Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bathroom Remodel: success! Functional shower & toilet

Grouting the tile turned out to be a more tedious job than I anticipated; we did the shower tile together one night and it kept us up until 2am. I made the mistake of not wearing gloves and rubbed my fingers raw scrubbing with the sponge and rubbing the grout smooth with my finger. Heather wore gloves - smart. The results were perfectly satisfying, however. The next day I installed the shower fixtures and applied caulk between the tub and tile:
Our brand new, fully functional tub and shower! We love the ability to control temperature and flow separately, which allows you to turn down the pressure and save water, or get a full-on environmentally UN-friendly tsunami. The detachable head is great.

Shelves coming in handy already.

I did some research about caulk and learned a few things. (1) the new acrylic caulk holds up better and bonds better than the silicone caulk, and is easier to work with. (2) the caulk allows your tub to move a little as it settles with a full load of water then springs back as it's emptied. I've noticed grout between the tub and tile in a few of my relatives' bathrooms, and more often than not there was a section of grout missing, cracked, or bulging out. It just doesn't flex like caulk does. (3) You have to FILL THE TUB with water and caulk with it full! This was bizarre to me until I realized the concept: you want the crack filled when it's biggest so that it has to deal more with compression forces rather than stretching forces. I don't know how much this will matter in our case as I secured the tub to the wall with multiple steel brackets, plus it's on a very solid bed of cement. Nevertheless, it's satisfying to know I've done it right.

As I mentioned before there's a slope to our floor - nearly 1" from one side of the room to the other - and this was a challenge when laying tile, to get the 12" tile to match at the corners elevation-wise. In fact, where the slope changes, it's impossible to get it to match without breaking a tile in half. Thus I chose 1/4" grout lines which helped to cover up the small elevation changes.

Heather, Alex Hay (her niece), and I did the floor grout on Friday night in about 2 hours. We worked quickly and I think it went quicker having learned a bit about grout from the wall tile. Or maybe it was the motivation of the Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie awaiting, and the movie Source Code (great movie, fairly clean for a PG-13). We chose a darker color for the tile to hide dirt and, I guess, make it feel like a floor.

Here's proof Heather did help with the project! Turns out she's a natural pro grouter.

You'll have to trust us for now - the final result is great.

Yesterday, I stumbled through a toilet installation. First hook-up only took an hour or so, and I had the toilet assembled and working. Then I noticed a small leak from the old supply line valve (which, I discovered, was missing a small brass ring required to achieve a water-tight seal). Ran to Home Depot for a new valve (and got side-tracked in the plumbing aisle and purchased a fridge ice-maker supply line kit), and came back to see that there was apparently a leak from the base of the toilet as well. After THREE wax rings and some adjusting of the PVC replacement flange that the toilet sits on, it finally sealed well. Finally, finally, no more sewer fumes in my face!

Then as I was tapping in some shims to help stabilize the base, I knocked the rim of the toilet ever so slightly as I was moving a hammer from one side to the other, and CHIPPED the rim!!! So, our brand new toilet has about a 5mm chip on the rim, clearly visible even with the lid closed. When wiping down the toilet after installation, the dirt on my rag turned that chip a nice dark brown color. Totally obvious. Feels like a brand new car with a ding on the door. I guess I'll buy a porcelain chip fix kit next!

Our Kohler toilet. (No you're not supposed to fully assemble it before placing it unless you really want a back workout.) Oh, here you can see the finished grout and how dark it is when wet, vs. dry. And there in the corner a crumpled up wax ring and the little wooden shims I used to stabilize the toilet (they'll be hidden by the caulking)

Now we can SHOWER and TOILET in our upstairs full bath! Yay! After a month without a shower in the house, it feels great. But we have to use the tub to wash hands after toileting, and the vanity, sink, and mirror await electrical wiring, which I'll have to learn about because I've never done that either.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bathroom Remodel: New Tile!

I bought a nice beige Italian ceramic floor tile ($2.20/sq ft) at Lowe's as part of our big $1000+ purchase with the 10% discount coupon. It took us two weeks to find wall and accent tile to accompany it - we went to three different stores and settled on an inexpensive 8x12 wall tile we found at Home Depot for about $1 per square foot. Two things I love in bathrooms: glass tile, and travertine! My mom used thick, large travertine tile in her new bathroom and that was the first time I really noticed it. Stone tile costs a lot, though, and I wasn't sure I wanted something that would be more difficult to install, and more tricky to care for.

Both glass and travertine made it into the installation, and the travertine is up high enough that I don't think it will need to be sealed more than once (while we live here anyway). I really wanted light turquoise glass tile accents but if I got exactly what I wanted with the first bathroom I've ever done, I may just never remodel another bathroom! Check it out:
Hard to tell but it's 90 degrees INside. Wall tile halfway done. You can see the bright blue waterproof layer that I painted right onto the Hardibacker. It's a rubberized undercoat by Laticrete that is approved for swimming pools. I can guarantee this shower would be waterproof even without any tile - there's a thick bead of caulk joining the waterproofed cement board to the tub. I had extra waterproof paint so I did half of the floor too!
Wall tile is complete. First tile job - more tedious than I thought it would be but much more fun than laying subfloor or cement board!
"Take a picture of me, daddy!" So here's some of the floor tile too. Obviously not done - I need to buy a new diamond blade for the wet saw I'm borrowing from Dave. Not sure if I was pushing it too fast or if it just wore out.

New stained and sealed solid oak threshold, leveled and cemented in place. The old one was a solid piece of white marble that I intended to keep but it broke in half during the demolition :(
12x12 sheets of accent tile from Home Depot. At about $8 per sheet, they're much cheaper than the $30 sheets we were considering at Best Tile.
His mouth is still full with a bite of YUMMY home-made chicken/feta/tomato/spinach pizza!
Yep, fully functional bathtub. If you don't mind the hose-style faucet.

Detail shot. Why I love glass? The internal shadows and reflections are like little individual swimming pools (especially if we had gone with the light turquoise). I love natural colors. Don't worry, we'll paint over the pink walls soon enough!

Bathroom Remodel: New Tub!

Once the plumbing was finished and tested, I began work on the subfloor. Not too much to say about that - after adding a 2x4 along the length of each floor joist, I put in three sheets of 3/4" tongue-and-groove plywood, glued and screwed. No big issues there (sorry, no pics either!). Next I lengthened the small partition wall (easy first framing experience!) at the head of the tub to accommodate our larger tub. Ours is 4" wider, and 4" taller than the previous one. It really is a nice, big tub.
The mess! unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of the beautiful new subfloor. The plywood has already been covered with 1/2" cement board which was glued (with thinset) and screwed to the plywood. You can see the lengthened partition wall, now covered with drywall.

The reason the tub comes first is because the floor and wall tile are installed overlapping it; there's a 1" lip around the edge of our tub which allows the wall cement board and tile to overlap and ensure no chance of leakage behind the tub.

We had bought the tub at Lowe's along with just about every other big item. Our car won't fit much, and so we tried to get every large item both to maximize the "10% off entire first purchase" coupon, and the truck rental required. It's an acrylic tub, so Heather and I were able to handle it easily.
New tub (with Hardibacker cement board in place too). That raw copper stub has been our source of bathing water for a week or two now. It comes out like a hose and if it's on full pressure, the stream hits halfway up the back of the tub.

The tub slid into place perfectly, much to my surprise. I really thought I'd get away with simply sliding it into place, screwing in the metal brackets, and calling it good. However, it required a combination of three different drains to get the right pieces. With a functional drain, we now had a functional bathtub, and so I opened the box to our shower head and installed the new main valve and handle temporarily. Then, we took much-needed baths! No leaks in the plumbing or drain, BUT, we discovered the drain was slow!! Last thing you want on a brand new tub is a slow drain...

This was devastating news to me! I knew the floor had settled nearly an inch, and some more surveying showed that there was barely enough elevation change for the drain (1/4" drop per foot is required). Then I did some reading about setting a tub in CEMENT and got excited about that. Some tubs require this; ours didn't. This would help make the tub exactly level, add 1" of elevation to the drain, and make the acrylic tub feel and act like a cast-iron tub. Of course, it's a lot of work and I've never worked with cement or mortar before, but at $5 for an 80-lb bag, it was very little additional cost. I also spent $15 during the same trip and purchased a "drain auger" or "plumber's snake" and was relieved to discover that a few passes of that made the tub drain much more quickly.

When it came time to lay tile, I was so glad to have a perfectly level tub! I'm realizing over and over that it's crucial to get things right so that a seemingly small mistake doesn't lead to multiple costly and time-consuming compensatory measures down the road.

Trevor! Almost 5 months...

Friday, July 22, 2011

First Visitors

We've been in our house just over a month now. Time really has flown by. We still have boxes to unpack and rooms to finalize and decorate. The bathroom is still in progress and I have mentally put life on hold until it is finished. Mostly because many of the boxes needing to be unpacked have to do with the bathroom or Trevor and Brennan's bedrooms. The bathroom "work room" is Brennan's new room and Trevor is in our walk-in closet/sleeping deck.

Even with all of the work and unpacking going on, we had some friends from D.C. (Virgina) come and visit last week end (our 3rd week here). Maren, Joseph and their beautiful daughter Adelaide came to spend the weekend with us and to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

They arrived late Friday night and we hung out Saturday at Lake Ontario before the pageant.
We took a stroll to the end of the pier. It was a hot enjoyable day - not humid.

Brennan loved to run up the pier and see the water. Of course he has to jump off everything he passes by.
Logan was a sport to wear Trevor. I was a bit worried about his skin with the hot sun but Logan didn't seem to worry. I'm the worrier I guess.

Playing at the park for a while before heading back to our house to swim in the pool.
Brennan didn't want to get off the swing. He could swing all day if someone were there to push him. I thought he looked pretty cute just sitting there. He was pretty patient for me to snap a picture before I went to push him.

Trevor loves being outside. He's always so fascinated with the leaves blowing in the trees. He is the sweetest boy and is so easy going. We sure love him. He loves to watch Brennan play and observe the world around him.

After the park and the swim in the pool, Maren and I headed back to the park to enjoy some frozen custard and some time with out kids to talk. Abbots Frozen Custard is to die for!!

We got back to my place in time to help Logan finish a batch of cookies and make a fruit salad for a neighborhood party. Our amazingly kind neighbors hosted a street party that evening. Maren and Joseph were kind enough to tag along. The party was a great opportunity for us to meet some of our neighbors.

Joesph went to the party for a bit and then left to get seats for pageant. Maren and I put the kids down for bed while Logan went to pick up a babysitter for the evening. Having a babysitter was a perfect end to a fun filled day. We drove up, watched the pageant (and even wore light jackets with blankets around us), and drove back home in separate cars.

Logan and I missed the exit on the way home and had to drive 15 more minues on I90 to exit. Then we were on the west side of the city and had to drive 19 more miles to to our house! Dumb mistake we will never repeat. Next time we'll pay more attention and not be busy doing our own things (I was adding contacts to my new phone and Logan was busy thinking about the bathroom project).

We really loved having visitors and hope they come back again in the next 4 years we're here - of course after we go visit them ;) Anyone is welcome!!


I've been doing a lot of sewing lately. Brennan has been my sidekick and great helper. He loves to help cut paper - since I don't let him use my fabric scissors. I don't want him getting used to cutting fabric (i.e. clothes). He loves my retracting measure tape. I even took it to church last Sunday to keep him occupied during sacrament meeting. Worked like a charm.

Brennan loves my new sewing set up as much as I do. Opening my drawers and pulling things out could keep him occupied all day! We put a little table and chairs in the room for Brennan to work while I'm sewing. He loves it and so do I.

I was taking some pictures of stuff for my Etsy shop today and snapped this one of Brennan.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bathroom: Plumbing problems...

Destruction Ends, Construction begins! A couple days into demolition, I decided I should shut off the water to the bathroom and after hunting around in the basement, I found two valves on the copper supply lines running straight up to the bathroom. Perfect! I can keep the rest of the water on while I work on bathroom plumbing. But then, as I started twisting one of the valves closed, it literally sprayed water on me and soon there was a puddle on the basement floor. The leak stopped completely when I opened the valve fully. Then, in the same moment, I noticed a few drips hanging under the insulation on a pipe nearby, and was horrified to discover underneath the insulation that the pipe had a rusty section wrapped in electrical tape and was leaking, probably about to burst. It was the only steel piping left in the house and supplied the outdoor faucet (which also leaks, a lot), upstairs bathroom, and washing machine (which has leaky valves, too!).

I eased myself into plumbing by first buying a few Shark Bite fittings and valves (easy but costly push-together system) and replaced about 40 feet of steel pipe in the basement, but realized I couldn't do the whole job with Shark Bite or I'd add a couple hundred bucks on right there, so I sat down and watched, yet again, more YouTube "how to" videos and taught myself how to sweat copper pipes. Here's a partially-pictured list of the plumbing I had to re-do:

1. supply lines to outdoor faucet and washing machine; new valves for bathroom supply lines (I used pex pipe for this, works great)

2. washing machine faucet and sink hook-ups (see above, new PEX piping and a Sharkbite shut-off valve to replace the old, nearly bursting steel pipe, and then I used (much cheaper) copper for all the joints and valves for the sink and washing machine).

3. tapped into a gas line for our (used, old) gas dryer which required about 5 threaded fittings. For this, I had to buy a big, hefty pipe wrench, a tool I didn't understand prior to this job. I'm glad I didn't attempt it without a pipe wrench. I tested all the fittings with soap to look for bubbles.

4. drains for sink and tub

5. toilet supply line

6. new main valve for shower**

Once I got the new valves in the basement for the bathroom supply lines, I was able to shut them off and isolate the bathroom so I could tinker on it. Total time with the main water shut off for the whole project: only TWO hours!! **Number 6 was a huge test of patience and confidence. It involved some 15 plus sweated copper joints, one of which leaked when I tested the system, right at the connection to the new main valve. A slow drip, maybe once every 10 seconds, but enough to make me almost give up entirely. A simple YouTube search just wasn't helping this time. I should've called someone. Out of frustration and desperation, I cut through the pipe next to the leak, grabbed the pipe with my biggest set of pliers, and, to my surprise, was able to crush/muscle it out of its fitting without messing up the valve box nor the other joints on it. An hour later and 5 new sweated joints, and I was done with all of the plumbing - for now. I will probably replace the powder room's sink at some point, and I still have to run a line to the fridge which I've now learned is a simple $20, 1-2 hour task. (the previous owner I guess decided it wasn't worth it? to buy a new fridge with an ice machine and filtered water, but not hook it up??)

It's an empowering thing to realize I now understand and know the location of all of the plumbing and gas lines in the house, and am confident I could fix whatever problems may arise - it's the ACCESS to that problem that presents the biggest challenge, and identifying exactly what's leaking or failing because it's hidden can be a nightmare. I can't wait to live in a house that is plumbed entirely with PEX piping (like PVC but flexible and more durable) as many new houses are! My biggest worry: hoping the drains in the new bathroom will function fine despite having just about the minimum slope required (1/4" drop per 1 foot horizontal).

Next up: Construction - The Bathtub

Bathroom: The Excavation

Heather wanted me to tell the bathroom story since I'm the one doing it. Pardon my wordiness - it's also the family journal!

Planning: During our last couple of months in Spokane, we watched more than a few episodes of HGTV network shows online. Inspired, I decided we could take on a "small" project and, since the bathroom is one of the smallest rooms in the house, I decided it would be a good first project. I had about a week off between jobs. I grabbed my brother Dave's tile wet saw when climbing Mt. Hood with him in May. On our drive East, we picked up a bathroom design book and started picking out things we liked.
just getting started...

Demolition: Two days after arriving here, we went to Home Depot and spent nearly $500 on tools, such as a crow bar, cordless drill and saw, a miter box saw, a few cold chisels, wood chisels, some orange buckets, a laser level (yep, I know, a splurge but it's been so, so nice!), and a shop vac.

Megan Hay, Heather's 10-year-old niece, helped with the first phase of demolition: removing some cheap stick-on 12" square linoleum tiles. They were actually brand new. I absolutely loathe such cheap flooring. Well, it wouldn't have been that bad except it was a boring gray with an artificial-looking print, and there were small gaps here and there where it didn't come together all that well. They were amazingly, stubbornly sticky too.

There's something very empowering and exciting about beginning the demolition - it's the point of no return. Not trivial in this case, as it was a fully functioning full bath (the only in our house) and it had a new floor in it. Unlike a fellow co-worker who re-did his bathroom because an old pipe started leaking behind the tile wall, we chose to deprive ourselves of the most essential room in the house. Once we start destroying, there's no fixing it, pressing CTRL + Z, or starting over... BUT... the history of an 80-year-old house unfolds itself with all its ugly and quirky secrets (and the scope of the project) into plain view.

After about 10 tiles, we gave up as they were tearing into pieces instead of lifting off whole. Megan left, and I grabbed the crowbar to pry up the 1/4" plywood under the linoleum tiling, and discovered that it was adhered to an old 1" square tile floor with an excessive amount of glue. I excitedly chipped off some of that tile, revealing an old, white 1" hexagonal tile floor laid in cement. I kinda liked the stuff, but the cement discovery was a HUGE setback.
discovering the original tile floor

Do I carefully demolish down to the 1" hex tile floor? Somewhere during a frenzy of tile-smashing, tub bashing, and vanity crashing, I stepped a little too far beyond the point of no return as a few large chunks of cement came loose and I excitedly pried them up out of the floor. The cement was 5-6" thick, with a heavy wire mesh embedded halfway through, poured onto a layer of support boards made of various scraps of wood (this wood was an exciting discovery as it revealed that the exterior is thick cedar shakes hidden under the insulated aluminum siding we have now).

During the floor demolition, I did run down the stairs more than ten times to verify that the lath-and-plaster ceiling below the bathroom was still intact. I dropped tools, boards, cement, and discovered Brennan walking right on the lath, but it held up! Well into the 2nd full day of demolition, I had the sudden revelation that I should rent a jack hammer, which saved my back and probably a full day's work. I was done breaking up the floor in about an hour with that thing. But it took me many hours afterwords and at least a hundred trips up and down the stairs, to haul out literally tons of concrete chunks, concrete bits, concrete dust, tile, piles of wood, the PINK cast iron tub (smashed into chunks with a sledge hammer), two PINK cast iron sinks, the PINK toilet, and the mirror and vanity.

Heather tackled the waste handling problem by calling our garbage company and discovering they'd haul away the equivalent of 18 bags of trash in one pick-up. Much to our suprise, they also hauled away ALL of the concrete. The garbage truck was parked in front of our house for a solid half hour while they loaded it up. And the cast iron and toilet literally vanished to the scavengers as quickly as I could bring them to the street (we do live on a somewhat busy road).

Some more discoveries during demolition: (1) The first major bathroom renovation occurred in 1968 (I found some newspaper and carefully unwrinkled it - I should post some pieces of the grocery ads...). (2) All of the steel pipe, both the drain pipes and water supply, had at some point been replaced with copper - and all the old steel pipes left embedded in the concrete made for excellent leveraging material when removing the concrete once I realized they were no longer needed. (3) The area of the tub had settled over 1 inch relative to the highest point in the room, which happens to be where the sewer stack sits, which means the sink drains and the bathtub drains now had to fight that 1 inch of elevation difference to get to the sewer stack - this is not an insignificant discovery. I considered at length re-routing the drains down a channel where the supply pipes ran, straight to the basement, but ultimately decided against it because I didn't like the idea of weakening up the floor joists any more than they already were. The original plumbing was run in such a way to preserve the joists' strength but the copper re-do was accomplished by cutting out large sections of the joists, right down the center of the floor, over halfway through in some spots!
Demolition complete (and a new bathtub drain). Check out those chunks of concrete that our awesome new garbage service took away for us!

Next up: Plumbing Problems...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Trevor - 4 months old

Trevor had his 4 month old check up on Thursday. He's a healthy growing boy. He weights 16 pounds 1 ounce (75th%) and is 25.25" long (70%). He sure is getting big. He's such a happy easy going boy.

He loves to watch Brennan play. Brennan loves to show Trevor his tricks as well. I love when Brennan talks to Trevor because Trevor is really starting to notice Brennan. Trevor eyes follow Brennan around the room. Brennan can even get Trevor to smile big when he jumps in front of him. I think if Brennan doesn't start growing soon Trevor will catch up to him!
(this is Trevor just over 3 months old - I haven't been very good at taking pictures during this move/unpacking/etc).

** Today I was sewing and Trevor was playing under his toy blanket (mobile). I turned around to check on him and he was on his belly! He's been working on that for a while and has been so close. His arm was still stuck under his belly, but he was fully extended looking up. I was quite impressed! He has yet to master rolling from belly to back - which usually comes first. He has rolled from belly to back a few times, but it was too soon after I placed him on his belly for me to count it. I think it was still his head momentum from me turning him.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Brennan and Sleeping

About a week ago I was running some errands and left Logan to help the boys get to bed. While I was gone Logan said Brennan got out of his bed and came downstairs asking for a drink of "water and milk". Logan gave him a drink and asked him to go and get back in bed. Brennan left the kitchen and Logan went back to work doing what he was doing. A while later Logan heard a loud noise on the stairs. He went to see Brennan at the bottom of some stairs sleeping. Instead of going back to bed in his crib (yes, I know, he's still in his crib - when the bathroom is done he'll be in a twin bed in a different room) he went and laid on one of the stairs. He had fallen asleep and rolled down the stairs! The funny thing is when he fell it didn't even wake him up. Funny kid. He had asked me earlier that day if he could sleep on the stairs and of course I said no. I guess he wanted to try it out on his own.

A funny thing about our new home

Yesterday was quiet funny in our house. 3 or 4 times I found Brennan crying randomly while I was doing something in another room. I asked him why and he said, "I couldn't find you." So cute and innocent. I guess he's not used to looking for me in 3 floors (basement, downstairs, and upstairs). Good thing he doesn't know we have a full attic ;) (it's not finished yet - we're thinking about doing it in a year or two if time and money come together).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dance Family photo's

While we were in Bellevue, for Jacob's return off his mission, we had some family pictures taken. It was the first time in 2 years the whole Dance family was together. We took some pictures as a whole, just the grand kids, and then some individual family pictures. We now have a family picture with Trevor in that we can print and hang on our wall. We think they turned out great!

The whole gang.

Our family of four

Logan and siblings

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New House - front room, stairs, den, and entry way

Walking in from the front door. There's a front door, small mud room, and then another door to enter the house. You can see the kitchen through the doorway on the right.

Looking down from the front stairs. You can see the mud room and two doors. You can also see the french doors to the right of the front door.

Above - View into the front room from the french doors. The door to the right goes into my sewing room. The window on the far left also goes into the sewing room.

French door to the right. Large front window.

Front room. The front door is to the left of the french doors. The right door frame takes you to the side door, kitchen, and den (pictured later in this post). This picture is taken looking out of my sewing room.

Stair landing. The left takes you to the front door and the right takes you into the den. The den (well, really a dining room from the original house plans). I love this little side stair case and use it all the time. Brennan loves to play on it as well.

Looking into the den from the front room.