Cabinets in! (Beach house #71)

March 11th, 2018

Huh, post #71. I wonder if I’ll get the house finished before post #100? I’m going to close my eyes and cross my fingers and wish for yes.

Meanwhile, cabinets!


We worked Saturday afternoon and got all the wall cabinets in. The color comes pretty close to matching the beams, like I’d hoped.

Ta da!


We were very, very proud of ourselves. (The beams are not really this dark. I don’t know why they look that way in photos.)

Then… then I realized I’d put in a 15″ right in the middle where the 18″ was supposed to go. So I had to take the last three down, move them over, switch out the weenie one, and put them back up. And then I realized that I’d put them all up 6″ too far left and I had to take them all down – every single one – and put them up again. By myself.

Got it all done in one day though. And I bet I have pretty strong arms now because they were quivering by the end of the day.

The bottom cabinets took me another few days, not because cabinets are difficult to install – they aren’t, as long as you don’t make stupid mistakes like I did – but because I could not figure out the wonky floors. No matter what I did, how much I shimmed, they were always off in one direction or other. I ended up taking my level and using it to draw a line from one side of the kitchen to the other, where it ended up hovering a good 5/8″ above the tops of the base cabinets I had already installed.

So I took them all apart again and got a stud and started ripping 5/8″ strips off it, knowing I’d have to raise the floor just like I had to in the TV room. Then something occured to me…

and I used my laser level.

And the cabinets had been perfect to begin with.

My level was totally off the entire time. The level itself is aluminum, but the bubble part is attached with screws… which had come loose.

So, I had to go put the cabinets all back together again which involved much swearing…


But I got them all in just in time for the countertop templater to come and make his template.

Of course, I’d forgotten to buy a kitchen sink first though so now I need to remember to fax the model number to them before they can actually install the dang counter!

So embarrassing, the whole thing. So glad it’s done. Though it’s really cool to see it come to life! A real, honest to goodness kitchen.

Electrical trim-out is scheduled for next week, so we’ll have lights too! (As long as I can remember to buy brackets for all the second-hand lights that I bought from Second Chance. One of the electricians pointed out that they don’t actually have anything with which to attach them to the boxes…. doh!)

Soapstone, harbinger of cabinets (Beach house #70)

March 6th, 2018

I ordered countertops!

I have to admit, I don’t actually have cabinets yet. Or rather, I have them… all clustered together in a forlorn huddle in corner of the old kitchen. Still in boxes. Most decidedly not hung and arranged on the walls.

The plan is to get them up quick this weekend before the templaters get here next week. What could possibly go wrong?

I found these Chesney Rouge cabinets at a local wholesale place. I had been about to buy white cabinets, but then these just happened to be the exact warm reddish brown hue of the ceiling beams and the floors. Plus, they are all-wood frames and soft-close doors but at a wholesale price… perfect!

Then to Home Depot for countertops, which turned out to be about 3x as expensive as I’d thought and totally gobbled up all the savings from the cabinets. Sigh.

I was considering this:


or this:


or even these, real (cheapest) granite on a clearance sale:

IMG_20180224_160429 IMG_20180224_160510

But even though it was only a very small bit more in price, I decided against granite because of the maintenance involved. And the potential for stains (pretty sure we can’t tell renters not to drink red wine or orange juice.)

Finally I decided on this one:


I adore soapstone, and this is a fair approximation (in person). It’s actually laminate, of course – real soapstone is perhaps the very worst possible choice for a countertop that will get some real use. So buttery, though. So smooth. Mmm.

Anyway. This one lacks butteriness but does sport a nice soft greige never before seen in nature. It’ll go nicely with the wall color and the warm cabinets, while the pattern won’t compete with the marble tiles I found for the backsplash (I hope). It wasn’t the cheapest laminate, though still cheaper than the very cheapest granite or Corian (and let’s not even mention quartz, that lately-come darling of the HGTV gurus.)

Templaters come on Friday, installation a couple weeks after that. Cross your fingers that I can actually get this project completed on time!


99% tile (Beach house #69)

March 4th, 2018

So close! Only the shower curb left to do. I’d have gotten it finished today if I hadn’t had to stop twice during the day and make two separately 40 minute round trips – one for a single extra box of tile and one for a single extra bag of LASH clips. I hate so muuuuuuuuuch when that happens.

GAAAAAH. I get so focused. It’s ridiculously hard to tear myself away while something is still not quite finished. But the school bus delays its schedule for no man, and I should probably make an effort not to make my kids stand out shivering in the cold just because I wanted to fit a few more tiles. Tempting though it may be.


So clooooooooooose! Just the side bottom tub tiles to do!


I am a big fan of the running bond (brick) pattern. But I spent way too long trying to figure out a perfect, elegant way of lining up the tiles so that both the toilet flange and the air vent would end up on tile seams, which would mean I could avoid plunge cuts, while lining everything else up perfectly too… I failed.

I will never be able to not stare loathingly at that one thin little strip in the front. Oops.

Things are not all bad though. Carlos had given me anxiety attacks by saying that the 13×13 tile would look stupid on the shower walls. (My idea had been to have less grout to clean. I HATE CLEANING GROUT.)

I think it looks fantastic.



Starting to tile! (Beach House #68)

March 2nd, 2018

So, I was supposed to have been done with tiling last week. In order to stay on schedule  for refinancing in mid-April, by when I want to have EVERYTHING TOTALLY FINISHED and already rented. Needless to say, things always take longer than I think they will.


Preparation took about half the time. It is so important to get the bottom-most row absolutely frickin’ perfectly level. And even if you do, odds are you’ll still find yourself inserting shims here and there as you climb the wall anyway. Cuz you want the seams to all line up, and stuff.


Those yellow clips are the LASH tile leveling system. They work pretty darn good – they pull adjacent tiles into the same plane so the faces are nice and flat with minimal “lippage”. I’m going to use them for everything from now on. Yes, they’re pricy – I think I bought 4 or 5 bags of clips for these two bathrooms, at $9 each – but totally worth it.

Of course if you have straighter walls, or you do a better (any?) job of leveling and shimming your studs before you actually install the cement board, you’d probably have less of a problem than I did. Ahem.


Getting close… only a few tiles left…

From all the abrasive thinset, and from wrestling stuck sharp tile edges for the past five days, my fingers feel like they have fire blisters on the tip of every single one.

At least Josh and the girls are helping me start the painting (what I was REALLY supposed to have been doing this week). I’d put a picture up, but one of the littles decided to do their painting with no pants on. Perhaps not a photo for the Christmas letter, then.


Oh yeah glamor shot (Beach house #64b)

March 1st, 2018

Forgot to throw in a picture of the finished hardwoods in the new TV room. This isn’t exactly a “glamor” shot by any means, but at least you can kinda see the whole floor. Kinda. Also, no tools.


Yay, room with wood floors, ta-da.

Since this room is currently packed full of boxes containing twenty-odd cabinets waiting to be hung, I doubt I’ll see these lovely floors again for quite a while.

Waterproofed – adventures in rubber paint (Beach house #67)

February 28th, 2018

I was so confused for so long when people would talk about a “waterproof membrane.” I thought it was some kind of plastic sheeting or something until I realized it was painted on. How cool is that? It’s like this rubber/plastic paint. It goes on like normal with brush and roller, but it’s thick as peanut butter.

Every brand has their own color. I went with Lowe’s.


It’s yellow. Like a raincoat. I like it.

I also bought fiberglass mesh tape – which, for extra confusion, is also called waterproofing membrane.

 That got smooshed with nice sticky layers of paint on both sides and carefully pushed into all the corners and edges, and even along where the tub/shower curb meet the floor, and especially in all the corners of the shampoo niches.

Then two layers of the rubber paint membrane, one applied horizontally and one vertically, with plenty of time to cure in between coats, and voila!


A rubber ducky shower.

I thought it looked kind of thin until later when I had to try to change part of it and it was really hard to cut with a boxcutter. It was like a shell of hard plastic. I was a bit skeptical before but I’m a believer now.


Showers up! (Beach house #66)

February 21st, 2018

I finished the shower and bath structures!

The Durock was pretty easy. Anything I couldn’t cut with a boxcutter came out easily with a sawzall.


You can’t puncture the PVC liner with screws, so you can’t use Durock on the shower curb. You have to build it out of metal lathe and mortar instead. I beat it into shape first between a few studs first so that the bends would be crisp – and beat a couple of my fingertips too.

Blood, sweat, and tears, I’m telling you. The rehabber’s trifecta.

I also got the durock on the floors mortared down with thinset and screwed every 8-10 inches. So those will be ready to tile pretty soon.

The hardest part was the shower pan. I knew it would be – I’ve probably watched just about all the Youtube tutorials.

First I had to get a level all the way around, with a minimum thickness of 2-3 inches – and then adjust the drain to the exact height that would give the pan the right amount of slope. Sounds easy, but it has to be just perfect.


Oh yeah, I got my first layer of mortar on the curb too. It came out pretty nice and square. It takes a different kind of mortar than the thinset or the pan mortar.

My shower pan came out rougher than the ones I saw on Youtube, or maybe that’s a function of seeing mine up close and touching it vs. seeing it on a video the size of a cell phone. The slope is good though, and that’s what’s important.


It is funny how it looks so flat in this photo. In real life there is a decided slope to it, all nice and neat down towards the drain,especially on the shortest sides. Up close it certainly doesn’t look as beautiful or smooth as the ones in the tutorials. I’m not too worried though. It’ll all get smoothed over with thinset. And in any case, as long as water runs downhill it can’t be too bad, right?

The drain is up from the surface by about 1/16″ less than the thickness of the tile I’m going to use for the floor. The idea being, of course, that it rests lower than the tiles so the water can flow into it.

I waited overnight for the pan to harden enough to walk on, then spent today covering all the seams with fiberglass mesh – much like drywall mesh tape but a different formulation to withstand concrete’s alkalinity – with thinset. That was actually pretty enjoyable once I got the hang of it.


I decided to cut a shower niche into the bathtub wall as well.


Well technically, I decided to go back and excavate the shower niche that I’d framed out, that Carlos had Durocked over (he did the bathtub walls). It was tempting to leave it hidden – easier, faster, and cheaper to tile! – but personally, I hate it when there’s nowhere to put all the shampoo bottles in bathtubs. I’ve never really understood why there are usually niches in showers but not in baths.

Tomorrow the newly thinsetted seams, edges, corners, etc. will be dry enough for me to cover with a waterproof fiberglass fabric and waterproofing “liquid membrane” (goopy, paintable silicone-ish stuff). A few days after that, the shower pan should be dry enough for me to waterproof it and everything else, too, and then I can start actual tiling!

Rocking on (Beach house #65)

February 18th, 2018

I got to play with Durock cement board a bit today. It was pretty rewarding actually – not difficult, I didn’t make any bad cuts, and everything fit into place nice and neat. Not bad for a first time ever.


By the end of the week (my new deadline for tile prep), I need to have those boards cemented down with Thinset and screwed down with the special cement screws I bought.

I even got to start rocking in the shower, the very last part that needs to be done!


I wasted some time re-framing the shower niche after I realized that if I raised the top by just a couple inches, taking into account the thickness of the cement board and the tiles themselves and the cool marble threshold I want to use as a lip/ledge on the bottom, I should be able to avoid cutting any awkward rectangles out of the surrounding 12×12 tiles. (At least, I hope I measured that right.) It looks really tall in the photo but it’ll be just a standard 12×24 when finished.

My plan is to have the cement boards up and taped tomorrow, and the shower pan poured by Friday or Saturday. If I do then I’m on schedule to start tiling next week, and painting the week after that!

New hardwoods (Beach House #64)

February 16th, 2018

I love putting down new finish flooring. It’s not difficult (usually) and it makes a big difference, fast.

Of course in this house there had to be problems here making it suck way worse than it ever should, but even so this was a pretty rewarding phase of the project once I figured out how to tackle the challenges.

First of all, it wasn’t until I set a sheet of drywall across the floor lengthwise that I realized how out-of-true the floor was. It had a very visible hump down the middle – about 3/4″ on one side, and about 3/8″ down from the crown on the other. Hard to see in pictures but once a long straight-edge was put across it, super obvious. Of course this house couldn’t just have level subfloors. That is too much to ask. 


You can’t see it here because those skinny boards are misleadingly bendy. 

Not an insurmountable problem though – I looked around and did some research and figured out that I had options. I could either 1) tear out the subfloor, level the joists underneath, shim, etc and reinstall subfloor again or 2) do as floorers generally do and use strips of roofing felt and shingles to shim up any gaps. (I couldn’t use self-levelling concrete because I was planning on nailing the floor.)

Can you guess which option I chose?


I even already had all the stuff on hand. And at first, it wasn’t too bad.


But it got worse, and about a third of the way across the room the floor suddenly started sloping towards the window, as well. And not in a nice, even slope either. One corner dipped, and there were a couple random humps thrown in for good measure.

I lost my faith in asphalt strips and decided to abandon the faithless subfloor altogether. I built “sleepers” into the floor that I could nail into instead of into the subfloor. This is a technique traditionally found when installing hardwoods onto concrete, but it worked here perfectly.

Each of these sleepers had to be painstakingly, individually measured, scribed, cut and planed to fit the contours of the floor every 8-10 inches while remaining flat and level in every direction.


Boy, was the floor messed up…about 1.5″ in the worst parts!

So that took me an entire 10 hour workday and now I have holes in the knees of both my work jeans, and I hate my jigsaw with a bitter passion, and I will probably have wood dust in my lungs until I am 67. (I have masks. Somewhere. I just can’t find them.) But the sleepers are cemented down AND screwed in with 2.5″ screws, and they provided a delightfully sturdy base for me to lay the rest of the oak boards on.


Which I did using both glue AND nails, just in case. I’d rather have overkill than midnight anxiety attacks about someone falling through the floor. Or whatever.


I had to dip into a case of the finished boards at the very end there, but the color difference doesn’t matter since we’re going to refinish all the floors anyway. In fact I kind of wish I’d used them from the start – they seemed a higher quality and gave me hardly any splinters worth cussing at. As opposed to the other 3/4 of the boards in the room.


I’ll try and remember to stick a whole-room glamour shot in here as soon as I get all the tools tidied up. One more project checked off the list!

Real walls! (Beach house #63)

February 14th, 2018

The drywall is pretty much done, except for the back bathroom (which is waiting for one final electrician visit to move a junction box). The house is starting to look like a house, and it’s soooooo refreshing. I’m starting to feel like there will be an end to this some day.

Living room:



Entry to the bedrooms:


(Those stilts are so cool! I want some of those!)

If you remember, here are the plans:

bathrooms current


Bedroom 1:


(This is where I discovered that I somehow, stupidly, made all the closet headers an inch too low and so now I have to cut down all the closet doors to fit – UGH)

Bedroom 2:


TV room (old kitchen):


Next task: that floor right up there in the old kitchen.