Tuesday, May 15, 2007


chalkboards as countertops: sustainability

thanks to sara for my very first blog comment!

Sara asked if the chalkboards and the finish I chose have held up over time.

The finish lasted about 3 months. the guy at Home Depot recommended the $40 bottle, and whille I was reluctant to pay, I certainly didn't want to ruin my counters. That $40 would have been better spent on beer! After three months, the finish started coming up in frequently used areas. I spent the better part of an afternoon removing the finish and going a different route.

You ready for the new finish? It's olive oil.

That's right. Natural oil is the best finish for slate chalkboards. It's a bit more maintenance, but it's a better finish that doesn't peel off in small layers, it's just as stain and water repellent as the teflon finish, and it's super easy to maintain.

So if I had to rate the entire experience on a scale of 1 to 5 circular saws, I'd give:
*Home Depot's finish: 0 circular saws
*olive oil finish: 5 circular saws
*chalkboars as countertops: 4 circular saws. (only because I don't like cleaning.)

Thanks for posting sara!

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Monday, February 26, 2007


One of These Things is Not Like the Other

One of These Things is Not Like the Other
Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.
In my quest to make this place rentable as I leave Pittsburgh and pursue another job, I decided it would be best to remodel the bathroom a little bit. No, I'm not ridding of the pink, but that vanity had to go, and adding a second sink would surely make the place more useable for two people.

I scored a nice set off of eBay and drove to Ohio to pick it up. Then I headed to Home Depot to get the rest of the goods. Too bad the only double sink they had was cultured marble or pink corian.

Off to Lowe's, where the had everything I needed. 5 hours later, a few trips to H.D. for some odds and ends, and I was ready to finish the second faucet.

DAMMIT! Some rat bastard had removed the Kohler-brand stopper and drain with a no-name, non-compatible one. You know, I think I might have done something lke that myself in the past, so this is probably just some sick karmatic-payback.

So, this morning I'm off to procure a second (or, third) Kohler Bancroft faucet. I'll post some more details when I'm done with the entire project...

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Momentum Rising

Momentum Rising
Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

Has it really been 8 months since the last post? Surely I've worked on the place in that time.

Or not.

Recess is over. Time to get on it. Balance those priorities, keep things moving.

Let's start with the basement. $.49 Armstrong tile at Home Depot allows me to start work on that unfinished back room. The massive amounts of rain we've had hasn't come through the walls or the floor, so I'm confident it's water tight.

Start by thoroughly cleaning. TSP is trisodium phosphate, and it's a bad ass cleaner for anything from your stainless to your galvanized steel. But TSP requires wiping and rinsing, wheras TSP substitute by Jasco doesn't need much of anything. The bottle recommends wiping it down. Do I? Nope. Dehumidifier in effect while I type this update.

Once it's all dried up, I'll use the Latex Primer as suggested by the less-than-enthusiastic individual at Home Depot, swirl it around and get to tiling.

Pretty soon, I'll have a finished floor for my workout sessions.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Finishing trim

Finishing trim
Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

I found a nice place for the microwave, although I'd originally planned to have that bar area be my breakfast eating spot. Instead, I think I'll try to find or fabricate something like a 2-person table for underneath the window seen here on the far left.

I still need to paint the trim (or rather, Jason needs to), the baseboards and a couple other minor things. But for the most part, the upstairs is nearly complete.


Red Room

Red Room
Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

Finally getting around to posting some more photos. Seems like when I gave myself official "time off" in November that the time period bled over til January. Oh well, needed rest brings fresh inspiration to any project.

Baked terra cotta walls, meet Monet.

And now with the downstairs shelving in place, I can finally bring the tools downstairs!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005



Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

I must say that the ceiling incident was much less amusing than the bucket incident.

Notice the bucket's nature—it holds things, and holds them well. It remains still until someone decides to move it. It is not pliable, and it cannot take another shape. It is a hard plastic that would serve a number of years before losing its handle or developing a leak. It is a servant worthy of praise.

But now, this bucket must be destroyed.

It's not the bucket's fault. I simply didn't think to remove it before I installed the countertop. And now, with no way to remove the bucket from within the cabinetry, I must cut it in half.

Let the beheading begin!


A Missed Step

Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

There are certain moments in home ownership when the owner must slap his/her forehead with a solid thud and proclaim, "aaaahhh!!"

Such was the case when installing an attic's worth of insulation, as I stepped through the patch I had previously installed.


Embracing Fall

Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

On Monday, I embraced the last day of decent weather to install a new window in the dining room. Jeremiah, the guy who taught me most of what I knew coming into this, came over with his miter saw (mmm... miter saw...) and air compressor (mmm... pneumatic tools....) and got the job done in short time. We then trimmed out the see-through window between the living room and kitchen, as well as the kitchen door.

Then, my friend Jeff came over and trimmed the outside with his fancy aluminum bending machine. All it needs now is some caulk to finish.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Almost Done

Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

All I have to do is seal the countertops once more, clean out the cabinets and install the faces, and it looks like I'll finally have a kitchen.

Last night, I cooked a meal of broiled blue marlin with a sesame-oil mango sauce, along with some steamed kale. This is the first time since February that I've had access to facilities like these. Before the move, I cooked well all the time, but it's been PB&J, bagels, granola and whatever else requires little prep time. Boy, does it ever feel good to be back to "normal," whatever that is.


The Marble is Down

Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

The marble tile has been laid down, and while I really didn't like it at first, it's growing on me now. I think it took getting up close and personal with the grout before I could have any affection for the stone.

But it's all starting to shape up now, and even though the stove isn't in place in this picture, I've cooked my first couple meals already and things are looking good.

I can't tell you what a relief it is to prepare a meal in an actual facility after cooking for eight months on a camp stove in my back yard. Wonderful!


The Backsplash

Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

So I priced out the stainless, and the hexagonal tiles came in at a third of the cost. A little more grunt work, but tiling is really farily easay as long as you can cut the edge pieces.

Here's the almost-finished work, soon to be covered up by a big ol' stove.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Tile Me This...

Originally uploaded by Michael Browne.

Tiling is perhaps one of the easiest jobs I've accomplished. I borrowed a table saw from my former landlord Jeremiah, purchased about $45 worth of hexagonal tile, and spent a few hours on the job. Alright, so it took me longer to prepare since I've never done this before, but once I figured out the edges, it was an easy job.

And sure, it's not technically done yet, but I wanted to grout both the countertop and the backsplash at the same time, to reduce clean-up time.

Anyway, here it is. My very nice, inexpensive backsplash. Yes, Jason, I know it's not the stainless steel you told me to use, but that would have cost an extra $120, and I don't care that much about something that will just be covered up by a large black appliance, like the stove that's waiting for installation.

Marble floor, here I come.

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Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States