Wednesday Project: Destruction

We’re on to another project.  This time, we’re re-doing a bathroom connected to the room of one of our kids.  The first post in the series gives a good overview of what we’re trying to accomplish.

The first part of this project involves some demolition work.  As you can see in the picture below, there is a box structure built over the sink.  Inside this box are two small fluorescent lights with a piece of translucent plastic that sits in in box to cover the lights.  This setup was a custom feature when the home was built back in the early 1990s, but today it looks a bit dated and worn and, most importantly, it doesn’t produce the best kind of light for a bathroom.

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With that in mind, we decided to remove the box its lights and replace this set up with a regular light fixture.  That meant we had to remove the box.

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I’m going to leave the lights in place until the wall paper is removed, then I’ll take them down, install a fixture box above the mirror, rewire the light and then repair the sheetrock.

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As you can see, that one small box made quite a pile of debris!

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“Wednesday Project ” is a mostly weekly series of my adventures in home maintenance and repairs.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  

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Wednesday Project: Another One

It’s time for another home project.  This time we go upstairs to refurbish a bathroom connected to one of the kid’s rooms.

As you can see in the pictures below, this bathroom has definite masculine feel to it.  The previous owners used the bedroom as a home office for the man of the house and I suppose this bathroom was decorated originally with that in mind.

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This room will receive the customary treatment.  We’ll remove the wallpaper, re-finish and patch the walls as necessary, paint everything and change the hardware.

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The biggest challenge in this room will the “box” over the sink.  This custom made box houses two fluorescent lights and a piece of plastic is fitted inside the box to give the “light” a finished look.  The problem with this setup is that this doesn’t provide good light for people using the sink.  Therefore, the plan is to rip out the box, repair the sheetrock on the wall and ceiling and add a more conventional light.

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The plan is also leave the cabinets, counter top and bathtub, but to add a shower door.

We hope to have this done by the end of the year so stay tuned…

Wednesday Project: Finished

Well, the long loop has been completed: our half-bath project is finished. Below, you can see a good portion of the finished project.   
The final piece of this project was replacing the door knob and door hinges. This step is easy and exciting. In terms of ease, it’s probably the easiest part of the job and it’s exciting because it looks good and because it means the project is almost complete. 

We are systematically updating our home, so as we go through each room, we try to replace all of the hardware. We chose “antique bronze” as our new motif, so that’s what each room gets. But even if you aren’t changing styles in your home, replacing the hardware is a fairly inexpensive way to spruce up your home. 

So, that’s it and now we’re on to another room. 

Wednesday Project: The Sink

The next step in our half-bath renovation was to finish up the sink.  And to be specific, “finishing up the sink,” involved several things that weren’t necessarily fun and they weren’t necessarily easy.  However, as you can see from the picture below, things did happen.IMG_0252This may be easier to follow in a step-by-step fashion:

  1. First the old sink and pedestal were taken out so that we could remove the wallpaper and paint.  After they were removed, though, we decided to replace the old off-white sink and pedestal with new white versions.
  2. When the painting was finished, it was time to install the new stuff.  However, I soon found out the copper tubing coming up through the floor would have to be moved to accommodate the new pedestal.
  3. So I went below, cut the tubing, pulled it through the floor, and drilled new holes.
  4. Re-connecting the copper tubing was a problem, but I’ll describe that problem below.
  5. I waited a week or so as I thought about how to re-connect the copper tubing, and then finally went ahead and installed new antique brass faucet and drain into the new sink.
  6. I then replaced all of the PVC pipe connecting the sink to the plumbing in the wall and then connected new half-inch flexible leads to the sink and then connected the leads to the copper tubing sticking up through the floor.
  7. At this point, I made several more trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot to stare at the copper fittings and talk to the store employees to determine what to do.
  8. After a while, I finally called a plumbing contractor friend to come fix the problem.  He didn’t really want to come over for such a small job, so he described the parts I would need to buy to finish the job.
  9. I bought those parts – two compression couplings for 3/8″ inch flexible copper tubing – and took them home and installed them.  But they didn’t work.  And by “didn’t work,” I mean that they leaked. Both of them.  Hot and cold.
  10. So I turned the water to the sink off again and took some more time to think.
  11. After thinking on things a few more days, I returned to the store and bought two more fittings.  And some plumber’s tape.  Then I returned home, and after a few more days, I tried again.  And again it didn’t work.  And by didn’t work, I mean that the fittings leaked.  Both of them.  Hot and cold.
  12. So I turned the water off again and took some more time to think.
  13. Then I decided to call another plumber to come fix the leaks.  The plumber came out and fixed everything in about 15 minutes.  I gave him a check for $125 and left.
  14. A day or so later, I realized he had left a good-sized roll of copper tubing.  I called and left him a message telling him what he left and that he was welcome to come by and pick it up.  He never called back.  So I guess I have a new roll of copper tubing.

So, the sink is installed and the plumbing is connected and everything works great.

Wednesday Project: Electrical Stuff

Well, we’re getting very close to the finish line of our project, renovating our half bath.  We’ve scraped wall paper, re-surfaced walls to get them ready for painting, painted, installed a toilet and now we’re ready to talk about some electrical issues.

Whenever Sweet Wife and I renovate a room – and we’ve done a lot of rooms throughout several houses – one of the things we always do is replace the plugs and switches in the room and replace their covers.

We do this for a couple of reasons.  First, there’s a good chance the existing plugs are old, dirty and perhaps even speckled with paint from a recent paint job.  Plugs and switches are also fairly inexpensive and easy to find.  Together, these are two good reasons to spend an hour or so (for the average room) and replace your plugs and switches.

When you’re finished, you’ll find that this makes the perfect finishing touch to all of the other hard work you’ve done.  Usually, new hardware and covers will provide a sharp, clean contrast to the new paint on your ceiling, walls and trim.

In our half bath, there were only three devices to replace: one GFI plug and two switches (one for the overhead light and one for the fan).  You can see these below.

C622C4EF-6EDB-4D2D-B5C5-BD49FA08571DGFI is short for “ground fault circuit interrupter.”  In layman’s terms, this device is a type of circuit breaker placed closer to areas with greater shock risks.  To get even more layman, you’ll see these types of plugs in areas of your home, such as bathrooms, where there is an electrical outlet close to water.  The idea is that if you drop your hair dryer, which is plugged into a GFI outlet,  into a sink full of water, the GFI plug will trip and you’ll be spared death by electrocution.

So, since this plug is very near our pedestal sink, there is a GFI plug nearby.  (In fact, in our home, this GFI circuit also includes the plugs from our master bath, which is close by.)  This type plug isn’t quite as cheap as a normal one and will set you back $10 or so, but that’s cheaper than burial expenses.

These plugs aren’t hard to install, but I’m not going to tell you how to do it because I don’t want your estate to sue me after you electrocute yourself.  Instead, here’s a handy how-to link.

The last part of the electrical work involves replacing two switches.  Again, I’m not going to tell you how to do this.  Instead, I’ll let this guy from The Home Depot tell you.

I do want to point out one thing, though.  Take a look at the picture below and note the pink box.

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What you see inside the pink box is a section of wire with the insulation cut off.  This happened when the drywall (sheetrock) in our home was being installed way back in the early 1990s.

Typically, when a home is being built, the electrical boxes for switches and plugs will be installed when the walls are bare (i.e. the drywall hasn’t been hung).  Then the electrical wires will be pulled through the house to the electrical outlets, switches, lights, etc.  After the wire has been pulled, it will be rolled up and stuffed into the electrical boxes and then the drywall will be hung through out the house.

In the old days – like before the early 1990s I suppose, the drywall workers would actually take the time to cut the drywall to fit around these electrical boxes.  However, some genius figured out this took too long and so the drywall folks just started slapping the drywall on the walls directly over the boxes.  Afterwards, they would go through the house with a saw and cut openings in the drywall for the boxes.  Unfortunately, though, when done this way, the electrical wires often get cut through.

Is this a fire hazard?  Technically, yes.  You never want exposed wires with electrical current running through them.  That’s pretty obvious.  Practically, though, I suppose in our case this wasn’t a huge risk because these wires have been exposed since 1991 and the house didn’t burn down.

So another benefit of replacing the plugs and switches is that I can put a few rounds of electrical tape around these bare spots and hopefully reduce any remaining risk.  At least I hope so.

Wednesday Project: The Toilet

The renovation of our roomy five by five half bath continues.  So far, we’ve scraped wallpaper, re-surfaced the walls and repainted the room.  That brings us all the way back to re-installing the toilet and the sink.

Originally, our plan was to keep the original pedestal sink and toilet.  They were both in nice condition and we were especially concerned about replacing the older toilet with a new model.  The newer models are engineered to be a little more efficient – i.e. they are supposed to use less water, and that can translate into less flushing power.

But two things changed our mind.  First, we needed to remove both the toilet and the pedestal sink as we scraped wallpaper and re-surfaced the walls.  Second, both of these were beige and we figured out that color would clash with the new wall and trim color.  So, we bit the bullet and purchased a new toilet, pedestal sink and faucet.  (We were able to re-use the toilet in an upstairs bathroom to replace a unit that was worn out and we may save the pedestal sink to possibly use in the future.)

So, when the painting was all finished, we decided to put the toilet in first.  Although fooling with toilets is nasty business in general, it’s a fairly easy job to install one.  Here’ are the general steps (assuming the original toilet is gone and the new toilet is assembled):

  1. Place the two toilet bolts into the toilet flange.
  2. Place the toilet seal ring on the bottom of the toilet.
  3. Pick up the toilet and place it down over the flange and make sure the bolts go through the holes on each side of the toilet.
  4. Press down on the toilet to make sure the ring flattened and sealed properly.
  5. Put the washers and nuts on the toilet bolts and tighten (but not too much).
  6. Connect the water to the toilet (again, don’t over tighten).
  7. Turn on the water.

Voila!  Your toilet should be in business.

Generally, if you are going to have problems, you’ll know it right away.  Usually, those problems will have to do with your water connection.  If you’ve sealed the toilet properly and have not overtightened the bolts, you usually won’t have problems with water moving out of the toilet.  Always keep a bucket and some towels handy to clean things up quickly if you do happen to spring a leak.

Our new model looks like this:

A Toilet in a Gray Room

As you can see, this model is more long than it is wide and this seems to help the toilet to have a good solid feel to it.  Also, the tank doesn’t shake or have much play in it.

Wednesday Project: Painting

Last week, we spent some time talking about “preparing our walls.”  The idea behind this was to get our walls ready – in this half bath – to be painted.

No matter what you are painting that job will look no better than the quality of your wall surface under the paint.  If your walls are bumpy and pock marked under the paint, then the finished product will look bumpy and pock marked.  In our case, we made a valiant effort to prepare the walls, so we’re as ready as we’ll ever be to apply some paint.

Let’s take this step by step…

Oops – More Primer

I left off one final step in wall preparation last week, but it’s mostly all right because that step fits in nicely here.  What is that step?  After you’ve finished skim-coating your walls, you’ll need to apply one more coat of primer to the walls.  This will help “seal” the freshly applied and sanded sheetrock compound and will help your regular paint to be applied more efficiently (as in the paint won’t soak into the wall quite as much).

Tape the Edges

Some do and some don’t, but I do.  Tape the trim edges, that is.  I’ve done it both ways – and there are plusses and minuses to both, but I just do a better job with tape.  So I taped everything.

Paint

Once the edges are taped, I apply the paint.  I use a nine inch roller and pan to apply the paint and then use a brush to paint the edges.

Some folks are able to finish their wall with one coat, but in all my two plus decades of painting, I’ve never been able to make walls look good with just one coat.  So I use two and that works almost every time.

Once I’ve applied two coats to the walls, I remove the tape and then tape the edges of the painted wall so that I can paint the trim.  The same logic for taping applies here.  I usually apply two coats of paint to the trim as well.

After the trim is painted, the tape can be removed and…voila!  Below you can see the beautiful grayish color that contrasts nicely with the sharp trim.

A Toilet in a Gray Room