Lessons from HRRC students completing repair projects!
Check out these empowering home videos from Tool Library members and Home Repair class students. Learn what tips they have to share as they’ve tackled projects in their own homes.
Do YOU have a home repair project to share? We are recruiting for more education videos from our students and members. Please contact us today!
Jennifer found mold in her basement and shares her lessons learned. She covers what she did to clean up the mold, stop future water from leaking in, and other details only someone who did it herself could share!
Jennifer made improvements to her garage herself and shares her lessons learned. She covers repairing cracks in the concrete floor, re-attaching a gutter, adding flashing, and installing conduit and boxes for electrical lights, outlets, etc
Rehabbed Home Tour!
Get creative ideas from Lee. In this video she gives a 1 hour tour of her home. She purchased a fixer-upper years ago and has been rehabbing it on a very tight budget ever since. She has clever ideas on doors, walls, floors, plumbing, and more. She gives suggestions for where to get things for free or rock-bottom cost.
Thinking of remodeling your bathroom? Learn helpful tips from Catherine. She covers her experience learning details on lights, bathtub refinish, ceramic tiling, and peal and stick vinyl tile for the floor.
<– Here is Catherine’s bathroom before the remodel.
Rain Barrel, Compost Bin, Raised/Standing Garden Bed
Catherine shares useful tips she learned from HRRC in her back yard. She shows the rain barrel she made, the compost bin most useful to her, and a garden bed she constructed that doesn’t require bending over to manage. Get some ideas from Catherine!
More lessons from homeowners who did it themselves!
Refinishing Hardwood Floors & Painting Tips!
Joanna sent us the below pictures and shares her lessons learned rehabbing her home using tools from our Tool Library. She discusses both refinishing her hardwood floors and painting tips!
I used one of your sanders to prep a floor for refinishing and I also borrowed a couple of tools to help remove hundreds of carpet staples to prep various floors and stairwells in my home for refinishing/painting. Here is some of what I learned:
-Using a floor sander is hard for someone my size & strength (I used the one that resembles a vacuum and weighs 100 lbs). However, I did it for one room successfully. This was a test room where I’d pulled up carpet and vinyl floor tiles and found a rougher, less decorative wood floor than elsewhere in the house. I decided my capabilities were too limited to do the sanding myself on the fancier, very thin original wood floors with decorative inlays etc (which was helpful info). I ended up paying someone else to sand those and to apply polyurethane in both spaces, but I saved money by doing the sanding myself in the one room, and I’m proud I did it! There are all kinds of stains and marks and the wood had to be patched up in places where there were holes, but it’s shiny and looks cool, like it has some history, and is better than disintegrating beige carpet. People like it, even if it’s not anyone’s idea of a perfectly refinished wood floor. During & after:
-Picking up on that last thought…my house is old, huge and had been long neglected/questionably altered when I bought it (it’s a 1903 Tudor/Victorian house in North Broadway). I couldn’t afford to restore things to anywhere near perfection, but I also finally realized those standards are totally not necessary to make the house look and feel beautiful to me and now to tenants living there. Often with a historic house, high-end craftspeople are accustomed to trying to achieve perfection for wealthy homeowners, but I didn’t have that kind of budget, so getting quotes and guidance from these types was at first dispiriting (though I enjoyed talking to them!) I was very nervous about doing things myself and hiring handymen (and friends, at friend-rate) to help, but I realized if I dropped other people’s standards, developed my own knowledge and standards that were reasonable for the situation, I could make plenty of improvements on a very limited budget while still honoring (and not screwing up) the house’s amazing character.
-One huge thing I learned while working on the place is that well-chosen, bold paint colors are a great investment and can go a long way in making a house feel welcoming, bright and unique (cheap!) Some before, during and afters:
-For a color palette, my partner and I used as a reference illustrations we love by Ivan Bilibin. We figured a professional artist whose work we admired knew better than we did how to choose colors that were different and bold but worked together. Also, his illustrations have a similar fairy tale feel to the character of our house (and our fantasies for how we wanted it to look). We took a couple of his prints with us when we got paint samples, and it hugely simplified the process.
-Something else I learned: don’t start ripping out ceilings, carpets or vinyl floors before you are fully prepared to deal with whatever sins they are hiding. Demolition is easy, installation of new things is much harder, and expensive and you never know what you’re going to find beneath. (I say I learned this, but half the improvements on my house happened when they did because I impulsively ripped out a ceiling or a floor one night, and I don’t totally regret it – however, it’s less stressful if you are not like me and actually plan ahead).
-I’ve found there is little work in life more gratifying than working on my own home!
I love the Home Repair Resource Center! Would like to use your classes and tools more in the future. I am not very skilled at this point but I would like to learn a lot more, and I’m confident this house will provide reasons to learn how to fix or improve things for the rest of my life!
Rehabbing old wood windows, Encountering lead paint
Elisabeth sent us the below pictures and shares her lessons learned rehabbing old wooden windows.
I would like to share how Harald and I do a full window rehab, including stripping paint with Dumond’s SmartStrip, which is nontoxic. I will include for you a step-by-step summary.
Typically, the restoration process with a sash window entails removing every part of the window–stops, parting beads, zinc weatherstripping, sashes, sash cords and pulleys. Sometimes, we even remove all the trim from the wall. It causes a lot of nail damage to the trim boards to remove them, but it spares the wall plaster from the paint stripper–and it’s a lot easier to strip paint with the boards lying on a table. Whenever we’re stirring up lead dust by banging around with hammers and pry bars, we wear 3M 7500 series silicone half-piece respirators (which have an exhalation valve for easier breathing) with P-100 filters. I recommend the model! We also make liberal use of a vacuum with HEPA filter.
I number the panes with a grease pencil, and we strip the failing glazing putty by steaming. Harald built an insulated steamer box, after other methods proved ineffective. The process of scraping out the old putty usually requires repeated re-steaming, because the putty cools faster than we can work. We have to scrape out all the putty and scrape off some of the caked-on paint, then remove all the tiny zinc glazing points, before we can start easing out the panes. The worst lines of putty are the sloppy repairs someone did with Dap brand, which inevitably are rock hard. I stack and clean each pane thoroughly, when I have time. The original glass in this house is Fourcault processed and mildly wavy. It’s surprisingly hard to get it really clean. I use water and Dawn detergent with Bon Ami cleanser, a sharp razor blade, and sometimes white vinegar to soak off crud. I re-number each pane, as I clean it.
Also when I have time, I rehab the sash cord pulleys. I usually need to strip paint off them, then clean them with various brushes, oil the wheel (I use Phil’s Tenacious Oil, intended for bicycle hubs), and often re-clean the outside before coating with spray paint or varnish to protect the surface. It’s a project in itself. The next stage takes seemingly forever, which is stripping the horrible paint from the sashes, the trim (casing, stool, and apron), and the erroneously painted parts of the window frame. I use Dumond’s SmartStrip, q.v I chose SmartStrip because it’s very low odor and nontoxic (except to aquatic life). All you need are mid-weight nitrile gloves (dishwashing weight)–no respirator, because the stripping is a wet process that smothers lead dust. We buy SmartStrip at Sherwin-Williams. It’s expensive and worth waiting for it to go on sale. I’ve found I have to brush on the SmartStrip as thickly as you might ice a chocolate cake with white frosting, so that no cake shows through. Then I cover each board in freezer paper, plastic side down. I smooth out the paper and tuck it around edges–using painter’s tape as necessary–to try to occlude as much air as possible. The latex/acrylic paint reliably swells, wrinkles, and is ready to be scraped off by the next day. For the oil-based layers, reapplication is needed–sometimes twice–because the paint is extremely hard after all these years. I often let the SmartStrip sit on the oil-based layers for two days before scraping. Longer “dwell time” and higher room temperature boost effectiveness–but after the application has sat for three days, it starts getting too dry.
Stripping oil-based layers essentially means reconstituting old oil paint. It’s necessary to continually clean off the scrapers and eventually scrub down the wood using steel wool soaked in mineral spirits. For this stage, I use an exhaust fan and wear the same respirator as before, but outfitted with a set of 3M Organic Vapor Cartridges 6001 (for “nuisance-level” volatile organic vapors). They’re so effective that I’ve made the mistake of starting to remove my mask, thinking, “Aw, heck–I don’t smell anything!” Mistake! I have figured out certain tricks for protecting surrounding walls and the floor when I’m stripping casing boards in place, and for removing the scrapings as neatly as possible. I always end up with minor damage to the walls, which I then have to fix. I checked all over the place for how to dispose of lead-containing trash and learned that I should put it in my household trash–not wait for hazardous waste collection. Yikes.
After the stripped wood has been scrubbed clean and allowed to dry, the next step is to start repairs. For the sashes, this starts with addressing wood rot. I use a cheap, home-brew borate formula that I found online –the U.S. Navy’s original recipe, apparently! I confirmed it as an appropriate treatment for fungi with a specialist–Colin McCown, from the American Wood Protection Association. The recipe is 60% borax and 40% boric acid with water, heated slowly on the stove and stirred continuously till the crystals are dissolved. I drip it onto any blackened areas of wood, repeatedly, till the wood is saturated. The leftover mixture can be stored in the refrigerator but will eventually come out of solution and need to be re-heated. After the wood is dry again, I wipe or sand off borate crystals that have formed on the surface. I then treat any punky wood with Abatron’s Liquid Wood, to harden the damaged areas. Next, I use Abtron’s WoodEpox putty to rebuild areas of missing wood, if possible. I have used it on window sills and door sills, too. I use skinny dowels to repair most of the nail holes in the trim boards and top off the repairs with wood filler, usually Elmer’s water-based.
Sometimes, I have to call on Harald to do a real carpentry repair. After sanding the sashes, I prime the wood with Zinnser oil primer. Professional house painters to whom I’ve spoken have complained bitterly that modern acrylics are no match for oil paint, and I can see why. I do use acrylic for the top coats. Environmental regulations prohibit using oil paint on wood. After priming, I use Sarco Type M glazing putty, which has a linseed oil base. I use only small quantities at a time, and it doesn’t keep well, so I order online to get the 1-pint tubs. Before applying the bedding putty, I dry-fit the old glass–for the same reason I number the panes: They’re not all the exact same size (nor are the openings in the sash). Once each pane is squished nicely into its bedding putty, I use an antique Red Devil diamond point driver / gun–complete with antique diamond points–that I bought on Ebay. The glazing rabbets on our windows are too narrow to use modern glazing points without trimming down each one.
I am still really slow at applying glazing putty to my own satisfaction. It helps to use fresh putty and a very polished knife. Once I’ve finished, I sprinkle whiting–ground chalk–on the putty, both to help it skin over more quickly and to absorb oil from the glass (which makes clean-up easier). I buy the whiting at Sutton Industrial Hardware, on Prospect Avenue. Sarco putty has to cure for awhile before painting. The manufacturer says at least three days, but a couple of weeks is more like it, in my experience. To save my back and neck, Harald made me an easel to hold the sash that I’m puttying or painting. We reassembled my flagship restoration window using the zinc weatherstripping that we had removed, but Harald has since devised a much better way to weatherstrip that doesn’t interfere with the sash cord knot. We use Samson Red Spot sash cord with the knotting found on this webpage, and no nail in the sash.