WHY I DIY: Verizon

Each of these “Why I DIY” posts is about one thing: Pride in workmanship.

So when I say “Verizon,” well, I probably don’t have to say anything more.

But what fun would that be?

When my over-the-air internet provider was purchased by Sprint and its towers coverted to support the growing demand for mobile, I was faced with the choice: Comcast Xfinity or Verizon FiOS. Verizon made me a slightly better deal, so Verizon it was.

The installer was only slightly late and seemed pleasant enough.  However, she refused to use the existing cable lines running through the walls and attic (installed by the previous homeowner), saying “We’re not allowed to go into attics.”

So, here’s what I got:




Yes, Verizon can’t go into attics, but they have no compunction about drilling into exterior walls within two feet of PLUMBING.



That shingle the installer cracked? Made from asbestos.  You know, that stuff you don’t want to be friable (cracking with airborne dust)?

Wondering what we got on the inside?


This is the corner with the favorite dog bed in the entire house. There’s nearly always someone curled up here.  So–of COURSE this would be where we’d logically put a splitter.


Check out how the installer had to carve the round thing so it would fit against my custom wainscoting!

And I’m saving the best for last–how the wiring was run from the corner to the TV location.  (Installer comment: “Just move the TV to the corner.” To the corner–behind my couch?  To the corner–where my dogs sleep out of the way?)

You can bet there will be more about this one tomorrow–with happy results.


Do we REALLY need another reno blog? Yes. Yes, we do.

If you love home renovation projects the way I do, you watch a lot of HGTV and DIY Network, spend an obscene amount on “shelter magazines” you rarely recycle and scour the web for great ideas you could put to work in your own home.

The problem with those sources for inspiration? What they all have–that you and I don’t have–is a team of people devoted to making those projects happen. I had that ephiphany when I came across a blogger whining that her Daddy wasn’t available to do the work for her on Saturday, so she was going to have to do some herself {gasp!}.

Cool home projects for one

For most of us, any project we want to do depends on us and (in many cases) us alone. The TV shows, glossy magazines and bloggers don’t help us translate their ideas into something a single person could execute.

This blog is going to change all of that.

I’m Sandra, a single woman owner of a 1963 four-bedroom, 2.5 bath Colonial. My goal with this blog is to show you cool home projects one person can manage. In most every project I’ve done in the 15 years since I bought my house, I’ve had to figure out ways around the problem of having only two hands (if you’e ever tried to hang drywall yourself, you’ll understand). I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned and hearing what you’ve figured out as well. DIYers unite!

The dog photo isn’t just shameless promotion

The only thing I love more than a challenging home project is my pack of rescue dogs. Connor, Tessa and Cassie are the loves of my life, and making life comfortable for all of us influences my choices. You can expect a regular “Doggie DIY” feature, showing you my canine-centric reno choices. Some are for day-to-day living; some are to keep Connor from repainting the walls with his coat while I’m working on another part of the project. I only wish I’d taken more pictures back when I didn’t know what I was doing.

“Why I DIY”–because I’m tired of paying for bad work

The other regular feature I can’t wait to start is “Why I DIY.” It will showcase some of the spectacularly bad work I’ve paid to have done when I didn’t feel up to the task myself. Much of this will be plumbing, electrical and HVAC, but in the early days, I deferred to “experts” a lot–and got some really bad results.  I’m sure you’ve had the same experience.  There’s not much worse than looking at a project at the end and thinking, “I could have done better than that!” So, dig out your photos and get ready to tell us all about it.

I can’t wait to see where this ride takes us all.

Own your home, own your reno. Together, we’ll all figure it out.

The Lillian Shelf, Part (Coat?) One

I’m picking up where I left of with “The Lillian Shelf: Making the ’60s work in 2015.”

Irony: I tagged Amy Howard at Home in my first Facebook post about this blog, and folks there responded:


Yeah, I don’t think they’re going to find this series a whole lot of fun. Mainly because I see a whole lot of not fun in my future to make The Lilllian Shelf useable with “One Coat Paint.”

As in, this could take all week when all I wanted was a way to get my extraneous shoes off the floor.

I watched the Ace Hardware video and did exactly what I saw Amy Howard do–used a new, good-quality brush, offloaded a lot of the paint before applying brush to bookshelf, let the paint dry for several hours.  I didn’t expect the finish to be mirror-like smooth–particularly where the wood was gouged–but I didn’t expect this, either:


That’s one heavy coat, applied with a brush.

Next up: One coat, applied with a roller. (Spoiler alert: “Not Today and Tomorrow’s Not Looking Good Either”)

The Lillian Shelf: Making the ’60s work in 2015

Once upon a time, a colorful young woman (who grew up in a hotel in NYC!) married her piano teacher’s brother. They lived in Levittown, NY, then worked for NASA in Huntsville, AL (both of them–their mission was putting a man on the moon!) before NASA transferred them to DC. The timing was perfect–Levitt was building another community in the Maryland suburbs, so they called the builder and bought before the house was built. They requested the house be built across two lots on a corner and with their own customizations–kind of scandalous when Levitt was making his name as the Henry Ford of home building. They bought fashionable 1960s items to furnish it and filled it so full of stuff in their 48 years there that it took their buyers (a young engaged couple–the house’s second set of inhabitants) more than a month and three dumpsters to empty it all after the husband died and the wife went to live in a nursing home that could handle her Alzheimer’s.

This adorable little bookshelf is among the things that I took from the curb when the emptying progressed from dumpster to curbside. Later, I saw its two mates (and a matching dining set) at the yard sale the young couple put on to raise money for the wife’s nursing home care.


The wife–Lillian, who was one of my favorite people in the neighborhood, and who remained a colorful character well past recognizing me, or even her own surroundings–died this year. The adorable little bookshelf has been calling to me from its ignored spot in my garage.

Thing is, the bookshelf is in horrible condition. HORRIBLE. While it appears to be a good piece of furniture, it’s scratched and gouged and generally showing fifty years of hard use.  That’s part of why it’s been sitting in the garage–refinishing back to bare wood is just not something I wanted to do.

So when I heard about Amy Howard’s live webinar for Ace Hardware, pitching her “One Coat Paint” created especially for “recycling” refurniture without full-on refinishing, I watched the video and decided to give it a shot. Chalk-based paint–who knew? And it was able to be tinted to the color I really wanted–aubergine!

Here are the before pictures. So far, I’ve washed the bookshelf with diluted Simple Green (twice–it was really dirty) and have re-glued the loose dovetail joints on top. Next step (and post): The first coat. I’m starting with those cute little feet!

P1000913P1000921P10009272015-11-07 20.35.11 P1000922 P1000923P1000901

Kitchen Reno Inspiration: Coolest. Sink. Ever.

After living in my house for 15 years, I’m finally starting the process to renovate my kitchen.  Myself.

And here is what has pushed me into motion–a restaurant-inspired sink that accommodates half-sheets (solid and perforated) as well as cutting boards to create a solid counter when it’s needed.

The whole kitchen story is here.  If you have an ideas how about to get a stainless sink custom fabricated–can you let me know?


My friend E Marie Robertson told me I should have a show on HGTV–with my three dogs as co-stars, it would be 75% home renovation, 20% life lessons and 5% comedy.

If I had a show on HGTV, it would be 75% comedy, 20% tragedy and 5% somebody bailing me out of jail after an idiot contractor did another half-baked job.

Ventilation by Dr. Seuss
Ventilation by Dr. Seuss

Pride of Workmanship–about as common as common sense

Being proud of the work I do is who I am–whether it’s analyzing marketing campaigns (which is what they pay me for) or writing a blog or cleaning up dog poop. If I’m going to spend the time, I’m going to do the best job job I’m capable of doing and be proud of my effort.

Let’s face it: No one will ever care about the finished product of our home improvement project as much as we will. That’s because we’re the only ones who have to live with the results.

Each time I’m burned by hiring out work I can’t do myself–despite Angie’s List–the more resolute I become to do the work myself.  I may end up a licensed electrician before this is all over.

So–this “WHY I DIY” feature is going to be where I–and, I hope, you–share stories of the home improvement experiences that drove you to tackle your own renovations.  I’ll try to spin them in a funny way, to make them enjoyable to read, maybe teach you something to do or avoid–and to lessen the urges that will require somebody to bail me out of jail.

Catch a Contractor

BTW–someone already had something like this “bail me out of jail” idea. Adam Carolla, of “The Man Show” and “Loveline” fame, now hosts a show called Catch a Contractor on Spike. It was an entertaining hour of a team of private investigators and contractors chasing down, shaming, then teaching an unscrupulous contractor to do the job right. I found it oddly comforting to know that many people have suffered Stupid Contractor Tricks worse than mine.

Why do you DIY?

What’s the worst contractor experience you’ve ever had?  What pushed you into DIY? I look forward to reading your comments (and hope none of you had to be bailed out of jail.)