Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Crown King

I recently finished a home improvement project: I installed crown molding in our dining room.

Before I go on, let me tell you a little about my infatuation with "do it yourself" projects. I have no delusions of grandeur regarding my ability to take on complex tasks. I always overlook something important, and without fail the tasks take longer than expected. For some reason this does not stop me (although it should).

When my wife and I first moved in together I mentioned to my mom that I was installing curtain rods.

"Oh, you should get your Dad or your brother to help you," she advised me. Bah. Curtain rods are simple, any buffoon can manage a drill.

Then I learned what those little plastic drywall anchors are for...after I decided I didn't need them and the curtain rods fell down. Then I re-drilled (I strategically placed the mounting brackets so the rod and the curtains would cover the old holes). I used the plastic drywall anchors this time. I did not use a stud finder. Turns out you really don't need those things when your drilling/screwing into a stud. Lesson learned (mostly).

Next was the deck on the back of our old house. I didn't go into this one blind, I purchased plans off the Internet and solicited the help of my uncle, cousin, and brother-in-law, all of whom had more building experience than I did. They also had better tools. The weekend project went by without injury, and we actually finished framing it. I guess a deck with an octagonal raised dining platform is an ambitious first-deck project. Who knew? A month later I finally finished it.

And then there was the six month finish-the-basement project. That was a massive undertaking, and I ended up subbing out the drywall and the drop ceiling. That's not included in the six months. That's just the time it took me to frame it.

For the crown molding project, I used both the Internet and a book for guidance. This is my method of take-no-prisoners planning. The consensus was "4 hours to install crown molding in a room." The consensus was wrong.

After six hours I had successfully nailed up four relatively crooked pieces of crown molding. The next evening I nailed up the molding on the other half of the room.

I surveyed my handiwork. Looked like shit, I must say; but that didn't worry me. I had spackle, caulk, and wood filler on my side. Turns out wood filler can be pretty messy and difficult to work with. It also does amazing things to the top two layers of skin on your hands and fingers (NOTE: "does amazing things to" in this context can also be read as "dissolves").

When I was done with the spackle, caulk, and woodfiller (which I sanded down to a not-quite-imperceptible smoothness), it still looked like shit. But I wasn't worried, I knew the paint would cover most if it.

"What kind of paint do you want, semi-gloss or satin?" the guy at Home Depot asked me. This was my fourth trip there that week. He was well aware of my endeavors.

"Which kind will hide imperfections in carpentry?" I asked.

"The satin."

"I'll take it."

I taped off and painted. I was amazed at how well the paint and caulk created straight lines above and below the crooked pieces of molding. The satin paint did an admirable job of covering the less severe blemishes. As for the more severe blemishes...you can hardly see them in the dark.

Which brings me to my next project: install a dimmer switch in the dining room.


Kristi said...

Wow, you must be a distant relative of my husband. He installed crown molding and a chair rail in our dining room, has built us two decks by designing his own plans, and just redid all the hardware on the kitchen cabinets.

The time factor is what I still find hilarious - every time he tells me how long a project will take, I've learned to multiply it my four. Last summer, he decided to install a whole-house attic fan which I knew would involve cutting out the actual ceiling. He insisted it would only take four hours - right. However, two days later I had my fan and I still love it. There's nothing better than a man who's not afraid of a drill!

3 Men and a Lady said...

Wait a sec, you FINISH projects???

That doesn't happen at our house.

Penney said...

Perhaps this is a trait common to all men - the "it looks like shit, but that's okay, I'm sure I can fix it and make it look good and my wife won't even notice" trait?

Vodka Logic said...

At least you attempt them, we don't even try. Although I have painted a bit.

Good luck with the dimmer lol..

MattDel said...

Yep. Sounds like something I'd do.

Still haven't sanded down the spackle I used fixing a hole in one wall (that father-in-law and I put into said wall while moving my wife's old twin bed upstairs to the guest room).

WeaselMomma said...

This is why I always make friends with handy people, who have lots of tool and preferably do this for a living.

Rick Daley said...

Kristi- Your husband sounds like he is further along on the evolutionary fix-it path, I am a very distant relative. I bow down to his prowess.

3MaaL- Eventually.

Penney- It's not as bad as a comb-over, but I would feel bad charging money for the work. On the other hand, it's just fine for the money I saved by doing it myself.

VL- The dimmer is very easy, I know how to do that quickly. Of course, if you read the news "Columbus Man Electrocuted While Installing Dimmer Switch" please send my wife flowers.

Matt- After you sand you're obligated to paint. Put it off as long as you can.

WeaselMomma- You know how to play the game!

Laurel said...

Two cities ago we lived close to an engineer who was a friend of ours. It was fantastic. There was absolutely no project we would not undertake. Need a tool? Call Doug the engineer. Not only would he have the obscure piece of equipment we didn't know existed but he would come over and wrap up the project we had spent four days on in about thirty minutes. Among the things we did/learned to do:

Replaced our own water main
installed a dishwasher
removed a horrible linoleum floor (we had our own heat gun) that probably had asbestos and gave us cancer
install Hardyplank siding

And last but not least, we learned the most important thing just in time to redo our bathroom:

Pay someone else to just do it for you.

Linda said...

My husband's dad taught him to do carpentry, plumbing and electrical repairs, but the phrase repeated the most around here is:

A little putty, a little paint,
makes it look like what it ain't.

L. T. Host said...

The Boyfriend and I painted our house first thing before we moved in. Of course. That's what everybody does.

We hired professionals to re-finish the wood floors, though. We ain't that crazeh.

It was fun, but we haven't done anything since and it's been almost six months. I'm itching to work on the yard, but that's a trap: once we get started it won't ever stop!

Kudos to you for getting it done! Wanna come practice at my place? :)

Teri said...

Wow! Congratulations on your accomplishment. Sounds exactly like the DIY projects my husband and I take on. Just keep at it. Sooner or later you'll get better.

ElanaJ said...

ROTFL! This is why we bought new and will move soon. :)

Lady Glamis said...

LOL! Nice, Rick. I really enjoyed reading this. I wish you'd included a picture, but in dim light that might not have worked out well. ;)

lifeissweet16 said...

Your wife must be very understanding and patient.

Rick Daley said...

Laurel- Plumbing scares me. Although I did install a utility sink in the laundry room of our current home. It was a new build and there was a rough-in, so it wasn't that bad.

Linda- I may get that tattooed on my forehead before I put the crown up in the next room (oh yeah, I'm going to try it again!)

LT- House = Neverending Project List. I'd offer to help, but my own home won't let me.

Teri- I don't think I brought down the value of the house, which is good.

Elana- We bought new (hence the lack of crown molding). I hate moving. I'd rather suffer through more projects.

Michelle- I may still post the pictures. With full lighting.

LIS16- She's cute, too ;-)

Crimogenic said...

I'm going with your mom on this one, GET HELP. Actually I installed rods and vertical blinds once; it took me like two hours, so perhaps, I shouldn't be talkin'.

Anita said...

It takes a real man to present his errors (with the curtain rod install, etc.). You need to post a photo of your crown work!

Bane of Anubis said...

Ha Ha! TGM (typical guy maneuvers)... I'm of similar DIY persuasion and skill... worst project for me was installing a ceiling fan... worst part -- my wife didn't want to spend X amount of money to get the 4" saw drill to widen the pre-existing hole, so had to use an itty bitty dremel to do it... finally got there, but if anybody ever takes down the fan, they'll find a fackocked hole in the ceiling that looks like something mice attacked.

Martha W said...

Dimmer switch? Rick - please don't electrocute yourself. We would miss you.

And I'm sure your wife & sons would too! :)