Be your own plumber

One day last week I was minding my own business, washing my dishes, when I grabbed my kitchen faucet to turn it to the left and this happened:

Except it didn’t look like that, exactly, because the water was on. Unencumbered by the part of the facet that controls the flow, I suddenly had a firehose in my kitchen. It drenched me. And my dinner. And the wall behind my head.

Not knowing exactly how to install a new faucet myself, I let this project go for about a week, during which time I repeatedly forgot that the damn thing was broken and re-drenched myself. I did it before bed. I did it before work. I did it before a date.

Clearly I needed to Just Fix It Already. Expecting the worst, I picked up a new fixture from Lowes and went to work.

It was a dirty job, yes, but not as bad as I had feared. The one tricky part was that of the two bolts holding the last faucet to the sink, one had completely corroded and couldn’t be turned. I struggled with it for about 20 minutes, hopelessly whacking at it with a hammer, before I remembered that I owned the bad boy pictured above. I snuck that blade right under the faceplate and up against the offending bolt, and the sink came loose in 30 seconds. BAM. Power tools are the best. Every lady should own a bunch.

From there on in the faucet swap was smooth as can be. I installed the new bolts, connected the hot and cold lines (the right way this time; my last faucet was connected backwards), hooked up the wand attachment, and we were golden.

The project also gave me the inspiration to take care of one of the few really cluttered areas left in the house: the storage under the sink:

Cringe. How about this instead:

That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Merry FAILmas!

Jack and I tried — and failed — to put up the Christmas tree yesterday.

The tree may have been a bit too big.

And a bit bald at the bottom. The bottom, say, quarter of the tree? Was just a little naked. But certainly more than half of the tree had needles. I think.

And the trunk may have been a bit too wide for the base to hold it straight.

And on top of that, the base may have been broken. At an angle.

[flickr video=6517029405 secret=38741e0160 w=500 h=375]

We’ll try again tonight.

Simple Upgrades

October has been a whirlwind of wedding cakes, presents, costumes, and freaky weather events for me, but there are a few house changes worth documenting.  So let’s get to it!

I mentioned earlier that a bit of my cornice came apart during August’s freaky weather.

Check it out — it took all of a week before a pigeon made itself right at home in my freaking roof:


Anyway.  I thought it was just wind damage and would be a quick fix, but as fate would have it my roof was actually leaking at the very front edge of the house, which had caused a big chunk of the old cornice to rot away.  So the best (and more expensive — sad trombone) solution was actually to build a whole new cornice.  The contractors banged it out for me, and here’s the before and after:

This is not thrilling stuff, but along with the basement plumbing (which is also fixed — I’m sparing you photographs) it was a repair that had to get done even if it didn’t amount to much of an aesthetic upgrade.  Although the white is nice, I suppose.  Anything’s better than those shingles!

I did try to make a minor visual improvement in the living room over the weekend, specifically to this window that faces the street:

It had no blinds, no curtains — just a few frosted shutters.  I wanted to improve two things:  add a little more privacy, and make this dinky “picture” window look as wide as possible.  I didn’t think those shutters were helping by dividing up the space, so they had to go.  I did like the way my ENJE roller shades from Ikea were working in my bedroom, though, so I decided to give them a shot here as well.

Unfortunately for me, in the last few months the old ENJE shades have been recalled and replaced with a new design that isn’t as easy to hack.  Anna at Door Sixteen had a great tutorial for cutting the old pull-chain shades to a custom width.  But Ikea has since ditched the chain and installed some kind of spring-loaded tension something-or-other in the top part.

I went ahead and hacked mine anyway, but I’m fairly sure I broke its rolling capability.  Or maybe not — I haven’t done much testing because I figured from the start that I’d be leaving this shade down all the time.  So once I got the shade to the width and length I wanted, I stopped futzing with it.  Here it is:

Excuse the dark shots; I was trying not to blow out all the detail in the shade by overexposing.

I definitely think this tiny change is an improvement.  It’s especially nice now that night has fallen and I have a simple white screen over what used to feel like a creepy black hole in the wall.  I have 3 more downstairs windows to go — here’s hoping my hacking skills improve.  Or that I can find some of the old strangler shades on eBay….

At least I got this cool new patch!

I think there ought to be a series of merit badges you can earn as a first-time homeowner. So when, after you’ve spent an entire day scrubbing bathtubs and sinks and floors, you run a quick load of laundry down to the basement only to discover that all of that water has been forming some kind of horrible-smelling basement bog all day long because the waste main has cracked, you get a little something nice for your trouble.

Thankfully, I have not yet earned the “contractors ripping you off” badge. The plumber who came out to plug the leak late yesterday was awesome. A more permanent fix is hopefully coming later this week.

Did I mention I’m also getting my cornice redone? Because the hurricane ripped part of it down and the wood is too rotten to repair without redoing the whole thing?

It’s OK. I don’t like having money in my savings account, anyway. Plus I’m working towards my bankruptcy merit badge.

Day 18: Poor floor


The guys ripped out my old bedroom carpet for me. The floor beneath it is in surprisingly bad shape.

It may actually have more gaps than my living room floor, which I joke is more putty than pine. It could still be fixable, but in the end I think I’m glad to be going with carpet. At least I won’t have to worry about the refinishers taking the easy way out and not properly replacing all the broken bits.

WHAT on earth were these people sawing for?

Ugh. The radiator. The radiator may need to go. And I may need to ignore this problem until next winter.



Window Grate

About a month ago, I was sweeping leaves on my front sidewalk when I noticed that the iron grate that covered my basement window was… missing.  Gone.  I had a momentary freakout in which I was convinced that an armed bandit had broken in and was hiding in my basement.  Stealing my socks, or something.  But no, the window itself was still intact and locked.

My neighbors offered the most likely explanation:  someone had stolen it to sell for scrap.

I’m reading that iron scrap is selling for about 17 cent a pound right now.  So I’m guessing that it was worth about $5.  And of course, it cost me an extra $220 in labor to replace.

Jerkoff.  Well, this new sucker is bolted straight through the wall of the house, so good luck getting another five bucks outta me.  And forget about my socks.