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September 2021
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House Refresh the Kitchen

Recently I refreshed a house.  Owner died, heirs want to sell.  In the current market balancing cash in vs cash out is a delicate act. You want to add value but you can’t afford to overbuild for the market. Once you own a house you can of course go crazy.

Here is the kitchen in this house which is just like every other house in the neighborhood, which at one time was a ‘development’.

In the foreground is the breakfast area with wood posts forming a visual separation between the family room and the galley style kitchen. This is untouched from the day the developer turned over the keys. Back in the day where wallpaper was thought to be a good idea in kitchens. The wallpaper has to go, the popcorn ceiling in the breakfast nook has to go, the cabinets need serious cleaning. The formica counters are showing extreme age.

The first order of business is to eliminate the posts, remove the wallpaper, skimcoat the walls,(required as the builders do not final finish these walls figuring that the wallpaper will cover imperfections) clean and refinish the cabinets, order and install new tops and clean and refinish the floor. The floor was left as it is a one piece sheet vinyl in good condition.

Just these few tasks begin to open up the space. After removing the wallpaper, which was not real hard as I had my daughter do it, and using a spray bottle filled with water she made it go away in short order. We cleaned and refinished the cabinets first, bagged them and then primed and painted. The counters were the last major items installed before doing the floor. Here is the final result.

Here is the kitchen start from the reverse angle.

Here is the finish.

Here is a longer view from the family room.

Storage Project 6

The floor is finished and the last of the installers are out of the attic and the shelves are in. 12 feet wide, 6 feet high and 24” deep.

It wont take long to fill up.


Storage Project 1
Storage Project 2
Storage Project 3
Storage Project 4
Storage Project 5

Particle Board Bathrooms – Continued

Having gotten over the weirdness of particle board as a wall material in bathrooms, the next stage of the project is bag the room again prior to sanding the walls. ( We did it once already for removing the wallpaper.The walls have to be sanded to remove bits of trash and glue left over from removing the wallpaper. Plus the fuzz from the water used getting the paper backing off the wall, and the odd bits and holes from the compound popping out from the paper removal, and the leftover silicone caulking.
There is some water staining around the base of the toilet, that will get repaired and a coat of Kilz, before priming and painting. It is remarkable how little water damage there is considering this is a bathroom. Good Wallpaper. It is also amazing how much time these two little rooms are taking.

Here I have covered the floor in Red Rosin Paper, taped and bagged the counter, toilet, and  shower. All of the towel bars, mirrors and other fixtures are sitting in the tub while I do this.

Tech Note: Remember to wipe down and vacuum the areas where your tape goes.  You get a better seal and only have to do it once. The deal is to do it right or do it over.  I don’t do over.


Having bagged, it is time to skim coat. I am using 45 min. speed set, in the belief that I would be able to skim coat,  sand and prime  this day. Silly me.

By the time I got finished skim coating these two rooms I had seriously run out of time for the day. Next up is sanding, touch up, vacuuming up the dust, caulking the inside corners,  walls and ceilings, baseboards and door trim, KILZ around the toilet, and primer.

For those of you contemplating doing a bathroom refresh by removing the wall paper and repainting, allow enough time to be able to work around surprises. For example I have around 16 hours in these two to this point. Sanding, cleaning, touch up,  caulking and priming will suck up another 6-8 hours. This is taking longer because it is smooth wall, and that is how it is done.

Particle Board Bathrooms

It was a simple condo repaint job.  Patch the holes from picture hangers,  remove the wall paper and repaint the two bathrooms. 2 Bed, 2 bath, no real oddball features until I started removing the wall paper in the first bath. I pulled the medicine cabinet and was greeted with this. Particle board.

Particle board detail at medicine cab opening

I thought that this was an anomaly until I went around the room. The entire bathroom is sheathed in particle board. Stapled to the studs, a smear of compound to cover the staple holes and wallpapered over. No primer, no sealer, just particle board and wallpaper. The first bath was relatively easy to strip as they used a fabric type wallpaper that came off easy.
wall detail

The detailing behind the wallpaper at the corners was very good however. The are a couple hundred condo units in this development so the builder got it down to a science.
corner detail at shower

The second bath was a different animal having a paper wallpaper. Here I stripped off the  face and then softened and scrapped the paper back  off with water. About 4 hours of mess.
paper wallpaper takes more time

Skim coat, Primer, and Paint.  Particle board walls? Another entry in the Weird Construction Techniques category, for sure.

Tall Cabinet Installation

Here are a series of tall cabinets I recently installed for a client who needed storage that could be moved later.
Simple storage units with oak face frames and panel doors with beveled frames so knobs or handles are not required. These are 18'' wide, 24'' deep and under 7' high. These were installed to corral the toys and stuff that the arrival of their first child spawned. Tallcabs

We also installed a fluorescent fixture to provide indirect lighting. The lighting allows them enough light for reading as well being able to remove the lamps that had graced the various end tables. This shows the light in action. The grey cabinet was an addition after the other cabinets had been purchased and painted.


This is a temporary placement. As the child grows, most of these cabinets will move to other areas of the house. Attaching these cabinets to the wall  requires some thought.  Knowing that most of them were moving at a later date and needing to provide backing for then, I decided to leave the base trim in place. This allowed us to install a spacer on the right cabinet to give us spacing for the trim detail to come as well as providing solid blocking on the wall behind them to attach them firmly to the wall.


Our first order of business is to determine the height and length of our wall cleat. Look at the back of the cabinet for backing that is installed from the factory. Having backing separates good cabinets from crap that will make you cry long after you spend the money you thought you saved.


Our cleat is going to be mounted horizontally, centered on the bottom of the upper cabinet base. The back of the cabinet itself has a backing board to hold the shelf in place as well as keeping the cabinet sides parallel. This will allow us to screw the cabinets to the wall with the screws just above the 'floor' of the upper cabinet opening, making then unobtrusive.

The laser line. Using an inexpensive laser we mark our horizontal. I love this thing. I used to use plastic tubing as a water level which required two people, and was a mess to work with.

Laserline The Chalk Line. Next I used a chalk line to snap a line for the top edge of the cleat. This gives you wiggle room to find your studs, and gets covered when you install your cleat. 


I found the studs, which in this case were 24'' on center, and attached the cleat to the wall with 2- 2'' screws at each stud location. I like screwing things together not only for the additional strength now, but for the ease of removal later on. Raise your hands if you have done demo where things were nailed to the wall, and you had to repair a lot of damage from taking stuff apart.


Attaching the cabinets to the wall is 'relatively' straight forward. You want to check that the cabinets are plumb in both directions. Side to side, so they will not look like they are either leaning into the wall or falling away from it. Front to back, plumb keeps the doors from swinging open or banging shut. It is the little details that make jobs well done.

Your floor is not perfectly flat. Trust me on this. In addition to getting your cabinets plumb, you want them level. Starting from the corner, you slide the next cabinet into position using shims where necessary to align the cabinet frames. Don't worry about the doors yet, as they are coming off and will be adjusted later. Attaching them to each other requires some clamps and some screws. Here I am using Irwin Squeeze Clamps to hold the frames together. Notice that I have removed the doors from one of the cabinets, to allow me to get the clamps in place. Next we use a counter sink drill bit to drill our holes.

Tech Tip: Screw the frames together in one direction. Right to left or left to right depending on conditions. If you anticipate moving them later, leave the screw heads sunk but exposed so you can find them later. Touch them up with a spot of paint and there you go.


For the most part there should not be gaps between the cabinets, but be prepared in case there are. Wood moves. You can now reattach the doors, lining them up as you go.

Here is the trim detail for this unit. The trim is simple door stop material. It has a light radius on one edge and a square corner on the other edge. The gap on the right side of the cabinet is equal to the top gap, it is just the picture and the idiot with the camera.


Not shown here is the 1/4'' plywood attached to the side of the left cabinet to create a finished end. The rest of the plywood was used on the roof of the cabinet as well as a solid kick panel at the floor.

Artroom Expansion 20

The last bits inside are drying, and the painting outside is beginning. Here is the state of play.

We added 6 glass block windows to the east wall approximately 32'' apart. These are just below the top plates and in every other stud space along this wall. They provide ambient light without  glare as they are this high on the wall.

The cabinets originally sat on the floor on the opposite wall. We built a cleat system and remounted them on the wall. The cabinets and glass blocks working out so well in terms of proportion was blind dumb luck.  The floor cabinets were the 2 door units. The client found the three door cabinet that is in the center of this wall and after mounting them the glass blocks just worked out. Lucky me. Probably why I haven't won the lottery.


Moving on…. The design and assembly table was cut down 2.5 inches and two shelves were added for storage of some of the larger items like the boards used for panel assembly as well as the longer lengths of 'came' used in stained glass.

The counter height and depth was designed by the size of the rolling carts you see underneath. The left end is anchored by a steel cabinet containing small pieces of glass. The cost of some glass will make your nose bleed.

The wall brackets are 4' on center so we could screw into the studs behind. I used 3'' deck screws for this. The photo on the left shows a Dewalt Countersink drill bit. What makes this  an outstanding tool is the length of the bit and the taper of the drill. They are relatively expensive compared with straight bit countersink bits, and finding replacement drill bits is a chore, but it is worth the effort. They come in #6,8,10 sizes. They are made for longer screws, but when you are drilling through plywood,drywall and into a stud for a three inch screw, they have no equal. The replacement bits are best found at a Dewalt Store or at Amazon.   

The wall brackets are angled, allowing me to get two brackets out of my plywood. They also stop 5'' off of the floor. This allows for ease in cleaning underneath the counter. 

On the other wall where the cabinets used to sit, we reused the counter as a backing for the glass cutter. More three inch screws. It also formed a convenient holder for bulletin boards. Nothing says love better than stuff that does not fall down, trust me. Also in this photo is the a/c unit we removed from the endwall when we started this project.

For those of you following along, wondering where this is all leading, remember the whole point of this project was to get the kiln into another room with expansion space for another one. 



Artroom Expansion 19

Details. It's always the details.
The counter was designed specifically as a garage for these rolling carts. We made it 16' feet long and 20'' deep to take advantage of the plywood. We reused the trim that was on the other side of the room when these cabinets were floor units. It has 2 coats of 'satin' finish waterbased polyurethane to protect it.

The glass block windows being centered was a happy accident.

The shelving units are being filled up with the various powders and fragments that go into fusing glass.
Here is the former exterior wall with the only items that remained.
A couple of details to wrap up, and then it is outside to paint the building.

Artroom Expansion 18

Having hung the cabinets, I built the counter for that wall. 16 feet of counter. It is 3/4 plywood with angle brackets for stud wall mounting. Building 16 feet of anything in a 22 foot shop is challenging.

But with careful measurement, it mounts quickly. The counter is designed to hold a number of rolling carts underneath. The brackets are designed to  screw through the wall into the studs behind making it strong enough to sleep on. The brackets stop short of the floor to make cleaning the area easy.

Here is the wall with the cabs and counter in place. I also installed 3 more glass blocks above for more indirect light.

Here is a view from the other side.

Artroom Expansion 17

Having built or recycled a number of the elements of the artroom expansion, this is how they are coming together.
The sink area is ready for the finishing touches. The client did a great job on the floor.    Adapting a shower pan for use as a sink was a challenging project. The FRP panels were recycled from another project as was the counter. We will be installing a black ribbed rubber cover over the counter extending over the edge of the sink, forming a drain surface.

Here is a closer look at the sink. The cap/backsplash on the left and under the window are recycled solid surface backsplashes from the Guest Bath Project. Through the window you can see the cabinets mounted that I described in my last post.

Looking down the counter to the doorway, you can see the shelving units created for material storage.

Here are the shelving units mounted.


Speaking of mounting, here are the rest of the wall cabinets mounted. After attaching the cleats, with the help of a neighbor it took almost 2 minutes to hang the cabinets.


I did screw them through the backs into the bottom cleat, just to stablize them. We decided to add three more glass block windows over the top of this cabinet run. There is a conduit run on the outside that needs to be removed before I can cut the openings.

Meanwhile I will be cutting the rest of the deck pieces for the counter that will be installed under these cabinets.

Artroom Expansion 16

The first set of custom shelves is ready for a coat of poly.
These are made for a container that the client has a lot of storing various materials.

Made out of my favorite plywood with a rabbeted back, and the unit on the right is built for storage of fusable glass rods.

Meanwhile I am building the sink unit made from an angle shower pan. The left side is a ponywall and backsplash. The right side has a built out wall that will tuck under the window, and contain the plumbing. It's depth is dictated by the counter that will run along the wall to the door.
Sink3 In order to make this work, I added an 1/8'' masonite panel behind where the FRP will be attached, as the shower pan has a lip. This gives me a flat surface for gluing the FRP.

The sink is pretty much ready for paint.
I still need to find trims for the outside corners. FRP is a 1/16'' thick and the vynle trims at the big box stores are made for the 1/8'' masonite panels which are produced in the most mind numbing ugly colors and patterns. Yet another demonstration of big box store weirdness. The only FRP panels have a texture on them making them hard to keep clean, and no trims in stock for them. –sigh–