November 25, 2009

1810 Bathroom Part 2 - New Tub and Some Drywall

I spent the past few days working on swapping in the new tub and hanging some of the drywall. I owe a big thank you to Lon and Elise, and Laura and Lex for all of the help with the bigger stuff. I'm also very thankful that Denise next door has been very understanding about the noise, I hope it hasn't been too bad.

Here are some pictures of the progress.

I took the sawzall to the old tub and pulled it out in a few pieces.

Above you can see the tub is out and the outer wall has new insulation. The old tub leaked so the insulation behind it was pretty nasty and needed to be replaced.

There was a floor joist directly below where the drain would normally go so I had to get creative with some PVC fittings and bend the drain along the contour of the tub so it would fit.

The shared wall of the duplex had a layer of insulation board behind the old drywall. I decided to just use two layers of drywall. Here Lex is helping hang the sheet that goes behind the tub and shower.

Once everything was ready I called Lon to come over and help set the tub. After a few test runs to make sure everything would fit we mixed up 60lbs of morter and piled it onto the subfloor where the tub would go. We then pressed the tub into the mortar so that the floor of the tub is basically supported by cement.

Here you can see some more creative PVC work to connect the drain. You can also see how bad the ceiling was from all the past leaks.

Since we had to remove the old shower valve to get the tub in place I soldered a shutoff valve on the cold line so we could fill the tub with water (458lbs worth) to press it down into the mortar bed.

The next day I put in the new shower valve. It took two attempts because I didn't tighten the cold inlet tight enough...I hate threaded fittings, especially when they are behind a wall.

With the new shower valve in place I could finally install the shower surround. Before I screwed everything in place I took it for a test run and then pulled the right panel back off to double check for leaks on the shower valve, everything looked good so I put it back together and screwed it in.

Tuesday it was finally nice outside so I decided it was a good day to cut a hole in the roof.

Here is the vent that should have been installed about 29 years ago. This along with the new fan will eliminate all the moisture problems I had in the old bathroom.

I then switched gears and started hanging the drywall around the top of the shower. I decided to use furring strips behind the drywall so that I could go right over the nailing flange of the tub/shower. This will save all the effort of having to fill that gap with mud later on...and all the worrying about whether or not its going to crack in a few years.

Here is a close up showing the drywall over the nailing flange. When I tape and mud all I will have to do is fill the small gap and then after the walls are painted I'll run a bead of silicone along the joint to keep any moisture out of the wall.

November 20, 2009

1810 Bath Remodel Part One - Demolition

The 1810 full bath remodel is now underway. I started removing fixtures and tearing out drywall Monday 11/16/09. The 1808 full bath remodel started in December of 07 and ended about 5 months later in April of 08. This time I'm shooting for 3 months :)

The picture above shows the bathroom before. There are 3 main issues driving the need to tear this all out. First, the bath fan is not vented anywhere so there is no way to remove moisture from the bathroom which leads to mold and mildew. Second, the wash cloth bar broke off of the shower enclosure leaving 2 holes where it was previously mounted. I temporarily sealed these off but its not a great fix so a new tub/shower is really needed to keep the water wear it belongs long term. Finally, its ugly and outdated and a new bath will make the place a lot easier to rent when I finally move out.

The picture above shows the messy process of tearing out the drywall. I tore out 3 of the walls first and then was able to stand on the pile of drywall to work on the ceiling.

A big part of the reason these projects take so long is that I only have a few hours a night to work on this stuff and then I have to clean it up so I can use the shower the next day. This picture shows the result after the first day.

Wednesday I removed the vanity and toilet and pulled down all the drywall and insulation board from the shared wall. I then sweat some shutoff valves on the sink supply lines so I could turn the water back on and put the light fixture back up temporarily.

This weekend I'm hoping to swap in the new tub and also put the vent in the roof for the exhaust fan.

November 16, 2009

Random Projects

I haven't posted in awhile so I thought I'd put together and update of what I've been doing lately. As I mentioned in my last post the 1808 half of the duplex went up for rent Labor day weekend. After showing the place to quite a few interesting people I finally found a great tenant and signed a lease on October 17th and the new tenant moved in the following week. With that chapter finally closed I've had some time to work on a few smaller projects.

I spent a weekend pretending to be an electrician...the majority of the fixtures in the duplex are controlled by at least two switches and somewhere along the line someone decided that dimmer switches were really cool and replaced all a bunch of the 3-ways and 4-ways with standard dimmers. After digging into it and realizing how messed up it was I was absolutely amazed that it worked at all and hadn't electrocuted anyone. I put in a few new 3-ways and a new 4-way and can now actually control the lights from every switch...amazing concept :) While I was screwing around with that I figured I might as well add a few outlets in the garage since there was only the one.

I also spent a few days working on my beauty of a snowblower...

Its a 1971 or 1972 Gilson (Montgomery Ward Branded) 26" two stage that I picked up for free last winter. The lady was trying to sell it for $100 but after looking at it I told her I'd she just told me to take it. It ran great but the drive mechanism failed the 3rd time I used it so I tore it apart with some help from this website and found that the friction wheel was toast.

I replaced the friction wheel and cleaned all the crud off the platter and that did the trick, it cruises in all 3 speeds now. Since it actually worked again I figured I'd better give it some TLC, I changed the oil, put a few shots of grease in all the fittings, Lubed up the chute, topped off the auger gearbox with oil, and lubed and adjusted all the control linkages. Its still rusty and pretty beat up but hopefully I can limp this beast along for a few years until I can find a good deal on solid older John Deere.

I took a whack at broom balancing after being inspired by an email from Cory.

My broom was pretty beat up so it took me awhile to get it to stand, but It was pretty darn cool when it worked.

Laura's laptop stopped charging so I ended up completely disassembling it and replacing the DC power jack...only to find out that it wasn't just the bad connector.

It took me about an hour and a half to get it taken apart the first time and I was amazed at flimsy all the individual pieces were. After replacing the connector it worked a bit better but still wouldn't charge reliably so she ended up buying a new laptop the next day. Ah well at least it was fun to take apart :)

I finally ordered parts to build a new computer to use as a storage server and to also run MythTV so that when I do actually watch TV I can watch something I actually want to see instead of suffering through whatever happens to be on the limited channels I get with the antenna. Here is what I built:

Motherboard: ECS GF8200A - Not the latest motherboard but it has an HDMI Output and integrated graphics that will support 1080P video playback even in linux.

Processor: AMD Athlon II 2.6GHz Quad Core - Best bang for the buck right now, tons of power and only $99.

RAM: 4 Gigs of DDR2 1066 - Probably more than I need for a server but there is no reason to go with less.

Hard Drive: Samsung EcoGreen 1.5TB - Tons of space and lower power, perfect for a server.

TV Tuner Card: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 - Dual ATSC tuners so I can record/watch two shows at once. It is theoretically supported in linux...

The system is setup and working, storing files on my network and recording shows off the antenna and playing them back over the HDMI cable to my TV upstairs. The only issue I have to figure out yet is that the driver for the TV tuner flakes out once in awhile and writes error messages to my system many errors that the log file fills up the entire 30gig OS partition and grinds the system to a halt which is somewhat inconvenient. This is apparently not a common problem so I'm sure I just messed up the driver isntall somehow...I'll have to figure that out at some point.

Now that I've finished up most of these little random projects I'm getting ready to start ripping out and rebuilding the full bath in 1810. Stay tuned for pictures and updates on that as things progress.

September 9, 2009

1808 remodel is done and it's up for rent

Last weekend Lon stopped over to help me swap the kitchen doors so that the door handle doesn't prevent the new cabinet drawer from opening all the way. All in all it went pretty well, the doors came out and went back in fairly easily and probably swing and latch better now than they did before.

Here is the door in 1810 after swapping and sealing with Great Stuff Foam.

Here you can see the drawer open all the way with the door closed, finally.

With the doors swapped I was finally able to reinstall all the trim, hang the new blinds, and tie up all the other odds and ends that were still left. Laura was a huge help cleaning up the place, inside and out. It's now basically spotless and the yard is weed free and flower beds have a fresh layer of mulch.

It was basically ready to show Friday so I stuck the for rent sign out on the lawn. I also took a ton of pictures and put together a website to help advertise it. Check out the website at I then posted an ad on with a few small pictures and then linked to the webpage above so people can go look at all the bigger pictures and details.

Since Friday I've had about a half dozen calls, mostly from the sign on the lawn, and have showed it to two possible tenants and have another showing lined up for tonight or tomorrow. I could probably start a whole blog just discussing the crazy experiences with potential tenants but here are a few of my favorites so far (these are from just the last 5 days)

Potential Tenant 1 - Walk Through
Me: "I'll be checking your credit and criminal background and will check your references"
Her: "Don't bother credit is terrible and I'm declaring bankruptcy. I had a ""seizure"" blacked out and crashed my brand new SUV into a brand new Toyota Tundra...pushed it into a house and garage...and totaled the huge boat that was in the garage...I'm $125k in debt...I'm not gonna pay that."

It was hard to give her an application with a straight face, based on other indications I'm 100% certain that her ""seizure"" was drug related.

Potential Tenant 2 - Phone Call
Me: " amount may be negotiable with a clean credit history, no criminal record, and great references."
Her: "I can tell by talking to you on the phone that you won't trust me...I have issues."

She then hung up.

Potential Tenant 3 - Phone Call
Him: "...that sounds like a sweet, ugh, sweet place you ugh, ugh, do you check on my...ugh, you know, ugh, bills, errr, do you gotta check my financial, ugh, do you gotta..."
Me: "Yes I will check your credit and criminal history."
Him: "Oh man, we gots terrible credit but we gots jobs now...good ones...and we even payin our bills now...but ugh, ah, well you aint gonna rent to us though, not wit our credit...."

He then hung up.

Its really amazing how just mentioning credit and criminal checks makes people spill their guts like that, I'm truly impressed with their honesty. I have had a few normal people show interest but no takers yet. Hopefully this next showing goes well.

August 27, 2009

Flooring Complete

I finished grouting the tile last week and the carpet went down yesterday. I still have swap the kitchen doors, hang the trim, and finish cleaning everything up but it should be on the market soon and available for move in October 1st.

Grouting the tile went fairly smoothly, still a ton of work but it turned out fairly nice.

Here you can see the living room with the old carpet removed.

Here is the new carpet, Its a smartstrand fiber which is supposed to be more stain resistant than nylon stainmaster carpet...we'll see I guess. It ended up being 396 sft @ $1.65/ft total with pad installed. Not bad.

Here is a picture of the laminate I installed in the master bedroom last fall.

And also the laminate in the second bedroom.

August 17, 2009

Window Repair and Dining Room Tile

So this is the first update I've posted in almost 3 months...I ran into a leaking window that pretty much derailed the project until I could find a way to seal everything up and keep the rain out again. That, along with moving to the other side of the duplex, our week and a half long vacation out west, and all of the other camping and weekend activities, has really slowed down progress this summer. My tenant has been out since July and I'm now starting to notice the rent check missing every month and I'd like to get the place put back together, cleaned up, and up for rent within a few weeks.

Here are some pictures of what I've been up to since May.

After ripping up the particle board I put down 5/8ths plywood to provide a solid base for the tile. This picture shows the plywood cut and laid in place. I then secured it with a TON of screws and was really impressed with how much stiffer the floor was.

This is where the trouble started...I had to patch up some drywall cracks anyway and since I noticed some water damage on the old particle board subfloor I figured I'd open the wall under the window and check things out. The insulation was actually wet and some of the window framing was starting to rot.

Checking outside it looks like the only thing standing between the rain and the inside of my wall was this caulk joint...which had clearly failed a while ago.

I pulled off the aluminum casing and found the whole lower window frame rotted away. I figured this was a pretty big deal so I actually talked to 3 or 4 contractors about how they would handle this and was considering replacing all the windows in the house if needed. In the end no one had a real good solution that didn't involve ripping off ALL of the stucco to properly flash the windows and then residing the whole house. The solution that made the most sense was to patch up this window and then keep an eye on the caulking on the rest of the windows to catch this before it happens next time.

Since I had already ripped off all the aluminum casing I had to pull the window out in order to rebuild the frame and add flashing to keep the water out.

I used treated lumber to build up the lower frame.

I then used flexible self adhesive flashing to seal it up. I started at the bottom and overlapped the exterior of the stucco since I couldn't get to the tar paper drainage plane. I then worked my way up the sides and finally tucked the top piece under the drip cap.

Once the flashing was in place I put the window back in.

I then applied generous amounts of silicone caulk and trimmed things off with an aluminum cap at the bottom and PVC brick mould trim. We got a heavy rain about 3 days later and the inside was nice and dry so this seems to have done the trick.

Since I already had the wall open I figured this would be a good opportunity to run coax cable up from the basement to the smaller bedroom upstairs.

Now that the rain stays on the outside I could fill the walls with new insulation and patch up the drywall. This is where things slowed down for quite while as I moved over to the other side of the duplex and then went on vacation...also I HATE taping and mudding drywall so I wasn't too excited to work on it.

The drywall was eventually done, textured, and the whole place painted...basically back to where I was in May :) I could finally start prepping for the tile. Here I have the Ditra underlayment set.

Rather than set all the full tiles one day and come back later to cut and set the partials, as I did the last two times, I thought I'd try something different and set them all at once to save a few days of cure time. This meant I had to layout all the tile ahead of time to measure and cut the partials. After spending a few hours working this I was starting to get a bit nervous that they all wouldn't line up the same when I actualy set them.

Here I finally remembered to take a picture of the drywall patch job around the window.

Tiles picked up and ready to go.

Half way done and everything fits so far.

All the cuts worked out and I got everything set in one afternoon. I'm hoping to get everything grouted tonight.

May 21, 2009

Underlayment Removal

Now that the kitchen portion of the project is basically done I cleared out the dining room and started prepping the floor for tile. The existing particle board needed to be ripped up so that I can replace it with plywood later.

I pulled up the carpet and pad and then set the circular saw to 5/8ths and cut some seems in the particle board to make it easier to pry up. I then started in the corner with a prybar and flat shovel and ripped all that nasty stuff up.

It actually pulled up pretty easily. Heres a picture with the particle board removed and all the nails pulled. The subfloor is 1/2 of 5/8ths plywood and its not nailed down very well which explains why my floor always felt bouncy and make so much noise. I'm going to have to secure this layer with a few pounds of screws prior to laying anything else on top of it.

May 18, 2009

DIY Countertop Attempt 2 - Success

I couldn't live with the marks on the first countertop edge so I thought I'd give it another shot and start over. I didn't have quite enough particle board to for a solid two layers so I cut out a solid top and added some blocking to the back to build up the thickness.

I used the first attempt countertop as a template and cut out the new top with the flush trim bit.

I then flipped it over and glued and screwed blocking in place to make up the full inch and a half. Once that was dry I used the flush trim bit to trim the blocking down to shape. One theory on why the edge got messed up when trimming last time is that the edges weren't quite square so this time I flipped the whole piece right side up and ran another pass with the flush trim bit from the top. I think this actually helped quite a bit.

Lon came over to help again for this part and we got the edge strip on trimmed flush. This time we set the top edge as close to flush as we could and then used files and a sanding block to bring it flush which avoided having to use the router on both sides of the edge. We also used Lon's plunge router this time and the better depth control made things a lot easier.

Same as before...apply the contact cement to both pieces and take a picture while waiting for it to setup. We also applied a layer of packing tape to the edge to help protect it from getting damaged again while trimming the top.

We again used some scraps of wood to help line up the top and then rolled it on working from the center out. Once it was stuck down we used the router to trim the edges. This time I actually tried to leave a little bit extra especially around the corners. I then came back with the file and carefully cleaned them up by hand.

Here is the final product, there are a few areas where I went just a bit to deep when filing the edges but its barely visible and much better than the last attempt.

The next project was to trim out the toe kick under the sink. I had to allow for an vent register and also build up the front enough to cover the gap I mistakenly left between the tile and the vent duct...

3/4 plywood with some extra 1/8" spacers built up enough thickness.

I then glued and stapled the veneer, installed the register, and finished up the corner with a piece of oak trim that I stained to match.