Tag Archives: House projects

Ready for Demo: The Bathroom Project Finally Begins

I’ve wanted to re-do the main bathroom since I first saw this house. The plastic tiles on the wall are ugly, the “pedestal” sink has rusted metal legs and lacks storage, and the mini-size bathtub is too short to allow for an actual bath. And don’t get me started on the Hollywood Barbie light fixture!

So much ugliness

But an old house has all kinds of fun limitations as far as sizes and walls. The ceiling slopes with the roofline, so I didn’t even notice that the tub was miniature (4 feet, compared to the standard 5 feet)  until the first time I tried to take a bath and my knees stuck up in the cold, cold air.  But the water for the tub is run in the wall that creates a strange little dead space around the window. I can’t fit a standard 5 foot tub in that space without running into the window – and the room isn’t long enough the other way, either.

My dad suggested a corner tub, but my research found that most of those are at least 5×5. Except for one. Menards carries a 4×4 ft corner tub (with a hypotenuse of 4 √2 – just long enough for a proper leg stretch, as I tested in the store). Just after Christmas, it went on sale, so it’s been sitting in my parents’ garage since mid-February. We’ll destroy that wall entirely, which should open up the room greatly. Since you can’t put plumbing in an exterior wall in northern Illinois (at least, not in an old, under-insulated house), we’ll leave the shower plumbing external, which was pretty common in old houses. It should look really nice. And the rest of the room will have so much light!

I had to replace the window before I could begin. The old window leaked terribly – not what you want in a bathroom – and never stayed up without a prop. I ordered windows in January, and they were installed in mid-March.

The color matched perfectly, and the "euro-style" sink would have let me get away with a skinnier vanity but a full-sized sink: ideal in a small room

Once the quarter ended, I finally had time to think straight. I had been looking for a vanity off and on ever since January, and seen a couple of styles I liked. I really wanted to match the character of the house, and the honey-cherry shade of wood prevalent throughout my house. I have a large built-in linen closet across the hall from the bathroom, and I wanted to mirror it if at all possible.  I really liked one I saw at Home Plus Outlet in April, but it was a bit too wide.  (You can see above how the wall indents about two inches – since the walls are solid, I’m assuming that’s how previous owners were able to add electric and plumbing, since my house was built before either of those novelties were common.) My dad and I examined the wall and determined that yes, we could build up the wall and make the vanity fit, but by that time, it was no longer for sale. The same thing happened several more times. Every time I would find one I liked that would match, I would discover that it was no longer being made and didn’t exist, except in dead listings on websites for the three Big Boxes.

Finally, I found one that, while nonexistent in every Home Depot near me, was still in stock (albeit discontinued) at a couple of HDs in Chicago proper. Since I was heading into the city for brunch today anyway, I could pick it up, and it would fit in the new car. So I did, thankful I bought a car with cargo space.

I may swap out the hardware, but the color and Mission styling fit pretty well. And drawers!

On my dad’s advice, I carefully measured everything in the room and am making a scale model on graph paper, including every water  spout, vent and more. I had a momentary panic when I realized that the new vanity (with a real cabinet! And storage!) would block my only outlet, but Dad pointed out that the existing outlet is against code and needs to be several feet higher, anyway, so we’ll move it when we tear open the wall.

Not visible: the rust stains on the "legs" of the monstrosity.

And really, having storage and wood will be so much nicer than this “pedestal” sink.

A plumber is coming this week to give me an estimate on replacing the bathtub, as it will entail moving some pipes. Once that gets rolling, my dad and I can do the rest – hopefully with a minimum of shower-less days. I’ve been looking at toilets, faucets, light fixtures and tile –  I can’t wait to get started!


Another Brick in the Wall

Since my house is perched on a hill, the yard slopes down towards the street, creating a three-foot drop from my front yard to the sidewalk. A previous owner built a retaining wall, which adds a nice little touch to the front of the house.

However, the wall builder merely stacked the bricks, with no form of adhesive. As a result, years of freeze/thaw cycles and rain had pushed the wall forward several inches, leaving it leaning precariously over the sidewalk. It wasn’t in any imminent danger of falling, but eventually, it will. And kids tend to jump up on the wall and use it as a balance beam, which makes me nervous.

Before: note the "missing teeth" and the general jumbledness. I should have taken a picture of the side view to really show the tilt.

Plus, people steal the loose bricks. In my first four years here, four or five bricks were taken from the end of the wall. This spring, though, four more have disappeared, including two in a 24 hour period (one of which was in broad daylight, as I worked from home). Who steals landscape bricks that retail for 88 cents? My neighbors had some plants stolen, so we wonder if someone further down the street is assembling a garden out of “found” items.

So this weekend, my parents came over and helped me rebuild the wall.

I bought several new bricks to replace the missing ones, plus my parents happened on a rebate that enabled them to buy the 12 tubes of landscape glue for free. When my parents arrived early Sunday morning, we surveyed the situation, then ran to Menards for pea gravel and anchors.

I had hoped for a nice, cool day since the front yard is in full sunshine, but alas, the rainy spring has limited our options, and I wanted to knock this out before we get further into hot weather. We worked quickly, especially since storms were forecast. (Luckily, the glue only requires 15 minutes to set.)

First, we removed all the old bricks – approximately 200 of them. Next, we leveled out the dirt, and leveled the hill vertically, rearranging dirt and marveling at how much the front of the yard jutted out. (I also yanked all the dandelions I could – removing the bricks exposed several 12″ taproots.) We poured 150 lbs of pea gravel to enable drainage, which should help prevent future shifting. Next, we carefully laid the foundational layer of bricks, leveling each one.

When it came time to glue on the next layer, my dad and I experimented with where to glue and how much to use. We finally determined that since the bricks “lock” and have a lip on the back, a bead of glue along the lip seemed to suffice.  Once we found the method, the gluing went quickly. My mom prepped the bricks, cleaning off all the loose dirt and debris (and so many bugs), my dad applied the glue, and I placed them as we all eyeballed things to make sure we were building a straight line.

Between the second and third layer, we inserted anchors: 36″ stakes driven into the side of the hill and glued into place between bricks. This should reinforce the wall and prevent future movement. (Take that, gravity!)

The original wall had four layers, but after three, when we stopped and looked, we decided we didn’t really need a fourth layer. In the past, that fourth layer had stood about 3″ higher than the grass level, making mowing difficult. Now, because we had built things up a bit and leveled everything, the third level is nearly flush with the grass line and looks great. If it bothers me after a couple of weeks, I could always add another layer – the process isn’t hard, and the initial foundational prep was the time-consuming part – but for now, I’m very pleased.

As we worked on the smaller section (the left side in the picture), it was the hottest part of the day, in the 80s with no shading clouds. My lovely neighbors brought over a pitcher of margaritas and chatted for a few minutes while we took a break. They’ve done a ton to improve their home – the house was actually condemned when they bought it – and we talked about the crumbling, vacant $33,000 house on the other side of me. (Want to take a crack at it? It’s got a river view in the winter, so the land’s worth that! And I’m a great neighbor!)

After our break, clouds started rolling in, so we quickly finished up, including the Tetris of making the partial, curved bricks wrap around the sidewalk. We reset much of the dirt we had originally moved, and replanted the tufts of grass. I still need to add a couple of bricks on the other side of the sidewalk, but the sky was dark and we thought storms were imminent, so we cleaned up and called it a day. (The radar turned out to be wrong – the storm swung south of us, and it didn’t rain for another three hours. But eight hours of work was a long enough day.) I may need to plant some new grass, but I’ll give it a few days and see if the old tufts survive.

Afterwards, we sat in the cool house and sipped Coronas for a few minutes, trying to discern dirt from sunburn and reveling in exhaustion. Returning from dinner at the Public House, I smiled at sight of the new wall – it looks so good.

After: Nice and even. Now I just need the grass to re-grow.

This was my favorite kind of project: the kind that you can see every time you pass by. It was a very long day, but very much worth it. And hauling 12 lb bricks for eight hours is a heck of a workout.

Hammering with Habitat

On paper, Habitat for Humanity is a good fit for me: I’ve always fancied myself a bit of a DIYer, and pride myself on (at least) trying to take care of a lot of the maintenance demanded by my old house.

But I never realized how much I don’t know. And how much bigger the stakes are when it’s someone else’s home, not yours.

I first volunteered over the summer, during Habitat of the Northern Fox Valley’s Blitz Build project, where they gutted and rehabbed an entire house in just 20 days to celebrate their 20th anniversary. (Since the housing market currently has an abundance of vacant homes, Habitat is buying and rehabbing existing homes rather than building new – which I thoroughly support.)

Then serendipity intervened. As part of the federal government’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the city of Elgin received money to buy and rehab a dozen or so houses to reduce the glut of vacant homes. And they partnered with Habitat for some of the homes, one which was slated to be HHNFV’s very first WomenBuild Project.

It’s in my neighborhood.

I spent a couple wonderful autumn Saturdays doing demolition work, breaking up a cistern, pulling down drywall and cabinets and other projects. Demolition really is good for the soul.

But then school got in the way. It’s really hard to give up an entire Saturday – and wake up early – when facing hours of homework. So I hadn’t been out to the build site for a while until a January Saturday.

I assumed we would be working inside, as the temperature was in the low 20s, with a windchill barely a single digit. I knew the house isn’t yet insulated or really heated, for that matter, so I dressed warmly. When I arrived however, I discovered we would be outside all day, working on the new garage. Half the team was on the roof, shingling, while I and others framed the inside of the garage. I thought about running home to put on additional layers, but I was engrossed and didn’t want to walk away, so I stuck handwarmers in my gloves and boots and took periodic breaks inside. (I also worked “inside” the garage quite a bit.)

Habitat days are wonderful learning experiences, though they can be frustrating. I always realize how much I really don’t know as Tammy, our fantastic forewoman, gives instructions. Since I’m working on someone else’s house – a wonderful woman with two kids, a family – I don’t want to mess up. On my own house, sure, I want things done right, but the consequences only affect me.

The first day I volunteered, during the Blitz Build, was great because the house was being put back together. In the course of a day, I helped hang cabinets – after reading the diagrams and measuring multiple times –  and prepped the bathroom for tile.

Working on the WomenBuild house has been different, though. There have been moments of frustration, when I thought I knew how to do something that I really didn’t, like when I realized I can’t hammer a nail in straight to save my life. Moments when I heard my dad’s voice, saying, “We’ll make a carpenter out of you yet,” as I cut 2x4s. Moments where I sucked it up and climbed a ladder. Moments of exhilaration as I discovered the magic of the palm nailer.

It’s humbling to realize how little I actually know, and how much there is to learn. And yet, this homeowner-to-be has entrusted this organization with rehabbing a house for her and her family. The neighborhood has entrusted Habitat with revitalizing a house, originally built in the 1860s, that has sat vacant for years, and bringing life back to that corner. The city has entrusted Habitat with the money to do so, and indirectly, the feds have sent taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to this corner.

I know I’ll go back again, because no matter how much I’m frustrated, I know the lessons will translate into my own home.

And sometimes, it’s good to step away from the schoolwork.

Humility, Thy Name is Level

Monday morning started off like most others: I grumbled at the alarm clock while thankful it was a work at home day, padded downstairs, made breakfast, started a load of laundry and settled in with coffee as I flipped through my work email.

An hour later, I remembered the laundry and went down to move it into the dryer. I discovered that everything was soaking wet. The water had drained out, but apparently, the spin cycle hadn’t really spun anything.

I fiddled with it and tried the spin cycle again. Nothing happened. And again. The motor was running fine, but the agitator wasn’t spinning. I started Googling and called my dad. We were able to guess it might be the belt – after all, there had to be a belt that somehow connects the motor to the agitator, right?

In the meantime, I wrung out, by hand, an entire load of mostly pajamas, sweats and other heavy clothes, squeezing nearly five gallons of icy cold water into a bucket.

Wednesday night, I tried to get the screws off the back of the panel to open up the machine and find the belt. I hoped the belt had merely slipped off and could be repositioned, or, barring that, had snapped and could be replaced. A couple of the screws were rusted on and stuck, so I called Dad again. He agreed to stop by today.

My parents came over this morning, tool box in tow. After figuring out the panel situation, we couldn’t find the belt, but upon investigation, we could see it at the bottom, beneath the basin. We tipped the machine back and saw the belt, perfectly intact, perfectly in place, and spinnable.

It looked like the dreaded repairman was in my future. Googling had said it could also be a pulley in the motor, or the sensors, neither of which we were prepared to fix.

But then we decided to do one more test run, just to see what happened. And after putting it back together and re-leveling it, the darn thing worked.

Apparently, all along, the problem was that it was grossly, egregiously out of level.

No floor in this house is level, and the basement is no exception. There’s a pretty good slope in the concrete, in part so that if water does get in, it flows down towards the floor drain. I’ve always adjusted for that with a small shim under one of the washer’s feet, but the shim had slipped and apparently, it was enough that the spin cycle wouldn’t spin.

I felt like an idiot for calling my dad all the way to Elgin to help, so he helped me hang a new spice rack I just finished painting. (It’s hard to judge appropriate height, mark the holes, etc alone.) But as he pointed out, at least I called him before a repairman. Then I really would have felt dumb, shelling out money so someone could tell me my floor’s not level.

Consider it a lesson learned.

108 Coats of Paint: Or, How I Spent My Autumn

Remember, way back in August, when I started the chore of scraping and painting the screens on the 11 windows that make up my enclosed front porch? I discovered that each window was caked with layers and layers of multi-colored paint that took major effort to remove.

When I removed the  screens, I discovered that the windows behind them were in terrible shape. After consulting with my dad, he agreed that the right thing to do was to scrape and paint the windows themselves. Upon further inspection, we also decided to reglaze all of the windows, as the ancient glazing (that holds the glass into the window) was dried out and crumbled to the touch.

Suddenly, my PITA project was a monstrous task. Fortunately, my wonderful, fantastic parents (with ample free time!) volunteered to help.

And help they did. Since August, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen numerous references to painting and scraping, especially on sunny weekend days. I lost count of how many days they came down to Elgin to help, showing up early (for me on a weekend, anyway) and putting in a solid day of work. My dad and I would be working side by side on ladders in various stages of scraping, glazing and painting the windows themselves while my mom worked on the screens. She even mended some of the small rips and tears, using clear nail polish to further seal them.

Between their weekend help days, I did a ton of painting. Since we couldn’t get the screens down to bare wood, achieving a smooth, presentable final product required primer and three coats of paint – but at least they’re all the same color. Hence, I can’t even tally how many days I’d be outside, painting one coat at sun-up, then another coat over lunch, and another coat before sunset. (Multiply nine windows plus nine screens times (times two on the screens, for front and back) times four…. approximately 108 coats of paint? That doesn’t even factor in the paint trimming around the windows, the railings, or the front steps. I’ll take pictures when the sun is out.)

The front of the house now looks marvelous. Standing back from the street, the house looks crisp and clean and as new as a 120 year old house can. Even the freshly-painted house numbers look superb, and you can actually read them at night now.

I learned a few valuable lessons from this experience:

1) Start outdoor projects early. Since I work full time and go to school, my free time is limited. When you begin factoring in the need for a 24-hour rain-free period after each day of painting, it further complicates factors. (We were lucky to have a relatively dry fall, and I was able to stash the screens in the garage when rain threatened, which helped a lot.) In fall, suddenly you have to start worrying about temperature restrictions. For example, it has to remain at least 50 degrees and dry for 24 hours after glazing windows. The minimum for paint is 35 degrees. In October and November, this gets a lot tougher. Sunday morning, I watched the mercury climb for hours before I finally started on the final coat.

2) Stock beer. My parents rock, and really will work for beer. I always restocked my fridge before they came over (well, almost always) and it was appreciated.

3) Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Pick logical sections and prioritize them. Obviously, the front of the house was most important, so we did those first. When we finished the front 7, we moved on to the 2 windows facing the driveway – ie, the ones people actually see – and finished those this weekend. There are two left to do – on the least-visible side of the house. We ran out of good weather for the year, so we’ll tackle them in the spring, but from the street, the house looks great.

4) A Sharpie is just as useful as duct tape. Over the years, these screens have been painted many, many times, and it’s apparent that previous owners didn’t bother taping, so there are small splatters of multi-colored paint across the screens. When we re-installed the screens, the white splatters were especially noticeable, so my dad suggested we try a black Sharpie. It worked like a charm! I do wonder what they neighbors thought when I was out on a ladder coloring my screens with a marker…

5) Ask for help. It’s against my nature to ask for help, but I quickly realized the magnitude of this project and accepted my parents’ very generous offer of help. If I consider the total hours we spent working on this and then imagine doing it by myself… shudder. And it was good family time, too, as we usually had dinner together after finishing work for the day. I am so, so lucky that they were willing – and eager – to help. I couldn’t have done it otherwise.

That’s it for the outdoor projects this year – just in time for winter. Now I move indoors, with a focus on reorganization and gutting my bathroom. After Finals, of course.

Multi-Hued Windows

I’ve been putting off the big task of scraping and painting my windows since last summer. Though I’ve replaced many of my windows, especially those in highly used rooms, the enclosed porch still includes 11 old windows, and the two in the back hall are also due for some fresh paint.

I decided I would do it right, and scrape off the old peeling white paint before I put on fresh coats of primer and paint. My dad cautioned me to take my time and just do a few at a time. I bought the paint a couple weeks ago, but it’s been raining or humid each weekend, so today was my first chance.

I pulled down the window screens on either side of the front door, since I could easily reach them without a ladder. I set up my scraping area on the driveway, shaded by the garage, and set to work.

I quickly discovered a layer of black paint beneath the white paint. Apparently these windows had been black at one point, like much of the trim on my white house. But as I scraped (and scraped, and scraped), I discovered a layer of rust-red paint beneath the black. And more scraping revealed a bright blue paint.

So many layers of paint...

Finally, I realized that I could spend months scraping 13 windows all the way down to bare wood. Once I had scraped everything I could, I sanded things thoroughly, and then applied a coat of primer.

I sanded and primed two windows today. I’ll paint tomorrow, and then repeat the process next week. If I bump it up to three windows at a time, I’ll be done by mid-September.

But it’s kind of interesting to envision what my house would have looked like with blue or orangey-red trim. I have old black and white photos, but nothing in color.

Mundane Weekend Projects – and Homemade Soft-Serve

After spending Saturday with family, I set off to tackle several small projects on Sunday:

Installing tomato cages – Perhaps this is a bit late, as my tomato plants are now a good 3-4 feet tall and drooping over. It was tough maneuvering them into cages, and in a couple case, I just put the cage between two plants and let them lean. As of this morning, they were all still upright, so hooray.

Fixing the running toilet – My upstairs toilet (perhaps knowing its days are numbered) started running last week, and when the usual jiggling didn’t fix things, I pulled out the book and some tools and tried to fix it. I drained the water, discovered there’s no floating ball thing (is that normal?), and removed nearly a litter box worth of sand. I cleaned everything thoroughly, hoping the sediment was causing the problem. When I turned the water back on… it’s still running. Sigh. I tried troubleshooting everything else to no avail, so I wonder if there’s a split in one of the hoses or something.

Shooing away the groundhog (and raccoons) – I’ve had several problems over time with large furry pests, namely raccoons who leave piles in the yard, skunks who camp out in the driveway, and now, the return of a groundhog.  I haven’t seen (or smelled) the skunks in a while, and I hadn’t seen a groundhog in a couple years until last week. My dad gave me some “Get Away” spray that’s supposed to keep them, well, away. I was spraying it around the perimeter when the wind caught the spray and blew it back into my eye. Instant searing burning. After 20 minutes of giving myself an eye wash in the kitchen sink (and effectively washing the floor while I was at it), I called Poison Control and talked to a very nice lady named Babs (really?) who was reassuring and calming. She told me I had done everything right, and to call her back in an hour with an update. After an hour, it was just a bit pink and irritated, but the pain was mostly gone, and by this morning, I feel back to normal.  Per Babs’ advice, I’m avoiding my contacts for a couple days.

Homemade, single ingredient “soft serve” – I saw a recipe last week for super-easy frozen goodness, so I tried it yesterday, while trying to take my mind off the searing pain in my eye. It was indeed exceptionally easy, quick, and nice and creamy – almost soft-serve like. Next time I’ll add shredded coconut, or maybe a bit of peanut butter. Yum.

Overall, a very good weekend. Next weekend, I plan to start the terrible task of scraping and painting the 13 remaining old windows. If I do 3 or 4 a weekend, I can be done in a month. Sigh.

The Fence

The fence has been a long-standing source of frustration, ever since the previous neighbors knocked out numerous slats. (Before that, a random teenager running through backyards also destroyed half a dozen slats.)

But we’re on the move! New neighbors bought the previously condemned crack house and have spent the last couple months working around the clock on it. They essentially gutted the interior – save for the gorgeous hardwood floors and woodwork – and are replacing just about everything, including the plumbing, electrical and roof. Though they’ll keep it a four-unit for now, they’ll live in a couple of the units and thus have a vested interest in screening tenants when they’re ready. I talked to them about the fence, and they assured me they value their cars too much to slam into our fence.
So I started watching for sales and tried to figure out the logistics. My sister called and asked what we planned to do with the old fence, then offered to haul it away to use in a bonfire. I took her up on the offer, and came home one day to find her with a crowbar, pulling down the old slats. The old stringers were so rotted that they crumbled into dust as soon as you pulled on them.
Since then, we’ve had an army of solitary posts left, which is just odd. Upon further inspection – and confirmation from our jack-of-all-trades neighbor, who witnessed the original installation – the posts are fine. They’re still solid in the ground, no signs of rot or decay, and the concrete beneath is fully intact. So we decided to just replace the panels themselves.
Three weeks ago, Menards ran a sale, which I price matched at Home Depot (to get the extra 10% off). Originally my sister had thought we could fit the new panels in her pickup, but we quickly realized that while we might fit 3 or 4, hauling 17 required either multiple trips or renting a HD truck. We went with the rental.
Since then, we’ve been plagued by a ton of rain (October was one of the wettest in history!), illness and the logistics of trying to remove the evil mulberry tree. When we removed the old fence, we discovered metal stakes long the property line – and the tree proved to be 100% on our side. I signed the death order that day.
All 17 panels are still stacked up against the garage, ready to go. Our neighbor has said he’s happy to loan us his nail gun to speed things along.
We’ll get the new one installed very soon, especially given some crime in the house behind us last week.

Crysta the Carpenter

“We’ll make a carpenter out of you yet,” my dad said as I knelt on our makeshift saw horse, carefully lining up the saw against the line I had just drawn with my new T-square.

Yes, folks, Saturday was finally Sawdust Day. Still trying to finish the trim for the new door we installed over a year ago, my dad arrived bright and early with his miter saw, wood and numerous other tools to put up the trim. He had come over last Saturday, too, and left when we realized it was far more complicated than we had anticipated.

But this past Saturday, everything went to plan with no real complications. I made all the miter cuts myself, and we set up a makeshift workbench (empty driveway asphalt barrels with a heavy board across the top) to make the necessary traditional saw cuts. After starting my day with a kettlebell workout, my arms were jelly by the time Dad left. My knee has a nice bruise, too, from pressing against the boards as I cut them.

We had to cut some trapezoids (seriously, my house is FAR from square!), and some of the more interesting cuts left the boards looking like skyscrapers, due to fitting around the concrete slab of the foundation, existing trim and tight angles. In fact, the right side looks like the Sears Tower and the left like the Hancock Center.

But everything fits. We put the puzzle together at least three or four times, finding the right sequence and angles, drawing arrows on the backs so we knew which side had been cut an 1/8 of an inch smaller than the other end to appease the house. And, dagnabit, it FIT.

So Dad left, leaving me with everything I need to finally finish the job. I did the first two coats of stain Sunday and will finish the staining process this week. I went to the Depot this evening and bought one more board – a 1×4 would fit above the door, but to mesh with the existing trim, a 1×6 is in order – and some fresh wood putty, but other than that, I am all set.

I’m almost excited about next weekend when I’ll have the time to install it all. Of course, fingers crossed!

The Door, Part 736

I installed a new back door last summer (Independence Day, to be exact). My parents, Don and I spent an entire day making the perfectly-square, new door fit with the settled, off-kilter, old house. It took lots of shimming and adjusting, and Dad left me tasked with getting the wood for the trim, staining it, and calling him over to make the perfect miter cuts and install.

Busy schedules, multiple job changes, travel and winter got in our way. Finally, a full year after I bought and stained the wood, Dad came over with his miter saw. And we quickly discovered just how not-square the areas to be trimmed are. In some cases, there’s a full half-inch difference between the top and bottom measurements! So some of the boards fit, but others don’t. Dad and I took very careful, precise measurements, and he went home to make the final cuts.

He comes back this weekend. We’ll dry fit everything (fingers crossed) and then (if all goes well), I’ll stain all the pieces (provided the hosue god consents and blesses us with a proper fit) and install it on my own (fit-pending). Then, once the trim is done, AT LAST I can paint the door and the steps to the basement.

But I’m not getting my hopes up. Some projects never end. With an old house, there are always multiple fun surprises in store.