New bathroom

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

demolition for the new downstairs bathroom

bathroom walls!


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

wood trim added in kitchen!!

Posted: August 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, progress | No Comments »

cleared out the kitchen

wood trim added in kitchen!!

painting the new trim on the kitchen window!

new trim, freshly painted

We hired our favorite carpenter, Lynn, to help us with trim in the kitchen. He’s put in beautiful new trim around the windows and doors, and it makes such a huge difference – I think it’s been the most dramatic step in the progression from construction site to almost-finished-living-space!
Like so many other parts of this project, we’d originally planned to do all our own wood trim, but Lynn is so much better at it than we are, so much faster, and his work is just beautiful!

wood trim added in kitchen!! new wood trim in the kitchen!

judy sands and paints new doors

Judy and Stephanie help painting the new woodwork

The only thing we didn’t end up trimming out is the huge picture window in the kitchen. I always kind of hated that window because it’s a really obviously mismatched 1970′s style picture window stuck on this 19th century-style victorian house, and as if that weren’t silly enough, it’s almost-but-not-quite-centered on the dormer windows above it on the second floor, so it looks incredibly lopsided from the outside. In short, as much as I enjoy the light and view through this window, it is one of the ugliest things going on in this whole mess of a house, which is saying a lot. It’s a perfectly fine style of window for a mid-century bungalow, but it’s just sad on a Victorian farmhouse. So I was not incredibly disappointed when Lynn told us that he didn’t want to put trim on it – the whole business is completely rotten and that we should rip it out and replace it rather than putting trim on. YES YES YES YES YES! i am counting the days until we can haul this thing off to the dump and replace it with something better-suited to our house.

the ugly window

more guest room updates

Posted: June 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: extra bedrooms, progress | No Comments »

We did some work on the guest room in the spring (see previous post here) and finally finished up painting the trim and put everything back together in June, I think. Then Lynn (our amazing hired carpenter!) went back and replaced all the missing trim pieces, so now we’ve got to go back in and paint some more. But things are definitely starting to look pretty good in here! (especially compared with the rest of our house, haha!)

improved guest room

improved guest room

improved guest room

much improved

It’s great to have one room that’s almost done!! In addition to painting the new pieces of trim, we still need to put in a ceiling light and switch, which will be a bit of a project because this room has never had a light switch! we’ll need to cut a hole in the wall, run wires through the walls and ceilings, and probably do some patching and re-painting afterwards. And then it should be all set, for the moment! Someday I’d love to replace the ugly ceiling (it’s a filthy, seventies-looking dropped ceiling with those pressed-fiber tiles) and strip & repaint the floors, which have a patchwork of old lead paint colors. But that stuff can wait another five or ten years! Here’s a “before” picture for comparison:

before: yucky carpet and battle-scarred walls
before: yucky carpet and battle-scarred walls

electrical work!

Posted: May 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: electricity, progress | No Comments »

electrical work! electrical work
new electrical panel, front and back.

we brought in a real electrician to put in a new panel on the 2nd floor, which will allow us to put in a proper circuit for the washing machine and dryer, and also will let us start wiring the whole second floor for electricity! hooray! hopefully this means less extension cords in our future.

building new front steps

Posted: May 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: progress, woodworking | No Comments »

house and ell

before: no door, no steps

When we first got here we were using the back door (complete with “no trespassing” sign) as the main entrance; then back in November we finally installed a beautiful new door from the kitchen onto the porch, and we switched over to using the new door all the time despite a lack of steps – we would just leap up from the driveway onto the porch and in through the new door. Winter came and the snow piled up so high it reached the porch and you didn’t miss the steps at all. But come spring thaw, the absence was notable and if you happened to be carrying something big or heavy, you’d have to stop and set it down on the porch in order to hop up; visitors wondered which door to knock on, since the lack of steps was not exactly inviting. So, time to build some steps.

building new front steps

first cuts on the bandsaw

building new front steps

starting to assemble the pieces
building new front steps

screwing the pieces together

building new front steps

this was a fun and quick project! after the demanding challenge of the cabinetry project, it was nice to do something so snappy an easy. here’s the almost-finished steps in situ:

built new front steps

we’re happily using the steps now, but we’re not totally done here, the next stage will be to take the steps out, dig up the ground underneath and pour some proper cement footing, then fill in the area with crushed rock or something, put the steps back in and then paint them white! Maybe someday we could even add a railing.

improving the guest room!

Posted: April 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: bedroom, progress | No Comments »

We had a few spring visitors already, which has been an excellent cure for the loneliness of the long maine winter, and a great incentive to do some more work on the guest room. The walls were really messed up (seems like this was the kids’ room – i think three boys lived in here – so the walls were covered with drawings, doodles, graffiti, red paint splatters, mysterious smears, giant gouges and craters, boogers, and god-knows-what) so the first step was to get some joint compound and some special adhesive mesh for repairing wallboard. I can’t even imagine how these walls got such huge holes in them! Wrapped the bed in plastic and emptied everything out of the room, patched the giant holes over the course of a few days – spackle, wait for it to dry, wet sand, dry sand, spackle again, repeat. Then a few days of priming everything. The window and door trim are so crappy and covered in crud – I would like to just replace them in due time, but for now I just covered up all the crud with primer. Then painted the walls a kind of purple-gray color, and the window/door trim a nice rich blue; we have some old wool rugs that we brought back from Bolivia, which are mostly red and orange, and a navy blue couch that mike’s mom gave us, so we tried to pick colors that would match with those. The paint really transformed the room! Got curtains for the windows, a new comforter cover for the bed, hung a bright tomato-red curtain in the closet door. We also recently added a door to this room. It’s starting to look kind of civilized! BUT we don’t have the finished “after” photos yet! hang in there for an update…

before: yucky carpet and battle-scarred walls

before: yucky carpet and battle-scarred walls

Mom is a bitch

before: found graffiti, carved into the guest room wall!

Guest room

half way there… new comforter cover / walls are patched and primed but still unpainted

painting the guest room!

took apart the guest room to fix and paint the walls.

painting the guest room!

painting the guest room!

“after” photos to come next week… stay tuned!

tiling the mudroom

Posted: March 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, progress, slow progress | Tags: , , | No Comments »

so we FINALLY got to put in our lovely Argentine encaustic tiles on the mudroom floor. We’ve been working away on the mudroom, slowly, for a loooonnng time and we bought these tiles over a year ago, before we moved from Buenos Aires! So this has been a long time coming! And it feels great to finally have them down.

tiling the mudroom tiling the mudroom

first I made a grid… then laid out all the tiles for a dry fitting.

tiling the mudroom

cutting the tiles to fit the space turned out to be a big challenge. we built a little wooden jig to help us cut the tiles neatly.

tiling the mudroom

cutting cement tiles is messy business

tiling the mudroom

laying down mortar and tiles

tiling the mudroom

all done!

I did grout them and now we just need to scrub them and seal them and they’ll be done! I have to say that they are not totally perfect, the surface is a bit uneven but… hey, I did my best – I think it’s going to work fine!

kitchen progress

Posted: March 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, photos, progress, woodworking | No Comments »

here are some newer photos of the kitchen becoming more kitcheny and inhabited.

kitchen progress

feels like things have been moving slowly here, but we have been plugging away on the cabinets, bit by bit. Actually Richard is putting in a lot of hours on the cabinets – he’s building the drawers and we’re supposed to be doing the cabinet cases but we’ve fallen behind a bit. Tomorrow I will hopefully put in some good long hours in the workshop and get caught up!

cabinet on the workbench cabinet plans

working on cabinets

for the first set of drawers, Richard experimented with different construction techniques, each of these drawers is a bit different! We weren’t sure whether it would work to use wooden runners and forego the metal hardware. The benefit of runners is that they make your drawers move smoothly and easily (even if the drawer construction is a bit imprecise or imperfect); the drawbacks are that they’re kind of ugly, they’re kind of expensive and they reduce the size of the drawer. We talked it over and we really just love the simplicity and integrity of all-wood construction, without the ugly modern metal hardware, and since we’ve got Richard’s expert skills and we’re not mass-producing this stuff, we can attempt to make all of our drawers so tidy and perfect that they will slide easily on wooden runners without wheels. You can put a bit of special wax on the wooden runners to help the drawers slide more easily.

two new cabinets!

Judy and Paprika celebrating our new cabinets!

Here’s the first set of drawers, installed next to the beautiful sink cabinet! We did load up those drawers with heavy silverware and dishes and they still slide quite nicely. In this picture we had mis-matching drawer knobs on the drawers; we’ve since changed them all to the smaller size which looks much better! I ought to post a more recent photo here but the kitchen is a total mess at the moment so it’ll have to wait. Now that we’ve got the stove and sink installed and everything, I am so absolutely chuffed that I can finally COOK again, for real! It’s been almost a year since I had my own kitchen to cook in!! So I’ve been baking a bit, and really obsessed with making fruit smoothies every morning (I know that doesn’t sound like cooking, but when you have no countertops to cut on or sink to rinse fruits and clean up, it’s just not that easy to chop up fruits every morning!), and on a total pizza-making kick. We got a bread machine at a yardsale last year and I finally dusted it off and tried it out, it makes up some delicious pizza dough for me to play with. In general I feel like I’m just wildly appreciative of some really basic kitchen pleasures and amenities that one would ordinarily take for granted.

super spicy ginger valentine cookies morning smoothies, part 1

homemade pizza!

hooray for cooking again

exciting kitchen progress

Posted: January 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress | 2 Comments »

we made this cabinet!

here’s the finished sink cabinet

now we’ve got the first cabinet box done, we get to really start moving in, and install our beautiful countertop and sink!! Mike unpacked our lovely cherry butcherblock countertop and started giving it a tung-oil treatment that should protect it against water and stains and stuff. Basically just painting on lots of oil and then rubbing it off with a rag a few minutes later and repeat once a day for a few days.

finishing the countertop finishing the countertop

before and after – the tung oil really changes the color.

Then we had to do a bit of work to get the sink ready. Because it was an old salvaged sink (from Pete’s Place in Hollis), we had to use a wire brush to scrub off some rust from the bottom side and then paint over it with some smelly white rust-oleum type stuff.

repainted the rusty underside of the sink

salvaged sink took a bit of repair work before using.

Then dropped the counter into place and trimmed the edges/corners to fit snugly against our not-straight kitchen wall, then cut out the hole to fit the sink in.

cutting the sink hole into the countertop

ready for the sink

cutting the sink hole into the countertop

And then… the sink goes in! hooray!!!

sink is in!!!

this is the old faucet, we have a slightly nicer one that we’re going to replace it with

Now we just need to get the sink hooked up and we’ll have a real kitchen!! We dragged in the fridge too, and Mike sealed and finished the counters. Cooking dinner is SO much easier and funner now, and it’s going to be such a delight when the sink is working too.

big kitchen progress!

whoo! we’re on our way


Posted: January 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, progress, woodworking | 4 Comments »

We had a tough time deciding what to do for cabinets. Thought about rescuing/restoring the old ones we found in one of the ruined apartments in our ell, but those were in bad shape, and kind of cheap and depressing to begin with. I did a bit of shopping around to mass-market cabinet places, home depot etc, and found absolutely all of the new cabinets to be really ugly and way too expensive. So, because we’re crazy, we decided to BUILD OUR OWN CABINETS instead! As if we didn’t have enough projects to work on.

building kitchen cabinets

starting the kitchen cabinets in my dad’s workshop

My dad is a very handy carpenter and has a nicely fitted-out woodworking shop that is just perfect for such a project. We set to reading all kinds of books and articles about cabinetry. Richard has a very organized collection of woodworking magazines that have advice and project directions and everything, and Mike got us some exhaustively detailed DIY cabinetry books. It was all kind of dizzying and overwhelming to me, but Richard is really in his element here, and he managed to sort out all the options and explain most of it to us. We now know the difference between dadoes and rabbets, pocket screws and biscuit joints, plywood and laminates, shaker style cabinets, colonial, modern, european, etc etc! Richard got to buy some fun new tools for his shop, and jumped right in to experimenting with different materials and joinery. We figured out what seemed like the easiest and most attractive construction, a super-simple shaker style cabinet with pocket screws and biscuit joints.

cabinet making

Richard and Mike at work on the first cabinet

It took us about a full weekend’s worth of work to get the first one, the under-sink cabinet put together. A lot of setting up workstations and jigs, drawing plans, spatial thinking and painstaking carefulness. I never could attain this degree of carefulness on my own, but that’s where Richard is helpful, he’s absoultely meticulous, as a carpenter should be.

cabinet plans cabinet making

cabinet plans, clamping everything

This project has honestly been one of the funnest parts of the whole house so far, it’s really exciting so far and it’s been so great to spend time in the shop with Richard, learning new stuff and making this amazingly beautiful and tidy thing. Hopefully it will be just as fun to finish the cabinets – we’ve only just begun, lots more work to go!

cabinet building!

mike drills in pocket screws for our first cabinet! This is the under sink cabinet on the workbench in my dad’s woodshop.




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