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

Category: Projects Page 1 of 45

DIY Frame for Large Painting

Snow days are perfect for small DIY projects. Today’s showcase is a large picture frame I made for an oil painting.


It may not look like much. But when compared to the look without the frame, I think it is a big improvement:


We had this painting for a couple years now. Over time, we noticed that the frame slowly came out of plumb. I decided the best way of re-align the canvas without adding much more weight would be to add a strong frame around the original one.


There are lots of tutorials online for frame making. I picked one of the simplest plan with a floating frame look:

Material list (for a 40″ ×40″ canvas):

  • Two 1″ x 2″ x 8′ red oak*
  • Scrap wood for corner reinforcement (I used a 42″ long 1″ x 4″ piece)
  • Wood stain/paint/finish desired
  • Hanging hardware

*You can use any wood species for the frame. I picked the relatively expensive red oak ($22/2 pieces after tax) for the look of its grain, with plan to stain the frame. We ended up painting the frame, so I could have used cheaper wood such as pine to get the same look.

Tools needed:

  • Miter saw (or handsaw + speed square)
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Pen or pencil
  • Wood glue
  • Nail gun and brad nails (or pocket screws if you want to get fancy)
  • Hammer or drill (for hanging the frames)


The first step is measure and cut the frame pieces. I decided on having a small gap (1/16″ or so) between the canvas and the frame, so for 40″ canvas, I cut each side to be 40 1/8″ on the inner side. The canvas is about 3/4″ deep. For a floating look I made sure to have the 1″ side (actually 3/4″) facing up, to let the 2″ side (actually 1 1/2″) be the depth of the frame. I also chose to miter the corners for a more classic look. For simpler construction you can just butt joint the two pieces.


To make sure the new frame is plumb I added corner pieces. Bigger/longer the corner pieces are, more sturdy the construction will be. I cut up a piece of 1″ x 4″ scape wood so each piece ended up to be around 10″ long. I also cut the ends at 45 degree so the corner pieces could sit flush against the inside of the frame.


The corner pieces were cut with the 1″ side (true dimension 3/4″) facing the inside of the frame, allowing the 3/4″ canvas to sit flush with the surface of the frame, creating a floating look.


Before assembling the frames I dry-fit all the pieces together on a flat surface. The whole frame was straight, square, and plumb, and I liked the gap around the canvas.



At the last minute I decided to add a 1″x1″ piece horizontally. It added some strength, helped to keep the frame plumb, and provided more surface for the canvas to attach to the frame assembly.


At this point I asked for Slav’s opinion on the finish of the frame. He requested dark color. So I painted the frame a shotgun black using the leftover paint from our front door.


Even though this was among one of the smallest DIY projects, I still felt excited assembling the frame. We tacked together the frame pieces with 1 3/16″ brad nails (16-gauge or 18-gauge both worked fine) and a nail gun. You can also use just hammer and nails or pocket screws, just need to make sure to assemble on a flat surface with the front side facing down so the front of the frame is perfectly flush. We also used wood glue between the joints for added strength.


After putting the frame together, we flipped it and attached the corner reinforcement and the horizontal brace again with glue and brad nails. We made sure that the frame and the corner pieces were on the flat floor, and pushed the corner pieces against the frame so the whole assembly came together flush.


With both the painting and the frame face downward, we secured the canvas to the frame using 1″ brad nails from the back. This was the easiest way to ensure an even gap around the canvas. Just make sure that you clean the surface (in our case, the wood floor) really well before putting the painting face down.


Total 10 nails (2 on each corner pieces, and two on the horizontal pieces) hold the canvas tight to the frame assembly.


And this is how the painting looked standing up! Isn’t it nice?


We kept the original hanging hardware and used the original screw onto which the canvas was hung before.


I love the finished frame! The paint color on the frame is not exactly the color of the furniture underneath, but they match very well.


Covered sides, floating look, and more importantly, straight and plumb!


Compare to before, this art piece now looks much more finished:


DIYing this frame piece turned out to be really straightforward, yet the finished look it delivered exceeded my expectation. I really adore this simple way of making floating frames. Now I want to make floating frame for al the paintings we have!

Main Floor Bath: Electrical

Since the demolition Slav has been working on upgrading the electrical in the bathroom. And today I’d like to show you some progress:


The first task was actually to remove the old bathroom ceiling. We decided to install recessed lighting and a new exhaust fan for this bathroom, all of which would be integrated into the ceiling drywall. The existing ceiling drywall was moldy to begin with. So Slav took the old drywall down.


At the corner was an old vent for basement water heater. Since we installed the tankless water heater three years ago, this vent has not been used. Slav simply terminated it inside the attic, and cut the rest out of the bathroom. Removing this vent and the framing around it gained up a few sqft in this bathroom.


The only inconvenience of removing ceiling drywall was the attic insulation. Our attic does not have any flooring – the main floor ceiling drywall is the only barrier separating the insulation and the main floor space. To make sure the attic insulation does not fall into the bathroom, Slav had to crawl into the attic and rack the loose insulation away from the bathroom ceiling area.


Slav then put down some plywood underlayment to prevent the insulation from falling into the bathroom. At this point, he started working on the electrical from the bathroom below.


First, a new exhaust fan was installed. It has sensors for not only motion, but also humidity in the room. Based on the humidity, it can also choose between two flow rate automatically (80 and 110 CFM), both of which are higher than the required flow rate by code for our small bathroom. Slav positioned the new exhaust fan between the future vanity and shower, almost directly below the roof vent.


Slav then wired the new fan independently. The old fan was piggybacked onto the vanity lights, which meant that whenever we turned on the light, the noisy ceiling fan had to come on as well. The new exhaust fan is on its own circuit and can be operated independently from the lights.

Next, Slav wired for three recessed lighting on the ceiling. They are also wired on an independent circuit.


Now the original circuit was only for the vanity lights. He kept this circuit and simply brought it to where the switches would be. We will be upgrading the vanity light down the road – Slav is entertaining the idea of a light-integrated mirror and I am dreaming of a pair of vanity lights. No matter which direction we go with, I cannot wait for the stage of picking out fixtures!


We will be adding a couple outlets at the vanity height to accommodate things like hair dryer and electrical toothbrush, as well as an outlet for the bidet behind the toilet. For now, the electrical on the wet wall was left unchanged. We need to finish the plumbing upgrade here first.


The switch used to be on the left side of the door, next to the vent we removed. We have decided to install a pocket door here, so the switches would have to be brought to the other side of the door. Slav extended the original switch controlling the vanity light(s) over the door, and installed the switch on the bath/office wall immediate next to the door. The switches for the new exhaust fan and recessed lighting circuits were also brought here:



We now have three switches in this bathroom: one for the vanity light (left), one for all the recessed lighting (middle), and the last one for the exhaust fan (right). The metal box is the light switch facing the office.


Speaking for the office, I have long wanted to relocate the router to the corner of the room. I could not find a recent photo of this wall, but from the picture I took during the office renovation below, you could see the outlet and the Ethernet cable connection were both located in the middle of the wall, determining the location of the router:


This was what the original Ethernet connection and outlet looked like from the bathroom side. Having the bathroom side of the wall open provided a wonderful opportunity to relocate them with ease:


Slav kept the wall outlet and simply added a new outlet near the bookcase. The Ethernet connection box was moved right below it on the same stud:


To patch the drywall for the Ethernet box, Slav screwed on a piece of scrap wood from the bathroom side.



Here is a close shot for the new outlet and Ethernet connection, now next to the bookshelf:


After making sure that everything is working as intended, Slav patched the drywall and mudded it smooth:



Followed by some leftover wall paint.


It looked like the Ethernet box was never there! Now I can tuck away the router (on top of the bookshelf)

To date we have crossed off 90% of the electrical work in the bathroom, except installing the ceiling cans and adding a couple outlets on the wet wall after plumbing upgrade. Another big progress in the bathroom is that the new window was in!


To make sure we won’t have water issue around this window, we opted for a fixed panel window. The window is obscured for privacy, but still lets in plenty of light in the mornings.


After the window was in, I insulated the wall cavity. It was done just before a snow storm and I was glad that the new window and insulation kept my office warm! We also installed sound insulation between the bathroom and the office/guest room for privacy.


With most of the electrical work done I am happy to report that the bathroom reno to-do list is a lot shorter. The next big job? Plumbing!

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulating the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights;
5. Installing a new exhaust fan;
6. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and rewiring for switches;
7. Installing recessed lights and ceiling drywall, taping/mudding/priming ceiling;
8. Pocket door framing;
9. Upgrading plumbing for toilet and shower;
10. Ordering new toilet, sink/vanity, and shower fixtures. Upgrading/installing water lines to the fixture;
11. Installing new subflooring, closing up the walls, and waterproofing;
12. Tiling the floor;
13. Tiling the shower wall with a shower niche;
14. Installing new window stool/trims;
15. Priming and painting drywall and ceiling;
16. Installing glass shower doors;
17. Installing shower fixtures, vanity/sink, and toilet/bidet;
18. Installing pocket door, mirror, and lighting.
19. Door trims inside and outside/updating nearby closet trims at the same time;
20. Accessories, plants, enjoy!

Main Floor Bath: Design and Inspirations

Now Slav has completed the demolition of the main floor bathroom, it is time to talk about the rebuild. We have been designing this bathroom since September, and have a pretty good understanding how we want the room to function and feel.


Let us start with the function. This bathroom is the only other bathroom in the house besides our master bath, and also the only bathroom on the main floor. We use this bathroom while working from home during the daytime, and when we hang out in the living/kitchen area in the evenings. Now we have set up a sleeping area in the adjacent office, this bathroom will also be used by guests.

For perspective, this picture was taken when standing in the living room. The room on the left is my office/guest bedroom, and room with blue walls and tiled floor is the bathroom.


We have decided to install the office door between the hallway and living room, which means that when the door is closed, our guests can have their own private suite and do not have to walk into the view of the living room to travel between bathroom and the bed.



Since we do not shower in the main floor bathroom, we’ve decided to install a walk-in shower without a tub. A walk-in shower is much safer for our eldly parents, and also easier to keep clean. Below is the old bathroom layout, with shower/tub next to the window, and the vanity and toilet on the right side of the bathroom.


And below is an inspiration photo indicating the future layout. The shower fixtures, vanity and toilet will remain on the right wall, which contains all the water pipes and plumbing, and the future shower area will be wider (32″) than the old 30″ tub to provide more elbow room.

Different from the inspiration photo above, the shower door panel will be frameless like the one we installed downstairs and in the inspiration photo below. It should create a roomy appearance for this 5′ x 8′ bathroom.

Similar to the inspiration photos above, our bathroom has an east-facing window which lets in a lot of light. We want to keep this bathroom bright and cheerful, so we will be using white tiles on the wall, and dark tiles on the floor, similar to the inspiration below:

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In terms of the tile choices, I always likes high contrast not only in color but also in size. In our master bath downstairs, we chose big dark tiles on the floor and one wall, and white subway tiles on the other two walls:


To make things a bit different, we will switch to dark small tile on the floor and white big tiles on the wall for this bathroom.

Choosing smaller tiles on the floor allows us to keep the tile pattern uniform throughout the entire bathroom, including in the shower pan area. This will help the bathroom look bigger too.

One feature we really liked about our master bath is the shower niche spinning the entire back of the shower. Unfortunately, due to the window height we are not able to replicate this look. But what we can do instead, is have the niche on the side of the shower, and terminate it on the exterior wall, like that in the photo below.

Other details we plan to add include a pocket door:

And wooden/glass shelves above the toilet for towel and tissue storage.

With white toilet and vanity I think this small bathroom will look simple, clean, comfortable, and cheerful. Imagine opening the pocket door and seeing bright tiled walls, dark and geometric patterned floor, glass shower, with a touch of wood and lots of green plants! Surely we have a long way to go – Slav has been working on electrical over the past a couple weeks and it took a lot longer then we anticipated – but looking for inspirations gives me hope and motivation to push forward. Stay tuned, friends and family. It will be great!

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