Terrific Broth

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

Category: Projects Page 1 of 43

Home Stay+ Bath Door Refinish

Today marks the start of home stay week 3. It is frustrating to watch the world to get sicker each day, while doing nothing is actually my best way to help. I wonder how I’d feel about this time when it passes, like ten years from now. But for now, the uncertainty gets the upper hand sometimes.

To keep my mind occupied, and more importantly, to make myself feeling useful, I turned to DIY. Tangible, tedious, fulfilling, and therapeutic. I’ve organized the garage and built cedar planters for the patio. This week, I refinished our master bathroom door.

The second-hand bath door

Our master room has two doorways, and this is the door we mounted between the media room and the bath.

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I do not think Charlie digs the concept of glass door at all.

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We got this door second-hand from Resource Central’s resale store. It is made from solid wood and double-paneled glass. It is super heavy.

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From distance the door looked pretty nice. But when you looked it closely, its color read rather yellow and it had screw holes from hanging blinds.

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We’d like to re-stain it to espresso to match other doors in the basement.

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First step: Sand

The first step of finishing any wood product is to sand off the old finish down to bare wood. We moved it into the garage and I started by covering the glass with plastic drape.

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I usually use random orbital sander on large surfaces, but for the rather narrow door frames I chose my small 3M hand sander. I only had 80, 120 and 220 grit sandpapers on hand so I started with 80 grit.

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The wood is fairly soft. A few passes with 80 grit sandpaper took the finish right off.

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The dimension of the door was written on the side of the door:

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Came right off with the 80 grit sandpaper.

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Before sanding:

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After 80 grit:

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It took just 5 mins on each side.

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To sand the inside trim I took the 80 grits sandpaper off the sander and held it with my hands:

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Trim before sanding:

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After 80 grits:

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After vacuuming the sand dust away, I proceeded with 120 grit sandpaper.

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And finished everything off with 220 grits sandpaper:

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Step 2: Clean and patch (then sand again)

By this point the door frame was very smooth. I cleaned off the sand dust with a damp microfiber cloth:

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Then patched the staple and screw holes with wood putty:

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After a light sanding where the putty had been applied, the door was ready for the stain!

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Step 3: Stain!

For the stain I picked Varathane in espresso color. I recently read about shellac as a wood finish and decided to give it a try.

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Rubbing on the first coat of stain. I immediately liked the color of the stain and how easy it was applied.

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You can see how much the espresso color of stain darkened the wood. It looked warm, but did not read red or yellow. I am very happy with this color.

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After letting the first coat of stain dry for a couple hours, I applied the second coat. I do not think the second coat darkened the wood much more, but rather filled in the raw spots and enriched the color. It added more weight to the appearance.

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This was how the color looked like in bright sun light after the second coat had dried. With cooler and dimmer lighting, it read a lot darker. I think it would match the other two doors really well.

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Final step: Seal and protect

After the stain dried I applied the shellac. It is pretty thick – kinda a maple syrup consistency, and dries very fast. I had to work very fast to make sure each layer was thin.

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Can you tell that it added a lot more shine to the wood? It was very pretty in person with just the first coat!

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I applied three thin layers in total, with one hour of drying time in between.

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After the last layer had applied I let the door sit. It takes time for the solvent (ethanol in this case) to evaporate completely and the shellac to harden. We have not mounted it yet. But I like the finish! Do you?

Home Stay + Patio Planter Build

My personal life has always been driven by getting rid of stuff. I was Marie Kondo loooong before I even knew her existence. This Spring the urge of purging came stronger than ever, probably because I am stuck home with a husband and two messy dogs. But I am also cheap, led by my Chinese heritage. So I refuse to throw away anything that I can juice value out of. Balancing between saving things that can be used to create and getting stuff out of the house is the delicate dance I perform.

All this is to say that please imagine the extraordinary joy and relief I had when I turned leftover lumber from our horizontal fence build into a set of planter/seating combo for our patio. We used exclusively 1″x 6″ planks for our fence. But we did purchase fifty pieces of 1″ x 4″ planks for creating a decorative pattern, an idea was nixed quickly. Since returning these planks cost a restocking fee, my Chinese side decided to keep all the lumber in the garden shed for “future use”. Then my Kondo side blamed myself for the next 16 months every time I walked into the shed and saw this giant pile of wood.

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But not anymore. They are now my new planter/seating for our patio and for strawberries we will immensely enjoy over the summer months. Allow me to brag to you how I executed this perfect plan intersecting home organization, building projects, and garden planning. And feel free to admire along the way.

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A light bulb went off (on, actually…English is weird) moment

I’ve been wanting a planter/trellis combo on the north end of our patio. Our northern neighbor’s house sits lower than ours. Even though there is a 6′ fence between our properties, our patio is completely exposed to their eyes.

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We did plant some privacy trees along the fence but it will take years for them to grow into a sizable hedge. We need something to stop neighbor’s curious eyes now and for all four seasons. After some research, I decided on this design of planter box with tall climbing trellis.

Planter Boxes with Climbing Trellis

It does not only offer privacy, but also function for growing herbs and flowers near the kitchen. I also like how the simple look of this planter box echoes our horizontal fence. Lastly, it is easy to build with the 1″ x 4″ cedar planks I intended to use up.

The cedar I had on hand could build more than one planter. For the second one, I landed on a bench planter design. This planter will be facing our backyard, where we do not need tall trellis for privacy. Rather, we need more seating that can be utilized from both side. Compared to having individual chairs on the patio, integrated seating reduces visual clutter while offering seating for multiple guests when needed.

One big advance of DIY is personalization. Slav has some snowboards than he could ride. But just like me, he has a hard time to throw them away. I planned to use one of them to create an unique seating bench – a good way to incorporate things that reflect our interests and taste into this build.

Cut list: the Basic Design and Dimension of the Planter

The first step was to decide the dimension of the planter. The picture below shows the northeast corner of the patio, where the two planters will be placed. The trellis planter will be set on the short edge, to the right in the picture, whereas the long side of the patio will be boxed in with the bench planter. Our patio is 6″~8″ above the soil at this corner, so I decided the planters should be 32″ tall, with 24″ above the patio when placed next to it.

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I also decided on this dimension because the 2″x 4″s we would use for vertical support for the planters are 96″ long. So there will be no waste when I cut them to three 32″ pieces. In addition, the 32″ height happens to accommodate nine of the 1″ x 4″ boards when arranged horizontally with minimal gaps in between. It is a fairly polished look I like.

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To minimize the scraps with 6′ long planks, I decided to make the width 2′ (24″) for both planters. In this way each dog ear plank will produce three side pieces without any waste.

Planter 1: Design the carcasses

With the plans in place I got to work. First I transported all 50 pieces of 1″ x 4″ x 6″ boards and some 2″ x 4″s left from the gate build to our newly organized garage. It was so nice to have plenty of room and all the right tools in place.

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I started with the planter bench and built the side panels first (32″ tall and 24″ wide).

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Next was to decided where the planter ends and where the bench starts. I like the look of square planters, so I kept the length of the planters equal with the width (24″).

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I used a couple of the full length 1″ x 4″ planks to link the two side panels together. They also kept everything straight and square. Then, I built the third side panel (furthest to the right) as the side of the snowboard bench. It does not only offer support for the snowboard, but also creates a side table on each end of the seating.

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The picture below offers a better view of the third/inner side panel. The snowboard/seating surface will be inserted into it and on both sides.

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The next step is to add planks onto the carcasses. I decided to cover the back of the planter+ table area completely, but leave the under the table area open to the patio side for additional storage.

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Above is a top view of the 2′ x 2′ planter box on one end. The pictures below show how the snowboard seating would be positioned into the inner side panel.

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Planter 1: Complete the Other End

It took a while to build the first end of the planter. But once I figured out exactly the style I wanted and the dimension, the other end was fast to build.

First the far end panel:

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Then the middle panel with half of the table top incorporated. To save the 1″ x 4″ I used only the dog ear portion and one piece of leftover 1″ x 6″ at the bottom. This panel will be mostly hidden anyway.

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Last was the inner side panel. I left out one horizontal board to accommodate the snowboard.

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After all three side panel were built, I connected them with horizontal planks:

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it is worth while to line up the screws. For any horizontal build, this step really elevates the look:

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Now we could get a good idea on what the final planter bench looks like.

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I made sure that the height of the snowboard works as seating for our patio. The table top part was not in the initial design – it was created to accommodate the curvy ends of the snowboard. But I like it now. It offers a nice separation between the soil and seating, and serves as a great spot to set drinks.

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The Second Planter Build

was a lot more straightforward as it is just a big box. We will get a already-made trellis once the stay-at-home order is over.

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The height and width of this planter remains the same, 32″ and 24″, respectively. After building the sides we have only 18 1″ x 4″ planks left, and I decided to use all of them and make the most of them too. Since taking the dog ear portion off the 6″ planks results in 70″ of straight planks, these planters are set to be 70″ long.

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Being this long it needs additional vertical support. I added another two pieces of 2″ x 4″s to link the planks from the middle. I also linked the two middle vertical supports with scraped 2″ x 4″s at the bottom, so the pressure of the soil is less likely to cause blowout in the middle of the planter.

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Out of 50 pieces of 1″ x 4″ x 6′ material I was only short for two 24″ horizontal boards – soooo impressed! I did have shorter scraps so two were jointed together on each end to create the top boards.

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With the supporting blocks they looked pretty good from the outside. I was pleased.

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Placing the Planters on the Patio

It took me two days to design/build these planters. Before sunset on Sunday, the planters were set onto the patio. They looked sharp! And I think they balanced out the visual weight of our fire pit + seating on the other side of the patio just right. I left the long boards at the bottom – they will come in handy to ensure everything is at the right level when we set the planters in place. Of course after all the snow melts. 🙂

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I am extremely pleased to have these new planters on our patio. The current plan is to move our strawberry plants, which are currently in ground, into these planters. We got beautiful and delicious strawberries from them last summer but had to fight bunnies for the fruit. But not this summer!

More importantly (to me), now the shed is empty again! Crowded by these boards our poor garden shed has become so dusty and disorganized. I can see my next project in the horizon…

How are you doing in quarantine? Are you managing to work on some fun projects? Or just enjoying life? Be good and be well, everyone!

Home Stay + Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning at home

Hi friends! I hope you all had a good weekend, at least as good as it could be. It is hard to ignore the crazy pandemic, but we managed to stay stress-free and did not run into any trouble shopping. We do, however, start working from home in response to the “social distancing” order, which saves me hours on commute. With nothing else to do I got into Spring cleaning – for the first time in my life! All the surface was wiped down, every blanket was washed, and bathrooms got their fair share of scrubbing bubbles. With 60 degrees and sunny weather I had the windows open for the weekend. It feels like Spring!

After cleaning inside the house I quickly moved onto the garage. Our garage is a true work horse especially in winter months. Without working in it we just use it as an enclosed dumpster. Winter sport gear, shoes, tools, construction material and demolition trash are everywhere. It needs an organization badly.

The dump ground – we are animals

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Lots to store

I spent two days just to sort things out. Every storage box was open and every item now has my finger prints on it. Disposables, out to the trash/recycle. Donation items, out into my car. Gifts, packed and shipped! The garage started looking a lot better, but the real devil is how to store all the rest.

We had organized our garage before and divided it into multiple zones: paint storage, car repair and DIY tools, sport gears, and mud room area. But the recent basement renovation left us a lot of materials we have to keep. For example, the leftover tiles, paint, drywall, and flooring, all of which should be kept in case of future repairs.

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In addition, we also plan to keep the lumber from demolition.

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For the basement reno we also acquired more tools, including a Dewalt miter saw + saw stand. We had already owned lots of tools, both for DIY projects and for car repair/maintenance. And they have been piling on top of each other and getting lost in deep drawers.

I spent the entire third day getting everything out. Dust, categorize, and re-organize them into drawers and onto shelves.

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We had one of the wall organizers (left) which works really well for storing small parts. I got another one (right) and have everything labeled.

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Aside from general storage, I mounted several magnetic racks to hold small tools in open.

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Now at least I know exactly what tools we have and where everything is. Hopefully it will save us time and money from going to stores to buy things we already have.

Adding more shelves and create a wood working station

Shortly after moving in, we mounted a series of storage shelves on the southern wall to hold paint supplies, which have worked wonderfully.

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Soon after that, we added more shelves on the other end of the southern wall for seasonal storage, which we use to store things related to specific project – cycling gear, dog stuff, etc.

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To create more storage like this, I extended the upper storage shelf to run above the garage window for mostly wood working tools.

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Below the window used to be our construction storage. Now all the lumber was moved away, I took the opportunity to carve out a space for wood working. We regularly use the Bosch table saw and the Dewalt miter saw. They are wonderful tools, but difficult to setup. Sometimes we opted out using them purely because we were too lazy to set them up. To make sure these tools are readily available, I placed them next to each other, right under the garage window.

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This is a great spot for wood working tools. The lighting is good with the window (the white board is there temporarily). There is a wall outlet right between them, and the shelves holding all the paint cans and wood treatment are just an arm away.

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We have a piece of pegboard left over from the east wall project. Adhering to the “use it or lose it” rule, I mounted it under the window and it fits perfectly! It is a great spot to store protective gear for wood working.

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Keep the north wall for sport storage and as a mud room

The last wall in our garage is the north wall, shared between the garage and the living room/kitchen. It has been used for winter gear storage with a DIY ski rack:

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next to which is hanging space and shoe storage as a mudroom area.

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What is next?

Now the garage has been organized again, in the best way I can, we have yet to find storage for two more categories of things: Christmas decorations, and lumber.

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So naturally, I decide to use these lumber to created more storage in the garage for Christmas stuff – a one-stone-two-birds approach. Why not? And we happen to have this ugly corner above the roof trusses to cover up…Do you see where I am going with this?

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My next project will be to created storage above the trusses using the lumber we have, not only to conceal the electrical wires, but also to provide space for Christmas decors. Hopefully by the end of the week, we will be able to park a car, maybe even two cars, back to the garage again! Who would know?

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