September 4, 2012

In the Beginning… there was DIY

For as long as I have known Mike, he has been doing “projects”.  Anything that he can do himself, he will.  He does all the maintenance on the cars, bicycles, motorcycles; he has painted most of the rooms in our house, the trim and the shutters, when something doesn’t work he takes it apart to figure out why.  He cuts his own hair, and he has recently started brewing his own beer!

It started with his car.  Most people just go out and buy a car.  Not Mike.  Mike bought 3 cars that didn’t run and put them all together to make one car that did.  It ended up being mostly a 1983 Ford Probe that he painted “inorganic yellow”.  That is what the manufacturer of the paint called it.  In reality, it was the same color as a highlighter, and it almost glowed in the dark it was so bright.

When we had our house built (yes… he did agree to contract that one out!), he ran some wires, added some extra insulation, and negotiated to have the bonus room over the garage left unfinished for him.  He turned that room into his first major DIY project in the house.  It became a theater.  Complete with tiered seating and the nifty movie theater seats with the cupholders and the armrests that go up and down.  The room also has a wet bar, crown molding, six speaker surround sound, a projector, and a screen that is 98 x 56.  Mike likes to use this room to play video games (nothing like Halo life-sized!) and watch DIY shows.  And movies… of course.  I tried to help with this one.  I was allowed input on the sink that is in the wet bar.  And I was allowed to stain the furniture black.  I rocked that job.

Then there was the bicycle.  I went to the bike shop and bought a bicycle.  Mike spent a long time researching and sourcing parts and built his bicycle.  Including the wheels.  I am used to the wheels showing up with a hub, spokes, a rim, a tube, and a tire.  Mike’s showed up in pieces.  With a truing stand.  And a lot of other tools.  And he built himself a bicycle.  The frame was a Look, fire-engine red.  Beautiful.

And then Mike had a pool table delivered.  Did he go to a showroom and buy it?  No.  This one came from Craigslist.  And I had high hopes… really I did.  One day, I came home from work and there was… stuff… in the garage.  Right where I was expecting to park.  It looked like wood, only something had gone horribly wrong with it somewhere down the line because it was baby blue and white.  Mike proudly introduced me to our new pool table.  “Oh no.  Uh uh.  That thing is not going in my house.  Mike, it’s UGLY.”  He laughed at me and said “Just give me some time.”  So I did.  And it was beautiful.  He stripped all the paint off it, sanded it down to the natural wood, refinished it, had the slate set and new felt put on.  It really was beautiful.

And then there was the shed.  With all the projects he was doing, he needed toys, I mean TOOLS, to do those projects.  And of course, he needed somewhere to store those tools.  So he determined a shed was in order.  He sat down and started sketching.  Then went to the hardware store.  Then built a shed.  A 12×12 shed, with rafters.  And skylights.  And a ramp so the motorcycles and lawnmower could be rolled in and out.

And then came the hardwood floors.  And I am proud to say I actually helped with this one.  We pulled up all the carpet in the living room, dining room, hallway, family room, stairs, office and upstairs hallway.  We pulled out the vinyl in the entry way.  Turns out a specialty of mine is pulling up staples and tack strips.  Who knew?  I can also dig a mean ditch, in case you are interested.  After the old flooring was out, the tar paper went in, and then the wood.  For the upstairs and downstairs hallways and the stairs Mike chose a maple with no stain, just a clear coat on the natural wood.  For the remainder of the rooms, dark maple stain.  It turned out beautiful. Two years later.  Yes.  I said years.  Turns out there were a couple of really difficult parts to this project.  The biggest one being the stairs.  Mike had to build each riser and tread, and hand router and sand the edges of the tread.  I can’t do it justice with the description, so here are a couple of pictures:

The stairs with hand-built treads and risers.
The two-toned floors.  The natural maple isn’t actually yellow, but I can’t figure out how to use the camera, so hopefully you get the right idea.

Mike also has an acute interest in alternative energy and saving money.  This has resulted in another very interesting project… the thermal siphoning solar hot water heater panel that is on top of the shed roof.  It is piped to a holding tank in the shed, and then connected to our natural gas hot water heat in the house.  This was a great source of amusement for me during the entire project.  And then, to Mike’s delight and my amazement, the thing actually works.  In the summer, it consistently heats the water to over 130 degrees F., meaning our hot water heater doesn’t kick on at all, and our natural gas bill is non-existent.  This year, we have had no bill for the last 3 months.  It is still confusing to some of the neighbors and the people who come to visit.  They stare at the panel on the roof of the shed and try and figure out just what we are growing in there.  🙂

The latest project Mike finished was the kitchen sink.  I kicked off this project with what I thought was a minor complaint:  “Mike, I don’t like the faucet on the kitchen sink.  It is too low and it makes it hard to fill pots or do dishes.”  Mike agreed and we started shopping for a new faucet.  We found one we liked, purchased it, and brought it home.  Mike removed the old faucet and put in the new one, only to discover that the weight of the new faucet was too much for the flimsy stainless steel (builder grade) sink in our kitchen!  Something was definitely going to need to be done about that.  So we decided on a graphite composite sink.  We purchased this and brought it home.  During the installation, we managed to crack the garbage disposal, so I got a new one.  And while we were at it, we put in an instant hot water heater for my tea and pasta needs.  We were smart and stopped short of new countertops and cabinets, but boy was it tempting.

So that is pretty much the history of DIY in our house… and with the next post, I will fill you in on the latest project.


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