Getting Hinged

So one of the last minor details to finish in the bathroom was installing a door. I say minor, but apparently a few friends that have been over seem to think it’s a big deal. And I’ll admit, having the cat watch me every time I visit the bathroom is a little uncomfortable.

I salvaged several doors before an old brick building was torn down early last year. They spent the first winter in my mom’s garage until I moved them here, and I knew I’d be able to use a few of them. Sure enough, only 1 is a 5-panel wood door and it’s the perfect width for my existing bathroom door frame. I trimmed an equal amount off the top and bottom of the door (about 1.5 inch total) and it now is the perfect height.

Unfortunately the hinges on the existing door frame and the salvaged door don’t line up. I figured it would be best to change the hinge placement on the door since it’s in the garage resting on saw horses, and easier to conceal the old hinge mortices. Plus this way they are equally spaced from the top and bottom of the door frame.

However, it’s been a little cold in NW Ohio, so I ended up with the door on my dining room table instead of in the garage.

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I used small blocks of wood to fill in the old hinge mortices, cutting them slightly thicker and glued them into place. Once dried, I planed them down flat with the edge of the door.

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Then it was filler time. The door had some pretty nasty dings, dents, and a dozen holes. I filled every spot I could find with wood filler, and gave it ample time to dry. I moved the door back into the garage and sanded until my hands were frozen. The original stain color was a good match to begin, but the varnish was bubbled and scratched all over. I sanded down to remove the varnish and smoothed out the filled spots, trying not to remove the color underneath. Once sanded, I measured the spaces for the hinges using the existing door frame and carefully chiseled out these spots. Then came the moment of truth, hanging the door on the hinges:

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It was a little snug in a few spots, but it fit! This photo looks like there is a large gap under the door, but it’s because the door hides the transition from the existing kitchen floor to the 1/2″ higher bathroom tile floor. When the door opens into the bathroom, it’s a very natural space between the door and floor, probably about 1/4″ or so.

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I took the door off the hinges again and carried it into the garage for one more round of sanding, hitting the tight spots and making sure all the wood filled spots were smooth. In total, I think I carried the door in and out of the house more than a dozen times.

By re-inserting the handle mechanism, I marked on the door frame where the strike plate would need to go. It took me a little longer to chisel out this space, because the strike plate needs to be flush with the wood and the center needs to be chiseled deeper to make room for the latch to spring out.

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This picture was after I reattached the door stop also, so the door closes tightly and latches without rattling against the stop trim.

Then it was stain time. I wiped down the door really well with a slightly damp cloth, making sure to remove as much dust as I could. Giving the door plenty of time to dry I started staining the door with a clean cloth and the same Minwax Mahogany Gel Stain. The door accepted the stain really well, but with gel stain it takes a little technique to achieve a good look. Especially in the lighter wood areas or where the wood filler was really thick, I wold try not to wipe off all of the stain to help even out the color. I might hit a few light spots with a second coat of stain, but otherwise the door is ready for 2 coats of poly.

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The contrast between the untouched kitchen woodwork and the now-beautifully stained door and frame is unnerving. I find keep finding myself staring at the door and how rich the color looks, trying to imagine how the rest of the woodwork will eventually look.

On the inside of the bathroom I nailed up the door trim that’s been waiting in the corner of the dining room. It’s finally starting to look finished – and then I realize I still don’t have outlet covers, lol.

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Stripping takes Work

Stripping PAINT, that is!

Every preservation, renovation, and old-house enthusiast book says it is inevitable. In almost every older home where the woodwork is worth saving, there will be paint to strip. And the humble bungalow is no exception (check out the photo tour to see the woodwork & built-ins, noticing almost all if it is painted). And most likely, layer upon layers of old paint. If I could meet the owner who first took a paintbrush to nearly every piece of trim and floorboard in my home…

So as I tackle room by room, it is my goal to strip the paint and reveal the wood underneath. Worth the work? I’m not sure. But it will be a good test in patience. Besides, long tedious work like that is therapy for my OCD tendencies.

Since I removed all the woodwork from the bathroom before demo, I could strip them piece by piece in the garage. My weapons of choice?

Heat gun and an old school Red Devil paint scraper.

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Heat, scrape, repeat. And try not to scorch the wood underneath the paint. Luckily those dark spots sanded out pretty well.

Then it was time to find the perfect stain. I don’t have photos of this process, but it involved about 17 different cans of Minwax stain. Just imagine wiping on, wiping off, applying a 2nd layer, letting them dry, applying a 3rd layer, overlapping different colors in more than a dozen color combinatinos. And still no luck. So I hit my local Sherwin Williams store armed with a piece of unpainted trim as my sample color, and a piece of stripped & sanded board to have them mix a custom color. Sure enough, she walked over to the shelf and grabbed the only can of Minwax I apparently don’t already own (Rich Mahogony Gel Stain) and it turned out the be the perfect color.

So away I went, using a soft rag to stain each board with 2 coats, then brushing on 2 coats of polyurethane semi-gloss. I decided to stain & poly them before re-installing around the door & window frame so I wouldn’t have to be so careful not to get any on the recently painted bathroom walls.

I had to cut down the window trim quite a bit. As a refresher, here was the window before bathroom demo:

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Now with the tub moved, I tiled up about 3/4 the height of the window. I found this photo early on of another bathroom with a window in the rub/shower area, and decided I liked the look:

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The tile ends and the woodwork finishes around the upper part of the window just like if it were any other window frame in the house. Of course my house doesn’t have bulls-eye rosettes, but I followed the same idea using the craftsman trim in my house.

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I am still on the fence about the stained wood look in the bathroom. It’s a little old school but I like how masculine it looks. Granted these photos were taken at night so the lighting isn’t great, but the woodwork does help make the walls look navy and not black. And I still have to fill the little holes made by the trim nailer. I found this photo when I was looking for bathroom inspiration, and this contrast is the look I’m after:

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Perhaps if I throw in some pale green towels & artwork as accent color, it will start to feel perfect. Until then, I’m still admiring how far the bathroom has come – and trying not to think back on how long it has taken.

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Getting a Handle on Things

Following this year’s Christmas celebrations with family and friends, it is rewarding to be in my own place! Yep, the weekend before Christmas I finally got moved into the house! It was a push to finish the cleaning & scrubbing every room needed, but several friends pitched in and many hands make light work. The move wasn’t all that terrible either, I actually drug it out an entire week. Each day after work I would fill up my car with boxes and slowly unload them into the house, allowing me to unpack slowly and not get overwhelmed. (It was also a chance to realize that I might be a little bit of a pack rat, so I did quite a bit of purging, putting to work my recycling & trash pick up services these last two weeks.) And after all those family Christmas parties, it was nice to relax. At home. Alone. And quiet.

Beyond unpacking, organizing, tossing out, & cleaning more, I haven’t gotten to a whole lot of work inside the house. But now with a working bathroom, it was time to finish the drawers for the bathroom vanity. I had already completely disassembled & rebuilt each drawer to fit around the sink and drain plumbing. Unfortunately though, the drawers didn’t open or close well because the drawer faces were so tight to the dresser frame.

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So before I attached the handles, I found where they were rubbing the dresser openings and got acquainted with my block plane to hone down the top edges of the drawer fronts. A small pile of wood shavings later, and they open & close without scraping. I even had room to attach little plastic drawer glides inside the dresser to help them operate more smoothly. Once I stained and sealed the raw edges with polyurethane, all that was left was to attach the handles.

What handle do you affix to an antique dresser turned sink vanity? The ones that were on the dresser when I bought it were made of cheap metal and the gold finish was rubbing off. The rest of the finishes in the bathroom are brushed steel, so I found these unassuming handles and I think they are just the right size. Enough that I can easily open the drawers, but they don’t take away from how bold the dark wood vanity looks in a sea of white tile.

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The bottom drawer was entirely busted apart, I didn’t even attempt to fix it. I’m thinking eventually I’ll put a thin board underneath and have a couple baskets to hold towels, soaps, etc.

Next project? Stripping paint & staining the bathroom woodwork for around the window & doorway. The boards are already pulled off their frames, I just have to strip & sand years of old paint off. And once that is finished, I will let myself build a medicine cabinet.

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