Monthly Archives: April 2010

Bathroom renovation: week 3, I think

I had a busy week this week. I started out finishing the prep work for the professional installers, and buying all the construction materials we were going to need, then removed all the floor tiles. I’ve done a couple of postings already this week, showing what the professionals got done on Wednesday and Thursday. They did a great job and I can say with confidence that the repairs to the wall are complete. On Friday, I got to work doing the wiring for the new light fixtures. I had to install a new junction box in the attic, and after crawling through the attic with all my equipment, I realized it would be impossible to reach. The wire ran atop the outer wall, of course, so there wasn’t much room to begin with considering the slope of the roof, and to top it off, there was a hanging duct right where I needed to be. I didn’t want to deal with the contortions I’d have to go through to get access to the wires from above, since I’d have to crawl around the other side of the duct on my belly, so I cut through the ceiling and installed it j-box in the attic from below. I like to double check my wiring joints, especially since I knew it would be difficult to reach once the ceiling was repaired, so I temporarily installed the light fixture to test it. So, you get a partial sneak peek at the light bar. Let there be light!

After making sure of the wiring and sealing any potential gaps around my patches with foam, I put in R-19 insulation in the walls making sure I squeezed it in behind the pipes. There should be no chance of the pipes freezing now. The air gaps are sealed, the pipes are insulated, and new thicker insulation is in the walls.

The last thing I did on Friday, was finish removing the stem wall. Not an easy job. I was grateful for my Sawzall and my 4 foot crowbar.

On Saturday, I took the broken floor tiles and the last of the construction debris to the dump. I was able to salvage a lot of the wood, but some of the wood, no surprise, was rotten. Once I seal up the walls, I’ll vacuum and wash the floors to get rid of any lingering mold spores.

On Sunday I hung the drywall. It took the whole day, and it was messy, but I got it done, including putting the new corner braces on the shortened stem wall.

This week: mudding, priming and painting. I’m also going to use up the leftover clay from the dining room wall for the ceiling. Installing the clay on the ceiling will be hard on my back, but the results should be spectacular: a sky blue ceiling with a bright sun (solatube sky light) in the middle. I picked out the wall color on Saturday. It’s called “Full Moon”. It’ll be a nice change from the camouflage color palette currently in the bathroom. So plenty of work still ahead, but there’ll be paint drying time to get other things done like building the counter top, buying the sinks, picking up my new tile, and maybe squeezing in some gardening and agility practice. If all goes as planned the cabinets might be installed next weekend, if not, then certainly next week.

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Bathroom renovation: more progress!

When you find a contractor who comes on the day he says he’ll be there and at the time he says he’ll arrive (and you’re not waiting months for that to happen), plus does really nice work, that’s a contractor to keep.

The carpenter arrived yesterday afternoon and quickly framed out a 2X6 wall, replacing the rotten pieces of sill plate while he was at it.

This morning I quickly patched the holes in the wall, in preparation for the return of the plumber. He arrived on time, as usual, and did a beautiful job. He checked out the new cabinets first, so he’d know exactly where to place the new pipes. The drain pipes and water pipes are in place (insulated too!). The hole in the foundation slab is refilled, which completes the seal of my patch.
He installed proper steel plate pipe guards on the studs as well. The other stuff you could nail through.

The vent pipe now stays inside the wall, and once I seal the gap at the top, we’ll no longer have condensation building up on the wall.

Finally, he installed a new sillcock through the wall that is properly anchored so it won’t wiggle. Now I can seal up that gap as well.

So we’ve made a lot of progress. The professionals have done their jobs magnificently and now it’s time for me to go back to work. Next steps, new wiring for the light fixtures, re-insulate the walls, take out the stem wall, and install the wallboard. Hopefully, I’ll have all that done by the weekend. (Hah!)

Drunken Apes

Long before we started the bathroom repair, I’ve been wondering where all the moisture along the North wall was coming from. I posed that question to our plumber and he was certain it wasn’t the water pipes. This morning when he arrived to remove the pipes from the wall, I asked if it were possible there was a drain leak. He informed me that we’d know in a few minutes as he was going to break the slab open to move the pipes towards to interior of the house. Sure enough a broken drain pipe was found, right at the joint (now repaired by the black gasket. Believe it or not, the damage was done when the house was built. The plumbing contractor had put in the pipes, not well mind you, then apes came along with the sheathing and shoved it against the vent pipe, because that’s easier than making things fit, breaking the pipe. The house was built in the early eighties, so for nearly thirty years, the soil between the walls has remained perpetually moist, which rotted the sheathing, which led to a hole in the wall, which led to a really cold air leak, which froze the pipes and eventually burst the the pipes (deep breath), which led to more apes “repairing” the broken pipe, which led to more damage to the wall. We enter the scene at this point, where I tried vainly to stop the air leak without knowing it’s source, and pipes freezing again, luckily with no extra damage. Now with the walls stripped to the studs, the picture becomes oh-so-clear. My house was built by drunken apes. The good news is that after nearly thirty the repairs will finally be made and we will benefit with lower heating and cooling costs, and a beautifully renovated bathroom.

In the meantime…

While waiting on the opinions of plumbers and carpenters this week, I had a chance to get some more gardening done. The tree nursery, built a few weeks ago with the aid of my niece, is now full. I just got 2 pawpaw trees, 2 bush cherries, a champagne currant, a jostaberry, 3 filbert trees, and 3 purple raspberries. With the rain we got this weekend, most of the new plants have budded. Hopefully by next fall when they go dormant again, I’ll have mapped out exactly where they’re going to be planted permanently in the food forest.

The fruit bearing plants are enjoying the mild Spring. The peach trees have adorable marble sized peaches, ditto for the plum tree. The blueberry plants are producing for the first time. I also found berries growing on my new clove currants (right),so I’ll get to taste them if I can keep the birds away, and on my gooseberry plant. The gooseberry is, so far, thriving in it’s new location on the North side of the house.

The pecan tree I planted last year may not have survived the onslaught of a gopher. I found it leaning over one day this Spring and thought the high winds had blown over the cage and was holding the tree down. To my surprise the tree wiggled in it’s planting hole when I set it upright again, and when I stepped on the soil near the base to firm it up, my foot dropped into a hole. The tree is still firmly attached to the ground so I’m hopeful that the damage wasn’t lethal, but so far the tree hasn’t budded out.

The Black Locust trees planted as saplings in 2007 are blooming for the first time this year. They smell fabulous. They probably would have bloomed last year if the late hard freeze hadn’t killed the primary buds.

Hidden under a row cover, the strawberries have been happily growing, and blooming, safe from marauding deer. It looks like they’ll produce a bumper crop this year.

With all this produce, I may either have to buy a chest freezer or start selling the excess. We’ll see. A lot can happen between bloom and harvest.