First time homeowners attempt a home renovation. And other projects. On a budget.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
So. Needless to say, we are nowhere near being done with the bathroom. Go ahead and laugh! My 6 week goal was arbitrary. I work best with an end goal, and have been known to perform better under pressure. Chuck, not so much - he poo-poo'ed my 6 weeks from the get go. I do think if we had been focusing on just the bathroom, had we run into no problems (right), and had all of our subcontractors on our schedule, we would probably at least be in the final stages of construction right now. But we were also focusing on the closet and yard, of course we ran into problems, and a few of our subs aren't available for a while. What are ya gonna do?
Beyond the fact that we missed our mark, it was kind of a deflating weekend. Bathroom progress has officially halted, due to some issues with the floor. Backstory (which I may have already mentioned): The bathroom is being created out of an addition that was made to the house sometime ago. We always thought that the addition had settled a little, because the floor sloped about 2 inches from front to back.
Since we've lived here, we have received probably 4 or 5 different opinions about it with no definitive answer. But all have ultimately thought the settling had stopped. Once we tore up the tile floor and got a good look at what was going on underneath, we discovered that the concrete slab was most likely originally an outside patio, and had been poured to slope, so the rain would run off. That seemed like better news than settling. So we went with that, and planned on doing the leveling ourselves. My dad flew in to help us. This job was going to consist of mixing and laying our own Quikrete to get the floor close to level, then finishing with a top layer of self-leveling cement - all products available from the fine folks at Home Depot. The one thing we kind of ignored in all of this is that there are a couple of holes in the floor, where the slab meets the house.
The problem with these holes is that because of where they're located and how they're situated, there's no good way to brace anything that would catch the cement. Chuck worked on something the night before my dad got here, but didn't feel great about it. We were hoping my dad would have a good solution. He didn't. There are also some holes where the plumbing comes up from the basement.
The guys went under the addition to check out what was going on, and the news got worse. There was some weird rock wall around all of the plumbing, and no way to access it from the basement. Which meant it didn't seem like a good idea to cement that part of the floor up above, if that was the only way to access the plumbing. We talked about knocking down part of the wall, but realized it could serve a structural purpose. And that adding more weight to the floor might cause some problems we hadn't bargained for. That's when we reluctantly admitted we were in over our heads. Which really bummed me out. I had how we were going to do it all worked out in my head, and this put a big wrench in the plan. So our next step is to call some contractors out. ugh. We can't really do anything else to the bathroom until that floor is done, which meant we had to switch gears.
Not to be discouraged, the guys turned their attentions to the yard, and I went to work on the closet.
With the floor leveling project on the back burner, we revamped our shopping list, and started the morning at ..... HOME DEPOT! We're big fans of the 'spend $299 on your Home Depot card and get 6 month financing' purchases, so we've been stocking up on pickets to get us to our total each trip. Today we purchased our 3rd set of 100. We also got the posts, 2x4's & quikcrete. And we rented a big ole 2 man auger.
Of course upon getting it back to the house, the auger immediately stalled and wouldn't start again, which required a trip back to Home D. This always makes Chuck really happy! They made it back with a functioning auger, and finally got started around 1pm, only to find that once they got about 5" down in the earth, the clay was so hard that the auger was useless. This was likely due to the fact that our back yard used to be level with the back of the house, and it was dug out (by the guy before us) to expose the basement. So today we found out that an auger does not work on subterranean earth. Would have been nice to have known that 3 hours (and $75) before. They did what the could with the auger, which unfortunately wasn't much.
While all of this was happening, I was inside mudding and taping the closet, and occasionally coming out to refill their water glasses and offer words of support and sympathy.
When we ran out of time with the auger, we made trip #3 to Home D, and on the way, brainstormed our options for tools to dig the holes that we needed. Chuck called his brother for suggestions, who said the only tool for this job was a 4' tall, 40lb piece of iron called a San Angelo tool. We call it "The Ram".
While I sanded the closet...
...the guys christened the ram. They got all of the posts in on one side!
And check out the little fuzzy grass that is coming in already!! I think I might need to ditch renovation and focus on gardening. It is a much more rewarding task for those like me who need instant gratification.
We had tickets to a Falcons game in the afternoon, so we only worked until noon. And that was fine with me. We're really trying to focus on what we can do and not get discouraged by the roadblocks. Needless to say, it has been a challenge. I'm at the point where I need a little bit of success, because my enthusiasm for this project is starting to wane, and we're smack in the middle of everything, so it's hard to measure progress.
Monday, September 17, 2007
We're in a holding pattern on the bathroom until next weekend, when my dad is coming in town to help us level the bathroom floor. It is a beautiful day - Tropical Storm Humberto brought a nice breeze, and finally, some cooler weather. It feels like that first hint of fall, which gives me a much needed boost. It finally rained for the first time in forever, so we decided to take advantage of the soft red clay and work on the back yard project. We live about a block from East Lake country club, where the last round of the Fed Ex golf tournament is being played this weekend, so the neighborhood is buzzing with people and a lot more energy than usual. I'm so glad we're working outside today!
We started our morning with a trip to Home Depot, where we got all of the fixins to make a homemade sprinkler system.
I also got some tulip & daffodil bulbs. This is my first foray into growing bulbs, and I'm pretty excited.
Back to the sprinkler system. Chuck created his above-ground beta model in our yard in LA, and it worked perfectly. This time around, we're going to bury it, which means ditch digging. Good thing we picked today to do it, since the ground was much softer than usual. But it was still a task of chain gang proportions, largely due to the red clay mud that added about 10 lbs onto the bottom of our shoes.
Here's Chuck going Manimal on it.
Manimal is Chuck's term for the state of mind he goes into to see a back-breaking job all the way through. It always makes us both laugh and not want to kill ourselves. Or each other.
We had planned to get the sprinkler system all connected and buried, but we're having dinner at a friend's house, so we ran out of time. Tomorrow we're back to Home Depot in the morning to get seed and topsoil.
Went to Home D for seed and topsoil. And some other stuff.
I worked on assembling the PVC parts of the sprinkler while Chuck used the cultivator attachment on the weed eater to get ready for planting.
While Chuck was finishing up tilling, I went to Ace Hardware and bought some soil amender and Moo-nure to spread over the yard, which hopefully will expedite the growing of grass!
Chuck scored a seed spreader off of Craigslist for $5.
It made the planting part a breeze.
And here is the finished product.
Now we need to do a rain dance.
We have a lot to do this week at night to get ready for my dad, who is coming next weekend.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Today was a pretty mellow day. I slept on my neck wrong, and to turn my head I have to pivot at the waist, so I'm not much help in the heavy lifting department. We got caught up on stuff around the house, and did some shopping for the stuff that goes in the bathroom. This is the fun part! We've finally settled on a design direction, and I'm using this picture as inspiration:
Of course, our bathroom will be lacking the luxurious spa with flower petals floating in it, as well as the $1500 vanities that I love.
Who knew that vanities would cost so much?!? With Pottery Barn out of the question, we went to Home Depot expo, and found a few that we liked. Here was the frontrunner:
Of course, this costs $750. And we're having his and her sinks, so multiply that by 2. Ouch. In order to mack out the shower, we're having to make compromises in other areas, and this is one of them. We weren't loving any of the vanities in stock at Home Depot or Lowes, so we started flipping through the Ikea catalog. We love this big sink, and it only costs $90!
And we found one vanity that goes with the sink that could work:
I don't love it, but I could live with it for the $1000+ that it's going to save us. However, it's the wrong color. We want dark wood. It's made of real wood, but it's lacquered. So we bought a $10 wall rack of the same lacquered pine, and we're going to sand and stain it to see if we can do the same to the vanities w/o making them look like ass. I'm crossing my fingers, because we're pretty much out of affordable options. A friend of mine recommended JC Penney and we found 2 vanities on their website that weren't bad and were within our price range, but they only carry them in their catalog. I refuse to order something that I haven't seen in person.
Next, we went to Atlanta Salvage. They had some unfinished sink cabinets, but none of them were the right size for the Ikea sink. We did find a window we liked to go in the wall above the shower. It's unfinished and only $25.
After a little lunch at Taqueria, we headed up to Floor and Decor to finalize our shower and floor tile selection. We knew we wanted Tumblestone for the interior of the shower, and decided on these:
Tumblestone is pretty expensive, at least by our standards. The tiles we want for the shower are $8 & $10/square foot, and the sealer is $99/gallon. We had planned to do the floor in a larger tumblestone tile, but even at $4/sq foot, this exceeded what we were hoping to spend on our tile budget, especially with the amount of sealer we would need.
We found some travertine that looked almost exactly like the tumblestone, only it was $2/square foot cheaper. However, we decided to make one last round of the store to make sure we had exhausted all of our options. Ultimately, we decided on the very last tile sample we looked at, which took us in a bit of a different direction:
It's a porcelain tile designed to look like tumblestone, but is considerably cheaper and doesn't require sealing. I actually like it even better because it has some dark brown in it which will bring in the dark brown wood we're planning to use - plus I wasn't 100% loving a largely beige bathroom. It coordinates well with the tumblestone, and if we find out we can't stain the Ikea vanities, the color they are may work. But I'm hoping we'll be able to stain them. Or find other ones - we're still looking.
Next we went to Lowes to look for new french doors to replace the current ones - I want ones like the Pottery Barn pic. We want wood so we can stain it, and the doors that came with the house are metal. Lowes didn't have any stock doors, and the custom ones started around $1500, so we're gonna have to keep looking.
This was pretty much an all-day deal, so by the time we got home it was dinner time. Which means quittin' time.
Joseph came over today to do some odds and ends. He and Chuck lowered the closet beam to make room for our cubbies, and they drywalled the back of the closet. We still need to mud, sand, paint, and frame the cubbies, which Chuck and I can do ourselves. My neck was still bothering me, so I did a bunch of house catch-up stuff.
Joseph isn't available again until after the 23rd, so he also roughed in the plumbing so we can level the floor. My dad is coming to visit and help with that in 2 weeks.
Chuck found a guy on Craigslist, whose name was NaNa, who showed up with a 20' Uhaul to take away the trash pile for less than a dumpster rental. Bless his heart, it was a crap job, and I would have gladly paid more to have avoided doing it ourselves. We shall name our firstborn NaNa.
We knocked off at 4 today, because we hit a good stopping point, and because our house is filthy and our dogs hate us.
Friday, September 07, 2007
"Thatsa Big Closet!"
And indeed it is a big closet. As exclaimed repeatedly by Joseph and Chuck. It's exactly what I pictured. However, it's caused some household debate. Chuck thinks that having a 10' high by 11' wide bedroom wall made of closet is going to overpower the room. I tried to explain to him that that is ridiculous, and only a woman could understand the importance of a closet this big. We don't have any place to make a walk-in closet, so this was the best we could do to create a proper master suite closet.
I created this to try to convince him:
We already agreed that we would make some custom doors out of 1 x 6 lumber stained dark, with some sort of opaque material in the middle, that I haven't found yet (represented by the white). If we disagree on something, usually Chuck lets me have the final say, and ultimately likes the end result. But he's been pretty vocal about his reticence to proceed in this direction, so I've relented to a compromise.
Here is what we came up with:
We're going to bring the closet doors down to about 7' and create cubbies above for seasonal storage. This does away with the library ladder, but I'm not sure that would have worked anyways, because of the depth of the closet and where the door runners would be. The blue is supposed to be painted wall, but I couldn't find the actual blue that we're going to use, so ignore the purple-y blue. We decided that the cubby doors will probably echo the closet doors, with the translucent material in the middle.
The doorway on the right leads to the bathroom, and we've left some space at the top to install a transom window. Chuck is very excited about the transom. We're going to have to re-frame the closet this weekend, and we'll bring the doorway down to match up with the cubbies. Ultimately, I think it was a reasonable compromise, as I haven't been able to come up with how the high up shelving will work. The pictures of well-organized closets that I based this on, have color coordinated linens that look lovely placed in neat stacks. That is not the reality of our linen situation. It probably would have just been a big old mess. So I feel good about the decision to change it. We're going to start looking for closet innards this weekend. So excited!!
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Week 3 Con't - Monday
Surface cuts on legs: multiple
Deep gouge on arm received while trying to save Joseph from falling off his ladder: 1
Smashed fingers: 4
Sore muscles: all
Contractor bags filled: 56
AND WE'RE STILL NOT DONE WITH THE FREAKIN DEMO!!!!!!!!! The back of our house is now a shell that we're not entirely sure how to put back together. My internal dialogue often consists of "What the F&*$ have we gotten ourselves into?!?!?! " We had no scope of the amount of demo we had to do and we did not plan accordingly. So we don't have a dumpster. Therefore, the ever-growing pile of rubble in our driveway will have to be moved into one at a later date. This prospect is soooooooooo grim.
This picture does not do justice to how big this pile is.
Realistically, we (or rather I) really should have looked at this as 2 distinct projects, closet and bathroom, when coming up with the 6 week deadline. Needless to say, that ain't gonna happen. We've spent the better part of the last 3 weekends on the new closet portion alone. We do have most of the framing up, just waiting for drywall.
Before we drywall, however, plumbing and electrical must be done. Some plumbing was in place for the half bath, but the toilet is now going where the sink was, the shower is going where the toilet was, and the sinks are in a new, un-plumbed spot, so it's not going to be a super simple plumbing job. We don't do plumbing or electric, so we're counting on Joseph's help with that stuff.
Another small hitch: Because of the piecemeal renovation by the guy who previously owned the house, we have quite a bit of furring to do. (Furring is when the beams that hold the drywall aren't even, so you have to add scrap pieces of wood to make them even - Joseph taught us this). Basically, the previous renovation was done around the existing structure rather than creating a new (and better) design and dealing with the issues this caused, which is why the existing "master suite" had a tiny half bath, a small closet, and a random tile entryway with a sloping floor that led to french doors. His intent was to flip, so I guess I understand, but it's created more aggravation than we anticipated. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say "you never know what you're going to find with these old houses" we could probably fund this renovation.
Chuck went ahead and put a couple of pieces of drywall up in our closet, so we could take down the wall of plastic and somewhat reclaim our bedroom.
We permanently borrowed a 2.5 ft x 6ft section from the guest room to create a place for the sink vanities. The ceiling in the bathroom is lower than in the rest of the house, so originally, we were going to frame the sink ceiling at bathroom height and then put cubbies in the guest room over that area for seasonal storage. The middle of the bathroom ceiling was lower than the 2 sides, so we took it down to see what we were dealing with. This was an awful awful job whose mess consisted of nasty old insulation, a huge birds nest and lotsa little turds from unidentifiable rodents.
This resulted in a red bumpy rash on my arms and legs. I don't even want to think about what was in there.
As it turns out, the middle of the bathroom ceiling had been installed as a drop ceiling and the beams were higher than we thought. This means the new bathroom ceiling is only about a foot and a half lower than the guest room ceiling, so we decided to forgo the cubbies and keep the sink ceiling at 10 feet. This will add a nook that allows us to do something cool with lighting.
This is one of the only pieces of existing drywall that we didn't have to take down. Praise the lord!
We have a few issues that we've run into that we need to figure out. Like this:
It's a beam rotting from water damage that frames the roof. Great find!
There was a lot of this all day today:
As of the end of today, we're finally to the point where we have small projects that we can work on during the week, such as taking old nails out of existing beams, and furring the beams for drywall installation. Up to this point, we haven't been able to do much during the week because demo makes such a huge mess. We're both on new schedules and get home around 7pm on weeknights, so we'll see how much work we actually get done this week. It's finally starting to cool off at night, and change is in the air. I have a wicked case of fall fever after our hot, dry summer, and I would really love to have the bulk of this done by mid-October, so we can have a fun fall! Gotta keep our eye on the prize.
Which is this: