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.

compare1

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.

sanitary

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).

finishing

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:

closet1

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

closetfloor

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.

BEFORE:

tv

AFTER:

tv2

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:

BEFORE:

track2

AFTER

newdoor

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.

bathroom1

AFTER:

bathroom2

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.

stain2

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…

BEFORE:

stain1

AFTER:

beam

stain3

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!

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted much to the blog over the last couple weeks.  Between summertime fun interrupting my usual working weekends and high levels of procrastination I have mostly been tackling smaller projects.  These projects, in themselves, don’t really warrant their own blog posts, however, much like Voltron, when they come together they add up to something much greater.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Voltron, let me both enlighten you and date myself)

Now, as much as I’d love to continue to watch robotic lions form a giant space robot and protect the universe from the evil forces of planet doom, we should really focus on the task at hand.  (NOTE:  this is exactly the type of procrastination I’ve been fighting over the last couple weeks).

Channeling my inner project manager, I decided that rather than bore you with a lot of short posts about small tasks, I’d streamline my approach.   Therefore, I’ve combined a couple of my most recent In Law unit accomplishments into this singular blog post.

The Bathroom Floor:

First, let’s begin with the bathroom floor.  While I know we’ve talked about this floor many times on this blog, the fact remains that despite the jack-hammering, digging, plumbing, and concrete pouring I am still left with a dramatically uneven floor.   Unfortunately, as long as the bathroom floor stays in this uneven state I can’t progress with any of the remaining bathroom renovations.

ant

While I waited patiently for a beautifully level surface to magically grow out of the uneven concrete block that was my bathroom floor, eventually I came to the conclusion that it was up to me to get this floor finished.  This meant that I was going to need to navigate through some of the residual trauma I was holding onto after my last encounter with concrete.

You see, I found that my relationship with concrete was very one-sided.  Not only did it feel like I was the one doing all the work, but every time I’d come home with a new bag of cement it wasn’t enough.  I would estimate 7 bags of concrete and 14 bags later I was still left needing more.  While I wasn’t looking forward to rekindling this relationship, I decided that this time I wasn’t going to settle.  Rather than buying the estimated 3 bags, I bought 6!

“That’s right! Concrete!  Either meet my needs or we’re through!”

With my six bags, my bucket, my hose and my drill, together we set out to try to fix the ugliness that had become the bathroom floor.

concrete

mixing

pour1

pour2

pour 3

pour4

With a flat and level surface in place, I was able to begin building the subfloor.  Because the bathroom ceiling is lower than the ceiling in the main room, I couldn’t build the subfloor very high.  For this reason, rather than laying the two by fours on end, I instead placed them flat on the ground.  This would allow me to build the subfloor without making the room feel like a cave.

floor1

From there I added some additional two by fours between the “floor joists” for some additional support.

floor2

With the ‘floor joists’ and additional support pieces in place I was finally able lay the pressure treated plywood on top.

bathroom

bathroom2

Finally, after all that work the bathroom floor was done!  This last experience with concrete was not nearly as tough as the first experience.  I credit the shift to both my increased familiarity with the product, and also with the fact that I was working with concrete’s much more flexible and attractive sister, self leveling floor resurfacer.

With the bathroom floor completed, it was on to the next task.

The Bathroom Door:

You see, I got into a bit of a pickle when it came to the bathroom door.  It turns out that the standard door height is 80.”  While this may seem like a somewhat insignificant fact, when I raised the In Law unit floor I also shrunk the bathroom door opening to 78.”  Oh well, these things happen.  Now it’s just about figuring out a solution so our future guests can have the private poop they so desire.

While I could cut the door down to 78″ that wouldn’t change the fact that there is a step down when entering the bathroom.  This means the door would only be able to open into the bathroom, making the already small space that much smaller.  Another alternative would be to install a pocket door, but the plumbing on either side of the door opening made this option only possible if I moved the plumbing around.  Since this is not an expense I am eager to accommodate, I had to consider another solution.

plumbing

After careful consideration of my options I decided to channel my inner equestrian and visualize life in a barn.  Then, like filly winning the Kentucky Derby, it came to me!  Remember these beauties?

door1

barndoor4

That’s right, we’re back to wall mounted sliding doors.   Not only will these doors continue to keep the room feeling spacious, but they will also, most importantly, help facilitate the all important private poop.

With the decision made, it was time to figure out how this door would fit into the space.  You see, the fancy new poop pipe has made it so one side of the door opening protrudes into the room further than the other side of the opening.  This means that there would be nothing for the sliding door to butt up against when it is closed.  To solve this problem I needed to build a small wall near where the kitchenette will be.

door

With my trusty new framing nailer in hand, putting up that wall was a breeze!

door

door2

Now with the door framing all figured out and the bathroom floor completed, I just need to finish up the ceiling, put in the bathtub and insulate before I can put up the drywall!  We’re getting closer to a finished rustic retreat!  Stay tuned!

Over the last couple weeks the In Law unit has really started to take shape. What was once a zombie rodent playground, littered with rotting wood and asbestos, has begun to resemble a rustic retreat.  Well, even if the room leans on the ‘rustic’ side more than on the ‘retreat’ side,  at least you don’t need to don a space suit just to walk inside.

space

While we continue to work towards the modern-barn aesthetic, we’d still like our visitors to be able to enjoy all of the conveniences of the 21st century.  Luxuries like indoor plumbing and electricity should be in lavish supply.  Unfortunately, electricity is one item that has been hard to come by in our rustic space.  While draping extension cords from the garage may work for this DIY’er, the tripping hazard liability has prompted me to pursue other, more permanent, methods of powering this space.    Now, when it comes to re-wiring and electricity, I thought it might be wise to reference my DIY Rulebook.  

Rule #1…”Don’t do anything that might cause you to die.”

Now, while you might think that this rule should be reserved for jobs like underwater bomb defuser or flaming aerial stunt woman, you really shouldn’t limit yourself to only the extreme professions.  In my case, my knowledge of electricity does not expand much further than keeping powered items away from a full bathtub.  Therefore, when it comes to re-wiring an entire space, it is time to bring in the professionals. 

Here’s where things are right now:

lamp

As you can see, we’re not exactly overflowing with lightning-like power.  Therefore, the wiring plan is as follows:

INSTALL…

  1. Recessed lighting all over
  2. New electrical outlets all over
  3. Behind the wall wiring for a wall mounted TV
  4. Some lights outside the sliding glass door.
  5. A bathroom fan and vent it outside

I’m very lucky in two regards (well, many more than two, but let’s stay focused!).  First, a family friend, Dave, is a great professional electrician who I completely trust;  and Second, Dave knows how to design wiring for a space.  If anyone can take this gloomy In Law unit, that is littered with ancient home-owner hacked wiring, and make it glow, Dave could do it.  So I handed over the keys and  let him get to work.

Here’s the progress:

electrical

wires2

While these wires are not being powered at this exact moment, I am still at risk of being strangled or of getting an eye poked out, so I have left this space so Dave can continue to work his magic.

After a few days of wire wrangling, here’s our newly powered up space!

BEFORE:

room.off

door.off

broom.off

AFTER!

room.on

door.on

broom.on

This light and electricity will definitely come in handy with my next project.  It’s time to focus some time on that bathroom.  Stay tuned.

When I’m not destroying renovating my home and going to my day-job that makes all of this magic possible, I take a furniture building class at the local City College.  Since this blog is called “Building With Beth” I though that it might be an appropriate forum to show you what I’ve been working on outside of the house.

About a year ago we replaced a structurally unstable support column in the garage that is very similar to the one that still resides in the In Law unit:

twin

Rather than throw this beautiful piece of old growth Douglas Fir into the garbage, I took it into my wood working class.  There was something poetic about converting a historic piece of our house into something that could continue to be a part of our home.  With that in mind, we really needed a good coffee table for our livingroom, so I got to work.

Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I’m a planner.  I approach furniture building much like I approach DIY’ing.  If I just started hacking away at a piece of wood hoping to build a table I’d end up with a toothpick.  Therefore, the first step was to create the design using Google SketchUp:

design1

legs

apron

With the design in place, and the wood ready to be whittled down, it’s time to get this project started.  Here are some pictures of the transformation from structural column into reclaimed wood coffee table.

Here’s what I started with:

nail

The first step was to make this small tree trunk as square as possible.  Unfortunately, reclaimed lumber tends to be littered with shrapnel from years of abuse.  You can’t run a piece of nail ridden wood through a mechanical planer or saw without risking damage to that machinery.  Therefore, I had to square this beauty up using a hand plane, old school style.

plan1   plane2

Once I finally got things square I was ready to cut them to size.  Since planing helped me identify both where the nails were and where my arm muscles were, I was able to take some pliers and pull out all the metal slivers that were scattered throughout the wood.  Once I was confident the wood was free of shrapnel, I could start using the machines to do the hard work.

legs2      legs

The table top is being built out of an old work bench that was in the garage.  The workbench was as old as the rest of the wood in the house, so I imagine it was “reclaimed” as a workbench by the previous owner.  As we know from the In Law unit, he too was a DIY’er.

To create the tabletop, I took a Biscuit Joiner and ‘joined’ the two pieces together.

biscuit

tabletop

Now that everything is cut to size, I can start to fine tune these cubes & rectangles into a coffee table.

measure

two cuts

saw

legs.5

Now that all of my pieces have been nicely refined, it’s time to glue everything up.  Unlike my work in the In Law unit (where I shoot three nails for every pull of the nail gun trigger), when working on furniture I like to avoid using any metal.  Therefore, all of the pieces will be held together using wood dowels and glue.

clamps

pegs

dowels

table

As you can see, between the cutting, planing and sanding, a lot of the beautiful old patina that makes reclaimed wood so special has been removed.  In an effort to recreate the look of aged wood I’m going to create a faux-patina.  How? You ask.  Well, using fire of course!

patina

Burning wood can go horribly wrong, for both my project and my classroom.  However, after a bit of controlled flame-thrower action, we went from this…

patina3

tan

To this…

table

Finally I’m ready to apply the finish.  After consulting with my teacher, I’m going to coat the table in polyurethane.

home

After a few coats, and some light buffing, here’s the final product:

Ta Da!

table2

table

In case you noticed a drop off of “Building With Beth” posts over the last week it’s because I’ve been on a luxuriously relaxing vacation.  Now don’t start thinking that I didn’t spend any time working on the In Law unit.  It was my vacation after all.  I had to take full advantage of my open afternoons and scheduling flexibility.  While the first half of my week was spent soaking up the sun and hiking the trails in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains, the second half of the week was spent bringing a little light into the dim and dark In Law unit.

That’s right, it’s time to install some windows!  Well, one window and one sliding glass door to be specific.  The second window that needs to be installed was accidentally ordered in the wrong size, so that installation will be a different post.  Therefore, today we will be installing one new window and the sliding glass door.

The original windows were old, ugly and very energy inefficient.  Technically they kept out rogue mourning doves and roving bands of mosquitos, however, that was the limit of their functionality.  Here are a couple of pictures:

Window 1 – The Bathroom:  Technically the window in the bathroom is called a “Jalousie” Window, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a marketing ploy to make these ugly slatted glass windows sound fancier.

slatted

Window 2 – Future Sliding Glass Door:  This is a basic single-paned glass window, but someday it will be either a glorious sliding glass door, or a massive breach in the fortified walls of our castle.

sliding

Since I’ve never installed a window or a door before, I brought in a little help for this task.  There is something intimidating about cutting a hole into the side of your home and exposing the inside to nature and/or bandits.  Not to mention that the framing needs to be done properly or the window / door simply won’t fit.  To make sure this was done right, I brought in one of the guys who has helped me through this project, Simon.  

We began by reframing the spaces where the new window and the new door will be installed.  Since the space for the sliding glass door was already framed, we only need to cut the hole where we should be able to (in theory) simply pop the new door into place.  

side

Once the hole was cut we could stick down the waterproofing membrane.

obsolete

Once we finished cutting out the opening for the sliding door, we moved onto the bathroom window. The original window was tucked in between two studs, and was less than 12″ wide.  The new window will be nearly twice that size.  This meant that we had to add some new framing and expand the size of the original window opening.

bathroom2

I have to admit that the actual installation of the window & door was not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be.  In my mind I was opening a giant hole in the side of my home where waiting bands of robbers would come with their army of plague infested rodents and swarms of wasps to pillage my home.  I would be helplessly trying to keep them out by frantically working to assemble windows that came in a box of 1000 parts and needed to be put together using instructions that were both in a foreign language and in code

bandits

In the end, however, installation wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it was in my imagination.  Here are the really basic steps:

  1.  Frame out the space where the window will live.  Make sure that the new opening is 3/4″ wider and taller than the actual size of the windows/door that you ordered.
  2.  Install the waterproofing membrane in that opening.
  3.  Apply calking around the opening (on top of the water proofing membrane)
  4.  Pop the window into the hole & make sure it’s level by using a few shims
  5.  Screw the frame of the window to the wall
  6.  Enjoy your new window

Here’s the end result!

bathroom

garden

wasps

Now the real test will come when the reordered window arrives and I need to install it all by myself.   I’m pretty sure that I’m prepared for that challenge, but I’ll let you know how it goes!

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:

hole

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

biggest

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.

pony

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.

floor5

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.

floor3

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

floor4

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.

floor6

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.

jd

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:

wall

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…

wall

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

stain

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.

alge

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:

wood

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:

crown

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

newall

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.

drain

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:

drain2

drain3

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.