Terrific Broth

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

Tag: Garage Page 1 of 4

My First Carpentry Work!

Ladies and gentlemen, I built these!


And I built them 100% by myself, without Slav’s help!


I’ve been wanting to learn woodwork for a while. But as a handyman’s wife, I am both lazy and intimidated to start. I do plenty of DIY. In fact, I designed most of the furniture we built. But when it gets to the actual cutting and drilling, Slav shows up with his drill and takes over. Over the years, the separation of our work flow became more and more exclusive, to which point I do not even know where our drill is anymore. There is nothing wrong with job specialization – it does speed up the process of a big project. But for small projects like door trims, a picture hedge, or hanging shelves, it would have been much more efficient if I did not have to call Slav every time I need to drill into a wall.

The problem is – better Slav gets, more clumsy I get, and more intimidated I am to try. I think we both just assume that I will hurt myself using tools at this point. And I really really want to change that. I want to feel comfortable with power tools. I want to be able to pick the right screws for the right job. And I want to be able to take over small projects so Slav can focus on large scale project such as walls and plumbing. The ranch house has brought so much work, and every single one involves using power tools. I do not want to just make a honey-to-do list and nag Slav to complete everything.

When the need of a pair of saw horses comes around, I saw a great opportunity for me to start. Sawhorses are simple to build – Ana White published this simple plan with a complete cut list and an easy-to-follow video, so I can just focus on the building part. The material is cheap and simple, just some 2″x4″s, so if I screw up, little will be wasted. Most importantly, these are just saw horses. They do not need to be pretty or have a nice finish, so I can feel free to practice on them and learn from my mistakes.

I started by gathering materials. We took down a wall in our utility room a while ago and still have some of these 2″x4″ framing lumber laying around. They are cut into random length during the demo process, and a lot of them have nails on them. But they are long enough to provide some usable pieces for the sawhorse.


I picked out all the long and relatively good pieces and hammered out the nails. Slav reluctantly pointed out that 2″x4″s are cheap, so it does not make much sense to dig into junk wood pile and risk to cut my hands with rusty nails. And he is absolutely right. But I also to wanted to practice using pry bar and hammers, and I am stingy genetically. So I kindly reminded him that it was International Men’s Day and World Toilet Day, and he should be doing what men do on the toilet and leave me alone.


After half an hour of work, I managed to harvest lots of good-looking lumber without breaking my skin. Points for that!

I did need more 2″x4″‘s, so I picked up two from Lowe’s along with some wood screws. I made two mistakes while doing that – one is I did not inspect the 2″x4″s carefully. I did check the straightness – and you bet I did it proudly because it made me felt like an expert. But I did not double check the length of these lumbers. One 2″x4″ is 4 inches shorted than expected 8’. But fortunately I did not need the whole length. The other mistake is that I did not get enough screws, apparently 50 of them are not enough for two saw horses!


I marked length on all the pieces according to the cut list, and fired up the miter saw:



Roxie watched me and licked saw dust off my hair. It is truly wonderful to have dogs.


I dry fit the pieces together after cutting. I can definitely get better at the miter saw – the pieces were a bit uneven at the end and corners, and sometimes I did not push the miter saw down enough, which resulted in jagged edges. Luckily, none of the mistakes prevented me from continuing the assembly.

The next step was to put the pieces together. I picked deck screws for the job, which might be a bit overkill, but they grab so well that they made the job really easy. I made a mistake not picking up enough of them, which became a good lesson, because I got to try all different kinds of long screws we had around, and figured out that I did not like self-drilling screws so much. I also learned quickly that having two drills around can make the work a lot faster when pre-drilling is needed.


It took me probably 20 minutes to assemble the first sawhorse, but a lot quicker for the other one. After building the first one, I decided to spice it up by adding on top a piece of 1″x8″ we had laying around:


If you have looked the cut list, you will notice that I skipped the 1″x3″ cross braces. The sawhorses were already very steady and I was running low on long screws, so I decided that having a pretty top was more important than cross bracing. 🙂

Here are the sexy pair. Aside from the scrap wood, I bought one box of screws and two 2″x4″s.


These saw horses are built to give our miter saw a boost, so we no longer need to cut on the patio. We have work benches in the garage, but we prefer to cut lumbers outside so our garage remains saw-dust free. Without a miter saw table, it can get really hard on our backs.


Slav immediately used it for his quarter round trims (another weekend project, stay tuned). My build is now Slav-approved! Below is the photo evidence – right after Slav crossed himself for using my saw horses.


To end today’s post, I want to give a shout to Ana’s Youtube channel. I have been watching it for a few months now, and it really inspired me to tackle woodwork myself. Guess who will be building more after today’s first project? This lady!

Garage Ceiling, Gone!

Demoing is my favorite part of the renovation. Despite dust and debris, it usually leaves a much cleaner and simpler state for us to work with. Most of the things we have done during the five months living in this house are demos: old carpet on the main floor, stinky carpet on the stairs, satellite dish on the roof and wires, rusted metal awnings, broken concrete patios, window wells (here and here), a wall or two, and a backyard garden shed. Our ranch must feel 1000 pounds lighter now.

And last weekend, garage ceiling got its turn.

Boy, did we have fun demo the garage ceiling! It was not only unwanted, but also crazily ugly. It lacks both form and function. This attic ladder is a good representative of the current state of the garage ceiling:


(Please applause for the DIY ski rack in the background – it looks so good!)

I had Slav on the ladder with a pry bar, mom’s cheer, and an utility knife. The only thing we did not have was mercy. In a couple hours, we went from this:


to this:


And to this:



To break it down, Slav removed all the drywall ceilings with a pry bar, and I was on the ground cutting the drywall into manageable pieces using an utility knife. While I bagged all the drywall pieces in big trash bags, Slav went around and removed all the nails, screws, and ladder hardware from the bottom chord.


You can see the plywood sub-roof now:



The ridge opening is covered by ridge vent, which is designed to let moisture and heat out of the garage.


Slav also removed many random boards and lumber nailed onto the bottom chord. Many of which do not have any function.


He did leave one section intact. The southeast corner of the bottom chord has several really nice boards on top. We decided to keep it as a potential storage.



The next step will be rewiring the electrical to accommodate more ceiling lights. The current electrical situation in the garage is pretty pathetic:




After the electrical work, we will likely seal the roof with plywood for a better look. At the mean time, we are perfectly happy to look up and see our beautiful garage roof trusses:


One step closer to our cathedral ceiling!

Garage Ceiling Goes Cathedral!

Hey friends! Last time I left you with the ranch house garage, it looked like this:


It was organized, but far from renovated. Most of the walls and ceiling are still the original and full of nail holes.

I also left you a lengthy to-do list for our next stage of work in the garage. Most of the things on this list concern insulation:

1. Demo the broken dry wall ceiling
2. Upgrade the lighting
3. A new attic entry
4. Northern wall insulation
5. Finish/paint the northern and southern walls
6. Replace the old window
7. Replace weather stripping and broken trims around garage door
8. Insulate the garage door with a layer of foam
9. Fix the garage slab and replace the old weather stripping under the garage door

You can see that we have already replaced the weather stripping around the garage door and leveled the concrete slab at where it has settled. These steps stopped almost all the winter draft coming in from the garage door, which helps the garage to stay warm in winter. Our next task, is a completely overhaul of the garage ceiling – including replacing the ceiling, adding insulation, and updating the electrical.


Here is what the garage ceiling looks like. The problems are…many. I do not even know where to start. Let us put it this way, I cannot think of anything good to say about this ceiling, at all.


It is a random collection of drywall pieces. You can see that some seams are taped, while others are not.


The drywall pieces are small, leading to many gaps in between. They allow heat to escape in winter. Ever worse, some pieces are completely missing:


The drywall pieces are mostly nailed to the bottom chord. In some places, they are held up by random pieces of lumber:


This ceiling not only seriously lacks form, but also function. There is no insulation whatsoever above the ceiling – just imagine this garage is an abandoned, broken barn.

The electrical in this garage is also a mess. There is only one electrical outlet on the ceiling, and not many light sockets.


As a consequence, all the lights in the garage are interconnected with loose wires.


Last but not the least, allow me to present to you the king of the problem – the attic ladder:


Or I should say, the leftover of the attic ladder:


The bottom of the ladder is broken off and the whole thing is slowly peeling off the drywall cover. If we want to go up, we need to use a long ladder to put on top of the broken attic ladder – a true safety hazard. Unfortunately, due to the “hot” Denver housing market, we did not have the leverage to ask the previous owner to fix anything. We bought the house “as-is”, and this is it…

Although the ceiling looks terrible, the roof structure is no doubt in a good shape. With a new roof over the garage, we feel pretty good about our starting point. We believe that with a completely ceiling overhaul and some new lighting, we can make this garage a really neat place.

Starting last week, Slav started to take down the ceiling piece by piece:


He started from the edge, where there are less electrical connections, and moved his way to the center:



The piece of drywall above the bottom chord is our current attic access. We plan to replace it during the ceiling work. In our city, the code requires the attic access door in attached garage to be 20 minutes fire-rated, and self-closing.

As the ceiling coming down, you can see the stuff stored there and left to us: paneling, screens, and interestingly, a whole plastic bag of receipts.



The roof above the main living area has king post roof truss, but in the garage, we have tri-bearing truss:


The roof pitch is 4:12, which is not steep at all. But over the whole span of the roof, the highest point is over 4 feet above our existing 8’4″ ceiling. I cannot help but thinking how great it would be to keep a cathedral ceiling here, instead of installing a new flat drywall ceiling. It will not only makes this compact garage feeling more spacious, but also save all the effort and cost to drywall and mud. And think about the cool lighting we can have instead of standard can lights!

I had the idea brewing in my head for weeks before discussing with Slav. He was immediately on board! And not in a tolerating kind of way, but in a “Great idea” and “Let us do it” kind of way. 🙂 I am such a lucky woman.

So now the question became: how do we insulate the ceiling, and what do we use to as ceiling finish? We decided to go with the same 5-mm plywood that we used on the garage end wall. It is light and easy to work with, and has a nice finish. We can put fiberglass batt insulation right between the plywood and the roof, just like in the walls. The plywood will not only cover the insulation, but also hold them in place.

I am excited about using the same plywood finish on the ceiling as the end wall. The continuous wall to ceiling treatment should draw the attention up, especially with white walls flanking it from both sides. It should make the garage feel deeper and taller, something like this.

With a solid plan in place, we are just waiting for a warm weekend to tackle the garage ceiling project. As of today, half of the garage ceiling has been removed! So stay toned, friends! The tall ceiling is coming!

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