What I Learned Building The Duracraft Heritage Kit

Here's what I can tell you: Don't be in a hurry. Hopefully you have a place where you can leave everything out while you're working on it. Take your time. Be patient.

Sanding & Smoothing

The die-cut wood can be kind of rough -- even with sanding. Use spackle or joint compound to help smooth it -- especially the edges of the trim pieces.

Priming & Painting

Prime and paint everything BEFORE gluing. Use a good water-based primer/sealer. Use real house paint. Satin or Semi-Gloss looks better than flat for exterior siding. Watch out for warpage of the clapboard siding wall sections. Best to prime BOTH sides. Use heavy books to weigh them down while drying if you have to.

Glues

Don't use super glue near the windows -- it will "fog" the plastic. An excellent glue for house assembly, trim, windows, shingles and wood flooring is Quick Grab, available at miniature shops, WalMart and hardware stores. Don't use wood glue or white glue -- it is too runny and requires you to tape and clamp everything, AND wait forever for it to dry. Plus, it can cause things to warp. Don't use Quick Grab for plastic "tile" flooring, like the kind miniature shops sell for bathrooms and kitchens. It heats as it cures and will bubble the thin plastic.

Windows

Don't sweat it too much sanding those windows to make them open and close (the sliding ones, anyway), because everyone I know who has made this house found that after painting or staining they didn't work anyway! So just put them together and glue them shut!

Wallpapering

It is tricky to wallpaper the sections around the bay windows. Many people recommend wallpapering BEFORE assembling/gluing. If you do this, dry-fit the pieces together first and trace with a pencil, so you can paper right up to the edge without going over the line and making it too thick to fit in the grooves. The same advice applies to the 3rd floor walls, and slanted parts of 2nd floor.

Best to prime walls before wallpapering so over time the wood doesn't absorb the wallpaper paste and cause the paper to eventually peel. Use the excellent book binder's paste named "Yes" glue.

Brick

When doing the foundation and chimney with the "Magic Brick" -- mix white glue with the water when making the powder into paste. While the paste is still wet, before peeling off the stencil tape (you have to move quickly here), take an old toothbrush and runny black, gray and white paints and "spatter" the brickwork for a more real look. Then peel back the tape. The mortar won't have the spatter marks. Be sure to finish the dry brick with a clear finish (brush on is best, unless you mask off the rest of the house to protect it from spray). If you don't, the brick will pick and flake off.

Before Putting on the Roof

I think the single most tricky step was sawing those corner posts into the correct angles for the roof, right before putting the roof on. I had to get my husband's help on that one -- it did shake up the house a lot, but no harm was done.

Ceilings

For finishing the ceilings (on floor one & two --- flat sections only), I recommend spackle. It will cover up all those splices. The easiest way is to turn the house upside-down and secure it in a "cradle" made of braced pieces of plywood with triangle cutouts at the same pitch as the roof. Take a slightly damp sponge and lightly "pounce" on the surface to give it a little texture. Paint it when it is dry. Spackle is great for filling any gaps and wall joints too.

Interior Walls & Spaces

And finally, some of my personal opinions. Throw away the staircase they give you in the kit. If you must have stairs, buy some decent components made by Houseworks. But think long and hard before you commit to that staircase. I eventually took mine out (see Dollhouse Page for close-ups of interior and more details). Your "master bedroom" at the top of the flight will have room for little more than a bed! And you will see little of your kitchen below through all those steps. Plus, kitchen wall area is very limited -- where will you put your stove, hutch, cabinets or fridge? With that in mind, I dumped the middle wall of the first floor, which has a huge opening plus a "window" and replaced it with 1/8" thick veneer (buy "door skin" from a door store) that stops about 2 1/2" before the front door, making a doorway between the two rooms. With a solid wall in the middle I had enough places for my kitchen appliances, plus room for a fireplace and curio cabinet on the living room side.

I changed things around upstairs too. I didn't put the wall sections where they should have gone, right up to the roof walls, but instead left an opening like downstairs between the master BR and the middle "room." I say "room" because that middle section is way too tiny even to be a bathroom! So I left the second upstairs partial wall out entirely and made the two smaller rooms a large nursery. A baby crib just fits in that little jog section in the middle. And I didn't bother with the ladder, nor did I punch out the opening in the attic floor.

More Resources

Have you seen Jim Collin's web page yet? http://www.printmini.com. He also built the Heritage, and he has illustrated instructions reproduced there (in case you bought your kit second hand and it is missing the directions!)

And last, but not least, the incredible tips archives of Small Stuff! Join this wonderful online community and get answers to your questions from experienced miniaturists.

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