Tuesday, May 24, 2016

D.I.Y. Budget Bathroom Makeover: Part 2

In this post we're putting it all back together, basically.

James roughed in all the new/relocated plumbing fixtures.

He added the required venting and drain pipes. At this point the plumbing inspector was called and, once he finished his eggs (we got him at home), he stopped by. We passed our plumbing inspection, phew. The dogs approved highly of this "plumber"* and did their part by wiggling and schmoozing throughout the inspection. An especially enthusiastic Pippi disgraced herself/us by leaping into the air to deliver a lick to his lips on his way out. Thank you, dogs, for your efforts...for your impassioned, clumsy diplomacy. But thanks mostly to James' good work. (*See earlier post re: all visiting tradesmen/officials labeled 'plumbers': http://wildathomeblog.blogspot.com/2016/04/tips-for-calmer-pets-during-omg.html)

Vent pipes in...

The shower got two coats of Red Guard.

With the inspection passed, we could start rebuilding the room. Earlier we'd bought some floor boards from a retired gent who salvages entire buildings solo, using hand tools, and stores everything in his yard. Our floor came out of an old cannery. Since there were two colors, I decided to go with stripes. Because they are making up a bathroom floor, I varnished the crud out of all sides of these boards (using Varathane for floors), James got the ends as he installed, and we'll give them another coat or two after installation. Our walls are cedar--the same cedar we'll use in the shower. We got these boards from a guy who makes store displays, baskets, etc. He doesn't need the better boards, so sells them on. Technically they were surplus rather than salvage. We found these purveyors of well-priced timber on Craigslist and Uncle Henry's, respectively.

Skirting board + salvaged floor. (I painted the border grey because we had more red/brown than grey, and to make it sharper
than the more weathered, arguably character-filled center boards. Fret not, that big chip will be hidden under the tub.)

The walls going in: I started painting them pre-installation, then decided that was pointless.

We had to tear out the ceiling to put in the exhaust fan and plumbing vent pipes. This was a good excuse to go with a tin ceiling. (This is where I confess we are not going for a rock-bottom budget here. I think what we've come to aim for is a reasonably affordable fancy-ish bathroom. Budget is a major factor, but aesthetics reign supreme.) I got possibly a little carried away and went with a design based on an old schoolhouse from American Tin Ceilings. I love a tin ceiling that leads your eye around various patterns flowing from tile to tile. These are a bit bigger than I thought they were, which is just a case of me being a tad dopey when I looked at the website. I kind of wish they were smaller, but I think they'll tie in better with a coat of matte paint (right now they are primed and painted with Rustoleum metal paint).

Plywood ceiling up...

Tin ceiling tiles installed and awaiting final paint job.

The fixtures are prepped and waiting in the wings. These photos touch on just how maddeningly cluttered the workshop has been throughout this project:

Sink, tub, heater, medicine cabinets, clutter, etc.

The medicine cabinet, found at an auction for around $80: an old end cabinet once turned into gun rack, that
I've now turned into a medicine cabinet with the addition of a painted red cross and shelves. I got 29 cigar boxes
and one vintage tin at the same auction for $35...Yup, now I'm just bragging and reveling/salivating over
my finds like a typical bargain hunter.

As for Pippi, seasoned apprentice...

Pips uncharacteristically sat out this phase of the project. She did not approve of the nail gun, and there was
 no swaying her. Here she is eyeing it suspiciously while a headless teddy provides back-up/moral support.

...And here she has decided unequivocally that the nail gun is 100% bad news, and she must seek refuge under the desk with the renovation dust, making this face. She's from the Bronx originally, and her reaction led us to wonder where she's seen a gun before and formed this impression: in the inner city, or whilst sneaking off to tear through the Maine woods (equally likely). I mean, this is a dog who climbs icy ladders and leaps into moving UPS trucks if given half a chance. Sitting Under Desk is usually reserved for when her people argue. (We're a couple spending oodles of time together fussing over a lengthy renovation project. It's/we're going well, but I'm not going to pretend we don't cross wires from time to time, thus leading our dogs to make the above face, alas.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

D.I.Y. Plumbing: Budget Bathroom Makeover: Part 1

Spurred on by a scary-expensive plumber's job quote, we decided to tackle our bathroom plumbing ourselves. A canvass of friends and acquaintances revealed a lot more people have attempted this than we'd thought.

First things first:

1.) Advice and planning: The quote from the plumber ended up being a sort of consultation re: what we needed to do. When I called him to tell him the quote was a bit high for us and we might be D.I.Y.-ing, I asked if he'd be open to consulting us if we ran into trouble...I offered to pay for this service. He said call anytime, and did not seem bothered about being paid. (Some people are just nice like that, and are thinking long term: he just won himself two future clients). He talked me through everything on the phone so we could get started. The guys in Lowe's were also helpful, making sure we had the right size pipes, etc. Chatting to (knowledgeable) people about your project is good practice. You never know what helpful tips it might turn up....And there's always the internet. This was a pretty comprehensive online overview: http://www.diyadvice.com/diy/plumbing/bathroom/

2.) Getting the town permit: It's definitely worth looking into your area's local laws regarding plumbing/building work. Our town is fine with home owners doing their own plumbing, provided you submit an application, pay a small fee, and keep your new pipes uncovered until the inspector can check them out.

3.) Removing the fixtures: The internet is rife with D.I.Y. plumbing tutorials. This Youtube video was all we needed to remove the tub/shower: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmYLGRsg-m0
...And the toilet: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/moving-a-toilet-drain-pipe-4-tips#b
The vanity and sink we dismantled months ago. This was a helpful overview: http://www.aconcordcarpenter.com/bathroom-plumbing-disconnect-the-easy-way.html

4.) Replacing and adding pipes: James is downstairs swearing at lengths of pipe as I write this. We had some old iron pipes and needed to add on new PVC and pex piping (drain pipes and vent pipes). This is pretty impossible without removing and replacing a good chunk of iron pipe with PVC. We had to replace several sections, starting in the basement and continuing all the way up to the roof (for venting).

The old pipes removed, with Pips dutifully adding a sense of scale.

New pipes connected to old in our clearly ancient basement.

5.) Extras: With our walls and ceiling gutted, it was a good time to hook up our new combination vent/exhaust fan/heat lamp and light fixture. James did the vent and exhaust pipe, and an electrician came in to wire it in.

So, demo-ing your bathroom is pretty messy.

6.) More extras: When pulling up old bathroom floor coverings it's not unusual to find at least some parts of the floor/subfloor in need of repair. There was mold and rot under our old floor, and we pulled up the entire subfloor.

Pippi attempts to make sense of the destruction.
The wall on the right of the above picture is a load bearing wall resting on one floor joist. This is not the done thing. Normally the floor joists run perpendicular to load bearing walls, so the weight of the wall is stretched across several joists. We added more support to this area by retrofitting additional blocking.

Cutting the new blocking, in what used to be the second living room (the addition).

The additional blocking going in. We added this to two sides of the room 
and down the center, before putting the new subfloor in.

The new subfloor is in and ready to be paw-tested.

Additional extras...Some of our wall studs were crooked and James employed a trick he learned in carpentry school: sawing into the stud where it bows out, and screwing it back in place to straighten it out.

Getting the shower ready: We're building a cedar shower from scratch, and making the shower pan using the handy tutorial we found here: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/12/21/how-to-make-a-relatively-sweet-shower-cheap/

She 'helps' like this sans encouragement: initiative + work ethic.
Drain fitted, cement poured and curing.

Bits and pieces: While James was busy with all of that, I tied up some loose ends.

I made some stained glass panels to go into the bathroom door. This is an old storm door. We have four of these.
My rule of thumb when scavenging materials is: if the price is right and the item useful/characterful, buy more than
you need. You'll either use it later, or sell it on/gift it to someone who will.

I revamped an old heater cover.

Still More Extras: This is our only bathroom, so we needed to sort out temporary bathroom arrangements. By that I mean a bucket and a hose, with some embellishments.

This is the same toilet we use on the boat: a bucket fitted with a toilet seat we found at the dump.
Fishing boats are no-frills. This is basically a composting toilet--we used kitty litter and saw dust.

We ran a splitter into one hose out of these two taps,
connected to a spray nozzle.
A pallet floor lobster trap shower

Completely irrelevant: During this time we also had to get the lobster boat in the water. Wooden boats dry out if left on land too long: that's a bad thing.

The whole thing needed to be painted...
...in time to be loaded onto a huge truck...

...and driven through town and down to the shore.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tips for Calmer Pets During (OMG!) Tradesmen Visits

If your dogs are anything like ours, they get VERY EXCITED when people come over. I'd love to have chill, dignified dogs who casually glance over at newcomers, but that's just not how it is around here. We don't get many visitors, and of those visitors, unfortunately and inconveniently, not all of them are professional positive reinforcement dog trainers. OK, none of them are. Frankly, James and I are are not very well-socialized ourselves, so we can hardly expect the dogs to be.

The cat is easy: I make sure he has access to a quiet, cozy retreat, and offer him treats and pats (and cooing) if he ventures out. I pretty much talk to my pets the entire time visitors are here. I gave myself permission to be that crazy pet lady, in the interest of managing situations and making sure they are having positive experiences. I'm a childless woman post-forty. Everybody expects this of me, anyway.

Initially, with the dogs, we tried a complicated system that involved visitors ignoring them until they calmed down, and then asking guests to reward them. This was hit or miss, because it relied on the dog-savvy of visitors, and their absolute compliance. We were asking people to help us train our dogs, and that was potentially frustrating for all involved. Most people were not stopping by to help us deal with our dogs.

Our current system works much better. First, since they are not good with surprise visitors, I give the dogs a heads-up. I say "Plumbers are coming." (I used to announce different vocations, but decided it was ridiculous to expect the dogs to differentiate between different types of tradesmen.) I explained to the insulation guys, "I told them plumbers were coming. They consider all tradesmen plumbers." They were A-OK with that. I basically want to alert my dogs 'Someone is coming over. You probably don't know them. Probably a man/men. Probably big. They will brings tools in, and start using them on your house.'

Then the treats come out. When the "plumbers" arrive, the dogs are sent to their beds and showered in treats. They bark, and their first inclination is to rush the door, but we send them back to their beds. Bed=treat storm. Off bed=nada. James/I go to the door and greet the VERY EXCITING PERSON. Then we get tennis balls, and one of us rushes outside with dogs in tow, explaining to our visitor that the dogs need to blow off steam when people first arrive, then they calm down. Half the time, the Plumbers oblige by playing a few minutes of fetch with us. (We are lucky to live in a dog-friendly place. Almost everyone has dogs here and doesn't mind mixing it up with them.)

Then the dogs come in somewhat winded, and are sent to their beds for more treats. They are allowed to visit the Plumbers when calm, and when invited. Pippi is an extrovert, and 'calm' is a relative term for her. We settle for enthusiastic, affectionate wiggling.

The success of this method comes down to the fact James and I are in control. We don't ask anyone else to do anything (but if they want to join in, that's great), and the dogs know the drill.

"Plumbers are coming." They are intrigued, and peering down the driveway
expectantly, but not nearly as amped as they could be.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Antique Gas Stove Repair

Antique gas stoves: I've always loved them. I pretty much like anything at least several decades older than me. Even people. If you are 80+ years old, we will likely get along fantastically, and find ourselves waxing poetic about the 'good old days'.

So, of course this old stove with the door stuck halfway open and a 'Happy Cooking' emblem caught my eye at a yard sale. Caught my eye as in triple take and double back. It was the same yard sale we found our claw foot tub and antique sink at: an old country inn was changing hands. Some yard sales are gold. Anyway...

We'd laid down some money at this sale, and in the interest of common sense/thriftiness, I offered the yard sale ladies $50 for it (they were asking $100). I wasn't sure I'd be able to overcome the door issue, and no one could guarantee it worked overall. They said they would let me know at the close of sale. I later got a call informing me the stove was mine for $50 and was elated.

The door issue was a head scratcher. I removed both doors, took them apart to inspect the hinges, attachments, etc., and put them back together none the wiser. An internet search led me to an old appliance maintenance website: antiquestoves.com.

I ordered a stove repair booklet from the site, with the promise that included with the booklet was unlimited follow-up advice. They carry parts for numerous popular brands of antique stoves (and have an Ebay store). Mine was made by Hardwick Stove Co. and they didn't have anything for my brand/model handy, so the repair took some work-shopping.

The booklet convinced me my issue was with the door springs. I emailed pictures and measurements to the stove repair expert. (This was kind of like dealing with the Wizard of Oz; the emails were always unsigned, so I can only assume I was speaking with The Stove Repair Expert.) He said my springs were a size he hadn't seen before, and I spent nearly as much as I paid for the stove ordering a range of potential springs from an industrial spring company that has a minimum order requirement.

Those springs arrived and I replaced the old with new and the door seemed even worse. I sent the strove repair guy more pictures of the original springs. Finally he emailed me with "The smaller spring looks like someone tried to make this work and is not the right one. Hard to say without being there so check the other side(s) if you can." The spring on the other side was huge by comparison. It looked so heavy duty and immovable I hadn't even worried about replacing it. I'd concerned myself solely its sad, bent, rusting little counterpart.

It never occurred to me the whole thing was a jerry-rigged repair, and the springs on either side of the door should, of course, be a matching pair. I felt kind of silly, but relieved. Now all I had to do was measure the space the springs spanned, and figure out what size they should have been. I tried some out via the stove repair website. It turns out an old Tappan stove part fits my Hardwick.

The door closed with its new springs in place. I did some cosmetic touch-ups; polishing the chrome with metal polish and repainting the black areas. I removed the burner grates and coated them with Rustoleum 'High Heat Ultra' spray paint, designed to withstand temperatures up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. I taped off the bottom of the stove and gave the black base the same treatment.

We hooked it up and it worked great. My mother talked me into getting a carbon monoxide detector when I told her we had just installed a recently revived antique and planned to cook on it. It passed its carbon monoxide test with flying colors.

We took to it straight away, with its sturdy retro charm and chic blue flame. We can cook side by side and not elbow each other! It was immediately comfy to use and cozy to behold. This was the first change we made to our kitchen, before our renovation started proper.

And what's more, reassuringly, this stove is cat-approved.

Bear the cat gives his stamp of approval.

D.I.Y. Stained Glass Window

We decided to gut the bathroom and start fresh. Because we were starting fresh, we got creative with the design. I spent many winter hours sitting by the wood stove sketching up floor plans until I arrived at one we really liked, which allowed for a separate tub and shower, instead of our old tub shower combo. Some months earlier we'd found a clawfoot tub and vintage Standard sink at a yard sale.

Inspired by the notion of a soaking tub, we decided to remove the lone, small window and install a bigger one; we were thinking a stained glass window. I came close to buying one on Ebay, but for the price, I decided to dust off my stained glass skills and buy the materials to make my own window. (I took an adult ed. stained glass course years ago.) I dug out my tools, ordered more online, bought some glass, and reacquainted myself with glass cutting, etc. With my customary creative outlets on hold for the renovation, my attention to detail was probably a touch more obsessive than necessary.

We found an old 12 paned window at the dump that seemed a good candidate to receive stained glass panels, with a little TLC. I filled half a sketchbook with window design ideas.

I got my heart set on bees. A Google search made clear the most graceful way to depict bees in stained glass is to paint them on....and proper stained glass painting is an ancient art. So, how did they used to do it? I got the rough ingredients for traditional medieval glass paint and stain from Wikipedia and ordered most of it online. I figured I'd just whip up a Middle Ages-style stained glass painting (coughs).

An early 15th Century roundel courtesy of stainedglassmuseum.com

Further digging revealed of course the glass needs firing, and no, a kitchen oven will not do. I found a kiln on Ebay. I also found a company that manufactures traditional glass paint (Reusche).

I settled on a design and started making the panels. Only the center two would need to be painted.

Because I was going for a medieval folk art feel, I didn't worry too much about everything being perfectly exact.
(Although stained glass really does need to be planned out and measured properly, and this I did.)

When I got around to attempting the final two panels--the painted panels--I found a website that spelled it all out pretty well. These two pale English druids have kindly supplied the interwebs with everything we should need to know to get on with old school glass painting properly. It became abundantly clear just how much I had yet to learn. 

David Williams and Stephen Byrne of Williams & Byrne Stained Glass Studio,
found online at realglasspainting.com

The first few firings were trial and error, and I took a lot of notes. It is going to take a while to master stained glass painting/reach competency. But I got to a point where I was happy enough with the results to go ahead with putting the window together. I look forward to revisiting stained glass painting when I have more time to experiment. 

James built a sturdy frame around the window and caulked the panels in.

The old window was removed, new window installed, and clapboards replaced.

It has made the room so much brighter and lends that ambiance only stained glass can. We are happy with it.

A close-up of the center panels (and a better representation of the true colors)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Floors

When I renovated a small early 1900's cottage in Australia, I found some beautiful hardwood floorboards hidden under shag carpet and black tiles. Chipping the tiles up was a chore, but once I'd finished, there was the floor, ready to be sanded and polished.

Nothing in this house has been that straightforward. Originally the entire first floor was done in nice maple floorboards. When James and I began this project, the kitchen was half aging linoleum and half tiles. The mudroom and bathroom were done in the same tiles. The hallway, and master bedroom that we converted back to a living room, were covered in wall to wall carpet. 

When all of these floor coverings were removed we found (in addition to the black mold in the mudroom/laundry area and bathroom): a complete patchwork of flooring. The maple floors were mostly intact in the living room, hallway and kitchen, albeit covered in glue. We scraped this off with a scraper and rented a floor sander to do the living room. It took us a full three days of tag team style working to sand the floor, due to how undulating the surface was, and how much glue remained. I've heard said floor sanding should be left to the professionals; you can end up with sanding drum marks if you don't have the right touch/timing. We have some light scuffing here and there, but it looks much improved from the tired old carpet. This isn't a museum quality renovation: we're not killing ourselves here. Working with what we've got, I coined the look I'm shooting for in this renovation: Rustic Farmhouse Chic.

As I mentioned in the first post, I don't believe this house ever was built to perfection. 

When we did all the glue-scraping and sanding in the living room, we came across an unpleasant surprise. At some point someone decided to stick a square of plywood in the middle of the room (maybe this was an opening to the basement?). At that, the perfectionist in me had to admit defeat. Did we want to try to track down some matching maple boards and re-floor half the room? No. We were renovating to a deadline and budget: our living room doubles as our guest room and summer, a.k.a. guest/tourist season, was upon us. I decided this eyesore would probably be under a throw rug, anyway. I took a straight edge, drew some pencil lines matching the adjoining floorboards, and the entire floor was finished in a couple coats of Varathane. It still pains me, but at least your eye doesn't shoot to that spot anymore. It is under a rug now.

In the kitchen there was more glue under the lino. I've slowly been scraping if off when I have a spare moment. Sometimes I prefer to work that way, rather than spend an entire afternoon in tedium. Plus, my wrist gets sore, so my scraping is less effective anyway. So short bursts, here and there is my preferred approach, when James is working on some heavy duty one man job and I feel like I'm just standing around. Eventually it'll be ready by the time we need sand and paint. (This is how I got the tiles up, too, for the most part: a few concentrated bursts.) I've discovered white vinegar poured and left to soak into the glue allows it to be wiped off instead of scraped. It's messy, but effective.

Speaking of tiles, once those were gone, it became apparent so too were the original maple floorboards: they'd been cut away and replaced with plywood. I managed to track down some maple flooring on Craigslist the same depth as our boards, but not the same length or width. We decided to paint the floors to tie them in better. Considering the kitchen/hallway/mudroom used to be part tiles, part lino, and part carpet, even with mismatched boards, our new look would be more uniform, and painted floors are in keeping with the old farmhouse aesthetic. 

We're re-flooring the bathroom, too, but our bathroom reno has gotten so involved I'm going to leave the entire topic for another post.

Literally chipping away

Tiles are off here. Plywood and various bits and pieces are being removed to make way for new flooring.

A new sub-floor: most of the old boards needed replacing.

The new (secondhand) floor going in over tar paper. The original floors are on the far right.
(Edit: I should add, before we laid this floor, we brought the wood inside to acclimate to the
temperature and humidity of the space we were installing it in (a week or more is recommended).
Because these were secondhand floors, we had to file out the grit that had accumulated in the
tongues and grooves. It had already been de-nailed.)
Pippi helped a lot. She made off with the chalk line chalk and proposed a game with Thomas, our older,
somewhat more sedate dog. His bed was covered in chalk, but her paws bore the tell-tale mark of a chalk thief.

I don't know who's reading this (bar a handful of our friends/family), so I am erring on the side of not boring you senseless with minutiae. But, when I'm mid-task/quandary and poring over the Internet, that is sometimes exactly what I want: the finer details, the tools used, etc. So please, ask away if you ever want me to go into more detail.