Thursday, March 25, 2010

With Help From The Other Brother-in-law

One of our greatest concerns with this renovation was to make a seamless space out of two small, meager holes-in-the-wall.  As the drywall took shape our fears withdrew until the final coat of paint went on the wall.  Late into the night I climbed up and down the ladder to trim, taking great care to get a crisp edge between the walls and the ceiling.  Having learned my lesson with the Kilz, I made for certain all the windows were up and all the fans were on.  Without doors to the room, Mary struggled to get a few hours of sleep despite the sound of my size 10 Chuck Taylors banging, clanging, and occasionally tripping up and down the fiberglass ladder.

Bleary eyes at 5:00am, I climbed the ladder for one last coat, dressed in my pajamas & shower robe.  Though it may sound reminiscent of a couple featured on Trading Spaces, our rush was not at the prompting of a TV crew.  First thing in the morning, my brother-in-law's, brother-in-lay's, brother...that's three brothers, two in-laws...was due to arrive to put his magic tile laying touch on our project.

We opted for the 3x6 ceramic subway tiles rather than a fiberglass tub surround for many reason.  Most notably, the expense was comparable, but the impact was much greater.  We have, after all, an extra foot of bathroom for the tub, and who doesn't like extra feet where they can get them?  Especially after five years of life with a closet sized bathroom tucked below a defunct staircase.  In addition to the cost & the space, one of the few perks inherent in a house 120 year old house is the 10 ft ceiling. We opted to buy and extra box of tile and go all-the-way up to the ceiling.

To our surprise, we ended up having to special order the shower curtain rod.  Missed it by that much (and by that I mean exactly one inch.)

After almost 15 bags of self leveling underlay, it was unavoidable that we would select ceramic tile for the floor.  In keeping with the previous statement about who doesn't love an extra foot, we picked out 12" square tiles.  Over the past two years we have poured over tile samples every time we went to Home Depot.  In other words, once a week for two years we considered the options.  In the end, we discovered by accident our tiles at Lowe's.  On principle I worry about shopping at Lowe's because I was once told that WalMart own's them.  However, while fretting over the price of some rather handsome Italian tiles recently, we turned around to discover a similar product on sale.  And so, we purchased all of it.

Again, we are thankful for the help of my brother-in-law's, brother-in-law's, brother.  And, ironically, He  he enlisted the help of his brother-in-law.  Which leads me to ask myself, when and where will my other brother-in-law call in a favor from me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Doesn't Kilz Me Makes me....................

Three of the great, unsolved mysteries of my life is where all of the Socks, single engine airplanes in the Bermuda Triangle, and paint on fresh drywall end up when they vanish.  It would not be the first time that I failed to get a gallon of paint to cover the square footage the manufacturer claims it should.  In my desperate attempt to fully seal fresh drywall I gave Kilz, original, oil based, poison strength formula a try.

I started priming the walls around 3:00 pm, the earliest opportunity I had.  My hopes were to prime the ceiling, then the walls and finally, have time to paint the ceiling.  As you will see pictured, I opened both the bathroom window and the adjacent kitchen window.  I utilized fans as well.  At the time I felt confident in my ventilation.  As I worked, I noticed time began to slip.  Before I knew it it was almost 5:00.  The ceiling and walls seemed to absorb the primer like a sponge.

As I primed the ceiling and then the walls, I became determined to finish what I had started before Mary got home from work.  I was consumed, in fact, or so I thought.  Working to reach 10 ft ceilings, I depended on my trusty roller extension.  I'm tall enough and have a decent reach, so short of a few bits of paint in my hair, I managed to knock out the ceiling with little difficult despite how quickly time seemed to be moving.  However, it eventually occurred to me that I was becoming more and more dependent on the roller as a means of staying on my feet.  The roller, was heavier the further along I got and to be honest, so did my face.  What I was consumed by was more and more obviously not determination.

Mary arrived home from work late, which gave me the extra time needed.  I was finished, I was triumphant, however, I was incapable of putting together a sentence.  My face was heavy, my arms a bit tingly.  I was covered with primer and my head was buzzing.  I was stoned from all the Kilz.  At Mary's urging I sat on the porch with the dog and took in as much fresh air as possible.  It wasn't until close to 7:00 and after a shower that I started to regain my grasp on reality.  The ceiling paint would have to wait, yet another casualty of an unpleasant experience with oil based Kilz.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Leveler

In 1891 somebody decided to build a house.  Their intentions aside, gravity, a generation or two of children, many, many children as I am lead to believe, & a fire have all modified the old house on Wyoming Street.  One of the more obvious side effects of these or other mysterious factors is that the floor has sagged from the West side of the house to the support beam in the basement.  Stabilized by steel jacks, the dip, sag, or depressed area, has made for unlevel floors throughout the house.

The most unavoidable examples is smack dab in the middle of our bathroom renovation.  Consulting a contractor, the solution included shifting the whole house, or filling in the gap.  After years of head scratching, we opted for laying a self leveling underlay.  The effect, 14 bags later, are pictured.  Mary & I are hardwired to avoid the use of any sort of patch.  Formally trained as an artist, I have a reverence for materials and the believe strongly that all problems must be addressed at their core.  But who wants to lift a house?

After moving walls, heating vents, pipes and wiring, many cracks and holes remained and were filled in with spray foam.  Over the floor, a layer of tar paper was laid to help contain the soupy mix to come.  Unfortunately unseen holes were discovered the hard way.  As the underlay poured over these pesky openings, as much as a half a bag made it's way dripping down to the basement.  The compound is relatively fast setting and will fill in the smallest holes, but for a few larger hole, duct tape was utilized to control the escaping product.  Self leveling underlay runs about $30 a bag, so there's no reason waste it.

The image above shows the chalk line indicating where the underlay would come up to before the floor was level.  Below, an image shows the underlay covered most of the floor before reaching it's pentacle.

Over the self leveling underlay cement board provides a base for a new ceramic floor.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scotland Road

"If it's not Scottish it's Crap!"

     Or at least, that's what Mike Myers would have had you believe back in this days on SNL.  A dangerous quote on St Patrick's day I guess, but it has it's purpose.  After sorting through a half dozen or so paint sample with 4 shades each, Mary and I came to the conclusion that we were going to go with Scotland Road.

     Our selection was based on a number of parameters.  In a small house, the conventional wisdom suggests color, texture, etc are related, if not consistent.  Mary wanted something a little different from the dining room.  Plus, it needed to make sense, as did every other choice, with a green glass soap pumps that I randomly became obsessed with.  Oddly enough we received two soap pumps for wedding presents.

     And that is how we came to, on St Patrick's Day, select Scotland Road for the walls of our nearly renovated bathroom.

     Plus, the bathroom is now bigger on the inside than it appears to be on the outside and I think Doctor Who would appreciate that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Minty Green Refreshing Progress

The old bathroom wouldn't know what to make of itself. We went with an 18 inch deep tub at 32 inches wide. There are no messaging jets, but then, what are they worth in the end? The newly renovated space is wider than the tub, so we went with a bit of a box to finish it off. The alternative was to build a box up to the ceiling, or, in retrospect, it might have made for a second storage space. I think ultimately the larger space will be worth more than the added storage.

Speaking of which, the new linen closet is progressing nicely. Made from the ashes of the recycling closet/ place to stick random Styrofoam blocks, the new linen closet is going to be a huge success I think. The house is storage poor so this is an important feature. Now we can buy paper products in bulk :) Finally a designated space to put my absurd collection of plastic bins. Right?

By the end of the day we expect to have the first coat of mud and tape up. Pictured is where our very slanted bedroom door used to be. You'll notice it only moved about 4 feet. This is going to provide us with a designated area for the vanity. Sharing a bathroom inevitably means tripping over each other. The added square feet will also, obviously help alleviate this problem. We opted for a single sink as ultimately we are more concerned about navigating the space.

Another important component in the placement of the door is our old air return. Originally it was placed in the floor in front of the bedroom door. If the dog or cat walked through the door 100 times in a day, 100 times a day they would jump over this roaring pit. We diverted the vent to the right and up into the wall behind the chimney. While this might seem like a large undertaking to save a few square feet, it also relocated the air exchange to the kitchen which is open to the dining room/living room space. In other words, 2/3rds of the house. This should improve the air flow to the furnace and possibly make the unit more efficient. On top of it all, we are going to be pouring a self leveling compound in this corner Wednesday. As you could imagine, the air return would have certainly been an obstacle.

Friday, March 12, 2010


The single greatest motivator in this renovation was to finally shower in the bathroom after spending five years using a makeshift shower in the middle of the basement laundry room.  Pictured is where The Old Cow (a 4 ft claw foot tub) once sat along side a commode, below a partial flight of attic stairs.  Our second greatest motivator was to increase the layout and square footage of our bathroom to include everything above.  The new room is approximately 9x6 ft with an additional 2x4 ft entry.

In an effort to save usable space we included in this project a slight entry way.  Presently this entrance is covered by a canvas tarp.  To the right of this doorway is an opening to our future linen closet.  Once accessible from another room of the house, this closet once served as a center for sorting and storing recyclable materials.  The future home of our recycling bins for paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, etc. is still a great mystery.

Looking forward to what next week brings, I've included an image of some of the lighting that will be included in the room.  Hanging from the 10 ft ceiling, we wanted lighting that would provide ample light in a practical way.  Although this pendant light take 2 light bulbs with a max of 60 watts each, we were advised that compact fluorescent bulbs put out substantially less heat.  With this in mind, we have the option to increase wattage if extra light is needed while saving on our electric bill.  We will be making up for our recent contribution to the local land fills for years to come.  I will be sure to recycle the cardboard box this light came in.