Putty my wood (that’s what she said)

Since even Oak complained about my lack of blog posts, I decided to motivate myself to some more frequent posting by sharing my favorite home improvement products. So, over the next few posts (until I run out of steam or ideas) you get to read about the things we have found that we have actually been super pleased with in this home improvement adventure. Like anything else, there are so many silly gadgets you don’t actually need. But then, there are silly gadgets that make life so much easier they are totally worth the investment.

Right now, we are working on getting our drywall and trim finished on the main floor.  So, I’ve been working on fixing up all of the doors and woodwork.   We have a lot of stained woodwork that just can’t stay that way unfortunately, since it’s so scratched/banged up from 30 years of abuse.  So, I’m in the process of smoothin’ it all out and getting it ready for painting. My personal favorite for this is a nice fresh tub of Elmer’s Wood filler.  Don’t make the same mistake we did and figure oh, we have like 9000 pieces of molding and 37 doors to putty, let’s buy the industrial size!   Unless you plan on doing that task in 2 days (good luck with that), it will dry out.  Even our clever idea of putting the putty in a sealed plastic bag – not so great.  So buy the smaller container.

(SIDENOTE: This stuff is only for wood you’re planning to paint.  It doesn’t accept stain all that well.  In fact, what I have learned,  for stained woodwork, and my stair-staining experience,   is that you’re actually supposed to putty AFTER you stain.   They sell tinted putty for this purpose.  I’ve used the Minwax putty in a few different colors, and I’m generally not impressed… so stay tuned on that..)

Application technique is simple, but for the best results follows a similar train of thought to applying drywall mud  – thinner is better to save your arm from falling off from sanding later on.  (Oak will have to post his expertise on drywall at some point… in the meantime check out DIY Diva’s Drywall central.)  Depending on how deep the gouge is, I alternate between using my fingers and a putty knife to apply the stuff.  For the doggy-induced crosshatch patterns we seem to have on every door (seriously.. did these dogs ever want to stay in the room the were in?), the putty knife allows you to get a nice thin layer to fill in the thin lines.  For deeper gouges, it’s easier to get in there with your fingers.

After that, let it dry and attack your putty with sandpaper.   If you’re puttying flat surfaces like doors, definitely pull out your random orbital sander for this, as it saves a ton of time.  Of course, you’ll make a dust cloud in the process but at this point I’m pretty sure our house is a perma dust bowl. I have completely given up on trying to clean it up until we’re ready to put the final coats of paint on everything (sorry, visitors).   For door and window trim, you’ll have to pull out a sheet of sand paper and go at it by hand.    Just think about the muscles you’re toning in the process!

Usually, this takes a few iterations of sanding, puttying, sanding again to find every little knick and get it all smooth.  However, it’s definitely worth the effort because when you prime and paint, your door/trim/whatever will look brand new.

*Disclaimer: This post was NOT sponsored by Elmer’s.  I did briefly consider buying stock in the company but discovered they are not a publicly traded company.  Bugger.

Got (reclaimed) wood?

Boy oh boy…. like the upstairs drywall, we managed to find another project that never ends, the wood floor. Lessons learned thus far:

  • Relaimed wood, while eco friendly, is dumb!! Luckily Oak has mastered the art of re-adding the tongues and grooves… so our waste level is still pretty low. But, that has definitely added a lot of time to this whole process.
  • Wear gloves when you’re sorting wood, otherwise you end up with raw hands and splinters.
  • A quality pair of pliers, awesome for removing staples!
  • Using the flooring nailer is a great man-workout! haha :)
  • Patience is virtue.


I don’t like the dust (but the dust likes me)

The title of this post is inspired by Oak’s favorite demolition music. I’m sure Marilyn Manson would appreciate my re-work of his lyrics very much. After a year of house renovation, I’ve come to accept that dust is  permeating almost every aspect of our lives.  Even when I go to work, I notice a layer of dust  on my laptop that I have to brush off every morning.  Awesome!

So, Oak has been taking out the kitchen floor one section at a time (at my request.. cause I don’t think it’s very good to get the subflooring dirty/wet), but with it and his crazy demolition circular saw comes teeny white pieces of linoleum everywhere along with a new layer of PermaDust(TM). Every possible house project comes with a new layer of dust and/or crazy tools everywhere. I try to keep the kitchen area semi-respectable and non-disgusting, but I’ve pretty much given up everywhere else on the first floor.When I finally clean the front room where we’re currently keeping all the trim pieces, new flooring, etc,  I’m betting on a 3 inch layer of dust.

Another dust tidbit: I finally figured out where the term “dust bunny” comes from. Radar’s hair falls out in little clumps that gather up in corners of the room. Luckily he LOVES to be brushed/groomed (most of the time..sometimes he hops away.. haha) so that reduces the shedding a little bit. He’s lucky he’s so adorable. Makes a little better when your shirt is covered in hair after a cuddle session. haha. :)

As if this weren’t enough dust to talk about, Oak has become preoccupied with dust collection for his woodworking tools. I was a good wife and listened to about an hour’s discussion (over several sessions) of the special types of dust collectors, the cyclone thingy that prevents most of the big chunks from getting to the vacuum, etc. Then finally, I had to throw in the towel and say, I can’t listen to this any more and even feign interest (sorry darling).   Then I tried to bore him to death with some talk about scrapbooking tools.  That said, I totally support the need for dust collection (yay, not inhaling sawdust particles).   In fact, I support it so much that I am sharing these pictures of Oak’s super sweet dust collection setup.

Here’s the dust collection system hooked up to the thickness planer, which funny enough, reduces the thickness of a piece of wood (OMG are you impressed with my tool knowledge OR WHAT!). The shavings go to the garbage can with the home made something-baffle lid that makes a cyclone a la your fancy dyson at home to catch all the big pieces.  Then it goes to the final dust collector, which is that white bag looking thing in the background.    There’s ALSO an overhead filter to collect any fallout.   Apparently we got a super deal from our neighbor for the overhead filter, a $200 machine for $25.  ha!

If only there were something that did this for everywhere in the house…  Push a button and BOOM!  All the dust (and dust bunnies) is sucked off every surface.  Sort of like a Roomba, but that works a lot better.   Wouldn’t that be suhweet???

Still kickin’

Another disappearance from the Blogosphere. I know. It’s not that we haven’t completely stopped with the home projects, I do actually have many more I need to take pictures of to share (like ones that got done months ago), but the momentum on house projects has slowed down in the past month or so because of various social engagements, family visits, etc. Time to gear up again before the holidays!

Here’s some info on the current status….

I’d say our upstairs is currently at about 90% complete for what we’re planning to do for the near future (other than the guest bathroom, which we haven’t touched yet). We’re doing what I’d consider “fit and finish” things at this point – getting window coverings, hanging doors and pictures, etc. Things that take thought and consideration before doing them – like, oh where should I hang this?? Then oh, I need to buy a frame for this, or I need special hardware, etc etc. It never ends, I tell you!

Downstairs is pretty much in “construction” phase, we’re slowly making progress on putting the wood flooring in the family room (for which, we’re not enjoying our eco-friendly choice of reclaimed flooring, more on that later), deciding what we’re doing with the fireplace, etc.

Outside we made some progress last weekend on our “moat”, aka the drainage ditch that directs some of the water from the gutters away from the house. We started that project in oh, April and then it began being about 115 degrees out every day. I say “we” but really, how much help am I with digging ditches and plumbing?? I try, really I promise. (I will at least give myself credit for a) nagging the project along and b) moral support.. haha, oh so valuable) Anyway, the moat got its drainage pipe, water line, and conduit for electrical line buried. No more worrying that stray alligators will decide to live in our front yard. Dave gave us a very good piece of advice… whenever you have a ditch dug up for whatever reason — think about anything else you might ever want to bury in that same spot before you fill it in! That’s why we buried this extra stuff… a great way to get water to the side yard and electricity should we ever need it for anything. Ding!

Hope everyone has a safe & happy halloween! :)


Lazy “refinishing”

So, as you remember, I am capable of doing a “real” refinishing project. But, we have a TON of woodwork that is scratched, worn, and/or generally dull, but the finish is generally intact.   The thought of refinishing curvy stair balusters — NOT appealing whatsoever. I was reading some other home improvement blog (which one is totally escaping me at this point)), and saw this product mentioned for restoring vintage furniture finishes:
Just apply it with some ultra-fine (00) steel wool, and your finish is restored!

This could not be true. It took a few weeks to find it, though it totally wasn’t hard to find in the stain section at Home Depot. I kept looking in the cleaning area — whoops :) The walnut color seemed the closest match to most of our woodwork, so we got that and the special steel wool.

For a $12 investment on both these items, what a difference it makes! The white overcast on the finish completely goes away and any chips or scratches in the finish are disguised. So far I have done it on: the front stairway upper baluster, bonus room cabinets, first floor bathroom mirror, and a few chairs Oak scored at the thrift store. All with a considerably improved appearance as a result!

How to use it:

  1. Cover any carpet or surrounding area that could get hurt by the dark liquid. I find it does wipe up but still be careful!
  2. Pour the restor-a-finish into a wide mouth jar, only a small amount at a time (I used an old Bonne Maman jelly jar… about a 1/4 inch in the bottom of the jar is good).
  3. Put some gloves on – doesn’t hurt to avoid getting a rash!
  4. Dip an edge of the steel wool into the jar to pick up some of the liquid.
  5. Rub on your surface following the wood grain.  Marvel in the amazing results!
  6. Wipe off the excess with a rag.
  7. Done!

So there you have it, a sanding and dust free way to improve the appearance of your already-finished wood surfaces!  Sweet! :)