Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Before Refinishing from wkendrider

Before Refinishing from wkendrider

Hardwood floors are undoubtedly the one feature any renter or prospective home buyer is looking for when searching through pages and pages of listings. However, destroyed hardwood floors tend to detract some buyers from investing in an otherwise great home. Their first instinct is to completely scrap the floors and invest unnecessary money in new flooring. But a smart buyer knows that with a few tools from their local hardware store, they can make their floor look like new again.

Take for instance this Reddit user, wkendrider. An admitted home improvement novice, this renter was able to improve the look of his home completely with $250 and less than a week of work refinishing hardwood floors.

After first pass through with sander by wkendrider

After first pass through with sander by wkendrider

Depending on how damaged the floor is, you may have to experiment with what sander and grit to use. A random orbital sander with 60 grit will work just fine for slightly damaged floor, a 120 grit being more appropriate for completely ruined floors. Be warned, the sander you rent from your local hardware store will probably weigh upward of 110 pounds. So if you struggle with carrying laundry up the stairs or have existing back problems, you may want to get a helpful friend or neighbor to give you a hand.


Once the scratches, stains and damages have come up from the floor, you will want to decide on what kind of stain to refinish the floors with. This of course depends on how close you want to remain to the original floor color. For a warmer hue, you will want to go with red oak. But if you’re going for a lighter look, limed oak might be more your speed. Apply as many coats as it takes to get it to the color of your liking.

After staining by wkendrider

After staining by wkendrider

After the stain dries, you will want to apply Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane for Floors to finish your floors. Depending on what look you want the hardwood to have, you will again have to choose from multiple options. From glossy to satin, apply this poly evenly with a roller to get your hardwood shiny and presentable.

After Refinishing from wkendrider

After adding poly by wkendrider




Once the poly dries, it’s time to put the furniture back in the room. You have completed the task of reviving the seemingly unsalvageable. The time you invested will be invaluable and allow you to have a larger budget for some other home projects.

And if you pull up some carpet and find you don’t have the hardwood you desire, reach out to us for all your Chicago flooring needs!


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Home Automation Basics

Home automation is fast becoming a buzz word in home improvement. Those videos of yesteryear featuring automatic homes and clever gadgets are a reality. Chicago Handyman can show you home automation options that enable you to control all the electronics in your home from the palm of your hand.

Perhaps your coming home from a long day and want to turn the jacuzzi on so its warm when you arrive. You can also set the room temperature and the lighting with a simple swipe of your smartphone.

So what does a home automation system look like in your home? Typically there is one central access point to which all the information from your home will travel. The video below is a great demonstration of what a full scale home automation installation will look like.

“a good automation system is one that you forget you have…” – youtube guy

What Would You Do With Your Own Ghost Town?

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Kitsault, British Columbia, is a town not unlike many written about in fantasy novels and movies. However, this place and its history is entirely real. U.S. mining conglomerate, Phelps Dodge, founded this community for the workers of its molybdenum mine in 1979.

Only 18 months after the residents established their place in this community, they were forced to evacuate in the middle of the night. With the prices of molybdenum crashing, Phelps Dodge could no longer afford the town and ousted his residents without notice.

Follow this virtual tour and discover this gorgeous relic from the 1980’s:


This rustic sign leads you into this town preserved by time and vacancy.


These picturesque views of mountains and lakes surround you as you drive into town.

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Apartment buildings were available for those who didn't need a single family home.

Apartment buildings were available for those who didn’t need a single family home.

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And while weather may have worn on the outside of this home…

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…the inside, while dated, is in great shape. Must be the lack of people lousing it up!

And now, this once deemed worthless town has just been sold to businessman Krishnan Suthanthiran to the tune of 7 million dollars! Check out this video below where he shares his vision for the future of this ghost town:

 He seems pretty passionate, but if you have a little over $7 million to spare, maybe you can barter a deal and make your very own dream town!




This plaque became futile not even a year later.


This town hall is just one beautiful aspect of Kitsault’s community center

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This Maple Leaf Pub served as the post-work watering hole.

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This trailer-esque elementary school housed 85 students.



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A fully stocked library remains in tact today.

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A grocery store full of shopping carts is ready to filled with food.

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While this town may be stuck in the 80’s, it has the modern conveniences of a gym…

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…and pool and jacuzzi


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Bathroom Tile Installation

It was a sunny afternoon in October. I get a call for a standard bathroom tile caulk job around the tub. I get on site and can see it is going to need more than just caulk. I propose replacing the tile around the bottom of the tub. The owner agrees and I get right to it.

Chicago bathroom tile remodel

Chicago Bathroom with plaster walls. There was no seal between the walls and tub causing water to destroy the wall.

With the first flick of the scraper tool, the tiles start crumbling off the wall. Before I know it, I am looking right through the wall. I put my hand against the wall behind where the tile was, when I pulled away, my hand was dripping water. I explain to the owner that the walls need to be reinforced, and completely rebuilt with a waterproof membrane.

The Deeper I get the worse the condition is revealed. This doesn’t deter me. I rip open the wall and tear back to a point where I feel comfortable that I can get a good seal around the tile, and create a solid wall.

I’m not going to bore you with the details, because believe me, its a snooze fest. But suffice it to say, I left the bathroom in better condition than I found it and that is more than I can say for most bathrooms I visit just after thanksgiving.

Below you will find a photo of the finished bathroom tile installation. Chicago has a large spectrum of building and construction styles that have rolled through over the years. Its always fun to use an old structure, to make something modern clean, and structurally sound.

Well that’s all the big words I can think of today, I’ll catch up with you next time. Be sure to give me a call for an estimate on your Chicago tile installation. Cheers!

Here is the completed tile installation in the Chicago 3 flat. The White tile makes for a cleaner look, and brightens up the room a ton.

Do you need a permit?

In Chicago a permit is necessary for structural changes to a building. Most remodeling, tile, doorways, cabinetry and bathroom fixtures can be replaced without a permit. We have listed below the instances where it is not necessary to have a permit (source).


A building permit is NOT required for the following repair or replacement work at any building:


  • Interior finishes such as carpet, hardwood flooring, tile, paint and wallpaper
  • Interior non-fire rated ceiling tiles (excluding grid)
  • Cabinetry and furniture without electrical and plumbing connections
  •  In-kind replacement of non-fire rated interior doors
  • At grade non-combustible walkways and patios
  • Playground equipment
  • Fences max. 5’-0” high on private property (excludes landmark buildings and landmark districts as well as chain link and masonry fences)
  • Vinyl, aluminum, wood, EIFS or other similar nonstructural exterior finishes on all one story buildings except Hazardous occupancy (excludes landmark buildings and landmark districts)
  • A building permit is NOT required for the following construction or alteration work at any building:
  • Temporary tents max. 400 sq. ft. that comply with all zoning and construction type setback requirements and are not less than 2 feet from all property lines and not less than 6 feet from all residential buildings & erected for not more than 60 consecutive days


A building permit is NOT required for the following repair or replacement work in non-mixed use residential buildings (excluding hotels):


  • Shingle roofing with slope of 5 in 12 or steeper on residential buildings with max. of 3 dwelling units & 3 stories
  • In-kind replacement of non-fire rated doors/windows, hot water heaters, boilers, furnaces and AC condensers in buildings with max. of 3 dwelling units & 3 stories (excludes windows and exterior doors in landmark buildings and landmark districts)
  • In-kind replacement of toilets, sinks, faucets and tubs
  • Interior stairs in same location within a single dwelling unit
  • Not more than 1,000 sq. ft. of drywall without any alteration of underlying structural, plumbing, electrical or ventilation systems
  • Low voltage wiring for phones, speakers, burglar alarms, doorbells, thermostats and computers (excluding fire alarm systems)
  •  Replacement of not more than 250 bricks in buildings with max. of 3 dwelling units & 3 stories (excludes landmark buildings and landmark districts)
  • Vinyl, aluminum, wood, EIFS or other similar nonstructural exterior finishes on residential buildings not more than 3 stories in height (excludes landmark buildings and landmark districts)
  • A building permit is NOT required for the following construction or alteration work in residential buildings with 1-3 dwelling units:
  • Alteration of existing interior stair system with no change to existing stair opening in detached single family residences
  •  Alteration of low voltage wiring for phones, speakers, burglar alarms, doorbells, thermostats and computers inside non-mixed use buildings (excluding fire alarm systems)
  • Gazebos max. 150 sq. ft. (open air with roof and no walls) that comply with all zoning and construction type setback requirements and are not less than 2 feet from all property lines and not less than 6 feet from all residential buildings.  Combustible gazebos shall not be less than 3 feet from property lines.
  • Enclosed sheds max. 70 sq. ft. that comply with all zoning and construction type setback requirements and are not less than 2 feet from all property lines and not less than 6 feet from all residential buildings.  Combustible enclosed sheds shall not be less than 3 feet from interior property lines.  Only one enclosed shed is allowed per lot.

Note:  This does not constitute a waiver from the regulations of Title 13 (Building & Construction) and Title 17 (Chicago Zoning Ordinance) of the Municipal Code of Chicago. All construction must be code compliant.

A Tree Any Last Minute Christmas Decorator Can Pull Off

Merry Christmas Eve!

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First step of Spiral Christmas Tree by twistedtreeartist

I don’t know about you, but Christmas always seems to come up faster than I expect. And if you didn’t get the chance to go pick out a full evergreen or drag that fake tree out of storage, I have a quick, simple and cheap solution for you: The DIY Spiral Christmas Tree.

The supplies for this project (created by Reddit artist twistedtreeartist) are all items you probably have lying around your house. A simple square table, fishing line, a ceiling hook, wrapping paper and any and all Christmas decorations you have will do just fine.

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Base design by twistedtreeartist

Once you place the table where you want to display your tree, you will want to wrap the table’s surface in wrapping paper. Silver, gold or blue with a snowflake design, any wrapping paper will do. Then you will want to screw the hook in the ceiling securely. Make sure you align the center of the table with the center of where you want the tip of your tree to go for the most streamlined look.

To begin forming the shape of the tree, wrap the fishing line around the bottom of the tree, up and around the hook and then tie a knot to close the initial loop. Do not cut the fishing line. You will continue to wrap the fishing line around the table and hook until you have created a base for the tree.

In order to create spaces to hang your decorations, you will need to create spider web designs within the vertical lines. On the outer cone of the tree, you should pull together a few of the vertical strings, wrap them with more fishing line and then let it go, moving on to the next set of vertical strings. To secure the web, tie a few knots here and there to strengthen the web.

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Final Design by twistedtreeartist

Now comes the best part: the decorating! If you’re going for a m0re modern look, use some silver garland and smaller blue or green lights. For the more traditional decorator, green garland with multi-color lights will look great as well. Wrap as much or as little as you want!

When you plug in the Christmas lights and turn off the overhead lighting, you will have a statement holiday tree that has the illusion of floating in space.

And to think, hours ago, you had a bland holiday-less space!

Need even more lighting for your holiday party? Check out Chicago Handyman’s electrical services!

Revamping The Standard Coffee Table

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Happy Holidays!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to spice up an everyday DIY project. After all, there are a lot of examples of how to make your own coffee table, but how can you make one that is not only functional but a statement piece?

Tracing tree design onto wood by

Tracing tree design onto wood by iezugod

And that’s when I came across iezugod‘s tree design coffee table. This beautiful piece is not only intricate, but a pretty simple design to create on your own.

When you create the tree stencil, you want to make sure that it is large enough to be noticeable but not overpowering the rest of the table. Then you will trace the design on plywood with a pencil. You will want to cut the wood to the tree shape.


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Base & top of coffee table by iezugod



You can create the frame of the table before or after you create the tree shape. You will need 2×4’s for the legs and supports as well as screws for additional corner supports. You will then need a plywood board which you will attach trim to for a more refined look. The trim is also important so you can inlay plywood boards to surround the tree design. You will need to draw the same tree design on the boards so you can insert the tree in the center of the table. Then you will cut the design and remove the left over wood from the piece.

The next step is to stain the table in a dark cherry color. Then you will place the tree in the center inlay you have created. Once the parts are all assembled, apply polyurethane to the table top to add gloss to your piece.

Adding a stain to the table by iezugod

Adding a stain to the coffee table by iezugod

With that final touch not only have you added another surface to your living room, but a gorgeous art piece all your guests will ask about it.

And you can proudly say, “I made that!”

Looking to renovate the living room you can put this table in? Check out Chicago Handyman’s drywall and painting services! 

Home Improvements That Add Value To Your Home Infographic

If you’re looking to add value to your home before selling it or just to improve your living conditions here’s a nice infographic that shows you what home improvements provide the best return on your investment.

Some improvements that are relatively cheap like a fresh coat of paint can go a long way. Improving the plumbing and electrical in the home has the highest return but a remodeled bathroom and kitchen might help it sell faster and add value as well.

If you’re getting ready to put your Chicago Area home or commercial property on the market and would like to get as much as possible for it contact us and have us fix it up for you before you put it up for sale.

Home Improvements That Add Value To Your Home

Custom Bay Window Seat

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Finished Product by JacobVandagriff

Maybe you’re looking to add some seating to your living room. Or maybe you want to sit comfortably, drink your morning coffee and look out the window at the morning sky. No matter what your reason, a window bench seat can be a great addition to your home. To build your own may take a few days, but it is a creative solution for any room in your home.

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This kitchen bay window, was wasted space until it was transformed in to a custom bay window seat.

Before getting started on your project, you will have to run a few errands for supplies. You will need some 1/4″ and 1/2″ plywood boards and several pressure treated 2X4’s for the frame and supports. Hardware for the storage drawer, white paint and paint brushes will also be required. For the cushion, you will need pre-cut memory foam and a durable fabric of your choosing.

First you should lay your first 2X4 on the outer edge of where your window seat will be. You will want to make sure that it is securely attached to the floor as it will be providing much of the support for the bench. Then you will want to cut the remaining 2X4’s to size to form the frame. This requires 3 other boards to frame the floor area by the window. Using an impact drill and wood screws, you should attach 8 boards vertically to meet the window sills, 3 boards to frame the window sills and another 4 boards to provide support for the cushion.

After the supports are all in place, you will want to use a circular and miter saw to fit the plywood boards of both the top and front of the seat. You will want to cut out 2 squares for the storage underneath the seat. You will want to add wood filler in the storage areas as well for more support.

For a more clean cut look, you can attach trim to the top and bottom of the window seat. Then you can start applying paint of your choosing, though I would suggest matching it to the color of the windows in your home.

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Finishing corners adds style and elegance to any remodeling project. A trim joining the base with the floor creates a beautiful finishing touch.

To finish up the project, you will add the door to the storage area. Attach the door to your window seat and screw in the hardware you bought earlier in the process.  After upholstering the memory foam with the fabric you chose, you place it on top the seat. For added protection, spray some waterproofing solution on the cushion.

Though not for the faint of heart, this is a project doable even for the novice DIY-er. For a step-by-step guide on this project, check out Reddit user JacobVandagriff ‘s imgur album.

And for your more intense home projects, call Chicago Handyman for low prices for all your home improvement needs.

Custom Bay window seat

Mural Painting Brings Rooms to Life

Finished product by loganza

Finished product by loganza

No matter how big or small, no room in your house should ever be called boring. And if you don't have the budget or time to pick out some eclectic furniture or interesting artwork, a feature wall just might be for you. With a clear vision and bit of paint you can breathe some life back into your ignored walls.

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Taping off design by loganza

When choosing the room in your house to add a feature wall to, make sure that the other 3 walls are painted with a neutral or muted color. You don't want houseguests to be distracted from all your hard work! Choose the wall that you want your eye to be drawn to and get started.

First, you're going to want to get your materials together. Depending on how intricate the design you choose, you might need more supplies. For any scale of work you will need a pencil to sketch out the design, painter's tape to define where the design will be painted and the various colors of paint you will want to use.

Next, you will need to choose your design. For example, Reddit user, loganza, wanted a more geometric design. But whether you're an artist or a mural novice, you will want to draw your design with a pencil and a straight edge yardstick. Getting the measurements evenly distributed will definitely be the hardest part, but will make the painting later much easier.

Adding blue to the design by loganza

Adding blue to the design by loganza

Once you have the design all drawn out, you will want to tape out all the sections. You can do this all at once or as you paint each section. Choose bright colors that compliment each other as well as the other walls in the room.

After all the painting is done, peel off the tape and allow the paint to dry.

And voila! You now have a feature mural that any homeowner could be proud of!

Adding the orange accent by loganza

Adding the orange accent by loganza

Need multiple rooms in your house painted? Give us a call for a free estimate on all your Chicago Mural Painting needs.