Fireplace Boiler Surround

I started a new project that I have had in mind for several years. I have loved Old Hickory furniture ever since we visited the Old Faithful hotel in Yellowstone National Park when we were first married. It is made in Indiana and has been in production since the 1800’s. I bought a side table years ago at a country auction. And I began purchasing some of the pieces in Arizona by finding a huge TV cabinet at an extreme discount in 2004. The doors did not fit exactly but the heftiness of the piece was impressive.

Purchased in 2004
Purchased in 2004

It is such a large piece that I have had trouble fitting furniture around it in the living room.

Moved to Colorado in 2014
Moved to Colorado in 2014

Finally I moved it so that it partially blocked off the hallway.

Back of cabinet over part of hallway
Back of cabinet over part of hallway

The new position allowed the best view of the new/used TV I bought when the monitor we had been using lost its audio.

Cabinet with new used TV
Cabinet with new used TV

The original plan for the stove was to build a wire frame and cover it with stucco to look like a kiva fireplace. That is such a homey look. But eventually I got the idea to combine the huge cabinet and the stove and still have the TV in the cabinet.

I delayed working on the plan because it seemed like a huge project. The cabinet is heavy and I knew I had to cut it in the living room creating quite a bit of dust. But after I finished the pillar I really wanted to move on to the another finish job in the room.

The boiler stove does not get hot to the touch. So the cabinet does not need the typical clearance between the flammable sides and the stove. I had a plan to dissipate the heat in the cabinet. I purchased ceramic fence insulators.

Ceramic fence insulator
Ceramic fence insulator

My plan was to use 1/4″ cement board to protect the wooden sides and space it away from the wood so air would be able to circulate around it and cool the sides.

Cement board installed
Cement board installed

But first I had to take the cabinet apart. The TV was relocated temporarily to a table on the other side of the room. And I began to remove the interior drawers, shelves and screws.

Taking the cabinet apart
Taking the cabinet apart

Once I had the cabinet apart I slid it over to the stove to calculate where the back of the stove had to be cut to allow it to push back to the wall and over the stove.

Moved to stove corner
Moved to stove corner

Then I used the reciprocating saw to cut through the wood. I thought it was oak plywood but upon further inspection realized the cabinet is oak veneer pressboard. But it is still very heavy.

First cuts of cabinet to fit around stove
First cuts of cabinet to fit around stove

Next I had to cut the middle shelf completely out in order to fit the cement boards at the sides and open the stove door. I left as much cabinet as I could in order for it to remain sturdy.

Cut out and pushed back over stove
Cut out and pushed back over stove

In order to get the cabinet pushed back over the stove I had to disconnect the plumbing and cut a hole in the side for the equipment to fit. Luckily I figured out how to disconnect the plumbing without having to remove the pump. I had to shift the cabinet back and forth to get the back leg around the equipment first.

Stove pumps and connections
Stove pumps and connections

Since I used shark bites it was possible to disconnect the piping and I will be able to reconnect it in its new location. Next I was able cut the metal studs to hold the cement board for the stone tile.

Framing started for facing
Framing started for facing

It was easier to remove the studs to install the cement board on the insulators. I still had to maneuver the drill around the stove. It helped that the cabinet can slide back and forth to gain space to work. Then I screwed the studs in with 1/2″ self tapping screws.

The most difficult part of the job was reconnecting the chimney. The pieces fit together very tightly and I had to try to line up the old screw holes. Where I could not use the existing holes I broke two drill bits making new holes for the screws. It took me all day to jockey the pipe enough to get it reconnected and screwed back together. While I was installing the pieces I cleaned the creosote from the inside. It was good to see that there was very little creosote in the pipe.

Chimney reinstalled
Chimney reinstalled

I temporarily placed some LED candles where the mantle will be. The TV will hang from an articulating arm installed above the mantel on a piece of the cabinet cut from the back panel. I need to have the TV swing away in order to check the pressure and temperature dial. After a few years of use though the stove does not exceed a safe pressure.

The beauty of the design is that the entire fireplace surround can be slid back from the stove just in case the stove needs some kind of maintenance that I can’t reach from the side opening. I’m very excited about the new look and additional area that this use frees up in the living room. Plus the style is exactly the cabin rustic I was hoping to have.

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Finished Pillar

When I finished the pillar I realized the stone is another heat sink in the living area for the warmth of the sun. After the stone was all glued on, it took a few days to scrub the stone. I used the same Zep neutral cleaner I use on the concrete floor and wore out several pieces of 3M scrubbing pads. I cut the larger size into 1/8ths. My fingers also got a beating.
I used delorean gray grout caulk to fill in some of the larger cracks. I did not really like how it looked though. It almost seems unnecessary to fill in gaps.
I had some spray on sealer that was easy to apply. The color of the stone does not seem quite as bright as I had hoped but I’m ok with the muted colors. It looks so much better than the 2×4’s. This is a floating wall post surround so the tile does not rest on the floor. It is just glued to the pillar.

Sunshine on new stone pillar
Sunshine on new stone pillar

The pillar is a good width for running the wiring inside for the Internet and electrical.
The stone also fits nicely around the cabinet.

Post with Internet cabinet
Post with Internet cabinet

I’m happy to finally see some progress in the house. And having another heat sink is a great use of materials.

Stone covered post
Stone covered post
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Progress on the Pillar

The weather this November has been colder than usual. We have already had several snowstorms with the typical melt in between. The challenge was to cut the faux stone tiles outside while the weather was warm enough.

At first I used the grinder to make dry cuts but that made so much dust and I didn’t want to try to wear a mask on and off, in and out of the house to fit each piece. The weather got warm enough to use the tile saw which I have covered but have been storing outside. That proved a challenge too because the saw spit water and dust all over me. Otherwise it worked well except for when I had to cut the underside of a corner tile that didn’t fit under the saw body. So I used the grinder for some cuts.

Then out of the blue of course the switch stopped connecting and the saw would not run. I was able to take it apart, see the burnt out contacts, and buy another switch but didn’t want to take time during the good weather to fix the saw. I waited for the next break in the weather and used a small 7″ wet tile saw that belongs to my son in law. This is the one I used to fix the tile floor at my son’s house this summer. It also worked fine for days although it was even worse at spitting dust and water on me. I wore a rain jacket and had to wash my clothes on stain wash. My hair was filled with dust too even though I wore the hood. It got several double washings!

Dust  covered jacket from tile saw
Dust covered jacket from tile saw

Eventually the clay from the stone tiles jammed the blade. I had to take the saw apart and figure that out. While it was apart and getting cleaned I bought a new blade and installed it. I was hoping the new blade would cut without so much clay debris but it didn’t.

I could only do a couple of rows at a time because the tile needed to be shimmed and I thought multiple rows would make the lower rows slide down.

Shims in place
Shims in place

I was able to do two to three rows of tile each working day. That was thirty or so cuts of tile unless I broke one or needed to cut again to get the right size. About all I could handle in a day anyway. The pillar got covered slowly.

About 2/3rds covered
About 2/3rds covered

After another weather break I got a few more days of work in and the day before the next big snowstorm I had to run and get three more tiles. Then I was still cutting them as it got dark outside and I finally quit about 6 pm. I was tired and decided to finish the next morning.

Last rows not yet glued
Last rows not yet glued

The next day with snow starting to fall I cut the last few tiles to fit around the router cabinet. The last of the tiles were glued in with the tile adhesive and the pillar stone was laid!

Finished stone work on pillar
Finished stone work on pillar

Now it just has to be cleaned and sealed.

A friend posted a photo of the fireplace at Mount Princeton hot springs near Salida.

Fireplace at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs
Fireplace at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs

I’m pretty sure it is the same material. I noticed that no expensive corners were used, just the method of double stacking the corners that I figured out while I was working on the pillar. I never would have noticed that otherwise. I like the way they used the slate to inset the fireplace and build the hearth. I hope our pillar looks as nice.

The corners were twice as expensive as the flat pieces and I bought twice as many. Probably six boxes of four, plus four boxes of flats and then the three I needed to finish. I could not use all corners on the pillar because it would have wasted far too much tile so I figured out how to alternate the corners. The total tile cost was over $250. But the best part is that this is more finish work–maybe the house will have all its trim this time next year.

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Tiling the Pillar

The installation of the tile is a matter of cutting it to fit and mortaring it to the cement board. However, there are challenges involved in cutting and fitting.

The first block I cut with a grinder and while tapping off the cut piece the entire corner fell apart in my hands. I don’t know if that was because it was a weak piece or if the tapping hit just right.

The weather has moderated for a few days so I decided to try the wet saw instead. I realized that a straight cut would not look very good on the wall with a four tile seam. I noticed the full tiles staggered the seams with two tiles above and two below instead of every other tile. I copied this way to stagger the seams.

Tile corners
Tile corners

By staggering the cuts I was able to fit the stones without such long vertical seams. I had some acrylic tile adhesive on hand and mortar is more work to mix so I’m just using the adhesive for these tiles. For some short cuts I was able to use the dry grinder instead of the wet saw and so far I have not broken another tile with it.

Staggered cuts
Staggered cuts

The corner tiles can be difficult to cut with the tile saw because if it is not long enough or thin enough it does not allow the saw to pass over it. The prebuilt corners have tile blocks every other tile but I realized I could build some corners the same way the tiles are staggered by alternating the seam every two tiles. These are a little more squared off but using this technique in a few places is not too obvious a difference.

Mortared Tile
Mortared Tile

This will allow me to buy some flat tiles and lower the cost of the whole project. In order to keep the tiles level I am using some wide popsicle sticks that I had on hand. These are working better than the small tile separators that I have. I don’t want to grout this tile except in apparent gaps.

First two boxes of corners
First two boxes of corners

I think it will look nice and rustic and complement the decor in the living room. I want to finish before the weather gets cold again!

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Change of Plan for Living Room Pillar

Not only was there not enough stone for the pillar but it was way too bulky to install in the house. So instead I am going to use it to cover the broken stucco on the garage wall. This pile was all the corners I had.

Faux rock block corners
Faux rock block corners

I had to knock the rest of the concrete wall away from the stucco wall. This is something I wanted to do for a long long time but it was never at the top of the list.

Broken stucco and concrete remains
Broken stucco and concrete remains

I was able to knock off the concrete with several blows of the sledge hammer. Then I dry piled the stone blocks up around the corner. Eventually I will mortar them into place.

Dry laid stone corner
Dry laid stone corner

The log railings next to the wall will hopefully be part of the front porch eventually. But that project is in the future.

I had to go shopping for another type of stone to cover the pillar. I shopped online and at tile stores and the local Floor and Decor had something in stock I thought would work well.

Multi color ledge stone
Multi color ledge stone

It seemed as if I would need to buy all corners for the pillar, of course corners are twice as expensive as the flat pieces. I tried stacking the corners to see what they might look like. The clearance sign is for a different stone.

Test in store
Test in store

Then I bought one corner to see how it might look at home. I also picked up a broken piece that I asked if I could have. This stone tile is a LOT less bulky than the stone blocks.

Test at home
Test at home

It’s pretty hard to tell what the whole pillar will look like in the stone tiles. I held up a piece to see if I liked the stone midway up the side.

Imagining the whole pillar
Imagining the whole pillar

We both liked it well enough and it appeared it would work for the pillar so I went back and bought 4 boxes of corners. I know I will need more but thought I would buy a few boxes and test the installation process.

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Stone Pillar in Living Room

I decided a long time ago to finish the sole exposed post in the house with stonework. My column is larger but this was the idea.

Stone Column
Stone Column

I was tired of looking at the 2 x 4 structure for the column. I had started covering the post a year ago and mounted a cabinet for the internet equipment.

Media Cabinet on Post
Media Cabinet on Post

I also had a few pieces of 1/4″ cement board already on the column.

Cement board on column
Cement board on column

I had enough cement board on hand to finish the job. One day last week I tackled this project and finished screwing the board on. I had to take a detour to buy 1″ drywall screws as I could not get the 1 1/4″ cement board screws all the way into the board.

Pillar covered with cement board
Pillar covered with cement board

Buying drywall screws was a turning point since I saved and reused all the screws from tearing out our old drywall. I still have longer screws from that project.

The next step was to uncover the faux stone that I purchased a few years ago and was moved around the garage a few times so that it was very buried. To do that I had to rearrange the mower side of the garage.

Mower parking spot
Mower parking spot

The shelves on the left were in front of the mower and the stone was behind that. Now the stone is at the front of the garage where it can be easily reached.

Stack of boxes of faux stone
Stack of boxes of faux stone

As I recall there were about 14 sq. ft. of stone in the purchase, that is not enough to cover the entire pillar. Plus it is a bit limited by how many corners are available. There are 7 lineal feet of those. I have not laid it out yet. I hope I have enough for at least 3 ft. of coverage. Another interesting project.

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One More Thing

As time goes on I am involved in fewer projects at my son’s house. One of the last updates in the family bathroom was to change the dual flush unit in the tank. The dual flush button on the toilet was too difficult for a three year old to flush. It was a retrofit dual flush unit that used a two button flush. I just happened to have a bargain Restore dual flush unit that I never installed in our old toilet before I replaced it with a Niagara toilet.

Fluidmaster Dual Flush
Fluidmaster Dual Flush

As usual the project was much more difficult than I planned. The old unit had been installed with the overflow tube at an angle instead of parallel to the rear of the toilet. This particular toilet had a narrow tank front to back so the bulky dual flush unit could only be installed parallel to the back.

Parallel Install
Parallel Install

In order to reorient the flush valve seat and overflow tube I had to take the tank off the toilet. So I purchased a new gasket and bolt set and even a new filler valve.

Tank disconnected
Tank disconnected

The gasket and bolt set proved to be my undoing, however. I tried at least three times to use the new gasket and each time the tank leaked badly when I flushed it. The gasket rubber must have been too hard to compress with the bolts or I didn’t have the strength but finally I fished the old gasket out of the trash and used it again and it didn’t leak.

One of the other issues I had was that I had not properly identified that the flush valve had an angled seat.

Flush valve seat types
Flush valve seat types

I assumed it was a flat seal when it was actually angled. Once I figured that out I had to add a section to the bottom of the assembly that adapted to the angled seat. Time consuming. On this unit both flush volumes are adjustable which is a nice feature and setting them to the lowest successful flush for each type was not difficult. Water saving and easy to use is a good combination.

After a few hours of working on the toilet I was able to have my 3 year old grandson test the flush and it worked!

Lever style dual flush
Lever style dual flush

It is going to be hard to get in the swing of finishing projects at my house. I have enjoyed working on theirs so much. But it’s time to get back to work.

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Living Room Furniture

The large TV and its stand came from the apartment but the old couch had seen better days so it was donated and they wanted a simple, relatively firm couch in a light color. We found this one on Craigslist and it came with a “free” Ikea coffee table.

Ad for couch and coffee table
Ad for couch and coffee table

The couch was in great condition and also came with two throw pillows, the seller reduced the price but he was also on the third floor of an apartment complex. Luckily there were two of us to heft it out of the apartment and down the exterior staircase into the truck bed.

Couch in truck
Couch in truck

It was a perfect fit and just what they had in mind at least for the upcoming baby years. It’s a good napping couch. The cushions are firm enough to hold a body so it does not sink uncomfortably into the couch.

Couch and throw pillows
Couch and throw pillows

My son likes modern, my daughter-in-law a bit more traditional. When he saw this ad for side chairs they were the style he had always wanted. These came well-worn but at a reasonable price for this style even as copies.

Eames style leather lounge chairs
Eames style leather lounge chairs

There were quite well used with marred leather and some scratches on the plywood but they are very comfortable chairs. They are similar to recliners in comfort but not quite as pedestrian. They are being used in the living room and bedroom but my daughter-in-law is not as fond of them as my son. They may end up in one of his spaces.

They have purchased a couple of inexpensive end tables and have filled the house with beautiful plants which really livens up the bright space. They are making their new house their home.

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Kids Furniture

There were several new pieces needed before the family could move in. The two children had been sleeping in the same room in the apartment and now they have their own rooms!

I missed out on the first crib we arranged to purchase. The seller told me she would be available in a couple of days and I arranged to pick it up at 11:00 AM on the day she specified. I called to say I was on my way when she said she had forgotten me and just sold it to another couple. Does not happen often but it does. She probably thought they needed it and loved it. So I don’t harbor hard feelings.

White crib
White crib

We found another white crib in good shape that is a little more tailored but quite pretty. Then we needed a baby changing table and dresser. The set we found also came with a nightstand.

Baby bedroom set ad
Baby bedroom set ad

It has another set of knobs if all white is preferred but the multicolored knobs looked cute. Our grandson also needed a bedroom set and we were looking for a nice color. We didn’t see one we liked so I decided to paint this one.

Child bedroom set ad
Child bedroom set ad

We chose a rich royal blue for his room. It was quite a bit of work to paint all the drawers, the cabinets and the bed, but it turned out really nice.

Painting the set royal blue
Painting the set royal blue
Finished dresser with Cars knobs
Finished dresser with Cars knobs

The blue hassock was also moved up to the bedside for a parent chair for bedtime stories. Perfect.

Bed and hassock chair
Bed and hassock chair
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Dishwasher and Refrigerator

The appliances in the house were in decent shape and about 7-9 years old. They were all stainless steel although not high end. When I found a hardly used GE dishwasher at the Restore I thought it was a good chance to update and match the new stove.

Near as I can tell from the serial number and appearance the old dishwasher was made in 2010. It was an operable quiet dishwasher but was a bit dated.

Older Frigidaire Dishwasher
Older Frigidaire Dishwasher

The interior was especially dated and all white plastic. All the appliances were originally Frigidaire but the new stove was GE.

Frigidaire dishwasher Interior
Frigidaire dishwasher interior

The newer GE dishwasher is probably from 2015. It is a Hybrid Stainless Steel model which means the inner tub is grey plastic but the rest is stainless. There is some evidence that plastic tubs dry dishes faster than stainless.

GE Interior
GE Interior

It was a bit of an extravagance to replace a decent dishwasher but it is nice to have matching brand appliances and we were able to sell the old dishwasher on Craigslist. This new one had more wash features and sanitize and it is Energy Star.

Hidden controls
Hidden controls

Plus the handles match the new stove. The installation was a bit tricky because the old dishwasher was plumbed into a stand pipe up behind the kitchen sink which was difficult to reach. I ended up cutting the pipe a little lower so I could place the new drain hose in the stand pipe. The arrangement is more similar to a washing machine drain but it appears to work.

Newer GE Dishwasher
Newer GE Dishwasher

They also decided that they needed a cupboard more than a wine fridge so that was removed too. I used it as a dorm fridge for drinks and snacks while I was working in the house. Plus I got a small used microwave for myself while I was there.

The refrigerator was a deep side by side model. It stuck out into the passageway between it and the counter. Again it was in decent shape although there were a few blemishes on the door. My son decided to replace it with a counter depth model.

Frigidaire Refrigerator and Wine Fridge
Frigidaire Refrigerator and Wine Fridge

We had to take the doors off to get the old refrigerator through the front door. It really was wide and bulky. Although we listed it several times on Craigslist and Next Door we were not able to sell it. Eventually someone picked it up for free. I guess for a refrigerator a 2010 model was getting old, or it was too big for most people to move themselves.

Refrigerator for sale
Refrigerator for sale

It was great to have it out of the way so I could work on installing the cabinet that was removed from the island. I had to replace some tile there as well because the tile was not completely under the front of the wine fridge and the cabinet was a little shallower.

When they were almost ready to move in they bought a nice GE french door bottom freezer counter depth energy star refrigerator from a local scratch and dent vendor. It was perfect for the space.

Better fit
Better fit
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Cabinet Instead

Every little project takes time. We had a perfect size cabinet to put in place of the wine fridge from reducing the size of the island. I just had to install it.

Wine fridge corner
Wine fridge corner

The wine fridge was built in over a rather dicey floor. I removed most of the oak boards and replaced them with plywood. I removed the walls that surrounded the fridge. The tiled area was not wide enough to cover the floor to the cabinet so I added a couple of rows here. There was a deep hole where the tile had been removed so that was fixed too.

Wall fixed from tile removal
Wall fixed from tile removal

There was an electrical outlet behind the wine fridge and I had to cut a hole in the cabinet so that it was not covered as that is a fire hazard.

Outlet revealed
Outlet revealed

I don’t know why the cabinet had all the holes in its back but I screwed it to the wall through a couple of them. The cabinet does not quite reach the side wall and the space still needs trim.

Cabinet installed
Cabinet installed
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Gas Stove and Hood

The house had an electric stove and over the stove microwave. As dedicated cooks, the young couple wanted a gas stove and a hood to carry away cooking odors and fumes. This was a relatively large project.

Existing electric stove and microwave
Existing electric stove and microwave

The electric stove had a 220 electrical line but no gas and no 115 volt plug for the electronic ignition. First I extended the microwave power to an outlet behind the stove.

New outlet brought down from microwave
New outlet brought down from microwave

We hired a gas installer who had some concerns about there being too many appliances on the gas line but eventually decided a gas stove could be added.

Gas pipe install
Gas pipe install

Even though the gas was not far away downstairs, the installer ran into problems with the cold air returns being in the way. He got the line snaked through but it could not go in the wall behind the stove because of the return. So we cut along the bottom of the drywall to get the line out of the way of the stove.

My son found the exact stove he wanted on Craigslist and luckily was here when it was time to go pick it up. It is a high end GE gas stove with double ovens, one is convection, which was what he wanted. It was a little less than half price for a new one.

Gas stove in seller's garage
Gas stove in seller’s garage

He was able to sell the microwave and stove on Craigslist too. We brought the stove into the kitchen to work on setting it up.

New gas stove in kitchen
New gas stove in kitchen

At first it was difficult to fit the stove into the space. It was set up to be shorter than our cabinets so I used a 1/2 in piece of plywood for it to sit on. Moving the stove onto the plywood and back into the space was difficult. I kept hitting the gas or electrical pipe that fed the undercounter light in the end cabinet. I was finally able to pull back both pipes against the wall enough to get the stove completely back to the wall.

Then I found a simple GE range hood on Craigslist. Again had to negotiate a lower price. The hood seemed in relatively good condition. But I had to give it a good cleaning as it was greasy from its former home. It came with a new screen so I used that and discarded the old one.

Range hood ad
Range hood ad
Range hood ready to install
Range hood ready to install

The bathroom contractor was asked to put in the new stove vent that goes outside. With the floor open above it was not as difficult as it might be otherwise.

New stove hood vent in cabinet
New stove hood vent in cabinet

The vent makes the cabinet above rather useless though as the pipe goes through and the shelf had to be removed.

Vent pipe in upper cabinet
Vent pipe in upper cabinet

The vent pipe ends up outside between the kitchen and dining room windows.

Stove hood exhaust vent
Stove hood exhaust vent

I installed the hood myself so I had to pile up boxes to rest it on while I attached it to the screws in the upper cabinet. Once installed the new hood made a rattling sound that seems to have gone away over time. I think it was a loose metal baffle and just running it has pushed the baffle into place. I also replaced the light in the hood with an LED type.

New stove and hood
New stove and hood
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Hardwood Floor

The entry and kitchen had been retiled with a medium gray wood grained tile. But the living/dining room was carpeted with a dark color berber. Although the carpet was not in terrible shape, hardwood was a feature they wanted. The office floor was traditional oak hardwood but it was severely damaged in the middle from an office chair.

Damaged office floor
Damaged office floor

The office floor had to be removed to match the rest of the updated flooring. The new flooring was a debate between a darker color wood and lighter. The kids wanted to see the wood grain but wanted a bit of color. From all the samples they liked the lightly stained white oak the best. It had a gray cast without a darker gray stain look.

Then it was difficult to find that style at the vendors that were used by the installer. But our installer agreed to use the flooring from another store and helped estimate the amount needed. I inflated that a bit since the store was known for including many short pieces in the stock. However the installer said they didn’t include more than he was used to seeing.

Short and longer pieces
Short and longer pieces

We opted not to pay the hefty delivery fee and again we were thankful for buying our Ford 250 in 2014. It has been very handy in helping us save money over the years.

Flooring in truck bed.
Flooring in truck bed.

The boxes were HEAVY and we old folks carried each of them into the family room for eventual installation. They were stored for a couple of weeks to climatize the wood.

First open box of wood
First open box of wood

Then the installer came in and removed the carpet and the hardwood from the office. That part was time-consuming and heavy work. We had asked what it might cost to do the tile area as well. He said we would have to find someone else to remove the tile. No wonder!

Clean up after carpet removal
Clean up after carpet removal
Removing damaged hardwood
Removing damaged hardwood

Once the new floor started going in we were very pleased with how it was going. The installers were meticulous about the joints and matching the lengths to make an attractive floor. We were also pleased that this installer did not insist on gluing the floor down. With the dry climate in Colorado we needed to have a floor that could move with the humidity levels. A glued floor would be more likely to crack.

Office floor in progress
Office floor in progress

The installers came across an interesting hidden issue. At some point a hole was cut in the floor, it looked like an access hole to a heating or exhaust vent. I had a piece of plywood in the garage for them to patch this area so the floor would be well supported.

Unexpected hole in subfloor
Unexpected hole in subfloor

The office area was finished first and it was amazing what a difference this beautiful floor made in the room.

New office floor
New office floor

As the floor was being completed I expected there to be more flooring left over than we anticipated. But by the end of the job there was only one full extra box and a partial box still remaining. We opted to keep the extra wood. It is solid oak and we hope to use it for a coffered ceiling in the office.

One leftover box of hardwood
One leftover box of hardwood

The new flooring really improved the look of the living/dining room and actually the whole house felt substantially upgraded. We found that even though an installer is hired for the job, there can still be significant time invested in an upgrade like this.

Beautiful new floor
Beautiful new floor
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Dining Room Furniture

I made an effort to have enough furniture on hand for the family to start their new lives in the house. They had decided not to bring most of their old furniture with them. They only brought their relatively new California king bedroom set and a few of their storage cabinets. After some new furniture shopping they had an idea of the styles that most attracted them. They wanted a modern kitchen table for the breakfast nook and a pop of color there. We found an authentic Herman Miller table and four vinyl parsons chairs in blue. The parsons chairs were part of a dining set that came with a small IKEA dining table. So even though they like the idea of a natural wood table we thought it would work temporarily.

Ad for table and chairs
Ad for table and chairs

The chairs looked great with the Herman Miller table which has a light gray laminate top.

Kitchen table and blue chairs
Kitchen table and blue chairs

I was on the lookout for modern dining chairs and found these that matched the table. Simple, modern, cleanable, comfortable and negotiable in price; a good combination.

Modern Herman Miller design chairs
Modern Herman Miller design chairs
Set of six dark wood chairs.
Set of six dark wood chairs.

Next my daughter in law mentioned that she would like a sideboard. I found a matching cabinet for the set. Fortunately the owner also wanted to sell so the price was reduced. Actually it is a media cabinet because the rear has a couple of pre drilled holes for wiring but it is a good size for a buffet as well. The Anthropologie knobs were a great touch though they came with super long screws. I had to trim them with a dremel tool to fit correctly. But I like the mercury glass knobs and used that idea later to find some decor for the set.

Mercury glass handles
Mercury glass handles
Sideboard to match table
Sideboard to match table

I found a matching large black framed mirror at the Restore that pulled the set together and they will probably sell it together when they are ready to replace with the dining set of their dreams.

Dining set
Dining set
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Shoe Sign

It’s tradition to remove outdoor shoes in most Asian households. Actually it’s also becoming an indoor clean air practice. Our LEED requirement is to have shoe storage at the door. But not all visitors are aware, and actually I need a reminder sometimes, so they needed a sign.
I have a set of stencils that we thought would work well but I didn’t want to make a sign from the pallet boards as I originally intended. Too many other projects.

Stencil letters for sign
Stencil letters for sign

I decided to try a framed chalkboard and use liquid chalk for the letters. The first board was big and warped, the second a little smaller but too country looking. I kept it for myself. The third was perfect with a white frame but then the stencils didn’t fit.
I just did freehand lettering so we could put up the sign. Can redo it at a later date.

Freehand liquid chalk sign
Freehand liquid chalk sign

I had some “help” from my granddaughter so there were a couple of small smears. But for now it’s a handy reminder.

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Charming Playroom

My daughter-in-law wanted a child’s playroom in the large basement family room. This is a wonderful room because the floor is over a crawlspace so its not cold and it is a heated space. The south side has lots of windows and the french doors exit to a patio area under the deck.

This basement floor is quite large. There is a guest bedroom, a storage room, a large hall closet, a utility room, and a closet under the stairs. Plus a full bathroom, a bar sink and cabinet, a carpeted sitting area and the large family area. All the toys have a home in this area and the family hangs out and plays there.

The old carpet was not in terrible condition but it was worn in some areas and quite dark so they decided it was a good time to install new carpet when the upstairs was carpeted. They chose a textured gray to match the gray laminate wood floors down there. It is a tough weave as it was the carpet they used on the floors in the store! The bedroom and sitting room are carpeted too.

Basement carpet
Basement carpet

Of course I also changed the basement staircase light fixture from an old barely functional one to a curved glass unit that I found on eBay for $15. But it was wired for a four prong lamp and I decided to rewire it to fit a standard size bulb. I used all LED bulbs in the house.

Rewiring curved light for standard socket
Rewiring curved light for standard socket
Curved glass modern stair light.
Curved glass modern stair light.

The first furniture in the area was the storage cabinets from their apartment and a blue and red interlocking rubber floor mat that we originally purchased for a baby birthday party. Then they found a loveseat on a marketplace and a huge bean bag chair stuffed with foam instead of beans. It came with a small footrest too.

Family room toy area
Family room toy area

There was a choice of several used train tables and we purchased one that was not far away. It also came with extra tracks and train cars. We searched for a wooden play kitchen and child table set but the pickings were few, worn, and expensive. So we bought these items new but reasonably, especially compared to the used asking prices.

Wood kitchen assembly
Wood kitchen assembly
Finished play kitchen
Finished play kitchen

Assembly took time and two of us. There are so many parts to sort and put together. The table and chairs were much easier to assemble.

Child's table and chairs
Child’s table and chairs

We also really enjoyed getting items for the cabinet dollhouse. The critter family even has a grandma and grandpa with the two children and their parents. It’s so sweet and both kids like playing with it. The cabinet itself was a craigslist purchase.

Little Critters and dollhouse furniture
Little Critters and dollhouse furniture
Dollhouse arranged
Dollhouse arranged
Art table and small dresser for supplies
Art table and small dresser for supplies

We were more successful finding a free large table. This table extends if needed for extra room for party seating. We picked up 10 church choir chairs in very decent condition, also for free though a small donation was accepted. One of the techline dressers holds art supplies. Across from this table is an easel for the small fry.

Child easel and artwork
Child easel and artwork

Behind the art area is the small sitting room which will be used for large gaming equipment and musical instruments. My son has a keyboard and my little grandson likes to set up and play rhythms on it. The kids drum set is a family set that belonged to my niece’s son then to my older grandkids, and now to the younger ones.

White/Magnetic board and posters
White/Magnetic board and posters

Another activity area across from the white shelving is a learning center with a magnetic white board, found brand new and still wrapped in plastic on craigslist, and some English/Korean posters. There are other cute additions for children’s learning, the analog wall clock and big measuring chart. The extra bed comes in handy for tired parents just watching the kids play or for extra family guests.

Gigantic analog clock
Gigantic analog clock
A measure of growth
A large measuring chart

If you look closely at the clock wall, you can see one of the cameras installed that allows the parents to monitor the room from upstairs. The entire room is family friendly for little kids but they expect it to grow with the kids and change as they get older.

Fun playroom/family room
Fun playroom/family room
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Kitchen Faucets

The windowsill was in the way of the kitchen faucet handle for the hot water. The handle bumped up against the wood so the water could not be completely turned on. When the new quartz was installed we requested that the sink be placed as far toward the front as possible.

Black faucet handle and mismatched hot water faucet
Black faucet handle and mismatched hot water faucet

The new placement allowed the faucet handle to work without hitting the windowsill. We had not really expected to replace the hot water dispenser faucet but there was a new shiny black one at the Restore made especially for the Insinkerator hot water dispenser. I used the dispenser to make myself tea during my 3 o’clock work breaks when I was at the house. It is an unnecessary use of electric power but like most of these luxuries nice to have.

I thought the $75 price tag for the new hot water faucet was too expensive until I found that a new one costs over $250. Although it was gloss black we decided to buy it. I used liquid sander to take off some of the glossiness and it matches much better than the old one that was also dented. The two arches even match so it was a great purchase. Installation was easy because the connections matched the existing ones exactly.

Matching faucets
Matching faucets

But no matter how I shut off the faucet I could see that it needed a new cartridge. It was very likely to drip when shut off. It was a relatively easy project to purchase a new cartridge and follow this Pfister faucet’s online users manual to replace the cartridge.

New cartridge
New cartridge

Now the repaired and cleaned sink and faucets were ready for the family.

Faucet fixed and hot water spigot to match
Faucet fixed and hot water spigot to match

The garbage disposal is quite noisy though and should be replaced eventually but for now its good enough.

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Closet Organization

I found a Craigslist deal for Closet organization shelves. The remodeler had removed the shelving from several closets. This type of shelving can be very expensive when new but the home owner sold all of the sections and parts for $50.

Closet shelving ad
Closet shelving ad

Some of the shelving was put together and some was loose but there were several vertical and horizontal pieces. The load filled the truck.

Shelving on truck
Shelving on truck

Originally these were obtained to organize the master closet but there were enough to do three separate areas.
First I used a couple of verticals and shelves for the mudroom. Later I cut one of the verticals back a bit and removed some shelves but this section added many open shelves to the layout.

Mud room shelves
Mud room shelves

The master closet is large about 8×8 but the steam unit is located in one corner. I intended to install shelves over the unit but they decided to leave the area open. But we used several of the Techline drawer sets that I also found on Craigslist. These are heavy, high quality modular drawers that went well with the shelving. I paid considerably more for six sets of drawers. But $300 worked out to a moderate $50 per set plus I got the matching mirror.

Techline furniture ad
Techline furniture ad

We used three sets of drawers in the master closet. At first they were separated like this but later we rearranged them so the hanging clothes would not interfere with the drawers.

Trial master closet layout
Trial master closet layout
Final master closet layout
Final master closet layout

The dressers were secured to the shelves with screws. We found plenty of instructions online using Easy Closets. Including customized layout for the space.

Easy Closet layout
Easy Closet layout

The instruction booklets really helped understand the closet system and I ordered three long metal supports so that these would fit exactly and not have the divisions of the old closets. They were about $100 added to the cost.

More master closet
More master closet

They were happy with the customization in the closet. Since we had many sections left over they suggested an install in the children’s area of the basement.
That was quickly accomplished with most of the remaining parts. This project allowed me to install the drawers that came with the shelving too.

Basement shelves
Basement shelves

For all the shelving we installed, top shelves were purchased and cut to fit. That added another $60 to all the sections. An 8’ x 15” white board was about $20 at Home Depot and we used three.
The kids shelves were nicely decorated with books and toys. We were even able to fit a dollhouse on one shelf.

Kids playroom shelves
Kids playroom shelves
Posted in Design Style, Family Room, Master Bedroom, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Sideline at son’s house | Comments Off on Closet Organization

Imported Tile

My son was very impressed with the beauty of some Moroccan tile in a specialty tile shop in San Francisco. The cost was $250 a square foot. So he did some research to see if there was a shop nearer Denver. Eventually after trying to contact a couple of US distributors with no response he tracked down a manufacturer in Tunisia. They responded immediately and sent a brochure and PDF catalog of styles and colors. There were so many to choose from! Drew designed a gorgeous steam shower with help matching tile styles from the company. The sq ft cost of the tile was less than a tenth of the cost in the specialty stores although shipping and import fees were extra costs. Tile however is not subject to additional tariffs.

Handmade sample tile a gift from Doremail
Handmade sample tile a gift from Doremail

The design consisted of three walls and the ceiling in the master bathroom steam room.

Rear wall
Rear wall
Side wall
Side wall
Plumbing wall
Plumbing wall

The Westgate remodelers made the design come to life

Tile design in steam/tub room
Tile design in steam/tub room
Tile design with shower head and niche
Tile design with shower head and niche
Blue tile on arched ceiling
Blue tile on arched ceiling

It was exciting watching the tile get installed. Picking up the tile had some interesting obstacles. It seems that imports worth more than $2000 require an import broker. There was a list of possible vendors on the import site but it took several tries and asking for referrals to find a company who did one off customs clearance. Then we hoped for a quick turnaround so that our storage fee from the receiver did not kick in. Luckily Gallagher imports came through for us and we paid them a little over $280 and the warehouse the $60 fee and retrieved the tile.

Tile loaded in the truck from the warehouse
Tile loaded in the truck from the warehouse

Then we had to take a while to inspect the tile looking for breakage. We didn’t open it all but what we did open looked ok.

White background tile
White background tile

This white tile ended up having some broken pieces and we ran a bit short but the tilers stretched cut off pieces to make it work.

Blue ceiling tile
Blue ceiling tile

Most of the smaller tiles and pattern tiles were intact.

Decorative tile selection in catalog
Decorative tile selection in catalog

I really enjoyed a hardback copy of all the types of tile selections shown in the pdf file. It’s a beautiful book.
The order included all the field tile pattern and trim tile for the kitchen backsplash too. It will look great when it’s installed. The kitchen pattern is actually inspired by Mexican tile patterns.

Patchwork Kitchen tile
Patchwork Kitchen tile

Posted in Bathrooms, Design Style, Sideline at son’s house, Tile | Comments Off on Imported Tile

Kitchen Quartz

I found an ad for “white granite” on Craigslist. For only $60 there were two smaller pieces and one large one.

Craigslist Ad
Craigslist Ad

Luckily my son was visiting when we went to pick up the pieces because the large one especially was very heavy. The man who was selling the pieces was young and strong and so is my son so with a combination of leverage and sheer strength the pieces were loaded in the truck.
There was a label on one of the pieces that when researched confirmed that the material was not granite but a luxury version of Corian quartz.

White granite identified as quartz
White granite identified as quartz


There were only the two of us to unload the pieces but after some preliminary cutting we were able to slide them off the truck onto the rolling carts we have on hand from an earlier Craigslist deal.

Quartz pieces slid out of the truck
Quartz pieces slid out of the truck

I cut the pieces to length and width and started the finish work. One edge of the longer piece was not even so I used a board to grind down the edge. I also used the diamond pads and the dry variable speed polisher on the edges.

After the pieces were cut to length we were able to transport the counters to the kitchen cabinets. I had reinforced the edges of the cabinets with strips of plywood screwed into the corner braces. I purchased the surface clamp used to draw the pieces together when gluing them. It is on the counter in the photo.

Quartz in kitchen
Quartz in kitchen


My son helped muscle the cut pieces on to the counter and wanted to maintain the 45 degree angled edge now only on an extra piece. Cutting the granite edge was difficult and I feared that getting the 45 degrees straight by hand was impossible. So we asked about professional finishing and installation. The bathroom quartz installers were willing to do the job for $800 but since it was a couple of thousand dollars worth of material he decided to do it. Here the installer are arriving with the bathroom quartz.

Unloading kitchen quartz
Unloading bathroom quartz

The installers set up the pieces outside for last minute fitting.

Professionally edged and polished
Professionally edged and polished

The counters were edge cut and installed professionally in the kitchen.

Installed countertop
Installed countertop

Unfortunately I had the 45 degree angle cut piece in the kitchen and when the installers picked up the pieces they took that one too and did not return it. They probably discarded it! I had enough pieces without it but I would have found a use for it.

End cabinet piece
End cabinet piece

The white quartz is perfect for the kitchen. So much cleaner looking than the speckled laminate countertops.
We still have to install the special tile backsplash.

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