I found a lovely piece of dark granite for $50 that I thought was large enough for the countertop in the family bathroom.
It required more prep work than most because there were plywood pieces glued to the back of it. I cut them off by scoring with a saw and chipping away with a hammer and pry bar.
I had to cut the counter piece out of a larger polished end of the counter. That meant the whole front edge needed to be shaped and polished. I bought a special edge cutter to shape the front edge. By the time I was finished cutting, it was just barely wide enough for the countertop. But I could make up some depth by overlapping a space at the back with the backsplash.
While I was working with the stone my granite wet saw broke at the bolt that held on the blade. I quickly went to Home Depot to replace it. Then I ordered a variable speed wet grinder and another set of diamond pads to help with the polishing.
I used the new saw to cut the sink holes but it was slightly smaller than the old saw. So I was cutting from two sides.
I had been working on the piece for hours and I was getting tired so naturally when I turned the almost finished piece over one last time it slipped from my fingers only an inch or so but enough for the end to break off.
This is one of those accidents where hours of time and effort are gone in a moment. So there must have been a reason. Turns out my daughter in law likes light colors better. At the time we were investigating having the master bath quartz suppliers finish the kitchen quartz that I was also cutting and polishing. So I asked them to find a remnant for the family bath and cut and install it. I was out of time. They found a white lightly speckled quartz and it cost $600 for the remnant, the cut and install. Oh well.
The professionals also finished and installed the kitchen quartz.
The basement bathroom was quicker and easier that the second floor family bathroom. The same green Formica covered the sink cabinet and the same crystal faucets and metal sinks with the addition of a large chip in the enamel of one. So the countertop came off and the cabinets were painted light gray.
I also found some used fixtures for this bathroom. But some were new too. The sinks were installed in a new home and immediately replaced. They were very expensive Kohler sinks.
The vanity light was an Amazon Warehouse item and I found out why as it was extremely difficult to install. The screws that held the light together had to be inserted vertically instead of through the front. Between the mirror and the position of the frame there was too little room for the screws. But despite the difficulty I finally got the screws in place.
I also repainted the entire bathroom (Restore recycled paint $10) and removed the inset toilet paper holder which meant fixing the drywall. I replaced the towel holders with dark bronze sets.
And the plumbing fixtures were replaced with dark bronze. First I found Moen faucets at Restore for about $50 each. But I didn’t realize they have rough in valves that are sold separately so I had to order those from Ebay for an additional $92.
The biggest error was that I assumed the Delta rough in valve was outdated and would not accept a new trim kit. I was wrong. But I found out after trying an older style kit and then removing the tile to consider replacing the valve.
I bought a new valve and realized it was the same shape as the old one. So I bought a trim kit. It was much less expensive to purchase the pieces separately. I bought the shower head and hose, the faucet trim, and the tub spout all separately.
Once I realized the new standard trim fit I had to replace the tile
The next tricky replacement was the spout. The old spout connector was jammed on the pipe and I could not remove it. So I had to figure out how to screw on the new spout. I had to try more than one model and I rigged the final connection by cutting the interior nylon shorter but I made it fit.
The kit for the pop up drain and the overflow was inexpensive from Amazon and relatively easy to install. The bronze tub fixtures were about $200. I also replaced the gold hinges on the storage cabinet over the toilet with bronze auto close hinges on clearance at Ace Hardware for $8. But I could not find a bronze push button dual flush. That was a whole other project. We had bronze trim ceiling lights in our back hallway but I replaced them with sconces. I saved the fixtures and they were a good match for the remodeled bathroom.
I was able to install them in this bathroom and the mudroom. Much better than the old mushroom glass and gold fixtures-and free!
We would like to change the slippery green porcelain tile that looks like marble but isn’t. For now it’s still there.
The budget was under $500 so far but then came the sad story of the countertop.
The basement bathroom mirror was damaged at the bottom edges. I read that moisture gets behind the coating on the back of the mirror and eats away the mirroring on the glass. The solution was to coat the back of the mirror with polyurethane to protect it from further damage and then hide the damaged edge.
The mirror was cleaned throughly with glass spray and dried. Then the back of the mirror was sprayed with two coats of polyurethane. The mirror front was protected with cardboard and a margin at the edge was taped for spray painting with metallic chrome.
Blue painters tape was used to define the edge to be painted. After the paint dried the tape was peeled off carefully.
Unfortunately the tape did not reveal a perfect edge all around the mirror even with scoring the edge of tape with a razor knife but it was judged “Good Enough!”
The mirror was re-hung over the new sink and counter in the bathroom. The jagged edges are not that noticeable. Much better than the damaged edge anyway. The painted edge is delicate and could be scratched easily. But it is possible to keep the mirror clean with glass cleaner and a soft cloth.
One of the earliest projects in the new house was a quick remodel of the basement bathroom. All the bathrooms had green Formica countertops, metal sinks and plastic crystal handled faucets. they were functional but builder quality and low end materials. I was able to find good quality inexpensive materials for replacements. I saved the fancier shower head from the master and installed it here too.
I installed the new light from eBay and removed the mirror. The mirror had damaged edges and underneath was an inexplicable hole in the drywall that I patched and painted.
The old shower curtain was left by the owners but it was dated too.
The free granite was cut to size on site and the owner discarded the rest. Then I brought it home to cut out the sink hole. I cut it to line up the sink with the existing drain.
I didn’t have to polish the edge because we used a polished corner of the original counter. I already had some glass tile that was free and it matched nicely for a backsplash.
The granite was glued onto the cabinet with liquid nails and I used tile glue for the backsplash. I had some beige grout left from a former project that finished off the counter.
When it came time to fit the sink I had to grind a bit of the opening down because the sink rocked slightly. I closed the door and ran the fan to minimize the dust. Then the sink was siliconed in, the new faucet installed and the drain reconnected.
I found some clearance accessories at Big Lots. A $4 polyester shower curtain, a new bath mat, soap dispenser and decorations, and I added some amazing matching towels from my late mother. She would have been so happy they matched. I also changed out the old towel bars with a newer style from the Restore.
This small bathroom remodel cost less than $80 but it was a big improvement.
One of the latest projects has been recovering a loveseat to match my granddaughter’s room. We found the perfect loveseat for story time with a parent and two children. Luckily though it was on a third floor the lady helped carry it to our truck. I also purchased a red vinyl side chair which is now in the basement playroom and a mirror which is in the front hall. We hauled the loveseat up to the room and it’s beige color totally clashed with the baby’s white and teal (extra baskets from the mudroom). I was thinking I would sew a slipcover for it but the more I read about slipcovers and how much adjusting they need after each use, the more I thought reupholster was a better idea. Years ago I recovered a very stout second hand sleeper couch for our living room. I knew it was just a matter of removing the old material and cutting out, sewing, and stapling on the new. That new upholstery lasted for years. But between that project and this one I had no experience. We went to Jo-Anne’s to look at fabric and came home with 1/8th yard to check the color and weight. Other than its tendency to unravel, it was perfect. So armed with coupons we returned to the store and purchased $70 worth of notions and fabric. As excessive as I can be I bought the rest of the bolt and got an extra discount on the last 7/8th yard. I also bought Dritz fray check so I would not have to zigzag each cut piece. I have a feeling I will be able to refill the empty bottles with thinned water based polyurethane as that is what the liquid resembled. I started out not knowing what held the loveseat together and disassembled a whole arm before realizing the pieces slid together. The furniture is purchased unassembled but all the new owner has to do is slide the pieces together.
It turned out the back slide was caught on the material which we had to tear to remove the back. We also used a crowbar because the pieces were so tight. But eventually the pieces were disassembled.
There was some double stitching at the edges which I decided to replace with piping. I read that piping gives a more professional look to a reupholster job. Many young sewers cut piping along the grain but I knew it should be cut on the bias or across the grain. A complete cross grain cut wastes a lot of material. I found this compromise solution online and used it.
The directions mark lines on the fabric the width needed to cover the piping cord-I only marked the edges. Then I sewed the fabric in half one section over. The result is a partial cross grain loop of fabric. I cut plenty of piping material with just a half yard of fabric.
I took several photos of how the piece was put together which came in very handy. First task was removing the legs and bottom black cover. All the material was held on with tons of staples which are tedious to remove. I bought staple removers that helped enormously. I also had new sharp seam rippers to take apart the covering.
Disassembling the arm, I took off the foam and thin plywood before I saw the connectors. So I had to put that arm back together.
I took photos of the gathers so I could sew these correctly but my first attempt was bunched along the arm. I left it though maybe someday I’ll take it off and redo it.
Then I removed the fabric from the seat. It was connected to the piece using seams and staples. The long ties held the tufts. It was a bit complicated to reassemble with the new fabric. Although using each piece as a pattern was easy.
Some corner material was sewn and some was stapled. For a job like this one needs a good sewing machine and a great staple gun. I have a nice multi-stitch Singer Machine and I bought a Milwaukee battery powered staple gun for all the stapling.
I finished the arms first and then I covered the bottom. Since the couch was rather firm I added more padding I had saved from some outdoor cushions that deteriorated.
The extra bunched material on the arm is obvious here but I forged ahead. The simple x’s in the seat tufts were replaced with a Dritz covered button kit. I had to buy an extra for the back buttons and bought a different kind that did not work at all. The ones that worked had serrated edges.
Thank goodness Jo-Anne’s sends so many coupons. Of course I followed the photos for sewing and stapling the pieces I had removed. There was another globe trotting trip in between so the photos saved the project. Finally the loveseat was ready. It barely fit through the doors so we waited to slide the back on and of course it would not fit. I had to loosen the slides to give them some wiggle room and we had to push the arms firmly together to slide the back into place. Once it was done though it was as sturdy as the original. In all we spent a little over $120 for a custom loveseat, $40 for the loveseat and about $80 for materials. I don’t count the new tools because I love tools and they are reusable. A similar Wayfair item costs about $300 and of course is not available in teal. I have enough material left for draperies, and/or a cornice for the bedroom with extra for a cushion, backrest and curtain for the mudroom.
The loveseat has kid approval and with a few comfy pillows will be perfect for family bedtime stories.
My son and daughter-in-law bought their first house just three miles away from us about a year ago. It needed some remodeling and lots of updating and in the spirit of Do It Yourself I resolved to help them save money in the process. It turned out that I have spent the entire year working on their house instead of ours! Initially I was interested in purchasing the fixtures and style they had picked in a contractor showroom because the retail costs were astounding. But eventually I wanted to make small updates for them which expanded to a full time job. I supervised the contractors who were hired for the major remodel of the master bath and the new upstairs laundry. The contractors were fantastic and I enjoyed working with them. While they were working I gathered reused and reduced price items for the remodel and updates. I found some reused materials for whole house upgrades like new doorknobs throughout. (Restore $3 each) We estimated that Craigslist, EBay, Amazon Warehouse and other marketplaces saved them over $5000 not counting the new “used” appliances and furniture. As I found materials I used them to remodel and update the house.
I wrote about some of these projects on the blog this year. Although these kids were not seeking LEED certification, it is possible to reduce, reuse, and recycle during a more upscale remodel than ours. I’m excited about all we have accomplished and there is always something left to do. So I’m going to tell some more stories from the last year. The house is larger than ours and more suitable for a young family. I had to try to understand the tastes of my son and his wife and work on projects that would not totally “takeover” their design style. They decided to have most remodeling completed before they moved and I was there to help while they were hundreds of miles away in another state.
As the contracted remodel was for a redesigned master bath and closet and an upstairs laundry, the smaller projects that I tackled included the kitchen tile removal, redoing the mudroom, updating the basement bath, updating the family bath, adding rocker type switches, updating the ceiling fans, adding smart programmable switches, and purchasing and renewing some basic furniture. I also helped strip old varnish from the office shelves, a bear of a job that is still not finished and was there for the install of hardwood floors. Quite a year. So I am going to recount more of the upscale remodel stories until I get back to work on our house!
My grandson likes to call the mud room in their new house, the dirt room. He has a great sense of humor for a three year old.
There was a lot of preparation involved in remodeling the old laundry room into a dirt room. The main laundry was moved to a closet area upstairs. They love having it so convenient to the dirty clothes and linens. No hauling laundry up and down the stairs!
The paint booth was set up initially to paint the old oak cabinets, a bench and hanging rack we bought second hand. They were all panted white. At this point in the remodel there were lots of shelves and only one bench area.
I bought a small hassock to put under the shelves on the left to add to the seating area but it was a bit awkward there.
After the family moved in my daughter-in-law realized there was just not enough bench space to accommodate the whole family. So we bought this white Prepac shoe bench and assembled it. We removed a few of the shelves and will put in more coat hooks.
Since carrying laundry up and down the stairs was supposed to be avoided we found a combo washer and dryer for the mud room. The old dryer’s breaker space in the electrical box was moved to the upstairs dryer so we needed a set that would work entirely on 115 volts. This second hand unit was installed at the end of the room in front of the built in connections where it took up a lot of space.
We decided to move it to the side and cut away the extra counter space.
The drain and water hoses were extended but we wanted a method to partially hide them. There were metal wire shelves that were not used in the greenhouse paint tent. I had screw in plastic wiring clips from a previous project so the metal made a flexible cover over the connections as a backrest for the bench.
The cushion and backrest will be covered in a teal fabric to match some of the baskets. While this project has been ongoing another was taking shape for my granddaughter’s room.
I wrote support about the issue with the wifi connection and a month later I heard back from a Mr. Cool support person. There are two different wifi control apps available for iPhones, one is Mr. Cool and the other is SmartHVAC. Being a somewhat technical person I of course tried both and the dongle is found with either one on the wifi network but neither app recognizes it and freezes or gives an error message.
When tech support contacted me I had to give them the information about the install, the messages I was getting etc. They said with the type of dongle I had the app to use was SmartHVAC. So I reinstalled that and discarded Mr. Cool. I then went through the entire process again for support. I sent them the error message and waited for a response.
When I didn’t hear back in a day or two I wrote and asked for a new dongle. The response was to send the serial number, place of purchase, name, address, and phone. I responded in the old text and it was received with no information so I had to do it again. Although they never wrote to tell me the new dongle had been shipped, in a week or two I received a box with another dongle.
I climbed up to the unit and replaced the old one and followed instructions to delete and reinstall the application. At first even though I put the unit in receiving mode, I got the same error message but when I tried again I was able to continue the setup from this point. All it had me do was choose the home router and enter the password and I was able to use the application.
Success! But the weather has turned cool and I won’t need the air conditioning until next summer!
I gave up on the used mini split that I installed two years ago and never got the lines to hold a vacuum. Since the temperatures have been in the 90’s almost all summer, we needed air conditioning for a visit from family who are sensitive to heat and I had my eye on the Mr. Cool 115 volt DIY unit for some time. Supply House had a nice sale on them so I bought the 12,000 btu unit which is the only one that is 115 volt. Unfortunately it is not Energy Star rated. Its rating is 17.5 when some mini splits are in the 20’s. But I didn’t have very many choices and the line set is extremely easy to route through the walls and connect as it is pre-charged with refrigerant. So I didn’t have to hook up the vacuum pump and evacuate the lines or clean them with nitrogen or test for the correct amount of refrigerant or any of the complicated things that a mini-split install normally requires.
It only took an afternoon to remove the old copper piping and replace it with the new flexible pipe. Getting it through the small hole in the outside wall was the most difficult part. The pipes come with insulation and a heavy vinyl cover. That is what I could not fit through the hole. So I slit the vinyl up to the extent of the pipe I needed to reach the connections. I cut the vinyl off at the hole and took the slit cover outside to rewrap the pipe. Then I taped it with Gorilla duct tape.
I saved the actual connections until the next day when I was fresh. It is important to connect the pipes to the outside unit quickly. Both hands hold the wrenches to turn the pipes nice and tight. After the two connections are made the inside valves are opened with an allen wrench that is supplied and then the pipes are checked for leaks. I had a leak detector as well as a liquid that was supposed to show if gas was leaking but there were no leaks.
The internal unit was also easy to hang. I had the general spot already and just took down the old unit and its back plate and put up the new one. I was able to use studs for the new back plate and wall anchors to hold the bottom. The hole from the old unit was in the right place for the new unit.
It was convenient to be able to work from the top of the refrigerator too. The unit came with plenty of drain pipe. I didn’t run the drain water outside though but to the standpipe for the washing machine. I used some hose clamps to keep the hose running downhill for good drainage.
I had to move the washer and dryer out of the way to run the pipe. It was a good time to empty any lint from the dryer vent. When the electrician was working in the space he had crushed the new dryer vent. I tried to push out the dents but with the new piping there was not enough room for the old vent path. I had to cut back the connecting pipe and reinstall the sections. I screwed and taped them together and bought a new uncrushed semi flexible vent pipe. Reconnecting the dryer vent took as long as the entire routing of the mini split pipes.
Finally I was able to fill in the rest of the hole with expanding foam and tape the inside vapor barrier back in place. The unit comes with silicone putty to seal the pipe but I just used expanding foam outside.
The startup was super easy using the included remote. Rechecked for any leaks of refrigerant and set the temperature and fan speed. The cool air felt very good inside. Our guests came and went and we kept running the air conditioner. The house holds heat but it also holds cool so this 1 ton unit is adequately cooling the main area of the house. The back bedrooms still get warm though in the high 70’s not 80’s.
The system comes with a wifi usb dongle. I followed the directions to install it in the unit’s cover indoors. Unfortunately I was not able to get the wifi connection to work and I have emailed a tech support request.
I decided to improve my painting technique for the cabinet doors. My brother recommended spraying them. I have a HPLV high pressure low volume spray gun and a compressor and the last time I used them was for lacquer and I made quite a mess on my garage floor.
I needed a spray booth. My brother suggested hanging plastic for a makeshift booth but I tried cutting the tile grout with hanging plastic and the mess seemed to get everywhere anyway. So I decided to try to get an inexpensive tent to paint in.
I was unable to find a tent as inexpensive as a small greenhouse. The greenhouse is also plastic but it has a zippered door and the frame has built in shelves to hold the cabinet doors I am painting.
For about $60 I purchased this 5 x 5 x 6.5 ft. greenhouse from Amazon. It was relatively easy to set up as long as the poles were properly sorted. The frame went up first then the plastic tarp was tied onto the frame.
I had to take out the bench to put in a tarp to protect the garage floor.
I was just testing to see if the mud room bench fit inside. I ended up taking the bench apart to paint it. I loaded the cabinet doors and part of the bench and coat shelf in for the first load.
It took me some time to figure out how to regulate the spray. And spraying took little time compared to cleaning the gun and then setting up a new spray event. I also had to assemble and put on a getup of full tyvek suit, goggles, and a 3M mask. Eventually I chucked the suit and goggles because it was too hot but always used the mask.
I bought strainer paper cones for the paint but it did not help to water down the paint and the paint can did not recommend it so I mostly used the paint full strength. A container of strained paint went a long way which led to several coats of paint.
I finished all the cabinet doors and next I will try painting furniture in the booth.
At my son’s new house we shortened the kitchen island because it was so long it interfered with the breakfast area.
The eat in kitchen was important for the young family so the last island cabinet and an ancient trash compactor were removed.
Reducing the island gave the kitchen more space.
I didn’t think patching the tile would be very difficult but finding a matching tile proved almost impossible. The tile is 4″ x 18″ nominal and it seems to no longer be made or carried by anyone in our area. I also could not find anything like it online although I ordered a sample from Wayfair it was not even a close match. The former owners said they purchased it at a local store but the staff could not remember or identify it.
I did the best I could at matching the color which had a lot of beige in it for being gray tile. I found a wood grain tile on clearance at Lowes and decided it was the best I could do.
Then I had to prep the floor. I removed the hardwood that was under the cabinets.
I planned to cut the tiles to the same size as the existing tiles so I had to remove some of the surrounding partial tiles. That meant removing the grout, the mortar and the Ditra membrane that was mortared to the floor.
That was a messy process and I kept adding tiles to the removal project. Eventually I was ready to put the new Ditra down and replace the tiles. I had a small piece of Ditra left over from my bathroom tile job and it was just about enough for the space.
Instead of thin set mortar I used a product I purchased especially for the Ditra and never used. It is called Ardex AF200. An especially sticky adhesive that can be used with Ditra. I spread it with a trowel and the adhesive was able to be cleaned up with soap and water. It is possible to tile immediately but I waited for the next day.
I cut and fitted each tile first and tried to arrange them to make the dark streaks less noticeable but that was not possible. Not only is the pattern a questionable match but the tile has a rougher finish than the existing tile.
I grouted it with delorean gray grout which is easy to obtain at Home Depot and is a tolerable match.
The tile is a patch and I could not find a better match even looking for weeks at tile stores and online so this is the compromise. We are thinking of painting it gray with an epoxy paint. But I’m concerned about paint on the tile causing an even more obtrusive patchy look. This will do for now.
I found a fantastic deal on new doorknobs for my son’s house at the Restore. Interestingly there were almost enough for sale for the whole house including passage sets, privacy sets and keyed sets. They were exactly what we were looking for too, lever handles in an oil rubbed bronze finish.
There were only two keyed lock sets in the store but I was able to match the style at the Home Depot to purchase one extra keyed set. These are Accent style Schlage lock sets.
Almost immediately after purchasing these handles the basement door lock broke and I was able to replace it right away. At this point though I seem to have lost the second keyed lock set! I have still not found it.
The handle went in easily but I had a bit of trouble fitting the strike plate. Turns out they were a bit off and the doors that were difficult to lock had plates that were a bit out of alignment. I was able to fix that for all the doors.
As I added these lock sets to the doors and purchased deadbolts to match, I realized they needed to be keyed alike as the existing locks in the house were. So I read about how to do that.
Schlage makes instructions for re-keying their locks available online and it was a fun but very patient process. Locks are pinned to the key that will be used. My first kit came with 6 pin keys and the locks I had only had 5 pins. That was easily remedied by not using the keys that came with the kit. I had to order the grooved cap removal tool separately. It is possible to remove the cap with a screwdriver on the teeth, but it was very difficult to replace the cap without the device that tightens it.
The process of replacing the pins is supposed to be straightforward. Just hold in the springs while removing the cartridge and re-pin then slide the newly pinned barrel back into the lock. The follower is white. But it has a groove in it and the instructions don’t tell you that the groove will release the springs if it is in the wrong position!
Unfortunately I let the springs out! So I had to figure out how to replace them. The re-pinned barrel got stuck on is way in and once stuck there was nothing to do but remove the follower and pinned set and the springs popped all over the place! So then I had to order sets of springs and the driver pins to replace the bent and lost springs.
The pinned set just matches the depth of the pins to the key. Most new keys are numbered with the pins required in the cylinder, left to right. The pins are numbered as to size and fit into the slots above the key. That part is easy.
I got enough practice carefully placing the springs back into the chambers, capping them with pins one at a time and sliding the follower over a bit to hold that spring while the next one was installed. That is what took lots of patience as the springs often would pop out if the follower got stuck or misaligned. And the springs had to be replaced again.
I finally got the hang of it though and installed all the new locks while the floor was being laid.
The new doorknobs really improved the look of the house. This update is a relatively small improvement that makes a pretty big impact.
I did misplace one of the keyed locks. I have no idea where it is as I have looked for some time and can’t find it. I know I purchased two because I have the receipt! So at the garage door I just used a privacy lock set with the deadbolt. I think inside the garage the deadbolt is probably secure enough.
The master bathroom in my son’s house had practically new vinyl plank flooring installed over the old tile. The tile in the mud room was dated and unattractive. I decided to salvage the master bath floor and taking it up was very easy. It was not glued but in a few places double sided tape held down some tiles.
Many of the tabs that held the tiles together broke off when I removed it and carried it downstairs. I laid out the vinyl planks to see how they would look in the room. And I thought they looked better than the old stuff.
I planned to lay it over the existing tile as the owners had upstairs but when I was removing the baseboards the tile was caulked to it and it came up off the floor.
So I removed all of it and hauled it out to the garage. The remaining floor was sticky but level and clean. I decided the glue must have been the pressure sensitive removal type. So I decided to use the same glue.
Home Depot sells Henry 650R removable adhesive. I bought the size they offered and it was much more than I needed. It will cover 300 square ft and I had about 60.
The adhesive is easy to apply. The most difficult part is waiting at least 10 minutes for the rolled on glue to get sticky. I used a narrow foam roller as recommended. There is plenty of time to slide the tiles into place to be sure they are properly aligned. I had all the tile cut to fit so I removed a row at a time leaving two rows open to spread the glue. That worked fine and the tiles went on well.
I did not have a 100 pound roller to seal the tile to the adhesive. So my more than 100 pounds kind of stomped all over the floor to press it into the adhesive. Even my husband helped step on it to set the tile in place.
I have to wait five days to wash the tile. But I cleaned up excess adhesive with a wet rag. The wet adhesive cleans up easily with water but the dried adhesive requires mineral spirits. Then I’ll repaint the room and the baseboards and put them back in place. I’d also like to paint the cabinets white and put in an organization system for shoes, jackets and storage. We purchased a washer/dryer combo unit for this room as a back up laundry system too. The new laundry will be upstairs near the bedrooms.
I did not take my time removing the tile backsplash in my son’s kitchen. I hacked the tile off with a pry bar and hammer. Directions after the fact said don’t do it this way, Remove the grout first and then gently pry off each tile. I think the grout on these tiles was some kind of caulking grout. It was rubbery and would have been difficult to remove. The tiles were stuck on with mastic and no amount of gentle prying would have taken some of them off. So I wound up with lots of torn and damaged drywall.
I researched repairs and many trades type folks said cut it out and replace it. But I was not that excited about cutting out all that drywall. The problem with torn drywall is that it has been severely weakened. To reinforce the drywall there were several suggestions. One was just to fill it in with drywall mud. Another to use a cement patch first. Then I found the suggestion to use Bondo household putty which is an epoxy and very strong. I liked this idea the best as it is fast drying and could keep the drywall from falling apart when mastic is used to install the new tiles.
I used a paint stick to smooth the bondo into the torn areas of drywall. The instructions are to fill the area below the surface of the drywall so it can be mudded and taped to fill in and create a smooth surface. Some areas of the drywall were too damaged to fill in with the putty so I cut out the broken drywall for new pieces.
A layer of drywall mud and adhesive fiberglass tape were laid down to cover the torn paper and bring the bondo layer up to the surface. I used six inch tape to make this step easier.
It took a few hours to mud these damaged areas and cut patches and screw them in.
Even with only one layer of mud the repair is starting to look ready for new tile.
I will put on another layer of mud and do some light sanding. Then I will waterproof the mud with a layer of shellac based primer. GARDZ was recommended but Home Depot only carried B-I-N which is apparently similar shellac based primer.
This primer is for preparing the raw drywall mud for mastic for the new tile backsplash. I also bought adhesive remover to smooth the area behind the stove where there was a glued on vinyl backsplash that I removed too. The drywall is supposed to be as smooth as possible to prepare for new tile.
My son’s house had under counter LED lights which are nice, but they were the plug in type which looked messy. They each had to be turned on separately. With a switch for the light over the sink right there I thought it would be a good idea to direct wire the lights. I planned to use the same fixtures except that they were put together with tri-wing screws that were recessed so deeply that I could not use my magnetic screw head kit to open the lights.
I decided to research other lighting possibilities. LED lights are typically run at 24 volts but most fixtures that I found also came with connecting cables that were quite short–extra connecting cables at the longest were six feet. I’m not sure how that is supposed to work when wiring across a kitchen sink and stove. DC wiring is tricky because it loses voltage over distance. The best solution seemed to be LED light strips installed in special channels and wired to a larger voltage transformer, but it would be quite expensive to cover just these few cabinets.
I found the answer when watching a YouTube video about installing under cabinet lights. I normally hate YouTube videos and prefer reading about installations but everything I read was general and didn’t address my problem. This video showed the use of small plastic junction boxes to connect GE extendable lights. There were also ideas about how to run wiring between the boxes. I found the junction boxes on Amazon and they were inexpensive.
The first junction was just above the switch so I could use regular romex to connect it. But the rest would be running in the cabinets and behind appliances so I needed to use metal armored cable.
I ran the cable into PVC conduit where it might be considered exposed like under the sink and at the back of the cabinets.
The cable was easier to run across several cabinets using the conduit too. I connected the cable to a junction box at the back of the cabinet next to the stove. From there I could run a separate wire to the other two GE junction boxes.
In order to use the lamp wire I just wiggled out the plug in wiring and routed the cut off lamp cords into the boxes. Unfortunately the rolling switch was in the way for two of the five lights. So I had to open the lights and rewire them with longer cords. I found a screwdriver set to open the existing fixtures. It was a Nintendo repair kit on Amazon and I ordered the whole kit since the sizes of the individual screwdrivers were not given. It was a good thing because it took several tries with different tools to get one large enough to catch the screw and open the lights.
The wires were soldered onto the light strip. So I enlisted my husband to re-solder the longer pieces of lamp cord onto the lights. The light strips have a nice plastic lens over the tracks that I removed for the soldering and slid back in when the fixtures were reassembled.
No house project however can be easy. When I was replacing the wires in the switch box, the box broke completely! I had cut out part of the back for the new wires and that must have weakened the box. While I was screwing in the switch, the channel for the screw cracked completely off. I had to take apart all the wires and cut out the old box.
I replaced it with an extra deep old construction box to help fit all the wires into it. Then I had to figure out what wires went with which device in the box! I had sort of kept them organized at least.
Finally everything was wired back together, the drywall holes repaired, the cables clamped to support them and the cover put on the cabinet junction box. But then the end cabinet light did not light so I had to take the cover off the boxes and look for the bad connection. It was in the junction box under a wire nut where one black wire was not completely in the nut. So that fixed and the covers returned, I was able to turn on the switch and see direct wired LED lights instead of a rats nest of cords!
I just have to spray some orange peel on the drywall patches and paint over them. And I have to fix all the drywall that was damaged by removing the tile backsplash.
I volunteered to purchase remodeling items for my son’s new house. He will have a contractor remodel the master bathroom and install a laundry closet upstairs. We are also making minor repairs/remodels to other rooms in the house and he is investing in new hardwood flooring for the office, living and dining rooms. So much of my time has been spent working on his house. And I’m having a great time!
I have been buying plumbing and electrical and furniture on eBay and Craigslist and Amazon and the Habitat for Humanity Restore for years now. I often buy Amazon Warehouse deals and if they don’t meet the quality I require I can return them. Craigslist is great for some good deals if you can find items that fit the remodel and are in good shape. eBay can be tricky, some great deals and some mistakes can be made and not all items can be returned. Many vendors are very easy to work with if there are problems though. I have not run into a major scam yet so I am fortunate. I did have one on Amazon but they took care of it for me. Also PayPal will recompense money lost on an online purchase so it is pretty easy to buy online.
The list of items needed for the bathroom remodel was long! Plus I am updating two other bathrooms and the kitchen. Just for fun I thought I would list some of the purchases and the supplier.
Delta Trinsic Shower Trim, Widespread faucets, Tub Only Trim
Kohler Purist double towel rod
Steam shower unit and controls
Delta tub only valve
Light fixtures basement hall and bath
Smart switches and remotes
Kohler faucet valves
12″ Rainhead Shower
Grab bars for shower
Delta dual rough in valve
Kohler Vox sinks
Kohler hand shower hose and vacuum breaker
Grohe hand shower holder
Niagara Stealth toilet
Kohler soaking tub and overflow
Kohler Purist towel bars and matching Gatco Gala robe hooks
Cement micro-topping sealers
Light cans with LED bulbs to replace halogens
Smart switches, rocker switches, and USB outlets
Waterproof lights for shower
New oil rubbed bronze knobs for kitchen cabinets
Schlage wifi lockset for front door
Ceiling fan light kit
Electric outlets and switches and plates
Craigslist with some items from Next Door or Facebook Marketplace
Kitchen table (Herman Miller) and 4 chairs (Parsons)
Dining table (Ikea) and six dining chairs (unknown)
Sideboard (maybe Ikea)
Trundle bed and twin mattress
Twin mattress set and extra box spring
Wicker baskets for girl
Ceiling fans (2)
Couch and coffee table
Washer and Dryer
Gas slide in range
Closet organization system
Closet Techline dressers and mirror
Two child bedroom sets
Baby crib and mattress
Basement bath sink and faucet
Mud room and front entry benches
Two Eames style chairs and ottomans
Family bath Kohler sinks
Family bath granite, basement bath granite and kitchen quartz
Paint and stains
Drawers for window seat
Maple butcher block table top for kitchen island
Habitat for Humanity Restore
Family bath backsplash tile
White wicker mirror for girl
Basement bath towel bars
Schlage oil rubbed bronze handle sets for whole house
Schlage oil rubbed bronze keyed handles
Large black mirror
Kohler bath faucets–without valves
Insinkerator hot water faucet replacement
Electric switches, outlets, and plates
Of course I still purchase several materials at the local Home Depot. I sometimes use Ace and Lowes, but not as often. I found tile at Lowes that I could not find elsewhere and Ace has unique hardware when needed as well as some good deals on paint. But if can find discounts on items using these outlets, I’m very happy to do that. I say my house is the one that Craigslist built and we are content with our finds. Even though it was not just Craigslist but eBay, Restore and Amazon that contributed.
My son and his family bought a new house close to us that needed some remodeling. He is concentrating on upgrading the master bath and adding a second floor laundry. I’ve been spending most of my time helping out with small fixes.
The kitchen cabinets are inexpensive thermo plastic covered and the countertops were linoleum. He read about a technique that used feather coating cement to update old cabinet counters to make them look like cement counters.
I decided to start the project. I removed the smallest counter to try the technique. All that is required is a box of Henry patching cement from Home Depot and a plastic trowel. Along with an orbital sander and various grits of sandpaper.
First the laminate is roughed up with 60 grit paper. Then a small batch of cement is mixed 2 parts cement to one part water and allowed to slake for a few minutes then remixed. Then the cement is spread on the counter. A bit thicker cement is needed for the edges so waiting a bit for the batch to harden a bit works then the cement is smoothed down with a plastic drywall trowel. I also tried a metal trowel and a silicone scraper I used for the epoxy finish on my kitchen counters.
The first coat is sanded a bit with a medium heavy grit. I used 100.
The process of troweling on the coats seemed to add groovesin the cement. I tried various sanding tools. By hand and with the diamond pads and polisher. That came out with scratches too. But fewer ridges.
After at least five coats of cement and sanding to 1500 grit including a wet sand I decided to try sealing.
After three coats of sealer I put it back on the counter to judge my work.
I didn’t like it. Too many remaining ridges and color variation.
It looked a bit better from further away.
But I took it off and sanded off the sealer to add yet another coat of cement and more sanding so that I could try cement stain. I ordered charcoal gray. It mixes with water and I applied it in two coats.
One coat seems to even out the coloring. Now the second coat is drying.
In the meantime we found three big slabs of Corian Zodiaq which is their quartz product and decided to abandon the micro-topping project entirely.
It’s exactly what I would have picked for the kitchen. So now I just have to cut and fit it!
Unfortunately, progress has slowed since we passed the final building inspection in December. Somewhat because of travel. We spent Christmas in Wursalen Germany with our daughter and family. Then we returned for our grandkids birthdays in February.
In between we visited our son in Arizona and had our middle son visit with his family.
While leaving Dave in Germany I returned early to join my sister and family on a cruise to Cuba! This was my first cruise and my sister and brother and cousin and nephew decided to do one together. So I was able to join them. We were eight all together and because my nephew is employed by the cruise line we were given VIP treatment.
We received champagne and fruit plates and chocolate covered strawberries!
After a night of travel we stopped in Key West for lunch as getting off the ship at a military base took a lot of time. Then we sailed on to Cuba! Which we toured in one of the famous 50’s cars.
We stopped at Ernest Hemingway’s home and writing retreat. Then toured the city and had lunch at one of the new private eateries complete with roaming chickens in the yard.
Finally visited a bit more with my brother at his winter resort in Florida and drove over to enjoy the fabulous Florida beaches. Warm enough to swim in March!
So mid March returned to get back to work but not on my house! Working at my son’s house to remodel before he moves here this summer!
Facebook reminded me that it has been seven years since we had our energy audit. Seven years since I retired. A bit over seven years since we purchased the house. The good news is that the property values have escalated, justifying the money we have put into the house. Of course the bad news is that we are not finished.
After the recent severe weather “Cyclone Bomb” on March 13, we have not regretted the expense for insulation, windows and sealing. Winds gusted up to 32 mph and were strong all day, plastering snow against the North side of all buildings and against even the South facing windows. But even without sun our house stayed quite comfortable with the daytime heat set at 65 degrees. And we are also insulated from the noise of the wind gusts. When we went out to the garage it was very noisy while inside the airlock entry we could see the extreme winds but the sound was muffled.
I decided to start a fire in the boiler fireplace for atmosphere as well as to help with the heating. The snow however had blocked the chimney due to the high winds! When I lit the fire the house began to fill with smoke. It was pouring out of the sealed fireplace. For a moment I was not sure what to do. Should we douse the fire with water? What a mess that would make! I closed the dampers which just made more smoke. We opened several doors and turned on the ERV system to clear the smoke. Then I went outside to check the chimney (in the snow and wind!) And since our roof slopes to the ground behind the house I was able to climb up to the non-smoking chimney and knock the snow loose. We heard it plop into the stove and the smoke began billowing out of the now open chimney. Whew.
So we had a fire in the stove after all. And with the bathroom exhaust fans and open doors and ERV running the house soon cleared of smoke and the fire alarms did not go off.
It was cold enough that the thermostats continued calling for heat but the boiler did not have to fire while the hot water was circulating from the fireplace. That was how it was designed and to see it working is quite a thrill. Sometimes when we have a fire it is not cold enough for a thermostat to require heat since our house stays so warm, so I have opened a zone valve manually and plugged in the circulating pump directly instead of letting the call for heat turn it on so that the warmed water circulates-usually to the rear radiators since that is the coolest area of the house.
This link is to the post with the last version of the boiler piping but I realized that it was drawn before I decided to remove the storage tank. We do not have enough fires to justify heating water in a tank instead of directly to the floor. Originally I removed it for the drywall install but I never put it back. This is the updated drawing of the current fireplace and boiler piping. It’s the 21st version!
Cold water flows from the pex in the floor and/or the radiators in the rear of the house, depending on which zone valves are open, through the heat exchanger to the gas boiler. When the fireplace boiler is not pumping there is no heat exchange. But when the fireplace boiler is warm enough and the secondary pump turns on, the warm water is exchanged with the cold water from the return, sending pre-warmed water to the boiler. If that water is warm enough the boiler does not fire. To prevent overheating in the fireplace boiler, a taco mixing valve adds cooler return water to the heated water when necessary. If there is not enough cool water, the fireplace boiler’s special low pressure release will remove excess hot water pressure to a stainless steel milk can that I found on craigslist and is just about the right size for the job. There is also a large expansion tank on the system to alleviate buildup of hot water pressure.
The best part about winter is our ability to avoid exposure to the high winds and bitter cold nights. The ERV provides very fresh air in winter although I don’t always remember to turn it on. Once I get the wiring figured out I will be able to manage the ERV more effectively. We also use less gas for heat and hot water than even our more efficient neighbors according to Xcel.
It has been a long time since I registered our Twinsprings project for LEED. Seven years ago I contacted EnergyLogic about contracting with them to be the energy rater and certification liaison for LEED. We drew up a contract on February 27th, 2012. Now that we have finally passed our building permit inspection it is time to focus on what is left to do to pass our LEED inspection.
Unfortunately there are several areas that still need work. I can think of some big ones off the top of my head. And some on this list came from studying the LEED Project Checklist.
All bathrooms must have paperless construction board around the bathtub/shower area. We need to remodel one bathroom to complete.
The trombe wall needs to be reassembled.
All windows need to be sealed to pass the air intrusion test but both of our skylights leak air.
The mini-split air conditioner install needs to be completed and certified.
The hot water pipes in the utility room need to be insulated.
The LEED home user manual needs to be updated and conform to samples.
All accountability forms need to be printed and signed, mostly by me.
A diagram of the areas that were not altered by construction access has to be drawn.
The durability checklist needs to be inspected following a quality checklist guide for each durability technique.
The old part of the house needs an inspection by a level II certified infrared thermograph technician.
Our old bathroom will need a complete remodel including a new energy star exhaust fan. It will take at least a summer season to complete the trombe wall glass installation. I have a rebuild kit for the skylight vents that are leaking air. I may have to seal these vents to improve the leakage. The mini-split has been a splitting headache. It has a leak in the piping so it does not hold air pressure. I have not decided how to fix it. A repairman refused to work on the system because it was too old and not on a concrete pad.
I have plenty of insulation to take care of the hot water pipes I just have not made that task a priority. Winter is a good time to work on the manual. It is close to finished as the house is now close to being finished. The energy rater from Energy Logic reminded me of the need to designate protected areas at the site as well as completing the accountability forms, most of which I have been in charge of overseeing. I am less certain about how the durability checklist is completed and I have yet to find a Level II thermographer to analyze the insulation in the old part of the house.
The tasks still seem a bit overwhelming and that is after having followed the process now for seven years. This has been a huge project. I sure hope we reach the goal of certification in 2019.