Cozy Punxsy Cucina

Posted by Bill under: Kitchen.

The original kitchen was kind of depressing, but I didn’t have the cash or time for a full-blown redesign and new appliances. Here’s my attempt at a budget spruce-up.

Tearing the kitchen apart

First step always seems to be: Tear everything out. Sent the old pilot-light stove to the scrap yard, but was able to clean and keep the fridge. The sink and cabinets are c. 1950s steel construction, durable but rusty and very dirty. Refinishing them was a project in itself. Ended up sanding and spraying them in my garage. Almost wish I’d taken them to a body shop and forked over the dough. They came out great, though.

Marking the new window

The kitchen needed more sunlight. Made the decision to sacrifice precious wall space for more glass.

Fresh air

Installed these windows in the winter; that’s snow back there. Had to get it all done before dark, when it got really cold. You can see the paint peeled from the ceiling and wall. This was the result of a rusted drain line in the bathroom above, which I had to fix before proceeding with the kitchen. That sucked, and set me back by a week, but I’m very glad it happened before I did the walls and floor.

Putting it back together

Skipped a few steps, but this is how it came out with the extra window and new flooring.

Almost done

Looking more like a kitchen! Repainted cabinets and sink installed. I’ll take a more up-to-date photo next time I’m in PA and post it. A trip to the Pittsburgh Ikea made a difference after this shot was taken.

Here’s the kitchen presently, complete with IKEA furniture. The two little white stools are courtesy Walmart. It’s a little cramped, won’t be serving Thanksgiving dinner in there, but suits us fine for the moment. I see a quick remodel in the future in which I take out part of the adjoining mud room (a mud hallway, actually) to expand a bit. One difference you can kind of notice in this image is that the old porch roof is gone. In the previous photos, I hadn’t removed the porch yet. It makes a huge difference in the amount of light that comes into the room.




Posted by Bill under: Flooring.

After installing the windows, and patching and painting most of the walls and cieling, I was ready to put down the new floor.

I’d considered milled hardwood and laminate. The milled hardwood was going to run me about $5 to $6 a square foot not counting the varnish or oil finish. Laminate on the other hand was much cheaper: in a range from around $2 to $5 per square foot. After looking at numerous patterns and manufacturers, I couldn’t get around my prejudice towards the fake woodgrain in the laminate flooring. This was entirely in my head, because at a distance of a foot or more, you could never tell the difference between the better laminates and actual hardwood. I ended up kind of splitting the difference, going with engineered hardwood, which uses a real hardwood verneer glued to a laminate tongue-in-groove base, plus it’s prefinished, so no sanding and varnishing. It’s a little thinner than milled tongue-in-groove flooring, but installs in a similar fashion. And my materials costs ran about $3 per square foot.

Before pulling up the old carpet

Here I am beginning to pull away the old and smelly carpeting. I found lots of newspapers from the late-’40s beneath the padding, indicating that the carpet was probably 60 years old! It was in great condition considering. The newspapers were in good shape, too. I saved them for a later project.

Carpet gone. Get this sheetrock out of my way.

Carpet and pad all gone. I considered refinishing the rough plank floor in a clear coat or white for a rustic look, but there were too many cuts and scars from the original house. Also, the floor was very uneven. I had to put an additional floor jack in the basement and move the existing supports around to get it a little straighter. It’s a very solid floor, but there was a little sag in the center where a staircase had once been. The drywall in the photo is for the second story.

Putting down the luan subflooring

I put down a luaun subflooring. Luaun is a laminated sheet of wood from the Philippines. I don’t know a lot about it, but it’s so much smoother than thin plywood, and cheaper. Similar in strength, the outside verneer is actually attractive enough that it would work great as a finishing material.

Luan finished. Changed the door into a window.

Subfloor down. This view shows the new windows. The center window used to be the front door (see first image.) I’ll explain the reasoning behind that change in the window and siding sections.

Letting wood breath. Starting to put down floor.

You have to let the flooring aclimate to the temperature and humidity of the room for a day or two prior to installing. On top of the luaun goes a rosin paper. This stuff mostly prevents squeeks by giving a friction barrier between the wood.

Nearly done.

Corner to corner. I chose to put the flooring in at a 45-degree angle. In a house this old, almost nothing is square. Measurements showed a more-than-4″ discrepancy between the east and west walls. Angled flooring hides those imperfections better. Also, from the location of the new “front” door — which is actually in the back of the house — the long line made the room seem even larger.

Old furniture on new floor.

Done with this story. I screwed some things up that only I will ever notice, but overall it came out well. The lesson that I took from the experience is that I probably will never do engineered hardwood again. It’s a pain in the ass to install and I think I would’ve been just as happy with the cheaper laminate — which literally snaps together. A blind monkey could install the laminate, and after days of hunching over a floor nailer, I find that appealing. Also, the laminate finish is tougher. It’s easier to gouge and dent hardwood and engineered hardwood. If only the laminate came in a pattern other than fake wood.


Recently installed a laminate floor on a condo in Columbus, OH. Used a discontinued pattern from a clearance supplier and the total cost of the flooring came to about a dollar a square foot. The laminate was a medium-grade with attached backing and was pretty easy to install. Did the whole condo, every room including closets, in about two days. Very little waste. One thing to note, the dust from this particular laminate was much finer than the sawdust created by solid or engineered hardwood. In all cases, I wear a respirator when working with this stuff.

Here’s a shot of how the living room came out.




Posted by Bill under: Bathroom.

One of the features of the old house that stood out when I bought it was the size of the upstairs bathroom. Usually in a house this age and square footage, you can expect the bathroom to be pretty small, but this one was downright roomy. In fact, it’s the exact floor size of the kitchen, which is directly below it.

Bathroom before

I did not want to spend a lot of dough on the bath. Everything worked fine — that is, until the sink drain line sprung a leak and trashed the kitchen ceiling. I had planned on using the existing subfloor to install new tile, but after the leak, I had to tear up the floor in order to dry everything and replace the drain line.

Bathroom subflooring

After fitting the new luaun subflooring and windows, it was time to paint. Took several coats of Kilz and paint to hide the dark stencils.

Linoleum tile and fresh paint

This is my first attempt at installing linoleum tile. It’s pretty easy, but I should’ve learned a bit about it first. Although it’s soft, I found it less forgiving than ceramic tile. I did not rent or make a weighted roller, which was a mistake. I thought I could use a piece of smooth plywood and my own weight to set the tiles properly, and it worked alright, but left dimples and waves where I pressed harder. It’s not very noticable, but if you get down close to the floor you can see it. I suspect that over time some of the waves will smooth out. We’ll see. Still a huge improvement over the rolled vinyl flooring that had been there.

Bathroom after

This is how the bathroom came out. Still some work to be done, trim, touch-up paint, maybe new shower fixtures. I was able to reuse the toilet and pedestal sink, but did replace the old, corroded hardware on both. The cabinet on the left is an antique washbasin stand that I picked up right in Punxsy. You can’t see it here, but there’s a new ceiling light/exhaust fan that I installed as part of the renovation, too.