Posted: December 1st, 2012 | Author: eliza | 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.
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).
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.
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.
Posted: September 30th, 2012 | Author: eliza | Filed under: extra bedrooms, progress | No Comments »
We’re starting work on another bedroom! This is the bedroom at the top of the stairs, to the left, next to the bathroom. It’s got three doors, one connecting to our bedroom, one to the hallway and one to my studio. Since we already have one guest room and don’t have another extra bed, for the moment this room’s been used for storing studio overflow, extra art supplies, winter coats, linens and stuff, and hosts the occasional visitors on an air mattress. I’m not sure what’s the long-term plan here, but we’re all tired of looking at the insanely pepto-bismol-pink walls and cruddy floor and missing trim. We’ll have marmoleum laid down on the floor, which is an easy solution because we don’t need to rip out the existing layers of flooring. 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.
So, step one: pack up all the stuff and clear out the room.
All cleared out. This room is hideous. When we got here there was filthy carpet on this floor. Judy ripped it all out for us! Under the layers of carpet and foam backing, we found this weird particle-board stuff. It looks like there used to be some kind of vinyl tiles on this floor but they’d been removed by some previous owner. Presumably there is some real wood flooring under there somewhere, but it’s a pain in the ass to rip out this particle-board layer and we don’t really know if the wood underneath would be nice or not – some of the original floors are in pretty rough shape here, and a lot of them are covered with lead paint, which is a brutal mess to deal with. So we’ll just leave this stuff there and cover it with marmoleum, which at least will look better, and is lovely smooth and easy to clean. Unfortunately Marmoleum is not easy to install as a do-it-yourselfer, so we got some recommendations for a local fellow that does a good job.
First Dan laid down a thin plywood underlayment (because the old flooring still had residue from vinyl tiling and old adhesive that could interfere with gluing down the marmoleum) and then a natural, non-toxic adhesive and then the giant sheets of marmoleum. He used a giant, weighted roller to roll over and over the flooring, bonding it with the adhesive underneath.
I kind of like the pink walls now, they look pretty amazing with the green floor! But we’ve hated them for too long, so the next step is definitely to repaint the walls and trim.
soon it won’t be pink anymore!
Posted: July 14th, 2012 | Author: eliza | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress, woodworking | No Comments »
We are FINALLY getting our new bay window in! I’ve always hated this big picture window, mainly because it’s cruddy and falling apart, but also because it’s ugly and ill-suited to our kitchen and our house. I think it would fit better in a mid-century bungalow or split-level ranch, but it looks all wrong on an old victorian farmhouse. When we asked our master carpenter, Lynn, to build the window trim to finish up the inside of the window, he said “are you kidding? that whole window frame is totally rotten!” And so my parents came to the rescue and offered us A NEW BAY WINDOW as our wedding present! It took us maybe 9 months to shop around and pick out which window we wanted. It was hard to pick the best window brand because my parents (who’ve renovated their own lovely old farmhouse) warned that they had bought a bunch of new windows at great expense that they ended up hating! They warned us against windows with plastic frames or plastic sashes or plastic runners or any plastic or vinyl at all (because it can get brittle when exposed to sunlight and weather, and crack and break easily). And they warned us against finger jointed wood in any part of the window whatsoever. Most of the manufacturers we called were disqualified because they do use plastic somewhere on the window, and wooden windows do have finger joints (which allow moisture into the wood and cause the paint to peel away and the wood to rot). Finally we picked out a fancy-pants Marvin bay window from the showroom in Portland, which does have durable vinyl in the runners but does not have any finger-joints on exposed wood and is generally very very beautiful and fancy! The sashes slide up and down with delightful ease, they pivot inwards for easy cleaning, and the double-paned glass means they are very energy-efficient and no storm windows.
Once we ordered the window we called our carpenter Lynn to install it – this was part of my parents’ gift to us! Unfortunately Lynn was very very very busy so it took a few months before he could start the installation.
Lynn came with his son Levi to help out. They make a great team. The day they tore out the old window was the most spectacular sunny June day, warm and clear, and the feeling of sitting in our kitchen with no window at all, just a beautiful wide open wall filled with fresh air and the view of sunshine and green grass, was a delight. (Too bad we don’t live in California or we could’ve just left it like that.)
Posted: March 10th, 2012 | Author: eliza | Filed under: excitement, living room, progress | No Comments »
Done painting the livingroom! we finished just in time for Mike’s birthday, and I framed and hung some of our posters and art for him as a birthday present. I’m glad we decided not to paint this room yellow, though I think the mint green is a little boring. Anyway it definitely looks better than before! And it will look even better when we replace those horrible ceiling tiles. And repaint the floors.
This is what the livingroom looked like in November 2010.
Posted: March 1st, 2012 | Author: eliza | Filed under: living room, progress | No Comments »
We’re trying to decide what color to paint the dining room, and we’re also trying to figure out what to call it because we’ve never used it as a dining room, and we probably never will, since our kitchen is enormous and has plenty of space for eating and we’re not really the formal, stuffy dining room types. We were using it as a workshop space for a while, and then it evolved into a sort of living room / lounge space where we hang out and watch movies and snuggle with the dog on the couch. Sounds kind of like a living room, but we already have a room that we call the living room, which we never use. (These are the problems you have when your house is TOO BIG!) We could call it the den, but that sounds so 1950′s and doesn’t really fit the personality of our house. I think we should call this the living room and that other room can become The Parlor when it is finished. Which sounds a little silly, but that was probably the original purpose/name of that room when the house was built. Back then folks usually had a front room with nice windows looking out towards the street, and it was kind of a fancy and formal parlor that was only used for entertaining visitors. It would’ve been one of the fanciest rooms in an otherwise spare and functional farmhouse. But anyway, back to this room. The former dining room which I’m going to try to call The Living Room from now on. It was painted dark red when we moved in. It’s kind of a pretty color, but it’s a little heavy and also whoever painted it did a horrible job, didn’t finish the edges of the walls, didn’t put on a second coat, and the walls just looked pretty awful.
this was how we had living room before.
In February we started prepping to re-paint the walls. There were A LOT of spots that needed spackling, and a bunch of areas that needed major repairs to the wallboard. It took about two weeks of spackling and sanding to get everything tidied up.
early stages of spackling
It took THREE COATS of primer to color up that crazy red! I think we’re finally ready for the color now.
We had decided on Yarmouth Blue for the trim and Stuart Gold for the walls (from Benjamin Moore historical colors). We’ve looked lots of photos of Colonial through Victorian era interiors and they used to do some really saturated colors! This seemed like a pretty cool historical color combo. We did the windows in blue and I think they look great; we actually bought a gallon of the Stuart Gold for the walls and then at the very last minute, Mike got cold feet and said “it looks too YELLOW!”
Stuart Gold: do we really want this?
I rolled my eyes, but then I sat down and did some photoshop mockups with different color options. When we actually saw it mocked up, the gold does indeed look a little crazy?! So we decided on this Prescott Green instead. I think I’m going to paint it today!
Now we’re wondering what to do with that gallon of gold paint. Maybe upstairs?
Posted: February 19th, 2012 | Author: eliza | Filed under: electricity, progress, woodworking | No Comments »
Judy sanding the newel post
wiring the ceiling fixture / cleaning out our new wood shop
Posted: February 10th, 2012 | Author: eliza | Filed under: kitchen, progress, woodworking | No Comments »
Mike and I just installed the final cabinet in the kitchen! They’re all in now! Let’s celebrate for a minute: we totally made these cabinets ourselves! Every single bit of them! (except the knobs and hinges, which we bought.) My dad helped us a whole lot and made a bunch of the hardest parts like drawers and drawer slides. Thanks Richard! Not only are these beautiful and flawless in their function, I think we picked a pretty great color of green for these. (All those little sticky notes in the pictures? That’s our notes to remind us what goes in which drawers. Since it’s all a little new, we still need help remembering where to put everything.)
the skinny cabinet
The last cabinet was the skinniest. This little tiny one goes next to the oven, to hold flat stuff like baking sheets and cutting boards.
The remaining “open” spot is where the dishwasher will go. Someday. We’re not really in a rush to get one, so for the moment we just store the dog food in there, and I think I’ll make a curtain to hang there so it looks prettier in the meantime. If you want to look back at the long long process of planning and building our cabinets, there are lots more posts and pictures!
Just for fun, let’s look back at the same kitchen view, as it’s changed through the years:
June 20, 2011
January 16, 2011
December 16, 2010
April 17, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 5, 2010
realtor’s photo of the kitchen, sometime before 2008.
Next… on to the upper shelving. We’re going to do open shelves instead of upper cabinets. They’re already on the workbench in the wood shop, but no photos yet, so stay tuned…
Posted: January 21st, 2012 | Author: eliza | Filed under: living room, progress, stairs | No Comments »
plaster buttons and mesh tape on the saggy ceiling above the stairs
fixed the wall by the stairs
We hired a guy to help us with replacing wallboard and patching plaster! It’s amazing how fast (and well) stuff gets done when we pay somebody else to do it. He replaced the wall going up the stairs, and fixed the sagging plaster above the stairs, and then replaced the missing piece of wall in the livingroom and replaced a defunct doorway in the livingroom with a nice smooth seamless wall. You wouldn’t even guess there was ever a door there!
Posted: December 11th, 2011 | Author: eliza | Filed under: demolition, progress, slow progress, stairs | Tags: progress, stairs, walls | No Comments »
old plaster / no plaster
We finally tore down all the plaster from this crumbling wall in the stairway. It was very satisifying. Out with the old, in with the new! We will keep the old lath but we’re going to replace the plaster with wallboard.
Posted: October 25th, 2011 | Author: eliza | Filed under: bathroom, progress | No Comments »
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!
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.
old sink discovered in the barn
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.