Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Projects (Page 1 of 27)

Relaxation + Refinishing Outdoor Chairs

In modern times, having fun can be tiring too. I have found that the best way for me to unwind is doing nothing – such as walking around in the garden, sipping tea and watching the dogs play. Recently, we’ve spent chilly evenings outside on our back patio. Slav would build a fire, and I would make some tea, then we stare at the flames for a couple hours and simple let our mind go blank. Sometimes we talk, and sometimes we just sit there and be together. It is amazing how quickly the world recedes and the inner peace grows.

Weekday nights with my man.

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After building the back patio last year, we briefly entertained the idea of getting a set of patio furniture for dining and lounging. “Let’s set up a grilling/dining area with sun shades, a fire pit area surrounded by chairs, and lots and lots of planters!” But quickly, we realized – 99 percent of the time, there are just two of us using the patio. Filling the space with furniture for friends and family we wish we could entertain who live one or two time zones away just does not make sense. So we added two seats, a fire pit, a griddle, and left the rest of our 340 sqft of patio empty.

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We were fortunate to find our lounge chairs at Habitat for Humanity for a price of a steal. Although the cushions were worn, the wood frames were timeless and steady. A few IKEA cushions gave the chairs a clean and fresh restart.

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But these chairs were not finished for outdoor use – at least we suspect so. After one summer with strong sun and a harsh winter, the wood finish diminished.

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The surface finish started peeling and small cracks developed along the wood grain.

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I decided to refinish these chairs with oil + poly to protect them from summer sun and winter snow. One sunny Saturday morning, I got to work.

1. Sanding off old finishes

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The cushions were removed and the chairs were moved under shade. I started off sanding all the old finishes off the wood with 80 grit sand paper. I recently invested in a Bosch sander which makes sanding a breeze. For hard-to-reach corners and curves I borrowed Slav’s oscillating sanding tool.

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Sanding with 80-grit paper had an immediate effect. You can see from the picture below the un-sanded surface on the left and sanded surface on the right.

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The wood after cleaning up looked quite nice. Another round of 220-grit sand paper made everything super smooth.

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I wiped everything with a clean, damp microfiber cloth and let the mountain breeze dry everything off. It was a beautiful day to work outside, especially with Roxie by my side.

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Neighbor’s dog Cabby watched through the fence too.

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2. Oiling the chairs up

For repairing the wood I wanted some kind of oil product that penetrates and hardens inside the wood grain. Since I do not know what kind of wood our chairs are made of, I decided to go the safest route and use oil-varnish blends. I had some danish oil leftover from finishing the antique guest bed, which is perfect for this project. Simply rubbing it on generously and let the wood drink, then returning half an hour later for two more coats. I kept the chairs in the shade so everything dries evenly and slowly.

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The chair on the left got one coat of oil and the one on the right had not. It is pretty amazing how much oil the wood drink and immediately you can see the tone of the wood darkened. My girl stuck around:

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After the third coat, I wiped off the excess and let the chairs dry for > 72 hours before the next step.

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The color of the wood was incredibly rich.

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Since the oil was out, I took the opportunity to finish a wooden tray. Roxie finally fell asleep next to me:

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3. Sealing for UV Protection

Generally speaking, we could have started using the chairs after they had dried overnight. But we live in the highlands where UV really takes a toll on outdoor furniture. Therefore, I wanted to coat the chairs with an oil-based sealer. We used the Preserva clear sealer because it penetrates into the wood and reflects UV light. It was recommended to us for harsh environments that cycle between sun and snow. It was originally formulated for the Southern California market, but many CO stores carry them too.

This stain only requires 1-coat application. So after the danish oil dried for 72 hours, I brushed on as much as the wood can absorb and left it dry overnight. We used the clear finish so it did not change the color/tone of the wood.

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4. Spray-on Protection for Cushions

Before we put the chairs back to use, I washed all the outdoor cushion and sprayed on a layer of water-repellent. The IKEA cushion covers are for outdoor use but do get wet when it rains. Roxie loves to nap on these chairs and she brings quite a bit dirt onto the cushions, so having a coat of fabric guard should allow us to hose down the cushions once a while and extend their lives.

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After drying overnight we put everything together and they look gooood.

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After almost a week without our outdoor seating, We are happy to curl up next to fire again Our first night in these newly finished chairs happened to be the one-year anniversary of the closing.moving-in day of our ranch. Happy Anniversary, thePolskiRanch! We had a great time here, and we hope that you are having a great time with us too!

Finished Doorway = Finished Office

Ladies and Gentlemen, our office doorway is FINISHED!

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Since we framed the office doorway back to Valentine’s day (!), we have been living with this rough opening for weeks.

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And today, we have this 🙂 :

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The original plan was to install a pair of 36″ french doors here. We picked out the doors early February, long before we framed the rough opening. However, longer we lived with the opening, more we prefer the doorless look and the uninterrupted flow. In the end, we made the decision to return the door slabs (thanks to Lowes’ 90 days no-fuss return policy) and finish the doorway with trims.

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The whole process of finishing the doorway was surprisingly straightforward and DIY-friendly. It included three steps: 1. Installing door jambs and door header (even though we are not putting up doors, we still want to finish the doorway as if we are installing them). 2 Installing trims to cover the gap between the jambs/header and the surrounding dry wall. And 3. caulk + paint.

1. Door Jambs and Header

The first step was to install door jambs and header. Door jambs are the vertical pieces on either side of the doorway (to which hinges would attach if there were doors). And the header refers to the horizontal piece at the top. The rule of the thumb is to have them slightly roomier than the door perimeter, leaving 1/8″ gap all around. They usually come with the pre-framed door purchase and ready for installation. But in our case, we had to buy door jambs and header separately. We ended up picking out two 8′ door jambs and a piece of pine board to make the header ourselves.

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As you can see from the picture above, pre-made door jambs have small notches on the top for the header to sit on. Due to the ceiling height, our door header sits a few inches lower than the framing header. So I added a few pieces of 2″x4″ blocks in between for the door header to attach to.

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The door jambs, header, and the floor below form a perimeter in which the doors sit. Understandably, they have to be a perfect rectangle, which means they need to be plumb, level, and square.

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To help squaring the assembly, I cut a spacer as the same length as the header and placed it on the floor and between the center of two door jambs. It creates 2 pairs of opposite, equal and parallel sides, so I knew I had a parallelogram to begin with.

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Let us talk about size for a second. The door jambs are ~11/16″ thick, taking just under 1.5″ inches of space total. The rule of thumb is to  leave 1/16″~1/8″ between a door and door jambs, which means 1/4″~3/8″ for a pair of doors (1/8″ in between the two doors and 1/16″~1/8″ between each door and its door jamb). With a pair of 36″ x 80″ doors in mind, I cut the door header and the spacer to 73 3/4″ so we have just the right width between the two door jambs both at the top and the bottom.

We also needed to leave 1/8″ above and below the door. For 80″ doors, the header should be 80 1/4″ above the floor. Our floor is 1/4″ off level, so I cut one door jamb to 80 1/4″ and the other 80 1/2″.

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To get a perfect rectangle, I made sure the door jambs were plumb and the header was level. This step was accomplished by putting shims between framing studs and the door jambs. It would have been a lot easier with two people – with one holding the frame while the other shim. I was flying solo so I screwed two plywood pieces at the top corner to hold the whole assembly in place.

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As you can tell from the gap between the framing studs and the door jambs, we framed the rough opening just wide enough (~74″). I always cut close – it give me a high for being risky. It also saved us unnecessary drywall work.

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Shimming was kind of fun. There was lots of leveling and hammering until everything was perfect. That is my definition of fun y’all.

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Professionals often square the door framing using a plumb bob, which aligns the center point of the header to the center point of the spacer. We do not have a plumb bob, so I measured the final opening diagonally to make sure I had the same distance between two measurements. And the result was pretty good.

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Once all the shims were set to place, I secured everything in place by shooting nails through the door jambs and the shims into the framing studs. Then I took the plywood pieces off.

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After I finished framing, Slav patched the missing drywall:

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and finished the seams with tape and joint compound.

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Up until this point we were still on the fence about the doors – you can see them in the picture above. Ha! Although we decided on a doorless look, I am still glad to have framed the doorway precisely so that we have the option to add doors later.

2. Trims

Things started looking up after the drywall was finished. We picked out trims and Slav cut them to length on our miter saw. Finishing nails hold everything in place.

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We decided to have a tiny bit of reveal (<1/16″) between the edge of the trim and the door jambs. It gives a layer look while keeping a narrow profile. My understanding is that reveal is for hiding imperfections of whatever you frame around, such as a door, a window, or an opening at the front of a furniture piece.  More crooked the opening is (in our case, door jambs), wider the reveal you will need. Fortunately, our door jambs are perfectly straight and plumb, enabling narrow but consistent reveal along the entire length of the trims. 🙂

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We also chose a narrow reveal to leave enough negative space between the trims and the library built-ins.

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We love how elegant the trims look – it is more decorative compared to rest of the trims in the house (now I want to replace everything!), but simple enough to not be distracting. It makes the office feel traditional and elegant.

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3. Caulk and paint

To polish everything off, Slav caulked around the trims and filled nail holes with wood filler. I then coated everything twice with ultra pure white by Behr in semi-gloss, the same paint used on all the trims and doors.

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A new grille covered the vent return that had stared us for months. :

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Within a couple days, we went from this:

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to this:

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then to this!

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It is amazing how trims transform a room. With the finished doorway, we officially closed the curtains on the office renovation. Starting early January, we’ve accomplished a long list of things in order to convert this small bedroom to Slav’s office/library:

Reverse the office closet to face the bedroom
Cut out a new doorway
Put up drywall in the closet and old doorway
Open up the new doorway to its final size and rough framing
Patch the floor
DIY built-in library (bookcase assembly, create a built-in look, DIY  baseboard drawers, add crowns and trims)
Upgrade lighting and hang window blinds
Install Ethernet cables
Drywall finish
Finish the now-bedroom closet with trims and paint
and today, finish the new doorway!

The “Before and After”s

Out of everything we did, I am most grateful for the decision of changing the layout. It certainly created a lot more work, but as a result, our living space became much more functional. For example, this was the office/living room wall before the renovation:

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And these are the shots from the same angles today:

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Closing the original doorway made room for our dream library wall. This is the office/bedroom wall when we moved in:

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And this is the same wall just before office renovation:

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And today 🙂 :

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Changing the layout also added the second closet to our bedroom.

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This was the same wall in our bedroom on move-in day:

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It looked a little better before we reversed the office closet, yet still failed to provide enough storage:

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We now have his-and-hers closets which are much more functional:

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Our master also feels more secluded, a bonus we totally did not expect. Closing the old office doorway created a new “entryway” dedicated to our bedroom and the bathroom. Although small, it creates an effective negative space separating the “master suite” area and the rest of the main floor.

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Comparing to the hallway when we moved in:

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And before the office renovation:

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Quite a transformation, right?

I think Roxie agrees.

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Master the Closets

This past week, we put our master closets back in order.

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Inside of the closets (including the ceiling) went Pale bud, which is characterized as an off-white with pink undertones. In our east-facing bedroom, it reads lavender-ish, which I love. It glows quietly behind the grey curtains and gives the best soft welcome in the morning.

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I could not mind to have it in the entire bedroom, but Slav vetoed it as soon as he saw the color – the man wants his white. As the result, the bedroom wall will go SW’s Extra White just like the office and living room. But I negotiated to used it in the closets and I think it is pretty.

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It was hard to cover the pink with clothes and hangers. Fortunately, I have a pretty slim wardrobe so I can still see the pretty walls.

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It is not without challenge to make this 4′ x 2′ closet feeling airy. We are lucky that the return walls on both side are narrow, granting good access. The simple design with a single rod under a shelf works well on keeping everything in a single layer and easy to reach.

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Coats, sweaters, and winter accessories on the left. I have too too many winter coats, but they are given by my parents with the fear of me being cold in a northern state. I think clothes are like an extension of parents’ arms. They are too far to protect us so they keep asking us to wear more layers. Being 6400 miles far away, I keep these pieces as an expression of their love.

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hanging organizer houses tops, shorts, and winter accessories. Pants and dressy items are kept on the right. A big check-in luggage contains the matching carry-on, my computer bag, my only handbag, and a few travel items.

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This is how my closet look like now, in 2018 Spring. I probably have 100 pieces of clothing, including T shirts, pjs, and sport gear. All of them fit into this small closet, which I am very happy about. I’ve been working towards a minimal closet for a few years. Given that where I live has four seasons, I am happy with the size.

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Charlie boy fell asleep while I was putting the closet together. He likes to sleep at this spot, which is quiet and cool. 🙂 If I have the curtain open he will go inside the closet to sleep, which is stinkin’ cute.

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Do you have a minimalist closet? Did you Spring clean it?

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