Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just In Time Remodeling!

At the beginning of the year, we decided to do a major remodeling project at our house. We wanted to redo the kitchen cabinets and counter-tops as well as update a couple of bathrooms.  We got a quote from our favorite contractor (the one who did such an awesome job on our master bathroom/closet last year).  

The cost was significant but we felt like we could swing it. And then...

...breast cancer happened and wiped out our budget.  At the beginning of the year, I was feeling so healthy that I raised the deductible on my health insurance.  Big mistake!  The out-of-pocket cost for the surgery & radiation treatments was almost exactly equal to the quote for the home remodeling.

The big positive result is that I am healthy and cancer-free now, but we decided to postpone the major remodeling project.  Another positive aspect from the cancer was that we were able to put the entire cost on our Citibank Hilton Honors credit card and earn enough points for a few free hotel stays! 

In May, one day while Tony was at work, I was feeling a little bored. I decided to tackle the remodel of the small half-bath myself.  The first step was to remove the old tile.  It was not as easy as I thought it would be.  After 2 hours of hammering & chiseling, I finally got the corner of one tile out.

Tony (surprisingly fully supportive of my effort) came home & got out the sledge hammer.  He had the tile removed in a matter of minutes.  The next step was to remove the toilet and vanity.

I decided to try to sell the toilet & sink on Craigslist to avoid having to haul them off. It is amazing to me that you can get someone to pay you to come & haul off your trash!  I guess it is true - one man's trash is another man's treasure!  I posted the ad on Craigslist and got 3 interested emails.  I sold them to the first respondent for $10. When we get ready to do the next bathroom (don't tell Tony), maybe I'll ask more!

Once we got the tile & fixtures out, we needed to remove the sub-floor.  This was more difficult than we had anticipated.  We took the door off first.  We didn't want to do any plumbing so we had to trim the plywood in place to get it past the protruding pipes.  We kind of buggered up the toilet flange in the process. We weren't sure what to do about that, so I posed the question on Facebook and got some advice on how to replace it.  Between the Facebook advice and a few YouTube videos, we got a new flange in place.

That was after we put down new sub-flooring which, again, was not an easy task.  The room is only 8 feet by 2.5 feet with plumbing pipes sticking out of the walls.  We cut the sub-floor exactly to fit the room but couldn't get it in place because of the pipes.  We got it wedged into the room and then Tony got underneath it with a jig-saw and cut out a section to get it past the sink plumbing.  Then we glued and nailed the cut section back in place. 

I had some tiles left over from the master-bath remodel, so I decided to use those. When I opened the box, I discovered that several of them were broken which meant a trip to Floor & Decor in Marietta.  While I was there, I decided to pick up everything else I would need for the project (adhesive, grout and trowels).  After I had everything in my buggy, I remembered that I would need to cut some of the tiles to go around the toilet.  I got one of the sales people to show me the tile cutters.  He showed me one that would score the tile & then break it, but he said to get one strong enough to score porcelain tile, I would be looking in the $200-$300 range.  Not what I wanted to hear.  He recommended I get a wet saw and showed me one for $50.  Perfect!

I would be using 13 inch tiles and putting mosaic strips between each tile to minimize the number of cuts I needed to make.  I created a grid on the floor to show me where each tile would be placed. Starting on the sink end of the room, I started placing the tiles.

It looked smashing, if I do say so myself!  Even the cuts I made around the toilet flange were perfect!  I used the new tile saw to make the straight cuts, then used a dremel tool with a diamond bit to score the curves.  One tap with a hammer and the section broke off just where I had scored it.

The project was a bit slow-going though because it was interrupted by four trips to the beach and then finally a river cruise in Europe.  I didn't get around to doing the grout until July 13th which made me a little nervous because we were to be hosting a couples' wedding shower at our house on July 20th.

I was very pleased with the end result!

When we had ripped out the old tile, the baseboard tile brought a lot of the sheet rock with it.  Since I suck at sheet rock repair, I decided that we would just cover the damaged sheet rock with bead board.  The problem, again, was the plumbing that we didn't want to mess with.  We needed to figure out how to install the bead board around the plumbing.  I took a picture of the plumbing with my digital camera & then used my photoshop software to make a pattern.

I cut out the section using a drill and a jig-saw and then carved the missing piece up so I could glue it back in place.  It was a pretty kludgy job, but hopefully it would be hidden by the pedestal sink.  

We got the rest of the bead board installed using carpenter's adhesive.  We didn't want to risk ruining the bead board with our less-than-stellar nail-driving skills. We had to shim it at the bottom to make sure that the top edge would be level.

Painting came next.  I hate painting.  I got it in my hair, on my clothes and on my skin.  I even sat on the paint can lid one time, but I got it done and it looks pretty good.

Tony doesn't want me using power tools unless he is present so I had to wait for him to get home from work to cut the trim.  I went ahead and painted it so it would be ready to install.  When he got home, we measured, re-measured, measured again and then cut the trim pieces using the miter saw.  We only had to re-cut one mis-measured piece.  We used carpenter's adhesive to install the trim.

We thought it looked pretty good!  With a little caulking & touch-up paint, it would look almost professional.

The light fixture came next.  We needed to get it in so I could see to finish the touch-up paint.  After getting shocked a few times while trying to figure out which breaker controlled the wiring, we finally tripped the main breaker and I installed the light in the dark while Tony shined a flashlight.  We replaced the beige light switches and ground-fault outlet in the dark too.

We were pleased with our progress.  It was 5 days until the shower we were hosting and all we had left to do was install the fixtures.  We thought this would be the easy part.  Wrong.  First, we had to drill into the tile so we could affix the sink pedestal to the floor.  You can't just use any old drill bit to drill porcelain tile.  I had to get a diamond drill bit and then you had to keep it wet while drilling.  Even then it required a good bit of upper body strength, something I lack, so Tony had to do the drilling.

The instructions for installing the sink were unclear so we made several attempts to get it installed.  There was the tiniest bit of arguing while we figured this out.  I had to go to Home Depot 3 times during the process to get the right plumbing parts.  (I think Tony just wanted to get rid of me, and yes, we DO own stock in Home Depot, so with every purchase, we are really just investing in ourselves!).  We eventually got the sink in and plumbed.  It doesn't leak, it looks great, and we don't THINK it will fall!

We thought we would be able to get both the fixtures installed in one afternoon, but the sink took up so much time, we didn't get the toilet in until after we had met friends for dinner (and a bottle of wine).  The toilet installation took place AFTER a few glasses of wine. Thankfully I had bought a new-fangled wax ring replacement thingy so we could re-position the toilet a few times.  In the end, we had to put some shims under the toilet to prevent it from rocking.  We discovered the next morning that it had leaked a little, but tightening up the connection from the wall to the toilet fixed that so we are good to go (literally).

I hung the new mirror and put in the toilet paper holder and still had 3 days until our guests would arrive for the wedding shower!  That should give me time to do things like, oh, shop, clean the house, prepare the food, you know, trivial stuff...

Stay tuned for a post about the party!

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