It’s electric! Boogie, woogie, woogie!


During the floor sanding and finishing debacle, we brought in a couple electricians to upgrade our breaker box. It cost us a huge chunk of our funds, but it was worth it. We had breakers tripping left and right. We could not have more than one appliance plugged in at once. Not even small ones.

Imagine. A 2700 square foot house with a breaker box that looks like this. My friends would ask,

“What is that? An electrical box.. FOR ANTS?!”

What we also learned was that whoever wired the house, was crazy. No breaker belonged to just one room. No room belonged to just one breaker. Confused? We STILL are. Let me see if I can give you an example.

Two outlets in our family room shared a breaker with two outlets in the basement bedroom, half the basement bath, and the bigger of the two storage rooms. Luckily for us (har har), that storage room housed the breaker box. So when that tripped, which it did a lot before the upgrage, we needed to bring in a flashlight to find the switch. The other half of all those rooms are on another breaker.. or two.

Are you shaking your head? If not, you should be. The entire house is wired that way!!

We could not hold off on that any longer, so I called the electricians. Our awesome realtors recommended Rob & Rob of Solid Ground Electrical Inc. to us for the job. These guys were great! When I called them to explain the job at hand, they didn’t ask questions. Just set up an appointment to take a look at the work needed. At first, I thought there was only one Rob, but when they showed up there were two.

Their first visit was to assess the work. They called that morning and asked if they could come early because the previous job finished faster than they expected. Of course, we accepted. They arrived, were very friendly and quite humorous. They spoke with the hubs about what they’d do, how they would do it, and how long it should take. They gave him the quote and scheduled a day for them to do the work.

We’ve had a few quotes and were expecting to pay over $3K for the work, but these guys quoted us at half of that. And let me tell you, they stuck to their word. When we got the bill, after the work was complete, it was what they quoted plus tax.

They got straight to work when they came back a couple days later. Working hard, they were up and down and all over the house. One Rob spent most of the day in our basement storage working with nothing more than a flashlight to light his way. The other Rob was working out on our “stair master” while running up and down the stairs to take care of the rest. At one point I was laughing because they were yelling to each other through a hole in the wall while one was in the basement and the other was upstairs, outside.

They even caught me telling my brother and SIL what was going on and I hear, “I can hear you, you know!”. Of course, we couldn’t help but crack up. Rob & Rob did an awesome job. They stayed well past 5PM and didn’t rush it just so they could leave. One Rob didn’t even stop to have lunch (which I feel awful about) while the other Rob ate a quick snack in his truck. They took our ant breaker box and replaced it with this huge monster.

Gorgeous. Yes? It looks almost like a sentinel with those new wire covers. And I think the house is happier.

It’s official


We’ve moved the last of our stuff into the house over the weekend and are slowly unpacking. Now that the floors are done, work on the house seems to be slow going. Or we’re just working on too many projects at once, and none are fully completed, so it seems like nothing is getting done. Hard to tell with the mountains of boxes and bags scattered all over the place. And we’re all tired.

Hopefully over the next week or so I’ll be posting about some of the smaller projects we did, or had done, while working on the floors. Also some of the things we’ve done since. Just bare with me. I’m gathering my thoughts. And pictures. There are a lot, of both.

For now, let me leave you with this picture of my sister-in-law and myself. And trust me, the previous owners did NOT take care of this house so these were a necessity.

Sexy, right? Oooooh yeah!

The Shining

Floors, Renovation

We have finally stopped sanding, staining and sealing our floors. It took us WEEKS to get to this point, almost months, but here we are.

It seemed like only yesterday… cue wavy flashback transition

These floors used to look the way we feel now.

What you don't see is all the miles put into the car, dragging rented tools around.

cut to the present

Tall, dark, and handsome.

The first weekend, after inquiring about renting an orbital floor sander, we were advised by a very helpful and concerned employee at the local hardware store to go Home Depot and rent a “pad sander” since they’re much more forgiving and easier to operate, so we did just that. We went to Home Depot and picked up a square pad sander and an edger. Chris and I spent an entire night with the pad sander, well into the wee hours of the morning on the boys and girls rooms, but didn’t get very far at all.

Beating life into the floors.

The next weekend, we went back to Home Depot, armed with photos of the floors we were trying to work on, and the clerk realized immediately we’d need something aggressive, and we left with a drum sander and edger. Work went much faster, but we still probably went slower than we could have gone (Pro tip: if you want to literally strip off a good layer of your floors, go at them at a 45º angle first. We didn’t actually do that, and we ended up going over the floors several times with each grit).

Don't do this.

This ended up taking three (seriously?!) weekends just to sand down the all the rooms, not including the edges. Edging, it turns out, is even more difficult, as the tools are much less forgiving. We initially went around with the edger, then went around with a palm sander, and resorted to hand sanding for a while. There was a thick layer of wax buildup that was just painful to try and remove.

Finally, last weekend (the week before the rapture) we rented the edger on Saturday to finish up the edges (naturally) and then rented pad sander on Sunday to give everything a final pass. We also picked up a dust vacuum (awesome) and ended up having to buy a bunch the stain we chose (Minwax Jacobean) in quarts. We also picked up a 5 gallon bucket of Minwax semi-gloss polyurethane.

Sunday evening, we started staining. I threw on my proton pack the vacuum and vacuumed the living room, then wiped it all down with tack cloth, and then we just went for it. After a couple mishaps, Chris and I got through about 75% of the living room and called it a night.

Final section, done.

The next day, Chris and Kisha took on the bedrooms and hallway. Again, everything was vacuumed and wiped down with tack cloth first. They spent practically the whole day and night putting stain down, and Chris and I finished up in the living room at around 2AM. Amazingly, no one was ever stuck in a corner through out this whole project.

First lesson learned: stain in rows. We stained in sections perpendicular to the boards. Don’t do that. You’ll end up with a line where the stain sections overlap, no matter how careful you are. We realized that quickly and switched to doing rows of boards.

Second lesson learned: we used a lambwool push-mop-brush-thing to apply the stain and a Swiffer mop retrofitted with cotton cloths to wipe up the stain. Don’t do that. Wiping up the stain is just as important as applying the stain. For best results, make sure you wipe up with the same, even pressure every time. Also if your rows don’t span wall to wall, make sure to stain whole planks. The same wood will not will not stain the same way each time, and you’ll end up with a line.

Third lesson learned: use tack cloth immediately on the area you’re about to stain. Never assume the area is clean enough. Otherwise you’ll end up with footprints that you’ll have to sand out.

Fourth lesson learned: don’t put your hand down in the wet stain to reach hard to reach areas. Unless you’ve started getting nostalgic for sanding.


Nicole came by Tuesday and attempted to sand out particularly troublesome boards (and lines (and footprints (and handprints))) and she managed to keep the living room looking like a single contiguous space instead of a room with two halves, designated by floor color: a dark half and light half.

Wednesday, Chris started putting the first coat of polyurethane in the bedrooms and hall while Nicole continued doctoring the living room floors, and Thursday Nicole and I put the first AND second coat of polyurethane on the living room floors (again, after rubbing the floors down with tack cloth to pick up any dust that settled or had been tracked in. While waiting for the first coat to get just dry enough, we scuff the bedrooms and hallways with steel wool, to rough it up for a second coat (we didn’t have to do that to the living room because we were able to get a second coat on before it got too dry).

Friday, we let the living room floors dry and air out and we came back Saturday to yet again rub the floors down (this time with a wet cloth to get the majority of the steel wool fibers, and ultimately more tack cloth. We finally laid down the second coat in the bedrooms and hallway, and at this point, I’m sure you’re all about as tired from reading this (if you managed to get this far) as we are.

Stones vs. Wood

Kitchen, Renovation

Finally. I’ve got a job to do other than being the helper. I don’t mind helping, but come on! I don’t want my brother and the hubs to do all the fun stuff. It’s not as satisfying when I’m just sitting around holding and handing over things.

So, I’ve taken on the job of sanding the kitchen cabinet doors & drawers. The plan is to refinish and stain them the same color as the hardwood floors.

First I started out with a palm sander and rough sandpaper to try get all the grime and polyurethane off. Everything was going fine until I got to the grime. It was so thick that it gummed up the sandpaper real quick. I needed to scrape it off with something before sanding.

At first all I could find was a plastic knife. It did a decent job, but didn’t remove enough grime. Then I tried a putty knife/scraper. That turned out to be worse than the plastic knife. During a trip to the home improvement store, I picked up a brass bristled brush. I also got one of the steel brushes we bought previously for last weekend’s plumbing snafu. These did the trick and I was able to get on with the sanding.

The flat area in the middle of the doors were easy enough to do with the palm sander. I was also able to rough up the edges a bit to get most of the poly off. I wasn’t so lucky with the area between them though. These I had to sand them by hand.

I was off to a slow start. When I got time a couple days ago, I did a little here and there and finished four small doors. Today I did three large doors. Doesn’t seem like much, but I am still proud of what I’ve done so far. There’s still so much more to do with these doors, but I’m hoping when I’m done, they’ll be awesome.

Spyder vs. Plumbing

Kitchen, Plumbing, Renovation

On Thursday, my brother and I went up to the house to do some plumbing work. It should be fairly easy. Replace faucets and some shut off valves. A few other minor things. We should be able to finish the job in a few hours. At least, that’s what we thought.

We spent a few hours just trying to figure out what needed to be done. Once we figure out what we were going to do, my brother, Spyder, removed the shut off valves we were supposed to replace. This is when the horror part of the movie began.

(Warning: Enlarged versions of pictures may cause projectile vomiting. You’ve been warned.)

Did you see those pictures? That’s what we saw when the valves were removed. The pipes are galvanized steel. That shit rusts. RUSTS! Did you throw up? Because when I saw that, I almost did. The thing is, the rest of the pipes (that we could see) are copper. Why would they do this?! How did the water even passed through that gunk?

Anyway. So we took our lovely findings to the hardware store to find out what to do. The helpful worker told us what we needed to do. We ended up driving back to the house so my brother could remove all the valves and pipes under ALL the sinks. We needed to replace everything.

We went with brass because copper needs to be welded and neither of us knows how. Before installing the new pipes and valves, Spyder had to use a steel brush to clean out the ends of all the copper pipes in the wall because the rust from the steel built up where the steel met the copper.

{Pro tip: Flush out the old (copper) pipes before installing new pipes and valves. Start by capping all of them before you turn on your main water. Once you’re done capping them, turn the water on. Then, one by one, place a bucket under each pipe and uncap letting the water rush out into the bucket. Recap once you think the pipe is flushed good and move on to the next. Repeat until you’ve done them all.}

We learned the hard way that it’s best to flush out the pipes first. My brother installed all the new pipes and valves after brushing out all the rust. When he finished, we turned on the faucets and found some of the pipes clogged by all the rust. Removal and flushing was needed.

All of that along with a few other plumbing projects (which I’ll post about later) took us roughly twelve hours and we didn’t get to head back to the rental house until after midnight.

Oh well. We live and learn, right? At least it’s all done. I think.

Stones vs. Shower Door

Bath, Master, Renovation

Monday night Dave asked me to go with him and my brother to the house because they were going to continue sanding the floors. I wasn’t sure why he would need me to go, asked him, and got the “I don’t know. Just because.” response. So, I decided to go. I might be able to find things to do around the house when we get there.

Of course, a job was waiting for me when we got there.

Once I dried up as much water as I could (using the only things I could find – old sofa covers), I got to working on my next project.

Removing the ugly old shower door in the master bath.

Should have been easy enough. The only things holding the door there were a few screws and some clear caulking.

Except. I couldn’t find the right tools for the job. I needed some sort of blade or box cutter to cut the caulking. I couldn’t find one, so I used a pick-type tool. It worked for part of the job, but was too thick for the other part. Looked around more and finally found a small blade that did the rest of the job.

Then I needed a drill or screwdriver to remove the screws. Some of the screws were easy enough. Others were in places that were hard to reach with any of the drills or drivers I had. With a little creativity, I was able to get those little suckers out and the door down.

For now, we’ll put of a small shower curtain, but eventually I’ll take down the wall that was holding that ugly door.

So I was needed that night. Water clean up, door removal, & sander cord holder were my major jobs for the night.

Go me!

The Kitchen Faucet

Kitchen, Renovation

In my attempt to surprise Nicole by installing the kitchen faucets we bought on Saturday I also managed to surprise myself!

Now to be fair, the pipes didn’t appear to be leaking Sunday night, when we left the faucet installation on hold since I didn’t have any plumber’s putty.

Pro Tip: Don’t do that.

When Chris and I tried to mount the sprayer, the base wasn’t getting bolted down tight enough, so we took a 7 minute drive to the nearest Home Depot (4th visit in 2 days), bought a couple popup drain gaskets, and modified it to fit.