Friday, December 30, 2005

Window Frame Magic

First of all, don't ask me why the pics are sideways. I tried to rotate them on Photobucket, but it wasn't working, so if it bothers you, just turn your head sidways, or lay your monitor on it's side for the remainder of this post.

Okay, well I wasn't kidding when I said that a lot of progress was made over the past few days. Originally, this wall (plaster and wood lath) was taken out because it had no insulation (they didn't believe in such luxuries as insulation in 1910) and replaced wih sheetrock over actual pink insulation (or maybe it was yellow?). At first I tried to save the original molding around the window, but took it out when I realized that 1) the ledge wasn't level, and 2) the molding wasn't in great shape anyway. So ripped it out and we were left staring at this.

So we filled in the holes where the sash/counterweight used to be and installed the bottom ledge level. The molding around the window interior wasn't level either (it was about an inch higher on the right side), but instead of removing the whole molding, my brother had the idea of trimming it with a chisel down to size, which worked out fine.

We used 1x6s for the ledge and the side pieces. We reused the original piece under the ledge. The side pieces we trimmed to 4.5" so that they would be even with the replacement rosettes that we placed in the corners of the molding. It looks like the original trim, except that the original had fluting on the side. I could probably fix that with a router, but that is so low on my to-do list that it will probably never happen.

Okay, here is the finished product. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my dad fixed the areas around the trim with plaster. With 20/20 hindsight I would've done a few things differently (like buy a different house, or fire the original contractor after the first week). First, I would've added the fluting to the sides of the trim pieces and maybe rounded the corners on the ledge. Second (or third) I would've cut the side pieces a little smaller than 4.5" so that I could add another decorative trim molding to the side, which overhangs by 1/4" inch. But all in all, I am happy with the result. I am even feeling a little guilty that I called my brother fat. But since I was raised Catholic, even if I didn't call him fat, I would probably feel guilty about something else (Catholics don't need a reason to feel guilty).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Very Ninja Christmas

It's been nice having some of the family over for Christmas, but it's also good that I can rest a little now. I put on about 10 lbs over the past few days from stress-eating. Since most of my family is in Florida or NY (and until now I have lived in a 450 sq foot studio), I would always go there for Xmass. This is the first time I have had people over to my place for the holidays. This is stressfull enough, but my house is only half finished and there were waaaaay more people than I am used to here. My brother's youngest kid is really cute but a handfull. He really stresses me out when he drops chairs (or spills coke) on my new hardwood floors, but my brother said not to tell him NOT to do something, because it will just encourage him to do it more. (this seems like a strange theory, but it's his kid, so what the hell?).

Here is a picture of the culprit. He's got a little too much energy, if you ask me. I don't think ritalin would help him. Maybe some valium would do him some good though.

Although from looking at him when he's sleeping, you would never know how high strung he is.

They left to spend New Years at my aunt's in NY, so the first thing I did when they left was to take a long, much-needed nap. My dad and brother ended up doing a LOT of work with me over a few days that they were here and to be honest we got more done than I normally would've done in a month (pics to follow).

His older son reminds me of myself when I was 15 (lazy and bad at fixing things). My brother yells and berates him when he does something wrong, just like my dad did to me when I was his age. This is typical of what went on when we were installing the wood floors. (We'll call my brother the Fat Ninja, because if I use his real name, he might sue me someday)

Me: Why don't you let your son use the flooring nailer so he learns how to install the floor?

Fat Ninja: Because when he screws it up, it will take me 10 times as long to fix it.

Son: Thanks, dad!

This is what is was like when I was his age:

[Dad installing drywall]

Ninja: Can I try it?

Dad: Okay...but don't screw it up!

Ninja: Ummm, thanks for the vote of confidence, Dad.

[I try to screw in a piece of drywall, and there is a horrible grinding sound]

Dad: Give me that, you moron! Go unload some drywall from the delivery truck or sweep or something.

I'd like to think that I would use positive reinforcement on my kids, but my brother says I shouldn't. Traditions must live on! Besides, if it weren't for my father being so demanding, I probably wouldn't be a lawyer right now. I might be a drug dealer, a traffic cop, a politician or some other form of low life.*

Anyway, on the first day, my brother and I finished the hardwood in the living/dining room while Ninja Daddy added a coat of compound to even out the terrible drywall job that the fired contractor (Osni the Plumbing Monkey) had done. My dad has some type of preternatural ability with drywall compound. He could probably fix a car, repair the New Orleans Levees or bring about world peace with the stuff. He did the job better than I could (and a lot faster).

Well, I'll post some pics of the work little by little. I think too much got done to include it all in one post, plus I still have to play around with uploading the pics to I am uploading all my pics to Photobucket now, b/c my computer is acting up and may need to be repaired, or put out of it's misery. I thought iMacs were indestructable, but I guess I was wrong.

At any rate, here is a pic of the happy ninja clan. That's The Fat Ninja and wife, Daddy Ninja and his girlfriend, The Home Improvement Ninja and the Toolbelt Diva.

And here is a pic of the (almost finished) floor. I'll put some pics of the finished product in the next post. I still have to upload them and it takes me longer to do computer stuff than it does for me to do construction stuff (even on an iMac my computer skillz aren't great).

*The ninja is due for an appearance in Traffic court in a few days so he is bitter at traffic cops and politicians who write traffice laws right now.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

T Minus...5....4....3...

Okay, so I went to the mall with ToolBelt Diva yesterday and finished Xmass shopping for the relatives coming to visit. I am off from work tomorrow and they should be getting here tomorrow night or sat morning. SO that gives me anywhere from 8-10 hours to finish the floors, and prime the bathroom (I don't think I'll have time to paint it, but it should look like white paint if it's primed). And maybe fix the huge hole I cut in the floor upstairs during one of my "plumbing lessons".

I am secretly jealous of people who can find a small leak and repair it with a wrench and a little teflon tape. I find the same tiny leak and the next theing that happens, my ceiling looks like this. I know, I'll never here the end of that one. "What the hell were you thinking?" "Why didn't you just [do the simplest thing in the world, which would never occur to me]?" "You just like making holes in your walls, don't you? I knew we shouldn't let you buy that reciprocating saw...when you named it, I knew you were up to no good."

I don't think I'll have time to re-connect the radiators (which is bad b/c people from Miami think 50 degrees is freezing), but I've got some space heaters which should do the trick. Plus my dad and brother are far better plumbers than I am, so I think can re-connect it if worse comees to worse.

I'd like to do it all myself, but I think I may be outvoted, even in my own house. As a point of pride, and for bragging rights, I'd like to say I did everything, but my brother may have different ideas. I can here him now: "shuttup and gimme' that torch, you moron, it's freezing in here."

I have an interesting anecdote about my brother and the marble tile we installed in my bathroom, but it won't make sense without pictures, so I'll tell you about it in a couple of days...with pictures. Or maybe my brother should tell you...since I know I won't here the end of it from him all week.

Manual Labor: Harder than it looks

Now, I mentioned before that I have a manual flooring nailer. I thought about a pneumatic (air compressor) one, but I bought a manual one for several reasons.
  1. When I had done flooring in the past when I was younger, I used a manual one like this. They really didn't have a lot of air-powered tools around 'till recently. So I was more comfortable with it.
  2. I didn't want to buy a compressor just to install some floors because the air-powered nailer is so expensive that if I added the cost of a compressor to that, it would be cheaper just to hire someone to do it.
  3. the air-powered nailer uses staples, not nails, so I didn't know if it would be as good.

After installing some floors, your lower back hurts from being hunched over; you wrist hurts from from the impact (you have to hit each nail hard at least 2 or 3 times to get it to go in right) and you get callouses on you hand. Okay, okay, callouses on my hand and my wrist hurts, please spare me the comments on excessive onanism.

This is a pic of me with the flooring nailer. My back hurts just from looking at it.

The worst part is that I did end up buying a compressor (it came with a finish and brad nailer) and I found a place that sells a air-powered flooring nailer (new) for the same price I bought a used manual one . Arrrrrrrghhh! I wish I had known about that place before. So I am thinking of getting another one, but I only have about 1/2 the floor in the living/dining room area left, so I don't know if it's worth the trip (they don't have stores in DC) just to get it when I need to finish the floor now.

So my aching back, arms and bruised ego caused me to have an epiphany: manual labor is harder than it looks. It's good that I work in a nice air-conditioned office and the only danger I face is carpal-tunnel syndrome or acute boredom (very common among derivatives lawyers).

It's difficult when I have to do heavy work for a few hours on the weekend, I don't wanna think about how my candyass would make a living if I had to exert myself strenuously for 8-12 hours a day. I would probably have to turn to a life of crime, or become an auto mechanic, which is basically the same thing except you get a little dirtier overcharging someone to replace a timing belt than you do breaking into houses and stealing VCRs. Moving on...

Toolbelt Diva missed the mark when she tried the flooring nailer and hit her foot with the big-ass mallet so she doesn't want anything to do with that machine again. But she works in a nice air-conditioned office too, so she doesn't need to bother with that. She got a nice bruise on her shin from it. Now if someone asks her what she got for christmass, she can show them a big blue welt on her shin. I think if I got a air-powered one she would be good at it, but that won't happen 'till my next house.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tasting the Cake Batter

Since I haven't finished my post with all the cool pics, I'll just show some preview pics so that you can get a general idea of how I've suffered for your amusement.

I'll post all the rest of the pics when I finish my other post. So consider this post as the one that is comparable to when your mom lets you lick the cake batter out of the bowl while you wait for the cake to be baked. For those of you who are lactose intolerant, this metaphor will probably make no sense to you.

Okay, so this is where I left off a couple of weekends ago. As you can see, I got as far as where "disco lives forever" entry tiles used to be. The dip is leveled with roofing shingles.

I had gotten callouses on my hand from hammering all those boards in with my manual flooring nailer (I'll tell you why I don't have an air-powered one in the next post), so I thought that it might help if I wore my workout gloves, which are padded. They helped a little, but now they are all jacked up and probably usesless for working out. Now I have yet another excuse to keep me out of Gold's Gym.

Okay, here is an interesting idea. I used a board turned sideways as a transition to tthe next room. This is a LOT cheaper than using a transition piece, but it's also a great idea because
  1. I need a some kind of end piece so the floor doesn't look wierd;
  2. I don't know what kind of floor I will put in the kitchen, so I don't know exactly what kind of transition I will need.
  3. this piece is cheap enough that I won't care if I need to rip it out eventually and replace it with a saddle or some other kind of transition piece.

This is what the finished product looks like. As you can see, I made it to the pipe where the radiator goes, so I can reconnect the radiator before (or while) my guests arrive.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Okay. So I didn't get as far as I'd like with the hardwood (this sounds like a recurring theme). But I did make some impressive progress. I was going good until I ran out of nails. I'll try to post some pics up tonight. I also have to make a run to Home Depot (which I hate worse than Hades itself) because it's the closest place that would carry nails for my Porta Nailer 401 flooring nailer. The HD on Rhode Island avenue is always out of what I need (even if it's something basic like teflon tape for pipes) and the people who work there are either indifferent, lazy, or idiots...some are all three. So although I loathe that place, I'll give some more of my filhty lucre so that I can make some progress before the arrival of some visitors on friday.

I had hoped to make more progress this weekend, but I wasn't feeling so well. Friday I left work early because I felt like I put anthraz instead of sweet-n-low in my coffee. I am not feeling so hot today either, but hopefully it will pass before my guests arrive. I don't want to have to listen to gripes when I am not feeling well.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ketchup Post

Okay then. A few people have asked me what happened o'er the weekend. So to catchup:

When we last left our protagonist, he was planning on making repairs to the ninja fortress for the upcoming visit of Big Bad Ninja Daddy and Evil Ninja Twin Brother (and their respective entourages).

Okay, so progress didn't go like I planned. But some positive results were achieved.

  1. I made a pilgrimage to tool mecca (, which is the place where I previously bought The Persuader. I didn't get anything major, but I did get some much needed shelving to get some tools off the floor and get some appearance of order.
  2. I was shooting for like 10 rows of hardwood or something, but I'm thinking maybe I was a little bit optimistic on that one. I did manage to get about 6.5 rows installed dowstairs, with the toolbelt diva's help. (One of my co-workers, [T-Bone*], asked me a question about hiring people to install some wood floors in the bonehouse. I said "hire? just come over and you can help me with my floors and learn how to do it yourself so that your wife will think you are all manly and stuff". I was kinda' hoping to get some free labour form the guy, but he didn't show up. I guess he was not interested in trying to convince his wife that he is a manly man, because she already knows that he is a lawyer and therefore not macho.)**

*not his real name

**actually, T-bone is a trial lawyer, which is more exciting than being a transactional lawyer, like me (lets' face it, there are no TV shows about lawyers editing the forum selection clauses in a widget contract). You might think that reviewing documents is not very macho, and in actuality , it's not...unless you are a ninja!

Here are some flooring pictures:

Okay, in this first one here, this is one of those before shots. the wall you see was knocked out to open up the space and the ugly "disco lives forever" tile was torn up. This not done by my mad powerful chi energy, but rather by the contractors I fired. They were surpisingly good at breaking things; but at putting them back together...not so much.

At first I just tried to lay some wood down, like this. But there was a slight dip in the floor. Possibly this was from the weight of the tile, but more likely it was from being walked on for 40 years by people with bad taste. Even though others claimed the dip was unnoticeable, it drove me mad, so like Edgar Allen Poe in the Tell Tale Heart, I ripped up the floorboards and laid a few roofing shingles beneath to even out the dip (this was harder than it looked, but not an amusing anecdote, so it will be skipped. For the morbidly curious, I will describe it in the limited edition HomeImprovementNinja DVD. It will be in the "special features" section titled "deleted scenes" I'll probably put it between the movie trailers and the director's commentary by me and academy award winning actor, F.Murray Abraham).

Here is a picture showing how partially outta wack my floor was. As I said, the dip was noticeable to me. I dunno if the people who said they didn't notice the dip were just tryin' to be nice or maybe some of them had some kind of inner ear infection which was affecting their balance or something....ummm, yeah, there's a lot of that going around this winter.

Okay here is what it looked like after I went medievel on it. I tore up a few rows of the stuff and layed down some roofing shingles under the floor to level it out. This sounds like some kind of crackhead quickfix, but two websites and a guy I know who does flooring confirmed that this is the proper way to fix a minor dip in the floor (although they could be on crack for all I know).

and here is a pic of the Toolbelt Diva measuring some hardwood so that she can practice her newly-acquired skillz on the compound mitre saw.


Okay, so here is how it looks so far. The dip is leveled out and there is flooring where the tile used to be, up to the point of where the wall used to be (luckily it wasn't a load-bearing wall...and no I didn't consult an architect before I had them rip it out. I just looked at the two floors below and the house next door to guestimate that it wasn't load-bearing. Then I had them rip out the wall (while I was at work) and when I noticed that they were still alive and unsquashed, it confirmed my hypothesis). This leads us to today's safety tip: If you are worried that something might injure or kill you, pay someone else to do it.

Check this out: If you look from upstairs, you can pretend that the whole floor downstairs is done. (sweeeeeet!) It's not as much fun as pretending you are batman (or a ninja) but it's a fun pretend game, nonetheless.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Operation Weekend Progress

Okay, so I got a phone call yesterday that my Dad, his GF, my Brother, his wife and 3 kids might be coming to visit me this christmas. Now I usually go where they are (florida) for christmas because:

  1. almost all my family is in SoFla so I can kill a bunch of birds* with one stone by killin-errrr, visiting them all at once.
  2. it's easier for me to go there than for all them to go come here (especially since, 6 months ago I was living in a 450 sq. foot studio).
  3. spending week in december in Miami is much nicer than spending it in NY or DC (trust me on this one).
  4. I can work on a natural tan while I'm there, which will probably give me a less-malignant form of skin cancer than I would get from fake-baking in a tanning bed.

This presents a dilemma though. Although the ninja fortress is, theoretically, 1800 sq. feet, it needs some work to get it in livable condition. The 3 BRs upstairs have floors installed, but there is no such footish luxury in the living room/dining room or kitchen. If they come for a visit, I'm wondering if they (especially) my dad will question what progress I've made in the last 6 months. I could tell them stories about my numerous floods and show them the many holes in my walls and floors where I acquired a Ph.D. in plumbing, but I think some tangible progress on the visible areas of the house are in order this weekend. Therefore, here is the workplan for this weekend:

  1. install, ummmm, 10, that's right, 10 rows of hardwood flooring in my living/dining room. (I knocked out the wall that separates these two rooms. I am wondering if "the Great Room" or the "Grand Hall" is pretentious enough to capture the feeling that I have towards this room).
  2. Install the funky track lighting I bought (8 months ago) in the masterbedroom (Using my 1000 wattt worklight to look for a t-shirt at 3am is kinda ghett0).
  3. finish mudding the walls in my bathroom and prime it for paint.**
  4. get organized and burn, errr, remove from BRs and file all my old my papers.

*before I get any PETA nuts writing me, let me say that "killing two birds with one stone" is just a metaphor. I don't advocate killing birds with stones. You should only do that to kittens.

**this is the bathroom where I installed marble tile everywhere. I'll make a separate post about it with pics soon. I did this with my brother some time ago so it will be like a flashback blog post. If you want to get the full flashback effect, like in the movies, hold a lavalamp in front of the screen when you read the post...or take some LSD.