Endsleigh specialise in Home Contents Insurance for people in the UK

Contractor vs. Homeowner: Battle over found money


This article gives us all yet another reason to DIY. When you find that big stash of money (and we all know we’ve got money in the walls, or the floors, or somewhere, right? Pretty please?) you do not want to share it.

According to this Yahoo article, a homeowner and contractor are in a major feud over some found money – $182,000 to be exact. I am frankly surprised the contractor has any argument at all since it’s not his house. Shouldn’t everything on the premise be the owner’s by default?  She offered him a 10% finders fee, but apparently he wants more.

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Cool Christmas Carpet

Tips & Tools

Christmas tree rug

Before we refinished the hardwood floors, the area near our bay window featured a prominent circular black stain. It was obviously left by a Christmas tree stand and water trapped beneath it, built up over years of happy holidays. It took a good deal of bleaching and sanding to get rid of that sucker, and damned if we’ll let it happen again.

We put a plastic tarp under our tree stand, which costs zero dollars and therefore works great for us. But the Party Dress carpet from Flor is adorable and at $60, it’s not too over-the-top pricey. It’s also not so Christmasy that you couldn’t find a home for it somewhere else the rest of the year. The cutout shape remind me of Brocade Home‘s frou-frou modern  stuff, at about half the price.

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Santa Came Early (And He Brought Tools)

Diary, Tips & Tools


Guess what came in the mail yesterday? A reward for all my hard work blogging our remodeling and renovation adventures. My very own, light-weight, small-enough-to-comfortably-grip 18 volt Master Mechanic cordless drill. This is the first power tool in our whole arsenal that is all mine. I can put my name on it in magic marker and feel cool doing so.

My Christmas angel is True Value, and more specifically a woman named Teresa – who not only picked out the drill (and tested it’s size and weight) but also included some drill bits, Color Auditions paint samples and an awesome new paint brush with an ergonomic grip. She knew I was yearning for my own drill. Do you think she also knew about my obsession with brushes?

On top of all my new goodies there was a handwritten note. That, I was not expecting – it was a very personal touch, and it honestly made me feel warm and fuzzy about True Value. I mention certain big-box hardware stores (and product lines) quite often on the site in passing, and they’ve never once sent me a Christmas gift – let alone a handwritten note from a real live person! It made me think about our local True Value store, and what a great resource it was when we were beginners. Because it’s not a giant warehouse with a bunch of teenagers in orange aprons and blank stares. It’s run by a local family and frequented by the “old timers” who are a wealth of knowledge. They always answered my questions and never sent me out the door with a completely wrong part. Teague goes there all the time for work materials, and everyone recognizes him and asks about his latest project. Kinda nice, right? Seems that personal touch is something the company values and encourages.

The drill is charging now, so I’ll be wandering around the house looking for things that need fixing all weekend.  I’ve got big plans to build a radiator cover once I finish up all my Christmas crafting, so I’ll really put it to the test on that project and let you know how it performs.

Thanks again to Teresa and True Value for sending me such cool stuff!

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Holiday Gift Guide: For Her

Tips & Tools

The other day I wrote up a Gift Guide for handy men… but realize as I write this today that I would like just about everything on that list too. It was actually quite sexist of me to put all the cool “big boy tools” on the men’s list. That’s because at our house, the big tools are things we usually purchase after Teague has done considerable marketing of the tool and convinced me it has positive usefullness-to-cost ratio. He’s more into power tools, while I gravitate toward neat little gadgets and organization supplies that make daily life amid the chaos just a little bit easier.  But lets be clear – ladies like power tools too! (We should proclaim it loud and proud with this patch.)

Lets forget the male/female task breakdown for a while… that’s another discussion for another day. I did find a few things that I thought were swoon-worthy for the females on your list.

Fix-it girl Gift Guide

  • Is she into jewelry? Try something from Opulent Oddities – an online boutique full of finds made from recycled antique keys, watches, door locks, etc. Or check out this washer necklace from BBBellezza.
  • A tool belt is always a good idea. I have this purdy pink one; the color ensures it never gets mixed in with Teague’s work tools!
  • I’ve been waiting my whole life (or maybe just the last 3 years) for a cordless drill that’ll fit in my hand and not stress my weak biceps – like this one from Tomboy Tools. Thankfully, I think Santa is bringing me something that’ll fit the bill.
  • The Doorganizer is a cool way to put reminders in the path of those who need them… cuts down on the incessant nagging.
  • In general, women are colder than men. And in general, old houses are ice huts. So a portable space heater would be greatly  appreciated.
  • Good, ergonomic paint brushes are like heroin to me. I can’t get enough of them. I have built up a nice set now, but this set from Tomboy Tools is tempting!
  • A sewing machine is handy to have. Even a beginner can make curtains, pillows, and other house jewelry.
  • And last but not least, this little house ornament from Anthropologie is just too cute not to include.
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Holiday Gift Guide: For Him

Tips & Tools

Let’s face it, fixer-uppers are a special breed. They require special holiday gifts. Don’t bother buying them a nice wool sweater – it’ll have caulk on it two days later. New watch? That’s nothing but a safety hazard when you’re running a tablesaw. A nice piece of literary fiction? A new video game? A DVD? They probably don’t have time to enjoy them!

So what do you get for the handyman in your life? Tools. And maybe tools. Oh, and did I mention tools? Not just any tools though… cool tools, ones they don’t already have multiples of. As a contractor’s wife and home repair junky, I can offer some suggestions.

Big Investments

I’m frugal. I hate spending money, but I’ve come to understand that good tools are worth the investment when you’ve got projects up the ying-yang and very little free time to work on them. So here are a few big-ticket items we’ve purchased over the years that I would buy again in a heartbeat:

  • A Paslode framing nailer (or you could choose the finish nailer – or brad nailer – they’re all beautiful and useful, depending on your project needs!)
  • A good sawzall, like this Milwaukee, which makes short work of any demo job
  • A versatile mitre saw like this one. We started out with a smaller one and had to upgrade after realizing that old house trim is WIDE – often, too wide for the small saws
  • A good multi-use ladder

If those are too pricey, try:

  • An extra long level – 60″-72″ – really useful in old wonky houses!
  • A mid-range heat gun and a set of scrapers (infinitely useful) – add a dental cleaning kit for the little crevices! (Going big? Check out the Silent Paint Remover!)

Stocking Stuffers

Big tools are fun, but there’s plenty of little stuff that’ll make life sweeter. Try:

  • A really good hand cream, like this one Hemp Hand Protector from The Body Shop – it’s thick without being greasy, and there isn’t a single of floral fragrance.
  • A magazine subscription. I recommend Fine Homebuilding for the perfectionist, This Old House for the dreamer, Make for the electronics lover, and Family Handyman for just about everyone – but especially for beginners.
  • Reusable caulk tips (for saving tubes from drying up – handy of you have a caulk addict on your hand!)
  • A pair of nice work gloves to keep his hands warm and safe(r)
  • A magnetic wrist-band for keeping screws within reach (and out of his mouth!)
  • How-to books. Anything from Taunton Press is usually good.

Ok, your turn – add your suggestions by commenting below! I’ve still got some shopping to do so I could use a few good ideas ;)

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Painting Cast Iron Radiators


One of our readers, Natalie, asked an excellent question a few days ago. She wondered what type of paint you use on radiators, and what special brushes you might use.

Thus far, we have only painted one of our radiators. We spray painted the upstairs bathroom radiator with Rustoleum’s High Heat spray paint (found at most big-box hardware stores) in white, and it has held up beautifully. But it took about 4 cans of spray paint, and the room was gutted so there was no worrying about the mess it was making. It’s not something we’d be able to do elsewhere in the house, so I did some digging around to see what other options we have.

In the houseblogger world, House in Progress had their radiators sand-blasted by pros. After that, Jeannie spray painted them a lovely metallic silver. They came out great, but she learned a few things during the process; check out her notes here.

As far as paint goes, oil-based paint or high-heat spray paint seem like your best options. Latex will peel and crack because of the heat (steam radiators can go up to 212°F), and can also cause rust. If the radiator is still bare metal – if it has not been painted – then you will want to put a coat of bare metal primer on it before painting.

As with all painting jobs, prep work counts. Make sure the radiator is clean of all the grimey dust and cobwebs! They sell special brushes for cleaning radiators (Amazon carries one), but a long snow brush works pretty well in my experience. If the radiator has a coat of paint on it already, a light sanding is a good idea. If the current paint is chipping or peeling, make sure to remove all loose paint and keep in mind that it could be lead-based.

There’s some debate as to whether color matters, but according to this article from, and others I found online, the color doesn’t matter as much as the finish. Metallic paints conduct less heat than matte paints. Whether it’s white or black (or hot pink!) shouldn’t make much of a difference. Weird, right? I would have thought the opposite since all our radiators have a metallic finish. Turns out the experts didn’t figure this out until around 1920.

Bronzed radiator

If you have extra fancy radiators and want to showcase them, there area few traditional techniques you might be interested in. Old House Journal has a good how-to article on a bronzing technique – Bronze Beauties – and another article on polychroming (using two or three colors to make the details pop). Both mention that homeowners got tired of trying to minimize the appearance of their radiators, so they started taking artistic license with them. Wish I could find a photo online of an original polychromed radiator. Anyone seen one?

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Cyber Monday: Chronicle Books

Tips & Tools

Have you heard of this “Cyber Monday” phenomenon? Apparently it’s an attempt to grab all of us techies who refused to storm the stores on Black Friday. They’re luring us with online deals these days, and apparently they named the day in 2002, but up until last night (when I saw a feature news story on it) I had no clue it existed. Tricky little marketers, you got me again. There’s a site devoted to sharing the deals with us, of course:

I got my own set of deals in my inbox this morning… lots and lots of them, most of which went straight to junkmail. You can’t catch me, WalMart! One, however, was good enough to share. Chronicle Books is an online bookstore with some of the coolest selections in Art and Interior Design. It carries some titles you won’t find at your library, and a bunch of books you could set on your coffee table and flip through obsessively. Good gift books, if you happen to be Christmas shopping for a house enthusiast.

Their annual sale is running from now until Wednesday, November 28th – 30% off plus Free Shipping. Just use the promo code FRIENDS at checkout

A sampling of their selection:

Living in the Arts and Crafts Style
Living in the Arts and Crafts Style


House Journal
Our House – A homeowner’s journal


Greene & Greene - Arts & Crafts Aesthetics
Greene and Green Masterworks (major players in the Arts and Crafts movement)


Sustainable Design

Living Homes – Sustainable Design & Architecture

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What Would Jesus Buy?


On this, the holiest of all shopping days, I’m sitting in my craft room working on a few homemade Christmas gifts, consciously avoiding the spending frenzy. I’m a bargain hunter, which makes it tempting to head out in search of those “great deals”…. I took a long hard look at the Lowe’s flyer yesterday, but since I hate the general public, hate waiting in line, and hate spending money, I couldn’t bring myself to head out into the fray.

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Choir

I just read the latest post over at No Impact Man (great blog – bookmark it now!) and now I’m dying to see What Would Jesus Buy, the mockumentary featuring Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. He and his traveling choir are on a mission to save us from the Shopocalypse (and an evergrowing pile of credit card debt.) From the NY Times:

The film takes us on a 2005 cross-country tour with Reverend Billy; Savitri D, his wife and organizer of his Church of Stop Shopping; and the church’s gospel choir. Along the way they deliver their message — that peace and love, not spending, are the true backbone of holiday spirit — through witty speeches and songs to unsuspecting patrons at assorted problem spots like Wal-Mart, the Mall of America and Disneyland. (full review)

Reverend Billy is actor Bill Talen’s alter ego. Talen is an actor and activist who lives in New York. He has been arrested numerous times for spreading the good word. His act (and the movie) may be tongue in cheek, but his message is serious.

Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame is one of the producers, so I’m sure it’s hilarious. Unfortunately, it’s not coming anywhere near us so I’ll have to settle for some YouTube interviews and the movie trailer until it makes it to DVD. But if you’re in a big city, check their website for info on where it’s playing. Might help you keep the gimme-gimmes in check all year round so you can get that Home Depot credit card bill paid off and resist that beautiful but oh-so-unnecessary $700 light fixture you’re drooling over.

A few ways I’m avoiding the mall this shopping season:

  • Shopping on Etsy. The best site out there for finding unique handmade goods.
  • Crafting up a few special presents. Not everyone appreciates a homemade gift, but those who do will be rewarded ;)
  • Trying to buy one nice thing for people instead of a half-dozen little random things that aren’t that cool
  • Participating in charitable giving
  • Giving sweets instead of cheap little tchotchkes that get thrown away immediately

How’re you avoiding the consumer craziness this year? Got some good ideas? In the middle of some crazy DIY Christmas projects? Do share!

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Easy solution to paint mess

Tips & Tools

My Grandma sent me a newspaper clipping the other day with a great, super simple idea in it. When you’re painting, glue a paper (or better yet, styrofoam) plate to the bottom of your paint can. That way you can move it around and not worry about leaving paint can rings on the floor.

Because I’m a careful (and lazy) painter, I rarely use drop clothes. I usually put my paint cans on old newspapers, but I like this idea much better!

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Worth a Look #2

Tips & Tools

Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve been reading this week:

This Old House got a major website facelift full of pretty pictures and a little more white space. It makes me want to surf the site a little bit. Except that when I do, I’ll find all sorts of projects that cost $3.4 billion dollars to recreate and triumph themselves as “green” by incorporating an energy efficient third oven and $375 box crates made out of old railroad ties….

Wisebread had a good article on “The Many Reasons – Besides Frugality – To Do For Yourself“. It’s a list I can relate to; sometimes DIY doesn’t even save money, but you get something valuable out of it. Like a new skill, a higher quality product, or a sense of accomplishment (my personal favorite).

The Fun Times Guide answered one of my burning questions… what the hell does DirectBuy actually offer, and could it possibly be worth looking into? Those commercials always had me feeling like I was missing out on the deal of the century. But, being a skeptic, I figured it was a scam. Yep, pretty much.

In my movie queue: Blue Vinyl, a documentary about the horrors of vinyl siding that’ll arm me with a better argument when neighbors ask why we aren’t covering our beautiful 100+ year old clapboard siding with “maintenance-free” plastic.

The synopsis:

With humor, chutzpah and a piece of vinyl siding firmly in hand, Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand and co-director and award-winning cinematographer Daniel B. Gold set out in search of the truth about polyvinyl chloride (PVC), America’s most popular plastic. From Long Island to Louisiana to Italy, they unearth the facts about PVC and its effects on human health and the environment.

There’s a pretty big “rent vs. buy” debate happening online right now, what with the housing market collapsing and all. Everyone is weighing in. And by some calculations, under average circumstances, renting is cheaper. If you want to crunch numbers, NY Times has the prettiest Rent vs. Buy calculator I’ve ever seen. The housing market might suck, but I personally feel that owning a house isn’t just about money or investments. There are a lot of immeasurable benefits, like no upstairs neighbors dancing jigs on their hardwood floor at 2am when you’re trying to sleep.

Ok – now share your fun links with me!

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