The Deckening

Besides some drywall nail pops, there isn’t a damn thing this new place needs. It’s weird. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s that part of movie when things are just TOO quiet.

Therefore I had to make some work for myself and decided it was high time for deck time. There was the perfect spot in the backyard which was nothing but awkward concrete and muddy grass. It was always a hassle to get to the garage when it was raining. I put together some CAD renderings to give a good ballpark on materials required. I also picked up a pickup bed extender which made carrying 16′ decking sections in my 5.5′ bed possible. Everything underneath was pressure treated with further preservatives added to any sections I had to cut. The deck board was composite. It was a spendy setup but I’d heard too many horror stories of wasted time, effort, and dollars to build a deck with conventional materials in our rain forest-like environment only to have it fail two years later. It turned out absolutely phenomenally. Just like most all the things in the old Delaware house, I’m really proud of this work.

Stop by sometime and share a beer with Amy and I!




Randomly, in mid-winter, there was an internal Nike classified ad for a $1,000 Chrysler LeBaron. Growing up I would always make fun of LeBaron’s as the stereotypical awful domestic car. It was a rolling joke to me. Also growing up my parent’s had a Plymouth Reliant as our family car. I have vivid memories of the maroon interior, the engine that barely could, and the amazing map light. That Reliant and this LeBaron shared the same ‘K-Car’ chassis.

I must have been in an awfully goofy mood when I decided to contact the owner to come take a look. A couple hours later it arrived at my house on the back of a flatbed. Despite me knowing it needed a headgasket and it all of about 34 degrees out, I told Amy to hop in and we’d take it around the block with the top down. Three jump starts later and several quarts of coolant expelled via the tailpipe, it made it back and pulled it in the garage. Shortly after the repairs commenced. All told I think I put about an additional $1,700 into it. That included all the bits for the head gasket repair, a new alternator, new tires, new battery, replacement rear window, a couple things I know I’m forgetting, and $12 for a Michael Dukakis campaign sticker off of eBay. Oh and a Top Gun soundtrack cassette tape. That was clutch.

Finally now with some warm and sunny weather, we’re living the LeBaron lifestyle. Things have broken here and there but it’s running pretty damn solid now. More just distractions than anything really impactful (or expensive) to take care of.


Getting the Band Back Together

It’s been a hell of a year here in Portland, Oregon. Unreal amount of change to say the very very very least. Even more in the works but taking a deep breath and will talk about that in the future when things settle down a bit.

Highlights so far? Well summiting Mt. Hood was a trip, exploring new corners of the Pacific Northwest with Amy has been awe inspiring, and living the day-to-day thousands of miles from where I grew up continues to bring intrigue.

I’ll leave the website address as an ode to what started this, but the site is changing names to reflect we now live in “The Brown House Retreat and Discount Auto.” Why you ask? Well the house is brown, Amy and I love to have people visit, and I picked up a cheap car as my winter project. The car will get it’s own post in a bit. I’ll try to take some shots of the rooms to show the current house off some too. It doesn’t need anywhere as much work as the old place. That said, it would seem the desire to complete projects remains and I appreciate any reason to keep my hands occupied.


I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision For another five years of life

Final pictures from our MLS listing.

Thanks to everyone who has followed along. It’s been a trip.


This is it all my friends.


























That’s a Wrap

Four months have gone by and so so much has changed. Finished up the bathroom, was hired at Nike and will be moving to Portland, OR shortly! Here are some last shots from the bathroom.


















Transition installed and stained.


Bathroom Progress

I kind of didn’t realize I hadn’t shared the progress. Not a lot of words right now besides the floor joists were leveled, new subfloor went in, new tub in, all the existing wall joints taped, spaces filled in near the chimney, and the toilet flange being replaced. It’s coming together little by little. The toilet and sink pictured are the old ones as this is our only bathroom and it needs to stay functional throughout the renovation. All stuff besides the shower tile has been purchased and I’m starting to get some miles in on my bicycles too. Bring on spring!



The old fiberglass BS coming out.


The bathroom window provided a great junk exit. 


Exposed joists with 2×4’s being sistered to level out the settling house. The worst point was down about 1 1/2″.


All level. 


3/4″ OSB held in place with 3″ deck screws and construction adhesive. It’s bomber.


Tight working quarters. 


New tub in place.


Harvey exploring. He prefers between the floors, but it’s tough to get a picture of him in there. 


Temp shower arrangements. 


New tape over existing joints that were cracking. Additional screws were added as well.


Filling in spots next to the chimney where there was once wall.


Lots of work needed in the closet. I ran into this before. I suspect the builders knew the closet would never see much action so not as much attention to detail was put into it. 


Amy and I came up with an idea to keep the shower opened up some so framing was removed. It’ll all come down for new stuff but this allowed me to patch up the ceiling. 


New tile and hardware.


Concrete board and drywall ready for install. 


Out and about on my All City Macho Man. I’ve been loving this bike.

Bathroom Underway

Bathroom work continues to be underway. I’ve noticed in past projects I get tons of work done and then do not touch it for weeks at a time. This time around I’m not doing those crazy days, but rather trying to just do a bit everyday. So far so good but it’s tough to see much progress taking place. It’s just a lot of stuff getting dusty really.



The maple coming out.



Subfloor. No surprises which was nice. 



Old drywall layer and plaster coming down to make way for new drywall. The trim will match up again. 



Luxury cardboard floor until the tile goes in.



Here is the drywall roughed in. It always looks like junk until it’s finished. 



Light switches moved to the other side of the doorway. The opening on top was an older box that only had disconnected wires in. Reusing that top spot would have placed the switches too tall.



A new light in the closet. Since 1906 this space had ever seen direct light. It’s glorious. 



Kiyah is ready for more drywall to go in. 

Vacation Goals Achieved

Amy and I are lucky enough to work at a manufacturing company that maintains a lengthy two week shutdown over the holiday season. We did a whole lot of relaxing, were able to see some great friends, hosted a family dinner, threw a party to watch the best christmas movie ever made (Die Hard), did NOT burn down the house deep frying a turkey, I rode some miles on the fat bike (brought my milage total to a hair over 2,700 miles for 2015), and Amy started off the new year doing 108 sun salutations which I think was fairly amazing. In addition to all of that I told myself I would be very happy if I could finish up the back hallway trim and start on our final major project, the bathroom. On the last day of this break, I started off on the bathroom, which was a serious milestone. I hope everyone else had a great holiday as well! Here come the pictures…


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Kiyah was on point with the fire extinguisher. Safety first she said.



This window and drywall had been waiting to be finished for about two years now. Feels real good to have it in.



All this work was made so much easier by finally owning the correct tools. The table saw was great for ripping, the miter saw made angles and 90 degree cuts fantastically easy, and the router mounted to a table had me making round over edges like a champ.



Stairs painted, trim installed, and the first coat of paint went on. It needs one more coat of paint and edge work but it’s 99% done so you get the idea and I’m calling it done for the purposes of this blog.



This was underneath the drywall the previous owners had put up. There was some faux tile looking vinyl on the lower darker blue.



Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high. Take a look, it’s in a book.



Wall down, lathe removed, and all the debris cleaned up. I’ll sort out either relocating the electrics or putting some some cool looking conduit. I also need to do some research on the best way to clean up the brick. In a perfect world I’d re-tuck point the mortar but I think it’s good enough. I’ll likely use a chemical treatment as I’ve heard sandblasting will destroy the top layer. Up last I’ll find a matte clear coat to spray over it to seal it. I’m really excited to show off the chimney in this old house. I’ve been talking about this for a very long time.



A beautiful holiday ride down on the shore of western Lake Michigan. Cheers everyone!

Plant Window Tile

There was also very sketchy tile in the base of the planter window in the kitchen. It was fine at first, but like all things in this house, it degraded quickly. The grout all cracked out and mushrooms started growing around the perimeter of it. Seriously. That happened. I finally pulled up the tile to find that the tile had been applied directly to the plywood underneath and that the plywood was completely rotten. During the holiday break I finally removed the old plywood. This was no easy task as the section had been screwed in from the outside prior to install meaning there was no way to access any of the fasteners. After making a mess with a circular saw and jigsaw and finally a pneumatic cutoff wheel to grind off the screws, I finally was able to get it out. I cut a new section of 3/4″ plywood to slide in, used screws to hold it all in place to the framing in the house, and sealed everything with an absurd amount of caulk. Cement board was put down and the tile over that. Grout came a day later and the trim was reinstalled. There are a couple spots in need of some wood filler but I’ll get to that sooner or later. Amy also painted the ceiling fan. It turns out it wasn’t some off white color but rather was that dirty. Gross. It looks great now. Unrelated I was also able to enjoy this amazing unseasonable weather we’ve been having here in Milwaukee with a 30+ mile ride on my new All-City Macho Man. It was the first ride but I’m very excited to have a cross bike which can double for touring duty next year. Happy holidays everyone!



The tile when we first moved in. I assure you it no longer looked this somewhat acceptable when I finally tore it out.



After completing the removal struggle. 


Enter New ply waiting to be cut to final length. 



Enter Final cut section installed. I painted the underside with a white primer to seal it as it’s exposed to the elements.


Cement board cut to size.



Tiles I had previously cut when using Mr. Lew Danger’s fantastic wet tile saw. Thanks again Lew. 



Tile in sans grout.



All finished and grouted.



Kiyah is jealous of the luxury the cats enjoy their food in.



The fan with Amy’s freshly painted fan blades. It looks great.



Bike ride in 55 degree weather in late December in Wisconsin? I’ll take it! My new orange bike pops nicely as well.

Paralysis of Analysis

It had been so long since I logged in that I nearly forgot my account password. I blame all the fun which was being had. 2,500+ miles on my bicycle this summer, a couple trips to Utah and Oregon, and so on. As for the house, the kitchen was wrapped up last time this year (floors and tile backsplash), some little things here and there, exterior doors were replaced with the help of my friend Mr. Lew Danger, and at the moment I’m finishing up trim work on the interior of those new doors. I’m going to miss some work here but if I wait any longer the pressure of trying to list every little thing will only grow and grow. I’ll certainly try to stay up on these updates from now on!


Pulling up old kitchen vinyl plank.


Some sort of sub sub floor underneath.


Back stair landing was rough.


Pulling wood from the bathroom to patch in a previous bad repair in the kitchen.


Royal Floors did an amazing job of weaving in “new” planks on a square damaged section.


Weaving complete.


New bullnose and refinished maple in back hall.


Sanded kitchen.


Skipping way ahead, but all done and beautiful!


Found some electrical issues when doing the tile.


It wasn’t quite this easy, but all done again!


The other side.


Old front door. It was ill fitting and leaked air like crazy. The screen door had already been removed prior to this picture.


A little concerning to see a giant hole where the door used to be.


Might as well ride a motorcycle in and out of the house.


New work starting to go in.


Whoa, look at that! It’s done! Lew is that amazing.


Back door explosion.


Resetting some uneven brick.


Sill plate in. I love powder nailers.


Wow, again, more magic and it’s in! A screen door was added later but isn’t pictured installed here.


Adding door jamb extensions to match the new thinner door frame to the existing structure. I also added a new bit of drywall up above the door.


Same thing for the front. Also had to add about an inch of wall all around since the new doors are a standard size to replace and older, and slightly larger size. Texture, paint, and trim going back up yet to come.