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June 2006
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Fireplace Facelift 2

A big part of the fireplace facelift is the storage. Here are some details of it.
Here is the front with the lid down. The lid is 3/4 plywood with a 1×4 lip. It has a continuous ‘piano hinge’.
Here is the unit with the lid up. The lid is 2” away from the wall so that the lid will rest on the wall and not come crashing down while folks are rummaging around inside. Don’t dwell on the outlet. It will move to the face of the unit in a day or two.

This is probably overbuilt for most folks, but I have seen too many times where folks have built ‘light’ and meet disaster. The client has kids and lots of friends, so these units will get jumped on, jumped off of, and used as podiums as the parties progress.

The walls have double 2×4”s, at the walls screwed into the studs. The second stud is screwed into the first. I resisted the urge to use glue between them. The face panel has a 2×4 at the top and the bottom. The bottom plate is attached with 2” drive anchors. the top plate is screwed to the plywood with 1-5/8” Deck Screws. There are 3” screws driven into the right angles as well.


Here is a closeup of the wall side detail. There is also a 1×3” firring strip running horizonally the length of the unit to act as a stop for the tile and to provide a place to grip the front of the top when opening it.
On the fireplace side the details are almost identical with the exception of using the 2” drive anchors to attach the first plate,(hidden in this photo) to the brick of the mantle face. The top plywood deck covering the mantle is screwed to these plates and glued to the brick with Liquid Nails. The plywood is cutout 3” from the firebox side of the mantle and 3” out from either side of the corner. It’s getting new tile on the deck, face and sides of the fireplace opening, as well as the face of the unit from wall to wall.

Here is a closer look at the mantle side of the storage unit and the underlying construction details.
Here is the current state of affairs. The storage unit is done, the wall is painted, and drying. Tomorrow, the electrician installs the new outlets, I patch the wall, and finish the painting, Including the insides of the storage units. Then it’s in the hands of the tile guy.
Bill of materials:
2 – 4×8′ 3/4” sanded plywood
8 – 2×4” 8′ studs
5 – 1×4” 8′ #2 pine
2 – 1×3” 8′ #2 pine
2- 48” piano hinges
12 – 2” Drive anchors
Screws- 1 1/4”, 1 5/8”, 2 1/4” 3”.
1 tube Liquid Nails
small amount wood putty.

Fireplace Facelift

This is an old tired Fireplace. Blah Brick, brown paneling, tired shelving with Target wrought iron brackets.

Here is the deal. Rip out the paneling, build a a new front, wall to wall, toss in some storage, tile the mantle, and build some cushions, to sit on top of the new storage units.
Here is step one, pull the shelving and brackets, remove the paneling, and see what needs to be done to the wall. The bad news is they used expandable anchors, and the guy doing the demo was more enthusiastic than careful. Big gaping holes, paper rips, and separation from the glue holding the paneling in place. The good news is they glued the paneling, so there aren’t a bazillion paneling nails to track down.

Using drywall knives to scrape the dried glue as close to the wall as possible we use ‘speed set’ to fill in the holes and cover the worst of the dings and divots in the wall. But wait! there are two electric outlets that need to be moved. We also move the outlet boxes above where our storage units are, and patch the holes.


In building the storage sitting units, we have the front of the mantle and its depth to give us a rough measurement for building the storage units. So we put together the storage units. Then we decide that we need to move the outlets into the face of the storage units. The electrician will be over in a couple of days to do this. So we are in a situation where we can only go so far forward. Remodeling is like that.


So we skim coat the walls smooth. This coat brings up the paper bubbles where the paper has separated from the drywall, and can’t be seen until you get a coat of mud up. Using ‘speed set’ mud allows you to find and cure these problems in the same day. You need a number of thin coats, as you have to cut the bubbles out and mud them in to get a semi smooth surface.

Having mudded, and sanded, mudded and sanded, we put a coat of primer,”Kilz” in this case, to prevent bleed through of any of the dyes from the spray paint, and the glue that held the paneling in place.
While we are waiting for the electrician, we will prime the storage units and wait until the tile guy is done with his work before the finish coats of paint.

The Toolshed Episode 3

Well that didn’t take long…..
We installed shelving below the end counter, so the compressor has a place to rest, and the big battery operated tool cases are conveinently placed.

Now that there is a place for things, the clutter should subside.
On the left we installed a shelf above the top of the doors. This is one of those areas that gets overlooked. This is perfect for stuff you only very infrequently.


The Toolshed Episode 2

In making the best use of what you have, you need some counter space, somewhere to put stuff you don’t use all the time, and somewhere to put tools and toys that don’t fit in regular spaces, which when you think about it, covers just about ever tool you own.

We had a ‘workbench’ that was a bar for a party a couple of months ago, which will form the cornerstone of the toolshed. I am not normally an advocate of pegboard, however it is useful in moderation.
Keeping in mind the handle of the floor jack, I attached some 1×3” firring strips to the wall horizontally, screwing them to the studs with 2 1/4” Deck Mate Screws. The screw length is important as the firring strip is 3/4”, the drywall is 1/2”, giving us a full inch of penetration into the stud. The pegboard is ripped into 3 – 16” +/- pieces 8′ long. They are attached with 1 1/4” screws to the firring strips.


[Discussion] Screws vs Nails.
Nails are cheaper and faster. However, screws give you a forward flexibility and reusability that nails do not. Think about your own projects where you are removing things, that in the interest of money, time or love, you will want to reuse. All that trim that you removed, that has chunks missing or marks from the prybars, and if you did not pull the nails out the back, all those big holes that will need filling and repair.

Looking at the bench’s left end. you see that the pegboard nor the shelf extends to the end of the bench. This is by design. There are times where you will be working on something tall on the bench. think large lamps, etc. You will notice that I have also installed shelving above the pegboard.
The shelving is 7 ply sanded plywood that was on special, even though we would have gone the extra money if it wasn’t. The shelving brackets are made of the same material cut at 45 degrees. The back of the brackets have a piece of 1×3” firing strip attached. The firring strip is attached to the bracket with 1 5/8” screws. I also pre drill 4 angled holes in the face of the bracket, for the screws that will hold the bracket to the stud behind The shelf is attached to the top firring strip, and the brackets are attached with two screws from the underside of the shelf into the bracket. The brackets are 32” on center, for strength.

We ran a smaller shelf across the endwall for some more storage. Installed a two bulb flourescent fixture to replace the bulb lighting. We added a counter to the end of the wall, that will get a divider and shelf for storage underneath. On the left side of the photo, we installed a pair of wire tool holders. These are real handy for the daily tools.
On the house side short wall we installed a tall wire shelving unit. which is good for the cans and small boxes of nails and screws.
On the back wall where the doors are we will leave the wall blank, except for a 12” shelf running the length of the room running above the top of the doors. This is more storage for those things you need once in a great while.

The Toolshed Episode 1

Now that you have your keyboard and mouse, you are probably ready to tackle a new project.

If you are remodeling your house, you probably won’t run out and enclose your two car garage and turn it into a fully equipt workshop.

Well a friend on mine is. In a few weeks.

Meanwhile we need to bring some order into his life as every room in his house, including the kitchen and both bathrooms have tools and supplies in them. Now that he has a new sweetie, and 3-4 kids, changes are in order.

The utility room, which is an oxymoron of the first water, as they are neither utilizable, nor roomy except in the strictest definition, having walls and a door, but that’s a rant for another day.
Here is the first act. The utility room is 51” x 14′ and has a door on either end.

Here is the mess on day one. See it is a utility room, there is the water heater in the corner. The cabinet is 36” wide making the two doors necessary by default. The handle sticking up belongs to a automotive floor jack, which is the most important height to be considered.
Looking down the room from the house side, you can get an idea of the mess. I am sparing you pictures of the floor as there is one, but you have to take that on faith as it is pretty well covered with stuff that knows it belongs in here, but has to sit on the floor.
Looking down the room from the other side you can see the back of the cabinet, which makes going from one door to the other a challenge. In the foreground is a 6′ wide, 6′ high’ 20” deep industrial wire locker. A noble but futile attempt of bringing order out of chaos. Props for the little cabinet for small parts. Useful, but unless you label the drawers, you will play peek a boo a lot.
Looking in the yardside door,on the left piled with stuff is a typing stand, and the tool chests, which despite the condition of the drawers has organization. First thing, drag everything out!
Once you have the stuff somewhere else, you can now think. The water heater is a fixture, so we will work around it.
It’s amazing how much space you have, when you clean things out. You can actually spread your arms out.
Remember the auto floor jack handle from the first photo, and how I said that it was the most important dimension.

Stay tuned.

Labtec Media Keyboard

Why am I talking about keyboards and mice on my home improvement blog?

1. You are here

2. this will simplify your life
One of the things you need for surfing is a Keyboard and Mouse for surfing. Until now I have not used wireless K/M because of all the aggravation I watch other folks go through and the amount of time I have spent replacing batteries, and getting the computer to remember the software to drive them. Setups to use all the ‘extra’ buttons has been a hassle in times past.

I have converted to wireless K/M.

This is the Labtec Media Keyboard Set. It is a Windows Keyboard. I haven’t tried it on Mac or Linux.

This is a ‘wireless’ keyboard and mouse set. I got mine at Costco. You can get one from Amazon. Worth every penny.

This is a closeup of the keyboard.

It has ‘extra’ buttons for some of the repetive tasks that used to require a lot of point and click.

On the top left are these buttons.

From the left,

the letter opens your Email Program,

the house opens your default browser to your home page,

the Magnifier opens up the Windows Search window,

the arrows cycle through your open browser windows,

for those times when you are running more than one browser instance or browsers.

On the top above the page keys are another series of buttons,

The moon puts your computer into standby,

the computer opens up the My Computer window,

the calculator opens up the Calculator,

the battery icon has an LED below it for when it is time to change your battery, which in my opinion the best feature on the keyboard. I am a firm believer in idiot lights for computers. It’s either working or it’s not.

But Wait!

This is the Media part of this keyboard.

the four buttons on the left are the controls of your cd player if you play music while you work.

The big round button is the Mute Button.

the two buttons on the right are the Volume control for your speakers. Second only to the battery indicator in utility.

The mouse is an optical mouse, which is probably the greatest enhancement to mice since the PS2 adaptor. Two Button mouse with scroll, the action of it is firm, firmer than logitech or microsoft mice. Once you get used to it, you will be able to break bricks with your index finger. Okay maybe not, but it does have a firmer action.

The receiver is this pod looking thing.

It has indicators for Caps, Num, Scroll Lock and Act, (activity).

The big button is the connect button that you will only need to use the first time you plug it in.

You really really need this.


One of the things you will need in your adventures in remodeling is a wheelbarrow. The other thing is a wheelbarrow hanger.

This is a TrueTemper 6 Cubic Foot No Flat Wheelbarrow. It’s around 70 bucks in the home inprovement stores.

This is all steel construction. Having used and owned a number of wheelbarrows, let me outline why this is probably the best value for your dollar. You can buy lots of wheel barrows that are cheaper, smaller, and made out of other materials like fiberglass and wood. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, wood is a bad choice as the heat sucks the moisture out of the wooden handles, and they break. Ultraviolet light breaks down fiberglass, rather quickly, making your project a real mess when the fiberglass tears like wet cardboard.

This model also features a solid tire,’No Flat” which eliminates needing an air pump to keep it inflated and having to buy new tires as the heat dries out rubber as well.

Moving to the back the brace between the two legs has four attachment points instead of the two found on cheaper models. This is important, as it helps to keep the barrow from wobbling and tipping when you are loading, or mixing materials. The rubber/plastic grips keep your hands from burning or freezing depending on your location.

Moving to the front, of note is the lower brace between the two handles. It has a U shape that helps you to dig the nose in when you are pouring materials out.
Wheelbarrows are clunky, awkward, and consume enormous amounts of space when you are not using them. No matter where you put them, they are like your lawnmower in how much space you need to store them.
Enter the Wheel Barrow Hanger
I’m not sure where I found this, but it is the simplest hanger. It has two parts.

The lip hanger which attaches to your wall at the level of the front lip of your wheel barrow and the hook that attaches to the wall to hold the back lip of the wheelbarrow to the wall.
Drop dead simple. Simple is good.


Now that you have your wheelbarrow out of the way, consider using the wall space inside of the bucket for mounting hooks and hanging tools and stuff that you will use with your wheelbarrow like your hand gardening tools, masonry trowels, etc.

Now your wheelbarrow is stored out of the way using the smallest footprint possible.

Window Treatments 1

In working on the world headquarters, I found this window at a construction supply liquidator.
It was a custom commercial double glazed window with low e and a metal frame. About 600 bucks retail, picked it up for 50 bucks. Since I wanted afternoon light in the new office I mounted it high in the west wall as my house faces due North.
The awning beyond is 3′ deep so I get no sun on the west wall until around 2:00PM. By design.

The window glass is 60” wide by 15” high. Being an oddball size and wandering around the home depot I have been walking around the window film bin for years. I have had my eye on this Artscape Window film for a couple of years.
I picked up a couple of sheets of Amber Glass.
These come in 2’x3′ sheets. Weird size for the southwest market. In any case I have a Drywall T Square. a tape measure and a sharp utility knife.

I cut the long edges off to get a pattern I liked.
I cleaned the window, sprayed a little water and used a bondo applicator to act as a squeege to smooth it out. I put the large panel in the center, and filled in the sides with the other sheet.
All told around 50 bucks for the film and about 30 minutes to install. Tough stuff, no adhisives, and gives a nice effect. Artscape has a bunch of other patterns. There may be something you like.

I will get a shot of it with full sun a little later

Hinge Removal for Painting

One of the hardest area to paint is the bit of trim behind the hinges on your doors. Painting doors have their own challenges. If you take the door off the frame you can lay it on a saw horse and paint it a lot easier.
A quick way to remove the hinge from the frame is to use a hammer and a screwdriver.
A typical hinge in most houses looks like this.
The hinge has drips and the screws are filled with paint. To get the hinges off without chipping the frame cracking the paint on the jamb or otherwise messing up the pocket, you will need a screwdriver and a hammer.
Take the screwdriver and place it as far in the slots of the screws as you can.
Tap the back of the screwdriver with the hammer. Tap it just enough to push the blade into the screw. This does two things. It opens the slots so the screwdriver will work as advertised.
Lefty loosey, righty tighty.

Once you have done this, loosen the screws a 1/2 turn for now. Repeat until all the hinge screws are done.

Now take the hammer and tap lighty on the outside of the hinge.

This will crack the paint seal, making taking the hinge off a whole lot easier.
P.S. Take a piece of tape and tape the screws to the hinge so you can find them again, when you are ready to put them back on.
Now you can paint the trim in a smooth motion, without having drips on the hinges, missing that little spot behind the hinge.

Paint Can Drip Reduction

Pouring paint into roller pans and smaller containers for brush work, paint gets stuck in the lid, and will drip down the outside of the paint can. Despite the different packages that paint comes in, the majority of paint comes in cans with flat metal lids.
Making a series of holes in the bottom of the can lip will reduce this problem.
This will reduce the amount of paint that gets stuck in the lid and make it easier to reseal the can.
Since the holes are in the bottom of the trough, the lid will seal these holes in between uses.