Archive for the ‘Indoor’ Category

the Fireplace Remodel, part 3

I’ve had the new stone fire place finished  for some time now and even the re-claimed barn wood mantel is installed.  We’ve spent some time looking at stone/granite for the ground level hearth but nothing has been decided upon.

Here are some progression pictures of the stone installation.

This is the start of the stone install.  On the bottom I setup a temporary wooden support shelve which is supported in the center with three wooden wedges.  This provided me a nice even surface and it served as spacer between the floor and the stone where the future hearth stone will be set.  This support will be removed once the mortar cures.

ImageThe next picture is the installed stone up to and around the mounting cleat that will hold the barn wood mantel.  Once again you can see a temporary wooden support above the fireplace insert.


Further up the wall….and if you look real close at the cleat (sometimes called a French Cleat), I used some small spacer wedges to push up the cleat top in order to use the top of the cleat as a support for the next row of stone.  Between the cleat and the stone I placed some wax paper to prevent the two from sticking together.


And now we have all the stone installed, along with the barn wood mantel.  The last row of stone at the top required about 1/3 of the top to be cut off with the tile saw.  It turned out pretty even and looks nice.


The most important step in a nice clean installation is to take the time and lay out the stone on the ground before their installed.  Don’t grab them at random from the box and mortar directly to the wall.  Take the time to do a proper layout.  I can’t tell you how many times I rearranged the stones when they were laid out on the floor.   Making sure the color tone, stone size and texture were evenly spaced.  That time was well spent when you see the results.

I used Eldorado Stone – Mountain Ledge Panels

Once the hearth stone is installed.  I’ll update this post.


the Fireplace Remodel, part 2

In the middle of the project, we decided to remove the step hearth in front on the fireplace and place the new hearth near or at the floor level, just peeking out above the carpet.  This meant a little demo in removing the OSB top and 2×10 framing.  It was actually pretty difficult to remove due to the carpenter being a little to overzealous with the nail gun.  But I did get the step torn out (without injury) and all the hidden saw dust vacuumed.  Lucky I had some left over Sheetrock I would need to patch the two openings previously hidden by the step,  you can see those below where the pink insulation is viable.


I had already covered most of the wall with black roofer felt which is used as a moisture barrier.  The barrier serves a few purposes.  One, to protect the drywall from the moisture in the mortar.  Two, to keep the moisture in the mortar, which slows the curing process, thereby resulting in a stronger finished material.  And lastly, it acts as a means to prevent cracking if there is movement between the stone and the wall due to any temperature and humidity changes within the house.

The next step is to cover the entire wall with metal lath.  I used 2.5lb lath as provided by our stone supplier.   This was a challenging process.  The lath can have a mind of its own and certainly has sharp edges, so be sure to wear leather gloves when handling this material.  Metal snips were used to cut it to size and lath screws were used to attach the lath to the wall studs.  Attach screws every 16 inches on the horizontal plane and every 6 inches on the vertical.  The lath itself should overlap 1 to 2 inches on the horizontal seams and 3 to 4 inches on the vertical.  It took about 3 hours due to the slow process on the trimming to size but it looks pretty good.  Note: there is a correct side of the lath to use away from the wall.  It’s the side where the bottom of the  little diamond shape openings form a little outward cup (presumably to help hold the scratch coat mortar.)


Applying the scratch coat mortar is skill that starts out poor, but you’ll quickly figure out what you’re doing and then the process will speed up.  The second half of the wall took about half the time as the first.  Mix the mortar following the manufacture instructions (I used a 5 gallon bucket and paddle mixer attached to a heavy-duty 1/2 inch drill), to a consistency of creamy peanut butter and use a flat trowel to apply.  Loading the trowel in the center only helps prevent mortar from dripping out as you push up and around and force the mortar into the lath, covering it to at least a 1/2 inch depth.  Take your time and expect mortar to drip out onto the floor.

IMG_1195Once the mortar has set up a bit (possibly 30 to 60 minutes of drying) use the notched side of a trowel to scratch groves into the mortar.   These little groves will increase the bonding between the stone mortar and the wall mortar/lath.


I plan to wait 48 hours (due to a busy schedule) and then we’ll have a go at installing the actual stone veneer.  Looking forward to that!

the Fireplace Remodel, part 3….

the Fireplace Remodel, part 1

It is time to get on with the fire-place remodel, even right smack in the middle of the Deck 2013 project.  I figure now that the summer heat and humidity is in full swing, I can take a break from the outdoor deck project and get on with a nice indoor project and enjoy some A/C.  We are tearing out the old ceramic tile fireplace tiles and replacing them with Eldorado Stone Mountain Ledge Panels ( Silverton.) from top to bottom.

Here we have the existing fireplace after removal of the ceramic tile.  The tile was fairly easy to remove with a hammer and a cold chisel. Most of the tiles popped up without cracking.

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It was now on to the removal of the very dated white wooden mantel.  I found the best way to remove this was to first remove the tiny top and bottom trim pieces.  With these gone I could get the crow bar behind the piece of 2×6 lumber the mantel was constructed around.  I few hammer smacks, along with some prying of the crow bar and the entire mantel came off in once piece; in nice enough condition to re-use if necessary.

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With the mantel and tile removed, it was on to the tile mastic glue covering the black metal surrounding the fireplace opening.  I considered the purchase of some type of chemical stripper but in the end settled on an ordinary heat gun.  With a just a few second of directed heat, the glue was somewhat easily scrapped off the metal.  A quick light sanding to remove the remaining glue residue and it was ready to paint (make sure you use paint designed for high heat applications).  Below is the finished opening.  You can still see the glue on the bottom of the fireplace which should be covered by the new stone or easily removed later if necessary.

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On to part 2…

the Walnut Face

the Wife and I were at a local art fair over the weekend and I saw an item for sale by one of the vendors that caught my eye.  Here is a picture:


Unknown artist!

I found it interesting because it was almost the exact same size and shape as a piece of walnut I’ve had lying around my shop for a few years.  I had cut the slab of wood you see below out of a large walnut log.  (The log was dropped off at my house by a landscaper that knew I had an interest in woodworking.) During the drying process, the slap had twisted/warped a bit more than I would have liked, so I ended up not using it right away.  Well I thought that this would be a perfect project blank to try to duplicate the mask I saw at the art fair.


All though I’ve been woodworking as long as I can remember, I had never attempted any type of wood carving before.  This would be a first.  I didn’t really have any carving specific tools but I do own a huge variety of woodworking tools collected from over 30 years as a woodworking hobbyist.  As it says on my header “how hard could it be.”

IMG_0416I wish I had taken more pictures of the carving progress but this is the only one.  I drew a rough outline of what wood I wanted to remove, and used everything from a Dremel Tool to a belt sander.  It took about 4 hours work and I think it ended up a pretty nice piece.  I feel a bit guilty for stealing the artist’s idea and really wish I had their name to reference here for proper credit.  If you recognize the work of the artist in the first picture, please let me know.  How do you think he turned out?


the Attic Insulation

This is going to be a short post for a long project.  My upstairs was just always too hot in the summer and too cool in the winter.  I figured that adding attic insulation was a nice winter project that would pay for itself eventually with lower utility bills.  Plus the big box retailer near me had it on sale.  I figure my current insulation had settle quite a bit after 15 plus years.

Over the past few weeks, I purchased 40 rolls of R30 non-faced continuous rolled insulation.  Now I could only fit about 5 rolls at a time in my car so I’d just purchase what would fit, bring those home and haul them up to my second floor attic.  My attic doesn’t have drop down stairs, only a small hatch access panel in a bedroom closet.  The rolls did fit, but each roll needed to be pushed through the hole with tiresome effort.  Once I had about 10 rolls up, I would start the laborious process of cutting off the plastic covering and controlling the roll as it expanded all while not putting my foot through the attic floor.


You can see in the picture above how thick the new R30 insulation is, on both the left and right side of the picture.  Here is the completed job!


We had a new high efficiency furnace installed in the house this same winter so I can’t offer exact details on what a difference this added insulation made, but it sure seemed like the upstairs was more comfortable that winter and much cooler the following summer.  If I see this insulation on sale again, I would consider adding another layer!

the Coin Display

This was a woodworking project that I was actually honored to make for an Army doctor friend of mine.  She has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan (thank you for your service EB!)   For various reasons and circumstances, army service members exchange honor coins like those you will see in the following pictures.  My friend asked me to make her some type of display unit to showcase her coins.  Knowing that her unit’s nickname is the “rakkasans” with their unit’s symbol presented below,  I developed an idea that would be a challenging project with an interesting visual result.  I decided to create a display stand with an embedded rakkason symbol, mind you the rakkasan symbol is not an inlay on each end, it’s actually is part of the structure.toriWhat I had to do was create this in 4 different layers!   But the challenging aspect was knowing that each layer would need to be thickness planed smooth for gluing, so it would need to be designed thicker to start with.  (A thickness planer  removes a small amount of surface material thereby reducing it’s thickness, and if you have sharp planer blades, a perfect gluing surface).

I printed out an enlarged version of the rakkasan symbol you see above.  It was further divided into four parts: the top horizontal section, mid section supports, bottom horizontal section and lower supporting legs.  Each of the layered pieces were cut and glued into a single wide flat layer.  After drying overnight, each layer was again machined smooth in the planer and prepare for gluing.  This was the hardest part of the process.  The darker rakkason symbol pieces (made of Brazilian Cherry) did not line up perfectly with the ones above and below, but it came out pretty close.   The other wood material is Hard Maple.


Setup for gluing.


Out of the clamps and ready for more work (I made two at the same time; one for her work and home.

The next step was to use a hand held router to round the top edges as well as cut a slot for the coins to rest in.


At this point and other than the application of a protective finish coat, my original plan was finished.  But I did not like how it looked, it didn’t seem balanced.  A bit to top-heavy.  So after thinking a bit about how it looked, I knew I needed to do something.  As it was, as your eye moves across the desk it would visually see a “wall” before seeing the coins, not a good design.  I decided to add a small front shelve.  Not only would this ease the transition from the bottom to the top of the display, it would add 50% more display capacity.  Here is the result:


Much better, right?

End grain closeup

End grain closeup


A finish coat of simple mineral oil was applied and I was finished.  This was definitely one of my most rewarding woodworking projects.  A unique one of a kind design; a meaningful gift for an equally unique doctor/soldier/friend who proudly served our country.

the Kitchen Floor

Its been almost 3 years since I refinished the kitchen floor and it still looks brand new.

By the time the calendar turned over to 2005, we had been in our house over 10 years.  Hard to believe!  Our taste had definitely changed during that time, as it was the decorating color choices we made when we were younger really needed some updating.  Plus the builder installed floor was beginning to show serious wear and tear and not just in the high traffic areas.  The wife was going to be out of town  for a few days so I thought it would be a great time to refinish the kitchen floor.

Do you like pink?

Do you like pink?

The refinish process is not all that hard, its just time consuming, physical and a bit dusty.  Our floor is not a solid hardwood material.  Its a laminate product but the top 3/8 of an inch is red oak solid hardwood.  I know from years of woodworking that I could get at least one sanding/refinishing from that thickness and possibly two if we kept the same color on a second refinishing.  In this case, we would be removing a whitewash/pink color and replacing it with a dark stain.

In order to contain the sanding saw dust the first thing to do, other than removing the appliances and furniture from the room, is to hang plastic sheeting around all exits from your room.  Tip: let me be clear, every floor sander you can rent, even the “dust-less” variety will put some sanding dust into the air and all over your house.   So take the time early on to hang the plastic and use a quality dust mask during the sanding to keep your lungs clear.  It also helps to shut off the A/C or heat when you’re sanding so you don’t have sawdust drawn into the central air return system.


I rented a large standup orbital disk sander from the BORG (big orange retail giant), the rental was actually pretty cheap being about $50 for the day, but the cost of the sand paper pads is what gets you.  I would estimate that the pads needed to be changed every 10 minutes or so before their cutting efficiency rapidly declined.  I might have spent $100 in sand-paper alone.  This will vary for you, it really depends on how hard the top clear coat is on your floor.  The rented sander removed all the finish down to the wood along with the original stain.  I already owned a small orbital hand sander that was used to sand under the cabinets, along the walls and in other tight spots.  Another tip that will keep the mess to a minimum is to do regular floor vacuuming around the area’s just sanded, possibly each time you change out the sanding pads.  This will keep you from tracking dust in the house and make the floor that much cleaner before applying the finish.  Any basic “shop-vac” like vacuum will work.   Here is what the floor looked like after sanding


Once you think you have finished the sanding, take some time to double check the floor very carefully to make sure you have not missed any of the old finish.  Other wise these areas, no matter how small, will stick out like a sore thump when the new stain is applied.  I recommend getting down on your hands and knees and taking a wet sponge to wipe down a section at a time; what you can reach within arms length and carefully inspect the dampened wood.  The missed areas will stand out better if the wood is wet.  I found several dented/low areas that the sander did not reach; those were easily removed with the hand sander.  In the picture below, you can see a tiny sliver of the old finish that survived the sanding process; this is the type of defect you are looking for.


Double click for an enlarged image

Once you are sure that the old finish is completely removed, put a fresh bag in the shop-vac (for maximum suction) and give the floor a nice once over to remove as much dust as possible before moving on to the staining process.

Staining can be a bit tricky so be sure to read and follow the manufactures instructions perfectly.  In my case, we used cotton rags to wipe on the finish, wait 5 minutes for the stain to soak in and then remove the excess stain still on the surface with fresh rags as needed.  I had a friend helping with this process.  I would apply the stain and he would follow with the removal process.  Our stain was oil based so I would suggest wearing a respirator (something like this).  If your using water based stain, this is likely not necessary.  I strongly suggest applying two coats.   This will result in a much deeper color with more depth.  Be sure to test out the stain coloring in an area that won’t be visible at the end.  For example: under the appliances or in the back of the pantry.


Two coats down and before the poly top coat

I decided to use a water based poly finish.  So per the instructions I needed to wait 72 hours for the oil based stain to dry. During this process, allow as much outside ventilation as possible.  Being December in Indiana it’s cold outside.  I did put a fan in the window pulling air out during the staining process and for about an hour afterwards,  but closed it once we were finished cleaning up.  I did however move the thermostat fan to “on” to increase air circulation.  The smell  was noticeably strong so  that night that I slept over at a relatives house.  The next day it was fine.  If your sensitive to odors and using oil based stain, then I might suggest you take on this project during your area’s warmer months in order to keep your windows open.

72 hours later and I was ready to start the clear top coat process.

Using water based poly required about 75 minutes drying time between coats.   I would apply a coat, using the recommend lambs wool mop, and leave the house.  Return, apply another coat leaving myself in the TC room for 75 minutes and then put down another coat and leave the house again, etc.  I ended up with 6 coats and the floor turned out nicer than I expected.