Archive for month: March, 2015

Going to the Dogs

Going to the Dogs

Shhhhh, don’t spoil the surprise! Prancer, my parents’ precious Pomeranian, will soon receive a new, albeit re-purposed, grand four-poster bed. Not just any old store-bought bed will do. She’ll be gifted with a unique creation, hand-crafted from once fine furniture. While Prancer the Pom does not seem to appreciate recycling, reusing, or repurposing, I do. This project will divert good stuff from our local landfills whether Prancer approves or not. On a side note, that’s not jealousy that you read in my words when referring to my fluff ball sister. I’ve long known my place in our family: just below “Miss P” and just ahead of my sister’s parakeets.

As you may suspect, I have ulterior motives for taking on this project. I’m using Prancer’s bed to kick off a new column about RE-DIY projects for the Sunday Gazette-Mail. We have many great projects and project engineers lined up for the months ahead, but just to show the readers how doable these projects actually are, I’ll build the first project myself.

I’m going to follow the three regulations we’ve set for each RE-DIY. 1. Projects can only require the use of hand tools and an electric drill. We’re applying the same rational as Habitat for Humanity by not allowing volunteers to use nail guns when building homes. Power tools + inexperience = blood! 2. The process should be the fun! Being open to inspiration and daydreaming about the end result is therapeutic. And completing a unique project of one’s own design is worthy of celebration.  3. The materials should be readily available at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, other charitable thrift stores, and local business establishments. Why? Because buying (and re-buying) local is cool!

So here are the steps you’ll need to follow to create your own fabulous spoiled doggy bed.

  • Observe the Canis lupus familiaris in his natural environment to determine the appropriate size bed. Watch how he sleeps. Does he stretch out or curl into a tight ball? I recommend a coffee table for the stretchers and a round end table for the curlers. Take measurements of the pups in repose to guarantee a snug but comfortable fit.
  • Find the perfect table. Use one you have or pick one up at the Habitat ReStore, Goodwill, or Mountain Mission.  You are looking for a table made of real wood or wood veneer that when flipped upside down creates a base to frame a small mattress.

ReStore Tip: Identify your surface. Real wood will display a grain and have a consistent look and          texture throughout. Wood veneer is a thin layer of real wood (usually thinner than 1/8”) that is bonded to a less expensive core (cheap wood or particle board). Laminate is a man-made product (usually plastic) that is actually “printed” to look like real wood. While it is possible to paint laminate, it requires a few extra steps.

  • Don’t forget to take a “before” photo of your soon-to-be canine creation!
  • Choose a fun color combination and purchase your paint. I suggest latex enamel in semi-gloss. Latex paint is water-based and non-hazardous. Latex enamel dries much harder than regular latex, and the semi-gloss sheen is easy to clean.

ReStore Tip: Pick Your Palate. If you are struggling to identify your color scheme, look around for inspiration. Make like a chameleon and mimic your favorite flower. Cruise Sneed’s in North Charleston and let a patterned piece of cloth be your guide. Use your lack of creativity as an excuse to attend the Capital City Arts & Craft Show at the Civic Center this week and let the work of other local crafters fill you will ideas. Meditate in front of the paint swatches at Zeegar Hardware until your inner voice tells you how to proceed. Get out there, be open to inspiration, and just like your furry friend, it will lick you in the face.

  • Remove the hardware and feet from your table to protect them from damage and paint. Paint them a different color if you like, using spray paint made especially for metal.
  • Sand your wooden piece of furniture. The goal is to remove any protective varnish or lacquer, making it easier for the primer coat to adhere.

ReStore Tip: Know Your Grit. The labeling of sandpaper seems a bit counterintuitive to me, but Rich from Zegeer Hardware on Washington Street East helped me understand: The bigger the number, the smoother the paper. Here’s a quick guide for beginners. #320 – #220 is fine grit, as refined as “Lady” of the Disney Classic “Lady and the Tramp.” #120 – #80 is medium grit, more like Lady’s companion, the “Tramp.” Yes, it’s gritty, but a softy at heart. #60 – #36 is very coarse grit. Think “Cugo.” It will rip and peel with little regard for damage or injury. Attack your seriously damaged sanding jobs with the lower grits working your way up to the finer grit. Roughen glossy paint and/or finishes with the higher grits (#120) to help new coats of paint or primer attach to the surface. 

  • Clean your smooth table with a damp rag dipped in a mixture of water and a mild detergent. Don’t use Murphy’s Oil Soap! It is intended for cleaning finished wood surfaces and it will leave a bit of an oily residue behind. I used Dawn dish soap. Let your table dry completely before proceeding.
  • It’s easy to justify skipping this next step, but I think it is important. Priming your table creates a surface that will be very receptive to paint, creating a longer-lasting finish. It may be easier to use spray primer on tables with lots of curves. Kilz (a brand readily available at most hardware stores) makes good spray-on and paint-on primers. Let your table dry completely before proceeding.
  • Paint your primary colors first, followed by secondary and accent colors. Use painter’s tape to protect from over-paint or to create any sassy designs.
  • Let your table dry for at least 24 hours (more is better if it’s a typical humid West Virginia day). Take this time to work on your pooch’s mattress.
  • Measure the space available for your mattress (actually a pillow) and start shopping or sewing an insert. I highly recommend pillows with removable cases for easy cleaning. Watch your pup, considering all factors before choosing a mattress. Older dogs may be more comfy on memory foam pillows, while younger dogs may like to nest in multiple pillows. When I’m looking for inexpensive pillow, Gabriel Brothers is my first stop.
  • Spray or paint a water-based polyurethane finish on all surfaces of the bed after the paint is completely dry. Water based paints and polys are easier to clean-up, low odor, and, unlike oil-based paints and polys, are not considered to be hazardous. Let your table dry completely before applying a second coat of polyurethane. It’s easy and fun to break up the multiple priming, painting, and polying steps into week-night tasks. Each step only consumes an hour or less of your evening and it preps your project for the weekend when you can spend more time being creative.
  • Re-attach the hardware and feet. If your pup appreciates pizazz, add a little bling to his bed! Perhaps a canopy, fringe as a bed skirt, or finials on the posters. I screwed a dowel rod into the table shelf to create a canopy, draped a little fabric over it, and hot-glued the cloth down around the edges. The finishing touch can in the form of drawer knobs from the ReStore. They made perfect finials!
  • Run a few strips of carpet tape across the bottom of the bed (top of the table) to protect hardwood floors and to prevent the bed from sliding on carpet.
  • Train that pup to use his new bed!

ReStore Tip: Training. According to Colleen Lemasters, Kanawha Obedience Training Club instructor, the best way to get your bestie to use his new bed is through verbal affirmation and treats. Shower poochie with love and attention while he’s in his bed and hide treats in it while he’s not looking as a delayed reward. Colleen also says, “Dogs have powerful olfactory receptors which are active during even their deepest phases of sleep, so smelling something familiar will keep them at ease.” Put some of your belongings, such as a sock or T-shirt into the new bed. If you have a particularly nervous pup, dab his pillow with a little lavender essential oil.

Upon presenting your creation, accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. Email me pictures of your project, preferably with your furry friend, and we’ll feature your photos ReStore Facebook page to celebrate your success! Good luck!

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Celebrating Sir Thomas Crapper at ReStore

Celebrating Sir Thomas Crapper at ReStore

Let’s party like it’s 1899! Sir Thomas Crapper Day is right around the corner, and I don’t know about you, but I believe sophisticated indoor plumbing is worth celebrating.  January 27 is the day we honor the British bloke who revolutionized modern plumbing. As our loyal customers know, we always celebrate Thomas Crapper Day at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore with a one-day sale in the plumbing department. Should you decide to partake in this month’s DIY project, mark your calendar and stop by to load up on the supplies you’ll need to build your own vanity.

Don’t worry. It’s not as hard as it sounds. And the best part is you’ll be able to customize to your heart’s content (an option not available when purchasing traditional bathroom vanity). Need a non-traditional fixture size, to accommodate an extra-tight or extra-large space? No problem. This project is also perfect for reusing and repurposing of furniture, which can save money, AND help you create a truly unique style. Here’s the icing on the cake: Only basic pluming skills are required to install a sink, so if you attend our next Habitat for Humanity homeownership class on plumbing, you can save some serious money.

Follow these instructions for any sink/furniture combination, just know that we decided to get very sassy and create our vanity from an armoire. Traditionally chests, hutches, or even sideboards are used.

  1. Choose your base/furniture first. Measure the space you have available in your bathroom in order to find an appropriately sized piece. After you procure the base, you can determine the sink size you will need.

ReStore Tip: Your space will dictate your vanity width, but you can choose your vanity height. Traditionally, 32 inches is the go-to for bathroom vanities. But, if you (like me), are constantly asked if you played basketball in high school, do yourself a favor and go for a taller vanity (36”). More water will actually end up on your face than on the floor when washing up before bed, and you’ll no longer suffer the humiliating accusations of incontinence because of that unfortunate wet spot from the edge of the vanity.

  1. Choose your sink. You may opt for the traditional drop-in sink, but we chose a vessel sink for its sleek, modern look. Vessel sinks sit on top of the counter. Keep three things in mind if using a vessel sink: the sink will add significant height to the project; faucets for vessels sinks tend to be more expensive; and more holes must be cut in the countertop to accommodate the hardware separate from the sink.
  2. Determine the placement of the sink on your chosen base (most people opt for the center).Trace the outline of the sink onto the top of the vanity, making sure to leave a few inches from the back so that the faucet is not crowed. Use a drill to make the initial hole then use a jig saw to cut the rest of the hole 1/2 inch inside the line.
  3. Measure the height of the existing plumbing coming out of your bathroom wall. Transfer this measurement to the back of your chosen dresser or cabinet. Think ahead: If you need to adjust the length of furniture legs or feet, make sure you do that before cutting out the holes. Use a drill then a jig saw to cut the holes.

ReStore Tip: If you are not handy with the ol’jig saw, just remove the entire back of the cabinet using a screwdriver and a hammer. No one will ever see it, and your plumbing job will be MUCH easier!

  1. If your base has drawers in the area of the future plumbing, you will need to separate the drawer from the drawer face to make room for the plumbing. Permanently affix the drawer face to the base using a few small screws or finish nails.
  2. Apply an enamel spray paint to the base. Enamel will help protect the wood from the humidity in the bathroom. If you are leaving the existing finish on the dresser, you can apply a coat of polyurethane.
  3. Install the countertop. Your sink should not sit directly on the top of your base, assuming it is wood. The only exception to this rule is for vanities in seldom used powder rooms that have very low exposure to humidity and splashing water. You have several options for countertops: buy in-stock from big box stores or the ReStore and cut to size yourself; special order exact size tops from kitchen stores or natural stone shops such as Bailes on Charleston’s West Side; or tile the top (a fun and easy side project for another article).
  4. Install the faucet into the sink before mounting the sink into the vanity. Tighten new supply lines to the faucet. If using a vessel sink, you will install the faucet to the countertop.
  5. Run a bead of silicone caulk around the sink cut-out and drop the sink into the hole. The caulk will seal against leaks and keep the sink in place. Hook the drain lines and water lines to your bathroom’s plumbing. Or, pick up the phone at this point and schedule an appointment with Mr. Handyman of Kanawha Valley.

We added a few very special touches to our project: installing a lighted mirror, adding side shelves and adding jewelry holders to the doors. By “we,” I mean ReStore volunteer extraordinaire, Geoff Bourne of St. Albans.  Geoff found all the items we used at the ReStore (armoire, sink, lighted mirror, faucet) and the total cost was $775. Because Geoff installed the fixtures, we are selling it for $850.  A more traditional project (dresser, sink and faucet) with fewer bells and whistles would cost you around $230 to build.

As loyal ReStore customers know, when in search of a particular item, you must visit the ReStore often. We receive truckloads of new donations every day, and our merchandise turns over very quickly. Geoff and I had a hard time finding the right sink for our project, but thanks to a very generous donation from our neighbor on Spring Street (Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery), we were able to complete our project on time for Sir Thomas Crapper Day!

Piano to Piano Bar

Piano to Piano Bar

Tom Lehrer, American singer-songwriter of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s is credited with many of the catchy little ditties on one of my favorite TV shows as a child, The Electric Company. His song “Silent E” was a smash hit on the spelling bee circuit. Mr. Lehrer once said, “Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.”  We receive many generous donations of pianos at the ReStore, but since I can’t play, I turned ours into a bar, and in Lehrer’s honor, I turned a win into wine!

One thing to think about when taking on a piano bar project is the weight: Pianos weigh several hundred pounds and aren’t easily moved. This is the very reason we accept dropped off pianos at the ReStore, but will not pick up pianos from donor’s homes. One way you can lighten the load of your project is to spend the time and energy to remove the heavy cast-iron harp and all of the associated hardware. Be warned, this will take a lot of time (to remove the dozens of bolts, screws and tuning pegs), proper tools, and two or three strong friends to help extract the harp once it is free. IT IS VERY HEAVY. You may lose friends or fingers or friend’s fingers.

For our project, we decided to leave the harp in place because we liked the way it looked after we removed the upper panel, and we only had to roll it into place, not lift it. Leaving the harp in place meant that the storage area wasn’t as deep as we originally planned, but we were able to come up with a different layout that worked just fine.

The design you create will be dependent on how your piano is built. Think of the project like a sculptor – who is said to see the finished piece in the stone before he begins and then simply removes all of the stone that isn’t part of the finished sculpture. Your piano bar project is like that: Look at the construction of the piano and determine how you can best fit a bar into it.

  • Since the keys of our piano were in pretty good shape, we decided to keep them as a visual element by covering the keyboard with plexiglass we had cut-to-size at Pile Hardware on Charleston’s West Side (real glass would be much classier, but the plexiglass was only $10). We dropped a few decorative screws on the side of the plexiglass to secure it.
  • The key cover serves as a work surface for pouring and mixing. Since the ebony keys provide some of the support for the plexiglass, we had to devise a way to keep the keys stationary. A simple solution was to screw a strip of wood over the rear of the key arms, inside the piano and out of sight once reassembled.

ReStore Tip – Contact cement is the right stuff for repairing/replacing ivories: Place a thin coat on the key, and another to the back of the ivory veneer. Wait until the cement is dry and tacky, then carefully line up the ivory and press it onto the key. If your ivories need cleaning, try a Magic Eraser.

  • Next, we carefully removed the upper panel to reuse later.
  • Our design included a hanging rack for stemware to be installed inside behind the upper panel in the heart of the piano. We used readily available under-the-cabinet wire glassware hangers and screwed them to the underside of the piano top lid.
  • To accommodate the length of the hanging glasses, we chose to remove the hammers (the part of the piano mechanism that strikes the strings when the keys are depressed) from center section by cutting the wooden dowels to which the hammers were attached. This was easily accomplished with a sharp pair of snips, making sure that the jagged cut ends would be hidden behind the hammer rail.
  • We repurposed the upper panel as a shelf on the back side of the piano to give us even more horizontal space for setting bottles and drink glasses. We reused the original piano hinge from the keyboard cover and attached the shelf so it would fold down so the piano could be sat close to a wall when not being used. We used a couple of door hinges and shelf brackets from the ReStore to create swing-out supports for the shelf.
  • To add a bit of pizazz, we installed 12×12 mirrored tiles above the shelf using liquid nails made for mirrors.
  • To allow for additional bottle storage, we bought two accordion-style wine racks and attached them under the keyboard with screws and metal strapping meant for electrical conduit.
  • A final touch was to attach a couple battery-powered LED “puck lights” inside the cabinet. These lights are inexpensive and adhere with double side tape so you can use them in places where electrical cords need not go.

The entire project cost $140: $50 ReStore piano, $60 for bottle and glass racks, $10 for cut-to-order plexiglass, $10 set of mirrors, and $10 for supplies (hinges, caulk, etc.). The darn thing is so heavy we plan to keep in around for a while. In fact, in anticipation of a donor reception we have planned for our Taste of Muriale’s event on February 11, we stocked our piano bar with Italian reds and a few spumantes. We are planning a little apertivo for a few of the local folks that sponsored this Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. Just think; Instead of gathering dust, your piano can be a gathering place for your friends to share many happy hours.

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Saving Furry Friends

Saving Furry Friends

Lindsay Cummings is not just a ReStore shopper, she is a ReStore celebrity! In 2011, as the first winner of our annual ReDesign by ReStore contest, Lindsay painted and reupholstered an old $5 chair that she found in the ReStore, transforming it into a beautiful contemporary masterpiece. The Habitat for Humanity Marketing Committee loved it and awarded her a two minute Supermarket Sweep style shopping spree in the ReStore. Lindsay was the first person to run through the store like a beheaded chicken grappling gratis gutters, fighting free furniture, and clutching complimentary cabinets. This is now a tradition we look forward to every fall. ReStore customers send us pictures of their recycled, reused and repurposed projects and we celebrate our creative community.

I approached Lindsay about working on a DIY article for the ReStore and she happily agreed to help. We discussed several options for good projects, but they all seemed a bit overdone on Pinterest Boards. We both loved the popular idea of turning an entertainment stand (an item often donated to the ReStore) into a play kitchen, but Lindsay wanted something more unique.

One evening while contemplating the project, Lindsay watched her youngest daughter, Auggie, lovingly care for her “patients.” Her little fluffy stuffed animals were getting top-notch medical care for the injuries they had sustained during play time. Peacocks were having their necks cast, bandages were going on frog heads, and bunny rabbits with injured ears were being gently sutured (strangely, no chickens showed up with minor decapitation issues). Like a blow to the head, Lindsay had her idea. She was going to turn a used entertainment stand into a veterinarian hospital.

Here’s how you can do it too!

  1. Find a used entertainment stand at the ReStore that fits your size requirements (or use the one in your basement) and envision a design. Lindsay says, “Preferably not the 600 pound behemoth I choose.”
  2. Remove all unwanted shelves and doors.
  3. If your entertainment stand is wood, get busy sanding. If your stand is laminate, skip the sanding and go straight to the priming.
  4. It is important to prime your piece to make sure your paint adheres properly. If your child is anything like little “Augzilla,” you’re going to need a strong bond. Lindsay used foam rollers because they were easy, cheap and provided great coverage.
  5. As a special touch, Lindsay created an examination table that appeared to be made of stainless steel. She was trapped indoors and couldn’t use spray paint. Contact paper had bubbles and didn’t stick effectively. She finally settled on silver craft paint. It took an entire day to dry, and the painter’s tape protecting the edges had to be cut away, but it provided a great finish that cleans up easily.
  6. After all the painting was done and dry, Lindsay used a wax sealant. You could also use polyurethane.
  7. Lindsay used a grate from a toaster oven she found at the ReStore to create a kennel, but grills, pet cages and Closetmaid shelving works fine too. Secure the grate with hinges on the left and a hasp on the right.
  8. Add a few necessary amenities like hooks for the doctor’s coats, secured containers for tools and supplies, and clips for viewing x-rays. Lindsay found all these extras at the dollar store and the cute lil’ lab coat on Amazon.
  9. Last by not least, name your animal clinic and give it a decorative plaque. The street name of Lindsay’s home created a nice pun for her “Fir Street Animal Clinic.”

Lindsay is quick to point out that this project can be transformed into almost anything that compliments your family’s interests: a science lab, doctor’s office, blacksmith’s shop. Your kid’s imagination is the limit. “My kids inspire me every day to see beyond the surface and I’m so glad they do,” says Lindsay. Combining Lindsay’s DIY hobby with her kid’s interests provided a winter of entertainment for the whole family.

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