Thursday, May 29, 2008

Some Honest Opinions Needed!

It's crunch time in the Georgetown House Bathroom Renovation Project. I need to make some decisions about fixtures and finishes. I'm seriously design-challenged and have a really hard time visualizing how things will look together.

Honest honest HONEST feedback is appreciated on how these will all look together. FYI it's a very small bathroom (only around 60sq ft). The floor will be white & black 1930's hex tile, the tub surround will be white tile (probably a combo of subway and square) with some color border/accent (not determined what), and the walls will hopefully get tiled to coordinate with the tub surround before I run out of steam and money.

So here's what I'm considering. I thinking that they all will look fine together, but I'm also thinking that I'm missing some really essential thing of "but this curve really doesn't go with this one" or "you have too many variations on blah blah" or whatever. HELP!!

This tub (pictures not very clear - the side is basically a framed panel), Kohler Archer:

With this sink (also Kohler Archer, but not those faucets, and yes I talked about an old dresser as the sink base but I'm worried that it will be too big so I'm looking at alternatives):

And this toilet (Toto Promenade - the matching Kohler one is too long and too high - I don't have "comfort height" legs!):

Then there are these fixtures - double towel bar, toilet bar, toilet handle, brackets for glass shelf for over sink and for oval mirror (all polished nickel, Allen & Roth "Andrews" which is a Lowes-specific line):

This sink faucet and tub faucet/shower (both Danze Opulence line in polished nickel):

And finally, these lights (Rejuvenation's Umpqua, on either side of the oval mirror, but in polished nickel not the brushed nickel that's shown):

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Plea to Contractors

If you tell me you're going to come and give me an estimate, please show up. I know that my little bathroom remodel is just a wee job compared to so many things that you work on, but still, I can't plan out the parts that I'm doing myself or start ripping things out without having some assurance that I have someone lined up to do the parts that I can't.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Doing, not Blogging

For once I'm actually spending more time on a renovation project than I am on blogging about it. I've started the upstairs bathroom renovation. First on the list was getting the electrical worked out. It was initially a challenge to figure out how to put two wall sconces on this wall:

Note where the right-side sconce would go: Brick wall just behind the drywall. And to the left? A pipe taking up some prime real estate that could be used by the left sconce.

With help from my buddies at the Old House Web forums, I did manage to squeeze a pan box in front of the brick and a regular rectangular box just to the left of the pipe (a hex or round box would have put the light too far over to the left).

There is still much fun to be had. See the j-box sitting there to the left? It has a wire (on the lights circuit, btw) running down from the 2nd floor, connected to a wire running back up again - a path to nowhere. Being particularly un-fond of random junction boxes, I'm going to bring those wires up to the box I'll use for the left sconce and eliminate the random j-box.

The wiring for the left sconce is a hassle: See, the light was originally on the left wall instead of over the sink. What should have been good news was that there was JUST enough wire to reach over to the sconce location -- it only went into the box by an inch or two, but code allows me to pigtail it from there.


The PO's somehow had managed to get that wire past inspection even though it was missing the outer sheath for around a foot. I tried to find some way to allow that - put it through conduit? apply some sheathing material? But the code is clear: Sheathing must reach into the box, period. So getting this hooked up will require tearing out half my bathroom ceiling so that I can unstaple enough of this run of wire in order to pull it closer to that wall and give me the extra foot I need. Oh, did I mention that they took the wire from the switch, ran it up, angled it to the back of the room, then angled it back forward to use for this light? Brilliant. NOT.

I also won't have enough play to move the GFCI to the adjoining wall, so I'm going to do one of two things: Maybe (but less likely) I'll just leave it behind the sink, though move it as far to the left as possible. But more likely I'll take the wire into a j-box that I can see down the wall behind the bathroom sink cabinet (is that legal?!? probably not), and connect it to a new wire that I then run up to where I need it on the left side.

Now I just need to decide if it's going to be worth the extra cost of even more drywalling to tear out around the switch so that I can actually make use of the 3-wire they used on the switch for the vent/light, in order to put in separate controls for the light and the fan. WHY would they run the right kind of wire to do that, but not bother putting in the third switch?!?

I'm playing tag with my plumber, trying to get him here to give me an estimate for that work, which will include negotiating with him about whether I'm ordering what I've picked out or what he likes to use. We'll see.

I also need to start tracking down a drywall pro, since that's one project I'm not willing to tackle. I miss real plaster -- if for no other reason than no one ever expected it to look nice and smooth. I can't make drywall finishing look nice and smooth.

And in my next destructive moment (hormonal overload? office dickwad strikes again? Partner gets "in a mood"?) I'm' going to tear out the vinyl and laun, and make sure that I really do have a nice solid plywood subfloor under there. This will be my first big adventure in tiling. Pray for me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Renovation without debt

It's been a long time since I've had the chance to just read through other folks' houseblogs and catch up with the goings-on at I found it interesting to poke my head in there today and see that two of the featured topics are both related to building and renovating houses without debt.

I guess that technically we don't qualify to be considered in that category: After all, we do have a six-figure mortgage, and a small (think smaller most new car loans) second mortgage that we took out to consolidate (and make deductible) my student loans and pay for some medical bills. We also have about a year left on one of our car loans.

But we have zero credit card debt, and all house renovations are strictly on a cash basis, and it's going to stay that way except for any kind of serious emergency. This year we're completely renovating the upstairs bathroom, putting a new roof on the garden shed, painting the garage, and refinishing the dining room floor, though we're only doing maybe half that work and paying someone else to do the rest. And it will all be with cash, without touching our emergency money.

What's weird is that it doesn't seem to feel like we're making any big sacrifice to do that, though according to many folks reactions to our no-debt policy, we should be gnashing our teeth and wailing with the pain of having to hold back on spending. And it's not like I've always been good about staying away from debt: Just nine years ago I was told by my accountant that I had no choice but to declare bankruptcy because I had more credit card debt than I usually make in a year, but I managed to get it all paid off by simply doing without anything I didn't seriously need for the 7.5 years it took me to get from that point to being credit-card debt free.

But I think that going through that process made me a wee bit debt phobic, plus it taught me (through no real choice at the time) to do without unless I really needed it and could genuinely afford to pay for it. I'm glad that I'm to the point where it just feels totally normal to think in terms of waiting until we can pay for something before we do it. It doesn't feel like we're sacrificing or doing without, and it doesn't feel like we're doing anything special or difficult.

My only real emotional reaction to making this choice is exasperation when folks make a big deal over it: No, we haven't taken a real vacation in years. Yes, that sounds like a terrific price for a cruise but we'd rather put that money towards fixing up the house. Yes it gets frustrating to not have a dishwasher but we need to wait a couple of years until we save up enough to renovate the kitchen. Yes it would be great to do some major moving of walls and electric and plumbing in order to not have to live with a 7x7 main bathroom or a 9x10 kitchen but that would put those related renovations way beyond what we'd ever be able to pay for in cash and still do in our lifetimes so we'll renovate within the space we have. Yes it would look wonderful to have a professionally landscaped yard with a masonry patio but we can't afford it in the near future. Yes, we don't have the nicest furniture in the world, but we just have other priorities. Other folks seem to have a lot more need for instant gratification with regard to things around our house than we do, and it sometimes just gets on my nerves and feels rather judgmental (like there's something wrong with us if we're truly ok with not taking vacations or having a sofa that we got off freecycle). I honestly with they'd just freakin' deal with it and shut up!

But mostly I don't think of it as any big deal, and with all of this economic uncertainty surrounding us, I feel very blessed to be in this position.