Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another day, another 300 dollars at Home Depot (or Lowe's)

With all of our hard work last weekend, we ran out or crown molding. Lest you think crown molding is not hard work, let me suggest that you pick-up something 8 to 12 feet long and moderately heavy, stand-up, hold it over your head, and then try and read the rest of this post. Then after that, press that long heavy thing against a sloped ceiling, so that it hugs the ceiling in all its weird curves and swerves, and then judge.

Anyway, we actually had one unhappy piece of crown left at our house, but it was too dinged-up to use in a long section, so we bought more. We also were looking for chair molding for the guest room (an adventure since the beadboard is so many different heights in there - apparently the walls of the room are on different levels), base molding for the guest room, chalkboard paint (for a kitchen calendar dream that I will discuss later), and various other home improvement must-haves. Have I mentioned that oftentimes now the cashiers at Lowe's and Home Depot recognize us? All told, we left $300 poorer, but we beat the snow, and got much of what we needed, so it was not a total loss.

We did NOT, however, manage to find chair molding for the guest room. I will explain why in a moment. In the meantime, to give you some insight into buying molding off-the-rack here are our tips. We will call them -

Tips for people who have not purchased molding at a Big Box store but are looking to do so:

1. Set aside a good chunk of time. Do not expect an in-and-out kind of experience. You will need time to find what you like in the material you want, wrestle what you like out of the bins, and then make sure the pieces you want match and are the right size.

2. Buy in bulk. The packs are so much cheaper then buying pieces individually. Of course, you can usually only get a 5-pack in the most commonly used patterns, so this may not work for you. If you do buy the pack, check very carefully for damage. If there is only one damaged piece you might still consider buying the pack if, for instance, the 5-pack price is still less than buying 4 pieces individually. Often you can use parts of damaged pieces for smaller areas or corners. This leads to the next tip:

3. As mentioned, check every piece for damage. As a note, they will pretty much all have damage. You need to assess what damage is okay for your project. If you are painting the molding, is it a ding that you can paint or caulk over? Is it an area that can be seen once the molding is on the wall? Will the curve come out of the wood once you put it on the wall? Can the flaw be fixed by cutting a small piece off the end? Pick the most damage free pieces the store has.

4. Check the length against your car's abilities. Molding comes in many different sizes, but the shortest we have seen is 8 feet long. Figure out how you are going to get it home before you purchase. Luckily, our all purpose minivan plus a free red flag and twine from the store allow us to purchase up to the 12 ft sections. Someday maybe we will tackle the 16 footers, but that day has not yet come my friends.

5. Check the material. Do you need pieces that you can stain or paint? Do you want them pre-primed? Are you okay with MDF or do you want solid wood? Make sure you know what you have purchased previously, so if you come back to get more it will match.

6. Check if the price listed is per foot or per piece. Ample conversation, "Wow! This one is so cheap, and it is pine not MDF. Nope, never mind. That one is priced by the foot. it is actually twice as expensive."

7. Check very carefully to see if the pieces match each other and what you already have. We bring a small section of the old molding to the store to check if it matches. Do not just assume that things in the same rack are the same type or style of molding.

Back to the story of no chair rail:
So on Tuesday night we were at the store. I arrived first and started looking for thick chair molding. I found a really nice piece that was not in the rack with this picture, but it looked the most like this picture:


Pretty, yes? I realize the picture is not great, but the iPhone does not like to take close-ups. So I figured out that we would need about 5 pieces of 8' chair rail to complete the guest room. I pulled out 3 pieces from the rack and set them up on the floor to compare. They all had the same pattern, but one was about half an inch wider than the others. This would present a problem where the corners matched. I then pulled more and more out of the rack until I had the whole rack out on display:


It is difficult to tell from the picture, but the left four pieces match, as do the middle three and the right three. However, none of those groups matched each other. Grr. The rightmost three pieces were also a different pattern. I would have been happy with either the leftmost or the center sets, but I needed five, not four or three

By this time the husband had also arrived, listened to my tirade, and was trying to find matching crown molding at the other end of the aisle. After wandering the aisle looking for just one more piece to match, saying hello to Bob in the doors department who asked how we were and how was the house going (we are there quite a bit, did I mention that already?) I found someone department-specific to help.

After listening to my story, nodding sympathetically, telling me that the restock guy was only in on Fridays, sighing over customers that put things on the wrong racks,  looking at what I wanted, picking a piece off the rack that he thought might match (it did not), having all the pieces that I had taken out fall on him (it looked painful, but he seemed to rebound nicely), and agreeing that was all the store had, the very nice man took my number and said the Friday molding guy would call me. We asked if we should buy the four and come back for the fifth, but he thought that was a bad idea. I take this as him saying that there may never be a fifth, why get your hopes up?

So we still do not have chair molding for the guest room, which was one of our weekend goals, but we will try again soon.

Until then, if you see Bob in doors, tell him we say hello!

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