Um, what?

Ever since I was a small child I wanted to find a treasure map that led to riches beyond my wildest imagination (and trust me, I had a WILD imagination).  Most people think that the hard part is finding the treasure, but what I have found in my many years of experience is that the real challenge is finding the map.


As a youngster I determined that the film “Goonies” was the quintessential treasure hunting instructional video. Of course, if there is going to be a map lying around somewhere it must be hidden within an antique.

Channeling my inner goonie, I would gently dissect picture frames to see what might be hidden behind the artwork.  I’d sift through books that were covered in dust, and examine all antique furniture for that secret drawer that would lead me on my adventure.

In my many years as a treasure-map hunter, one thing I’ve had to do is expand on my definition of “treasure.”   It’s very simple as a child.  Treasures are made up of gold and jewels.  As an adult, however, I prefer to be more nuanced in my thinking.  Take for instance when I was demolishing the In Law unit.  In the post Extra! Extra!” I found newspaper articles that transported me back to the 1970’s.  Not only could I picture myself uncomfortably wearing polyester in the summertime heat, but I could also picture the former homeowner/DIY enthusiast  standing in the exact same spot as me, 40 years ago, insulating the In Law unit ceiling with old newspapers and dehydrated rats.  While my usual definition of ‘treasure’ may not include dehydrated zombie rats, I would certainly think of those newspaper clippings as being hidden gems that brought an unexpected value to the demolition process.

In the spirit of paying it forward, along with the desire to have a little fun, I decided to leave a treasure of my own hidden in the walls of the In Law unit.

Now all it comes down to is assembly.

Step 1:  Identify the Treasure Receptacle

While the receptacle of choice for pirates would be the wooden chest, in the film ‘Romancing the Stone,” a ceramic bunny statue hid the palm-sized emerald within its fragile walls.  In my case, I decided to utilize what was around me.  I asked myself, “what empty receptacles do I have an abundance of lying around the house?”  That’s right, wine bottles!


Of course, it’s not just any empty wine bottle. Since I am, after all, the type of wine connoisseur who bases her purchase of wine primarily on how cute the label is on the outside of the bottle, I selected the wine called “Freakshow.”  With circus performers playfully frolicking around the bottle, this one was a winner from the start!

Step 2:  Identify the treasure

Now that we have a receptacle, we need to stuff it full of treasure.  Now, realistically, a full bottle of wine might be a great treasure to find, but the risk of breakage and the inevitable lingering wine oder that follows prompted me to empty the bottle prior to its use.

As you might imagine, the opening to a wine bottle is quite small.  You might be able to fill it with diamonds, but let’s be honest.  If I had a bottle full of diamonds I’d most likely be out shopping rather than blogging.  Therefore, I will stuff it with something I have a tremendous amount of.  That’s right, I’m going to stuff it with words.

Here’s my treasure:


I wrote a two page letter that talks about who I am, who my partner is, and how we got this house.  It talks about the DIY process and what’s happening in the world right now.  I close with some of my hopes for the future and a nice photograph of my family.  Ideally, this treasure won’t be found for many years, making my brief but comprehensive commentary on today’s world that much more interesting.  With that said, even if this treasure is discovered in 30 or 40 years, I hope someone can find as much joy hearing about the world in 2013 as I found while reading about 1970’s fashion.

Step 3:  Treasure Assembly

Now, while I did my best to empty that bottle of wine, I didn’t quite get every drop out of it.  I don’t want to put my letter into the bottle and risk it being ruined, so I have utilized modern technology to assist me in the assembly process.  The Ziplock bag.


Okay, so bandits could probably make it through a ziplock bag, but at least it will be weather & wine proof.  From here I simply pop in the cork and I have a message in a bottle.


Step 4:  Identify A Location To Hide This Treasure

Now I’m nearly ready to begin spray foaming the walls of the In Law unit.  I figured that if I pour spray foam over the bottle it will be locked in place like a time capsule.  The spray foam will keep it protected from impact (or earthquake) as well as water.


While you can all look forward to my next post about spray foaming, for now here’s a teaser picture:


Step 5:  Dream Of The Discovery!

Can you picture it!?

It’s the year 2150.  The new owners of the house have decided that they need someplace to park their hover bike.  Rather than putting it on the roof like everyone else, they decide to build a hover bike garage under the deck.


While opening up the walls, the first thing they notice is how well everything is built.  After a brief moment of reminiscing on how they “built things to last back then” they come across a bottle covered in spray foam.

“Oh silly people of the 21st century, didn’t you know spray foam was just a fad.”

As they continue their construction and foam removal they notice something unusual.

“Oh Wow, it’s a bottle!  Bottles haven’t been used in a hundred years.  Not since geneticists discovered how to engineer humans with gills that filter water out of the atmosphere”

Upon further investigation the homeowner notices that the bottle says “Freakshow!”  Fearing that his home use to be owned by a circus, a serial killer or a wine-o, he pops open the cork and discovers the most amazing treasure.  A letter written by an old-timer WAY back in the olden days when cars had four wheels and cell phones still needed physical interaction to activate.

The knowledge gleaned from this letter would surely enlighten the people of modern-day!   If nothing else, it could be sold on ebay for $1000 (which is the equivalent of $2 in 2013 money).

After touring Earth and the interstellar outposts on a speaking tour about his discovery, the homeowner decides that he too will leave a treasure hidden in his newly constructed hover bike garage.  And with that decision the treasures continue to flood our home for many years to come.



I’ve come to the conclusion that renovating a space is not entirely unlike creating a Frankensteinian monster.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect our In Law unit to terrorize the village locals; nor do I expect it to require a jolt of lightening before I can call this project complete.  With that said, there are some similarities that should not go unappreciated.

If you think of renovating as being a series of phases, we begin with the demolition phase.  From a Frankenstein standpoint, this might include digging up bodies and harvesting the good parts and chucking the bad parts.  “Oh..that legs is missing a foot, let’s go ahead and scratch that.  Onto the next body.”  From a building standpoint, you open up the walls and identify the rotten wood, or broken pipes.  Then you try to identify the parts of the space you plan on keeping.


Then you’re onto phase two, “repair.”  Now if I was a mad scientist, this is when I’d start opening things up and shoving things into place.  A kidney here, a femur there, etc.  As more of a mad-DIY’er than a mad-scientist, in this phase I prefer to put a floor in here and a wall in there.


Now, we’re onto the last phase, the “finishing” phase.  This would be when I (the mad scientist side of me) might stitch up the holes, put on the little neck bolts, hook my beast up to a lightning pole and hope for the best.  This would understandably be the most anxiety producing phase of the project.  Questions, that I might not want to know the answer to would go flying through my head, such as… “Will my monster eat children?  Will he chase screaming farmers off their land making it that much harder to find organic vegetables in the village?”

Now, as a DIY’er, this is the phase that has the highest level of instant gratification.  This is when the work space magically transforms and reflects its own personality and character (more like a butterfly than a crazed zombie beast).


This, my DIY following friends, is the phase I’m after!!  This is the prize I have my eye on!

The “Finishing” phase is right around the corner!  I am officially in the final throes of the “Repair” phase and after a few stitches supports here and a new kidney electrical outlet there, I’ll finally get to move onto the finishing phase!  (and don’t think I won’t yell “IT’S ALIVE!” when this is all over).

Here’s the list of everything that needs to be done before I can put up drywall.

  1. Raise the closet floor
  2. Add support where the wall mounted TV will be installed
  3. Add support where the sliding door tracks will be installed
  4. Stain the joists
  5. Insulate the walls
  6. Install the tub
  7. Add electrical outlet in the kitchen

So far I’ve knocked 4 items off my list.  Here’s the summary:

The Closet Floor:

Now that all of you blog readers are well versed in the art that is installing a floor, I will spare you the details of what it took to raise the closet floor.  Instead, I’ll show the summary in picture form:


As you can see in the picture above, there is a significant drop off from the main floor of the room to the closet floor.  While this didn’t bother me for a long time, when someone asked me about it the other day I decided that it would make more sense to bring it up to the height of the floor.

closet2 closet3


Unfortunately, the floor is about 1/2″ higher than the main room, but that may be able to be fixed when I put the new finished floor in.  At least you won’t break your leg when trying to get a shirt out of the closet.  It’s a…step…in the right direction. Get it? “Step” in the right direction.

Okay, moving on.

Support for Wall Mounted TV:

Here I just added a couple 2×4’s to the wall to give me something solid for the future attachment of the wall mounted TV arm.





Support For Sliding Door Tracks

As you know we will have two wall-mounted sliding ‘barn’ doors in this room.  One door will be for the closet and the other will be for the bathroom.  Both of these sliding door tracks will be holding anywhere from 75lbs to 200lbs, depending on what type of door I decide to buy or build.  These tracks will require a lot of support to carry that weight.

Here are the new supports for these doors:

Barn Style Sliding Closet Door:





Bathroom Door

The bathroom door will also be on a wall mounted track, although this one will be a little smaller to fit in the limited space.




Stain The Joists:

As you may recall, I intend to drywall between the ceiling joists so that about 2″ of wood remains exposed.  Since half of the room has beautiful old (original) Douglas Fir ceiling joists, and the other half of the room has new construction Douglas Fir, there is a noticeable difference between the colors of the two types of wood.  The old wood is dark and rich like a freshly brewed cup of coffee, while the new wood is bright and golden like the afternoon sunshine.


To create some degree of continuity, I decided to stain the new wood to get it to a closer color match with the old wood.  Unfortunately, trying to reflect the difference in photographs is quite hard.  The main beam, however, is big enough that you can see the difference in color.  Check it out…






With that work done, all I need to do is get the electrical to install one more outlet, get the plumber to set the tub and I’m on to insulating the walls and putting up drywall.  Then things will get really exciting!

This week was particularly fun!!  Not because I was able to get a lot done in the In Law unit, as you might suspect, but because the in-laws were visiting!  And what do you do when the in-laws visit, you ask?  Put them to work of course!

As you might remember, one of the windows I needed to install was ordered with the wrong dimensions.  Conveniently enough, the new window arrived not long after our family arrived.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to encourage them to put their own stamp on the project that has been named after them. Luckily for me, Terry, my father-in-law, actually had an interest in getting his hands dirty and lifting heavy objects.  There are few things heavier than new windows, so this worked out perfectly.


Here’s where we started:


When we installed the sliding glass door and the bathroom window we framed the space where this last window would live.  Having the space already framed made the process of installing this window much faster.



One thing that I learned while working with Terry to complete this task was that I am very easily distracted by enjoyable conversation.  Unfortunately, Terry is a fun and interesting person, which is a huge distraction to this DIY’er.  This means that I failed to fulfill my DIY’er responsibilities and document the entire process of window installation.  I can only hope that you, my blogging audience, can forgive me, and that my DIY membership pin (that I built, of course) isn’t revoked.

A result of this lack of DIY’ing evidence is that it appears as if the window unwrapped itself, waddled up to the hole in the wall and effortlessly leapt into place:

Ta Da!


While the window would like to take full credit for the installation, the reality is that (despite my encouragement) a magical arm did not extend from the window to affix itself to the exterior wall.  In the end, it took the combined teamwork of Terry and myself to get this task completed.  Now if only we could get the in-laws to come and visit more often we’d get this project done in a flash!

In the mean time, with a little help from family we’ve finished all of the windows, and are on to the next task.


I suppose that when you end your most recent post with “we will see what surprises are in store for me over the next few days,” you’re almost asking the universe to surprise you with something special.  While I‘m going to try to not read too far into this, the universe has decided to surprise me with a foot and a half long crack in our home’s sewage line.  

After opening up the walls in the In Law unit a couple of weeks ago, we found some pretty major water damage, along with clear signs of an ongoing leak.


My rough guess is that the leak has been happening for around 20 years.  I mean, it takes awhile to disintegrate over a foot of wood.  Needless to say, it was finally time to find the culprit.

After putting on my sleuth hat, I took the day off of work and met the plumber so we could investigate the source of the leak.  Naively, the lack of foul odor led me to believe the leak was coming from a water line.  Well, I’m not sure what’s wrong with my sense of smell, but as it turns out we found not one…not two…but three cracks in our sewage pipes.  

There was, of course, the afore-mentioned foot and a half long crack.  

sewage line  crack

Then there was a hole on the toilet flashing (which connects the toilet to the sewage line) that had been DIY-fixed with some sort of putty.  



And finally, there was another hole on the opposite side of the flashing that had not been DIY-fixed.


Now I’m not trying to ‘diss’ DIY home repair.  I mean, I’m a DIY’er and I have the magic of the inter-web at my fingertips.  Imagine in the days of yore, when indoor plumbing was a new-fangled luxury and plumbers were just former stable-hands that were trying to get in on the crazy pooping indoors fad.  It must have been a lot harder to become a properly educated DIY’er.  With that said, purely from a chemistry standpoint, some materials are more porous than others.  I’m no chemist, but my guess is that drywall putty is on the more porous spectrum, therefore, not being the best choice when trying to fix a leak.

With all that aside, there are some positive, and some negative, things that have come out of this experience.

On the negative side of things, our poop-pipe was leaking (for 20 years), resulting in some significant dry-rot in the In Law unit.    This realization meant we had to remove the pipe.  Removing a pipe of this nature is not only difficult, but also a bit gross.

sewage      empty

The positive side to this whole thing, however, is two-fold.

First, we have a brand new poop pipe that stretches the entire length of the house.


It’s almost a shame to cover it back up with drywall, but I don’t think that visitors will get as much joy as I do looking at this leak-free pipe.

pretty       silver

Second, I was able to spend a lot of the day working on the floor in the In Law unit while the plumber worked his magic in the house.  I made some significant progress, however, it’s not quite done.  For this reason I’m going to wait to share it when there is a finished product.  After all, I want it to be a surprise.  Just to be clear, the GOOD kind of surprise.

Today has been a very fruitful demolition day!  You might think that demolition usually results in things going away…well, today demolition both removed things from my life and added things to my life.

From a removal standpoint, with a little help from my trusty new reciprocating saw, I was able to rip down that old deck/ceiling.




ceilingAs you can see, quite a bit was removed from the ceiling.  What you can’t see, is everything that was added to my life during the demolition.

First, you might be wondering why the picture above says the ceiling was covered for 40 years.  I mean, the ceiling doesn’t actually speak to me, so how did I come up with that arbitrary length of time?  Well, it’s not just my house-whispering ways…it’s in the news!


lady2           batchlor

These useful and informative newspaper clippings were inside the ceiling when it came crashing down.  You might be thinking “wow!  what a lucrative find!”  Yes it was, but that’s not all I found.

You see, much like other large cities, San Francisco has its share of wildlife.  We have the bison in Golden Gate Park, the hawks soaring the sky, and the critters scampering playfully in the streets.  Well, sometimes those critters scamper playfully in the house.  I’ve been lucky in my time here that I’ve only found one mouse and that was after my cat joined it for a little roughhousing.  Apparently, the previous owners of our home had a bit of a larger critter problem.

I’m happy to introduce you to Ricky, Mickey’s cousin from Nor Cal.


Ricky Rat was nice enough to propel his mummified remains into the air, at an unusually high rate of speed given his current limited mobility, soaring proudly at me in quite a lifelike manner, as the ceiling came down during demolition.  Let’s just say that his zombie acrobatics have earned him a special place as a part of this project.  Therefore, he is officially the project mascot!

Welcome Ricky Rat to the “My First Renovation” extravaganza!

There comes a time in every DIY’ers life where they have to decide how far to pursue their curiosity.    I walked into this project intensely curious of a number of things.  Like, why does the corner of the house slope downward?  And, what is underneath that strange raised platform in the middle of the room?


While some of these questions have been answered (under that platform was concrete…exciting!), the pursuit of finding those answers have exposed all new questions.  Most of those questions begin with “Why.”  Such as…Why did they put a structural support on top of a cut 2″x6, and then sandwich a thin layer of concrete between that 2″x6″ and another 2″x6″?


The answer to that question may be lost to the ages.

There are an endless number of these “Why” questions, but this weekend I’ve uncovered a whole new breed of question…the “What” question.  While chipping away at the thin layer of concrete (using a sledge-hammer because it makes me feel tough) that was poured on top of the foundation, I got to a point where I thought…”I should probably stop unless I would like to rip up the entire floor.”  When I sat back to appreciate my handiwork, I found, to my surprise, that there was something imbedded in the concrete I had yet to remove.  In between the foundation and the remaining concrete is a cast iron lid.


Now, you can understand that I am intensely curious as to what is under this lid.  Dreams of gold-rush treasure keep coming to mind.  I mean, I’m not a greedy person.  I’d be happy with one moderately sized golden nugget.  At the same time, this iron lid could be massive, and could require me to completely rip up the floor to find out what it is hiding.


Realistically, what are the odds that there is buried treasure under that lid?  I’m guessing that the odds are higher that there is something I don’t want to find under there.  Probably nothing as dramatic as a human body, but also nothing as awesome as a buried treasure.  I’m thinking something more like   a lot of dirt where the foundation wasn’t poured, or a nest of attack spiders.

EIther way, I’ll probably leave it where it is and let the curiosity fill me with dreams of riches.  Of course I say this now…but tomorrow I might take a sledge-hammer to it.

What was it that curiosity did to that cat again?

I met with the plumber the other day.  It turns out that the plumbing in the In Law unit was probably also done by a DIY’er (circa 1980’s).  Normally I’d be proud of their go get ’em attitude, but being a DIY’er is a huge responsibility.  There are blogs to read, HGTV to watch and You Tube videos to consult before doing the work.  Apparently, this DIY’er was a DIY’er before DIY’ing was an acronym.

The biggest “whoopsy” with our plumbing is that it was originally installed without additionally installing a vent.  Here’s how I would explain this.  Have you ever gone to the store and purchased one of these boxes of water?


Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you have.  Now, if you’re like me, the first time you used one of these boxes of water you opened up the nozzle and enjoyed free-flowing water for about 10 seconds.  After that, the water stream went from free-flowing, to a trickle, then to nothing.

Finally, after shaking the box and scratching your head for a few minutes, you realized “oh, duh, you have to poke a hole in the top of the container.”  The reason for this is the air actually pushes the water out of the box.  Without a “vent” the water just hangs out in the box (no mater how hard you shake, trust me).

Well, apparently this concept also exists in bathrooms.  Without a vent, water simply doesn’t drain, or at least not well.

Long story short, we need a vent to go from the In Law unit, through the kitchen to the roof.  Luckily we have some space beside our sewage line that we can use for this vent. In all, the news isn’t horrible and not entirely unexpected.  Of course I say this now but I haven’t seen the estimate yet.  I’ll keep you posted.