May 22, 2019

When you need a good, all-around handyman, but... one is around (or affordable), you just draw on all your home-ownership experience, life skills and ingenuity to tackle and master the tasks at hand. It has been a long while since I posted anything about home maintenance/improvement projects, but I have four (!) fun ones to share - the first one from a while ago, another one a few months ago, a third more recently, and the last I tackled just today - and I'm pretty pleased with all four of them.

The oldest project is one that I mentioned about a year or so ago. It was a lighting project - a nice iron chandelier that I'd found by accident at my local Habitat ReStore. I wasn't really looking, because I've had some hanging fixtures in storage that I thought would be appropriate for my kitchen dining area, but I wasn't sure the scale would work for this house. Then, I came across this small chandelier that had just the right features. It was a bit grungy and dark, pewter-like grey - not my preference for this space - so I re-painted the chandelier a nice, dark brown (oil-rubbed bronze) with spray paint in a smooth satin finish.

It was just the thing to install in place of a massive, horribly rococo, crystal and brass chandelier that was already installed when I moved into my home 5 1/2 years ago. It was, however, woefully both seriously oversized and wildly out of place for my fairly simple and comfortable decorating style. All I could think was "Why?"...or, more accurately, "What in the [heck] were they thinking???" Honestly. Why would someone think this was an appropriate lighting choice for a dining area in a kitchen that was a very far cry from a grand ballroom?! It does boggle the mind sometimes, but I knew instantly that the grotesque crystal-and-bronze monstrosity had to go and it would just be a matter of time before I found a fixture with the right style (simple with clean, classic lines), the right scale - not too large, but large enough to have some presence - and, most importantly, had the right (read: seriously low) price.

The one I found to replace it - a modestly sized, five-armed, iron chandelier - had all the right features and, best of all, had a ridiculous $16 price tag - win, win, win! I knew it just needed a good cleaning and a tiny bit of love in the form of some spray paint and some nice, natural linen shades (and a newly installed dimmer switch on the wall nearby) to give it new life in my kitchen dining area below, which I really use as more of a prep area as I do have a more formal dining space nearby.

The second project was another lighting coup for my kitchen ceiling. Another oddly inappropriate hanging fixture also had been installed there by previous occupants of my home - it was a very grimy, and I do mean grimy, leaded slag glass "faux Tiffany" fixture. It always looked like the glass panels were a sort of dark yellow/tan ochre color with bronze trim, in a sort of drop-tulip shape. It had a plain, bare light bulb and it was so ugly that I literally never used it. It was situated in the middle of the ceiling between my range and sink - a key location in my work area, but I had lighting over both the sink and the range, respectively, so I didn't really need this ceiling fixture, and I certainly didn't want a pendant light hanging directly over the floor area.

My feeling about functional kitchen ceiling fixtures is that they really need to be flush-mounted to the ceiling and be enclosed, so no bugs or other flying critters like flies, etc. can accumulate inside them. The good news was that I'd occasionally come across brand new and attractive, but fairly basic, fixtures in their original boxes at clearance prices - essentially for peanuts, so I'd buy them not necessarily having an immediate use for them, but I knew that I probably would at some point.

Now, this grimy slag glass hanging light was taking up space and continually collecting more grime, between the steam from the hot water in the sink and the steam and grease from cooking on the range. There was no escape from the environment for this hanging pendant fixture and it really needed to go and be replaced by something flush with the ceiling with a covered bulb. I'm not sure why I didn't remove it instantly when I first moved in, it was that bad.

To see just how awful and grimy this fixture was, here are two views of the shade of its slag glass shade (bulb and socket removed) - the photos show the areas of the shade that I cleaned after I took it down (the areas that are at the bottom and right) and the not-yet-cleaned sections on the left that were the original, frighteningly grimy color. Quite the contrast! I'm sure it had been hanging accumulating this grime for years, and maybe decades. After I spent some time carefully cleaning each section it certianly was transformed, but I still didn't like it very much - it's just not my taste at all. And remember I noted that it had appeared to be a darker golden brown/ochre color - well, actually, there was so much grime on it that cleaning it eventually revealed its lighter, more creamy marbled color. Who knew? Certainly not me. I don't plan to use it, but I will pass it on to someone who will enjoy it much more than I ever would.


Fortunately, I already had in storage a nice, new enclosed ceiling fixture that I'd bought a few years ago - also with an oil-rubbed bronze color finish (though it certainly wasn't bronze) that had a nice, simple ribbed, frosted glass cover to keep out any flies and other flying insects that dared to invade my kitchen work area. I don't remember what I paid for it, but I'm sure it was less than $20 and it might even have been less than $10, but it was just what I needed for the ceiling in my kitchen work area. It's obviously builder grade, but not screaming bright, shiny brass, and not a very grungy old hanging glass pendant, for sure, and it's attractive enough (which is important to me) and, most of all, very functional.

So the challenge for me, which really wasn't much of a challenge, was to remove and replace the existing ceiling fixtures. While I undertook their replacement about a year or so apart, the task was essentially the same and not complicated - turn off the power to the fixture at the circuit breaker, remove the old fixture and install the new one, hooking up the wiring and securing the fixture to the outlet box already installed in the ceiling. I've done this numerous times before in my previous homes, and since these were both fairly straightforward installations, I didn't hesitate to undertake replacing either of the old fixtures myself.

Here's the newly installed kitchen ceiling fixture...turned off (with the light from the left emanating from the flourescent fixture above my sink, shaded by a pretty yellow and red toile valance hung across the adjacent cabinets), and the lower view showing it turned on. It has just one 60-watt bulb, which is plenty bright enough, and the fixture is just the right size and style for this location. I'm so pleased with it - simple, basic, yet attractive and very functional.


The third project, which I tackled about a month ago, was an even easier one and didn't involve re-wiring a light fixture. I replaced all of the drawer and door pulls on my kitchen cabinets. What originally was there were fairly basic polished brass know, the ones that enjoyed their heyday back in the 1980s, but, thankfully, have evolved out of favor in recent years. 

Like the previous lighting fixture, these pulls were showing their age along with the grease/grime that tends to accumulate on smooth surfaces in a kitchen. When I first moved in, I removed them all and soaked them in warm water and literally scrubbed them clean as best I could with dish soap. Some cleaned up better than others, but I knew I didn't want to keep them long-term on the cabinets, so I didn't go crazy. 

I've had good luck finding very reasonably priced, but stylish pulls from time to time, and about a month ago, I decided to see if I could find some simple, but well designed replacement knobs to install in place of the brass ones. I was an art major in college, so I do care about aesthetics, but I also care about the feel of a piece, and I knew the brass ones really were the low-end grade of door/drawer pulls. I knew this because, when you go to grasp the knob to open a door or drawer, you can feel that the backside of the knob wasn't finished and didn't give one a nice feeling in your hand when grasped, where the better knobs had a smooth feel and are finished front and back, not just on the front. To me, that matters. I wanted something that felt solid, well made and smooth like the latter and not the former. Understandably, the more effort and material that it takes to make a better project, the more you're likely to have to pay for that, so I was looking for the most reasonably priced, but attractive and well made pulls that I could find.

I looked at the cabinet hardware selection at my local big box home centers and other retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, but I had a goal not only of finding pulls that were aesthetically pleasing, but also ones that were affordable. I needed 18 pulls and I didn't want to spend more than $1 per pull if I could help it, but that's easier said than done these days. Still, I found a very nice pull on eBay available in an array of finishes. I settled on brushed, oil rubbed bronze round ones (like my chandelier and my new ceiling fixture) that showed a hint of copper under the brown finish, and  were just $1 each for 25 pulls -- with free shipping to boot! My kind of deal, so I was happy to buy them and now I also have some extras if I decide to add cabinets on a nearby wall in the future. 

I'm not a huge fan of the golden oak cabinets in my kitchen, but at least the hinges on these are more of a brushed bronze and not screaming shiny brass, so I thought the oil-rubbed bronze pulls would both tone down the brass predecessors and would work fine with the existing door hinges. If I ever get around to replacing the cabinets (they're in dire need of an update, but they're deteriorating and not at all good quality, so not worth keeping or painting or refinishing, though I might repurpose a few of the decent ones in my garage), at least I'll have these pulls to put on any new ones cabinets and can get more pulls if needed.

Finally, my piece de resistance, I've now added simple plumbing to my skill set! My kitchen faucet, yet another item that was already installed in the house when I moved here and probably is the original faucet when the house was built 30+ years ago, began to corrode to the point that the surface of the faucet arm (the part that extends over the sink) literally sprang a tiny hole and was leaking water every time I turned it on. I couldn't fix the leak, so, as a stop-gap, I covered the corroded area with duct tape so water wouldn't spurt out in a fine spray until I could get the faucet replaced. 

I can fix a running or clogged toilet, and I've replaced the aerators on faucets, as needed, with no trouble, but that was the extent of my plumbing repertoire. Well, not any more...I now have added faucet replacement to my skill set! I decided the other day to go ahead purchase the faucet I wanted to replace the leaky one in my kitchen sink that clearly had reached the end of its useful life
Since moving to this home, I now have a dishwasher (that I don't use much), but there was no sprayer on my kitchen faucet. Having always had a sprayer at my previous kitchen sinks, I really wanted one again. While my stainless sink had a hole for a sprayer, it had a cover over that hole since the original faucet - a two-handled model, also not my preference - didn't have a sprayer. Well, now that I had mp choice to replace the faucet, I decided to get exactly what I wanted - a brushed stainless, single lever, low rise faucet with some style -- and a separate sprayer.

I'd previously had a nice Kohler faucet installed at my farm with an integrated sprayer, but I decided to go with a separate sprayer this time. I also decided I didn't want hiny chrome and I didn't think oil-rubbed bronze would work with my stainless sink, even though I'd chosen that finish for my other items. The sink is brushed stainless, so  I thought a brushed stainless faucet would be a better choice there, so that's what I got. I chose the Moen "Muirfield" model which has nice lines with the finish and sprayer that I prefer, and for less than $90. Perfect!

Originally, I'd thought I'd ask a friend to install it for me, but the more I read through the directions and reviewed the diagrams, the more I thought it really wasn't brain surgery to remove and replace the old faucet myself if I had the right tools. I have a good complement of various tools that I've acquired over my years of home ownerhip, so checking through the installation instructions yesterday, I was fairly sure I already had everything I'd need to do this installation myself.  

I started the project and it took me all of about 90 minutes to complete it. I shut off the water supply lines to the old facuet, and carefully removed the old fixture and installed the new faucet in its place. It was fairly straightforward and I'm very pleased with the new faucet -- and I saved some serious money in the process by doing it myself! Win-win!

I have more home maintenance projects to tackle this year, including installing a ceiling fan in my bedroom, where there currently is a simple ceiling light, but no fan. That will happen fairly soon, as I don't have central air conditioning in this house. It's finally feeling like spring, with summer just around the corner, so I'd like to get that project done before the temperatures rise to an uncomfortable level. I even went to a free education session on installing ceiling fans at one of the local home centers a month ago, so I might just tackle that one myself, too! Stay tuned!

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