Beating a problem

I’m still working on trim in the new house. It’s a slow process, at least the way I do it. Part of the problem is finding a way to do noisy, scary things without unduly spooking the dogs and cats, but there are other problems, as this picture shows.

This is the door that leads from our kitchen into the garage. You can see the light yellow foam insulation around the door frame. The white strip down the right side is the result of making the drywall even with the edge of the door frame.

This is a problem in a lot of places throughout the house. In some places, when the drywall was cut to fit around the door, there was a ragged edge of torn paper around the opening and that ragged edge turned hard when it was painted. I have to cut that away with a utility knife. In other places the drywall was not screwed down adequately. Sometimes a few drywall screws can solve that problem. In yet other places, for some reason, the framing plus drywall was simply too thick. All this makes fitting door trim more than just painting, cutting to length and nailing.

Our interior doors came pre-hung and sized for either 2-by-4 or 2-by-six walls with about a half an inch of drywall on both sides. In a perfect world, the door frame would fit flush with the wall every time. But anything built by men with hammers and power drywall screw drivers is not perfect.

Using a utility knife or chisel was not getting the job done. Then one day while reading online about trim work, I saw a casual comment about how professional trim installers handle this problem. They use hammers.

There’s an old saying attributed to Mark Twain: “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It’s true, at least a lot of the time. But then, a hammer can be a useful tool for a lot of things other than driving nails. I have found that the quickest way to even out the door frame-drywall joint is to simply hammer the hell out of the high spots in the drywall. That smashes the drywall down and, if there’s still too much, just turn the hammer around and beat it with the claw end.

It also releases some pent-up anger and frustration at framers and drywall hangers.

So that’s why you can see white around the right side of the kitchen door. This especially offensive spot needed vigorous beating and clawing, so vigorous that the door casing will sit significantly below the adjoining drywall. But, from the kitchen, you won’t be able to see how deep the trim is set into the drywall (the cabinet keeps you from looking at the side of the trim), or the roughed-up drywall. That’s the beauty of trim.

Trim work

I have been working on trim in the house lately. We’re going with a Craftsman style for several reasons. For one, I don’t have to miter the corners. For another, I like it.

Here’s a view of the kitchen with a small closet on the left, the freezer alcove in the middle and the laundry enclosure on the right.


I have finished the trim from the right side of the laundry area door to the right side of the closet door. Here’s a close-up of the top of the door casing.


The top piece is the head casing. If you’re looking for a much more impressive name, you could call it the entablature, but I think that might be stretching it a bit. The top casing is made from a piece of stop molding to give a little definition to the bottom of the casing. The center of the casing is a slightly cut-down one-by-six. The top is a slightly cut down piece of brick molding. It still needs to have the nail holes and little gaps filled. Once that’s done, I’ll add another coat of paint. The paint looks white, but it’s slightly off-white to match the doors, which were painted at the factory. I think the factory called the color “moonglow.”

Here’s my work area. At some point it will be called our garage. I used to think our garage was huge. Not so much now.


I have a painting station on two sawhorses in the foreground. Behind that is my miter saw, which hides my table saw. To the right of that is a whole bunch of stuff that will eventually end up in a storage building or, possibly, in the basement. Among that stuff is the temporary sink the cabinet installers put in before the countertops were installed. There’s also a chainsaw, a tool bag, two lawnmowers, a pressure washer, some Mexican rugs, a compressor, two generators, four cat beds and two cat houses with heated pads. It might be a fun game to find stuff in the picture. Did you notice Smokey?

I use the compressor and a nail gun to install the trim. We usually keep the garage door up a little to let the cats come and go, but when I’m using the nail gun I close it to keep Zeke from running away. He does not like the sound it makes. Unfortunately for Zeke, I have a whole lot more trim to do.

Before sunrise

This was the view out our side bedroom window on Wednesday morning, just after dawn.


We’re having our driveway paved. Concrete guy David, the same concrete guy who did the basement slabs and drive at our old house, is doing this one, too. He started early Monday, skipped Tuesday (except for a predawn visit to get some of his tools) and then returned Wednesday morning while it was still dark. He and his workers prepared the forms, and a truck showed up around 7:30. Needless to say, we did not sleep through this.

The odd pattern in the photo at the top right is the reflection of my iPhone in its case. It took me a few moments to figure that out. I could have opened the window, but that would have drawn attention to the fact that I was standing in my sleeping shorts in front of an almost full-length window. The woman in the yellow shirt standing at the rear of the truck is the driver.

David told me he is 53 years old, but in concrete years he is 93. Two of his workers are also of a certain age, although probably not as old as me. I was surprised that the third in his crew is a young man. I wonder if he will continue in this line of work. It seems to take a toll on those who do it.

David and his crew finished to within about 15 feet of the street on Wednesday. They plan to return early Thursday. Fortunately for us, they will be at the bottom of the driveway, so we might be able to sleep a little later. Leah, unfortunately, will have to feed the cats earlier than normal because the commotion scares them away.

The driveway from the large pad outside the garage to the road is about 300 feet long. So far it has taken seven truckloads of concrete, each about nine cubic yards. David hopes it will take only one more truckload to complete the driveway to the road. I hope so, too. Each truckload costs more than $1,000.

Scary good

We had the appraisal of our current house on Wednesday. The appraiser had said she was coming around lunch, so we worried about not being able to get our traditional Wednesday huevos rancheros, but we managed to fit it in before she arrived. That’s a major step in the process of selling. We, of course, have no idea how she will evaluate the house. We have certainly spent enough time and effort to make it as good as possible.

With that step out of the way, the closing date of July 21 looms.

The painter says he will complete his work by this weekend. He has a regular, full-time job as a painter and is doing our work when he can, which has caused the process to drag out longer than I had hoped. The plumber installed the toilets on Wednesday and is coming back Thursday to plumb the vanity in the guest bathroom, assuming I can get holes drilled in the back so it can be pushed up into place. I’ll need help unloading the master bath vanity, which currently sits on my trailer in the garage. The electrician needs to install the exterior lights and hang the ceiling fans in the living room and master bedroom, as well as the vanity lights in the two bathrooms.

When the vanity is unloaded, I can pick up the 12 interior doors that have been waiting at the building supply store and start hanging them. Leah and I have to decide on how tall to make the baseboards. I bought a six-inch and an eight-inch board Wednesday night so we can compare them. After putting them down in the living room, I lean towards the six-inch, although several sites I read recommend eight inches for a nine-foot ceiling. After we decide and I buy a fortune in pre-primed boards, Leah and I have to throw a painting party. And then I install baseboards for a while. And trim the doors and windows.

All of this in the next two weeks. That’s why “scary good.”

Oh, yes, Leah is worried about the cat situation. I have to fit in building two cat pens sometime before we move so that we can acclimatize the cats to their new home and lessen the danger that they will take off into the woods when we move them.

Leah is afraid they will travel up the road to our current house, so we got a sign.


Hidden cat — again

Can you see him?


Dusty and Chloe often hide in plain sight, but when they set their minds to it, they can be really hard to spot.

In case you’re having trouble finding him, here he is.


Most of the yard was in shadow, but the setting sun somehow found a path to illuminate the grass fronds around Dusty. It was a nice effect.

I haven’t posted for a while on the house progress. The floors are complete throughout the house. The hardwood and tile are a surprisingly good match. I haven’t been able to take any photographs because of the cardboard and paper that the flooring guys laid out. The entire house needs to be vacuumed, too.

The painter is working off and on. He has completed what we’re calling the hall bathroom. The vanity for that bathroom arrived at Home Depot about a week ago. They were hinting at sending it back if I didn’t pick it up, so I did that on Saturday. It’s sitting on the trailer in the garage. It’s a little heavy for one person (at least this one person), so I’m waiting for the painter to help me unload it. The painter has a real job and is working at our house only on weekends and some evenings, so it’s taking longer than I had hoped to complete the painting. Just like pretty much everything else associated with the house.

I have completed one task that was looming over me — attic insulation. It took three sessions and 25 percent more insulation than the manufacturer recommends. The first day was the worst. It was hot even outside the attic. I finished the day with cellulose dust covering my arms and clotted in my hair. Little nubs of cellulose stuck to my arm hairs even after showering. The dust was so thick that my dust mask clogged. I literally could not breathe through it. The second session was not very productive because the blower didn’t work properly. The machines are so old and poorly maintained that this particular one just did’t work. The third third time was the charm. The blower worked, and I blew insulation right up to the attic access hatch just as we finished the last bag.

I had hoped that painting would be done by the end of the weekend, but it won’t. That means a delay in picking up and installing the master bathroom vanity. In the meantime, all the interior doors have arrived; they’ll also have to wait for painting to be completed. Once the painting is done, I can start on trim. I think that will mean a production line for painting the baseboards, which will be (at least for now) plain 1×8 boards, possibly with a little decorative trim on top, possibly not. I like Mission style trim, which is plain; that’s good because it makes it much easier to install — no coping required.

In the other meantime, I am almost at the same point on the downstairs at our current house. The doors are up and baseboards are next. Once that’s done, the downstairs will be essentially complete, and we can let our buyers’ lender send out an appraiser. There is a little more work to be done here before we close, but little has a way of turning into not-so-little. If I were prone to getting stressed out, I might consider doing that about now.