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Playing With Fireplace Gas Lines

July 06, 2011   //  Posted in: Basement, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses
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Oddly, the best photo I have of the gas log insert is this one, from May 2009, taken within the first 10 days of moving into my house. I was in the middle of painting the living room, the fireplace, and polyurethaning the floors. It’s also glaringly obvious that I had already painted the dining room it’s first color, a lively coral pink. Fun, and so ahead of Pantone in embracing the Honeysuckle. (I still wish I could have made it work.)

Living room in progress, circa May 2009

There are small stones you see at the bottom of the fireplace; they were removed (probably shortly after this picture was snapped), and I left the fake logs and mechanism hooked up directly on the brick floor.

I guess the fact that I have no other recent photos that highlight the fireplace insert so clearly just further evidences how much I disliked it. I’m surprised it took 25 more months to remove it.

Did I ever use the fireplace? Not even once, even though it was fully in working order (it was on and functional when I did my first walk-through ever). I never turned it on myself to revel in the happiness that comes with a working fireplace, even though I do love a nice working fireplace in the fall and winter. And I can start a real wood fire just fine, but the gas-powered log system freaked me out.

So recently, we removed it. Naturally, we planned for the worst and assumed that there was going to be all kinds of capping and investigation involved, but it turned out to be pretty easy. See, the gas system just pulls forward in the fireplace itself to expose it’s gas hookup:

Gas pipe exposed behind the fake logs.Upon further exploration, we found that the pipe extended down the hole for ashes in the floor; just within the hole but out of the camera’s line of sight was a gas valve, turned off:

Hole for ashes in the floor of the fireplace. The gas line was run up through this trap door.

The good sanity-ensuring news is that there was a second valve in the basement on the back of the fireplace; it was also turned off already. And after double checking (and triple checking) that neither were going to start spewing natural gas in our face, we unscrewed the logs from the gas line in the living room.

Living room fireplace, sans gas logs.The doubly-sealed-off gas line was tucked carefully into the hole, but not before making some safety tags using some on-hand envelopes for us to reference in the future (or alert future homeowners and inspectors):

Gas line warning tags.The second tag was attached to the line and valve that are more readily visible and accessible in the basement.

Flagged: Gas Fireplace Piping Exists Here.

With the pipe carefully tucked away, I’m busy investigating the best paint to use inside and on the fireplace base, since I do want it to be a functional fireplace for myself or someone else someday. Suggestions based on experience appreciated.

Making Life More Matchy-Matchy

July 05, 2011   //  Posted in: Backyard, DIY, Garage   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses
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True story: Many visitors don’t even realize that it’s my garage since it doesn’t match the house in any way.

It’s cinderblock. It’s like a nice little bomb shelter. And it looks very out of place in a sea of traditional American Foursquares, but it’s functional.

At the time I was planning to re-side the house, a friend suggested that I have the garage sided too to make the property look more cohesive; a great idea and suggestion, but it would have pushed the whole project out of my price range. The alternative inspiration? There’s another garage on the street constructed with the same cinder blocks, but those homeowners have subdued the overall structure by painting the surface the same color as the respective house.

It looks damn good.

It was entirely the inspiration behind painting my own garage (such an inexpensive project when compared to siding the whole structure). It was finally last week that I sucked it up and decided to get the job done (photographing the garden and tomatoes against a dingy backdrop put me over the edge).

Dad's tomato plant haven.

Contrasting again the gray siding, it really did stand out in the backyard more now than it did when the house was sided white. This is a photo that was taken last month before the tomatoes were planted:

Back of the house, and the white block garage.

I started the project by studying paint chips taped to the siding, trying to match the new garage paint as closely as possible to the Mastic Victorian Gray of the house. Behr Porpoise is the color that won out; it’s a shade of gray that’s nearly identical to the house siding down to the subtle lilac purple shades that present themselves in a certain light.

Porpoise is the paint chip furthest to the left in the trio on the right. Third color from the right, if that makes sense. Behr 790E-3 in (and I selected Exterior Satin) if you’re looking for an exact formula.

Color selection for the garage.

After thoroughly power washing down the garage walls, I used a brand-spankin’ new 3/4-inch nap roller (9 in Rough from Home Depot). Besides having chose that product for it’s price – at just under $4 it was half the price of the “premium” roller of it’s kind – it’s definitely a nap that’s best suited for rolling on rough and uneven surfaces like brick and stucco.

Worked like a charm.

First gray paint on the garage!Even with the rough roller, it took a lot of work to get the paint in the many nooks and crannies. About an hour into painting, I was this far along, and my muscles were getting tired:

Making good progress on painting the garage.I went evenly over all of the bricks, but left the window and door trim for another day and another color.

The only section that didn’t get painted was the wall to the right side of the garage door. It’s covered with ivy that will need to be carefully removed and (hopefully) transplanted. I did paint along the trim as I could, but those vines cling with all their little might, so removing will probably involve scrapers and surgery one of these days.

Blocks on the right side of the garage door are covered in ivy.

I had used almost a full gallon to this point, so when I clean that ivy up, every last drop will be used to finish painting this column. And note: I didn’t paint all 4 sides of the garage – just the exposed side and the front – that’s how I made my gallon of paint last. My neighbor has a fence along the side of the garage on her side, and whatever remains visible over there has never been painted. The back of the garage isn’t painted either, but it backs up almost to the property line.

The new garage color makes a nice difference from the deck and in the back yard; the tone is subdued just enough to take away the bright glare on a sunny day, and make the garage feel like it is a part of the same property. I have to show you two photos, since the backyard and garage wall tend to look a lot different depending on the time of day and level of sunshine. This first one, taken on a sunny morning shows the back of the house shaded and the garage in full sun (makes it look much lighter than it feels in person):

The backyard on a sunnier morning.This second picture was taken later in the afternoon on a cloudy day and you can more easily see how the paint is an exact match:

The backyard on a more overcast afternoon. And mischievous Cody.

I’m in the picking-out-trim-paint phase of the game this week, and hopefully can make some more progress to complete the project. I’d like the trim to match the house trim, if I can find the perfect white. I’ll save the why-are-there-so-many-whites discussion for another day.

Painting A Stairwell: Phase 2 Success

July 04, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Entryway, Stairwell   //  By: Emily   //  20 responses
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Happy day of independence, thanks for visiting, and most of all, thanks for giving me a second chance on the whole stair painting efforts. Last week I shared with you Phase 1, a.k.a. Phase Failure. I made a few planning mistakes, but swear that I learned the err in my ways (and hopefully saved you from making some of those same errors).

Three things I did differently this time:

  • Used fewer colors (Just 5, and only 2 were custom mixes instead of 9)
  • Used a tiny artists brush for increased accuracy (no sloppiness this time around, baby!)
  • Kept my paints separate from one another (mixed the custom paint in disposable containers, and kept them on hand until the project was done)

Containers of light gold and light gray.

I didn’t come to a resolution as to how I should fix the messy Phase 1 right away; I lived with for a week and let a new plan come to me naturally. Can’t force these things; also, it takes time and lots of ice cream to rebound from a painting failure.

I knew that the painted stair examples that inspired me most on sites like Pinterest and stairporn.org were colorful and detailed, but my first attempt ended up not being that at all. It was too safe a concept, and I knew the space could handle something a little more daring.

So I began again with an adjusted plan:

  • Make each step multi-colored with a series of thin horizontal hand painted lines
  • Still form a gradient using the gold and gray paint I loved, just use fewer shades
  • Go slow and be precise

Getting right down to business, I painted the straight-out-of-the-can Behr Venetian Gold to the upper most part of the stair rise. I also added straight-out-of-the-can gray to the bottom of each rise (which is technically the same porch floor paint I used in the sunroom).

Day 1 of Phase 2: Added gold to the top of each rise, and gray to the bottom.

I was able to do those first two colors quickly and easily in one day. I did put a few coats on over the course of that day, and was more precise with painting close to the edge of each rise with the help of a traditional artist’s brush straight from a crafty box I have.

On day two, I used Scotch Blue painter’s tape in preparation for applying light gray and light gold shades that were toned down custom mixes to form a gradient. The tape allowed me to make clean, crisp lines separating one color from it’s neighbor. I rarely use it, but in times like this, the painter’s tape is a lifesaver.

Taping prior to adding the third and fourth colors to the stairs.

To figure out where I needed to position the tape for each color transition, I took the height of each rise (about 7.25″), divided by 5, and figured out how narrow each stripe needed to be to make them even. I used a ruler the first few times, and then made this easier-to-use template to help me keep the whole process orderly. I didn’t take a photo of it until further down the process, hence the white and other colors being in place, but it helps you see how I planned out the whole shebang:

A template for ensuring even tape lines.

My trick to avoiding bleed (beside the obvious step to make sure it’s really stuck down) is to paint gently over the tape onto the surface receiving the color; it helps to create a barrier that blocks potential paint bleed, and has worked like a charm every time I’ve done it — even when I re-stick the tape from one surface to another in a cheapo effort.

By the third day I was ready to add the plain white center stripe to the gradient. The white lines actually ended up taking more time than the other colors; I blame it on my shin becoming painfully bruised by squatting a certain way on the stairs for three days straight. It took me two finish the white and do final touchups.

But it was worth it:

Finished stair paint.From the front entryway of the house, I’m in love. I’m actually smiling ear-to-ear looking at this:

Finished stair paint.And from the couch in the living room, you can see the lower few stairs too:

Finished stair paint.

The stripes lended themselves nicely to a natural turn and continued all the way up to the second story:

Finished stair paint.Overall impressions:

  • It’s busier than the first efforts, but not overwhelmingly wild.
  • It makes me want to tone down the walls, maybe add in some white. (Pete is going to kill me and my indecisiveness.)
  • The lines are pretty close to exacting, but I’m human, so there was an abundance of approximating; fortunately the straight tape lines take your eyes away from most of them.
  • Forget infusing the stairwell with more white, maybe I want to do these stripes all over the house.
  • Am I crazy? Time to go buy some grilling meat and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.