Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Closeted Organizationalists

No matter how well organized you are, any space that can be closed off to the world becomes, overtime a safe haven for junk and disorder. Other than the classic junk drawer in your house the bedroom closet has to be the number two offender. You have to store sweaters, shoes, coats, shirts, pants, and lots of other items that migrate in there over the years. Our bedroom closet was no different. Megs and I were both fed up with the rampant disorder the current layout created. Our “long” hanging items would bump into our first attempt to organize: a shoe rack, knocking them off whenever we simply tried to retrieve any single item, or looked at it cross-eyed. The other issue we were having were the bi-fold doors that took up so much space when open and could never really be closed because of the displaced shoe chaos on the floor.

The only before picture we could find- if you peek through the bed slates you can get an idea of what the closet looked like... NIGHTMARE!

Finally, one morning we had enough and Megs proclaimed… that’s the next project while pointing angrily like Patton observing the German lines. I was on board and happily went off to work. That night when I came home we had a great dinner but I could see Megs mind racing with the possibilities of a dream closet fully decked out by the Container Store. The tabs open on the iPad proved me right. Websites a plenty on closet design layouts and articles discussing maximum space efficiencies of small closets; she is a mad woman when she digs into a project. The next day I was greeted at the door with one of Megs all time used phrases… “Do you have time to discuss…” fill in the blanks, but for tonight’s discussion was to review her blueprint of the closet proposal.
Copyright Megan Peterson, closet design genius

Once the kids were down and she had my FULL attention, I was walked through a gold jacket style presentation, as if she were trying to sell me a Beverly Hills mansion circa 2010. “Yup, looks good” was my response and off I went with the sketch to figure out my cut sheet for materials. 2 – ½” sheets of birch plywood, 2 – 4x8 pine trim boards for the face frames, 1 – 4’ section of hangar rod, and a few hardware odds and ends and we would be all set. I look forward to new projects not just because I have a short attention span but because I get to drive our farm truck to the lumber yard and feel like a real country boy.

Saturday morning bright and early, I set up the saw horses outside the shop and got to rough cutting. Never underestimate the usefulness of a good circular saw, blade and a straight edge combo. One can cut damn near anything accurately with that set up, and it is much safer than trying to run a full sheet of plywood through a table saw not properly designed for it. 

Rough cut shelves

Once I had all my plywood rough cut I returned to the shop to cut everything to final size and mill the face frame. I decided for strength to cut dados into the two vertical walls of the center organizer to accept all the shelves, and as an added bonus it helps in glue up assembly when you have to deal with 7… no wait 8 shelves, read on.  While in the process of laying out all the dados needed I started doing some mental math and quickly realized Megs can’t add. Her sketch gave me an overall height dimension of 76” and then individual dimensions broken down for each shelf. Those two numbers which should add up did not, and enough so it made me laugh out loud. Ill give you a minute to go back to the actual sketch above and see the insanity for yourself. To be fair she is a music teacher and they only have to count to 4 pretty repeatedly, with a 6 and 8 thrown in there at random.

With the correct spacing now drawn, I was able to set up the table saw and cut all the dados in the vertical side walls. I also ripped a rabbet down the back side of the side walls to accept the back panel. 

Notice the table "extension" to the left so the panel would sag and bind
Vertical side walls, ready for assembly
The back panel of most cabinets, shelves, etc. are made from ¼” ply but I had some extra ½” I had on hand, so strength wise, this thing is now hurricane proof. Building furniture like a brick shit house is an attribute I am always proud of until I have to move or install it, and bust a proverbial nut. Glue, brads, and clamps in place, Shawshank Redemption  on pause, I headed in for the night.

The next day I cut and trimmed the face frame and set about moving the beast into the house in install. Meg’s and I reviewed her sketch, measured moved the unit back and forth in the closet until we (she) was happy. A couple of shims to level and the whole thing got screwed into the wall with some 2-½” cabinet screws. 

Meg’s original sketch had me building look alike shelve boxes off the main unit but they would have created more trouble for access than useful storage. I instead cut some mounting feet for the hangar bars and built shelves around them. This maximized the remaining space. I was also able to use the original shelves and support them with some pine trim runners I glued and screwed to the wall. Viola!

Megs was going to paint the whole think white, as per our usual built-ins, but we both like the natural wood look and plan to keep it. I think this winter would be a good time to fill all the holes and brush on some flat polyurethane just to give it a bit of protection. We are both extremely happy with how it turned out and it is now much easier to stay organized. Megs also introduced me to space saving hangers, which at first I scoffed at, but now secretly love. Stay tuned for more bedroom organization to come soon.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Floored by Change

I feel I have been wrongly accused of liking the color beige. And if I am not mistaken my own wife told you all that I like beige carpet! Now to be fair, what other color choices do you really have now a days? Even the boldest free spirits are not going to buy AND live with purple carpet for the next ten years. I hear Jackson Pollack and Andy Whorhol had beige carpet. Beige is the only color choice sane people would make, because it goes with everything and hides the inevitable stains that you are going to accrue over the lifespan of forever, which is the only time choice available based on how expensive the crap is! If I was a millionaire and had no kids or pets I still wouldn’t choose carpet, and don’t even get me started on those nutcases that think white carpet is going to last longer than one week. White? Really?

So hardwood is the only choice in my mind and that is what we settled on. I say settle but we can’t fight who we are inside, and inside we are hardwood people. After we decided, special ordered, and paid for the hickory hardwood flooring we were more than anxious to get it put down ASAP, unfortunately Home Depot had other ideas. We were told a week and a half for delivery to the store, where I would pick it up with our handy farm truck. The calendar told us that the floor would come in on a Thursday which would be perfect for a weekend project. Megs called Thursday and no go. Friday the same and HD doesn’t get deliveries over the weekend, so that plan was shot. The floor didn’t end up coming in until the following Thursday. We were like kids on December 12th, close enough to Christmas to be really excited but far enough away to be really annoying!

The next setback came in the form of a hallucinating-ly bad flu I got on the day I was supposed to drive up to Rochester and pick up the delivery. All day I felt worse and worse, but played it off like I had low blood sugar or something. I really wanted to get that floor back to the house and I paid the price. By the time I got up to HD I was fully sweaty and talking to myself in a Boston accent. As a side note, I like doing accents, and my high temperature was making my rendition quite good and quite funny to myself. Just imagine a guy in dress clothes driving an old rusty farm truck cracking jokes to himself in an accent that is not his own… I was insane. The worst part was once loaded up with the wood and appropriate supplies I had to drive a curvy death road through the pitch dark, in a sprinkling rain that made everything look like mirrors, with headlights that stopped penetrating the black after 10 feet, and windshield wipers from the 80’s, while hallucinating. Great choice Peterson, great choice!

A few days later I was finally able to get started ripping up the old carpet in the playroom where I was going to begin laying the floor. A quick forecast check told us weather was going to cooperate over the next week so we were able to move the entire playroom contents and both of our bedroom dressers to the deck. We looked like the neighborhood crazy people yet again, but when the shoe fits

I then carefully pulled and labeled all of the floor trim to be painted and reused later. 

The 70’s green/ brown carpet and pad was of the glue down variety and like most past projects in this house they did a great job of spreading the glue evenly across every single square inch of subfloor. The good news was that having been put down so many years ago the glue was all but dried up and less effective in its intended purpose. I am getting good at tearing up carpet so a few razor knife moves later I was tearing up carpet in manageable strips and rolling them, and disposing of them out into the yard. 

The problem was the carpet was coming up mostly with pad intact but not in all cases and everywhere was left of fine film of old nasty pad stuck to the glue. 

My first thought was of back breaking hands and knees scraping over the next few hours but then my engineer brain kicked in!

I headed out to the shop and picked up a flat front shovel, a roll of duct tape (the handyman’s secret weapon), and the shop vac… work it out yet MacGyver? Boom: Scrapper Shovel Vac, patent pending. 

It took all of 20 minutes and just a little elbow grease to clear the room. To save walking time during working I also set up my chop box station on the deck right outside the playroom. I was able to screw the whole station right to the deck railing, no need to set up horses.

With that complete the old removed it was now time for the new. I laid out some 15 lb roofing felt and tacked it down with my trusty tack hammer. 

As a side note, there is something very satisfying about a tack hammer, try it sometime, you will like it. Now comes the anal part… keep it clean folks… laying out where the first row is going to start. These two rooms were surprisingly square, and in the end either I or the room was off of square only about ¼” over a 13’ run, which is easily manageable. The layout of the two rooms allowed us to run one long span from one end of the playroom, through the adjoining door and to the far end of the bedroom.  This would make for a nice uniform floor with minimal floor reversal. Reversing a hardwood floor is when you have to switch directions and back track the other way, “reversing” the direction of the tongue and grove. The problem becomes when you reverse tongue directions you end up grove to grove. Hardwood floor companies make splines that fit into both groves but through miscalculation/ me just not thinking of it until my dad reminded me, I made mine out of some “bad” boards in the pack. The only place I had to reverse the floor was in the closet.
I face nailed the first three rows of boards to gain enough lateral stiffness to start using a standard flooring nailer. 

This is the second tongue and groove floor I have put in and my first time using staples instead of nails and both seem to drive down the floor just fine. 

The annoying part of staples comes when you hit a particularly hard board or something in the floor the staple folds itself into a half driven complex origami shape that cracks the tongue and requires pliers to unravel the whole mess before moving on. This caused me to say dammit out loud but to myself on multiple occasions, right after the air driven bang of the nailer.

I now say words like dammit instead of my old trusty’s like f@#$ and S#&% because I have kids now and Megs has been on me for a long time about my mouth. Only days later did I realize my old man swears were traveling further than the room I was working in. E was playing in the playroom about a week later, quietly and by herself, when we heard a bang, and then a tiny voice… “dammit!” Megs and I quizzically looked at each other and then cracked up. Dammit might have been my fault but E saying “Nuts!” falls squarely in Megs lap, and is equally cute.

The playroom took a whole day of placing, bumping, nailing, cutting and trimming. Luckily there was only one floor vent and my whole family sleeps like the dead allowing me to work at any volume late into the evenings. The next day I started in on the bedroom. I moved the mattress and box springs to the playroom and was able to move the bed frame around the room as the carpet was torn up and the new floor progressed. 

It was not pretty but it worked. The bedroom went much the same as the playroom but my enthusiasm or back was as strong. F and E both “helped” out… especially forcing me into breaks, I wouldn't have taken normally.

I finished the field with about 3 more rows to go in each room. 

Toenailing and face nailing was all that was left to do as the floor nailer would no longer fit between the floor tongue and the wall. I tried to squeak out all that I could get out of the floor nailer, even putting a few rubber marks on the wall and smashing one electrical cover which I played off to Megs like I knew nothing, hehe, then silently replaced it later and feigned shock that it regenerated. The transition between living room and new floor in the play room was about 3/8” difference. I was just planning to buy a stock metal trim piece and nail it down but Meg’s gave me the “eh” face so I got out my thinking cap and built a custom threshold with a piece of flooring. 

You know when one side of your brain says your fingers are too close to a razor sharp table saw blade and the other side says push it through you big pansy? Well I pushed it through and it came out great, after sanding off the blade burn marks from being half a pansy. Next time I’ll rig up a jig, because I can only have so many close calls before it bites me.

A few nights later Megs had all the trim painted up and I nailed it home. Each row of boards I nailed in we became more in love with the floor but after installing the pristine white trim against the new dark walls that floor was the best money we ever spent. Our only regret is not spending a little more money to run floor heat, as our old drafty farmhouse gets cold! I do plan to wriggle my way into the crawl space soon and insulate which will help our feet and heating/ cooling bills. Stay tuned for the next big build I completed… the closet organizer!

One last reminder of what the den looked like when we moved in

Master bedroom on move-in day