Shelving in my built-in closet

Of all my projects, this might be one of the more mundane, but it was a game changer for me.  Let me set up the scene.

When I moved into my house, the built-in closet doors did not shut and even if the doors weren’t too big for the openings, both of the cabinet latches on them were broken.  So, to keep the doors closed, I would push them in until they wedged themselves shut.  Not to mention that this weirdly-sized closet didn’t really provide good storage.  Two rods ran the width (not the length, like a normal closet) and that was all.  It wasn’t ideal, and I lived with it like that for over a year and a half before one day I woke up and decided to do something about it.

If you look at this picture, you can hopefully see the painted-over cabinet latches (who does that?!) and the doors that don’t quite close.

So one weekend I added shelving.  I used the existing duct work as the distance for my first shelf and then put another shelf to make them fairly equal distance.  I cut the wood, primed it, and installed the shelving.

Then I painted, caulked, and then painted again.  Then I decided to use some MDF trim pieces to edge out the shelves (this makes the shelves look like they’re 2″ thick and minimizes the parts of the brackets you can see).

Then the next weekend I planed down the closet doors (on the hinges), then removed the doors, sanded down the rough spots, spackled holes, sanded the spackle, cleaned the hardware, primed bare spots, reinstalled the doors on their hinges, painted everything (including the backside of the doors), and then installed new cabinet latch hardware on the front.

For the first time since I moved in, this closet is actually functional (in both storage and operation).

It was much longer than I’m used to for my projects– usually a weekend is all it takes, but the difference blows me away.  It still looks pretty similar to what it did before (especially from the outside), but now I’ve gained a ton of useable space.  Now it’s hard to remember back to the wedged doors and wasted space.

Here’s a before and after:


Installing a new shower head and control.

I’ve slowly been upgrading the fixtures in my bathroom to brushed nickle.  I’m a sucker for brushed nickle.  And I’ll be honest, chrome holds water stains and fingerprints ALL the time– much to my annoyance.  So this weekend I decided to buy a new brushed nickle set and install them.

Here’s what I used:

  • A new shower arm
  • A new shower head (uses 30% less water!)
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Channel Locks (or an adjustable wrench)
  • Teflon tape
  • Clear caulk

Here’s what I did:

1. I turned off the water (safest is to turn off the water to the whole house, but there might also be water turn off valves near your water heater too). Then turn on the water to drain the pipes.

2. I removed the old shower head (counterclockwise) and let any excess water sitting in the shower arm drain out.

3. I used my channel locks to carefully unscrew the shower arm from the wall.

4. I threaded Teflon tape (CLOCKWISE!) around both ends of the shower arm.

5. I screwed the shower arm into the wall until it was tight– don’t unscrew it because it could mess up the teflon tape, only screw clockwise.

6. Then I screwed in the shower head.  Easy easy.  Then came the harder part.

7. I used a small flathead screwdriver to pop off the handle cover, then removed the screw holding the handle to the fixture.

8. Then I used the screwdriver to remove the two screws holding the control plate to the wall.

9.  I used a small flathead screwdriver to pop the control plate from the wall– if the caulk was still good, I might have needed to cut the caulk out around it first.

10. Then I followed the directions that came with my control set to install the new one.  The new plate, a metal control piece, and finally the new handle.  Just a couple screws in and I was done.

11. Use a clear caulk to caulk around the edges of the control system.  It should look something like this when you’re done.

12. Turn on your water and test your system.

I love that all my shower fixtures finally match (the shower door I had installed last summer is brushed nickle).

Things to note:

  • It is really important if you’re planning to switch out your control piece that you go with the same brand of fixture.  Mine was Moen.  I didn’t feel adventurous enough to start messing with the piping in the wall, nor was that necessary in changing the look of the fixtures.
  • Home Depot doesn’t sell the control sets separate, which I think is DUMB.  Lowes, on the other hand, does.  So, instead of buying a complete set from Home Depot for $150, I went to Lowes, bought individual pieces (that I liked better!) and only spent $90 for everything.

Have you replaced your shower set recently?  Did you attempt to switch brands and mess with the piping behind the wall?  I’d love to hear how it went!

New Door Hardware

(Original post from my Blogger; visit to view it.  And please also excuse my poor-quality iPhone pictures.)

I’ve been rushing through home-improvement projects for the last couple of months to get my house “ready” for relatives visiting at Christmas.  I’m not naturally gifted with hospitality, but I was excited to share my new house with family, so I rolled up my sleeves and started furiously working through my mental project list.

LOTS of painting, more spray painting, some installed shelves, lots of new furniture, hanging (and purchasing) wall art, caulking, more painting, and then finally finishing my doors and installing new hardware!

My house was built in 1920, and while many things have been updated since it was built (hooray for vinyl windows, AC, and the addition of a second bathroom!), the vintage doors remain.  I loved that they were painted white (along with the trim in the house), but the hardware was a bit of a mess.  At some point the owners decided that painting over the hardware would be the easiest route.  Layers of paint were encrusted over the screw heads on the door plates and mortise locks.  Boo.

I had my heart set on these vintage glass knobs.  The old ones were (presumably) brass knobs that had also been painted (most of them black).  Ick.  After taking off all the hardware on one of my doors to figure out how it worked, I purchased the glass knobs.

Here is a picture of the ugly painted hardware with my new glass knobs–just for kicks.

But I wasn’t about to leave the painted hardware as is.  Especially since the current door hardware didn’t really fit my new knobs.  So I purchased some new door hardware.  I don’t think it’s actually vintage (like the knobs), but it was created to look vintage, so I’m okay with it.
I then proceeded to take the hardware off of all of the doors.  This required chipping away the paint over the screws (with a screwdriver), prying the paint-covered brass hardware off the doors, and desperately trying to keep from seriously injuring myself in the process.  Although I did find some interesting objects that had been stuffed through the lock holes, including a piece of a Lite Bright (oh, childhood memories!)  Without knobs (but with the locks), my roommate and I did manage to lock ourselves in one of the rooms once.  Oops.  Thankfully only once.
Then I had to sand down the edges of approximately four coats of paint where the door hardware met the painted door.  Fun stuff.  Plus I got to fill a botched deadbolt addition to one of the doors.  What do they always say: Measure twice, cut once?  Someone should remind whoever decided to install the lock that cutting the hole through the door too big would leave gaping holes around the installed hardware.  Definitely had to go.  And sorry, it was too hideous to photograph.  So I spent an afternoon filling it with wood filler, and then another evening sanding it down.
Before (see the ugly black-painted knob & poorly installed deadbolt?):
Once the doors (there are six) were sanded (and appropriate wood filler/putty was put on them) I was finally able to repaint them.  One side at a time.  Thankfully the doors were only sans hardware for a week.  Then I stripped the paint off the exterior of the mortise locks. (Side note: paint/varnish stripper really hurts if it gets on your skin.  Be smarter than me, wear gloves if you use it!)
And finally, on Christmas Eve, I was able to install the new hardware, clean mortise locks, and new knobs.  Finally, operating doors!
Just in time to host my first family Christmas gathering yesterday.  Hooray!
And now I’m officially on a painting sabbatical.  I’m determined to just sit around and enjoy my house as it is before starting on my next project, at least for a little while.