I can vividly remember way back to our first few days in this house, when we installed our new washer and dryer. Jason’s parents were here helping us unpack, and I decided to wash a load of linens that had gotten dirty in the move. It was the maiden voyage of our new washer, and I was excited to try it out. I started the load, and my mother-in-law and I stood in front of the washer, watching it to make sure it worked. When we were satisfied that it wasn’t about to explode or flood the basement, we went back upstairs to continue unpacking.
A little while later I decided to go check on it again, just to make absolutely sure. Imagine my horror when I saw a fresh trail of water trickling from the laundry sink to the floor drain a few feet away. “Uhh, hey guys? Something’s leaking…” Everyone came running, and after a few minutes of frantic searching, we determined that it was probably that the hose from the washer (which wasn’t secured to the sink) had moved and accidentally dumped its water outside of the sink and onto the floor. I was skeptical but I wanted to believe this, since it meant that nothing was broken, so we secured the hose to the sink more securely and continued on our merry way.
Fast-forward another week or so. Jason and I are in the garage getting into his car to go somewhere, and we notice a big pile of ice on the ground around the PVC pipe that comes down from our kitchen sink into our garage, on an exterior wall of the house. The pipe had frozen and one of the joints had burst. We called our home warranty and they sent a plumber out to take care of it. Somehow that frozen pipe was connected through the wall to the laundry sink, so he ended up looking at the pipes around our laundry sink as well.
“You know your laundry sink has a giant crack in it, right?”
Um…no. No, we did not know that.
So that’s why there was water on the floor that first time we used the washer. How had none of us, including our home inspector, noticed the crack? We found that it was cracked in such a way that, when standing at the sink, the crack was angled back towards you, so it just looked like a thin scratch running across the inside of the sink. The only way to see it would be to stand behind the sink (which is physically impossible due to the wall), or get under the sink, which none of us thought to do, except for this plumber who needed to get under it for something else.
The plumber quoted us an extra $300 to install a new laundry sink, an expense that would not be covered by our home warranty because the sink wasn’t considered part of the structure. This all happened the day after I lost my job, so that extra $300 price tag was hard to swallow. Plus, $300 seemed pretty outrageous anyway. Jason looked up the cost of laundry sinks and found that they ran about $40 at the hardware store, so we decided that we’d have the plumber just replace the burst pipe (which was covered by the warranty) and we’d install the new laundry sink ourselves. For the time being we stuck a bucket under it and said we’d get to it later.
Well, “later” for us apparently means “a year later”, because we just got around to installing this new sink last week. The leak wasn’t profuse and it wasn’t like it was wasting water (the water leaking out was used water that would have been going down the drain anyway, not fresh water coming directly from a supply line), so periodically we emptied the bucket and that was that. But a couple weeks ago we were at our local salvage yard, Construction Junction, and saw a pile of laundry sinks there for $25 bucks apiece. Knowing that they cost $40 at the hardware store, and seeing that these salvaged ones were in basically new condition, we scooped one up, feeling good about our money saving prowess.
That is, until we got home and Jason started to disassemble the old sink. We had planned on reusing the old sink’s legs, drain, and faucet, but he quickly found that two out of three of those would be impossible; the faucet was the only part we’d be able to reuse. The old sink didn’t actually have a drain; it had threads molded right on the bottom of it, which the drainpipe threaded directly onto. The new sink just had a hole, which required a separate drain piece to attach to the pipe.
The old sink’s molded drain, plus evidence of the crack.
The old sink’s legs were a) cemented to the floor via little cement feet, and b) attached to the underside of the sink differently than our new sink would allow. Jason had to chisel the feet off the floor, and to reuse the legs we would have had to jerry-rig some way to attach them to both the new sink and to the floor again. That didn’t sound very secure, so we figured we’d go pick up some new legs and a new drain fixture at the hardware store, easy peasy. Except, did you know that they don’t sell laundry sink legs separate from the actual sinks? Yeah, we didn’t either, until it was too late. Seems kind of stupid, doesn’t it? But no way were we giving up and buying a new $40 laundry sink kit after all this.
So we improvised. Rather than try and retrofit the old legs onto the new sink, Jason built a base out of scrap 2x4s we had laying around. He made all of the cuts, dry-fit everything, then disassembled it and primed, painted, and poly’d all faces, including the cut ends. When using wood around a space that might get wet, it’s important to make sure that all edges of the wood are sealed, even the edges that you won’t see on the finished product.
The paint we used was a leftover sample pot from when Jason painted his office, in a semi-gloss finish (all of Valspar’s test pots are semi-gloss; a pain if you eventually plan on painting your walls something less glossy, which we always do, but worked out perfectly for a project like this). Semi-gloss or high gloss are good for use around water, because water tends to bead up on the hard, shiny surface. To finish, he used 2 coats of high gloss wipe-on poly left over from the end table project. The result is a shiny, durable, water resistant finish that should withstand any issues in the case of future sink leaks. (Let’s hope we don’t have any of those, though.)
After reattaching the old faucets and hooking up the new drain and drainpipe, he slid the wooden base into place and voila: a finished, brand-new (to us) laundry sink. And if I do say so myself, those 2×4 legs look much nicer than the standard metal ones. The legs actually aren’t attached to the sink; they just provide support for the weight. The sink is held in place by the drain and the faucet. This is something we’re testing out temporarily; so far, so good, everything is sturdy and seems like it will stay put, but if it becomes an issue then we’ll have to devise some way to actually attach the legs to the base.
We put the bucket (which, yes, is a Nascar-themed bucket, inherited from the previous tenants of our last apartment) back underneath the sink just in case something went wrong with installation and there were still leaks, and it’s lucky we did, because the first attempt at drain installation didn’t go so well. To install a drain you make a “worm” out of plumber’s putty (just like you did with Play-Doh as a kid) and press it around the drain opening before inserting the drain, which creates a watertight seal. The first putty ring Jason made didn’t quite work out, and so when he ran water to test the drain, it all leaked out because the putty wasn’t creating a full seal. He was able to take it out and put a new putty ring in and try again, and this time it worked perfectly. The bucket is still there because…well, we just haven’t done anything else with it yet. But after doing many loads of laundry this weekend (because we couldn’t use the washer while the sink was disassembled all last week, so we’ve been playing catch-up), I can assure you that the new sink is in full working order.
The total for the sink + drain came in at $35, and we had all the other supplies on hand, so I guess we only saved $5 over buying a new sink kit. It probably also would have been less of a headache to just buy a new sink with all the necessary parts, had we realized the detail about the drain beforehand, but it is what it is. $5 isn’t much to write home about, but it’s still $5. Now we can get an extra footlong at Subway or something. Party!(?)
Where we last left off, the table was fully sanded and ready for stain. Except that after I posted that, I realized I had forgotten to sand some of the inside edges of the cutout details. The finish on these areas was very well adhered, and the pressure from my squishy finger behind the sandpaper just wasn’t cutting it. I needed something hard to press the sandpaper with if I was going to get the old finish off anytime soon, so I improvised and used a 1/2″ dowel. Holding the sandpaper wrapped around the dowel was a pain, but it was the only thing that worked to remove the old finish from those tight areas.
For the final step in sanding, I wet sanded the whole thing with 400 grit sandpaper. Wetting the wood opens and raises the grain, and sanding while wet knocks down that raised grain. When the wood dries again, the grain closes back up, and you’re left with a super-smooth, super-solid finish — much smoother and more solid than you could get with dry sanding alone.
Once the prep sanding was truly done, I had a lot of dust to clean up. I vacuumed up what I could with the Shop Vac, and then used paper towels to wipe down the table. I absolutely despise tack cloth for some reason, so I try to avoid using it at all costs. First I used dry paper towels to remove most of the dust. Then I used wet paper towels to thoroughly wipe the remaining dust off. This caused some of the remaining dust to get gummy and turn into little “rolls” (you know when you have glue on your hands and you rub them together, and get little gummy “rolls” of glue that rub off? It was like that), so once I finished with one final wipe-down with dry paper towels to knock off all the little rolls. With that, the table was ready for stain — for real this time.
I wanted something medium-toned, and with a little bit of reddish tone to it. I picked up a couple small cans of stain and tested them on the underside of the tabletop. I ended up liking the English Chestnut best — it was the darker of the two, but had the exact red tone that I wanted. In order to keep it from getting too dark, I worked very quickly and didn’t allow the stain to sit on the wood for more than a few seconds before wiping it off. Truth be told, it still came out a smidge darker than I would have liked, but at this point I wasn’t about to sand it all again and go back to square one. You can also see below that I kept some of the scratches and imperfections in the wood, rather than sand them out — I liked the character they added.
After letting the stain dry for 24 hours, it was time for the first coat of poly. But of course, before that, I had to sand it again. I did a quick wet sanding of the whole thing, and then wiped the dust away using my same dry-wet-dry paper towel method. The polyurethane we used was Minwax Wipe-On Poly in High Gloss. I had never used wipe-on poly before, but I’ve been a bit disappointed with the brush-on poly we’ve used in projects past, so I figured I’d give it a try. To apply it, you simply dump some onto a plain white cloth (we used an old t-shirt), and rub it onto your workpiece. No worrying about brush strokes, and it goes on so much more smoothly than the brush-on kind. We are definitely wipe-on poly converts.
The next several days were a seemingly never-ending cycle of poly –> wait for it to dry –> sand –> remove all dust –> poly again. Repeat forever. I think between the two of us we did about 7 or 8 coats. We wanted a very thick, hard, durable finish on this table, so we continued adding more coats until we were satisfied with how it felt. This was the point at which the project stalled, because the last thing either of us wanted to was sand that damn table again.
Between the first couple of coats, we used 400 grit sandpaper. Between the middle few coats, we used #0000 steel wool. This was a giant pain because it left sparkly silver dust everywhere, which is somehow even more annoying to clean up than regular sanding dust. The steel wool also scratched a surprising amount of the previous layer of poly off, which is not what you want at that point in the polying game — you’re really just looking to knock down bubbles and other high spots. For the last few coats, we used fine sanding sponges — they’re designed to do exactly what the steel wool wouldn’t, and they worked pretty well, but required a bit more muscle than I would have liked. We used the grey one for two coats, and the white one once, after the final coat.
After giving the final coat of poly ample time to dry (at least 24 hours), it was time to return the table to its rightful spot, so that I could once again have somewhere to put my drinks (since this table lives at “my” end of the couch).
Gratuitous cat photo bomb. Grizabella approves of our hard work.
We are totally in love with it! Despite it being rather labor-intensive, it was 100% worth the work required to bring this cruddy, dingy old end table back to life. For $10 and a little elbow grease, we now have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of solid wood furniture. My favorite part is the wood grain on the top — based on my (relatively limited) knowledge of wood types and a quick Google search, I believe the top is quarter-sawn maple. Whatever it is, that beautiful grain would never have shown through the dark, dull finish that was on the table before. The hand-rubbed effect of the wipe-on poly is the perfect finishing touch.
As a reminder, here’s where we started:
Quite an improvement, don’t you think?
Hey friends. Remember me? The person who used to write here? I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last wrote something. I was feeling a little burned out on blogging, so I took a step back and stopped altogether. But I’m ready to come back now. We’ve got a lot of exciting stuff planned for 2014, and I’m already excited to share it with you all! You know, all two of you who read here.
When the clock struck midnight into 2014, nearly everyone I know seems to have been bitten by the Purging Bug — myself included. In a Facebook group I’m part of, there was a thread about goals for the new year, and it seems like almost everyone posted some form of “purge my belongings” or “get rid of clothes I don’t wear anymore” or “donate all my old stuff” or something similar. There’s definitely something in the water. Have you felt it too?
I’m certainly not immune. Lately I’ve been feeling weighed down by all of our stuff — junk we’ve been carting around with us from apartment to apartment for the past number of years, hand-me-downs and thrifted items and clothes that don’t fit, boxes of receipts for junk we bought years ago, and generally things we just don’t use or need anymore. My goal for 2014 is to purge all of our unwanted stuff and to have a house full of only the things we want, need, use, or cherish. And the stuff we do keep is going to be organized to within an inch of its life. I cannot stand clutter and disorganization, but our house right now is full of it. Even if it’s behind closed doors it still bothers me — it’s like I can hear the mess taunting me from inside the closet. You know I’m here, Kelsey. Clean me. Clean meeeee.
My urge to purge doesn’t stop at our physical stuff though. I’m getting rid of all the mental stuff that’s dragging me down — paring down my Facebook friends list, un-publishing old blog posts that I was embarrassed by, uninstalling Google Analytics because focusing on my blog’s “numbers” stresses me out, and who needs that? Life is too short to carry around baggage that’s making you unhappy. Get rid of it.
Jason is getting on board with my purge-itis too — his office is chock-full of stuff from his childhood bedroom, which he emptied out because his parents are turning it into a guest room with some new furniture they got. Except instead of sorting through it all at their house, he brought the lot of it to our house, and it’s all crammed into his office now. He’s been slowly working through boxes upon boxes of old schoolwork, cards, mementos, and various junk. Maybe by 2015 his office will be clean enough that I can actually share a picture of it.
So anyway, that’s what we’ve been up to the past few weeks. I’ll be sharing the results of refinishing that end table very soon, just have to take some “after” pictures.
Jason and I have a bit of a problem with clutter control, especially in the form of paperwork and mail. Bills, magazines, store coupons, pamphlets, receipts for items we may be returning, and who knows what else tend to pile up in various spots around our house. And they drive. me. CRAZY. They tend to mostly accumulate on the family room floor, and I’ve been looking for a good way to corral the mess for a while now.
The papers we pile up are mostly things that need to be taken care of “soon” but not immediately. Bills due at the end of the month, magazines we can read at our leisure, coupons we can grab next time we head out to that particular store, and so on. If they’re things that need to be taken care of immediately we take care of them, and if they’re things that need to be filed for record keeping, we have a permanent safe spot for those as well. It’s those in-betweeners that get us. We needed a good temporary solution for them, beyond being stacked in the way in our living areas — something to keep them accessible when we want them, but out of the way in the meantime.
Enter the magazine end table. Built with a V-shaped caddy in the middle of the legs, these are meant to hold — can you guess? — magazines. But I thought, wouldn’t this be the perfect solution to our paper pile problem? We could deposit the “deal-with-this-soon-but-not-right-now” papers into the caddy, and they’d be out of our way for the time being, but close enough to subconsciously nag us and not let us forget about them. (Gotta pay those bills on time.) We also were in need of a new end table in the family room, so this solution seemed perfect.
The only problem? It seemed really difficult to find a magazine table that didn’t look extremely dated, extremely weird, or wasn’t extremely expensive. Call me a cheapskate, but I don’t like to spend exorbitant amounts of money on furniture, especially something small like an end table. I kept my eyes peeled for a good option, but for months I found nothing. I had almost given up my search when one day on my lunch break at work, I went to the thrift store down the street on a whim. It must have been fate, because there I found a solid wood, perfect height, simple but beautiful magazine table for just $10. Its finish was quite damaged, but the table itself was sturdy and in good shape. With no hesitation I bought it, and drove by after work to pick it up.
It’s been sitting in our family room, in use as an ugly, sad-looking end table, for a month or so, waiting for us to have time to refinish it. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I finally found the time to tackle this project, and I found myself with a new tool in my arsenal to boot.
To remove the old finish, I decided to sand it instead of using some kind of chemical stripper, primarily because it’s winter here now and there’s snow on the ground (we were dreaming of a white Thanksgiving this year, apparently), so I wouldn’t be able to use the stripper in a well-ventilated area. To begin the project, I sanded the flat top with 80 grit sandpaper…by hand. It took me a good 40 minutes, and my wrists were absolutely exhausted, before I admitted defeat. I was also completely covered in nasty wood/varnish dust, as was the surrounding area in the basement. I went back upstairs and informed Jason that we needed a random orbital sander, like, now.
I was half joking, but we spent a little time researching our options, and then found ourselves at the hardware store half an hour later. We didn’t need anything incredibly heavy duty, in fact, we didn’t have many specific requirements other than that it must have an option to hook up our shop vac for dust collection. After comparing our options in-store, we ended up with a Porter Cable version, on sale for under $50. After hooking everything up at home, I gave it a cautious first try. Let me tell you, I’m hooked. I don’t know how I’ve done this DIY thing for so long now without having a random orbital sander at my disposal.
The dust collection is nearly flawless. The only time I get any dust in the air is if I happen to pick one side up off the work piece for a second while readjusting, or if I’m hanging over an edge and thus not all the dust collection holes on the sanding disc are covered. If I have it flat and fully in contact with a surface (which is the case 99% of the time), there is not a single speck of dust that I could find that came free. I did still wear a dust mask as a precautionary measure against that other 1% of the time when there might be dust. The other thing I really like about it is that the power switch is covered in rubber, which keeps dust out of the mechanism, thus prolonging the life of the switch.
My only complaint is that I wish it had a second option for holding. Some of the higher end models come with a side handle in addition to the flat palm area on top, and I find myself wishing ours had that because I end up with “claw hand” after a while of gripping this.
Anyway. I was able to thoroughly sand all of the flat surfaces with incredible ease. I’d say it took me about thirty minutes or so to sand all of the flat surfaces, with a couple breaks in between to let the shop vac cool down and/or give my cramping hand a rest. I ended up sanding away not only the varnish, but the old stain as well, taking it back to the bare original wood. I didn’t have any plans in mind for keeping or getting rid of the old stain, I just figured I’d see how easily it came up with sanding. Turns out, very easily, so I’ll be staining this again as well as adding new poly.
With the flat parts sanded, it was time to do the curved sides, detailed edges, and corners where the sander couldn’t reach. And of course, this part I had to do by hand. Already so spoiled by our new power sander, I hated hand sanding even more than I usually do. It took another couple of hours to sand these final small parts by hand, and I was left with sore shoulders and an aching back.
So here she sits, fully naked, ready for the next step. With the hardest part of removing the old finish out of the way, all that’s left to do is the much easier “finish” sanding with gradually finer grits of sandpaper, before it’s time to stain and poly the table back to life.
Do you have a preferred random orbital sander? What do you like about it? Have you ever gotten a new tool and immediately wondered how you had lived without it before?