Monday, April 25, 2016

Painting Wood Windows (A repentant DIYer's guide)

Step 1

Dust off windows with an old soft bristled brush and tack cloth

Step 2
Pour a small amount of mixed primer, I like Kilz; into a easy to hold container. I chose a rinsed out Greek yogurt tub. Careful to keep your blood sugar in check lest primer begins to look delicious. 

Step 3
Dip nylon/polyester brush an inch into the paint, removing excess paint on side of delicious yogurt container. 

Step 4
Start with the inside frame of the window, starting at the top of the frame. Quickly realize you are not infallible and run downstairs for the painters tape. Mask non-wood window tracks and weather stripping. ... Take a deep breath ... Return to step 3. 

Step 5
Let dry, aka move onto next window, then the next window, then the next window, and when 2 hours have gone by and the constant reminder of yogurt makes your stomach rumble, curse the day you blithely said, "Why would I ever pay the window company to pre-prime my windows? You've got to be crazy to think I'd pay someone to do that!" Quickly realize you are indeed crazy, in fact, you've been living in a diy haze of delusions of grandeur since you began this whole renovation project. What made you think you could renovate two apartments and maintain any sort of sanity or regular sleep schedule. FOOL! All the while attempting to schlep a 7' tall ladder around the room with a paintbrush held between your teeth. Uh oh. Something feels off, a bit wet, slimy some would say. Remove paint brush from mouth. Step away from the ladder. Go down stairs and eat a snack. 

Step 6
Paint should be dry. Raise the lower sash and drop the upper sash. Paint all unobstructed surfaces. Move sashes until all surfaces are painted. 

Step 7
If you are a Bad A*$ and you know it, continue painting up to glazing without the aid of painters tape. 

Step 8
Make a mental note to buy razor blades to clean up the mess your Bad A*$ self just made of the window panes. 

Step 9
Stop before completing all the windows, swear to yourself that you hear the dog barking to go outside. Do not, I repeat, do not go back upstairs to finish painting even once you get downstairs to find the dog in deep REM sleep blissfully unaware of your struggle. 

Step 10
Clean brush out using nifty brush comb and call it a day. Commence cocktail preparation or ice cream consumption, I leave the choice to you. I personally recommend both as you come to the realization that you have only PRIMED the first 3 of 16 windows. Oh holy regret ...

But seriously, if you purchase a quality brush, do yourself a favor and also pick up a painters comb to keep that brush beautiful. It is totally worth the hassle of trying to find one. Big box store, neighborhood paint shop, contractor's supply store - all completely out with no intent to restock. I may possibly be the only person not to have already acquired one. Don't let yourself be thee last.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ikea Cabinets

Let the great building begin!

I thankfully labled all of the boxes months, and in some cases years, ago. I have the box labled "2nd floor knobs and pulls", "2nd floor hall bath lights", "2nd floor hall bath floor tile", and so on. In some cases I have completely forgotten what I purchased for certain rooms. Setiously, 2+ years is a long time to remember all of the details for two units and cram a good half a dozen opera scores into the remaining nooks and crannies of my addled brain. 

So yes, the sharpie is my memory and has prepared me well for the building to come. 

The workshop all set up and, ta-da!

With the magic of technology, FINISHED! 

It only took two 6 hour days, 3,589 squats, 3 fetal position breaks, 5 cups of coffee, and several cookies sent in a care package from an awesome friend (you know who you are). And after all that, I have the cabinets for our kitchen to look forward to. I even, crazy I know, offered to build the cabinets for my parents' brownstone in BedStuy. The new sektion cabinet model from ikea did seem to go together more smoothly than the last model I have dealt with. Or perhaps it just takes 5 or so to get into the ikea groove - dance steps to follow. 

In other news, Christopher is leaving town on a month long gig tonight. HE IS SINGING DON JOSE IN CARMEN AT NATCHEZ OPERA. I'm prettty proud. So with this in mind, we decided it was in our best interest to pay a tiler to get moving on the 2nd floor bathrooms while I complete tasks no one else wants to do, namely, building a sh*t ton more of Ikea cabinets. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Priming our 2nd floor is going as well as one would imagine. I started with the ceilings knowing they would be the worst. My neck is only mildly sore from the constant tilt up, and I just finished day two. I am a painful 7' remainig to cut in, from being finished, but had to pack it all up in order to make a work comittment. It kills me to know I didn't complete my task, but it isn't like it was the very last bit to prime. I have walls and  trim waiting for me. Luckily I'll be at work tomorrow resting my arms. Well, sort of. At least I'll be using different muscles. 

You wouldn't even know I'd primed this ceiling except for the brown paint the last inhabitant painted the cove molding.  

For the most part, priming ceilings is one of the most visually unrewarding tasks thus far. However, the house, not wanting me to think it was done sloughing off the nasty of the last 100yrs, decided to introduce me to a paint finish (sweet lord I hope it was paint) that is still slimy and slippery after all these years. So the room that is now divided up into the jack and jill bathrooms, closets, and laundry, was once a windowless, lightless room. This room was painted orange and covered in a dappled brown splatter that looked like a diseased cow hide. For the most part, Christopher and I tore out all the old shriveled plaster and the contractors put up a high performance sheet rock in the new bathroom and closets that is well suited for damp environments and rental properties. 

Yet, the ceilings in the new closets were waiting for me, daring me to cover them. So I tried, and I tried. The Kilz, usually so magnificent, just smeared around and turned a rust color. For a time I was worried the ceiling had been leaking again, even with our new roof. But it happened in all of the closets. It was horrifying. I can only hope that after drying, the Kilz will allow me to get a more stable second coat. *Shiver*


Monday, April 4, 2016

1st Floor Framing

Christopher and I are lucky enough this year to have several opera gigs lined up that are keeping us busy after work hours. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with learning three consecutive new roles over the last 4 months, and was just last night feeling for the first time like I had bitten off more than I can chew.

Then entered today. Glorious day that it was. I'm typically not a morning person. Most days you can find me huddled under the covers with the dog nestled close, willing the sun to retreat once again into night. This morning however, I popped up out of bed when I heard the crew arriving. The plasterers returned to sand down their previous weeks work and continue feathering out all of their glorious patches. My phone is filled with pictures of flat blank walls. Not the most riveting material, but when compared to all the photos of holes that are there from a month ago, it is downright exciting.

Not to mention that the 2nd floor unit is getting close to ready for us to prime and paint. The tile guy is scheduled to show up this week as well!  I was going to tackle all the tile upstairs myself, but spare time is at more of a premium than I'd like. It makes the most sense to get the upstairs unit finished as quickly as possible, and that means hiring in a professional. I still plan to tile the 2nd floor kitchen back splash, as that is infinitely easier than tackling the bathroom by myself right now.

Our favorite crew of workers also showed up to frame out the new bathroom/bedroom closets/laundry closet. This is a big moment for us as it ushered in a new era, construction on our apartment. It is beautiful. Granted, the photos look like a forest of lumber, but trust me, it's glorious.

bathroom to the rear, master closet to the left, 2nd bedroom closet to the right, looking in from the laundry closet

I honestly stood in what will be the "littlest-biggest" walk-in closet. Meaning, it just barely counts as a walk-in closet but feels positively decedent after living with no closet since 2010. In the immortal words of Trump, "IT'S HUGE!"

I was unable to get a full photo of the closet space as the door is currently tarped to protect our bedroom. I tell myself it is fancy camping with a tent just for our clothes.

The bathroom is also coming along nicely. The chase wall framing is in place for the plumber to come back and run the new plumbing, and then connect both units' lines and waste into the basement where he'll tie it all in, and voila, we're in business. Again, if you missed it, or if I glossed over it previously, the chase wall is a necessity, as our party walls (shared walls with the neighbors) are solid masonry. This is great for sound insulation and structural stability, but lame for running new plumbing and electric. Hence, we're losing 4 inches of width to the building, but gaining a spot to run all the necessities.

framing for recessed linen cabinet (WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A CABINET JUST FOR LINENS!)

In other non-house related news, I had a fantastic audition for an opera company I hold in high esteem. It is rare to get actual feed back from an audition and to hear that my hard work this past year has paid off and that the improvement was noticeable, makes all the hours producing a seemingly immeasurable product, totally worth it. One 10 minute audition obliterated all the doubts and uncertainty of the last 20. That is why we persevere. We sing for the one moment out of 100. We tell a story to that one audience member, hoping to touch something vital in another human. Tomorrow I'll return to work.

But for tonight, I'll enjoy the knowledge that our little nest in New York is coming together, and that I successfully prepared myself for an audition while traipsing around a construction zone in boots and a dress, no mirror, and a maze of ladders and chords to contend with. I'd call it a successful day.