Just when I thought I might be done working on my hands & knees, I was reminded that I still need to finish the bathroom floor.  I have grand dreams about what this bathroom will end up looking like.  It will have a tile shower & tub combo, recessed lighting, a nice big window and an open concept vanity with a drop-in sink.  It will be lovely, however, getting the bathroom from its current state to that finished product is a daunting prospect.  Especially considering my bathroom currently looks like this:


As you may remember, when I first started looking into renovating the bathroom I discovered that none of the drains were vented.  Here’s a link to that post to refresh your memory:

The Science Of Water Drainage

In order to install the vent I needed to jack hammer the concrete in the bathroom to expose the plumbing.  What began as a little hole, slowly grew into a deep ravine.

small              bigger


Finally, after opening up the entire floor and having a plumber come in to make the necessary changes, I was left with lovely new plumbing sitting inside a giant chasm.  In order to build the subfloor in this room, I need to fill in this giant cavern with concrete.

Initially I though that working with concrete would be fun.  In my mind I had visions of playing in the sandbox as a child.  Enjoying the fresh spring air while meticulously building an elaborate fortified sand-castle.  The acropolis would defend against invading forces by enlisting the help of transformers who wouldn’t cower, even when faced with enemy GI Joe’s flying through the air on My Little Pony Pegasus’ like a synchronized fighter squadron.


Unfortunately, the time sensitive nature of working with concrete did not lend itself to the unpredictable length of imaginary war.  

Before I could even get into pouring concrete, there were a few steps that needed to be completed. First, I had to wrap my new pipes in foam so when the concrete was finally poured and dried they would be protected.  The idea behind this step is that if the concrete were to shift, which it has been known to do in earthquake country, the pipes would have a little wiggle room.


I also decided to pour a light layer of sand into the crevice  and pound it down to make a somewhat firm base to hold the concrete.  Finally, I applied some concrete primer to the walls of the gorge to help the new concrete stick.


With that step complete, it was all about…you guessed it…material aquisition:


Now, in this picture you see 7 bags of concrete.  In the end, I severely underestimated my concrete needs.  After four visits to Lowes, I ended up purchasing 14 bags of concrete to fill my bathroom crater.  At 80lbs each, by the time this job was completed I felt like my arms were about to fall off.

Finally, it was time to pour the concrete.  I did this in two steps.  The first step was mostly about filing up as much of the hole as possible.   I was a lot less concerned about making things look neat & tidy during this initial concrete pour.


Once the first pour of concrete was dry I was able to start on the second layer.  The goal with this second concrete pouring was to level out the floor and make the final product look smooth & tidy.

floor7 floor8

Finally after 4 days, 14 bags of concrete and 2 very sore arms, I was done pouring the concrete.  Once this dries I can build the subfloor and we can get moving with making this bathroom the modern oasis that it is in my dreams.


Now that the In Law unit has a floor we can start addressing items that are at eye level. It’s a long way down to the ground when you’re as tall as I am, so the thought of working on tasks that don’t require kneeling on the ground is a very exciting prospect!  Also exciting is having a chance to practice my James Dean lean on a product of my making.


That’s right, it’s time to build a wall!  Now originally I was concerned that building a wall would be like building a floor, but vertical.  I’m not going to say that building a floor wasn’t satisfying, but for all  you blog readers out there who are considering building a floor, here are a few things to remember:

1)  Floors are not at eye level.

2)  Gravity is not working with you.

3)  Building a floor involves lifting and moving very heavy and very long slabs of wood.  

4)  Nobody really says “wow, look at that awesome sub-floor,” except for people on this blog and I love you for it.

Here’s a picture of where the wall will be going:


Now you might be saying “Beth, why would you build a wall where there is clearly a wall already built?”  That’s an excellent question blog reader.  You see, when we pulled all of the drywall down from this particular wall we found a living wall.  Not the good kind of living wall…


…the kind of living wall that is made out of  mold.


Part of our living wall was being fed by the moisture from the busted poop-pipe, and part of it was being fed by the moisture created due to a lack of insulation.  You see, this wall, which use to be part of the original house (hence the old siding), is separating the In Law unit from the garage.  The previous owner just slapped some drywall up onto the old siding and called it a day.

Eventually, hidden from the prying eyes of the public, behind the veil of drywall, the cold air from the garage started having a secrete rendezvous with the warm sultry air of the In Law unit.  The result of their romance was a living wall made up entirely of mold.

Now that their love children have finally been kicked out of the house, like any disgruntled step-parent I’d like to encourage them to explore the world & maybe get a job creating biofuels, but most importantly not move back home.


To make sure they don’t move back in, I will be framing a wall over their former home (the siding) and will eventually fill that wall with closed cell spray foam.  The spray foam will both insulate and act as a moisture barrier between the cool garage and the warm In Law unit.

I began this task like all other tasks, with material acquisition:


Once that was done I was able to start framing the wall.  Before kicking off this leg of the project I did quite a bit of research regarding how to frame a wall.  One set of videos I found really handy were from this guy:

Home Remodel Workshop

Based on what I learned online, I framed the wall every 16″, and tried to make sure the wood was all crowning the same direction.  Now, I know what you’re asking, “what is this lady talking about…crowning?”  Well, first of all, thanks for calling me a lady.  Second, every piece of wood has a bow or a crown.  That means it arcs in one direction.  If you don’t make sure all of the arcs go in the same direction, when you cover that framing in drywall you’ll have a wavy wall.   Maybe this illustration will help:


With all of the crowns marked, I was able to get the wall framed pretty quickly.


Once this was done, I was able to switch my attention to building a soffit around a few pipes that were attached to the wall.


I’ve never built a soffit before, but how hard can it be?  After taking a lot of measurements to make sure I was building something square & level, this is what I ended up with:



I still need to frame out the wall under the new soffit but before doing that I need to make some adjustments to the bathroom door.

Overall, I think that building the wall over the weekend was quickest task so far in the “My First Renovation” project.  I’m either getting better at this DIY thing, or the hardest work is behind me.  Let’s hope both are true.

I know what you’re thinking…”finally, the end of the floor building saga!”  (Okay, maybe that’s what I’m thinking).  Either way, we’re correct!  It’s true!  This is the last post on building a sub-floor.  I’m sure there will be other posts about laying hardwood, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  

For those of you just joining us, feel free to catch up by checking out the last two posts on building a floor:

Building A Floor, Part 1

Building A Floor, Part 2

Originally I was planning on splitting the room into two and building half of the floor now and the other half at a later (to be determined) date.  Some call the process of tackling a large project in smaller, more manageable, bites good project management.  What those jokers clearly aren’t considering is that I am a procrastinator.  I enjoy challenging the laws of physics by stacking my dishes into a Jenga-like tower rather than washing them.


Therefore, in an effort to keep this project from stretching into my golden years, I’ve decided to dump my previous approach and get this monstrosity of a floor finished.

Since I’ve already discussed the process of installing joists & headers in my earlier posts, I’ll give you a summary of that effort on the 2nd half of the room in picture form:

Installing The Rest Of The Joists:

To ensure that the entire room has a level floor, the new Joist Headers needed to be installed at the same height as the previously installed headers.  This is the perfect opportunity to utilize Jetson’s level modern technology.  The laser level!  With one flip of a switch, I was able to shoot a laser-beam around the room and measure off of that level line.


Nothing can take away the joy of using laser-beams.  Even the process of installing a level Joist Header beside a recently replaced poop-pipe and ancient gas line that juts out of the wall.



Unfortunately, the floor is covered in bumps and humps and other uneven things that need to be built around.  This required a little hacking of the joists to make them lay level.


Finally, the joists are built and are ready for some plywood!


Step 7 – Get Some Plywood:

I decided to use a  mixture of pressure treated and regular plywood.  I’m going to put the pressure treated plywood along the walls and anywhere there is a risk of moisture.  Since pressure treated plywood is a little more expensive and isn’t needed on the whole room, the rest of the space will use regular plywood.

All of the plywood is tongue & groove, so it should fit together tightly.


In theory, the tongue should fit snuggly into the groove.  In reality, you have to MAKE the tongue fit into the groove by summoning all of your physical, mental and emotional strength.

After purging yourself of that strength, you will then find the clarity of mind to either cut the tongue off in a swift and satisfyingly decisive whack with a circular saw, or you will take my approach, which was to use a small hand plane to smooth out the tongue so it will slide into the groove effortlessly.

Step 8 – Marking Joists:

Before we move onto laying the plywood we need to mark the joists.  By marking where the joists are, you’ll have a much easier time screwing the plywood into the floor.  Being the techo-geek that I am, I like to use the latest in modern technology to mark my floor joists…the Sharpee and Chalk Line:


Then I just take my chalk line and stretch it from the joist marking to the end of the plywood.  When I get to the point where I’m gluing the plywood down, I’ll I need to do is place screws on that chalk line.

Step 8 – Screwing & Gluing:

Next step, screwing & gluing! That’s exactly what we’re going to do with that plywood.  The plywood is glued to the joists to reduce squeaking, and is then screwed into place to reduce movement.

To prep for the screwing & gluing process, I find it easier to lay things out to make sure the pieces will fit where you expect them to.  In some cases you will need to cut the plywood around obstacles:


Then I lay the plywood down so that the seams are staggered (like when you lay brick).  This will reduce the possibility of them moving along a seam and causing problems down the line with the future hardwood floor.


Then, in a whirlwind of a week you get a FINISHED FLOOR!

Step 9 – Enjoy Your New Sub-Floor!




Ta Da!  A new floor, ready for dance parties and musical reenactments.  I have already certified that one can channel Julie Andrews, and spin wildly in a circle, arms outstretched in joy!  What more does one need from a new floor?



After working on this project over the last month as a lone DIY’er, last week I became a DIO’er (Do It Ourselves’er).  That’s right, I opened up the In Law unit to my contractor’s team!  This was a very exciting step for me.  While I want to be able to utilize my skills to do this entire project, the reality is that there are certain things that I need help with.  Such as, lifting a few-hundred pound support beam into place without snapping myself in half, or repairing a ceiling that is being held up by magic when I can’t even corral animals to do my bidding.  For these little jobs I like to call in reinforcements!

With that said, this is “My First Renovation” and I didn’t want to simply hand over the keys and lay in the hammock all afternoon (although that does sound lovely).   No!  I needed to be in the mix!  Hand me that nail gun and I’ll shoot far too many nails into that piece of wood (on purpose of course!).  


Throw me that circular saw and I’ll cut through that plank at least a two or three times before realizing you wanted that other plank cut!  I’m ready!

What I’m trying to say is that I decided to stick around and help the guys while learning a few things in the process.  The whole experience was really satisfying!  Not only did I learn a ton (like, did you know that you can use the sawzall to saw through nails?  If only I knew that during demolition), but I also got to see exactly what was happening with the In Law unit.  I know the quality of work that was completed and I can tell you exactly what changes were made.  This is very nurturing of my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive) side.

One of the things I love about some blogs are Before & After pictures.  Here are a few for you to enjoy!


troublezone extra

















Hammock time!  Where’s my blended fruity drink?


Wow, what a week!  In between cleaning up residual poop-pipe debris,  hosting a baby shower, babysitting and working my day job, I was able to squeeze in some work on the new floor.  It’s not completely done but I figured I’d at least give you an update.

Unlike my magical thinking would dictate I was unable to rally the local wildlife to help me complete this work.  Frankly, in the end it is probably for the best since getting local wildlife to leave is typically harder than getting them to stay.


Last time I posted, we were finishing up with Step 3 – Site Preparation.  Well, with the site fully prepped and covered with the moisture barrier we’re now officially onto construction.

Since I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much geek-speak, I’ll start out by explaining the basic concept of what I’m trying to do.  In order to navigate around the sloping and uneven concrete foundation, I’m going to build a floor that “floats” above the concrete.  The idea is that I’ll install what they call “joist headers” at each end of the room, and then install floor joists to those headers.    


The floor joists will hover above the uneven concrete, thus (in theory) creating a level floor.  

Now, onto building!

Step 4 – Installing a Joist Header:

The first thing I did was attach two 2×6 Joist Headers to the wall studs on each side of the room.  It was really important that the joist headers were as plumb and level as possible since the floor joists were going to be attached to those headers.  

If the headers aren’t level (one side is higher than the other) or aren’t plumb (they are not installed straight up and down vertically) the floor will slope.



Once the Headers are installed on the two sides of the room, then it’s just about attaching the joists.  Sounds easy enough, right?  

Step 5 – Installing Floor Joists:

First thing you I did was purchase joist hangers.  The joist hangers are sort of the construction world’s strapless bra (for all you ladies out there).  Think of them as the over the shoulder header bolder joist holder hanger.


You can get these joist bras hangers at most hardware stores, and they usually display what size of wood they best accommodate.  Since I’m working with 2×6’s, I purchased hangers that fit that size.

Next, I used the joist hangers (i.e.:  the bras) to hold the floor joists, which stretch the length of the room, to the hangers.  Since that is a lot of “joists” for one sentence, here’s a picture that might help explain what I’m talking about.


I installed the floor joists so that they were level with the header.  That way, when I finally get to installing the plywood it should rest evenly on top.



Each time I installed a floor joist I also had to make sure it was level with all of the other joists I had already installed.  Having a long (72″) level made that much easier.


Step 6 – Adding Support:

While 2×6’s are really strong, I didn’t want the floor to feel “squishy” or to sag since there is just air between the moisture barrier and the bottom of the joist.  To try to reduce the risk of a squishy floor, I took two extra steps.    

First, on the end of the room where the concrete sloping was lower, I screwed 2×4’s to the bottom of the floor joists.  This gave the joists a little more support since otherwise there would just be air underneath.

Second, I installed “nogging,” which are additional supports that go between the floor joists.


I installed the nogging so they are just slightly lower than the floor joists.  That way when I lay the plywood on top, it will actually rest on the joists and not on the nogging.


With this extra support, the floor feels really solid!

In the next installment of Building a Floor, I’ll be laying the plywood.  That’s the fun part!!

I’ve finally moved past the planning phase and onto the floor building phase.  Well, at least half of the floor building.  I’ve decided to split the room, and thus the effort, into two phases.  The main reason for this is because the two halves of the room are significantly different, both in elevation and in their level of disrepair.

The Northern part of the room is newer construction that is in pretty good shape, however, the floor is significantly lower than the rest of the room:


The Southern side of the room needs some pretty major repair work.  I’m bringing in my contractor to help me move one of the structural columns, as well as shore up the ceiling where we found the old (and rotting) deck.  In order to have plenty of room to do that work, I’ll be holding off on building the floor on that side of the room for at least a couple of weeks.


For now, I’ll be focusing my efforts on building the floor on the Northern side of the room.  As you may recall in my last post, I was taking some time off to let my back heal and to come up with a fool-proof attack plan!  Of course, in my mind that plan included huge pieces of wood magically appearing in the work space, cut to the proper length and ready to snap into place in a perfectly level and plum grid.

(I just want to say that I blame Ikea, and Disney movies for my magical thinking)

As it turns out, adorable little birds are too small to carry such heavy wood. Therefore, we will have to take the task of building a floor step by step.  

Step 1, the Plan:

You can refresh your memory by checking out the plan in my last post by clicking here

Step 2, Acquisition Of Materials:

I’m lucky in that San Francisco has a number of locations to purchase lumber;  therefore, I’m never further than a few blocks away from a lumber yard.  With that said, getting the wood home was still quite the task.  I would have loved to have taken a self-portrait of myself, lifting the massive amounts of wood onto my car in full She-ra mode, but in the end it was simply too hard to juggle the camera.  


Despite my lack of physical evidence, I was able to lift the wood onto the car, and drive it home.  


From the car, to the hallway…and done! (well, not quite)


Step 3, Site Preparation:

The In Law unit floor was not only dirty, but also had some major cracks/holes in the concrete.  I’m pretty sure at least one of those holes was Ricky’s front door, which only moderately freaked me out.   I’m sure the trauma of having a zombie rat fly from the rafters at my face will wear off in no time.

I decided that rather than just building on top of the cracked concrete, I would go ahead and take the extra steps to fill in those holes.  I first vacuumed and cleaned the space and then applied a concrete bonding agent.  The bonding agent acts like a glue for the concrete.  Without it, the concrete would have a hard time sticking to the other concrete in the space.


Once the bonding agent was dry I was able to mix the concrete and fill the holes.


I gave the concrete 24 hours to dry, but I’m pretty sure it was the fast setting kind so it would have been ready in just about 3 or 4 hours.

Once it was dry I spread out a sheet of 6 mil plastic moisture barrier that I will be building on top of.  While pressure treated wood should be able to be placed directly on top of concrete without a problem, since this space has been known to have moisture issues I’m taking a few extra steps to try to keep the space dry.


To keep the plastic from sliding around I stapled it to the walls.  Eventually, I will be taping the plastic to a moisture barrier that I will stretch across the wall, creating a sealed (water-resistant) enclosure.  I know it may be hard to picture, but I’ll explain that more when we get to that stage of the project.

Step 4 – Building

Now that the materials are purchased, the floor is clean, the holes are filled, and the concrete is covered with plastic, I can start building.  Unfortunately, those first few steps took pretty much all weekend.  Please stay tuned for Part 2 on building a floor!  Assuming things go as planned, that should be completed this weekend.

With that said, so far things have not gone as planned, so we will see what surprises are in store for me over the next few days.

You may be wondering what has been happening over the last few days.

Perhaps you have a vision of me dressed in my flannel shirt, Carhart pants and protective eyewear, revving power tools dangerously, yet thrillingly, in my hands while willing my In Law unit to build itself using pure intimidation…


I mean, I don’t want to say that you’re wrong, but…

As you may recall, last weekend I made some great progress on projects that required reaching over my head.  Well, what I didn’t mention was that I also made some minimal progress on projects that required me to be hunched over.  Specifically, showing that jack hammer who’s boss.  Well, as it turns out, the jack hammer is boss.  Also, I’ve renamed the jack hammer, the back hammer.

I was able to dig this hole though…

2013-03-23 14.53.46

Unfortunately, it is about half the size that it needs to be for the plumber.  I expect that digging will resume in the next few days.

In the mean time (as I let my back heal so I can once again resume back-hammering) I’ve been in planning mode.  Mostly, I’ve been dreaming about our future subfloor.  For a few reasons, not the least of which is cost, I’ve decided to build a subfloor rather than pour concrete.  This decision requires me to try and access the recesses of my mind for the little bit of geometry that I learned in high-school that remains (much of which has since been replaced by cute kitty memes)


The problem is trying to build a sub-floor to handle all of the varying levels of concrete.


While I’d like to try and keep the floor as low as possible (thus making the room less cave-like), I think I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it will need to be raised up a bit in order for it to be made level.  First, here’s a description of the different components of a framed a floor:


My plan is to use 2″x6″ pressure treated wood to build out the framed sub-floor. I’ll install a header joist on top of the “curb” (aka foundation) and attach it to the wall.  Since I will be using pressure treated lumber, I think I can get away with not installing a ‘sill plate.”  If you have any expertise in this area please feel free to chime in.  Adding the sill plate would raise the floor up another inch & a half, which I’d like to avoid.

From there I’ll frame out the floor.  There is about a 4″ difference in floor height from one side of the floor to the other.  I’ll have to put in a few wedges and 2×4’s to level things out, but I think I can do it.


Looks easy enough.  Considering I’ve never framed anything before, I suspect I’ll learn a lot in the process of building this floor.  I find solace in knowing that the worst that can happen is that it won’t be level or that the floor will feel squishy.  Either way, it’s still an improvement over what the floor is currently like.

The day is finally here!  I’m taking the plunge!  No, I’m not getting married.  Well, not yet that is.  I’m starting my very first renovation!  I’ve been waiting for this day ever sense I was a kid trying to build a skateboard out of a few planks of wood and some caster wheels.  Let’s hope this project turns out better then that one did.

Speaking of project, let me tell you a little bit about what I’m doing.  Last year my fiancé and I purchased a 1920’s Edwardian house.  Our first grown-up house!  It has two bedrooms, a couple bathrooms and an In Law unit.  This In Law is going to be my first renovation project.

To give you a sense of the current state it is in, when you walk in it smells like a fragrant potpourri of mildew and cigarettes.   Years of neglect have made the space less than ideal as a guest room, which is where I come in!  I have no background in construction, but consider myself an avid DIY’er.  I love getting into things and figuring them out.  I love building things with power tools, and looking online for resources to troubleshoot issues.  I’m also a big fan of HGTV and the DIY Network.  Let’s hope all of this “home schooling” has properly prepared me for what I’m in for.


The In Law is not particularly large. Splitting the room in two is a bar that is on a raised platform. I’m not sure what is under that platform, but I’ll find out soon enough.

The bathroom has a tub/shower combo, a vanity, a toilet and a LOT of mold.


Just another shot of the ugly bathroom.

Stay Tuned…