Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Joy of Planning

I love planning. OK, it could be easily argued that I love the planning far more than the execution since the planning generally doesn't require blood, sweat, tears and emptying your savings account. But I am having a blast planning this bathroom renovation. It looks like my acquisition of the initial $2000 that will be the seed money for this project is coming along nicely, and that we can do a nice little renovation once that seed money is supplemented with what we hope will be a tidy tax refund (since I did a few tax-savings things this year), perhaps a bit extra in "economic stimulus" from Pres. Bush*t (see note below), and the rest from savings (though not TOO much from there, since I get a little freaked if that number goes too low...).

Tonight we opened up the access panel that's in Elder Granddaughter's bedroom to verify that no, the new tub isn't one of those things plunked on top of an old original tub. Of COURSE not. The POs did a full rip-to-the-studs on every single room in this house, ripping out the studs in some. There is a big full-height space behind the tub that is WAY more than is needed to hold the various pipes, simply because it was what room was left once they put in the standard sized tub. It's as wide as the tub, and about 18" deep; the side of that space creates a blank wall to the left of the toilet, so one part of the renovation project will be to put a nice deep (maybe 10", to not interfere with any plumbing) recessed shelf there. That still leaves enough room to hide a body or two, though. Or at least enough room to stash stuff like rarely used suitcases or presents we're hiding from the kids.

One interesting thing we *think* we found back there is the framing to what used to be a window. We won't be able to tell for sure until we get that tub out of there, but it sure looks like it. Ironically, I had already made one significant change to the reno plan, and that is to NOT put a window in that wall over the tub, for two reasons. One, I've been reading too much about how no matter how good of a window you get, the cold from that window can simply be not what you want on a brisk winter day while you're taking a shower. But also, if we put a window in, that has to be done pretty much first on the checklist when in fact it's a really low priority for me. But I can't exactly tile the shower area and THEN put a window in later, you know? So I decided on an alternative: Since above the tub is simply the kneewall area of the third floor, I'm going to eventually put in (well, having someone else put in) a skylight, the type that has a tunnel leading down to the actual bathroom. That way I get my natural light, but it can go in later, just in case I need to build up my savings a bit after spending more on other things than I'd originally budgeted.

This is the "Note below": I generally try to not venture into politics in my house blog but I'm on political overload (just got my first candidate call today; I pressed 3 for "the other guy"), and so much that is happening with our economy in particular -- and my perception of just WHO exactly is to blame for it -- is just sending me over the edge. I tend to be very grouchy when faced with too much political bullshit, which of course is unavoidable in a presidential campaign year or when facing a possible recession or while our country is enmeshed in a hideously expensive war that we should have never gotten into, so right now is just the worst of it all for me. But on this whole "economic stimulus" package thing... I'm just someone who thinks that maybe that money should be focused on (among other possible options) doing things like giving some seriously hardworking poorfolk some genuinely affordable and decent housing instead of being divvied out to folks like me who honestly don't NEEEEED it like they do, when a good part of why we're in this economic hellhole is that too many people got into a helluva lot more debt than they ever should have -- so the answer is to give us more money to spend and put our country into even more debt?!? Not in my way of thinking. So don't be surprised if you see some campaigning on my part to get folks to donate at least half of any "economic stimulus" money to Habitat or a local food bank or domestic violence shelter or something. It doesn't take being a "bleeding heart liberal" to look around and feel that there's just something WRONG when you live in an area like I do (like so many do) when the average salary is maybe $10/hour and yet the average home costs $200-$300k. Let's find a way to create a way for people to genuinely afford a place to live and raise their families that doesn't include mortgages that make it affordable for a coupe of years then make folks lose absolutely everything once reality sets in. Should folks who took out those mortgages have known better? Probably. But just because someone should have known better than to get themselves into a no-win situation doesn't mean that they should have been given that opportunity when everyone who DID know better could clearly see the writing on the wall.

OK, end economic/political rant. For now.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stupid blasted mrrffffkrffff bathroom exhaust fan

I guess I could look at this as bathroom remodeling project step 1, except if the entire project went like this one has gone, I'm likely to say fergedaboudit (well, more likely to say something else that I wouldn't publish in my house blog).

It seemed like a fairly straightforward task: Take out old ugly loud bathroom exhaust fan/light, and replace it with new pretty quiet exhaust fan/light.

Uh-huh. Why, after over 27 years of old house ownership I would every apply the word "straightforward" to any project, I do not know. Foolish me.

First there was the task of getting the old one out. Previous Owners had installed it before putting up the ceiling drywall so of course it didn't want to come out. We finally won that bitterly fought battle, but only after having destroyed the old fixture beyond any possible reuse, as we had originally planned.

One brief moment of elation: The old opening is big enough for the new fixture!!


The old fixture was attached to the joist on the left side. The new fixture could only be attached on the right.

Ok, well it's just a little drywall, we'll just cut over to the next joist and patch.

So we cut. THEN we notice that the old opening is actually wider than the new box requires which means that the drywall patch must cover the big area vacated by the old box, but also an inch or so to either side. No big deal though. Let's just get this puppy screwed in and put up the drywall.


The space above the ceiling was just JUST big enough for the old fixture. And the sides of both fixtures were the same height. But the new fixture has bump-outs on top to the tune of making the bottom of the fixture drop 3/4" below the ceiling.

Many profane words happened here.

We ended up doing a combination of pushing down the bumped-up part of the top (after verifying that we'd still be able to get the motor in) and pulling up the lip of the bottom in order to get it sized small enough to fit.

Oh and getting the old ducting hooked up with NO maneuvering room was fun. It would have been impossible if we hadn't had the extra open space created by having to move it over.

And isn't it lovely that Hunter Fans doesn't bother telling you that they don't include one of the locking doodads for protecting wire from the sharp edges of the box and holding it in place until you're halfway through the instructions. We didn't have the locking one they specified and the plastic one from the old box had cracked in our efforts to take down that sucker, but we just wrapped it in some electrical tape, shoved it in the hole, and called it a day.

So the box is up, the electric was tested (well, for the fan - we'll presume a working light on faith), the crazy-shaped bit of drywall is in place, and the first layer of compound is drying. Partner will put on the second layer tomorrow, then we can finally put the light in place.

Though really we shouldn't put the light in place until after we repaint the ceiling since it wasn't actually drywall we put up but a scrap of greenboard, but I'm simply not going to even consider painting the ceiling this weekend so I'll just have to live with the greenboard for a week or twelve.

So much fun was had today, let me tell you.

First there was a new tub...

For reasons I'm not going to explain in detail, it looks like I'm about to get $2000 that I would be totally justified in using for play money, instead of taking my usual route with any unexpected bonus of socking it into savings, using it to pay down the mortgage or pay off Partner's remaining car loan, or using it to do something chokingly practical.

But I get to play with this. No, due to its source, I'm practically obligated to play with it. But I'm a wee bit too practical for that, so instead I'm going to use it for something I want so much that I pout about it regularly, but can't otherwise justify: I'm going to get a new bathtub.

I absolutely love soaking in a comfy tub, but right now all we have is a modern plastic shallow straight-sided ugly tub, and it's just not in the least bit comfortable for soaking.

And for $2k I could definitely get a comfy tub.

But of course the problem is I can't just get a bathtub.

If I get a new bathtub I'm going to need to take out the old one including the integrated surround.

If I'm taking out the surround, I'm going to want to put up tile in its place.

If I'm going to put up tile, I'm going to want to go ahead and get a window put into that room before I tile because right now there is no natural light.

While the room's being torn apart anyway, I'm going to want to finally get the cheapass sink base replaced with the old dresser that I plan to refinish and remodel into a sink base.

Which of course I can't do without first putting down new floor, unless the wood floor under the luan under the ugly vinyl is in good condition in which case it will be refinished.

But before I put in the new floor and sink I need to move the receptacle that's almost behind the sink over to the side wall, and move the wiring for the lights from the side wall to above the sink (their original plans show the sink on that side wall, so I presume this is why things are switched around like this), though the least desirable part about that is the substantial amount of drywall tearout and replacement required.

So while I'm tearing out so much drywall I probably should consider continuing the tile from around the shower to throughout the room, maybe a white subway tile with a single row of some color.

And it goes without saying that getting a new tub requires replacing the frequently-clogged almond colored toilet.

Then of course I'll need new lighting, new fixtures, mirrors, a cabinet...

All of this in a bathroom that's maybe 60sq ft. Maybe.

I think there's a chance that if I pursue this route, it will take me over my $2k budget by a few dollars... ya think?!?. But then I'll be justified in spending it because it's the only way for me to get my new tub, right?!?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Please help me gussy up my houseblog

I may be a computer geek, but that doesn't mean that I know squat about how to actually make something LOOK good. Let's face it: I got the overwhelming share of the math-related genetic material from my parents, while my sister got zilch for math and an overabundance of creative talent, since I kind of forgot to grab any on the way out.

Anyway, I'm seriously looking to pay someone who has a talent for such things who can help me to make this look a lot nicer. I don't CARE if only three people ever read it, I still want it to look so much nicer than it does, give it a little class, have it not scream "randomly chosen non-customized built-in template!!"

Any takers? Tell me the best way to reach you. Either post here or email me at tanama44 ataoldotcom.

Seriously. Help.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A present from my privet

I hate the privet that has grown to the size of huge trees that pollute our yard with all kinds of baby privets and nasty berries, but today it's worth it: Right now they're filled with hundreds of cedar waxwings all having a serious feast.

(Dara, if you read this, remind me again what you recommended we put in its place, in the area where it's grown up high enough to be a good privacy screen? I am SO ready to get rid of this damned privet!)

Friday, January 4, 2008

WHOOMP, there it is...

Well, finally the comment on the showerhead installation instructions that says "In the case where your installation of the mounted Delta In2ition shower requires it to be further away from the wall, please call toll-free ... for a free 8" shower arm" makes sense.

It looks just great when installed, but turn on the water and even with the head tilted forward as far as possible, the water is blasting high against the back wall, making it difficult to get in.

(ok, well "blasting" is perhaps a bit of wishful thinking, in this day of flow regulators and living in a town where many have complained about low pressure/low flow issues... I remember from the early '80's living in a 1920's era apartment building in Philly where the water would just blast you against the back wall, in a GOOD way; well, good when there was hot water, which was hit or miss. Yes, I know we need to conserve water and the power used to heat the water, but there is just something wonderful about being pummeled with hot water that is deliciously relaxing. But I digress...)

Anyway, the removable hand-held shower handle is too long to allow the head to tip down far enough, so I called and they're sending me a free extender.

I'm hoping that once it's tilted down further, that will address another issue: The water comes out with much greater force in the side fixed portions of the shower head than in the center hand-held portion. The result is a much more straight blast on each side, but a quickly falling flow in the middle. This kind of defeats the "rainshower" effect that was one of my primary reasons for getting this, since as it is right now, I can either get the sides of my head or the center of my head in the water, but not both at the same time. Customer Service did instruct me on how to remove the flow regulator from the hand-held part, which helped some but still not enough to get a nice even spray. I'm just hoping that once I can tilt the head down to the angle it needs to be, the difference will be negligible; otherwise, it will need to go back. ::sigh::

*and no, there's no special meaning to the title. It happens to be a friend's "ring tone" and I'd just called her before starting this post, so when I started typing this it somehow seemed to be related, as in "oh, that's why they said that..." Ok, can I blame it on the cold medicine?

Feed a fever, go to Lowes for a cold.

Despite this cold making me feel like creamed caca, I had no choice but to leave the house to pick up a "get it today or lose it" major freecycle score -- a Little Tykes kitchen set for BabyGrand, or at least for once she's a year or two older. Great condition, too.

So while I was out I treated myself to a stop at the nearby Lowes (after all, I had a coupon that was about to expire!) and got a new kitchen sink faucet, another door-mounted shelf unit for the pantry, and something that I've been hoping someone would make for years but never saw in an affordable line: A shower fixture that is a combination wide-rainshower head AND a hand-held shower massager. The regular wide-head hand-helds don't do the real rainshower effect since the water only comes out of a relatively small number of the holes in the head, plus they're too big and usually heavy to be convenient to use. This one is unique -- the majority of the rainshower head is fixed, while the hand-held portion is just a narrow wedge that lifts out from the center. It's hard to describe, and I'm too damned lazy to take a picture.

If I can find the teflon tape, then I'll install this today and treat myself to a nice long hot shower to help relieve these cold symptoms. If I can't, then I'm not up to mucking around in the garage to figure out where it was stashed, and it will just have to wait. Kitchen faucet installations have always been Partner's bailiwick*, so that will wait.

*I looked up the official definition for "bailiwick," being nervous at having discovered recently that I had always misused a certain word, and was amused to see that while it's primary definition is (as I thought) "A person's specific area of interest, skill, or authority," it's secondary definition is "The office or district of a bailiff" which just happens to be Partner's profession.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bummer to have to wait

As I'm reading to better educate myself about floor refinishing, I realize that it's really just not a good idea to refinish a floor in the winter, when you don't want to keep the windows open. I'm thinking we need to wait until May. Warmer weather is also good since we'll have to go out the front door, around the side of the house, through the gate, and back into the house through the back door in order to let the dogs in and out of the house. The kitchen will also be completely inaccessible while we can't walk through the dining room.

I'm also starting to lean towards attempting to refinish it ourselves. I think we can do it. I know a lot of my reluctance to do it has been simply from not wanting to work on that floor any more, after I've already done so much backbreaking work on it. But another big part has been just plain worry that we'll screw it up and it will look awful. My confidence is building, though...

I think I want to use a Waterlox finish but I'm still deciding.