Home Improvement

Bathroom Bootcamp: Day 1

There are almost always three main steps to the room makeovers that we tackle, and depending on the scope/depth of them, they can take a few days or a few months (ok, and sometimes we jump around so much that things take years). Either way, the order seems to go like so:

So when John’s mom mentioned his grandma’s half bathroom could use a little makeover we got to put those three steps into action. It resulted in a three day bathroom blitz that involved two seven hour drives and some obligatory midnight painting (thank goodness John’s parents traveled with us to keep Clara busy and happy). First you should meet Granny. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia, and is one of the happiest, kindest women you’ll ever meet. Here she is holding baby Clara for the first time:

And you know we love to share the day-by-day play-by-play, so with further ado, here’s what our To-Do list looked like for our turbo-charged three-day project (along with guesses about when we’d actually tackle things in parenthesis after each line item):

Here’s her charming 1920′s house, which they’ve in since the 1940′s so John’s mom and her siblings all grew up here. John’s late grandfather (“Papa”) actually did a lot of the handiwork himself over the years so there are lots of stories and memories tied to this place.

In fact, it was Papa who converted an old kitchen pantry into this little half bathroom! So everything from adding the plumbing to the electrical was all him. But that was decades ago, and the room was looking ready for an update, especially thanks to some wallpaper that Granny was “ready to tear off the walls” herself (at 90 years old, she still has that DIY spirit running through her veins, by the way). So here’s what the room looked like before the wallpaper was removed:

Thanks to Granny, our Aunt Ellen, and our Uncle Dean, the wallpaper was all miraculously removed before we arrived around dinnertime – just in time to work the night away prepping the rest of the room. But not knowing our store options in Huntington, we did some shopping before we left, including a mad dash into HomeGoods for some items we thought could work (we over-bought, knowing we could return whatever she didn’t need). We also knew Granny might have some of the items that we grabbed, so ideally we would get to use some of the new stuff, and some of her existing stuff, for a nice mix (and some nice savings).

We also stopped at our favorite fabric outlet (U-fab) and grabbed a yard of pretty floral-printed fabric that felt a lot like Granny (it’s made by Braemore, for anyone looking for it) to make sweet little cafe curtains for the one small window in the bathroom. Here’s that fabric with some of the accessories we picked up, just so you can see where we were “going” in our brains:

We also stopped into Home Depot and grabbed some new flooring (which you’ll see more of during Day Two) and we used our seven hour drive to brainstormed a few other ideas for the space while we took in the road trip scenery (slash kept a pooch and a toddler occupied).

Here’s what the room looked like when we arrived. It was already looking worlds better with just the wallpaper being gone.

Apparently the paper came down with just a little tugging, so that was the good news. But without the wallpaper, some areas of the room actually looked even more worse for wear… like the bottom corner of the sink, the burned outlet, and the rusted vent on the other side of the pedestal sink.

Yup, there were definitely some areas that needed attending to…

So we got right down to business. My job was cutting all of the old caulk out. It’s a step that doesn’t look much better immediately (sometimes it looks worse)…

…  but once we get some fresh caulk and painting done, it looks as good as new.

Speaking of cutting out caulk in general, it’s amazing how much of it there can be. Just look at my pile after tackling the sink, the baseboards, and other random corners that also had bits of leftover wallpaper and cracked flooring:

I actually ended up using an entire tube of caulk in this tiny space! Everything from the baseboards to that area around the sink and the doorway/window trim got some fresh caulk. It’s definitely a tedious job, but so worth it for a polished look.

Then it was on to spackling and sanding. We just used regular old Dap spackle (with the blue lid) and a spackle knife, and pressed it into every crack and crevice, working our way around the room. Sometimes I’ll sand something before I spackle it, just if there’s something hanging off (ex: a flake of plaster) so I get a better finished look and a less crumbly foundation under my spackle job.

Meanwhile, John was off doing some wood cutting in the middle of the kitchen. I guess this is what happens when you don’t have your usual workspace and tools with you?

He was cutting a small plank of wood to cover a gap in the top of Granny’s cabinets since they’re actually two cabinets pushed together and topped with an old hollow-core door. So we filled the gap for a seamless look by nailing the plank into the 2 x 4 pieces that were already there to support the counter.

It would of course look more seamless once it was painted, which meant it was time to remove the hardware and prime those cabinets.

Here’s John rolling on some primer (this post has a much more thorough rundown of how we prime and paint cabinets).

And here are the drawer fronts all drying in Granny’s back-room-turned-cabinet-painting-studio:

It took us a good four or five hours to prep the room as well as prime the cabinets and the countertop, so our to do list now looked like this (with little notes next to each remaining task about when we hoped to tackle them):

We had high hopes that we could bang everything out in our three day blitz, and we were really happy with our end-of-Day-1 result. A nice fresh clean slate to start gussying up in the morning. So it was off to bed exactly at midnight, after a very full day of shopping, driving, prepping, and priming.

We’ll be back with the full Day 2 rundown tomorrow, we just have to edit some photos (um yeah, we might have taken 1,294 in just three days…). Are there any other bathroom updates going on? Or shopping/prepping/brainstorming? Have you ever done a little room makeover for someone you love? It sounds weird, but it was even more fun than doing something like this for ourselves because the excitement of the big reveal for Granny got us so dorked up and giddy.



It’s The End Of The Deck As We Know It

When we last left off in our deck saga, our hero (that’s me in this case) was avoiding battling the heat as he tediously valiantly drilled in screws across the middle of our deck. Since that chapter of this drawn out harrowing tale, John The Weary Daring continued this mind-numbing history-making task.

Since that’s about as exciting as I can fake my latest day of deck work, I’m just going to skip to this part where you can see the middle of the deck all laid down and screwed into place. Let’s just say I was glad the deck was finally more solid surface than it was holes for me to fall into.

I could just fast-forward through this next part since it was, in essence, just more board screwing. Er, ahem – board attaching. But of course, since I was at the end of the deck there was some special planning / measuring / calculating I had to do. So let’s dive into those details for a second…

Luckily I didn’t have to worry about cutting the boards right away. I learned from several tutorials that when you get to an open edge – especially when you’re doing the “picture frame” border, you’ll want to cut all of your boards with a circular saw once they’ve been placed. That way you get a cleaner and more even edge than if you were trying to measure and cut each board independently and then placing them all.

So once my jagged little edge was all screwed into place, I brought out my miter-cut frame piece and used it to mark where the edge of my boards needed to be sliced with a nice clear pen line. Like so:

Before cutting, I was sure to set the depth of my circular saw to 1 and 3/4″ so that I’d only cut through my deck boards and not into the girders below.

Then I revved up the saw, started cutting – momentarily stopped to fake a photo op (I’m no good at keeping a straight cut line with my left hand, but my right was occupied pressing the shutter – another task my left aint’ so great at) – and then finished down the line, stopping before I got to my last board (which is part of the “picture frame” design, so it was already pre-mitered before I screwed it in).

Here’s my end piece dropped into place (after sanding my cut edges to smooth them out). Not too shabby, right?

Cutting that half of the end was pretty easy, actually. It was cutting the next part that took me some time because it was on an angle. My geometry is pretty rusty so it took me a few test attempts on scrap wood to figure out what angle the two picture frame boards should meet at.

But once I got it right, I repeated my process of marking my cut with a nice obvious pen line, and then broke out the saw again.

Here’s the clean, cut edge looking all pretty… and sawdusty too, I guess.

Here’s the final frame once I got everything screwed into place. I have to say I’m pretty darn proud of myself for figuring this out and not ruining any boards in the process (minus the test scrap pieces that volunteered as tribute).

And here’s that end all finished up. Looking at this makes us REALLY glad we opted to do the picture frame. Just that little touch seems to make it look a lot more “pro.”

So with that, my friends, all of the deck boards are officially down. Can I get a woo to the friggin hoo? Because there were moments in this process where I never thought I’d get to something that actually looked and felt like a deck. In this picture you can also see that we ended up with two zippered seam details, and we’ll be centering the dining table between them like Sherry did in the rendering here. We’ll share more close-up seam photos soon (we think it’ll really pop when we seal the boards and furnish things so that they’re sort of a built-in detail around the table once everything’s in place).

The only bummer is that now I have to deal with the things that I’ve been back-burnering in my brain this whole time: the railing and the stairs. Something tells me they’re not only going to require a lot of math, but that they’re also elements of the deck that the inspectors will be especially mindful of. Could this spell disaster for our hero? To be continued…

Anyone else perform some DIY project heroics lately? Even if they’re just heroic in your own mind?

Psst- Wanna catch up on all of the deck action? Here’s where we shared our vision for the space, then we removed the plantings and the old balcony, followed by selecting our materials and documenting our first day of building progress. Then we dug our post holes, learned that we failed our first inspection, revised our plan and dug more holes (which got approved) and proceeded to set posts. Next it was time to install our joists, do a bunch of last minute prep for deck boards, get started laying decking boards, whip up a mood board with our design plan and continue laying deck boards. Whew, all caught up.