Even a snail makes progress

It’s been quite some time since the last update on the dining room. You may recall that we had painted the dining room, had some new woodwork installed, and scored the ultimate steal/find of a built-in from the house next door. Needless to say, the built-in was a perfect fit. The paint color we had chosen for the walls; however, was not.

So we thought it best to add to our hundreds of sample cans by purchasing a few more and painting swatches all over the place. And the process stalled from indecision. The ceiling needed painting. The boxbeams needed painting. We didn’t want to install more woodwork until we had decided on a final color for the walls (good excuse, right?).

Eventually we settled on what we think is a beautiful color that shows off the woodwork and our art without being distracting or too dark. With that out of the way, it was time to finally tackle the trim and paneling around the windows.

The walls with windows are angled and the trim folds around the window stool and was quite the feat for me to build and fit snugly. So I drank beer and stared at it for months hoping for inspiration. Ultimately I grew impatient and just started building (by the way – I love pocket screws).


There is still quite a bit of work to do in the dining room: installing the actual plate rail and accompanying trim and oiling a ton of wood to start. But we are making a ton of progress. And the before and after’s are impressive to say the least:

And some more detailed photos:

Thanks for being patient!


Built-in Installed

Cut to the before and after pics of the built-in saga: that’s what we all really want to see anyways.

Before any work had been done in the dining room:

Dining room Friday morning:

And this afternoon:

There is still a lot of trim work to do, paneling to build, install, plate rail to install, etc – but…WOW! That has to be one of my best before and after shots I’ve ever had. The full dining room gallery can be found here.

So Lucky: A New (old) Built-In

Sometimes you just get lucky and today would be one of those days. I have been working on the dining room for quite some time and trying to bring it back to it’s original glory. This has meant among other things, building new wood paneling as the originals were removed probably some 50 years ago. I’ve been making quite a bit of progress on that front and will share some more pictures on that later on. But one of the more annoying problems has been the built-in. Or, more correctly, the lack of the original built-in. Back when they removed all the paneling, they also ripped out the built-in and replaced it with this crappy 1950’s model.

1950’s dining room built-in, in a 1910 house. Ugh.

The house next door to us is in the process of being remodeled and flipped. Being the inquisitive (read nosy) neighbor, I’ve asked for a tour or two of the house. On my first tour, I mentioned what a beautiful built-in they had in the dining room and the GC mentioned that he wasn’t sure what their plan for it was as it would most likely have to be removed. Fast forward to this morning. For the 19th time, I mentioned in passing that if they didn’t have a plan for it, I would be more than happy to take it off their hands…

Well, for $100, I have procured a new (old) built-in. And upon close inspection, I have determined that it must be nearly identical to what I used to have. I kid you not – the size, style, trim, paneling, shelves – it is a damn near perfect match.

$100. A HUNDRED DOLLARS! I can’t believe I pulled this off.


The thing is in really good condition. I think it had been painted at some point but somebody did a pretty good job removing it all. There is a bit hidden in a few cracks but nothing I won’t be able to get to. All of the hardwire minus the lock on the lower drawer is still there. No cracks, no nothing. Seriously, what the heck. So after confirming that that beautiful piece of awesomeness was really mine, I returned home and made a big hole in the wall. Actually, I started out by drilling a small hole in the back panel of my 50’s built-in to see what was behind it. And what did I find?

Hmmm. That’s not the back of lath.

That would appear to be nice wood. Knowing that, I then approached the removal with caution.

Well well. That would be the back of the original built-in.

The spots missing stain would be from the missing rails and shelves.

Goodbye 1950’s.

I have since removed that old back and de-nailed it. I believe that’s quarter sawn 3/4″ fir. Needless to say that I will be saving that for something special down the road. I obviously have a ton of work to get this new built-in to fit perfectly and blend in but I still can’t believe it. The construction guys and a few of my neighbors are going to attempt to move it tomorrow morning. It weighs a ton. I’ll be removing the doors, and a few other details so we don’t break them and then it’s just finagling and jiggering it into place.


Staining New Fir

Making a bit of progress in the dining room. I have all the panels cut, assembled, sanded, and have began the finish work. The details around the windows and the bump out will be a bit of a challenge which I will be tackling this weekend.

Here is a glimpse at where we currently stand…

Two coats of stain have been applied, but pre finish. Quite a bit of trim is missing from this photo, but it’s still progress.

Full gallery is here.

Woodwork – Old & New

Dining room is painted and the surviving original trim is up and installed.

Surviving original 1910 trim is finished and reinstalled.

Window detail.

Now it’s on to some new woodwork! Building paneling and a plate rail is new for me and it’s taken quite a bit of strategerizing on my part to wrap my head around it. It also took lining up the necessary tools to borrow. These include, among other things:

  • Laser level
  • Table saw
  • Pocket jig
  • Router

The paneling is fairly tall and the limiting factor was that the plywood sections could be no taller than just under 48″. Thought being that I’m buying 4×8 sheets and cutting it down to 4×4 and need a bit of wiggle room. So with the laser level, I shot a level line around the room. And surprise – my house isn’t level. I knew that the middle of the house has settled over the years, but now I know that it’s nearly 2″. Wow! That’s another project. Needless to say, one walls worth of panel is taller than another. Knowing that, I was able to start building.

Have I mentioned my love affair with pocket screws? Awesome!

Pocket Screw Jig.

I borrowed this setup from my buddy Chris (who has his own ambitious project going on right now as well). A little glue and screw and I’ve got some dining room progress.

Ready for a cap and plate rail…and some stain.

These aren’t actually nailed up in place yet as I will remove them to sand and stain but you get the idea. I’ve been working on what the plate rail/trim detail will look like and I’m pretty happy with how that’s turning out. Details to come soon.

Dining room picture gallery here.

13 months later…

Progress in the dining room – I kid you not! Ironically enough, it was not the guilt, mess, or embarrassment that kicked this room reno into motion (okay, maybe a little bit). It was installing our beautiful Nest thermostat on the ugly wall and knowing we could do better.

With motivation in hand, I started at the top by cleaning and painting the box beams. As much as I would love to strip them and stain them – that is a project that I will hire out at a later date. Painting them (and painting them well) was enough of a project in and of itself. With the ceiling taken care of, it was time to finish up the walls.

As you may recall, I removed wallpaper, repaired some cracks, and then fiberglassed and skim coated the whole room. Well, let’s just say that sanding that down to perfection (and the prep and the clean up) is a messy job.

I’m obviously stoked about sealing off the room and the impending mess I’m about to make.

This photo does not do me justice. I was COVERED in dust! Maybe I’ll just wallpaper every room from here on out.

Walls sanded and primed.

All of the original remaining trim has been stripped, sanded, and stained while I added back header caps and stops to all the windows and doors.

Door and window trim ready to be installed.

Staining in progress.

The walls have been primed but the final wall color is still undecided…any ideas? We’re leaning towards either a green or chocolatey beige or cream or I don’t know. Remember, the bottom half (or 60%) of the walls will be covered in stained wood paneling topped by a plate rail.

Half of our color options. Creamy earth tones not shown here. Ugh.

We’re getting close! Complete room photo gallery is here.


Christmas came a bit early this year at our house. Among the handful of early presents was the Nest Thermostat! I know that it’s just a thermostat, and how exciting can a thermostat really be, anyways? Well, let me just say that I’m stoked and I love it.

In full disclosure, I’m a sucker for technology, good engineering, and beautiful design. And the Nest satiates all three of those lusts. Even the packaging is top-notch.

Even the packaging is thought out and beautiful.

Within 5 minutes of unwrapping it, I was installing it. Now, have I mentioned that the dining room (still) looks like a bomb went off? Ignore the ugly plaster and holes surrounding that beauty.

After having removed the old thermostat, the first step is to connect the wires to the base. Easy enough – notice how you just push the wires in without a screwdriver. Level the base (using the built-in level) and affix to the wall. Snap in the unit, answer a few questions, connect to the wifi and boom. Done.

Installing the base and leveling it. Ignore the hideous wall.

It gave me the option “Pre 1940” which I believe is code for “So we’re heating the outdoors also, eh?”

So simple and purty.

Besides being intuitive and pretty, it also is incredibly efficient. It has a built-in motion sensor which is able to sense movement and determine if we are at home or not. Over time it learns our patterns and proactively programs itself while still making changes (kicking on or off) if it senses a change from our normal patterns. It also is networked so we can control the temp from our iPhones, iPad, or computer from anywhere in the world (let’s be honest – this is only used in the car or in bed when we forgot to turn it off).

The control screen on my iPhone.

We’ve only had it for a few days, but we’re really loving it. The only problem I see is that it is reminding me how ugly and unfinished our dining room really is. I think this might be the motivation I needed to finally finish the dining room. Finally!