I am officially at a crossroads.  What do I work on next?  In all honesty, there is no shortage of work to complete, which might be part of the problem.  It’s sort of like being  a kid in a candy store.  While I want to eat tackle a bunch of candy tasks all at once, I’m afraid that after the sugar-rush thrill wears off I’m just going be an over indulgent DIY’er laying on the ground with a stomach ache.   To avoid this sugar coma I’ve decided to narrow my focus down to one task.  Wall framing.

Much like the floor, framing a wall sounds easy in theory, but I have a feeling it will be much more complex when I really sink my teeth into it.  On a positive note, I think we’ve come to a decision on how the wall will look down the line.  Here’s what we’re working with right now:


Now you might remember in one of my earlier posts that I discussed the idea of installing a sliding barn-door in front of the closet.  In case you need to refresh your memory, here’s a link to that post:

The Hassle of Doors

The plan is still to cover the closet with a sliding barn door, however, the plan has evolved a bit since I last posted about it.  Rather than building a wall, covering it in drywall and calling it a day, the new plan is to take the extra step to cover that wall in wood paneling.

Here are a few pictures of different paneling options that I like:







To aid me in my quest for wood paneling, I decided to call upon the discarded and disheveled masses.  The cast aways.  Those that once had homes, but find themselves sitting patiently as they wait for that one special person who will see the beauty they possess inside, underneath the years of neglect and grime.

That’s right!  It’s salvage yard time!  

Normally the salvage yard visits are more for brainstorming ideas and are less about actually finding quality merchandise; however, this weekend was different.  Leaning against a wall like a tall dark stranger, beckoning me with a bewitching glance, were two unopened boxes of unfinished walnut flooring.  I was torn.  Should I listen to my head that’s telling me to ‘stay away’ lest I be disappointed to find that underneath that dark and alluring veneer is a weathered and worn interior that has seen better days, or should I listen to my heart that says ‘go for it!’  I mean, we all have parts of us that are weathered and worn.  For me, it’s my drilling hand, so why be so quick to judge?  

In the end, my heart won out and I went home as giddy as a school girl with these beauties:

walnut  walnut2

Now, in reality two boxes only amount to a space of about 6 feet by 8 feet.  With that said, I’m sure I can find some more walnut flooring to match, or I could even mix and match this wood with some other wood to come up with a cool look.

Either way, listening to my heart was the way to go.  I couldn’t be happier with the new additions to the household and I can’t wait to see them up on the wall!

Next up…building a wall!


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 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.

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.