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.

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…

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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