Terrific Broth

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

Category: Small Upgrade Page 1 of 3

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.

01 before

02 before

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.

03 80 grit

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

04 after 80

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

05 side before

Came right off with the 80 grit sandpaper.

06 side after 80

Before sanding:

07 before

After 80 grit:

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It took just 5 mins on each side.

09 color change

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

10 80 on trim

Trim before sanding:

11 before trim

After 80 grits:

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

13 after 80

And finished everything off with 220 grits sandpaper:

15 after 220

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:

18 after clean

17 after clean

16 after clean

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.

24 after stain

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.

26 second coat

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 + 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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Ethernet for Internet – An Electronic Upgrade

Hi! I hope y’all had a good weekend! We went on a ski trip with my sister and her boyfriend this past weekend and we had TONS of fun. It is really sweet to see how happy everyone was and how much we enjoyed each other’s company.

Of course, away from home = no renovation progress. The office doors and library trims have to wait another week. I do have something to report though – something I am not familiar with at all and honestly, care very little. But the man in the house could not live without this upgrade and thinks it is “crucial for the quality of life”. So here goes his recent DIY work – Ethernet connections.

Before adding insulation to our attic, Slav laid down some Ethernet cables on the attic floor. They are to deliver wired internet service to all the rooms on the main floor, as well as to provide fast connections between the media server in the garage and Slav’s computer. We are also required to have a home security system by our home insurance, which needs to be connected with Ethernet cable too. So Slav got cables and terminals on bulk and laid down an extensive network in the attic.

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After the blown-in insulation, Slav connected the cables to our router and started setting up the ports in each room. In our bedroom, we decided the ports should live on the wall our bed faces, next to the wall outlet. We have no plan to hang TV or projector in the bedroom, but having the Ethernet port and the outlet next to each other provides an opportunity for future users.

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Our wall studs have horizontal bracing in between, making it difficult to fish these cables out. Slav made a hook from a piece of rigid copper wire, and taped his endoscope camera on it. This home-made tool helped him to get wires out fairly easily.

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Did you notice the electrical tape on his wrist? He wrapped it on tight around the sleeves so insulation would not get into his hoodie. True DIY spirit I’d say.

After fishing the cables out, he made the connection with a special tool and installed the wall plate. Now we have two Ethernet ports in our bedroom!

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The installation in Slav’s office was easier since we had cable terminal there to begin with. Slav simply eliminated the cable terminal, and used the existing cable to piggyback the Ethernet cable into the office.

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He then made the terminal for the Ethernet cables and installed the wall plate where the cable terminal used to be.

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Having Slav’s computer on Ethernet significantly increased the upload speed, which is important for his work since he often needs to upload large files. Needless to say that it made the man very happy.

The other reason of having Ethernet is for connecting the home security cameras. We do not feel that we need any security system, since we have two large dogs and a state trooper living right across the street. But installing one can significantly decrease our home insurance rate, so it is well worth it.

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Slav installed all four security cameras under the soffit at various locations, then threaded cables out to connect to the cameras to our server:

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These cameras are motion-sensitive and point to our garage door, front and back doors, and the whole backyard. They will start recording when any movement is detected around our doors. We can check the live footage or pull up the recordings anytime from our laptops and phones.

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You can probably tell from the lack of progress photos how little I know about these electronic upgrades (LOL). But I hope some of you out there are just as excited as Slav about this small (but important!) DIY project. As for me, I will be back to trimming bookcases and undoubtedly take way too many pictures and write an unnecessary long post about it. So be sure to check on us later this week!

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