Let’s All Watch Easy on Netflix

There’s a new eight-episode series coming out on Netflix next week, written and directed by the very awesome Joe Swanberg. It’s called Easy, and it’s set in Chicago. Here’s the trailer:

It’s always fun to see things that were filmed in Chicago, and it’s even better when they venture outside of the Loop into other neighborhoods. If you’re familiar with Lincoln Square, you’ll recognize the Davis Theater, Baker Miller, and more.

You’ll also recognize a lot of funny famous people, like Orlando Bloom (my #1 reigning crush from 2001-2003), Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife should still be on the air), Jake Johnson (national treasure), Hannibal Buress (best known as the 30 Rock hobo – j/k), Aya Cash (You’re the Worst is an unexpected delight), and Elizabeth Reaser (wonderful in everything she’s in, including my brother’s film One & Two).

And, there’s one more fun thing to keep an eye out for: our house!

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That’s our bedroom, but that’s not our quilt, and that’s definitely not Jarrod and me.

This past February, we turned our property over to a production crew, dropped off our cats with a friend (thanks again, Ben!), and checked into a hotel for 10 days. We had a wonderful staycation in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood while an episode of Easy was filmed at our house in Albany Park.

I have very little idea what transpired while we were gone, and I’ve heard only a few details about the show’s plot. Even if I didn’t know and love Joe, I would know and love his movies: they’re funny, candid, and sweet without being pandering. So, I’m doubly excited to see the show.

After filming wrapped, we returned to a clean house and inquisitive neighbors. Only a few clues remained to remind us that our home was someone else’s for a spell: a stranger’s pants in our closet, a production schedule in our garage. One morning, several weeks later, I took a carton of eggs out of the fridge and discovered they weren’t my eggs: they were showbiz eggs, neatly cracked and stacked.

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Easy comes out on Netflix on Thursday, September 22. Let’s all watch it and keep an eye out for omelettes.

How I Installed an IKEA Bathroom Vanity

In my greatest DIY victory to date, I installed an IKEA HEMNES bathroom cabinet, DALSKAR faucet, and ODENSVIK sink (which came with RINNEN plumbing). Note that the title of this blog post is not “How to install an IKEA vanity” but rather “How I installed an IKEA vanity.” This is what worked for me.

I did a ton of Googling throughout this process and found some helpful guides (such as this one) that gave me the confidence to take on this project, but I didn’t find any blog posts that were identical to my situation. IKEA altered their standard plumbing kit significantly recently, so a lot of the information I found was outdated. Also, every home is going to have its own oddities.

This post won’t be of much interest to anyone who isn’t installing an IKEA sink, but I hope it’s helpful for at least one person who is! Specifically, here are the three issues I encountered that you might run into as well:

  • Waste pipe that is 1-1/4″ vs IKEA plumbing that is 1-1/2″
  • Faucet supply lines that are 3/8″ vs IKEA faucet lines that are 9/16″
  • IKEA overflow hose that does not reach the drain

Before buying our house, I had never done any plumbing work. It was daunting because water can be so quickly and so thoroughly ruinous should anything go wrong. I installed our basement sink as a test case, and then tackled this on my own without disaster. If you’re handy and enjoy finding solutions to problems, I think IKEA plumbing is definitely a doable DIY.

Getting started

I started by laying out all of the parts in order. Note: if you buy an IKEA sink and an IKEA faucet, you’ll have a couple of duplicate parts.

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I warned Jarrod that it may be several days until we had a working sink again. I hoped it would go smoothly, but I was prepared for some hiccups. We have a sink in our first floor half-bathroom, which helped make this a lot less stressful.

I turned off the inline shut-off valves, disconnected the existing sink, and stuck a rag in the wall drain hole to keep the stink contained.

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I assembled the vanity cabinet and Jarrod helped me position it (it was nice to have an extra set of hands here, but not necessary — this can be a one-woman project). I adjusted the screw-in feet until it was level. Our floor slopes, so the right self-adjusting foot is extended quite a bit more than the left.

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Once it was precisely placed and leveled, I marked off the four spots I’d need to drill and then moved the vanity out of the bathroom.

Drilling into granite tile

If you don’t have granite wall tiles, mounting the vanity will be pretty easy. If you do have granite tiles, like we do, I’m sorry. Drilling into granite is totally doable, but it’s time-consuming and expensive! The bits are made of diamonds and run $20+ each at Home Depot. It sounds like even the nice ones wear down quickly, requiring multiple bits to do the job. Having learned that, I chose to buy two cheap sets from Amazon. $22 total for 10 bits, and I wound up using every single one.

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I sprayed the area with water continuously while drilling (sorry, no pics). After the holes were drilled, I put the vanity back in place.

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The big square holes are from the previous sink’s installation. The IKEA vanity is secured with metal clips (provided by IKEA) and toggle bolts (purchased by me).

Mounting the faucet on the sink

I installed the DALSKAR faucet on the ODENSVIK sink before placing it on the vanity – it was a lot easier to see and reach the underside this way.

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The bottom of the metal faucet marked up the sink a bit as I was positioning it, which was disappointing. To avoid this, I’d recommend putting some painters tape around the hole and then removing it right before you tighten down the faucet. Otherwise, this step was straightforward and easy.

Figuring out the waste pipe connection

The waste pipe is the hole in the wall that the sink connects to, which I assume leads directly to the Chicago River. The IKEA p-trap drainpipe is 1-1/2 inches. Our waste pipe is smaller: 1-1/4 inches. So, I had to find a trap adapter/reducer. In retrospect, this wasn’t that big a deal: most of the battle was learning terminology and figuring out WTF I was even looking for.

Semi-Pro Tip #1: Don’t throw away anything you remove from your previous sink’s installation until you’ve successfully installed your new sink. Put it in a plastic bag and carry that grossness to every hardware store. If you’re a novice like I am, it’s extremely helpful to have with you to compare parts and to talk to store employees.

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Semi-Pro Tip #2: When you’re in the hardware store, BUY EVERYTHING. Seriously, if you find yourself looking at something and thinking “This might work” or “I think this would fit” — BUY IT. Keep the receipt and return what you don’t use.

In the interest of helping anyone in the same boat, here are all the options I gathered within 36 hours via Amazon, Clark & Barlow Hardware, Home Depot, and Ace:

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The Everbilt washer the Home Depot guy sent me home with was totally wrong for the job, so that one was immediately ruled out. Any of the other three probably would have worked if space were not a crucial issue for IKEA plumbing (more on that later).

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I experimented with both the galvanized reducer and the PVC trap adapter, ultimately choosing the PVC option because it was the most space-efficient.

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Good god, this post is boring. I’m sorry. Let’s trudge on.

Connecting the faucet

Our supply valves are 3/8 inch. The IKEA manual states that the faucet lines are 9/16 inch. As far as I learned, this is not a measurement used by US plumbing standards.

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So, I was worried about connecting my existing 3/8″ lines to the IKEA faucet lines, but did not encounter any problems at all. The ends connected perfectly, and they are watertight. Whew! I don’t know if the manual is simply incorrect, or if the difference is so slight that it’s negligible. Just another IKEA oddity.

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I wrapped the ends with Teflon tape to help ensure a tight seal.

Connecting the overflow drain and p-trap

This was the most frustrating part of the installation. Unlike the waste pipe, which was a challenge because of our house’s non-standard plumbing, this step was infuriating because it was caused by IKEA’s unforgiving design.ikea-drawer-fml.jpg

In order for the HEMNES drawers to slide in fully, the drain pipe and p-trap needs to be as close to the back wall as possible. The cabinet assembly does not allow a generous margin of error. Many people wind up having to shorten their drawers or hack notches into them. The drawers were the major appeal of this vanity in the first place, so I was hoping to avoid that.

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In the store display, IKEA shows the wall drain being off-center from the sink drain itself, so that the p-trap (the curved part at the bottom) is flush with the wall and the overflow tube (the black rubber piece) can be connected.

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In my experience, this a totally unrealistic and unholy arrangement. Our wall drain hole is centered with the sink’s drain, like God intended. I had no choice but to position the drain to run at an angle, in order to get the p-trap flush with the wall.

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The overflow tube IKEA provides is quite rigid and would simply not bend or stretch to work with that arrangement. I could force it into place with a terribly angled drain (as you see above), but it would slowly disconnect because of the strain. IKEA’s design doesn’t include anything to actually secure it to the drain. I tried cable ties and steel screw clamps, but the black rubber was simply too rigid. Incredibly frustrating!

I went to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace in search of tubing that could work as a replacement. I bought a few different types of plastic tubing, but in the end, nothing worked as well as a $3 bike inner tube I stole from Jarrod. It was flexible enough for the tight space, and I was able to secure it in place with cable ties.

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I don’t claim that this solution is perfect: if the sink were stopped up and water reached the overflow hole, the bike tube doesn’t drain water as quickly as a rigid tube would. But it’s totally water-tight and, ultimately, it’s the solution that saved me from having to hack the drawers and/or burn down the house. For our purposes, the overflow drain only gets used when water splashes back there. So, it’ll do.

Moving along! You have to punch out a hole on whichever side you install the overflow drain.

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I waited to do the punch out step until the very end, when I was 100% certain what my final arrangement would be.

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Good enough!

Checking your work and sealing it up

I waited a few days before installing the drawers so that I could keep an eye on the drain and supply lines, to make sure nothing was leaking. I also wiped a Kleenex over all of the components a couple times each day to make sure everything was staying completely dry.

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Once I was certain the drain and faucet lines were watertight, it was time for silicon. I lifted the sink to put a line of silicon on top of the vanity and then carefully set it back in place. I also used silicon on the rubber seal that sits between the sink and the drain. I figured this might help make it extra-watertight; couldn’t hurt, anyway.

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And, finally, I ran a line of silicon at the back of the sink, where it meets the wall.

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This line of silicon was the most beautiful and satisfying thing I’ve ever done, because it meant this project was FINISHED.

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The cat inspector gave me some shit about the bike tube plumbing but signed off on the job nevertheless.

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Second-guessing your decision to buy an IKEA vanity

At a couple of points during this multi-day project, I’ll admit that I regretted buying an IKEA vanity. But, in the end, I think I made the right choice. The vanity offers more storage in a smaller footprint than the terrible saucer sink. The new sink has a smaller surrounding edge, but it’s actually functional because it’s level — the previous sink ledge sloped inward.

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The vanity looks nice and feels very sturdy. I love the drawers: they slide smoothly and shut softly. I also love the faucet: the one-handle design is great, and the water turns on and off very cleanly. Most importantly, the vanity fit our tight space requirements and our budget.

You can see additional photos of the space in my Bathroom Makeover post.

Sources:

Bathroom Makeover: Finished!

Hey, our bathroom is finished! As I mentioned when I first shared my bathroom makeover plans, my goal was to replace the glaring features that made the bathroom look really dated/cheap: most notably, the paint, mirror, and sink. Eventually we’ll do a full bathroom renovation (that granite tile is not part of my forever plan), but making some changes now will keep me happy with this space for several years to come.

The upstairs landing is looking much better since you last saw it, with a rug, snake plant, and framed photo. I’ve had the IKEA VITTEN shag rug for a long time now, and it’s held up surprisingly well. Snake plants are unkillable – this one gets indirect light from the stairwell window, and that’s keeping it alive just fine.

Before:
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After:
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And here’s what the bathroom looks like now:

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After:
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Obviously, erasing that red was an easy win! (The walls are now Behr’s Irish Mist.) Less easy: replacing the sink. Installing the IKEA HEMNES vanity was difficult for a variety of reasons, which I’ll detail in another post. But it was ultimately worth it: it’s the perfect size, I love the storage drawers, and good riddance to that terrible pedestal sink.

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To be honest, I’m not totally in love with the eucalyptus wall hanging I made. I preserved the eucalyptus with vegetable glycerine (following this blog post’s helpful instruction), which has kept it flexible and intact, but it’s become less green and more reddish brown over the past couple of months. I do like it for bringing some different texture and shape into the bathroom, though. And, if nothing else, it was fun to braid string and embroidery floss.

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Preserved plants are no match for live, verdant ones. The window ledge is a great spot for plants that I’m starting from clippings.

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I swapped the existing light fixture for a mini-sputnik style chandelier from West Elm.

Before:
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After:
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Aside from the vanity, my favorite change is the mirror. The Linfield pivoting mirror from Rejuvenation is perfect: beveled edge, rounded corners, and remarkably well-made. I hope to use it for decades.

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The abutting doors were a hassle, so I replaced the closet door with a curtain. And, I swapped the door’s hinges and knob for black metal ones: small changes that made a big difference.

Before:
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After:
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More details about the bathroom closet changes can be found in my previous post.

Before:
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After:
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The Relax sign was replaced by a photo my brother took of my aunt and uncle’s pecan grove in southwest Missouri.

Before: 
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After:
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That’s all I got for now! I’ll close with the product sources; you can also see them gathered together in my previous post.

Basement Laundry Room Before and After

When we bought our house, the basement laundry room area was thoroughly gross and rather dangerous. It is significantly less gross and dangerous now! Here’s all the unglamorous work that went into that.

First step: making sure the water heater doesn’t kill us.

During our home inspection, our inspector pointed out that the melted plastic on the top of our water heater indicated our flue was blocked. This meant dangerous fumes were not venting out of the basement like they should. He suggested we remove the vent to see if we could find the cause.

Such a happy new homeowner! About to find something awesomely morbid.

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Yep: that’s a fully cooked bird. Poor little guy. We removed his bones, which solved the problem.

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Up next: so much cleaning.

Our house was purchased as-is, which meant that the previous owners were not legally obligated to clean it out before closing day. They took full advantage of that fact and left a lot of crap in the basement.

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We’re lucky to have helpful friends. Thanks, friends!

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Our favorite feature in the basement was this open drain.

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That paint tray kept the flow of water from the kitchen sink and the laundry tub directed into the hole. (We had this fixed shortly thereafter.)

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The sign next to the open drain reminded you of your manners: it says “Do not pee pee in here.” Our friend Kimberly said we should assume that any area without a sign had been peed on. She’s probably right.

Once all the junk was gone, Jarrod and I started cleaning. I scraped flaking paint off the walls. There was several rounds of wall and floor washing with bleach, TSP, and Simple Green. It took weeks. It was equal parts loathsome and satisfying. I cannot overstate just how gross this basement was. I’m going to make you look at several photos so you’ll believe me.

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Yep, that’s mold. The bleach killed it, and a dehumidifier has stopped it from returning. Initially alarming but ultimately not a big deal!

Another thing: making sure the dryer doesn’t kill us.

Lint is super flammable, which is why you’re supposed to keep your dryer vent clean and unobstructed. Our dryer vent set up was remarkably terrible. (The previous owners wrote on that board, by the way, not me.)

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They had the dryer venting into an old window, which would have been fine except 1) they didn’t remove the window screen, and 2) that window is under our back porch/mudroom (outside our kitchen, glimpsed here, and one of my current big projects). So, they were pumping hot, damp air into a semi-enclosed space. This is what I discovered when I crawled back there:

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The window screen essentially served as a secondary dryer lint collector, which is far more gross than that dead bird and nearly as dangerous.

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I threw away the screen, put up a board, learned a lot of about dryer vents, and installed a new one that ran all the way to the exterior wall. Exciting times, guys.

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It would be nice if this duct were in a less visible place, but this is the best option for the current configuration.

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Finally: paint it white.

So much painting. Two coats of primer on the brick/concrete walls, one coat of primer on the rest of the walls, followed by two coats of paint.

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I realize my “after” photos could very well be someone else’s “before” photos (and they’ll eventually be our before photos when we do a full basement remodel), but I’m still proud of the progress I’ve made with not much money and one thousand hours of hard work. It went from feeling like a place where you might get killed to being a pleasant area to do laundry.

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I was so excited to buy a new utility sink to celebrate the culmination of this project.

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Isn’t that the the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? I bought the Mustee Utilatub (such a name!) at Home Depot, and the American Standard Colony Soft Double-Handle Laundry Faucet from Amazon. I removed the old sink and installed the new one myself. It was my very first plumbing project.

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I built a simple wood shelf to hide the crumbling concrete of the window ledge. That black hose is from our washer – not pretty, but necessary.

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To commemorate the previous owners, I framed the sign and a water color painting they left tacked to the bathroom wall. Don’t even think about peeing in here.

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Chicagoans: Sign Up for a Water Meter!

If you own a house in Chicago and don’t have a pool or an indoor water park: GET A METER. I am very grateful my coworker happened to mention MeterSave to me (thanks, Curt!), so now I am mentioning it here. If you don’t own a house in Chicago, tell your friends and loved ones who do.

When we bought our house, I had no idea how Chicago’s water service worked because I never had to deal with it as a renter. I was surprised to learn that the city estimates water usage based on the size of your house, or the number of faucets, or the cut of your jib. Chicago is moving to a metered system so that they can measure actual usage instead of guessing. Make sense. Having a meter installed will be a requirement in the future, but for now they’re trying to lure people to sign up via their fancy website (“Version 1.0 Copyright 2009”) and dreamy headshots.

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The meter and installation are free: absolutely no cost to you. The installers need access to your main water valve. That was easy for us, as we had recently gutted the basement. They installed the meter here:

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They also installed a small radio instrument to the front of our house. It’s currently the most attractive thing happening in that area.

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With only two people living in our house, I knew we’d use less water than the city’s estimate, but I was still surprised by just how dramatically cheaper our water bill is now. Without a water meter, the City of Chicago would have charged us $560 every six months — nearly $100/month, making it our most expensive utility on average. With the water meter, we’re averaging $18 a month. If the price and our usage remains about the same, the water meter will save us around $900 a year. 

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If you know your water account number, proceed straight to www.metersave.org and sign up for an appointment. Note: the online form suggests that you’re scheduling an exact time, but when you get appointment reminder it’s revealed that you signed up for a two-hour window.

If you don’t know your water account number, call 312-744-4420 to ask for it! Don’t wait until you get your first six month bill to find out your number, or you’ll have wasted money. They prorate your bill from the time of installation, so the sooner the better. (That “CR” in the statement above is a credit — our non-metered water payment is paying it forward.)

April 22 is both Earth Day and my husband’s birthday. Jarrod is my most enthusiastic and supportive reader, and he’s a pretty great teammate for life. So, this proselytizing post is in his honor. HBD, JMR!