The Cool House: December 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

More demo

original 1968 formica
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
When you've hired a dumpster and learnt how to swing a sledgehammer to great effect you might as well use it.
We couldn't do anything else to the boys' bathroom in the way of demolition so we moved on to the laundry room. Actually I take no credit for this, the "we" was all "he". He cleared the room, unsrcrewed the upper cabinets and resorted to the sledgehammer when the were unresponsive. Then he carted it all out to the dumpster, which is now full.
I'd like to clean up the walls and hang new cabinets but he thinks it will be better to wait until the kitchen gets replaced in 2008. My original thought was to do this room and use that s a makeshift kitchen while the big room is being done. But I can see the benefit of waiting - that way we can go throughout the kitchen, mud room and laundry with 18x18" tiles, and get a clean, continuous look.
The only question is whether I can live with a half-demolised laundry room for 20 months.

Santa? No, the demo man

Santa? No, the demo man
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
He's looking surprisingly chipper for a man who just rearranged the back of his new car on a dumpster. If you add the cost of the bodywork to the renovation we are now seriously over budget. Grr. His only excuse? "I forgot it was there". Huh.
I knew it was only a matter of time before he "personalised" the car but on our own driveway? The morning after he filled the dumpster? How is that possible?
Anyway, the ceiling is now down, we can see where the hole in the flashing round the vent pipe caused the water damage, and the assessment is that it's not too bad. The biggest relief is that there is no longer any smell of mold or rot in the room so I think we can change the cruddier insulation and start putting things back together again.
Next on the list: change the wastepipes to PVC, upgrade the fan to a quieter model, install a light over the shower and a GFCI circuit.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The shower pan nightmare

Floor under shower pan
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
The terrazzo shower pan is no more. Steven drilled a couple of holes, hit a chisel with a hammer and used a sledgehammer vigorously for an hour or so and that base stood no chance. I'd been dreading tackling this beacause I'd heard horror stories about how difficult they were to remove. It turned out to be fairly easy. That was the best part of the day.
The second good thing was that forty minutes after ringing to enquire about dumpsters (skips) we had one sitting on our drive. And two hours later we had just about filled it.
It was far harder carrying the lumps of broken terrazzo out to the dumpster than it was breaking the shower pan up. That stuff is heavy. But here's the scary bit: the pan was just resting on the floorboards. No plywood reinforcement, no tar-paper or liner. So when you break up the shower base tiny pieces of terrazzo rain down through the cracks in the floorboards onto the bathroom ceiling below. And when you switch on the light in that bathroom you realise that not only does that no longer work, but the fan has stopped also.
Now my problem is that we still have to take up the cement floor tile bed. I imagine that this has a liner because otherwise what stops the mud falling down the spaces between the floorboards? But what if it doesn't? How much debris can I afford to let fall onto the ground floor bathroom before the ceiling collapses? The nightmare continues.....

Monday, December 25, 2006

Xmas Day 2006

demo left wall
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
Some people eat turkey, some open presents and some spend the day with relatives. We do demolition.
Steven stepped up and removed the partition that was preventing us from taking off the last of the wallboard. There's a little mould on the ceiling that was under a piece of framing, but nothing worse. We will experiment with diluted bleach to remove it, but unfortunately there's also a tiny hole in the ceiling where the wood slipped as it was coming out. Whoops.
He is finding that demo is rewarding and kind of fun too. The next job is to try and prise (hammer, drill, jackhammer) the terrazzo shower pan out. We'll see if he's still having fun after struggling with that for a couple of hours.
Wish us luck.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Down to the studs

old shower plumbing

I've been taking the wallboard off over the past couple of days and I made a couple of discoveries. One was a few scary alien-like corpses that could be either large insects or small birds or even actual aliens. They were behind the vanity wall and they had been dead for a very, very long time. I would have taken photos but I didn't want to terrify anyone into sending out the exorcist. The other was some clean, white mice skeletons behind the wallboard on the opposite wall.
A way nicer surprise was the extra foot of space I uncovered behind the shower. It seems that those terrazzo shower bases came in a standard size, 4'x 3', so they built the shower to fit the pan. I discovered this when I couldn't get a piece of sheetrock out because it had been framed in. When I demolished more wall I saw that a frame had been built onto the sheetrock and there is no reason why we can't take it out and have a 5'x 3' mud-base tiled shower. It will make the room a little larger and only add another three square feet of shower tiles to the ever-expanding budget.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No plumbing fixtures

No plumbing fixtures
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
I had to suck it up and call the plumber to remove the valves so we could turn off the water. While he was here he took out the toilet and hauled it away and put the vanity and very heavy countertop out for the garbage. The garbeage men arrived ten minutes later and that's the last we'll see of that baby. Will have to tip them big time on Friday as they have been dealing with a lot of demo trash.
The plumber asked if he was coming back to replace the waste lines with PVC. It hadn't occurred to me but as we don't know what sort ot mess they could be inside it makes sense to do it when the wallboard is out. He also said they could replace the supply lines. With PEX? I asked. No, with copper he replied, it's been tested for years. So you take out the copper pipes and solder more copper in there. Hmm.
The he asked what we were doing about the shower base. Mud, I said. Oh, lead pan? I do that.
What? They still use lead and copper in NY? I just freaked at the thought of more of these heavy metals being brought into my house. The explanation that they've been in use for years doesn't cut it for me either. If I followed that logic I'd be cooking over an open fire lit by rubbing two sticks together.
It is the C21, right? Even in NY?

Saturday, December 16, 2006


We made the decision that the bathroom vanity is toast so I took a break from tile destruction today to check out a few vanities in the local showrooms. I know I swore I would never set foot in Expo again but I was desperate and willing to explore any option.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was that the new Kraftmaid Venecia kitchen displays were finally open. Last time I was there they were waiting for the granite countertops to be installed and I asked the "Can I help you guy" what the cabinet price per linear foot would be. I was told they were very expensive (the doors come from Italy, you know) so they would run $1800. Well guess what? That was another price pulled from the ether by someone who didn't know what he was talking about and couldn't be bothered to find out. The prices on the vignettes ranged from $440-$998. Pricey but half what I had been told. This lack of attention to detail (aka customer service) didn't surprise me but it didn't put me in a positive mood for vanity shopping either.
Of all the vanities on display, and there are lots to choose from, only one would work in the space. This simple square box from Kohler's Purist range is a whopping $1450 for a 24"x22"x16" box.

So, practically speaking, to hold toiletries and towels you would need two, plus a countertop and then the sink and faucet. At least $4000. Crazy money.
I didn't find anything I liked anywhere today but at least when I got back home, I found that the garbage fairy had been, swept the bathroom floor and taken all the boxes of debris to the garage.
It's a slow process.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A lot of old drywall

or a valance of tiles

This is where I finished today. There is a 2" (60cm) border left around the room plus this tiny bit behind the door

almost done

I just ran out of boxes to put the debris in, otherwise I might have pressed on to the bitter end. I can't do anything about the "valance" as I'm not supposed to jump on and off ladders at the moment and my arms won't reach up there without a lift.

I had hoped someone would volunteer to help me but so far that hasn't happened, although last Saturday he did carry to the garage one (1) box of old tiles. This morning I suggested that getting a plumber to take out the old toilet would make us look like pussies, we can easily do it. The look I got back means I'll be finding out on my own.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rot free windows

jane's demo
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
I found out how that window stayed rot free (at least on the inside) for the past 40 years. Teak trim, baby. I demo'ed the frame today and the window is builder's standard pine, but it was framed inside with a sloping lower edge of oiled teak. A brilliant solution and if the tiler can't find a way to tile neatly around the replacement I might have someone build me another teak ledge. And maybe we'll add a teak shower seat while we are at it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Taking it off tile at a time.
Although the tile was laid in 12x12 mesh backed sheets, it doesn't come off like that. I take the chisel or a long-handle flat-blade screwdriver and tap that with a hammer.This loosens the tile so it pops out or I prise it off. It's slow but it's not too messy. I am doing it in 30 minutes stretches, and I like to complete an even section and then clean that up before I take a break. So far I have filled four boxes, six Trader Joe paper bags and a wastepaper basket.

stripped floor

At least the floor is done-that really was the easiest part.
Steve took off a door from the vanity and turned the water off on one faucet. The other one is apparently stuck. This is a major inconvenience as I wanted to get the countertop out so the garbage guys would haul it away today. Oh well, if he can't budge it at the weekend I 'll have to get the plumber to do it when he takes out the toilet and fits a thermostatic valve for the shower

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The demolition continues

I can't believe how easily the floor came up, or at least the first few square feet. I've taken off 3sq", so only another 27 to go! I barely have to tap it with the chisel and whole sections of tile spring into my hands, leaving the grout to be swept up later.

Demolition Medicine Cabinets
Earlier I took the medicine cabinets off the wall. I was really surprised to find how clean it was behind them, because you never know what you are dealing with when you start these projects. Once again I thank the original builders who worked clean and built solidly. I wish they were still around.
Actually taking out the cabinets did lead to a discovery. We decided to save them for the moment and store them in the boy's bedroom next to the bathroom. When I cleared a shelf in the closet I found a white yarmulke, size 7 1/4". Not riches, but a part of the heritage of the house.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Renovator's Remorse

We have begun to get quotes for the bathroom renovation. I can see that this is going to be a long process. We've already started with the "what ifs". The first what if was really quite sensible. What if we replace the window before we re-tile the bathroom? The window isn't failing but it nearly forty years old and has had some repair to rot outside. It is also a sealed unit. It would make sense to replace it now with a venting one and I think we should have another Marvin awning installed. So the budget expands, and the timeline extends.
Then there is the vanity question. We have a floating vanity in this bathroom that I love. My original plan was to keep the unit and junk the marble top but we have to take the unit out to strip the tiles behind it so will it stand up to this treatment bearing in mind it is laminate? Can I find another floating vanity that I like at a price I can stomach? And as for a not-hideous medicine cabinet, why are these things both ugly and outrageously expensive?

I'm beginning to regret starting this and there is a long way to go. Renovation should be fun and I'm not feeling it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Electrical switches

Electrical switches
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
I finally put another piece of the electrical lighting system jigsaw together this weekend. I located the outlets for the centre switch on the seven-gang in the kitchen. This has been bugging me for thirty months. But I'm getting there. In case I forget it goes like this:
Top panel L-R: spots in great room; cans in kitchen; cans in eat-in part of kitchen
Centre Panel: socket with horizontal switch (still a mystery). Vertical switches: pond pump; tree lights; exterior rear floodlights; great room balcony lights; great room third storey lights; chandelier
Bottom: dimmer switch for umbrella pendants.
Now I only have to figure out that horizontal switch, the switch by the kitchen slider, the one by the front door and the two by the grarage doors. And then I can get the x10 system we inherited to work too.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Now we're demo-ing

Actually, it's less "we" more "I" as Steve has gone to Los Angeles. He said to leave it and he'd get round to it at the weekend. When I asked which weekend it turned out to be Xmas. I think I can have the walls stripped before then.
It was no wonder we had a leak. The wallboard at the bottom of the shower was completely black and rotten. Whoever replaced the shower valve didn't caulk around it and water has been dripping down there for who knows how many years. All that damage for want of five minutes and a $5 tube of caulk. Luckily, the wood behind seems sound and every other piece of board is dry so far. It doesn't really matter as we're going back to the studs and putting in cement backer board but if the wallboard is dry there is less chance that we'll have any structural problems or other nasty (expensive) surprises.