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How to Build a Walkway Using a Concrete Paver Mold

June 22, 2012


You can spend thousands of dollars and hire a professional contractor to pour your walkway or install commercially made concrete pavers, or you can use Quikrete’s Walkmaker form or some other type of form. Walkway with Stones The Walkmaker, constructed of a durable plastic material, greatly simplifies the construction of a concrete walkway and produces exceptional results. For a customized look, purchase powdered cement coloring to add to the concrete mixture. Here’s how we made our lovely walkway with the mold.

Stuff You Need:
Paver Mold- we used Quikrete’s Walkmaker
Crack-resistant concrete
Flat-bladed spade
Hand tamper
Powdered cement coloring
Measuring cup
Trowel or shovel

Step 1

Determine the amount of concrete material needed for the project. Quikrete recommends one 80-pound bag of concrete for every 2 feet of walkway.

Step 2

Measure the walkway area and remove the sod with the spade. You can lay the pavers directly onto the ground, but for best results Quikrete recommends that you remove 2 to 4 inches of soil and pour gravel into the trench. Tamp the gravel so that it is level and compacted.

Bust Sod

Step 3

Pour a bag of concrete into the wheelbarrow. Remove approximately 2 cups of dry mix and set it aside. Add the powdered coloring to the dry concrete mix and stir well with a hoe.

Step 4

Fill the bucket with approximately 3 pints water. Slowly pour half the water into one part of the wheelbarrow. With the hoe, rake the dry concrete into the pool of water, mixing until all the water is absorbed.

Mixing Concrete

Step 5

Add another 2 to 3 pints of water to the bucket, and pour the water into the concrete mix. Rake and chop the concrete into the water until the water is absorbed. The mixture should have the consistency of mud. When you chop the mixture with the hoe, the mixture should stay in place. If the mixture is too crumbly or stiff, add more water. If the mixture is too soupy, add some of the dry concrete mix you have set aside, and mix well.

Step 6

Place the Walkmaker form at one end of the walkway. Shovel or trowel the concrete into the form, patting down the mix to ensure that it fills the corners and cavities of the mold.

Filling Form

Step 7

Lift the form straight up so it does not snag on and damage the wet concrete pavers. Hose off the form immediately to prevent the concrete mix from hardening.

Lifting Form 2

Step 8

Repeat the process of mixing concrete, laying the form in the walkway and adding the mix to the form until the walkway is complete. Allow the pavers to dry for at least 24 hours.

Step 9

Sprinkle cupfuls of Portland cement sand mix or jointing sand over the pavers. Spread the sand mix between the paver form lines with a broom so the mix completely fills the form lines.

Sweeping Sand Mix 3

Step 10

Mist the pavers with a garden hose, wetting the sand mix but not washing it out of the form lines. Allow to dry completely.

Spraying Water

Secret Garden Blooming

Notes and Tips

To make a curved walkway, reposition the Walkmaker form onto the wet concrete mix in the direction of the curve. Press the form down to form new paver lines. Smooth out the previous paver lines with the trowel.

To prevent the Walkmaker form from sticking to the wet concrete, lightly spray the form with water or very lightly with cooking oil.

To create a nonslip surface, lightly brush over the wet pavers with a stiff broom. The broom will create small ridges on the paver surface.

To allow the concrete to properly cure, choose an overcast day when the temperature will not drop before 50 degrees and no rain is expected within 24 hours. If it does rain, cover unstained concrete pavers with plastic sheeting. In an area with sun, cover the concrete pavers with plastic sheeting or burlap to prevent the concrete from drying too quickly. Lightly moisten the burlap periodically when the material becomes too dry.

Do not cover stained concrete with plastic sheeting or burlap, as they may cause discoloration. Apply Quikrete Concrete Sealer to the surface of the concrete instead.

Concrete is caustic. Do not breathe in concrete dust. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves while handling concrete.

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How to Buy Replacement Windows That Look Great

February 16, 2012

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One of the best investments you can make for your old home is new windows. For the average homeowner, vinyl replacement windows is a good choice. But all vinyl replacements are not the same. Here’s how to choose the best window for your money and your old home.

Making your Selection

It comes as no surprise that the best window is the one that is the most attractive at the most affordable price. This is easier said than done, however. Window manufacturers seem to love to confuse the consumer with strange terms, baffling “new” “technology” and other slick marketing techniques. I’ll explain what some of these terms mean.

Vinyl replacement windows are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the same material used for PVC pipes and vinyl siding and fencing. PVC is a veritable soup of chemical ingredients. One manufacturer may use more of one ingredient to produce a better window while another manufacturer may use less and produce an inferior window. For this reason, it is best to stick with a name brand manufacturer who has a history of producing quality windows. Avoid the cheap no-name brands because chances are these products use cheaper ingredients that may cause problems in the future. Look for windows that have the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) label on them. This means that the window is certified by the AAMA for high quality materials and manufacture.

Two of the big problems with vinyl windows are their propensity to warp or sag with extreme temperatures and yellowing that occurs under direct sunlight. Look for a window that contains titanium dioxide (TiO2), an additive that helps vinyl keep its white color. There’s not a whole lot you can do about the warping from temperature changes– vinyl siding suffers from the same plight. If possible, install awnings over the windows that face south as these generally receive the brunt of direct sunlight year round.

Double Glazing
Most vinyl replacement windows are “double glazed.” Double glazing is also known as insulated glazing. It’s basically two panes of glass separated by a small pocket of air space. This type of glazing is marvelous, in my opinion.

A double glazed window. Image courtesy of

Old homes with their original windows have single pane glass. As many of you old-home owners know, heated or cooled air and sounds pass very easily through single pane windows. But add another pane to the window and air flow and sounds are sharply restricted. Years ago, the double glazing cost for new windows added greatly to the entire cost, but today, double glazing is very common. Some companies will even offer to add double glazing to older windows and doors. It’s incredibly more energy efficient.

Some window manufacturers boast that their windows contain argon gas or some other inert gas, claiming that the injected of gas between the two panes help prevent damage from UV rays and add additional energy efficiency to the windows. Personally, I don’t think the gas does much good and I will never pay extra for it. Over time, the gas leaches out. It’s not toxic in such tiny amounts. But seeing that it is not a permanent feature and that it does very little good anyway, I won’t ever pay more money for a window that has it.

Vinyl replacement windows screens are, in my opinion, substandard.

Kitty cat screen damage.

They are usually made of fiberglass material and they tear easily (especially if you have cats!). They are very pretty at first, when installed, but over time they start to sag and the fibers weaken. They fill with dust and dirt, and if you wash them, the fibers sag and weaken all the more.

I don’t know for sure if any window manufacturers make metal screening in a smart-looking black color. They certainly should. Metal screens are much easier to keep. If you get a vinyl window with fiberglass screens, expect to have to mend or replace the screens pretty regularly, every 7 to 15 years or so.

Tilting Sashes
In my estimation, the sashes of a vinyl replacement window are one of its best features. Many models feature “tilting” sashes. You press two small clips on each side of the bottom sash and the sash will tilt in for easy cleaning. What a marvelous, magnificent feature! No more clambering 40 feet up a ladder to wash windows!

Another great feature about these sashes is that you can lift the bottom sash up AND the top sash down. This is a great feature for homes with small children or pets who may try to poke through the screen. You can simply open up the top sash of the window to protect the lower screen, and still get fresh air.

Things to Avoid

Besides the usual features I’ve mentioned, check the window for any possible future problems that may develop.

Stupidly Designed Safety Clips
When we bought our first bunch of vinyl replacement windows, the window installers proudly pointed to their “safety clips” as an exclusive added feature. These clips were simply plastic triangular pieces that, when flipped out, would “lock down” the windows yet still allow the windows to be cracked open. This would keep the windows secure but still allow fresh air to circulate especially during hot summer nights.

While a terrific theory, the clips didn’t last long. They were poorly made and they were not attached to the window at all. After a year, they fell out and left ugly gaping holes.

Thin Vinyl “fin” Opening Handles
I would have gladly skipped the Amazing Safety Clips for better opening handles, that’s for sure. If you expect to open and close your window more than a dozen times, look for thick handles.

A broken handle on my window.

Blue-Tinted Windows
Some manufacturers tint their windows various colors, because homeowners may not want only white. However, avoid blue-tinted vinyl windows especially if they are a no-name brand and do not come with any AAMA certification label. Like supermarkets that color their old beef a red color to make the meat look fresher, blue-tinted windows hide the sub-grade vinyl used for the windows. These windows are tinted blue to hide their lack of titanium dioxide, the additive that makes the vinyl a white color. Over time, the blue tint will fade and the vinyl windows will become an ugly light yellow color.

Despite the caveats, I love vinyl replacement windows. They are more energy efficient and easier top operate than my old 100-year old windows. While no one is quite sure how long vinyl replacements will last (since they have only been around for 30 years or so), I think they can certainly last the lifetime of the homeowners. I’m hoping that manufacturers continue to offer us better technology and better features in the future.

Thanks for reading!

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How to Move With Less Stress

January 24, 2012

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One of my pals on Facebook recently moved across the country. He mentioned that his “car was on the ferry and the boxes on the plane.” Oh my word, I have never moved out of state but it must be so stressful!

There are ways to alleviate a bit of the stress of moving. Here’s how:

1. Mercilessly throw away your unused and unwanted items.
Those old business suits from the 1980s that don’t fit you anymore? Get rid of them. Chance are you’re not likely to squeeze into them again, and even if you were you’d probably want something much more modern. Consider donating those old Tupperware containers, collection of floor lamps, and stuffed animals from your youth.

When it comes to children, avoid throwing away their things. The move is stressful enough for them, and kids become very emotionally attached to their possessions. So don’t throw away their stuff unless they really, really want to rid of it. Making the kids feel secure and relaxed is well worth the extra four or five boxes of old toys.

2. Purchase packing boxes.
I can’t believe that I, the Frugal Queen, am telling you to BUY boxes for you move! But I have moved quite a number of times in my day, and locating recycled boxes is very stressful, especially when you can’t find any. Many stores crush their boxes almost as soon as they get them, so if you get recycled boxes, you often have to rebuild them with glue or duct tape. In my opinion, your time is much better spent packing and preparing for the big move, not duct taping junky old crushed boxes.

3. Rent a truck.
If you have a lot of stuff, it is much, much better to rent a truck to haul your stuff. Everything is packed into ONE or two vehicles, which makes locating stuff so much easier later. Believe me, the last thing you want to experience is rummaging through minivan after sedan looking for the lost “binky” in some box or another. If you have to transport a vehicle, learn about the car shipping process and get a handful of reasonable quotes from several businesses. A website like can help.

4. Research your moving company.
If you hire a moving company, look them up online. Get references, call former customers. Get a complete picture of the company. There have been too many stories of people whose possessions were stolen or delivered in terrible condition from a lousy company.

5. Take time to relax.
Moving is tiresome, stressful, and exhausting. Make a schedule break and get away from the site for a while. For example, if you are going to spend one entire week packing and moving, schedule a lunch break at the park every day at 1pm, or go out to dinner every two days. These moments help to break up the monotony and stress of moving, and get you out of the mess for a while. I know, going out to eat is expensive– but moving IS expensive. Your mental and emotional health is just as important as Aunt Ethel’s dishes in bubble wrap, you know. You can opt to eat out at simple places, too– a burger joint or a pizza place. It doesn’t need to be expensive but it does need to be relaxing.

6. Invite friends.
If you have a large family or a ton of stuff, make your packing and move a community event. 🙂 Invite a friend over, one each day. Friends and family can really help lighten the mood as well as lend an extra pair of hands. Make it fun, too– treat your friend or family member to a little lunch or dinner.

7. Give yourself plenty of time.
There is no stress like hurry. Give yourself lots of time to pack and move stuff. Prepare for unexpected things, too, like a rainy day or a sick kid or a delay with the moving truck. The extra buffer of time can really make a difference.

I hope these tips help you. Moving can be such a stressful time, but with a little TLC and preparation, you can make it into an enjoyable experience for you and your family.

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How to Remove Plaster and Lathe

August 16, 2011


Believe it or not, there’s a system to removing plaster and lathe from old walls and ceilings. Oh, sure, you could simply get your hammer or crowbar and start blasting away. But plaster and lathe demolition is horribly, horribly dirty. Horribly. You think you have the furniture in the next room protected with plastic sheeting? Ha ha ha! Get your duster ready. We live in our house as we wreck it room by room, and try to be very careful with our demolition. And even after all our sealing the heat vents, duct-taping doors and boxes with plastic sheeting, and gearing up in heavy clothing and bandannas, we still walk out of the room at the end of that day caked in dust.  The stuff is just so pervasive.

Plaster Removal UGH

Even so, there IS a way to reduce the mess. My methods are tried and true. 😀 Someone may have a better method (I’ve yet to see it) but this works, so far, for us.

1. Remove all the plaster FIRST. Then remove the lathe.

If you remove the plaster and lathe on one wall all at once, you’ll wind up with a big, dangerous mess. Lathe will be everywhere with plaster sections collapsed all around it. And since lathe contains nails — if your home is old, the nails will be old and rusty — the material is serious safety hazard. It’s best to first remove the plaster and shovel up the debris, THEN remove the lathe and pick up the wood.

Its Pink

By the way, YES, that IS a salmon pink ceiling. It was underneath a drop ceiling we removed. The trim in this room had once been mustard yellow....


2. Start small. then work in “sheets.”

You only need to create a small hole at first, and then a narrow strip. I always begin in the center of a wall, so I can have two people removing plaster from each side.

I start by pounding a hole in the center of the wall with a hammer. Then, I chip a long, narrow strip from the ceiling to the floor.

Wiring 2

3. Use a spade to cut off large sheets of plaster from the lathe.

Don’t use a crowbar or hammer to remove the plaster from the lathe. You’ll wind up with a mushroom cloud of plaster dust over your home! A spade is a small shovel with a flat blade. By the way, DON’T use a typical shovel for removing plaster, either. The rounded end, so perfect for digging holes, will only shear off a tiny portion of the plaster. It’s not worth all that effort.

My spade is very short, about 3 feet high. It has a grippy-type handle, and it’s perfect for removing large sections of plaster quickly and easily. Insert the end of the spade into the narrow strip of plaster you’d made with the crowbar. If the plaster is really sticking to the lathe behind it, you’ll need to ram the spade in. Now chisel the spade in between the plaster and lathe, to separate the plaster from the lathe. You may need to gently push up on the plaster with the spade, to force the plaster to break away from the lathe but not break off. The plaster will fall off in large sheets and the work will go much more quickly.

4. Keep the room tidy.

That sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? But the goal here is safety. And morale. NOBODY like slogging into a filthy workplace. Chop off large sections of plaster, and have a few folks pick up the plaster sections as you go along. We used a gravel shovel (another flat-ended shovel, but much more weighty) to shovel plaster into large garbage cans.

If you pick up the plaster as you go along, it will help reduce dust. You will not need to crunch over mountains of plaster to get to the next section. And believe me– shoveling up crunched and compacted plaster is a LOT more difficult than shoveling up freshly-removed sections of it.

DR Ceiling Down

Cleaning the room at the end of the work day did wonders for the morale, too. I found that we were much more likely to start the day with a little more vim and vigor when we entered a clean room to start our work than to begin in a room that was trashed. We lived in the house as we worked, so it was important to keep things clean.

Kitchen Gutted

5. Use a spray bottle with water.

It may sound corny, but it helped reduce the dust for us. When the dust in the air got too messy, we used a spray bottle filled with clean water to mist the air. The droplets of water grabbed the dusty particles and the weight of gravity forced it to the floor. Now, it’s important to go easy on the water, or you’ll end up with a muddy pool of plaster in your home.

6. Set a goal, every day.

My modus operandus for a day was to set a goal first thing in the morning, and that included cleanup. When we gutted our kitchen and dining room, I gave us one day to do half the kitchen (three walls) and a second day to do the other half (the fourth wall and the ceiling). It helps keep you focused, so the demolition doesn’t drag on forever. It’s very physical, laborious work. At the end of the day, we were EXHAUSTED. But settings goals helped, because we knew we HAD to have our house back again, and fast.


7. Be prepared for surprises.

I suppose every old-house home owner has stories to tell about what they find in their walls– old bones, newspapers, wayward toys, etc. We’ve seen all that. I was surprised to discover very old Art Deco wallpaper (hand painted!!) behind the chimney, though.

Wallpaper ddown

Wallpaper Display

We also discovered some less encouraging things. Someone years before had “capped” the exhaust to an old stove pipe with plaster, inserted a few old broken brick bits, and plastered over that. Over time, the plaster capping the exhaust vent cracked, allowing carbon monoxide from the furnace and water tank to seep into the room. *sigh*

Stove Pipe Hole

We’ve also found a rainbow of weirdo colors, a kind of historic home diary left behind by previous homeowners.

Be prepared for other strange things, too. I found studs filled with soft bricks on all exterior walls. No contractor or carpenter I spoke with knew what it was. They attributed it to “old timers” and their odd building practices… but I later found out that this brick is called “noggin.” It may have been used as a insulator (unlikely, in my opinion), but most probably as a fire stop, since my home is a balloon frame home.

I hope these tips have helped you some. Good luck on your project!

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What Summer Sheets Are Best?

August 10, 2011


After the blistering heat wave a few weeks ago, and now that a murky cloud of intense humidity has settled over us (70% dewpoint and higher, yuk!!) for about two weeks now, I’m reaching a point of desperation. I can’t tolerate the heat and humidity, and therefore I have trouble sleeping. It wasn’t bothering me much until lately, when the temps spiked.


Those pillow cases are part of the new "medieval" sheets I got. I think they are cool! But not... cool... if you know what I mean.

I have a memory foam mattress, and while it is spectacular in comfort, the thing is like an oven in the summer. It absorbs heat, and it feels like sleeping on a warm loaf of bread. I’ve been trying to find some good sheets, but I’ve already spent a good amount of money on some… and I can’t say I’m very happy with my choices. Now, I’ve already got winter sheets figured out– flannel sheets RULE; and I’m snug as a bug even when it’s 40 degrees in my bedroom. But during the summer, I’m at a loss.

I recently purchased a “modal/cotton” set. It’s very soft and stretchy, a little bit like a t-shirt. It’s very cushy and comfortable. but it’s almost TOO cushy. And what the heck is “modal,” anyway?

And then I bought a Better Homes & Gardens set (can’t go wrong with a name brand, right??). It’s a very, very attractive red design, with a medieval-looking pattern. They actually have some really nice designs; I’m partial to purple bedding sets. too. But these sheets are…. I think they are a cotton/polyester mix. It’s like sleeping between a lightweight tarp. They make a nylon-ish sound when you move around in them. They’re OK, but… they’re still kinda hot.

What the heck do you get for summertime bedding?! I can’t really find any answers online. IS there anything, really?

I have heard of Egyptian cotton bedding, but that stuff is $100! Before I get it, I need to know if it’s really worth it. Have you tried Egyptian cotton? Is it a “cool” sheet?

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Basement Window Filled In

December 2, 2010

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I got this done in the nick of time. Winter is fast upon us. If you recall, I had to close up this window because the original 1855 window had finally rotted away, 155 years later.


We have water pipes and some drain pipes in front of this window. It was imperative that I either find a new window or seal up the hole. Since this was such an old window with a unique size, and since I didn’t think I could handle a huge window installation in such a short period of time (and my foundation is cut stone, not cinder block), I opted to close off the window. It’s situated in a horribly soggy section of the yard (the driveway is three feet away, so water from the roof splashes off the driveway and into the window); just close it off.

Basement Window2

Old window removed...


First row of cinder blocks, mortared together...

Basement Windows Filed In

Sealed with mortar. I will parge the surface in the spring...

You’d never know there was once a window here.

Of course, I’m in the long, slow process of parging the basement walls, inside and out. The stones are in good shape, but after 155 years and countless generations of chipmunks (the critters pick at the mortar to create nests in the stone crevices), and high water table to boot, I need to seal the walls. You can read my tutorial about how to parge basement walls. It’s not a difficult job, parging– But it’s very time-consuming. And BORING.

As for this window area, I was only able to parge a small section around the old window, due to winter’s impending approach. In the spring, the kids and I will go on a parging blitz. Huzzah.

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Home Safety and Security Tips

November 26, 2010

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Now that the heating season has officially begun, my thoughts turn to home safety and security. I’m a “be prepared” kind of gal; my family suffered a devastating house fire over 20 years ago. It was a scary thing. THANK GOD no one was home at the time, but the house was a total loss. I had just moved out to my own apartment, but I lost a lot of books and art work and other things. I am a stickler for security measures. So when winter rolls around every year, after the outdoor and renovation activities have ceased, I turn my attentions to “battening down the hatches” for another Upstate New York winter. And this is a great time to get deals for security items for the home. Here are some ideas that you can consider:

Smoke Detector
I know, this is a no-brainer, right? Everyone seems to realize that every room needs a smoke detector, but how many homes actually have a working smoke detector in every room? Since the renovation, I still haven’t gotten around to installing detectors in every room. Some local codes require that you have a detector in every room, or at least on every floor of the house (including the basement).

You can get very inexpensive smoke detectors anywhere, but I usually stick with the name-brands for stuff like this. First Alert is a good brand. I will be buying more of these.

Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you use combustible fuel sources to heat your home or your hot water, you need a carbon monoxide detector. You should install one of these on every floor of the house, and/or near the furnace or gas outlet equipment. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, highly toxic gas. A furnace or heater emits this gas when the fuel is not properly combusted. Local codes regulate the placement of these devices, so your codes may be more stringent.

Gas Alert
This is a new device that I found while shopping at I’m going to get one. This device senses and alerts you of gas leaks in the house. Natural and propane gas is odorless, but utility companies add a sulfuric compound to the gas, to make it smell like rotten eggs. This helps you know if there is a leak. But sometimes leaks are small, or your nose does not smell (or becomes accustomed to) the smell of gas. This device alerts you of a gas leak.

It may seem that if you get all these detectors, your entire ceiling and wall will be covered with these things! Some companies combine the detectors– I have seen combination smoke and carbon monoxide, and combination carbon monoxide and gas leak detectors.

Be sure to have batteries on hand, and replace them at least once a year!

A Safe Box
Also called a fire box or sentry box, this insulated, heavy-duty box will store your most important items in the event of flood or fire. has a bunch of them in all shapes and sizes, from $25 to $500. Some are very sophisticated.

Most boxes are locked with keys, although the expensive brands sport electronic keypads. These things weigh a ton, and the outside is a lot bigger than the inside, so get as big a unit as you can afford. Oh, and DON’T LOSE THE KEY. Yeah.

External Hard Drive or Data Storage
If you are like me, a good portion of your most important documents and photos are digital, on your computer. Should your computer hard drive die, or should your computer become damaged by some freak of nature or accident, you could lose everything. Set aside all your important digital data on a dedicated external hard drive. Place it in the safe box for safe keeping. Update it from time to time.

External hard drives can be pricey, but you can get very good deals if you keep your eyes on a good sale. I spotted this enormous Fantom G-Force 1 Terabyte External drive for $50! That’s a steal.

If you don’t want to get an external hard drive, you can also create a DVD with the digital data, and store it in a safe place like a safe box or in a shed or something. Additionally, if you have webmail or some online storage space, you can upload that data to keep it on someone else’s server. I wouldn’t place sensitive documents there, though, because a hacker could possibly gain entry to your data. But you can store your photos on Flickr or Photobucket, or on a web server.

So home safety and security just requires a few steps and some investment. You can decrease the cost by shopping around for deals, too. Be safe!

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Easy Pediments For Greek Revival Homes

September 17, 2010


My 1855 home was constructed in the Greek Revival style, a popular architectural style in Upstate New York from the 1840s to the 1860s. Even though my home is a modest home, the builder didn’t shirk from adding a few subtle but beautiful Greek Revival elements here. This is a photo of the original 1855 trim in the dining room.


Simple, but nice, don’t you think? Unfortunately, I could not salvage the original trim. It was encapsulated with lead paint, and was pitted horribly. It would take a whole lotta acne scar cream to fix those pits, baby. So I decided to get rid of it, and construct my own. Here’s how we did it.

First, I cut basic 1×6 lumber into a triangular shape. I didn’t take photos of all the complexities, but here’s a quick rundown of how I did it. I measured the length of the framing (a window or a doorway), and added more length for the fluted trim on each side (totaling 6.25 inches, in this case), plus a half-inch extra on each side. So if a window was 33 inches wide, I added 7.25 inches to that measurement, to account for the additional fluted trim and a slight overhang of the pediment on each side of the trim. I cut my board to this length; I then measured the center of the board, and measured four inches up on each side of the board– this made my triangle, and I cut it with the circular saw.

Make Pediment1

I decided to use pre-primed beaded corner for the pediment top.

In order to create a tight butt joint where the beaded corner would meet in the middle, I would have to cut the beaded corner ends at angles. So I measured each side of the pediment board with my angle tool to find the angle size.

Make pediment2

I then transferred this angle measurement to my miter saw. I LOVE my laser guide light.

Make pediment3

I then cut the beaded corner at the angle. It makes a perfect angle at the top of the triangle.
I did it again for the other side of the pediment.

Make pediment4

I then placed them together at the vertex of the pediment board. The trim boards have a nice, tight joint.

Make pediment5

Make pediment6

I then glued the beaded corner down, pre-drilled holes to avoid the wood from splitting, and nailed the pieces together.

Make pediment7

Voila! I have a simple pediment replacement. Add some fluted trim, some glossy paint, and I’ve got a Greek Revival window.


Photo taken before trim was painted.

This kind of carpentry work is not difficult at all, and it looks SO MUCH better than the cookie-cutter modular-home, basic casing trim that so many homes have. The trim work, even such basic trim as I have detailed here, adds so much to the house. We painted it this evening (haven’t taken any photos yet) and the trim looks absolutely fabulous, just so classy. I’ll post the photos when I get them. Little touches like these make all the difference!

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The Butcher Block Countertop Installation Experience

September 2, 2010


Well, that’s an SEO-laden title, isn’t it? :-p

In a word: IT’S OVER.

It was actually “not too bad.” The anxiety leading up to it was INTENSE, however. I am so glad it’s over. Of course, I have a small 4-foot area to do on the other side, and an island to build with the same countertop, but I am a seasoned veteran now. And THANK THE LORD I do not have to make another sink cut-out hole.


This portion of countertop was 12 feet long, weighing roughly 300 pounds. Four of us hauled it from its storage spot in the living room to the kitchen, on saw horses. From there I measured (and measured and measured and measured), and cut.

I also had to cut furring strips (I opted for stronger 3/4″ plywood strips) and secure them to the cabinet bases. I drilled half-inch holes in them with my spade bit. When we lay the countertop on the base cabinets, I will screw through these furring strips’ holes with a wood screw and washer, and into the underside of the countertop. The reason for this is to allow for the contraction and expansion of the wood countertop throughout the year. The wood can expand and contract as much as 3/8 of an inch from summer to winter; securing washers and screws through large holes allow for the wood to move on the cabinets as it expands/contracts. Failure to do this can cause warping and cracking of the wood. NEVER glue or screw in a wood countertop.


After finagaling with furring strips and scerws for a while, we set the countertop on the cabinets, and secured it.

HALLELUJAH it worked!!


Note the shoes taken off and the exhausted kid lying on the counter....

We collapsed for a while after this. It wasn’t a very difficult job, but like I said, the anxiety of doing it *perfectly* had drained our energy. I knew the hardest job lay before me yet: cutting the hole for the sink.

Cutting the sink hole requires exact measuring. If I went too far back, I would cut into the back of the cabinet, and– worse still– cut too far back for the new Delta faucet install. If I cut too close to the front, I would slice into the support stiles of the cabinet. My new Kohler cast iron sink came with a very helpful template. Believe me, I spent about an hour measuring and centering that piece of paper.


Finally, I decided to take the plunge.


I drilled a starter hole with my spade bit. Then, I set my Black & Decker jigsaw (my new one!) to cut the hole.

IT TOOK FOREVER to cut through the hard maple. Holy cow. I burned through three jigsaw blades, and the wood was smoking. The kids helped me keep the tool steady, and held the flashlight so I could see (we still have no electric lights in the kitchen). When we reached the end of the cut, I screwed a scrap piece of wood across the top, to prevent the heavy cutout piece from collapsing into the cabinet.


It took three of us to haul that heavy piece out of the hole! I strained my back a little, doing so. :-p It was wedged in there tightly. But we finally grappled it out. I’ll clean it up and use it for a future cutting board.



We hauled the heavy cast iron sink (like, 150 pounds?!) into the hole, to test it. Oh my goodness, it fit!

install sink3

I removed the sink. The Hubs will set up the new faucet and drain baskets on the sink before we secure it to the counter. I slathered clear silicon caulk all around the inside of the opening, to seal the wood from moisture.

I am now in the process of treating the counters with Tung oil. It takes quite a bit of time (and stinks like all get-out). I’m using Waterlox sealer/finisher. It’s expensive stuff ($30 a quart), but it’s the best.

While we wait for the sink and plumbing, we’re turning our attention to the floors. I have to finish laying the underlayment (plywood sheets). I then must fill the screw holes and seams with wood putty, and sand them. THEN I can finally start laying my new floor (I chose TrafficMaster Allure flooring). Once the floors are in, we can move in the appliances and rig up the electric stove and gas dryer. I’m HOPING to get this done before school starts! Lord, help me!

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How to Start a Compost, Part 3

April 19, 2010


This is the final post in my How to Start a Compost series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 to get up to speed. I’ve already covered the essential compost general guidelines, some sage compost advice, and instructed you ow to build a simple Wire Bin. Now, I’m going to throw some lists at you.

    What to Do When Your Compost is Ready:

  • Your compost should be ready in 12-14 months. This can really vary a lot, depending on what you put in there, how often you turned it, how wet the weather has been, etc. But 1 year is a general estimate.
  • I always start a new compost pile in the spring, so that when I am ready to start next year’s garden, the compost is ready. You can add the compost to your garden beds either at spring tilling time, or fall tilling time. (I don’t do fall tilling, by the way).
  • Prepare your garden beds: pull out the weeds, the rocks, etc.
  • Grab your shovel and wheelbarrow and shovel out the compost from the bin. The humus should be loamy and rich-looking.
  • Dump the compost into the garden. Spread evenly. Roto-til or hand turn the garden soil. Water lightly.
  • That’s it! Plant your garden when you’re ready.

The composted compost (called humus) is dark, rich, and loamy.

    What to Add to a Compost Pile:

  • Any household vegetable food waste, such as: carrot tops, discarded vegetable peels, wasted vegetables that the kids refused to eat, etc etc
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds, leftover tea, or coffee
  • Dryer lint
  • Hair. Yes, hair! Spread it out well so it won’t clump in the pile. You can even add your fingernail clippings… if you want…
  • Grass clippings. Make sure the grass is not loaded with pesticides or chemicals.
  • Leaves, they are full of nitrogen.
  • Earthworms. Have the kids dig them up and plop them in. Earthworms love coffee, by the way. They are wonderful critters!
    What NOT to Add to a Compost Pile:

  • Meat waste
  • Newspapers (some ink has chemicals may disrupt the happy bacteria revelry)
  • Dog and cat food (contains meat and preservatives)
  • Corn cobs (they take FOREVER to compost!!)
  • Peach pits (see corn cobs)
  • Weeds! (They will germinate in the rich soil and you will wind up planting them in your garden next year)
  • Milk products– no cheese, yogurt, milk, nothing.
  • Oils (vegetable, grease, etc)
  • Bones
  • Silverware (can you believe that we actually find forks and spoons in the compost pile?! All the kids say they have NO IDEA how silverware gets in there! :S hmm)

So there you have it! Composting can be pretty fun. Sure, you’re getting your hands dirty. But just think of how happy you are making the worms, the bacteria, the garden plants! And think of happy you will be when you sink your teeth into those luscious tomatoes that thrived in such rich soil. 🙂

tn_Tilled 1

Humus is tilled in to the bed, bed is weeded and raked, and ready for seeds.

Thanks for reading! Happy composting.

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