Monthly Archives: March 2012

I Hate You, Plumbing (Stomps Feet Like a Child)

That title is no exaggeration. Part of do it yourself home renovation is knowing when to hire a professional. If you are nervous about tapping into your breaker box, hire an electrician. If you hate heights and don’t want to climb on your roof, hire a roofer. If you can’t stand hanging and mudding drywall… get the idea. For me, my weakness is plumbing.  I’d rather spend the day shopping for clothes than painting. I’m proud of the fact that I have several family members that are talented at a number of trades. None of those involve plumbing. It doesn’t run in our blood apparently. So when a recent plumbing project presented itself…yup… you guessed it. I decided to DO IT MYSELF!

Maybe I should back-track a bit first. A few weeks ago I was home sick with the flu and our washing machine decided to die. I had a repairman take a look at it and he said it would cost a minimum of $200 to get it fixed (it cost us $70 for him to tell me that). We made the decision to “put the machine down” and send it to the recycle yard. It was about 7 years old, and according to the guythatchargedtoomuchtotellmewhatwaswrongwithit it was probably time to just purchase a new machine. It was a front loader, and we were happy with it, so we knew we wanted to replace it with another front loader, and possibly get a new dryer so we could stack them. After some shopping around, a good friend of mine got us a sweet deal on an LG washer and dryer ($1,200)! We wanted the stackable washer and dryer to reduce the size of the laundry closet in the dining room. This house wasn’t built to do laundry.

Here is what we started out with. Functionally it was great but it took up too much room.

Brand New with Oraganizers!

That is the dead washing machine to the left. Sad face. We got $20 for it at the local metal recycle place. We also sold the dryer for $75. Bonus! For the life of me I can’t find a before picture from the dining room to give you an idea of how much room this closet took up, but you’ll get the idea.

laundry closet1

See all that extra space? And see the new washer and dryer?! The demo begins with tearing out the wall. I’ll try to keep the framing and just move it over to save time and cost.

laundry closet3

You can kinda see how big the closet is in this next picture. When we have 6 or 8 people at the table, an extra 2’3″ in the room is a big difference. You read that right. All this work for an extra 2’3″.

laundry closet4

laundry closet5

laundry closet6

So why couldn’t all the plumbing be on the other side of that wall? Because that would be too easy! I spent the day today moving over the drain and hot/cold water lines. After fixing a few leaks, making several trips to HD and Lowes, up and down the stairs a dozen times, swearing every so often, wishing I was dead, putting holes where they shouldn’t be, re-cutting, re-gluing, drinking heavily and pacing up and down the hallway, everything seems to be ok. There is nothing more rewarding than accomplishing a task that seemed impossible only a few days earlier, and I only glued my arm with PVC cement once, and bled a few drops! That being said, if you get a quote from a plumber, pay what they are asking. It’s worth every penny.

The area above the washer and dryer will become storage and be accessible from a new set of doors that I’ll install. The closet itself will have new doors as well. More pics on that soon, and well as part 3 of the bathroom renovation.




Filed under Renovation

Bathroom Renovation Part 2


The week before the “big day” we worked on extending the floor of the hallway. This would eventually become part of the bathroom. The doorway you see directly behind me will get moved forward almost to the post you see in the front of the picture.

One of the first steps on the big day in the bathroom demo process was ripping out the floor so the plumber could do his job. That morning we had a full working shower and toilet. By the end of the day, we would have taken that all out, removed the floor and subloor, replaced the subfloor, reinstall the toilet, and hook up the new jacuzzi. It was a log day that started out looking like this…


This was just after we removed the shower, ad were working on taking out the subfoor. The guy you see with me is my father in-law (FIL). He was a tremendous help that day, and is a reliable source of information when it comes to complete overhauls of houses.


This is one of the few pictures where you can see the door to the attic on the right hand side. The placement of the bathroom sink makes it difficult to open the door completely. It’s a strange design that makes me wonder what the original owners were drinking when they built the house.

We hauled out several trashcan full loads of debris that day. It was dirty, and of course, 30 degrees hotter than it needed to be that day.


Shower surround gone! Shower head still available for emergencies! One of the highlights of that day was the paying the plumber. We were originally quoted several hundred more than he ended up charging us. Bonus! And he spent a long time helping us install the subfloor.

By the end of the day we had a working shower and toilet (no walls in the bathroom, but you can’t have everything!)


Just a few notes on the floor….

We planned on installing tile in the bathroom, and with an old house the floors were a bit springy, so we put down 2 layers of 3/4″ tongue and groove plywood held together with subfloor adhesives and a ton a nails. On top of that will eventually be a cement backer board. It ended up being one of the more solid floors in the house.


In part 3 I’ll wrap up this project and bring you all up to speed with a current laundry closet project that is brewing. More on that in a few days!



Filed under Renovation

Bathroom Renovation Part 1

I remember back when I was showing a coworker the pictures of our initial walk-through of the house. Looking back on the old pictures, it was the bathroom and kitchen that looked the nicest, and I thought they needed the least amount of work. At the time, we knew that those are usually the most expensive projects to do and having those “almost” done was nice. After living in the house for a few years, it was the bathroom that worked the least for us. It was tiny, and didn’t function well. We also wanted a tub, or whirlpool, if we had the space for it. As much as we wanted all of these things it couldn’t have been done without a serious amount of renovation. Adding to the list of problems was the fact that we only have one bathroom in the house. If we were to do any renovations it would have to be done quickly. Being without a functioning bathroom… well… it sucks. And there is nothing worse than sweating over a house project all day and then not have a shower after. Here are a few pictures of our bathroom before…





That was one of the nicest rooms in the house you ask? Well the shower looked ok, didn’t it? And did you see a few of the other before house pictures?

It seems like the bathroom was an afterthought when the house was being built. If the house was a few decades older I would think that it was built without indoor plumbing. I guess there is the chance that it was. The hallway you see in the picture above leads into the bathroom, and then there is a door to the attic from the bathroom as well. You can see the stairs in the picture to the upper right. The door to the attic did not completely open because of the bathroom sink. So, the bathroom had some problems.

We liked the roominess of the upstairs hallway, but it left a lot of unusable space. I decided to sketch out what we could do if we knocked a few walls down, and moved a few. Here is a sketch of the bathroom layout before.

Bathroom sketch before

And here is the sketch of renovated bathroom.

Bathroom sketch after

Aren’t sketches handy? I did this to try out different combinations of where we could place things, and it also was handy when planning the new subfloor (more on that in a later post).

The major work would involve bumping the bathroom wall out into the bedroom by about 8 inches, and moving the bathroom entryway door out into the hallway by several feet. This would allow room for a vanity and a tub, and make it easier to open the door to the attic. We would also need to extend the floor out in the hallway to accommodate the extra bathroom space.

The picture below shows where we will extend the floor (in red) and build a new wall.


And since I have an obsession with Photoshopping anything if I have a chance, I wanted to see what a new bathroom door would look like once the wall was bumped out. We worried about this blocking light from the stairway window, but it worked out ok.



I didn’t realize exactly how large of a project this was until I started digging in (Isn’t it always that way?) It required plumbing, wiring, framing of walls, insulating and ventilation amongst other things. It also had an effect on the stairway railings seen above. I would eventually need to rework the banister at the top of the stairs. Since this is a such a big project, I’m going to break it up into a few blog posts.

I’ll give you a glimpse of what the early stages of the destruction looked like.



It was at this point that I had my first feeling of “What the heck have I done?”

Part two of this disaster will come soon.



Filed under Renovation

Taming the Hoard

Everyone knows that students are hoarders.  And that hoarding goes up exponentially based on the level of education you are attaining.  I’m a PhD student.  Enough said right?  Since entering my graduate career, I’ve found that I’ve accumulated a lot of paper.  My graduate program requires a large amount of reading,  mainly journal articles,  and you never know when you’re going to need to reference that *special* journal article you read three years ago.  This led me to have a variety of paper piles scattered around the house.  This created a variety of problems.  First,  it became difficult to find things. And really, why have things if you can’t find them! Second, well,  all that paper creates a pretty decent mess.

So,  in an effort to solve both problems we looked to our attic.  Luckily for us we have a variety of furniture that we inherited when my grandmother died several years ago.  Sure it was pea green and scratched, but it had good bones.

The piece was sanded down and several coats of paint were put on to give it a clean look.



I certainly love my bright colors, but it seemed most appropriate to paint it an off white.


A coat of paint didn’t fix the storage problem though,  but a bit of good old ingenuity did.  First, we took out the shelves that were in there …

And then we installed drawer pulls.


Here is the finished product in the new office.


Add some hanging files and you have a PhD students dream, perfectly organized research articles!

Repurposing furniture is one of my favorite things to do.  Have you ever repurposed furniture?  What did you do?

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Filed under Furniture