there's no way to easily adjust the length of the chair. I measured the distance I wanted the fixture from the ceiling, then measured the chain. I inserted one screw driver on either side of the link I figured should come off, and slowly increased pressure, until it twisted open.

I took the adjustable link from the end, and added it to the new, shorter chain.

 I'm saving the remaining four feet of chain just in case I decide we need to take the fixture when we build our next house.

I removed the plate at the base of the chain by removing this washer, and wrapped the extra cord inside the housing.

The light did have one small blemish- something black left a mark on the etched glass shade.

About 60 seconds with a Magic Eraser got me this far?:

So here it is- the new light!

Hope you don't mind all these pictures. I am very excited about this light!

Spare Room: Mission Accomplished

You may or may not remember that we started working on the spare room, AKA the office, AKA the guest room over a year ago. About 13 months ago, actually. You can check out the complete "before" post here.

Here are a few of the highlights from this project:


This soft caulk-like material was used to fill a gouge in the plaster before wallpaper was hung. We found similar gouge in the closet.

Masking tape was used to cover old holes, then painted over. Of course. Just like the other rooms in this house.

Thnext picture shows the doorway to the bathroom. It was unnecessary, unused and took up valuable wall space. We saved removed the door, trim and jamb carefully to reuse them when we finish the basement. After framing the section of wall and adding drywall, we plastered over that section to get it flush, and skim coated the whole wall. The more I deal with plaster and the more I deal with drywall, I just don't understand why anyone would not have plaster. 

We chose a paint color that is two shades lighter than the love seat. It looks very gray, but does have some green in it. So without further delay:

The NW corner (where I sit to blog!)


The far left is the old door to the bathroom. Then the closet, and the living room door on the right.

We've been in the house for four years, and finally have banished the LAST $5 cafe rod! It has been replaced by a 1-inch wood blind.

The paint color is called "chatroom" by Sherwin Williams. We used a Cashmere base with eggshell finish. Cashmere is SW's most expensive line, but we receive those 30% coupons in exchange for being signed up with an account. Cashmere paint proved to be nearly splatter proof, and we only used one coat. We loaded the roller and brush very thoroughly, and that may have helped.

I get very excited to work and relax in the finished room. Over the course of the project, the guest room became the office and is now the spare room. Whatever your need, this room's got it covered! Let's mark it down as a victory at the Northeast Portland Bungalow!