Full Interior Repaint for a 1950s Ranch

414 Hillsborough


This 1957 ranch is in need of some brightening up.  Over the years the baseboards have taken a beating and there are plenty of holes from nails and push-pins.  Additionally, many of the window mullions were painted, but never scraped (which leaves me to do them now).  While I won’t be fully restoring the moldings, doors or windows, I want to give the place a first rate paint job on a budget that suits the house.  The most important thing is that the house feel fresh and clean to the next person who lives there.


Scraping & Taping

The windows had clearly been painted in the past, as evidenced by the paint left on the glass.  This is not an uncommon way to paint windows, but it is generally followed up by scraping the glass clean with a razor blade.  Most of the windows looked about like the one below.

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The baseboards were also pretty bad and had a lot of wear near the bottom edge.  This means they need to be taped off in order to get adequate coverage without the worry of transferring paint to the hardwood floors.  Some of the quarter-round was stained in the past, which required a primer coat, and there were quite a few separations, gaps, and holes that needed to be filled.

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The door facings and remaining trim were also showing signs of heavy wear.

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Caulk & Paint

The baseboards have a nice contrast to the walls and floor now.

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I tested a small area on the built-ins, just to see how different they would look.  I can’t wait to see how much better they look when finished.

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While the first coat dries on the built-ins, I started working on the closets.  There was quite a bit of caulking to be done, and most of the shoe molding around the base of the closets was unpainted, so I spent some time priming as well.  Even partially finished, they look much better.

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The built-ins are starting to improve quite a bit, as are the doors.

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Custom Chalkboard Paint


  • Flat-finish Latex Paint (any color)
  • Tile Grout (unsanded)
  • Primer
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Sponge Roller or Sponge Brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Dust Cloth


  • Paint/Grout ratio = 8:1   (Example: Mix 1 tablespoon of grout with 1 cup of paint)
  • Sift the grout into the paint to remove any large clumps.  Stir until homogeneous.
  • Clean and dry the area to be painted.
  • Prime the area to be painted and allow to dry.
  • Tape off the area and then apply chalkboard paint with a sponge roller or sponge brush to achieve a smooth finish.  (Apply in several thin coats for best finish)
  • Lightly sand the painted area to remove any high spots or inconsistency.
  • Wipe clean with a damp dust cloth.
  • Pre-condition the new chalkboard by turning a piece of chalk on edge and rubbing the entire surface of the board.  Wipe away the residue with a damp sponge.  By doing this it will reduce permanent “ghosting” of the first few things you write on the board.  Using less-dense “artist’s” chalk will also make erasing much easier.

Posted in How-To

Octagonal Picnic Table

Octagonal Picnic Table

This table is HUGE!  I wanted a table that could seat more than a traditional, rectangular design.  Although it looks intimidating, there are relatively few steps involved in its construction.  A few of the steps will require two people and you will definitely need a few buddies to help carry it to its final position in the yard.  It also really helps to have a flat surface on which the table can be assembled.  The height of the seats and table surface are the standard 18″ and 30″ respectively, but the width of the table is over 9 feet.


Tool List

  • Compound Miter Saw
  • Drill / Impact Driver
  • Tape Measure
  • Carpenter’s Square
  • Pencil
  • Socket Set (for bolts)
  • Hearing Protection
  • Jig Saw
  • Sander & Sandpaper
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • Driver Bit
  • Paintbrush (optional)
  • Eye Protection

Materials List

  • 2x4s Pressure Treated
  • 3 1/2″ Deck Screws
  • 3/4″ Pressure Treated Plywood
  • 2x6s Pressure Treated
  • 4″ Deck Screws
  • Deck Stain or Outdoor Paint (Optional)

Creating the Components

You will need to cut three (3) tie-plates for this project.  To make the design, just draw 2 lines, ninety degrees apart, then rotate 45° and repeat.  Place a scrap piece of 2×4 over the center of the lines and trace around it to achieve the proper thickness.

Assembling the Table


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Drywall Techniques: California Patch

[enlarge diagram]

There are, of course, many ways to patch holes in drywall, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages.  The “California Patch” or “Butterfly Patch” is a nice technique if you don’t have any drywall tape or if you are trying to minimize the thickness of the finished repair.  Adding layers of seam-tape and compound can be undesirable in certain applications, especially well-lit ceilings…This is where the California patch can be a very handy solution.

Tool List

Keyhole Saw

Utility (Razor) Knife

Carpenter’s Square


Drywall Knives (size depends on area being repaired)

Sanding Sponge

Surform Tool

Dust Mask

Clean Cloth

Vacuum Cleaner


Drywall Compound

Drywall Screws

Lumber (scrap)

Drywall (scrap)


I. Prepare the Damaged Area

· Shine a flashlight into the hole to check for any studs, electrical wires, or plumbing that could be damaged with a saw

· Use a square to draw a rectangle around the damaged area

· Cut out the rectangle with a keyhole saw

· Locate any nearby studs or joists – If there is a stud/joist nearby it may be convenient to widen the hole and use the existing wood as a support

· If no stud/joist is near the hole, create a brace by using a piece of 1×2 or scrap lumber.

· Clean up the edges of the new hole with a surform tool and a sanding sponge

· Wipe down the surface with a damp cloth to remove excess dust

II. Making the Patch

· Measure the new hole

· Transfer the measurements to the back side of a scrap piece of drywall and add a two inch border around the perimeter.

· Score along the lines and into the drywall gypsum – do not cut through the paper on the front side

· Snap the outside pieces off that surround the center rectangle and gently peel them away from the paper on the front side.

· You should be left with the center rectangle with a 2″ flap of paper around the perimeter

· Clean up the edges of the patch with a surform tool and a sanding sponge

· Test fit the center rectangle into the hole that was cut earlier

III. Apply the Patch

· While holding the patch in the hole, trace around the outside of the 2″ flap onto the existing drywall

· Remove the patch and score along the lines made in the previous step (just deep enough to cut through the paper facing)

· Remove the paper surrounding the hole by slowly peeling away from the gypsum

· Test fit to see if the flap lays flush without overlapping

· If using a brace, install it now – If you place the screws inside the area where the tape is removed, it will be easier to conceal

· With everything fitting nicely, go ahead and apply mud to the perimeter of the patch, under the flap

· Apply a bit of mud around the perimeter of the hole where the face-paper was removed

· Place the patch into the hole and secure with drywall screws

· Use a drywall knife to set the flap and to squeeze out excess compound

· Wait until the compound is dry and knock down any high spots with the drywall knife by scraping over the surface at a low angle

· Thin down a bit of compound with water (spray bottle works well) and skim the entire surface to blend the repair with the existing drywall

· Lightly sand when dry and repeat if necessary

· Thats it! Now it is ready to paint.

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60 Gallon Rain-Collection System

This is my latest contribution to the rain collection scene here in the Triangle. There is a very active market for rain barrels in our area and several of the popular designs found on-line originate here. Most designs feature bare barrels which are fitted with hoses, screens, adapters, and valves. They are simple and effective but are the bane of many neighborhood associations because they look like drums of toxic waste that are likely to produce mutant mosquitoes.

This new design houses two 30 gallon HDPE drums cradled in a hardwood base with a screen enclosure. Following the norm in rain harvesting, this system utilizes predominantly re-purposed materials. The heavy-duty wood cradle adds stability and greatly improves the overall appearance of the system. A screened cover stops leaf buildup,  and keeps insects and spiders from taking up residence.



· 30 Gallon HDPE Drums x 2

· Dimensions ≈ 3′ x 3.5′ x 3′ – ( L x W x H )

· 60 Gallon Capacity

· Stable Base to Prevent Overturning

· All Parts are Common and Easily Obtained at Local Hardware Stores

Ryan Griffin

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Tool Cubbies for Garage Workshop

While working on a few projects with my father-in-law I realized that my tools are getting out of control. It always seems like you can’t finish a project without getting out every tool you own, so it is time to get organized! Wood for this project is reclaimed hardwood bracing from a local granite supplier. I will be working on this a few hours a day (in my free time) and will update this post with any significant changes.



To simplify the cutting of all twenty-four upright pieces I made a crude auxiliary fence with a stop set at 15 inches.


It is starting to look like something useful now. I will be adding sides and interior dividers before sanding and painting.


While I was working a giant moth flew into the garage. It hung out on the wood-pile until I set it free later in the afternoon.


Posted in Project Archive Tagged

Shower Pan Upgrade – Oldschool Mortar-bed meets Modern Thin-bed Membrane


A few weeks ago this bright bathroom had a serious problem… The shower pan was showing serious signs of water infiltration.  Tiles were loose on the curb of the shower, and the joints between radius tiles around the perimeter of the shower were soft and discolored.  Much of the grout had eroded from the joints between the field tiles and appeared to be depositing in the drain.  Due to the amount of buildup in the drain, it was clear this had been going on for quite some time.




It was obvious this problem was more than skin deep.  When I pressed on the loose tiles, water seeped from between the joints.  The mortar bed underneath was clearly saturated with water and would need to be replaced.   There was also the issue of that horrid drain… which would need to be replaced with a new drain assembly from Schluter Systems.  Schluter offers a shower pan system which is a combination of products specifically designed to drain water away from the setting bed and into the drain.  Older installation methods place a liner under the mortar pan, which is too low for the water to flow into the drain assembly.  Modern thin-bed membranes are installed directly under the tile and divert water into the drain before it can soak into the setting bed.  Schluter also offers a pre-sloped shower pan which is much easier to install than a traditional mortar bed, and is custom fit to the drain assembly.  I had Progressive Plumbing of Durham install the new drain section and flange, which was a breeze.  After a short explanation, Steve made quick work of installing the drain.  He even managed to find the base of the drain, in the garage, on his first try!  (I could have sworn it was in that chase).  After everything was installed I taped up the flange and opening to prevent debris from falling in.





With the drain installed, I was free to complete demolition.   The rest of the floor crumbled away with a few well placed strikes from my hammer.  I was in for a surprise when I reached the radius tiles on the walls and curb… The tiles in these areas were laid on top of a drywall product!  As water accumulated in the mortar bed, it merely wicked into the drywall.  Over time the bond between drywall and tile was broken, which let water enter the lower portion of the wall.  My guess as to why these lower sections were drywalled instead of using treated plywood or backer board is because of the thick folds in the Chloroloy liner.  Because typical Chloroloy liners can be 30-40 mil in thickness they are difficult to work into corners.  Folding the liners into inside corners created a buildup of material which can throw things out of alignment.  To avoid this, the original installer used drywall because it can be easily shaped to compensate for  “proud” areas in the corners.  To retrofit the new membrane system, I replaced the drywall patches at the bottom of the shower wall with treated plywood, which I built up to the proper thickness.  Once I had built the area out to the correct height and thickness, the boards were removed and wrapped in Shcluter Kerdi membrane.  I chose to use the wrapped plywood instead of cement backer board in this case, because it was easier to work  into shape with my table saw.  A continuous sheet of Kerdi membrane was then installed over the wrapped plywood, shower pan and drain.  After troweling out the sheet of membrane and installing the pre-formed corner pieces, I cut the hole for the drain.  It is easy to see that any water which manages to get beneath the tile will flow across the surface of the membrane and into the drain assembly.



Now that I have a watertight pan which has the proper sloped of 1/4 inch per foot, it is time to lay tile!   Because of a tight deadline, I needed to work long hours to complete this project on time.  To do this I needed to set my saw up inside the garage.   I pulled this off without a mess by using a couple of tricks.  First of all, I used good hearing protection!  I also took the time to set my saw up a little differently than usual.  I rented the saw from Triad Equipment and after a bit of tuning, I had it making perfect cuts.  I tore open one side of a trash bag and taped it to the saw so that any water slung from the blade would drip back into the tray below.  I also have a habit of placing the water pump in a bucket of fresh water instead of  in the pan beneath the saw.  This keeps it clean and clog-free!  Laying the tile went quickly.  I used polymer-modified thin-set to adhere both the membrane and the tile, and fortified non-sanded grout in the joints.  After cleaning up, I installed the new stainless steel Schluter drain cover which also serves as a sharp accent to the new tile.  With the door and glass replaced and the grout sealed, this shower is ready to rock for years to come.





Posted in Project Archive

Sherwin Williams DeckScapes™ Brings New Life to a Small Deck


This structure of this deck is still in good shape, but the stain is in need of maintenance.   The stain was beginning to peel, and a few of the exposed boards were  supporting algal growth.  Fortunately there was no rot, and the posts were also in good shape.  Two of the stair risers had warped and detached from the stringers below, creating a tripping hazard.  This is a good example of a well-built deck that merely needs to be restored with quality products and a little hard work.



I began by spraying the deck with DeckScapes Deck Wash.  I applied two coats of the wash with a pressurized sprayer, and allowed it to soak in thoroughly.  To remove the dirt and loose stain I pressure washed the entire deck.  It is important not to scar the wood with the washer as it can show through the finished product.  The stair risers were repaired with a few 4 inch deck screws and an impact driver.  After allowing the deck to dry for a few days, I lightly sanded away any loose stain that was remaining and countersunk all protruding nails.   Below are the products I used to restore the deck.


The new stain went on easily and was almost a perfect match.  Two coats and this deck looked like new!102_1643102_1645


Posted in Project Archive

Window Stool Repair – Otters Run Property


The windows in this clients house are common, double-hung windows, trimmed out with a sill, stool, and apron.  These trim components work together to create a nice looking weatherproofing system.  The sill is usually sloped 10 – 15 degrees toward the outside of the house and serves to divert water away from the bottom of the lower sash.  On the interior side of the window, the gap where the bottom sash meets the sill is hidden by the stool.  The stool projects out from the bottom of the window, creating a small ledge.  This leaves a gap between the bottom of the stool and the drywall underneath the window.  This area is concealed with an apron which is a piece of window trim, that has been mitered and fit with returns on each end.


It is common for damage to occur to the edges of the stool because it projects out from the wall.  It can easily break by having a child leaning on it, or sliding a piece of furniture into it.  In this case, it turned out to be a great place for a silly dog, named Bella, to take out her teething frustrations…She is a good dog now though!!  Smilie: :)


The repair is begun by removing the apron.  A razor knife can be used to score between the trim and wall to minimize cracking or damaging the drywall.  The stool should be easy to pry up with a small pry bar.  I saved the existing stool to use as a template for fabricating the new one.  After removing the old caulk and paint from the wall surface, it is a good idea to give the entire area a light sanding.




Window stool can easily be made with a router/table and a round-over bit, or picked up from your local hardware store, pre-milled, if you have a common profile.  Using the old stool as a template, I traced the marks onto the new piece.  A coping saw is a quick way to make small, complicated cuts when fitting it to the window and existing trim.  Because it is unsightly to have a square cut on each side of the stool, it is necessary to use a mitered return.  To achieve this, miter the ends of the new stool to 45 degrees.  Cut a complimentary piece out of the remaining stock and glue it, so that the profile is continuous.




After achieving the proper fit, install the new stool and replace the apron.  While making a repair like this, it never hurts to use expanding foam to fill any gaps between the window and the framing.  Countersink the nails and then sand thoroughly. Caulk, prime, and paint the new trim to match the remainder of the window (leave the bottom sash up slightly, until dry, to prevent sticking).  The finished product should be a nice, clean looking window!


Posted in Project Archive

Bicycle Hoisting System – Weatherly

It is starting to get cold here in North Carolina!  Growing up in Mobile, Alabama I saw snow only twice in 18 years…I have already seen it twice this year in Franklinton!  We have been biking less, as a consequence, and have been wanting to stow our bikes somewhere, out of the way.  Now that we are in our own house, there is no excuse for not storing our mountain bikes in style.  I wanted the bikes in the garage, but our vehicles fit rather snugly into the garage, as it was. Having room to walk between vehicles is a “must” for a comfortable garage!

I went through several designs, in my mind, after searching the internet for a few days on the topic.   I tossed out the idea of a wall mounted set-up because the bikes would protrude from the wall too far.  The ceiling seemed the ideal place so, I measured the bicycles thoroughly and found that they would fit nicely behind my truck.

The Perfect Spot!  (Luckily the garage is unpainted so I could easily locate the joists...)

I designed a simple system which utilized Campbell® pulleys and other parts which I ordered at my local hardware store.   To add strength to the installation, I decided to mount the pulleys and eye-screw to a painted 2X4.  I cleaned up the appearance by mounting the pulleys with 4½ lag screws, which penetrated the ceiling joists and cinched the 2X4 to the ceiling.  I started by taking careful measurements to center the bicycles over my truck and then marked the 2X4s.  I then pre-drilled, sanded, primed, and painted the 2X4s.  (I painted them black to tie in with the shelving which I will add soon)… Smilie: :D

After the third coat of paint, I used the finished 2X4s to mark and pre-drill the ceiling joists.  Using an impact driver, I drove the lag screws through the 2X4 and into the ceiling joist (which also mounted the pulleys).  Where the rope terminated, at the end of the pulley system, I used a rope-clamp and thimble to create a loop. This allowed me to easily attach the rope to the eye-screw on the end of the 2X4.  Once the rope was threaded through the pulleys it started looking like a proper hoist!

Now to attach the bicycles to the hoist… For this, I used 1/8 braided steel cable coated with plastic.  The plastic casing helps prevent scratching the bike frame, but had to be stripped away where any ferrules were added.  I assembled two wire rigs using wire ferrules, thimbles, and a swagging tool and then attached them to the lower pulleys using a stainless steel quick-link.

An added feature of the location, is the ease of lowering the bikes into my truck for trail riding! I mounted two rope-cleats on the wall below each bicycle to store the excess rope.  I love having the bikes out of the house and they look right at home above my truck bed.

Posted in Project Archive