Half-Bathroom Renovation: Day 4 and Beyond

I’m back with the second half of my half-bathroom renovation chronicles. You can check out previous posts here: Half-Bathroom Renovation is Underway! and Half-Bathroom Renovation: Days 1 through 3.

Day 4

On Day 4, I woke up very early so that I could put another (better) coat of paint on the walls and ceiling before the crew returned. I knew wallpaper would cover most of the flaws, but I didn’t want that to be an excuse for shoddy finishing work.

Bathroom Painting.JPG

When the guys arrived, they tackled all of the finishing details: beadboard, trim, etc. The weather was beautiful that week, which was great for an outdoor construction zone.

Outdoor Construction Zone.JPG

New trim and architrave above the door:Architrave.JPG

I had this photo printed out to show the guys how I wanted the window trim done, which was helpful for explaining details: mitered corners, slightly extended sill, etc.

Window Trim Photo.JPG

They went rogue on one detail – cutting angled corners for the bottom piece of trim – but I decided to be fine with that.

Window Sill.JPG

Day 4 was the last day the crew was scheduled to be at our house. They had another job booked for Friday and, with Patrick gone, were very pressed for time. They started rushing things.

Bathroom Beadboard.JPG

I won’t go into all of the small errors because that’s really boring, but here’s one example: the door was hung without chiseling out one of the door hinge slots. They simply screwed the hinge on top of the door. (I had them hang the door prior to my painting it.)

Door Hinge.JPG

The biggest problem was that the beadboard was installed crooked. The height varied by over 2 inches and the trim along the top visibly sloped.

So, at the end of the final day we were left with crooked beadboard, uncaulked trim, a door with no knob, and a handful of miscellaneous issues.

Bathroom Progress.JPG

The Following Week

I asked Patrick to come out the following week to discuss the job. To his credit, he looked at the beadboard and immediately said “This is unacceptable.” They removed and reset the trim along the top so that it’s more level (it’s still not perfect, but it’s within a margin of error that’s acceptable to me). They also re-mudded some areas to fix a few drywall issues…

Drywall Mud Fail.JPG

Not great, right?!

Drywall Mud Fail 2.JPG

At this point I figured it was best to cut my losses. We parted ways amicably and I finished the work myself – sanding the walls smooth, caulking the trim, etc. Everything’s fine now. All totaled, I think the guys did a B- job. It wasn’t a terrible contractor experience; it certainly wasn’t great, but they were very reasonably priced, so I feel like I got my money’s worth. Let’s call it a learning experience and move on!

Painting and Door Details

Painting the trim and beadboard in this tiny powder room was a real chore. It was cramped and involved a lot of toilet straddling.

Cramped Space Painting.JPG

DIY Throne.JPG

In the weeks prior to the renovation, I had purchased a wonderfully solid, vintage five-panel door for $20. It was covered in a hundred years worth of paint, which obscured the wood details. I stripped it to, yes, paint it again. Don’t you judge me! (You can judge me.)

Door Stripping.png

It was slow-going but satisfying work.

Door Progress.JPG

I removed the old mortise lock and cut a piece of wood to fill the pocket. I used some chopsticks to make it extra-tight and then filled everything in with Bondo putty.

Door Progress 2.JPG

I painted the door following this helpful Family Handyman guide.

Five Panel Door Painting.JPG

Their screw tip was really helpful: it let me paint both sides of the door without waiting for the first side to dry.

Door Painting.JPG

Wallpaper

Finally: wallpaper! I hired Midwest Paperhangers to do the job, and they were great.

Wallpaper Table.JPG

The multiple angles of this room required careful planning. This father-and-son team measured precisely and planned where seams would meet, doing calculations that would have broken my brain.

Planned Wallpaper Seam.JPG

Connel Sr. and Connel Jr. knocked out this awkward, angled room in only two and a half hours. It was amazing.

Bathroom Wallpaper Crew.JPG

Wallpaper Installation.JPG

And that’s where I’ll leave you for now! I’ll be back on Tuesday morning with photos of the finished bathroom.

Toilet Straddle.JPG

Adding Moulding to Inside Out Bi-Fold Doors

Yesterday I shared a quick post about my new entryway chandelier and rug. Now I’m back with a long post on the final change I made in this first wave of improvements: DIY Shaker bi-fold doors for our entryway closet. Here’s where we started:

Closet Doors Before.JPG

It’s fine, but I disliked that the closet doors were as much a focal point as the front door: same paneling, same moulding, same color. The focus should be on our home’s entryway, not the bi-fold doors.

Additionally, I didn’t love the exaggerated faux woodgrain – nothing wrong with it, just not my style.

Closet Door Before Closeup.JPG

I wanted a smoother finish with Shaker-style trim, which is a better fit for our Craftsman(esque) bungalow.

Reversing the Doors

There are a lot of good guides online from people who have tackled similar projects (e.g. The DIY Playbook and Room for Tuesday), but they started with plain bi-fold doors. I wanted to make do with what I had, if possible, so I decided to try flipping the doors inside out to use of the flush backside.

Closet Door Back.JPG

I started by removing the doors. Then I removed the hinges and drilled through the existing screw holes with a small drill bit. That made it easy to know where to mount the hinges on the reverse side of the door. I flipped the door over and reattached the hinges.

Closet Door Hinges.JPG

Then I put the door back on its track to see if this harebrained idea worked. It did! The inside out door functioned without problem. So, I proceeded.

Closet Door Inside Out.JPG

I sanded the doors with 220 grit to create a nice, smooth finish.

Door Sanding.JPG

Selecting the Moulding

Next step was moulding. I went to Lowe’s and Home Depot to check out their lattice trim offerings. (Note: Room for Tuesday said she used 1 inch thick poplar boards, but that felt too chunky for these doors.) Home Depot had the best options for what I had in mind.

Lattice Options.JPG

I expected to buy pine lattice, but the oak lattice was a quarter inch wider. This small difference made the trim feel more substantial.

Pine and Oak Lattice.JPG

Oak cost about $20 more total than pine, which was worth it to me to have the proportions that felt best. For the top and bottom pieces, I went a step wider and bought 3 inch poplar project boards. (I think even wider horizontal pieces would look great, too.)

Poplar Board.JPG

Attaching the Trim

I cut the trim to size, starting with the vertical pieces and then adding the horizontal sections. I used Liquid Nails to affix the trim.

Trim Glue.JPG

I also used finishing nails at the top and bottom, and at a few points in between. I held them in place with long nose pliers to save my fingers from hammering.

Finishing Nail.JPG

I sunk the nail using a nail setter. I picked up this Kobalt 3-Piece Titanium Nail Punch Set at Lowe’s and it’s been super handy.

Nail Setter.JPG

I chose to do a simple Shaker style, with moulding around the perimeter of each door and no additional horizontal pieces, because my goal was to make the doors less of a focal point. I don’t need a fancy closet. Also, this style coordinates with our nearby kitchen cabinets, and this house is in bad need of cohesion.

Closet Trim Progress 2.JPG

You need to set the trim inside the outer edge or else the door won’t be able to open. When I first read that guidance online, it took me a bit to understand why, so here’s a visual aid that maybe (?) helps…

When the door is shut, there is plenty of space between the door frame and the edge of the door:Door Space Shut.jpg

But the angle of the opening door takes up more space. You need that extra room for the trim to clear the door frame:Door Space Open.jpg

I set the moulding about 0.25″ inside the outer edge of the closet door. The “right” position depends on how thick your trim is: the thicker the trim, the more space you’ll need. Before I proceeded with painting, I rehung my first door to double-check that everything was still functioning properly.

Closet Trim Progress.jpg

Then I spackled the wood seams and nail holes, did a final sanding pass, and caulked any gaps between the moulding the door. Finally, it was time to prime and paint. Painting is, as we’ve established, the worst task in the world. I got through it, but I failed to document it.

Trim Spackling.JPG

The Finished Product

We went from white bi-fold doors:Bifold Doors Before.JPG

To slightly different white bi-fold doors! DIY Bifold Door Moulding.JPG

I used the same knobs I bought for our bathroom vanity upstairs: Amerock’s Blackrock 1-1/3″ Cabinet Knob. I may eventually swap these out for a black metal pull, but I decided to start simple.

Closet Trim and Knobs.JPG

As for cost: I could have purchased new, totally plain bifold doors for $45 each. By flipping the doors, I saved $90 and didn’t waste otherwise-perfectly-fine doors. All totaled, the wood trim cost $60, which is at least half the price of any comparable craftsman bifold doors I found elsewhere. And, I like these more than anything I found: the style is exactly what I wanted.

Bifold Doors with Trim.JPG

So, we went from this:entryway-before

To this:entryway-before-2

To this:Entryway Rug and Chandelier.JPG

But I’m not finished yet. There are three major changes left on my to-do list for this area, and they need to happen in this order:

1. New front door: I plan to hire someone to install a new door – likely this JELD-WEN Craftsman 6-Lite Primed Steel, which I’ll likely paint black.

2. New moulding: I’m going to replace the moulding around all of the doors with something Craftsman-appropriate. I plan to do this myself, and I am dreeeeaaading it.

3. New coat rack: Finally, I’m going to build a simple hook rail. I might run it across the entire length of the wall, right up to the moulding around the living room entryway. So, it makes sense to hold off on this until the new moulding is in place.

Monkeying with an external door in the middle of winter seems inadvisable, so I’m going to put a pin in the entryway for now and focus on the other projects in my 2017 House Goals list.

One Last Thing: Upcoming Reader Survey

I put together a reader survey to help me better understand who reads this blog, and how you do, and why you do! I’ll return later this week with a link to the survey and a plea for your participation. Thanks in advance, buddies.

2017 House Goals

In 2016, our house saw many sweeping, expensive changes. 2017 isn’t likely to be quite as dramatic, but that doesn’t mean I’m slowing down. I’m excited to tackle a lot of projects throughout the house – here’s a rundown of everything on my docket.

I’ve listed the projects in order of “This will definitely happen” to “I hope this will happen but who the f knows what the future holds.”

1. Fix Up Mantle and Bookshelves

Our fireplace mantle and bookcases are in poor shape: the mantle is flecked with paint, the shelves look parched, and the stain is inconsistent. I threw our books up there when we moved in, and now it’s time to fix up and thoughtfully arrange this area.

Living Room Fireplace

I got a jump on this project in 2016 by painting the previously-painted-red brick.

Cat Fireplace.JPG

2. Spruce Up Entryway

I hadn’t put too much effort into our entryway until just recently. Now I have a new light fixture and a new (old) rug, which I’ll share soon. Left to do: buy/build a hook rail, upgrade our closet doors, and improve the closet storage situation.

3. Finish Mudroom Interior and Exterior

I spent a hundred hours on the mudroom in 2016, but never showed you any of the interior and never reached a point I’d call “finished.” (You saw the exterior in the backyard post.)

4. Improve Attic Insulation and Circulation

One not-fun but important thing I need to figure out in 2017 is our attic insulation. During our pre-closing house inspection, our inspector noted that it could stand to be improved. But it hadn’t really caused any problems* until this winter, when we witnessed the symptoms of and then learned the term “ice dam.”

Ice Dam Diagram.png(Diagram from the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association’s Bungalow Maintenance 101 guide, which I highly recommend.)

In short: heat in our attic causes snow to melt off our roof, which refreezes in and over our gutters. It also creates a murderous slick of ice on our front walk and stairs.

Gutter Ice Dam.jpg

* Though our second floor bedroom can be chilly, our 2016 house utility bills were virtually identical to our 2015 apartment utility bills, which was a huge load off my mind – I had really stressed about heating and cooling costs when we first moved in. This winter is expected to be brutal, however, so I’m sure that will change.

5. Figure out Bedroom Storage

The IKEA storage drawers you saw in the bedroom post are wearing out their welcome. We need better storage solutions inside and outside the closet. I also hope to install new bifold closet doors (bifold doors are shockingly expensive, by the way – I don’t really understand why).

bedroom-ikea-dresser

6. Buy a New Sofa

You’d think this would be easy. It’s not.

7. Install New Doors

I’d like to replace:

  • Our front door with a craftsman door (painted black)
  • Our back door with a glass door (so we can see our garden from our kitchen)
  • Our half-bath door with a craftsman door, if I…

8. Renovate the Half-Bathroom

If I tackle this project, it will be my very first floor-to-ceiling renovation! Given its small size and my modest ambitions, I think (fingers crossed) it could be in the budget this year.

Bathroom

I’ve ordered a few wallpaper samples, picked out a toilet*, and started to get quotes from contractors. It will be a mix of DIY and hiring out.

* If you’re worried that I may have selected a toilet that won’t be able to flush 3 cell phones, 40 cigarettes, 20 golf balls, and 56 chicken nuggets: stop worrying. It totally can. The product video on the Home Depot site kills me. Such peppy music! Such ill-advised flushing challenges!

Toilet Nuggets.png

Those 8 goals should keep me plenty busy, and keep this blog filled with content. There will be other smaller scale projects along the way as well, including decorating our guest bedroom and adding planters to our front stoop. Stay tuned!

Backyard Patio, Painting, and Landscaping

The 2016: Year of the Exterior blogging bonanza continues with painting, patio installation, and landscaping. This is where we started:

Deck Before.JPG

Let’s dive in!

Lipstick on a Pig

Here’s the situation with the tacked-on room at the back of the house: it used to be an exterior porch. At some point, it was enclosed – very, very poorly. So poorly that they didn’t even finish the job, even though they started it years ago. The drywall on the interior was never mudded (you can get a glimpse of it through our kitchen door). The proportions of the windows don’t make any sense. The siding was installed totally incorrectly (visible screws!). It freezes in the winter and bakes in the summer. It’s a cobbled-together garbage mess… but it’s sturdy, and it’s not unsafe. Fixing it will essentially require that we tear it down and rebuild it ($20k-ish?), which isn’t in the budget for the foreseeable future and simply isn’t a priority. It may never be. It functions fine for what it is (a mudroom), and my goal was to make it look as decent as possible for as little money as possible.

Which is a long way of saying: I put some lipstick on that pig.

When I posted about re-routing our dryer vent, I mentioned that it previously vented under the back porch: that’s what led to the mold you see on the siding. I scrubbed it and power washed it.

Mudroom Siding Before.JPG

I hired a pro to paint the front of our house (more on that in the next post). I planned to paint the mudroom myself, but we were on a tight schedule with only a few days of cooperative weather, so I added $200 to our painting bill. Worth it, especially since there were ladders involved.

Behold the wonders of paint.

Mudroom Exterior Progress 3.JPG

The light is from Amazon (Outdoor Aluminum Barn Light). I installed it myself, and it fits perfectly under the eave.

Jarrod and I did paint the garage on our own:

Garage Painting.JPG

Goodbye Deck, Hello Patio

The existing deck had to go. It was rotten and splintering. It also had no stairs, so you couldn’t access it directly from the yard.

I stressed a little about the decision between building a new deck vs. putting in a patio, but it was pretty clear that a patio was the right choice for us. A patio makes maximum use of our available yard space. The deck took up far more room than just its footprint – it loomed over the yard such that no one (people nor plants) would want to hang out around the perimeter. For example, there was a good 3 feet between the fence and the deck that was wasted space.

Deck and Fence.JPG

I chose Brussels Block paving stones from Unilock. We used the Limestone color, laid in a random-ish pattern. I like the tumbled, worn finish. It’s a nice break from the brick city that is our house.

Unilock_BBK_CH_Limestone_325.jpg

I try to be upfront about costs around here: I hope it’s helpful, not obnoxious. Paver patios are incredibly expensive – there’s just no way around it. To be very honest, this luxury wouldn’t have been in our budget had we not made some bonus money by renting our house out for filming (see Let’s All Watch Easy on Netflix). Since that money was unexpected, it felt like ~fun~ money, and it seemed fitting to put it toward something we really wanted.

Which is a long way of saying: we paid $6,800 for the patio plus the corner seat wall. That includes installation and all materials.

This patio could very well outlive us. If we spend decades in this house, it will have been a smart move. If something unexpected happens and we move in 5 years, it will have been a foolish purchase and a cautionary tale. $$ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ $$

Thanks to our drive-through gate, the crew was able to back up right next to the deck.

Deck Demo Truck.JPG

Deck Demo.JPG

Demo went very quickly. They sprayed the patio outline (that’s a pano photo – it’s not curved) and then dug it out.

Patio Chalk Lines.JPG

Patio Dig Out.JPG

Next came a gravel and sand base, which was compacted.

Patio Gravel Base.JPG

I went to work the next day and when I came back we had a patio. Magic! Well, kinda magic. There was still a lot of work to do.

Mudroom Exterior Progress 2.JPG

Another Coat of Lipstick on the Pig

Again, my goal was to make the mudroom as decent as possible for as little money as possible. I’ve done a few things to make it look more intentional, and have a few things left to do.

I started by washing and painting the wallboard below the beam.

Mudroom Exterior Progress 4.JPG

Then I bought two pieces of cheap lattice, which I cut to fit.

Lattice.JPG

I stained them using Ready Seal and a pump sprayer.

Lattice Staining.JPG

And then I affixed them to the wall using decking screws.

Mudroom Lattice.JPG

Yes, it looks weird to have a sliding door to nowhere. I’m not sweating it. I actually see these a lot around Chicago – people use them as big back windows with Juliet balconies. In 2017, I’m going to put up a railing, plant some tall grass/sedges, and make a better area for our grill.

Plants, Plants, Plants!

As low-grade hippies, Jarrod and I decided to go with native landscaping. That means all of the plant varieties we used grow naturally in midwest prairies and woodlands. They contribute to the ecosystem of birds, bees, and other animals that live in Chicago. (If you’re interested, see the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Landscaping with Native Plants.) We hired Monica of Red Stem Native Landscapes. She was great to work with. In the future, we’ll tackle smaller landscaping projects on our own, but there was so much work to be done that it made sense to get help.

As someone who loves plants, I cannot tell you exciting it was to have a truck full of trees and shrubs arrive. Some of these were for the backyard, some of them were for the front, and some were for other people that I wanted to steal.

Landscaping Delivery.JPG

We got an Armstrong Maple for the back corner. These trees grow fast and tall – but not wide – which makes it perfect for a Chicago backyard.

ArmstrongMaple.JPG

We put shrubs and plants around the patio. They’ll fill in and envelop the space, softening the hard edges of the patio. The Blackhaw Viburnum shrub in the corner, for example, will grow at least 10 feet tall.

Shrubs.JPG

Here’s a shot after the shrubs went it, but before the plants arrived:

Patio After.JPG

For fun, let’s compare that to a before:

Sideyard Before 3.JPG

Yep, that’s better. Let’s keep moving. When the baby plants arrived, we still hadn’t totally finished painting, because painting is the very worst thing in the entire world.

Baby Plants.JPG

The plants weren’t much to look at during the toddler stage. Most of their energy is spent establishing roots. Monica said the rule of thumb with native plant growth is “First year sleep, second year creep, and third year leap.”

Toddler Plants.JPG

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by the growth and flowering we saw in our first year.

Toddler Plants 2.JPG

Bees.JPG

Ooof, this post was a beast! Thanks for sticking around until the end. See you tomorrow for the final post: the front yard.

Cheap Bungalow-Friendly Light Fixture

Just a quick post with one more before and after from our bedroom – I wanted to spread the good word about this inexpensive semi-flush ceiling light I found on Amazon.

upstairs1

What a world of difference paint and caulk makes!

Landing After.jpg

The light fixture is only 36 bucks with free shipping: World Imports Lighting 9007-88 Luray 1-Light Semi-Flush Light Fixture. I like that it feels period-appropriate for our 1913 bungalow, while still looking clean-lined. It’s a steal for such a nice fixture and, if you’re on a budget, it’s a great alternative to Rejuvenation/School House Electric.

Ceiling Light Fixture.jpg

I bought two but have only installed one so far: the other stairway light fixture is 12+ feet above the landing. The fixture there currently does not have a globe or working light bulbs. Eventually, I may want to have a big chandelier of some sort here, but I want to pick out all of the first floor light fixtures first. In the interim, the Amazon light will work great, if I can get it up there!

Stairwell Light.JPG

I need to buy a taller ladder or teach Jarrod how to install a light fixture: I’m not sure which is more dangerous.