Radiating Grays

July 26, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Entryway, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  11 responses

Painting a cast iron radiator is annoying, but inevitable if you want to keep up a not-so-rugged radiator appearance. Fortunately, once you do it, and if you do it right, it’ll be a surface that stands up to the heat, wear, tear, dog tails, and butt resting… for awhile, at least. Last week when I was having my stairwell fit about the how poorly the frame gallery meshed with the painted stairs, I was also in the midst of a new project: painting the entryway radiator. Generally speaking, I’ve seen worse; it wasn’t chipping paint or a completely out-of-place color, but it was still obvious that it hadn’t been refreshed in quite awhile.

Radiator before. Just a few weeks ago, being doused by lily pollen.

I guess you could say that the entryway transformation has been a slow work-in-progress. The front door (and storm door) were replaced, and the vinyl floor was removed to leave a stamped cement surface that I painted gray; the walls, trim, and ceiling were painted, as was the hallway and stairwell that extend from the front door, but the radiator had remained untouched. And there it stood. Staring at me in its chipping, dirty, creamy-ivory-complexion state. From the couch in the living room it’s right within your line of sight, and it taunted me nightly.

My mom and dad had painted the radiators in their old house once or twice as I grew up; Mom insists that the last time she did it, she used straight-from-the-can latex paint. That was back in 1992. I’ll vouch for her that they turned out fine, even having taken a beating with us kids jumping around on them, yet only enduring only a bit of paint wear. But when I started planning what paints to use, everything I read and everyone I spoke to suggested using to an oil-based paint to stand up better to the heat avoid chipping.

A few referrals led me towards Rustoleum’s oil-based paint, which offers enough colors of paint to lend some but not all-out creativity (if you want red or yellow radiators, perhaps, which I’m not writing off), but I wanted to stick with gray. Plain white was an option too, but I wanted to try and make the radiator blend in rather than stand out when it came down to it, and against the venetian gold wall, gray compliments the golds, but still takes a backseat to the colorful striped stairs (which also feature a few shades of gray).

I had cleaned off and vacuumed the radiator prior to painting, but left it in it’s spot hooked to the floor and filled with water because you couldn’t have paid me to disassemble one of those once again. If you ever dare to remove one, go for it, but prepare to have about 4 strong men and maybe an elevator on hand. I felt reasonably confident in my decision to leave it put and paint with smaller brushes back inwards as far as I could.

When it came to picking grays, Rustoleum offered two colors: Aluminum and Gloss Smoke Gray. My gut instinct said to go lighter in color given option, so I bought Aluminum first, albeit not realizing that their product was literally shiny, silver aluminum finish.

Sampling the Aluminum paint. Whoa, shiny pants.

And even though I only tested it on one section of the radiator, I still managed to get the aluminum finish all over my skin, and if you follow me on facebook (which you should), you probably saw that I looked like the tin (wo)man for a brief while post-sample testing.

Tin (Wo)man. A little messy with the first round of oil paints.I should also point out that ventilation’s obviously important. I realized the strength of the oil-based paint with this sample test alone: this is no nice, green low-VOC stuff. In fact, it seemed like 10x VOC toxicity as I was getting the job done; it was intentionally a summertime project because keeping all house windows and doors open was a must, and the warm temperatures coupled with a healthy lake breeze helped to keep the house comfortable and less fume-y. Although I probably did lose some brain cells, I think that’s inevitable. I’d like to think that people have lost many, many more brain cells and still do just fine.

The aluminum paint went back to the store (although just to quick shout-out for it’s best quality – it applied REALLY nicely and had amazing coverage). I exchanged it out for a can of my second choice, the darker Gloss Smoke Gray. I also took this opportunity to test out a little handy tip that I scrolled past once on Pinterest, that being to wrap a rubber band around the paint can to wipe your brush against (as opposed to wiping it along the edge of the can creating a gooky, sloppy mess). Worked well, gotta say, despite a few near paint ricocheting oopsies on my part.

The rubber band test on the quart of paint. Worked like a charm.I had to apply many coats of this, which made me overly conscious about some problems I read about radiator efficiency when too many coats of paint had been applied, but I guess we won’t know about that until wintertime. After just one rough coat along the outermost surface, it looked like this:

One coat in with the glossy dark gray paint.If you want a close-up on my handy, handy paint job, with a traditional paint brush I was able to make it this far:

Radiator paint close-up. One coat on, lots of intricate painting work to go.It’s hard to tell in those photos, but in addition to needing to go deep within the radiator coils with a smaller, fine brush (for I used both a 1″ foam brush and traditional artist’s paintbrush), I also needed to give the whole outer portion another coat to cover up brush strokes and inconsistencies with coverage. It’s taken about a week to get it to this point, because I’ve needed to allow it 24-48 hours between each of the (3) coats to fully dry given the recent humidity.

After making my way through three coats on the outside and two coats on the “inside” (if you want to call it that) it was starting to look A-OK. But you can see a few missed areas inside, which I spied down and tackled with the last coat of paint and a tiny paint brush.

Almost done - just a few more coverups to go.

After the final touch-ups were done and dried, it was looking pretty good. Much improved. The photos don’t do justice to the clean glossiness, which hopefully I will grow to love-love, not just like-love.

Finished radiator!

The presentation of the entryway is much improved now though, with no ivory-off white competing with the fresh trim and striped stairs. The gray really does blend in.

Glossy, glossy radiator.

For $9 in paint (and I only used 1/4 of the quart) and a few hours of painting, it was an easy and affordable update.




Yard Sale Tycoons (Part 2 of 2)

July 25, 2011   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses

As I mentioned on Friday, Pete and I had a plethora of home item duplication when it came time to consolidate our two homes, so we hosted my first-ever yard sale over the weekend to see what we could do about that (and make a few bucks).

I pulled the trigger (so to speak) about two weeks ago, and all I hoped for was no rain. We had been to enough of these things to understand the fundamentals of setting up and marketing such an “event”, and it had really helped that we were well organized for it ahead of time, having bundled together a few “stuff we don’t need” piles the attic previously.

Garage sale prep. And hot dog.

Back in the spring, the office I was working in went no-holds-back on the spring cleaning thing, and I found myself dragging home a box of unassembled cardboard box tops. An odd thing to have swiped when I saw it laying in the recycling pile, but I figured that it’d be good material to have laying around to serve as a painting surface or craft project. Turns out, the flat large pieces worked well for a garage sale signage surface, and when combined with with coral pink paint straight from a pint of f-r-e-e sample of Benjamin Moore, magic happened. Magic meaning… totally free signs.

DIY garage sale signs. Arrows to direct traffic were done at the site they were hung.

A few tips for successful yard sale signage (somehow a lot of people miss these easy things or don’t try too hard):

  • GO BIG.
  • Clearly printed lettering, bold if possible. Stop using your sloppy shorthand.
  • Arrows. Don’t use a street address unless you live on a familiar-to-everyone main road. Don’t assume that everyone knows where 123 Doggytail Lane is.
  • Capture traffic from all surrounding side streets, not just one.
  • If you’re in a neighborhood, don’t forget to keep reminding traffic which way they should be going. We know you’re not stupid, but reminders are nice to have if it’s a long stretch on what would be an otherwise unmarked road.

I hand painted the main text and let it dry at home, and added the appropriate arrow direction once I had the sign hung on the telephone pole or stop sign (opting for wood screws that we had on hand instead of staples… because I couldn’t find them on our secret mess of the his-and-hers basement workbenches).

Sign with arrow. Clear as day.

And yeah, painting directorial info on the spot seemed like a great and efficient idea, but somehow I managed to get pink paint all over my Jeep (on the console, on the steering wheel, on the driver’s seat [and on my butt], on the back gate of the car, on Cody’s towels in the back, on the Sirius radio, oi vey). Painting-on-the-go-blunders aside, I received 3-possibly-more compliments on the clarity of my signage the very first morning. Winning.

We only used three tables to hold the smaller belongings – one DIY’ed from saw horses and a piece of MDF art (which I’ll get around to showing you and displaying… someday), the glass top deck table, and a card table that Pete’s Dad brought up on Friday morning. Bigger items were fine on the ground (it hasn’t rained in weeks, afterall, and we cleaned off the driveway really good recently).

Day 1 setup.

We kept it simple when it came to pricing too. I opted for DIY labels made from Scotch Blue painters tape that we had on hand, since they’re easily removed without leaving a sticky surface, just another pet peeve of my garage-sale-scouring-ass. Unrelated to pet peeves but related to pets, Cody also hung out with us in the shade eating ice cubes (and snuggling with sale goers).

He allowed that sticker to remain on his head for an hour.

The blue tape worked well, but I did notice that you could get about 400 stickers for less than $5 if you shop around on Amazon which is a good deal compared to the tape. And you can get it with free 2-day shipping if you have Amazon Prime like we do.

Both Friday and Saturday were a sweltering and smothering 90+ degrees, which was awesome for trying to even out my combo tank top/racerback suntan lines and helped the sale of water, soda, and capri sun for a rarely-privately-sold-price of 50-cents (cheap enough for people to buy two, priced high enough for us to make back our investment and a pretty penny along side it). Of course, we probably lost a lot of local traffic too since no one wanted to leave their home (and air conditioned car – we had a lot of slow drive-bys).

Cold water. Hot dog.

We decided to clear out as much as possible in true want-to-live-minimalistically-fashion:

  • Hundreds of CDs (audio from which had already been copied to iTunes)
  • Dozens of like-new clothing items that I accumulated during my part-time employment at J.Crew, a sundress that I only wore once and for a Halloween costume, and a bunch of purses I haven’t used since 2007.
  • Countless pieces of glassware that had sat on the back of the shelf for months collecting dust while we used ones that sat further forward on the shelf.
  • Children accoutrements (from kiddie toilets to baby toys to sippee cups and electronics)
  • Lucky magazines (years, and years, and years worth to in a freebie pile)
  • Duplicate kitchen appliances (toaster, toaster oven, crock pot, espresso maker, etc.)

With fashionably low prices (many under $1) we closed up shop on Saturday afternoon making about $120, which felt pretty good considering the extreme heat. Our total potential was only about $250 the way we priced our goods, excluding the dog who was just faux priced. My modest goal had only been $50 (to give me an allowance for an upcoming outlet mall excursion).

Tycoon is a stretch for now, but I think we’ll give it another go-around later in the summer when the weather’s more tolerable. We’re only left with about 4 boxes of stuff (about half of the stuff sold). After that we’ll donate the rest to charity and be rid of it.

Yard Sale Tycoons (Part 1 of 2)

July 22, 2011   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty   //  By: Emily   //  3 responses

Between the humidity stalling a few painting projects, and simultaneously making me a miserable goon of an un-airconditioned girl, I don’t have a new crafty project to show you today. Next week though, watch out because I’m going to knock your virtual socks off.

But for now, guess what I’ve been working on:

Garage sale prep. And hot dog.

Garage sale awesomeness, that’s what. This, and the appropriate title of this post leads me to say Yard Sale Tycoons sounds like a game I should have been playing on my HP Desktop PC in 1998; surely I would have kicked it’s thrifty ass just like Zoo Tycoon and Cruise Ship Tycoon. And yessir, those were real games (that we owned, and rocked out on).

When Pete moved in last March, we did some serious evaluating and organizing of our beloved (and duplicate) belongings; some immediately went to Salvation Army, some went to his parents, and some went to the attic. Attic goods = Yard sale goods (which yields > future vacation + outlet mall goods). Got a little mathmatical on you there now, didn’t I?

I’ve never hosted my own sale (because I haven’t had enough stuff that I needed to rid myself of) but this seemed like the weekend to do it. Meaning, I didn’t have anything else to do and sitting around staying hydrated on my porch in the shade sounded like a fair plan.

Signs are up. Tables are loaded. Coolers are filled. And people are already stopping in. I’ll fill you in more on Monday.