upstairs bathroom updates


Posted: December 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, oops, plumbing, progress, upstairs bathroom, water | No Comments »


Have I told you about the upstairs bathroom? There are a few stories to tell. We’ve learned that this bathroom was originally built by a previous owner, obviously another amateur do-it-yourselfer who invented a few creative (and not-to-code) plumbing techniques, like putting the sink trap (normally found directly under the sink) two stories down, in the basement. The next owners apparently had some bathroom problems because when we got here, the whole bathroom floor was covered in a thin film of foul, sludgy sewage residue, including the baseboards and, in some areas, the bottom of the wainscoting. And the toilet looked like this. UGH. Until I scrubbed it for a few DAYS, then it looked like this. (While I was working on the plumbing I discovered a pair of childrens’ safety scissors lodged in the drain-pipe, which might have been the root of the problem!) So back in 2010 I tore out all the flooring (while wearing rubber gloves and a mask!) and the baseboards and the nasty parts of the wainscoting. When I got down to the sub-flooring, I was pleased to find that it was clean, unsoiled and usable! So we left it like that, and cleaned the bejeezus out of everything else, and we’d been living without proper flooring in the bathroom ever since.

The shower stall was ugly but once we replaced the burst pipes and turned on the water, it seemed to work fine and we weren’t planning to replace it til we’d fixed up the rest of the house. And then around June, we sprung a leak! Downstairs, in our beautiful new bathroom, there was water coming out of the ceiling! It ruined some of the fresh new paint and plaster on the downstairs wall, which was kind of heartbreaking. We disconnected the water supply to the shower and set about searching for the leak. Because of the unorthodox and not-to-code nature of the plumbing situation, it was actually impossible to access the shower plumbing without either tearing out the plaster wall of the adjacent hallway, or else tearing out the shower stall itself. Unsure of the exact location of the problem, we decided to just bite the bullet and tear out the old shower stall. And when we did, we found no apparent source of the leak! Arghhhhhh. We inspected very carefully around every seam of the supply line and the drain line, and we could not find any moisture, nor any water stains or signs of leaking. Instead there was plenty of powdery, dry dust, which really seemed to suggest that there was never any leaking at all. Looking back on the situation now, I believe that the leak was not caused by plumbing problems in the shower, nor by cracks in the shower stall, but by water spraying out of the shower, on to the porous, unfinished floor and seeping down through the first-floor ceiling below. Oooops.

But we’d hacked up the old shower stall in the process of removing it, so we needed a new shower stall. After way too many days of living with no shower (thankfully we have a generous neighbor who let us use his shower!), we borrowed my parents’ pickup truck and headed to Home Depot to pick out our new shower stall. Hauled it home and wrestled it onto the front porch and … oops again! It won’t fit through the front door! And it won’t fit through the bathroom door either.

Next day we hauled it back to Home Depot and exchanged it for a two-part model that did fit through the front door. But it turned out to be a tiny bit larger than the old shower stall, so we had to rip out a partial wall (the one that supported the third side of the shower stall) to get it in. It was a pretty simple thing, it wasn’t a load-bearing wall, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but after we got the shower stall in, then we were missing that wall and it needed to be replaced.

tore out the old shower installing a new shower half of a new shower
Ripping out the old shower, hacking up the floor and walls to fit in the new one.

new shower stall! new shower

the shiny new shower unit, and the missing wall

It also seemed like a good time to replace the bathroom flooring, so we started researching Marmoleum, which my sister had used in her bathroom renovation, and seemed like the best and easiest solution. Marmoleum is the original brand of linoleum, which has made a comeback in the past few years as a green building material. It’s made from natural linseed oil, pine rosins and wood flour, without all the toxic ingredients that go into vinyl flooring. It comes in large sheets which are waterproof (except for the seams between sheets) and unlike tile it feels soft and warm under bare feet, which is important when you live in a big old drafty farmhouse in Maine!

We had to hire help for installing the marmoleum. Before he could get started, we had to remove all the fixtures from the bathroom (except for the new shower, of course).

we took all the fixtures out of the bathroom!

Here’s the finished floor! It’s purple! It wasn’t my first choice for a bathroom floor color, but it was the only one we could agree on at all.

new floor new bathroom floor

Once the floor was in, we put the toilet and sink back in, of course, and started planning for the next stage, re-building the shower wall and the corner soffit that we’d ripped out.


New bathroom


Posted: October 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, progress | 2 Comments »


demolition for the new downstairs bathroom

bathroom walls!

progress…

So many changes have happened in the downstairs bathroom! We’ve been inching along, sporadically, doing work on the bathroom here and there, for a while. We actually made a lot of progress over last winter, framing and plumbing work that doesn’t make it look pretty but laid the important groundwork. And then it just stayed like that, with disconnected plumbing and dangling wires, for a few months, while we paid attention to other stuff. Finally George, a dear friend and neighbor, came in to help us with putting up the wallboard in June. Once we had everything ready to go, we realized we hadn’t done any rodent-proofing, which seemed prudent, considering how many mouse and squirrel nests I had ripped out in the process of gutting the room. So the wallboard was delayed a few days while we (mostly George) stapled wire mesh over all the little holes in the walls. Then the wallboard went up! We used greenboard, which is supposed to be waterproof- it’s basically a type of cement-board made for bathroom walls. We would’ve loved to do some tiled walls, especially adjacent to the shower, but we couldn’t find any affordable tiles that we really loved, so: greenboard. Hope it holds up well!

the new bathroom!

Then, once the walls were up, we were finally able to buy a TOILET! Some people were surprised that we chose a new toilet (rather than “vintage”); I will admit that I originally considered rehabilitating one of the old toilets from our house, but our plumber, whose opinion I respect, managed to talk me out of it: too much work, not worth it, and new toilets are much more efficient. OK! A new toilet. George created this handsome, custom-made slate piece to sit under the toilet. Because we have a wood floor, we worried about condensation dripping off the exterior of the toilet tank (as it often does in our humid climate) and rotting the floor. The slate slab should take care of that.
We were still missing one bathroom door. I learned from Lynn that four-panel doors would be historically appropriate for our house. We poked around at Pete’s Place, our local salvage yard, and found a trio of nice old four-panel doors, two for the kitchen and one for the bathroom. Judy has put in innumerable hours carefully stripping, scraping and sanding off the old lead paint from all three of the doors, with all their fussy molding details, and priming and re-painting them to look shiny and beautiful and new.

With the wedding coming up, we started working fast to try and get the new bathroom (among many other projects) in working order before the big party! We had SO MUCH HELP from wonderful friends & relatives who pitched in to make it happen: Alicia and Kathy and Rob and Paz and Aunt Barbara all helped us with priming and painting the walls! Rob taught me a great cutting-in technique, to make a neat edge where the white of the ceiling meets the green of the walls. I had to do a bunch of patching on the one exterior wall, where we had kept the original wallboard but had to cut big holes in it to have insulation blown in to the wall cavity. A few days of patching all the holes, spackling and sanding and it was good as new. We chose a sort of avocado green for the bathroom walls. I think we must have been influenced by spending so many weeks looking a the color of the greenboard; our final wall color is only a few shades away from the color of the unfinished greenboard. We chose a gloss finish because there’s going to be a lot of moisture in there and we thought the gloss finish would be best for repelling moisture. Honestly, now that it’s done, I’m not 100% sure about this color choice, and the glossy look is a little bit hideous, but it’s going to have to be ok because i’m not painting it again!

Next we picked up our tub from the architectural salvage place and hauled our bathroom sink out of storage. While Mike worked on rehabilitating the peeling bathtub, we set about trying to make the sink usable.

we found this beautiful sink!
old sink discovered in the barn

the new sink

dog and cat help clean up the sink

Judy and Richard noticed this sink in the barn when we first bought the house, and we fell in love with it, hauled it indoors and stuck it in a corner waiting for the bathroom to happen. It’s got some rust stains and spotty enamel that we haven’t managed to get rid of yet, but it’s still a lovely old sink, I really like the octagonal shape. Our regular carpenter, Lynn, built us this custom bead-board cabinet with beveled corners matching the shape of the sink.

sink and cabinet
custom cabinet

We had a bit of a challenge finding hardware for the sink – it came with older style hardware, separate hot and cold spigots and a central drain lever, that were all rusted and corroded and were nearly impossible to get off. It took a few days, all kinds of solvent and a few strong men to part the corroded hardware from the old sink. The central opening is too small to fit a spigot, so we had limited choices for hardware that would work with our sink. I always hated the separate hot and cold spigots, but it’s REALLY expensive to buy a “bridge” faucet that mixes the hot and cold taps into a single spigot, so we ended up compromising on this crazy looking thing that has separate spigots, both angled inward to pour into the ceramic funnel thing, so the water comes out in a single, warm stream. I think it’s a pretty interesting solution and looks kind of cool!

this is how our faucet is supposed to work

The trouble is, we were a little too hasty in our purchase. Turns out it doesn’t really fit our sink properly – the spigots are just a tiny bit too far apart and they don’t reach the ceramic spout. DOH. Since it only arrived a few days before our wedding, we decided to just go with it rather than return it. The ceramic spout doesn’t really do anything, though it looks like a fancy kind of a soap dish or something. Maybe one day we can have a potter make us a custom ceramic spout to fit our sink! Or maybe someday we’ll save up for a bridge faucet to replace it. Meanwhile, we’ve got separate spigots and a fancy soap-dish-thing in the middle. Sigh.

sink hardware
this didn’t work out right.

Next, we hauled in our washer and dryer, which we had bought on sale almost a year earlier! They had just been sitting in an empty room, waiting until the bathroom walls were finished. (It took another month before we got the washing machine actually hooked up and running, and another five months before we got the dryer working!)
We’d brought in an electrician to do the wiring for the bathroom before the walls went up, and we called him back to finish up the last bits – we didn’t have our final light fixtures yet, but we had temporary fixtures and he hooked them up to light switches and made it all work!
With all the spackling and painting done and the heavy appliances in, we finally got to pull up the layers of cardboard and plastic off the floor to reveal the beautiful new white oak flooring that we put down last year! There’s still one patch of original hardwood floor, over by the washer, it’s all covered with crusty, gunky linoleum adhesive and crud and it will need to be stripped refinished at some point.
The bathroom was looking almost complete, but still conspicuously missing a mirror. I think it was the day before our wedding when Bonnie and Les (that’s Mike’s mom and stepdad), who were already up in Maine for the wedding, said they were thinking of heading to Kennebunk for the day, but offered to help with anything we might need for the wedding. I asked them if they’d be interested in stopping by Old House Parts, our favorite architectural salvage depot in Kennebunk, to look for a bathroom mirror. They did stop in, had a good look around and sent us a handful of iphone photos of different mirrors for us to choose from! We picked this one, which they’d found hanging up in the shop’s bathroom but luckily they thought to inquire if it was for sale. Yes, it could be purchased. So they got us this beautiful new bathroom mirror!

bathroom's almost finished!
the new mirror!

Thanks to some generous wedding gifts, we were able to buy beautiful lights for the bathroom too! We chose these kind of art-deco looking reproduction fixtures to match the geometric look of the sink. The shades were ones that we’d originally gotten for the kitchen but they didn’t fit in the kitchen at all – luckily they work perfectly here! We got them hooked up around the end of December.

downstairs bathroom

Aunt Barbara sewed us these cheery curtains for the bathroom window. I’d fallen in love with this fabric while shopping for something else and brought home a small square of it without any project in mind, just because it’s so cute! We noticed how the colors match the bathroom wall color perfectly, so Barbara offered to make us curtains with it!! I went back to Joann and they were all out of it, didn’t know what I was talking about, couldn’t re-order it. And then Barbara managed to find several yards of the same fabric at her local JoAnn in New York! So she stitched them up for us. I think it really makes the room look much cozier to have some proper curtains.

curtain curtain

So what’s still left to do? A lot, actually. The tub is sitting in the bathroom but not hooked up to anything. It turns out it’s quite expensive to buy the hardware sets to convert claw-foot tubs to have a shower spigot and curtain. I’m sure it will be wonderful when it’s all done, but for the moment it’s waiting til we have a few thousand bucks sitting around to buy all the hardware and pay the plumber to hook it up. Then we’re planning to build some shelves over/around the washer/dryer. I’d like to see less expanse of shiny white metal and less plumbing and ducts. I think there will be some cupboards or shelves above the washer/dryer where we can store soap and linens and stuff. Also we’ll build in some shelves near the doors, one near the sink area and one near the tub (which will cover up those pipes currently sticking out of the floor). There is still one battered hollow-core door that should be replaced with an old-style four-panel wood door, and there’s still that patch of old crummy wood flooring that will need to be refinished. Eventually I’d love to have a laundry-folding-table in front of the window, and maybe some off those accordion-style wall-mounted drying racks, for hanging laundry. Now that we’ve spent so many months without a clothes dryer, I’ve gotten used to hanging everything! The dryer is great (and so fast!), perfect for big stuff like sheets and blankets, but I feel a little guilty wasting electricity on t-shirts and socks when I can just hang them up to dry.

bathroom collage

the bathtub


Posted: September 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom | No Comments »


the bathtub
at the salvage place.

We bought this bath tub so long ago. I think it was in the fall of 2010? We thought the bathroom would be happening quickly, so we went and picked out and paid for this lovely tub from one of our local architectural salvage places, Old House Parts in Kennebunk, and we said we’d be back in a week to pick it up. But then we decided to work on the kitchen instead, and kinda forgot about that poor old tub. It spent the winter sitting in their lot, filling up with snow. We kept calling them and asking if we could just keep it there for a few more weeks. All spring and all summer we made plans to go pick it up, but it was a busy summer and it turned out to be hard to find a weekend that we were both in town, both free, and could borrow the truck, and it wasn’t a hurricane. So the tub waited all summer and finally we managed to go pick it up and drag it home sometime in August.

new bathtub!

We hauled it into the kitchen, and it looked pretty good in there! It spent a few weeks by the kitchen window, waiting for the bathroom walls to be finished so we could move it in. Mike got to thinking the exterior paint looked pretty shabby and he set his mind on stripping and re-finishing it! He dragged it out onto the porch and set to work, unscrewing the dainty claw feet first. It was such a huge project, incredibly stinky with solvents and messy and hard. Unfortunately, since it was just a few weeks before our wedding, we were all so busy and crazy that nobody took a picture of Mike out there with his respirator on, scrubbing away with steel brushes and sandpaper, in the hot August sun. You’ll have to try and imagine it. Once he got all the old stuff scrubbed off, we decided it should be painted blue. We compared all the spray-cans of rust-oleum at the hardware store and picked the nicest shade of blue. He spent two days spraying it with even coats of enamel, and when it was finished it looked ridiculous! The spray-can cap had looked like a nice lively blue color, but the result was like fluorescent electric blue, and it was pretty easy to agree that it looked totally wrong. So we went back to the rust-oleum section at the hardware store, and picked gray instead. Hard to go wrong with gray. Mike spent another two days patiently repainting the whole thing, and he painted the feet ivory, which I think was a great choice. It looks fantastic. We dragged it into the bathroom as soon as the paint was dry and the fumes had cleared.

what a beautiful bathtub!

nice legs

what a beautiful bathtub!

We still need to save up for the hardware to make it functional. It’s amazingly expensive to buy the whole shower conversion rig – we’ll need a special kind of faucet setup that has the shower add-on attached, they are specially made for that narrow market segment of people who want to convert a claw-foot tub to have a standing shower. One of those tall skinny pipes with the big shower head at the top (those always remind me of sunflowers), with the circular shower curtain rod, attached to the shower pipe, with supports hanging from the wall or ceiling. It’s a good deal more complicated and expensive than we expected! Hoping to make it happen sometime this year. Meanwhile, I think this tub is good-looking enough to serve as decoration.

this is not our bathroom! but this is the kind of shower conversion that i’m talking about

Downstairs bathroom


Posted: January 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, plumbing, slow progress, woodworking | Tags: , , | No Comments »


Around November we decided to focus on the downstairs bathroom and try to hurry up and get it working asap. We brought in Laura (wallboard and plaster) and Lynn (carpentry) and Nate (plumbing) to look at the situation. We thought we’d finished the demolition phase, but they all said we still needed to do more demolition work before they could get started! So we laid down cardboard and plastic sheets to protect our beautiful new white oak floors, and dragged in garbage cans and crowbars and set to ripping out all the rest of the old plaster and lath. Tearing down old plaster is getting really old, it’s so dusty and gritty and icky. Also, of course (as we have now learned to expect), behind every old wall in our house is a huge stinky rats nest or squirrel nest or something, matted wads of urine-stinking filthy batting and shreds of old clothes and candy wrappers and cascades of turds and birdseed that all comes crumbling down among the plaster chunks, raining upon your face when you take out an old wall. I’ve learned to put on a hooded sweatshirt, dust mask, goggles, gloves, and cinch the hood all around my face when I’m doing this work, but I still come away picking plaster crumbs out of my clothes and birdseed out of my ears and feeling like I need a shower. Anyway, we got it all out of the bathroom now!

demolition for the new downstairs bathroom

before

ripping out plaster and lath

during

demolition for the new bathroom

after (all done with demolition, ready to start rebuilding!)

giant rat nest :(

close up on giant rat nest :(

Then Lynn set to work furring out some walls to get them ready for hanging wallboard, framing out some areas to run the pipes through. The thing about old houses is that they were never intended to have plumbing in them, so it can be hard to find (or make) a place to run the pipes through. It was kind of a big consensus decision to figure that out, with input from plumber, carpenter, myself, mike, Judy and Richard. Got it all worked out and drafted some plans and directions for the workers to refer to. I started working in Google Sketchup to try and imagine how best to fit all the pieces together.
Then Nate (plumber) came in with his trusty assistant and set to work ripping out all our old plumbing (including the beautiful plumbing work I did myself over the summer, this was heartbreaking!) and laying in fresh, tidy pex in its place.

downstairs bathroom downstairs bathroom

tidy lines of pex (heating pipes, hot and cold water and drain pipe to upstairs bathroom) and washer/dryer hookup

plumbers also did a bunch of work in the basement, had to replace the entire waste line as it was archaic and rusty cast-iron, quite difficult to join drains into it, and too narrow for modern codes. And they hooked up an old radiator in the basement, we were getting worried about the cold weather and frozen pipes in the basement so we had them hook that up to the furnace to keep the basement above freezing temperature.

Meanwhile Lynn got the bathroom all squared-away and ready for hanging wallboard! Strapping and studs on walls and ceiling. We’re going to have exposed beams on the bathroom ceiling too, as the beams in there are really gorgeous and huge, like 12″ square and very handsome.

downstairs bathroom

carpentry all finished, ready to hang wallboard!

Meanwhile, Laura (the plasterer) was working away on the kitchen. In the end, it turned out that after tallying up the cost of all this work we really don’t have enough cash to have Laura do wallboard and plaster in the bathroom, as we had initially planned! So the question is: do we hang blueboard ourselves, and then have Laura do the plaster over it? Do we hang greenboard ourselves, and skip the plaster? (this would be the cheaper choice.) Do we just go ahead and install and connect the toilet, sink, bathtub and all the appliances in the bathroom now, without having any proper walls, and then at a later date remove the appliances, do the walls, and replace the appliances? Or do we put the bathroom on hold for the moment, until we’ve got a working kitchen, and then return to the bathroom, do the walls, and then install the toilet and everything once the walls are finished?
We ended up going with the last choice. We had originally thought we’d be closing off the 2nd floor for the winter and moving our bed into the diningroom or something. But we just never really got so cold that it seemed worth the bother. So it turns out it’s fine having our only bathroom on the 2nd floor. It would be great to have a downstairs bathroom too, but it doesn’t seem as urgent anymore. And now we’re excited about working on the kitchen instead, so… for the moment the downstairs bathroom has moved to the back burner. I think we’ll hang greenboard in there eventually, we’ll do it ourselves and then get the appliances in, and it will be fantastic whenever it happens.


bathroom floor


Posted: November 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, excitement, progress | 1 Comment »


we are working on the downstairs bathroom today, putting in a new wood floor! will post photos soon. HERE ARE THE PHOTOS!

laying hardwood floor in the bathroom laying hardwood floor in the bathroom

laying the first planks … and then a day later, almost finished!

we found a pretty good deal on the white oak flooring. we had originally decided to do native Maine slate tiles, but I got worried that the slate would feel dreadfully cold underfoot, and I am such a wuss about cold. especially in and around the bathtub. at first I was hesitant about using wood in the bathroom (because of all the moisture) but Judy and Richard have wood floors in both of their bathrooms and they love it, it holds up well, and they don’t seem to do any crazy kind of maintenance to keep it up. Just don’t leave standing water on the floor all the time. And it looks beautiful in their house, both Mike and I liked the idea (we are trying to make all decisions by consensus and luckily, so far we can usually find something we both agree upon)! Richard recommended white oak (which is what they used in their bathrooms) because it is a naturally water-resistant wood that’s commonly used for boatbuilding. So now it’s just a few planks away from being all finished and it looks SO FANTASTIC! ♥ ♥ ♥

cutting wood for bathroom floor

cutting planks of wood to fit


bathroom mockup


Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom | 1 Comment »


I’m trying to learn to use Google Sketch-Up, working on a scale model of the bathroom so we can decide where to put all the plumbing and stuff!

bathroom mockup

bathroom mockup


homemade bathroom faucet!


Posted: August 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, upstairs bathroom | No Comments »


before faucet steampunk faucet

before and after

Richard made us this beautiful new copper faucet!!!!! for the upstairs bathroom sink. We call it the steampunk faucet. I wish we could make the handles and everything match it…


IT FLUSHES!


Posted: July 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, gross, plumbing, progress | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »


dreadful bathroom IT FLUSHES!

toilet: before and after

Exciting bathroom progress: I finally got this stinking toilet clean! It took me a ridiculous amount of hard labor and experimenting with different cleaning products. I started by putting on rubber gloves and throwing away the ghastly toilet seat, then over the course of a few months I tried scrubbing it with toilet bowl cleaner, soaking it in bleach, dumping in vinegar, and scrubbing it with more cleaners (sequentially, not all at once). Each effort produced slight improvements but the real winning trick was to wait until it was disconnected (and therefore empty), then scrub the living hell out of it with a pumice stone and liberal doses of Ajax. Why did I waste so much time on this thing, instead of throwing it away and replacing it as any normal person would’ve done? I guess I hate to waste something that could be saved. I’m on a tight budget. And once I’d wasted a few afternoons scrubbing it I just refused to accept defeat and had to keep scrubbing until I conquered it. Today I declare victory!
But the best part is: it is now reconnected and it works!! The most satisfying thing about this whole weekend was completing the plumbing updates so that we once again have indoor plumbing. Just as we were re-installing the toilet, I discovered a pair of childrens’ scissors lodged in the drainpipe! Glad I caught that. Explains why it wasn’t working so well.

amateur plumbing amateur plumbing

baby’s first plumbing project! it took me a ridiculous amount of time and thought and trial-and-error and labeling and marking and color-coding (and infinite amounts of help from my dad) to figure out how to run the pipes and fit all the pieces together. But it was worth it because it WORKS.

I also improved the bathroom by ripping out all the flooring. It’s a shame because it was sort of new and relatively decent (compared to the rest of the house, that is) but it had such an unholy stink. You don’t even want to think about it. Now the flooring is all out and the smell is basically gone. The subfloor seems to be in decent condition, not too stinky, though I’m treating it with a hydrogen peroxide-baking-soda odor removal treatment just to be thorough.


modest progress on many fronts


Posted: June 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, kitchen, slow progress, structure, upstairs bathroom | No Comments »


The past month has been super duper crazy and busy. We spent a lot of time getting ready for the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, and a lot more time working away at various bits of this big house project.

We had our well water tested and found that it has elevated levels of lead, and coliform bacteria. We’ll need to replace some plumbing to take care of the lead problem, and we will do that eventually, but a temporary solution is to just run the water for a few minutes before drinking. To deal with the coliform, we had to dump about 4 gallons of bleach into our well. String together enough hoses to stretch out into the well, and turn them on full blast – so basically we’re pumping water up out of the well, running it through the pump and piping, through the hoses, and right back into the well again. Just to get that chlorine really spread around. And then the water suddenly turned black! I guess since the well had been unused for a while, there was all kinds of pond scum growing in there and the chlorine broke it up and it came gushing out. So, for the next two weeks our tap water came out black and green and chunky and smelling like chlorine. Yuck! And then finally one day it came out crystal clear and beautiful. We’re still not drinking it, until we get it re-tested and make sure the problem is really gone, but it looks a lot better now!

We’ve also spent a lot of time mowing. We’ve got two acres of grass and fields, the front lawn looks OK but the back forty has become an impassable, un-mowable no-mans-land. We tried mowing it a few times with my parents’ huge heavy-duty mower but I think it’s too far gone, we’re going to need to rent a tractor or something to tackle it.

And of course… I stepped on a rusty nail! I had to go get a tetanus shot. That’s what you get for walking around in crocs. There’s a great health center nearby in Porter and I’m happy I got to meet them.

Richard finally called up the Limington building inspector to have him approve our projects. He was an amiable older fellow, a pretty funny guy, and he mentioned that he’d also considered buying our house about twenty-five years ago, when he first moved to Limington! He loved the place but even then it was in pretty rough condition and he decided it was a bigger project than he wanted to take on. But he seemed happy to find somebody ambitious and foolish enough to take on the challenge. The most interesting tidbit he mentioned is that back when he looked at the property, our front left room was working as a beauty parlor! We had no idea! It did look like it had once housed some kind of business (it has a separate entry, and a recessed, spotlit display area set into one wall) but we never would’ve guessed it was a hair salon. I love how these bits of history unfold here.

richard and eliza looking at the ceiling

richard and eliza, talkin’ bout exposed beams in the kitchen.

Meanwhile… as we’ve been working on the kitchen, we’ve noticed some pretty dramatic angles and sagging in the kitchen floor. So we decided this is the best time to try and even it out a bit. We brought in some extra columns and set them up down in the basement below the kitchen, and each one sits atop a 20-ton hydraulic jack. Each week we raise them up another 1/4 inch, hoping to straighten out some of the sag from that floor.

jacks in the basement

jacks in the basement. trying to straighten out the kitchen a bit!

Which is a great idea, but it caused some repercussions up in the kitchen: a noticeable sag in the beam over the doorway that leads to the dining room. At some point in the past, that doorway was widened, and the big support beam above it was damaged but no additional support was added to redistribute the weight. It was probably saggy to begin with, and our jacking seemed to cause more sagging, as the two beams on either side push up into the floor above, and nothing pushes in the center. We like the wide doorway (and even widened it some more!) but didn’t like the sagging beam overhead so we’ve sistered it with some other beams and placed temporary columns across the open doorway to even out the pressure of the jacking. We salvaged some big old heavy beams (maybe 10″ by 10″?) that came from my parents’ 1700′s farmhouse and had been sitting unused in the basement since their most recent renovation.

jacking up the kitchen doorway

jacking the kitchen doorway

We fitted one directly underneath the compromised beam, horizontally above the doorway, and then fitted two others vertically on either end to hold it up. Sort of a Stonehenge type arrangement. If this doesn’t hold then we might need to switch to a steel support beam, but these big old wood beams are much prettier so I hope it’ll work.

At the same time, we’ve been doing some work in the bathrooms… In the downstairs bathroom, Paz helped us smash out this wall! which used to separate the laundry room from a closet, now the spaces will be combined into one big bathroom.

tearing out a wall. downstairs bathroom plumbing work. downstairs bathroom

bathroom wall destruction, and plumbing.

And we’ve been on a plumbing adventure which began with relocating the waste pipe (coming down from the upstairs toilet) and involved temporarily uprooting our only functioning toilet, plus lots of in-depth plumbing lessons from Richard! I think we’re learning a lot. And although we are unfortunately spending a few weeks without indoor plumbing, the end result should be a properly vented and thus better-functioning toilet, a WORKING SHOWER, and more convenient placement of the pipes, plus a hook-in spot where we will attach the vent line for the downstairs bathroom appliances, in due time. While we have the toilet pulled out, I’m taking the opportunity to remove all the vile, stinky, filth-sodden flooring that surrounded it. Hooray and good riddance!

Back in the kitchen: we’ve finished gutting everything and we’re slowly, slowly starting the rebuilding! Mike and Richard have been doing electrical wiring lessons and we’ve planned out where all outlets and appliances will be located, and installed all of the outlet boxes!

working on electricity in the kitchen working on electricity in the kitchen

outlet boxes are all installed!

Also in the kitchen, we noticed during the destruction that a lot of rodents have made their homes in our ceiling and walls over the years. We would like to prevent this in the future, so we need to seal up EVERY opening in the kitchen walls. I’ve been cutting heavy-duty hardware cloth screening to fit over every opening and stapling it firmly in place. Then we will attempt to fill the holes with spray foam insulation. Might even cram a bit of steel wool into the bigger holes for good measure.

rodent-proofing the kitchen

rodent-proofing the kitchen

And… then there’s the never-ending chore of packing up wooden lath to use for kindling.

so much lath

a giant pile of lath

Every wall in our house is made of plaster over wooden lath; most of them need to be torn down to put in insulation and modern electrical wiring, etc. Since we’ll be heating primarily with the wood stove, we save the old wood lath to chop up and use as kindling in the woodstove. Great stuff for starting fires but it’s a huge job to cut it all down and pack it up in boxes for the winter. It took me basically two whole weeks to chop it all up and pack it away. And then, of course, as soon as we need to smash out another wall, there will be more lath to chop up and pack away. But I think we’ll be grateful for it when the cold winter comes!

kitchen table

finally! a table and chairs

We got a great new kitchen table & chairs for $15, at a yard sale down the street. We can’t put them in the kitchen yet because we don’t really have a kitchen at the moment, but they fit nicely here in the livingroom and make the place feel a lot more cozy and civilized. (In the same morning of yard-saling we also found an extra wooden chair, an old rocking chair for the porch, a small fifties-looking wooden cabinet, a hand-truck for carrying heavy stuff, a stack of old country LP’s, and a cute summery blouse with stripes and puffy sleeves! What a good morning. )


bathroom plumbing!


Posted: April 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, progress, upstairs bathroom | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »


meanwhile, Richard has been working to get water running in the upstairs bathroom, and simultaneously prepare the pipes for our new downstairs bathroom, which will be relocated to sit directly under the upstairs bathroom. (easy, right? That way the pipes are all in the same area!)

new pipes! a makeshift sink arrangement

new copper pipes, a makeshift sink arrangement

We had no running water in the house because the pipes had split and burst at some point in the past. The pipes running to the bathroom were all broken PVC so Richard replaced those with copper, and we got to sit in and learn some tricks about soldering and fitting pipes too! Right now our plan is to have the horrible little bathroom upstairs functional for now (we’ve already got a working toilet up there and Mike and Richard rigged up this makeshift sink using a length of flex-hose and a bent coat-hanger to shape it into a spout!!), and just use the upstairs bathroom until we’ve finished building our downstairs bathroom. Unfortunately the upstairs bathroom was really REALLY disgusting and no matter how much I clean it and bleach everything, it still smells like pee in there :(


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