Color coordination (Beach house #47)

November 5th, 2017

If I’m picking out tile, the end is in sight!

The bathroom has been framed and the plumber’s going to let us know when he can come out next week. Time to prepare for when he’s gone!

Dreaming of the day when the bathrooms are ready to be tiled, I went to my local tile/flooring wholesale place this past weekend. I brought Sofía, half to get her opinion and half because I didn’t want her to sit at home all day playing video games – and she was amazing y’all. Nine years old, and the child already has a sense of style.

I mean, I didn’t always agree with her – I can only pray she some day outgrows her love of sparkles – but it’s thanks to her that we settled on the final color scheme that we did. I gave her a choice of three different 12×12 field tiles and she chose this gray one. She also insisted on the river pebbles for the shower pan, and the herringbone marble for the backs of the shower/bath niches. So I guess this is more or less her own creation:


“MOM. We can leave here with whatever but you are NOT ALLOWED to leave without that herringbone!” (Yes, really. She was adamant. She also had very strong opinions about tumbled travertine.)

We tried various other combinations, for instance with subway tile up the sides of the alcoves instead (the wood pieces are trim from the Beach House in order to verify color coordination):


Or with a darker tile for the alcove instead of the same tile:


But in the end we just went ahead with our original picks. It’s bigger tile which means it’s simpler and less time-consuming than doing two full alcoves in subway tiles. We’re going to use a dark grey grout.

Sofía seemed very proud of herself. But also very bored by that point, since it took us like two full hours.

The best part? The tile was all on clearance from the wholesaler which means I got this tile for an absolutely ridiculous price – about half what I’d been budgeting back when I was looking at Lowe’s bottom-of-the-line tiles. And that’s even with some natural stone included so it’s going to look super high-end! Are you kidding me?? I ran out of there FAST so they couldn’t call me back and tell me they made a mistake.

I’m getting excited!

Bathrooms taking shape (Beach house #46)

November 3rd, 2017

First to put down the subfloors:



I had to install blocking between the rafters in order to erect the wall between the bathrooms. I also had to remove the now-obsolete attic stairs and replace the joist that they had interrupted – that was not a fun morning. But it got done.


I was using the cement boards – which are exactly 60″, the length of a tub – to make double-sure that my walls stayed exactly the same length apart. I added another 1/4″ to give the plumbers room enough to slightly maneuver the tub into place.

And the front wall goes up! Before I built the walls I had to first mark out the vanities, tub/shower, and toilets to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently put a stud right where the plumbing needed to be.


It was so lucky that the front wall goes exactly behind that beam. I was really worried for a minute that I’d have to cut into the beam in some way – but all I had to do was remove the quarter-round on one side and it’s going to fit perfectly into place.

And now for something completely different (Beach house #45)

November 1st, 2017

With the back porch pretty much ready for the siders, it was time to move inside and get things ready for the trades to be able to come in!

First, the plumbers. Let’s get those bathrooms ready!

Here’s the original bathroom. Pay no attention to the toilet: it’s not actually attached to anything. And the water line feeding it has been leaking for about 50 years and completely rotted out the floors and joists beneath. Details, details.


This is what it looked like from the living room, while we were fixing the wall between it and the bedroom.


And later, working on the subfloor:


So in order to extend the bathroom up to the edge of the new bedroom hallway, I had a lot of stuff to get rid of.


A LOT of stuff.


And that pile there is just from the floors.

It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be to pull up. I had been expecting sheets of plywood , I suppose, but get this – it was planks. The original hardwood flooring! 3 or 4 inch wide pine. Unfortunately they were covered with a thick layer of black adhesive and topped what I have to assume were asbestos linoleum tiles. Those tiles have to have been the reason that the current oak floor was just laid down over the top – nobody wants to deal with asbestos removal.


Finally got it all clean! Now the fun starts!

The porch that never ends (Beach house #44)

October 30th, 2017

Side wall of back porch finished: Check. (except for removing the doggie door, which will have to come later).

Back wall of back porch finished: Check. No caveats. Yay!

Other side wall of back porch… well, damn.


That there wall is definitely not framed to code. No way, no how. The whole thing had to come down. Along with the rafter above it, which is the other thing I had been dreading and putting off forever.

That rafter was so rotted that I couldn’t even use a sawzall to cut it free, because the nails in it just flapped around in the sawdust-like wood. After jacking up the roof near it to relieve pressure on it, I got out a hammer and I swear it took only maybe 5 strokes for the entire thing to come crumbling down.

It crumbled into so many pieces that I had a hard time fitting them together again later to provide a template for the new rafter!

Guys, 2x8x10-foot boards are freaking heavy. That thing was hands-down the hardest thing that I personally have yet had to do on this house – and I sure didn’t expect it to be. But it took me three full hours to get it in place – three hours of sweating and grunting and swearing. I had to drill screws into the opposite post at 9″ intervals so I could ratchet the rafter up them one by one, wedging pivoting it on the end that goes into the house.

But I got it done!


Even though it made me feel like a total wimp. Didn’t help that it probably would have taken like ten minutes if I’d had someone to help! :) But my go-to guy charges $500/day (he brings a team) and things are especially tight right now, so I had to suck it up.


Woot! Now time to move on to the inside.

One more wall finished (Beach house #43)

October 28th, 2017

Once the ceiling panels were gone, swapping out the plates & rotted studs didn’t take that long.

The sheathing did, though. I used reclaimed exterior-grade plywood from Second Chance and it was heavy. 1″ might not seem like that much, but a full 8′ sheet of 1″ plywood is pretty much impossible for me to lift. I slid and tilted and pivoted and flopped them all the way up the hill to where I could chop them in half with the circular saw.

And they were STILL a huge pain in the butt and took me FOREVER. Hence the nighttime shot when I was halfway done and finally gave up and went home.


But! Once they were up we were ready to rock and roll.


Oh, man. New sheathing (even new-old sheathing) looks so nice and neat on a building, I LOVE IT SO MUCH. (Dang it, I wish I would have gotten a “before” picture.)

I replaced the door that was there before with the now-obsolete first front door (that had been one-upped by a much nicer one that I found on clearance at HD). And I installed my second window ever!


You guys that thing weighs about 35 pounds, which doesn’t sound like much, but just picture standing on a stepladder and hoisting it up over your head while holding it just by the bottom and praying that it doesn’t tip over and smash down around the top of your head like a necklace of gory, gory death. And of stupidity. That too.


But I got it in! I even managed to save the moulding from before so I wouldn’t have to do my own mitered corner cuts. Hooray! Miter cuts suck and I hate them with a hate that shines like fire! Yay!

I tore down the old nasty cardboard siding from the back wall along with a bunch of termite-rotted sheathing boards. Because these were about 1″ thick and I only had 5/8″ plywood on hand, I had to shim out all the studs so the surface would be at least approximately flush. Flush enough, anyway, to attach future panelling or drywall or whatever.


Beach house #42 – Arsonist squirrels

October 26th, 2017

Once the posts were replaced, all I had to do was remove the moldy sheathing and the studs that had rot problems.


But before I could tackle replacing the base and top plates, I had to remove the ceiling panels. First step, take down light fixture.


Hmmmmm. The porch light had been connected to the ceiling by two screws. The wiring, though – well, that wasn’t connected to anything at all.

So I looked up:


Huh. No junction box. Nothing. There were, however, two naked, unconnected, loose, live wires.

And… straw? So I took down the rest of the ceiling panels and:



Damn squirrels. You guys, even after those panels were torn out and thrown in the dump it smells so bad like pee out there. In the open air. UGH. (See the wires coming in from the left, lovingly nestled into that mess of incredibly-dry straw?)

…Maybe the squirrels that build that straw nest were trying to help me burn the place down?



Beach house #41 – Starting on the back

October 24th, 2017

Ugh, you guys, I had been dreading working on the back porch for so long. Putting it off because frankly, it was out of my comfort zone – WAY out of my comfort zone.


I can’t believe I didn’t get a better “before” picture, but the amount of termite damage rivaled what we found on the front porch. Remember?


Well, maybe not quite that bad. But still not good.

I was putting this off because in order to replace the support posts on either side, I was going to have to first jack up the whole roof.

Josh was super encouraging.

life insurance text

He asked me to remind him what company our life insurance policy was with.

In the end, it turned out to just not be that big of a deal. I got a $19 jack from Lowe’s and built a sort of doubled up stud/ram thing that reached the roof. I hacked out enough base plate to enable the jack to sit firmly on concrete, and then I just started cranking that lever til the 4×4 beam raised up about one inch from the top of the posts.


Easy as pie. Or box-mix brownies. Or something else that’s easy, because pie really isn’t all that easy. Delicious, though.

Mmmm, pie.


So yeah, that’s what happened as soon as I gave the newly-freed post a few good whacks. Fun times.

The bottom was easy – practically nothing there but a single skinny, rusted-out bolt, and the wood was so rotted that it just disintegrated. The top though, was held in place by what I swear were tent stakes. The sawzall made quick work of those, though, and then a little bit of work later…


Voila. A proper anchor, complete with base plate that will prevent future termite infiltration.


And a new, pressure treated post.

Yay for not-falling-down-houses! And for not collecting life insurance!

Beach house #40 – A shiny winter jacket

October 22nd, 2017

Because my guys ripped down all the house shingles a little earlier than I’d wanted them to, I needed to get the house covered up again as soon as I could. I got all the sheathing work done on the back and put a nice drip edge along the bottom to prevent the rain splash-up that was probably responsible for the terrible condition of those particular boards. You’re not supposed to put sheathing so close to the ground for that very reason.


This stuff will prevent rain from being able to splash up onto the boards. But the bottom is left open so that any water that does get inside – did you know siding isn’t watertight? I didn’t – can drain back out again. I also used only pressure-treated boards along that bottom area. Hopefully we’ve averted a real problem from happening in the future.

Did I tell you I figured out what caused the moldy walls, by the way? Not just the old cardboard siding that was acting as a sponge and keeping moisture pressed up against the house all the time, but also the two vapor barrier layers. One inside the house and one outside. I didn’t know this either, but it makes sense – water condensates in the wall when the heat from your home meets the chill from the outside, and the reverse too. Makes sense. So you can put up vapor barrier on one side – the outside – to prevent excess moisture from ever making it in – but then you have to leave the wall open on the other side so it can breathe and dry out again. Putting up vapor barrier on both sides only traps the condensation in there and mold, mold, mold. (#TodayILearned).


And then I got to give the house a little bling! Insulating the exterior of the building with rigid foam will help prevent condensation in the first place. It’s not R-8 or anything, but hey, R-3 is still better than what was there before… which was nothing.


So we’re secure with vapor barrier only on the outside of the house, every seam taped and airtight, and a little winter jacket up too.

I’ve only got to completely reframe all the nasty wood in the back porch… and then the siders can come!

Beach house #39 – New bathroom window

October 15th, 2017

Did I tell you I found a window for free?

I knew I needed a new bathroom window because the window that was in the bathroom before, let into the porch. I thought that was a kind of weird arrangement… and really put a crimp in my plans to put the laundry in the porch. I had wanted to use the window I had, but it was far too wide for the bit of wall that remained outside the porch. So I needed a new window.


I was fretting up and down the aisles in Home Depot when I found a window with no price tag or corresponding area. When I asked, it turned out to be a window that they no longer sell. Plus it was missing the bottom sash. So they offered it to me for free since they were going to put it in the garbage. Then the department manager, whom I’d been chatting with, figured out that she could get a replacement lower sash through Anderson’s warranty program!

It was just the right size, too. 24″ wide, just a bitty little thing.


Of course …. now what it means is that there’s a window in the shower. :(


But even though the window is smaller, there’s more light coming in now.


This is the very first window I’ve done by myself start to finish. It was so much easier than I’d thought, though I’m still not great at doing trim.


Beach house 38 – In which I flood the floors with concrete

October 6th, 2017

So after the construction guys finished replacing joists, the new subfloor didn’t match up with the old. The last time he was here my carpenter pointed out that there was now a big dip in the middle of the bathroom floor –  almost a full inch! While it didn’t stand out terribly, there was simply no way we could put flooring over that and not have it crack or separate. And you just can’t put more plywood over a gap like that and hope it stays – it won’t. Not for all the shims in the world.

Which meant there was one solution – and it involved me getting to play with self-leveling underlayment.

I covered every single crack in the floor with duct tape and then mixed up a whole bag with 5 quarts of water in a 5-gallon pail. I had to bring the water from home in a 7-gallon jug, since we still have no plumbing of any kind.

Then I just…. poured it on the floor.

Yes, I will admit to some trepidation.

I had just spent a huge enormous unspeakable sum of money to solve damage caused by moisture (and termites, but they came because of the moisture). And then I poured like 5 gallons of soupy concrete onto that newly-repaired floor. And I had to do that twice.


It worked a lot better the second time, once I realized that the concrete would set slower if the dry floor weren’t sucking water out of it. So I splashed around a great deal with a mason jar full of jug-water and then used a broom I didn’t care about too much to smear/mop that water all around until the floor was evenly moist. The broom worked great once the concrete was poured, too, being used in place of a giant squeegee to gently coax the leveler to spread out into a nice feathered edge.

As soon as it dries it’ll be ready for some lovely new subfloor and concrete board! Well, as soon as I figure out what to do with that daggum old toilet flange, anyway.