Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bathroom Renovation - Part Three

Let me start this post with a laugh... ha ha ha!!!

I was just laughing at how I finished up Part Two of this bathroom renovation: "we should have three more days of work and be done with it", oh my! what planet did I think I was on?!?! That was back in November 2012 and now it's the end of February 2013 and I still can't say the bathroom is "completely" done.

But for the purpose of this blog, we will say IT IS DONE.  :)

All I'm missing is the saddle and the caulking of the floor after the saddle goes on.

So, let's look at some pictures, shall we?

We left off with just the tiles, and a tub.

We decided to tile the floor ourselves:

We didn't do bad, but not great either. The next day we pulled up some tiles I wasn't happy with (lippage) and we re-set them. Overall, a decent job. Not perfect, but decent.

In went the toilet (plumber did it).

And my Moen fixtures.

We debated about how to border the tiles with the accent tile.

Then went the vanity and the mirror (hubby did it!)

Moen fixtures on the sink as well (hubby again!)

And this is when the struggle for the wall color begun (you can read all about it on Houzz: Bathroom Wall Color Help!)

I couldn't make up my mind for the longest time, and I needed the input of 200 people to finally make up my mind!

I sampled colors from the accent tile, but I wasn't thrilled.

Then I tried with greens, but I didn't feel the greens at all. Some people suggested gray, and that didn't do it either.

Also, based on the suggestions from my friends from Houzz I knew I had to change a few things: 

1) The mirror had to be recessed. And had to have some kind of a border, because the one I had was too modern for the space and it just didn't look right.

2) The shower curtain color had to be different.

3) The outlet on the wall had to be hidden somehow.

4) Oh, and yes, I still had to pick a wall color!

After so much research, and the best advice on the Houzz forum (follow your heart), I picked the color I had already picked in my heart (I just didn't know it). 

What I wanted was something in the light beige family. I didn't want anything that would make the wall pop too much nor anything too dark. 

So I took one of the tiles from the bathroom (the wall tiles, not the accent tile) and grabbed my ever-growing Benjamin Moore color swatches and started my research. Pretty quickly I knew which color I was going to use: French White.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the result of 4 months of hard work!

I am very happy with the result! The new mirror is actually the mirror I had wanted from the beginning, but it was backordered in every store and website I went for the longest time. Until I decided that I was going to wait for it no matter how long it was going to take to receive it.

The towel rack helps disguise the outlet. If I ever want it completely covered, all I have to do is put a few hand towels in front of it.

The darker colored shower curtain looks so much better than the one I had before.

And the French White color on the walls, makes the whole space look clean, spa-like and it gives me such a sense of serenity that I love!

Overall, I think we've spent more than I thought we would, around $5,000, with almost $2,000 going to the plumber (the only labor we've paid for in this bathroom). But I hear we've saved more than $10,000 by doing it ourselves.  :)

PS. By the way, I tiled some of the accent tile, grouted the tiles, caulked where needed, and painted the walls myself!

So this is it for the bathroom (I can't believe it's done!). If you wish to read more, these are Part One and Part Two of the demo/reno journey.

On to the kitchen!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Kitchen Renovation - Part One

So this is the kitchen and what it looked like when we bought the house. Actually, this is what it looked like before we got the keys. When we bought the house we lost the only useful thing in here: the table.

But luckily, we were left with a floating dishwasher! Yaay! (not!)

The main issue we had with the design was the arch, and how it was so low. The assumption was that there must have been something special inside the arch, or that it was a supporting wall. In any case, we could only find out after it was too late.

I should also specify that I kind of agreed with my husband that we were going renovate the bathroom before moving in the house, and then take care of the kitchen at a later date. A lot of people had told me to live in the house and work in the kitchen for a while before making any decision, and for a few hours I agreed with them... but then, look at this kitchen! 

I just couldn't live with it more than I needed to. But my husband didn't want to work on it yet... what to do??? The only thing that made sense...

While my husband was upstairs working on the bathroom, I started ripping one little piece of paneling off. You know, just to see what was under it... and to start the process... 

When my husband came down, he wasn't thrilled. He asked me why I had taken down the paneling... we had a little conversation... and for a few days I didn't touch any more panels. He went back to work on the bathroom and I primed the dining room wall.

But then one day, out of nowhere, he took some more paneling down on its own, and that gave me the green light to take it all down! 

I mean, it didn't mean anything. We didn't have to renovate the kitchen just because we were taking down the paneling. We could just take care of this side of the room and refinish and paint these walls. Right? 

Look at how much better it looked afterwards! (not!)

The next logical step, while my husband was back upstairs working on our beautiful bathroom, was to see if taking down the tiles on this other wall of the kitchen was going to be an easy job.

And to my surprise, it was! Not only easy, it was fun! All I had to do was hit a tile from the side with my wrecking bar (love this tool!) and the tile would just fly up and then down to the floor! 

So I took one tile down, then the next, then the next. Before I knew it, I had taken a lot of tiles down. 

All I had to do now was wait for my husband to come down and see if we were going to have another conversation about how we were not re-doing the kitchen just yet, or not...

This time, when he came down, he just shook his head, because I think he had started to get an idea of how this was going to work: he went up to the bathroom to fix things, I stayed down in the kitchen to break things. Eventually we would meet in the middle.  ;)

On his next trip upstairs, I figured it was time to open the surprise present, and so I started poking holes in the arch.

Since I didn't want my husband to think that I wanted to take down the whole wall, I just made little holes, just to follow whatever was inside of it. And this is what I found! 

This big snakey pipe going up, turning left and maybe going up again (because it wasn't going left since I opened that side of the wall, too).

When my husband came down again, he figured there was no point of arguing anymore, and so he helped me finish up the job! :)

Oh, and in this picture you can also see how I took down all the tiles on that back wall.

We also opened up the left side of the arch coming down, to see why the arch had such a big landing foot on the counter. And this is what we've found.

From what I understand, this is the vent coming up from the basement, hooked to the slop sink, and it meets here in the kitchen with the vent from the sink and then they both go up to the roof.

By this time, I had asked for my brother's help and we started taking the cabinets apart. That side of cabinets by the fridge are now gone.

Well, not gone completely, they are just laying down in pieces by the wall. I think I've already said this, but gosh! I hate the clean up part!

And now this side looks like this.

We started breaking the cabinets on the other side too, until we figured out that the sink was sagging and if we weren't ready to take the sink out as well, we needed to stop right there, and use a nice piece of wood to keep the sink from hitting the floor and break a pipe or two in the process!

Hey, I've never done this before... I'm learning...

This is it for now, but stay tuned for more to come!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bathroom Renovation - Part Two

The bathroom renovation continues... 

It's been almost a month of working on this bathroom, and by now I've thought we would have been done, but what did I know???

In our defense, we can only work on it on the weekend. And even then, there have been some scheduling issues with the plumber, and the tub delivery delayed... but I'm not complaining, we are almost done with it. 

To continue where I left off, this is right after the old tub was discarded, and a temporary floor was put in.

Now take a look at our plumbing situation, even if you are like me and understand nothing about plumbing I'm sure you can tell there is something wrong with the guy on the left. Broken. The big guy on the right looked ok to me, but keep reading and you'll find out that he was not ok...

This is my husband's cousin, which fortunately is an electrician, and he came over to give us a hand and rewire the whole bathroom. He told us that all the wires were old, not code compliant, and even wired wrong.

There it is! My brand new outlet! Looking all clean and new among the destruction that still is the bathroom. Oh, and let's not forget the brand new tub! That's my American Standard Cambridge. 

Let's take a moment and admire all the new electrical things in this picture (that's a phrase I never thought I would ever say)!

And look! The plumber came and cleaned up the broken pipe on the left, replaced the little one on the bottom, and also replaced the bigger one on the right. Do you want to know how much that elbow-shaped pipe costs new? More than $200! And you know what's going through that pipe??? It shouldn't cost $200...

Here is some more under-floor being put in place. It's all like a big puzzle, you just have to make sure that all the pieces fit correctly. 

Up goes the wall insulation. After so much research, we decided to use something more natural and with no fiberglass, so Roxul was the winner.

It looks much neater now, doesn't it?

The next step was putting up walls. But before we did that, we had to do a lot of re-framing, because the walls were a bit uneven. Also, the first boards were put up wrong, on the wrong side, and fortunately, we discovered this after only three boards were up.

Down the wrong ones, and back up on the right side. Technically, it wasn't so wrong. But the vendor, Durock, suggested rougher side up if you want to put tiles on it.

To make matters more interesting, in a bathroom you need to use two different kinds of walls: the durock by the wet area, and regular dry wall for the rest of the walls.

See what I mean? And of course, each wall wants its own screws. More material to buy and to confuse me...

I see a light at the end of the tunnel!

More Durock on this side of the tub/shower.

And finally, some semblance of a bathroom begins to appear! We are now tiling!!! (well, he is...)

This is another great guy that has offered to come and help us out! A friend of mine who happens to be in the drywall and tiling business. He is doing a great job!

The tub area is done! This is my beige marble-looking tile, put up with as little spacing in between as possible.

The accent tile goes all around. I still have to decide what color to paint the wall. Maybe green or maybe a soft white. Also, I still have to figure out if I want the bullnose around the edges of the tiles. My friend tells me that in Europe they leave it like this, and it's true, because I've seen plenty of pictures... but I'm not sure, I'm used to seeing the bullnose defining the edge of tiling so much, that this looks a little unfinished. I have a couple of days to make up my mind.

How pretty is my accent tile?

And this is the other side of the tub/shower area. 

We should have three more days of work and be done with it. I hope... 

Stay tuned for more or Read Part One

Monday, November 19, 2012

Picking the Right Bathtub: Cast Iron vs Americast

The main reason why we decided to demolish the bathroom was because the bathtub was very old. So once you need to take out the tub, you might as well redo the whole bathroom, right?  ;)

As with so many other things in this bathroom, every time I turned a different direction there was a new choice I had to make. So now I needed to pick and buy a tub.

With this renovation I've learned that it is very hard for me to make any decision that has a very long term potential. To have to pick a tub and then to regret the choice is something that terrified me. Especially because of the size of the tub, I mean it's not something that you can return easily. You can't even move it around in your house, easily. Not to mention bringing it up and down steps.

The tub had to be picked right the first time around. That was my goal. Now to give this order to my brain it meant my brain took 2 weeks to pick a tub!

Talking to my husband he suggested we picked a cast iron one, for the obvious reason that it's made better than an acrylic one, and that it feels stronger and more durable. I agreed with him, since we've pretty much always had cast iron tubs in our apartments, and thinking about all the acrylic tubs from past hotels, I really do prefer the cast iron feel.

After reading tons of reviews, there was an obvious winner: the Kohler Villager

There seemed to be no other question to be asked until I read that the Villager weighted 316 lbs, empty! This would pose a lot of problems, back problems included. 

We had already called a plumber and he had suggested going with an Americast. At first I resisted, because I thought he was only suggesting this because he didn't want to carry it upstairs.

But then I started looking at Americast, or enameled steel, and found a few online with pretty solid reviews. The only problem was that they were all online exclusives. 

And I needed a tub, fast. So I went to Home Depot to check their inventory (don't go by the online inventory tool because it's not accurate at all). They had the Villager there, as the sole representative of cast iron tubs. 

As for enameled steel, they had a whole bunch of these Bootz tubs, with pretty low prices (but none of the American Standard ones). I wasn't thrilled with them, also because I had never heard of the name and I was hoping for a Kohler or an American Standard. But I took some notes and went home to read reviews. 

Unfortunately, these Bootz tubs weren't so good, and with most of them it seemed like a hit or a miss, some people loved them (mostly the price), some other people hated them (mostly the quality).

I'm all for a bargain, as the title of this blog suggests, but the tub was not the place for trial and error. I wasn't going to buy something that I already knew was made poorly. I wasn't going to spend years bathing in a tub I hated. And I wasn't going to risk a whole bathroom remodeling to save a few hundred dollars.

I needed to sleep on it a few more nights, but then it came to me. 

1) The cast iron, while the top choice, had the biggest drawback of the weight. We didn't have four people hanging around waiting to help us carry a 300 + lbs tub up two different flights of stairs.

2) I needed a tub fast, and the only ones in stock at Home Depot were the cast iron and the Bootz ones. To ask my husband to pick up the cast iron tub by himself and put it in his car was out of the question, and physically impossible for him. And I didn't want the Bootz one.

3) The only option left was to order it online. Fortunately it looked like these tubs ship pretty fast and only take a few days to get to you. So I researched all of them a million times over again, until I finally settled on this one: American Standard Cambridge

It's an Americast, so much lighter than the cast iron one (160 lbs), it has great reviews, and it's also a bit deeper for relaxing soaking baths.

It was delivered in 6 days and my husband was able to bring it inside the garage from the curb by himself. I doubt he would have been able to do the same if I had ordered the cast iron one.

The tub fits perfectly in the old space (photo coming soon).

As the bathroom is still far from finished, I don't know how I like it yet. It does sound a bit hollow so far, but they still need to stuff the underside with filling agents (not sure what, maybe some sticks and then some mud?)

Another reason why I didn't pick the cast iron tub was because of its weight on the house itself. It's true that since there already was a cast iron tub in place, the house obviously could handle it, but still, I felt that I didn't want to put too much pressure on the floor, and knowing me I would always carry that thought in my head. I would have never been able to take a relaxing bath because I couldn't help but imagine myself falling through the floor into the kitchen below! I'm better off with the Americast.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bathroom Renovation - Part One

Look at what my dear husband has been able to do so far in the bathroom!

This is what it looked like originally. Many people have commented how it wasn't a bad bathroom and I agree. But it just wasn't our style of bathroom. It was too blue. I mean there were tiles all the way up to the ceiling (which my husband will later hate taking down!)

It also had shower doors, which for some reason my husband hates (I don't mind them).

And this is the old vanity

So first thing, out went the shower doors!

And then the tiles

If you ever wondered what a gutted room looks like, keep reading

I had no idea that under wall or tiles it looked so ugly! And then it becomes a tedious work of pulling out layer after layer of whatever you find under the tiles.

Under the wood, we found the old insulation. And that's when I remembered to panic trying to figure out if it could have been asbestos. I took pictures and compared them online. It doesn't look like asbestos, but simple foam insulation. If you would have told me that I would become a student of wall insulation, I would have laughed so hard... 

So it seems the insulation is safe. Keep demolishing, please.

This job so far, probably took him a few days, maybe three. The boring part is that after you demolish, you need to clean up. Sometimes, cleaning up takes more time than the demolishing itself.

Now it was time to tackle the tub. This was an old cast iron tub that looked a little too old for my taste, so it had to go. The breaking of the tub with a sledge hammer was actually much faster and easier than we anticipated.

And then the cleaning took probably three times as much than the breaking apart.

Until you are involved in a project like this one, you don't realize what's involved and how long it can take. After five days, we still weren't done with the demolishing part. Obviously, we have been working on other rooms as well, but I was thinking this was going to go a bit faster. Oh well, live and learn.