Archive for the ‘Bathroom’ Category

I’ve got twenty minutes … only now it’s twelve minutes

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

I put rice on the stove, and thought I might be able to wrap up one of my (many) pending posts and post it, but … I have a cat who insists on kissing my thumbs (when she’s not investigating the computer screen) and I’ve lost the cord that lets me download photos from my camera. (The camera was out of commission for a while when its card wore out. Then the computer had to go back to be completely rebuilt. The new computer, just bought in December, needed so many parts that the computer guy said that he was at the point of demanding a new one for me. Feh.) So, this will be a random thought post without much editing.

We are making great progress. Not enough that the bank doesn’t get another opportunity to foreclose this week, but great progress. The banker came by Friday, and asserted that he would recommend that the construction loan be closed out, but we’ve heard that before. Without a certificate of occupancy, I expect another bill for $212 to extend the construction loan another month or two. I’m hoping we’re weeks away from a CO, especially since we have family coming in town in early May and I think we’re still on the hook for hosting the Little One’s grade school teachers’ appreciation lunch in May.

Progress: kitchen cabinets are installed, of the 5 bathrooms: one (the basement 1/2 bath) is complete; one is grouted, caulked, and sealed but lacks installed fixtures; one is grouted and sealed and should be caulked by the end of tonight, one is grouted and sealed, but for the shower which does have backerboard, and one has the floor installed, but not sealed and the shower has not been backerboarded. The stair treads and risers are installed, as are about 1/3 of the balusters. (You really need to see photos: marble tiles in three baths, cherry and oak stairs with cool balusters inspired by a Greene & Greene inspired staircase, creamy yellow kitchen, … but I’m racing against the clock.)

Still need: hot water, and two toilets upstairs and a functioning shower. I’d appreciate having the soapstone countertops installed in the kitchen and the appliances installed, including the washer and dryer. (Fridge is backordered until April 15th, but we have one of the tenant fridges on the front porch which would work.)

And, there comes the kid and there goes the timer. So here comes the post.

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My camera blew up …

Monday, January 25th, 2010

… and the dog ate my homework.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another conspiring to keep me from posting regularly. First the ice storm a year ago. Then Daddy’s illness and death seven months ago, and the malaise that followed. Then the lack of a computer attached to the internet in the guest house. Now it’s my camera card. We’re in the middle of tiling, and I’ve been taking pictures to document it … pictures which show up in my camera but which refuse to upload. My brother has diagnosed a faulty card, and I need to buy a new one, but we’re busy tiling. I have discovered that it’s hard for me to write about what’s going on without pictures. So, this entry will feature pictures suitable for the Emperor. (The one who had no clothes.)

We have finished the wall work in the Little One’s bathroom. She complains that it’s boring, and it’s not fair because she’s wild. We respond that she’s a free-loading tenant. Nobody is persuaded. She suggested that we could at least put some yellow ones in the empty spots on the ends (where we have to cut tile to fit). We suggest that she can be creative with paint or accessories. Still, nobody is persuaded.

[Here is where the picture of the subway tile in progress would have gone.]

It’s nice white subway tile, with two black liners, and a black and white pinwheel mosaic (Chloe) on the floor. Don did most of it, but I tried my hand at the subway while thinset was setting and he was meeting with a sub. I decided I could do it, even though the first time I did it, I laid four rows before I realized I’d left out the liner row. So, I ripped it out before the thinset had set.

[Picture of the partial wall that I did correctly.]

We have learned that the American Olean’s Chloe comes in dye lots (or whatever they’re called), and that they don’t always match. (Even though their website asserts that the shade variation is low.) So Don ripped out three square feet before that thin set had set. Two steps forward, one step back.

[Picture of Little One's floor.]

Soon, we’ll be ready for grout and sealer. We have three more bathrooms to do.

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Obsessive documentation saves the day!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Or : What once was lost, now is found.

Tonight Don mentioned that the drywall guys covered the side speaker in the family room. At least I think he said side speaker. I am not the audiophile in the family. He might have said white sneaker although I am not aware of any missing white sneakers. In any event, his demeanor suggested that we might just have the entire section of drywall removed to find it. I suggested we turn instead to my obsessive documentation.

The week after Daddy died, I went through the house photographing every room’s walls and ceilings (after the wiring and before the drywall). I took 182 pictures one day, and returned the next day to take an additional 159. I was inspired by his documentation of his house’s construction.

So we scrolled through iPhoto to the section labeled ‘Family Room.’ (I printed out the name of each room in large font, and photographed it when I moved to that room. That made the documentation much faster later, especially since I needed to upload photos twice to get them all.)

Family room wiring index card

And then we looked at the photos until we saw the one with the right wall. The missing thing is the little blue thing above the window, and the next stud out. Then I emailed it to Don and now he can show it to the dry wall guys. Ta-Da! The white sneaker, or side speaker, now is found.

Speaker wiring

I think I might take after my dad.

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Tiling, or, actually, backerboard

Friday, January 1st, 2010

We have not installed large swaths of tile before. Don has done a square foot here or there, and patched the odd bit of tile, but never done a whole bath.

LaGrange Park kitchen tile Re-adhering tile in Myra's shower

We have four to do. So, with our construction loan’s February deadline looming, we did the sensible thing and hired a tile guy.

Who got the flu the day before he was to start.

Whose daughter then was involved in a serious car wreck. In Oregon.

So we’re doing the tile ourselves. My main jobs are to read the instructions and buy more tools and supplies. I went to the big box stores three times on Monday. Plus once on Sunday and once on Tuesday. At least once on Wednesday. Twice on Thursday. No, three times: I went to two stores to get almost enough tile (for next week). This after Don and our neighbor bought everything we’d need the week before. We haven’t started tiling yet.

After working most of the week, we have got the backerboard down, except in the showers. And I’ve laid out reference lines for one bathroom floor, and figured a layout for another one’s walls.

What we’ve learned:

  1. My Taunton Press books call backerboard CBU (cementitious board units, I think), but most people don’t.
    1. The two tile books I already owned were not enough, so I had to buy another one, which didn’t go into as much detail. My favorite one was by Tom Meehan (not shown), but it was written 15 years ago. He has a great explanation of how to do the 3-4-5 layout, and then rotate it for a diagonal layout. (Not relevant to the CBU installation, but we just used it yesterday.)
    2. The bathroom idea book showed some tile installations that contradicted the directions from the other books so maybe we don’t have to be perfect.
    3. Three Taunton Press books

  2. No need to make thinset from scratch, unlike cakes. Premixed thinset is much easier.
    1. Especially if your drill is underpowered, and your water is 50°F instead of 70°F. (No hot water heater yet, and it’s winter.)
    2. If you choose to mix it yourself, mix it thoroughly, and borrow a drill that won’t burn up while mixing. (If you insist on mixing, you might want to start with premixed so you know how thick the scratch thinset should be. Undermixed thinset is very, very thick.)
    3. The price difference isn’t too much, and premix doesn’t set up in the bucket overnight.
    4. Read the fine print. Twice. Some premix thinset is specifically not for adhering backerboard to subfloors. (The one shown says it is not for subfloors. It’s fine for the backerboard to drywall. AcrylPro seems to be OK for subfloors.)
  3. Unmixed thinset Pre-mixed thinset

  4. Sometimes the ends of the backerboard flap around because they’re far from a stud, and you have to be creative. This solution worked. (You should remove the board before setting tile.)
  5. Holding backerboard in place until thinset sets

  6. You should do the final dry fit before you spread the thinset. That’s why it’s called dry fitting.
  7. After stepping in thinset

  8. We like the Hardie cement board. It cuts easily with scoring on just one side, and is lightweight. (You need a 1/8″ space between boards and a 1/4″ expansion joint at walls, floors, tubs, and so forth.)
  9. Cool tools you can buy to help with the CBU installation include: a paddle mixer, comfortable handled carbide tipped scoring knife, carbide tipped radius hole cutter bit (cuts holes between 2 inches and 6 inches, MOL), 1 3/8″ carbide hole saw (perfect for water pipe holes, and sold in the tile tools area — not in the bits for your drill area of big box stores), nibblers, and a utility knife (powerful drill not shown). Oh, and the spacers (not shown) which are circles with crosses on one side and a straight line on the other. Much easier to hold onto.
  10. Paddle mixer More cool tools

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Why I want a bathroom big enough to lie down in

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Last night the Little One came in and announced that her stomach really, really hurt. Soon after that, she was throwing up all over our bedroom floor and herself. Yuck. After I got her cleaned up, she and I spent half an hour lying on the bathroom floor, joined intermittently by Ceefor Cat, while Don cleaned the trail from bedroom to bathroom. While lying there, I remembered how I cracked up our crack team of architects by telling them that I really wanted a bathroom big enough to lie down in. (I believe they said that that might end up on their wall of famous requests from clients. I am sure that it came soon after spending a fairly horrible night in our bathroom.)Our rental bathroom is big enough, but I sure don’t like lying there when I myself have no reason (beyond sympathy) to lie there. Eventually, I carried her back to my bed, where she stayed until she had to barf again a couple of hours later. (She got to the toilet in time.) I am looking forward to a bathroom of our very own, but hope we won’t have to use it for sleeping. 

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Bathroom tile

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Don met with the plumber today. He starts next week, which means we may one day have indoor bathrooms again. Although it has been convenient to have this potty-house.jpg in the front yard (complete with weekly maid service), we probably shouldn’t plan on keeping it forever.

Having seen a half dozen houses with original square-edged subway tiles and floor tiles (hex, penny round, and rectangles),* I want some for our house. The modern beveled or pillow-top tile doesn’t look the same. Here are some sources:

American Restoration Tiles seems to best echo the combinations and shapes I’ve found in Arkansas. Not surprising since they’re in Mablevale AR (near Little Rock). They also have the penny round tiles. I feel a field trip coming some day. (We’ve talked a couple of times about stopping while we’re in the area, but the timing has been amazingly bad. Like Saturday. We drove back from Orlando, and went through Little Rock at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday. Not a good time to find a tile company open.) The real problem is the price. I don’t have precise prices, but it looks like it will be $32/square foot for the subway tiles and up. Maybe less for the floor. Except I love the penny rounds, which are $42/square foot and up. We have considerably less in the budget for tile.

Of course, there’s always the real deal. Only there are no real deals for salvaged tile. This source wants $3.75/tile for antique, plain subway tile, which I think comes to $20/square foot. Plus shipping from New Jersey.

Maybe I’ll go over budget on the upstairs floors, install wood floors downstairs, and beadboard and/or stencil the walls until we can afford subway tiles. (I’m thinking about using 1/16″masking tape to simulate the grout line, and maybe faux marble in between. In the dry areas, obviously.) We have a lot of beadboard salvaged from the house. It’s all painted and splintery, so it’s not as nice as the beadboard we used in LaGrange Park,** but it’s free, and original to the house.

Or maybe we’ll go with linoleum. We recently bought green porcelain sconces (on clearance from Rejuvenation), and I recently saw a nice bathroom floor done with black and green linoleum squares set on the diagonal.

*We went on a Little Rock house walk last Mother’s Day where we saw a half-dozen examples of antique subway tile, and that solidified my desire to have square-edged tiles instead of rounded edges. But I apparently took only a single picture, and it’s not particularly gorgeous. Still, here it is.


Here is part of my collection of floors in Arkansas:


** I also am lacking in pictures of the beadboard, as installed in the main upstairs bathroom. Not surprising since the bathroom is very narrow and the beadboard is on the narrow wall. Still, here’s one picture.

LaGrange Park bathroom with salvaged beadboard

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Apartment 3 Bathroom: Another Fire

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I was documenting Apartment 3 before we got too far into demolition last Sunday. (I guess I don’t want my memories of the house in its present state to fade or something.) Through my viewfinder, I saw a blackened spot on the door.

Apt 3 Bathroom Door Wall

I get closer. Yep, that’s charcoal all right. I recognize it from the fire that went up through the middle of the house sometime in the 1950s.

Scorched Door Close Up

I call out to Don, “Hey, did you know the fire got here?”

He answers, “Different fire. Look at the gas heater.”

So, I look.

Apt 3 Bathroom Gas Heater (from inside the shower)

He says, “Push the door open.”

So I push.

Door plus Heater Look: the door fits right around the heater. Can’t see it? Don helpfully pointed out that a view perpendicular to the door would help.

A Perfect Match See? The door just wraps around the heater. Another fire the house escaped without falling down.

The Little One has asked that we fix this before she moves in. There’s enough wrong with the house that I’m not positive we can promise, but we can try.

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Faucets quit working? Check if you still have pipes.

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I have just come across another explanation for when your faucets quit working.  (Besides, of course, the most likely reason in Arkansas last week: frozen pipes.) 

A Little Rock woman … arriv[ed] home to find the faucets in her house not working. She later found water streaming from under her home and when she checked, the copper pipes under her house were missing.

From a news story reporting increased penalties for copper theft here in Arkansas.*

Around these parts, copper wire thefts are fairly common, but in England they are losing entire roofs from their churches.  One church was hit seven times, including a theft using the scaffolding set up to replace the previously-stolen roof.  Our Religious News section in the local paper had a short article about a product called Smart Water.  The company’s explanation sounds like magic to me:

Each bottle of SmartWater contains a unique forensic code which is dabbed into the nooks and crannies of the valuable item. A clear solution which cures hard, SmartWater is virtually impossible to remove and will withstand significant attack. SmartWater has passed extensive testing by organisations such as the Forensic Science Service, an agency of the Home Office, and Thatcham.


By developing a strategic approach, and working closely with the Police across the UK, SmartWater has become well known to the criminal fraternity, not least because of its 100% record in convictions. Having applied the SmartWater solution, all that is required is to display the SmartWater warning labels. SmartWater has become a cornerstone in household and business security and one of the most powerful deterrents in the fight against the common criminal.

Weird.  Contemplating PEX versus copper for our house. We currently have a lot of old galvanized, but we’d have to find a plumber willing to do PEX.  The Chicago plumber we asked wasn’t really willing to try it.

*The news story also reports repeated thefts of utility lines and from new construction across the state.

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Adventures in Salvaging, Part 5: Dallas Craig’s List

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

We missed out on salvaged quartersawn oak floors on Don’s pre-Thanksgiving Chicago salvage run (at $3 or $4/square foot) or plainsawn oak for $2.50 plus $300 for delivery. Fear not, we wound up with 1800 square feet of clear grade salvage oak for $1.60/square foot from Dallas instead.  We bought the flooring Saturday after Thanksgiving when we were visiting family there. Some largish amount is quartersawn, although his picture (left, below) is of plainsawn. (I think I will be picking out quartersawn for the living room.) Denailed and bundled. (Sanded once.) We don’t need* it all, but I bet we can find homes for it.

dallasflooring.jpg oak flooring pb240083.JPG

In fact, our gardening neighbor has already said he could use some of it during his kitchen remodel, and our painter has a place for some of it, too. We did have to ask the current owners if we could store it at the house that we don’t yet own since the salvage came in Monday — we would have (owned the house, that is), but for the delay in closing.

Plus, the Dallas guy delivered it to Fayetteville for the price of gas (and without sales tax). Woo-hoo! Like the floor guy in Chicago, this guy usually only salvages if he has a client waiting to buy. (Mini trend: The big market in salvage floors is for maple, these days.) I think he is watching for oak trim for us now.

We’re also getting a short pedestal tub and 130 feet of marble baseboard with plinth blocks. Why? Because we can.

pb240084.JPG pb240085.JPGpb240087.JPG

I think the marble is rojo alicante, and Don thinks it may be a good match for an Eastlake marble fireplace surround we salvaged from a Chicago north suburb — it was intended for our Kensington house, but we didn’t get that far. The tub is intended for one of our downstairs bathrooms, and the marble probably is, too. Unless it goes in the foyer with the marble surround. Or maybe the fireplace goes in the bathroom.

I think a good floor might perhaps look like this, but we’d have to deal with slipperiness, whether in the foyer or the bathroom:

Rojo Alicante and Breccia Oniciata Floor

*Heck, we don’t probably need any of it, since the house we think hope we are buying already has floors of some sort. However, wouldn’t quartersawn be gorgeous? And warm, and unusual, and likely we will need to patch floors anyway, so why not pull up 1000+ square feet of flooring from some of our house and move it to other parts of our house? (Besides the labor and all that mess, I mean.) Clearly, renovation amnesia** has set in and we are in that weird phase where we make up things to do.*** How are we going to get this house done in time for a house walk 5.5 years from now? (That’s our unofficial goal: to get in the school fundraiser/housewalk when the Little One is in her last year in the school, namely, fifth grade.)

** Renovation amnesia must be like labor amnesia, where you forget how hard the work was because you’re looking forward to the outcome when you’re getting ready to do it all over again. (Not sure, having not actually ever reached labor, and still having a fairly clear recollection of how hard a c-section was.)

*** I spent a while over the last week trying to persuade Don that we should take out the perfectly good staircase, and replace it with a beautiful one from Indiana. I wonder if he’d go for it if our Kensington house ever becomes available for salvage.

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