Bathroom Progress

We’re about 85% of the way through this bathroom renovation, so I figured it’s time for an update. Our contractor had to head out of town for a job and, true to form, he wanted to get all of his work in the bathroom done before he left.  So he installed the fixtures, toilet, vanity, floor, and he finished the grouting and painting.  So now we have a working bathroom!

   
 
Since he offered to paint the bathroom before putting in the toilet and vanity, we had little time to pick a color. But thanks to Pinterest and Kylie M Interiors, I was able to make a quick decision: Sherwin Williams’ Sea Salt. 

 

I thought of doing a grey, but I’m thinking of doing some sort of greige for the rest of the house and I just wasn’t ready to make a whole-house decision that quickly. So I figured this would lend itself to the calm, neutral-but-spa-like look that I was going for. And hopefully it wouldn’t clash with the accent tile. 

  

Of course, then I chickened out. Or at least chickened out halfway. When I got to the Sherwin Williams store, I had them lighten the Sea Salt by 50%. I kept thinking how small the bathroom was and how overpowering the color could be when the light was low and, well, I chickened out.  But I’m glad I did. The pictures make the room look whiter than it is, but it really is a calm green-blue in person. I think if I had gone full strength, then it would have been too much. 

  

   

  

 

  
  
Now the room needs baseboards, the heating vent to be painted and put back on (that’s the big hole under the window), trim around the door, window, and closet, installation of the light and other electrical, a mirror, towel rod(s), toilet paper holder, shower rod, and I’m sure some other things I’m forgetting. 

So what do you think? Look good so far?  Hopefully Mr. Bunches will have some time over the next few weeks to get the rest of the house painted. Anyone ever rent a paint sprayer? Any tips/suggestions?

And just cuz I can’t get enough of these two . . .  

  

Bathroom Mood Board

The plan for this bathroom came together very quickly. Most people who know me know that I like to research and weigh design decisions forever, to the point that I often end up crippling myself in the process (our fireplace is a perfect example of this). But the nice thing about designing this house is that I’m not obsessing over it because I know I won’t have to be the one to look at it everyday. Wait, that makes it sound like I don’t care, which is far from the truth. I do care. A lot. But there’s something about making decisions for another, as yet unknown, person that makes them easier. Does that make sense? Anyhoo, here’s the plan:

  

  1. Style Selections Drayden Grey Integral Single Sink Bathroom Vanity with Cultured Marble Top, find it here for $199.  The space is really tight, so we could only do a 24″ wide cabinet. If there were another bathroom in the house, then I might have done a pedestal to make the space feel bigger but since this is the only bathroom I wanted to do something that had storage. I know there’s a closet in there, but I always think it’s a good idea to have a storage spot for extra toilet paper that’s within reach of the toilet.  You know why. 
  2. Moen Caldwell Brushed Nickel Faucet, available here for $89.  This is definitely a more traditional style than what I would pick for my own house, but I think the classic look will work well in this bath. Plus, it’s a Moen, so it’s built to last (or so say the plumbers and online reviewers) and the price was right.
  3. allen + roth 3-Light Kenross Brushed Nickel Bathroom Vanity Light from Lowe’s for $79. I liked the nod to an industrial vibe while still being a pretty straightforward piece. And again, for a 3-light piece in the finish I needed, the price was great. 
  4. White subway tile with grey grout. We bought the subway tile from Home Depot–it’s super cheap (only $1.76/sqft, so the whole shower surround of 70 sqft only cost us ~$123; I actually priced out subway tile from The Tile Shop and they offered me a discounted 70 sqft for ~$450 so it pays to shop around). 
  5. Moen Caldwell Spot Resist Brushed Nickel 1-Handle WaterSense Bathtub and Shower with Single Function Showerhead, available here for $144. This kit came with the necessary valve, so that was a big reason I chose it. From quickly looking at the other options in the store, the valves weren’t included in a lot of them and that would raise the price up another $150-300 just for the valve. No thank you. 
  6. Accent tile from The Tile Shop. This particular tile is discontinued which is why I got it for such a good price. The Tile Shop is great for cutting deals–don’t ever buy anything from there at their sticker price. Just ask for a discount and you’ll get it. Or, more often than not, they’ll offer a discount before you even have a chance to ask.  Because this tile was discontinued, and they only had 11 sqft in stock, they were eager to get rid of it. So they sold it to me for ~$10.75/sqft. I only needed 8 feet but they gave me all of it. Deal. 
  7. GBI Tile & Stone Inc. Aversa Frost Ceramic Floor Tile from here for $1.09/sqft.  Now that we tore out the old floor, we needed something new. I was pleasantly surprised at all the options at Lowe’s,which was really the only place I looked since I knew the vanity was on display there and that way I could do a little mock up in the store to see how it all looked. I also brought a subway tile sample and an Exalt sample so I could get the full picture. I had a hard time making the decision by myself though, although Baby Bunches did offer his suggestions, but thanks to Mr. B and another like-minded-in-design friend of ours, I was able to get some help. 

  
We haven’t decided on a paint color yet, but I’ll make that decision once the tiling is done (spoiler alert: the shots of the tile in the mood board are the actual shots of the tile as they currently are in the bathroom–so exciting!). 

Progress shots coming very soon, but here’s a teaser:

  

  
So what do you think? Did we do alright? Any wall color suggestions? Anything you would change/add/throw out? Do tell!

Bathroom Floor Decision

You may remember that we had originally decided to demo everything in the bathroom except for the floor. There were no cracks in the tiles and it seemed to be in decent to good condition. And the tile itself was fairly neutral. Here’s a shot of what the bathroom looked like post-demo:

  Looks like our demo guy didn’t do a good job sweeping up after himself, eh?  But of course, Contractor Steve swept and tidied it all before putting in the insulation, so when I showed up to take a closer look at the tile, I didn’t have to deal with that disaster.

I needed to get a handle on the colors of the current tile so that I could use them as my jumping off point for designing the rest of the bathroom.  If we were going to keep the existing tiles, then they needed to look intentional and cohesive with the rest of the plan. 

  

  
I was relieved to see that the bulk of the tile was grey and the occasional pink ones weren’t overwhelming at all. I thought they could work in a mid-century retro-type of remodel. But (you knew the but was coming), upon closer inspection, I realized there was one major issue: the old bathtub skirt was not straight, but had an extension in the middle. That meant that when we removed the tub, we were left with a not-so-straight line of tile. 

   

  

 

In addition to the cut-out, the new bathtub had a slightly smaller footprint than the old tub. So with the new tub in, there would be a 3/4″ gap near the ends and an almost 2.5″ gap in the middle. No Bueno. 

  

Contractor Steve and I brainstormed for a while on possible solutions to fill the gap: use mastic to raise the level up and cut larger tiles down to size to fill the gap; use small mosaic tiles to piece together in the space; or even go to a stone place and have a custom piece of marble cut to size. We ended up deciding to get some small mosaic tiles and I offered to do the tedious work of piecing them into that narrow space. 

  
With the decision made, I knew I needed to take some detailed pictures so that I could find something that would fill the gap in a coordinated, purposeful way. 

   
   
And then, I slept on it. Fretted some. Googled mid-century bathroom renovations to see how others had solved similar problems (found nothing btw). Fretted some more. Scolded myself for fretting so much over a bathroom floor in a house that we wouldn’t even be living in. But the scolding didn’t work. I just didn’t feel right about the decision. And then I talked to my sister who raised the very valid point: ‘the bathroom is so small, how much more would it really cost to do a new floor? You’re making everything else new in the bathroom but then you’re going to have an old floor? Just rip it out and start fresh!’

So Mr. Bunches and I talked about it. I remembered that Young House Love had torn out their bathroom floor in their first house, and so I reread their post and made Mr. Bunches read it too. Here’s a shot of their bathroom Reno progress:

  
  
 In summary, they recommended renting a demo hammer from a hardware store and said it could be done in a few hours.  And this was one of their first DIY projects so it was back in their green days. If they could do it, then so could we. And thus Mr. Bunches was convinced! The floor was coming out!

He rented a demolition hammer from Home Depot for $60/day (only $40 if you returned it in 4 hours) and he got after it. In the end, he got it done in less than 4 hours and we saved an extra $20. But don’t get me wrong, this was tough, tough work. He was sore for a few days afterwards, so don’t think I’m saying this was all kittens and rainbows. But it was definitely worth the effort. 

   
    
    
 
We’re both really happy with the decision to take out the floor and I think the final product will look that much better for it. Now that the bathroom is empty, the real progress is underway. Up next, a bathroom mood board . . . 

Insulation is In

Contractor Steve has been busy insulating the kitchen and bath. Hard to believe, but when Mr. Bunches demo’ed there was NO insulation in any of the exterior walls. There was at least some in the ceiling, but come on! This is Western NY for crying out loud! Insulation is a must. So at least now we had the opportunity to do the right thing and add insulation to all the exterior walls, including the wall between the kitchen and the attached garage. 

   
    
 
It’s already feeling warmer in there.  Although, since it’s a brick house, it hasn’t been drafty at all. Sure, we need new windows and that’s on our to do list, but the house feels pretty cozy regardless. 

Things are starting to really come together in the kitchen, and my only concern right now is that the pendant light might not be centered over the window.  See how the light box looks a bit off?

  
If it is, we’ll just have to figure out a different light option. No big heartburn. 

And still my favorite part of this kitchen–the Dutch door to the sunroom. Can’t wait to get it all painted and cleaned up with some new hardware. 

  
Now that the insulation is up, it’s drywall time. And again, Steve is all over it–it’s sitting in the living room, ready to hang.

   
 
Next time I post pics of the kitchen, it will be looking more like the plain white box we need so that the innards can actually be installed. 

  

2015 Blog Stats

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 55,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Making the Grade

I can’t remember if I mentioned it on here or not, but when we bought the flip house (I need to come up with a better code name for it–let me know if you have any suggestions), there was about an inch or two of water in the basement. 

  
The previous occupants had cut out the boiler before leaving and, we think, attempted to remove the water heater. But the water heater ruptured in the process and they just left it, ya know, so it could slowly leak all over the basement. 

Well, as you may recall, we hired a crew to clean out the basement and scrub it all down. We also installed a new sump pump, got a new boiler and water heater, and put in a lot of new plumbing. 

     
   

 

Now that the basement was dry, we could see if there were any other sources of moisture down there. Given that this is Western NY and the ground is pretty damp/wet all the time, we wanted to see if there were any issues with the walls or windows leaking down there, especially when it rains.  And so during a couple different rainstorms we went over to check it out. The good news? There was nothing major happening on the inside. The not-so-good news? We noticed that water was pooling outside against the foundation. Years of neglect had caused the ground to erode by the foundation. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

   
 
You see how there’s a line where the paint ends? Well, the paint ends there because the ground used to be that high. The first pic is of the front of the house and the second is in the driveway on the side of the house. That shows how the concrete has dipped, a different issue really, and one we’ll tackle in the future, but it goes to the same point: instead of the ground around the outside of the house sloping away from the house, it was instead sloping towards it. And we needed to fix that.  Here’s some before shots of the side of the house (this is actually I did quite a bit of work clearing out overgrown stuff, but I don’t have a true before shot):

 
  
And here’s what it looked like once we spread out a bunch of free fill we found on Craigslist:

   
 
   
    
 Much better, right? You might have also noticed that we removed the ugly roll-out window shades that were like dirty green headbands on all the windows.  About time, eh?

More fill was put in around the back of the house as well. This shot shows a comparison between day one and after Mr. Bunches and I did some serious cleaning up, but before the fill was added:

  
And some shots post-fill and grading:

   
    
 
That was 3 pick-up trucks of fill. There’s probably room for another two truckfuls but now that the winter weather has finally arrived, it looks like we might wait until spring. For the time being at least we’ve got the majority of the areas surrounding the house properly graded away from the foundation. 

Another update that has come and gone: our dumpster! Despite hiring a cleanup crew to empty the basement, we still had a lot of junk to part with. Particularly with all the demo work Mr. Bunches did. And so we had a 30-yard dumpster delivered to the house:

   
    
And Mr. Bunches made short work of filling it . . . 

 
He completely cleaned out the garage. Ahhh–emptiness=awesomeness. 

   
    
The dumpster also came in handy when we started clearing out the yard and discovered all manner of treasures . . .

    
    
   
We completely filled that dumpster in only a few weeks and now it’s been hauled away. Good riddance, right?!

In the meantime, lots of progress happening on the inside. Update soon!

  

We have light!

Once all the walls in the kitchen and bath came down, we had to quickly figure out the electric situation. We knew we needed a new panel. Why? Well, because we had 1950s fuses, similar to this:

  

So we had to upgrade to a circuit breaker box and we figured we would increase the amps while we were at it. 

Mr. Bunches had 3-4 electricians come out to give us quotes on a lot of electrical work. Before the first one arrived, though, we made a plan of everything we wanted done. I even created a detailed list so that we could give it to the electricians and also know that we weren’t forgetting anything:

  
This list is actually shorter than it started–Mr. Bunches found that the original list seemed to scare away some of the electricians. One guy looked at it and said the kitchen alone would cost $8,000-$10,000. To say we had a little panic attack would be putting it mildly. But we just kept getting more electricians in to look at the work and eventually got some real quotes.  

When we were getting quotes, we didn’t know if all the wiring in the kitchen needed to be replaced or not. Here’s a reminder of what it all looked like with the walls down (note all the criss-crossing wires in the ceiling):

  

  

Some of the electricians told us that the whole house basically needed to be rewired. Why?  Because the way these old houses were wired, everything was connected. So there could be an outlet in the kitchen connected to an outlet across the house in one of the bedrooms–taking out the kitchen wiring would mean potentially knocking out the power in the rest of the house. Good to know. 

Most of the electricians came in with pretty similar quotes: $2,800-$3,500 just to replace the panel, and then $2,000-$3,000 for the rest of the work. Ouch. I suggested that we get one last quote from the electrician that did work on our house when we first moved in. Mr. Bunches agreed and we were shocked at how low their cost was: only $2,800 for everything! And they were able to book us the following week. Sold!

Now, I know a lot of you are thinking to yourselves, ‘Okay, there’s probably a good reason this company is so cheap and available. C’mon Bunches–this isn’t amateur hour! You should know why too.’ And we agree–we were prepared to be on top of the situation, but we also knew that that the work required a town inspection, so we figured that whatever we missed, the town inspector would catch. And, spoiler alert, so far there haven’t been any major catastrophes.  Minor ones? Uh, yeah. 

First of all, to be up to code, the new electrical line coming into the house has to be 13′ off the ground. Our house is a ranch, so that means the electricians had to add a big pole to get to the required height. Every electrician we met with, including the ones we hired, said they would put it on the side of the house by the garage as that would be the least conspicuous spot. So what happened? Well, Mr. Bunches and I were both tied up at work the day that they installed the new panel, meter, and pole, so when we checked out their work that night we found this:

   
 
They took the path of least resistance and put the meter on the back of the house, directly between the door to the sunroom and the back door to the garage. Annoyed doesn’t quite begin to describe how we were both feeling.  It’s just not what we had in mind. 

  
At this point, it was too late to move it (they had already drilled a hole in our roof and everything), so we just took it as a learning moment and moved on. The lesson? Always be present at the house when big things are happening. 

The next phase was the rewiring of the kitchen. Mr. Bunches and I both spent time with the owner of the company, and his workers, going through everything we wanted done. The owner drew on the studs and placed empty electrical receptacles as markers for where things should go. This gave us some comfort but we still knew it was a lot of work and they might need some hand-holding along the way. Some was an understatement. 

The owner ripped out all the old wiring in the kitchen prior to his guys starting the work. He did the same in the bathroom. The electricians then came in and put in all the new wiring in the kitchen and bath, including new recessed lighting in the kitchen. They “finished” the work while we were out of town for a week. And yes “finished” is in quotes for a reason. When we got back to town we had the owner over and he confirmed that, in fact, they were far from finished. Not only was none of the new wiring tied into the new panel, but there wasn’t a single outlet in the whole house that worked! When the owner ripped out all the old stuff in the kitchen and bath, he had basically cut off power to the entire house (because everything was connected). Thank goodness Mr. Bunches tested everything! 

So what happened? Well, we basically got the entire house rewired for the original quoted price. We’ve actually only paid them $1,800 so far because they have to finish the work (put on the outlets and switches) after the drywall is done. As of now, we’re happy with the work. The owner made a mistake by tearing out all the old wiring before really understanding how it was all connected, but the electricians who did the work actually did a decent job. And the price can’t be beat. 

With the first phase of the electrical work done, the kitchen looked like this:

  

  

  

  

 

And did you notice the biggest change? The one that prompted the title of this post? We have light!!

   

 

We added four recessed can lights in the ceiling. There really isn’t any natural light in the kitchen since the window and Dutch door both open to the sunroom so we knew we needed more lighting.  In the pictures above only two of the new lights have light bulbs. So it doesn’t do it full justice, but it’s still so nice to finally be able to see in there. And you may have also noticed the new plumbing for the sink:
  
Our contractor extraordinaire, Steve, took care of that for us. He’s also been super busy of late. Ever since the electricians finished Phase 1, he’s been busy putting in insulation and laying drywall. The space is really starting to look transformed. Update pics coming soon!

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