Bathroom Odds & Ends

Last night we cut and installed the top half of the sink/toilet wall. Sconces will go on either side of the medicine cabinet.


We’re a little shy of 8 feet long, so we had to cut some of the long ends off. Lo and behold the leftover strips from these 2 sheets will fit perfectly side-by-side near the ceiling to complete the wall. I love when that works out!

In addition to the ceiling we still have the door wall to do. I started to cut it out this morning but I need a second person to help move it so that will have to wait for Pete to get home from work.


I thought I might start tiling today, but I decided to finish scrubbing the chimney and apply the sealer instead. I bought the Low Lustre sealer from Behr (Home Depot).

I scrubbed the bricks with a cheap grill brush and then vacuumed it really well with the Shop Vac. I don’t mind the dark spots and imperfections, so I wasn’t going to go crazy with cleaning.


The sealer looks milky out of the jug and it’s very thin. I applied it with a cheap brush and a roller with a nap suited for uneven/rough surfaces. It took no time at all to apply two coats. It seemed to darken the brick slightly (no photo of that yet), but it doesn’t bother me.

After that I thought I better recheck my tiling plan, and it’s a good thing I did. We bought oversize subway tile which I thought was 4″ x 16″, but when I measured one it was really 4″ x 15-3/4″.

For the short faucet wall (on the right in the illustration below), we installed a 32″ x 60″ sheet of Durock and with the wall adjustment we had to make to compensate for the lack of original tile flooring, it made that wall a little wider, so almost 34″ total. The faucet holes are about 14″ on center from the back wall, and I originally planned to center the tiles based on that (and therefore cut about 2″ off the long tiles close to the wall). When I realized the tiles were less than 16″,  it seemed like it was really going to throw things off.

I determined if I use 2 full tiles along with the 2″ bullnose trim it would fit perfectly to the corner/edge of that wall, however that meant the faucet holes are slightly off-center to the tiles and I wasn’t sure if that would look weird. So while I was out running errands I stopped at The Tile Shop where we bought the tile and asked them about it. The guy assured me it wouldn’t look weird at all and that my layout looked good. So I’m going to hope he’s right and just go with it.


Finally, I thought I’d do a quick rendering of what I’m envisioning with the slate ledge/surround. At first I was going to just do a 90° angle where the corners meet, but after trying it both ways I think it’ll look much better if we follow the curve of the tub.


There’s really no room to continue the slate along the back wall nor on the faucet wall, so I’m just going to have it go straight back to the tile. I might try and get some quotes from a stone/countertop installer to see how much it would cost to have them measure and cut the slate. Along with the curve of the tub, it might be rather difficult to get a tight fit against the brick.



More Bathroom Progress

I’m sure everyone has been anxious to see how far we’ve progressed on the Great Bathroom Project of 2015!

We have definitely made good progress, but of course not as far as I hoped. The framing took much longer than I expected but it will be well worth the delay. We had to add framing in some unexpected spots and we’re not even sure how the walls were secured in some of the corners.

When I uncovered the original tile floor, I also discovered that there were a couple of areas where the floor ended sooner than expected. I’ll have to assume the walls were recessed slightly in the 1990s remodel because the newer tile covered some filled-in concrete areas like below.


The original tile definitely was laid this way because I doubt such a clean cut would have been doable in  a remodel (and there’s really no reason why it would have been done). So, I had to decide how to handle or camouflage it. After some thought, I decided to bump out the wall a little bit with 2×4 framing.

In the photo below, 2x4s, along with 1/2″ sheetrock and baseboard tiles,  would bump the wall out enough to meet this edge. This spot is to the right of the tub and behind the bathroom door, so we’re really not losing any space.


There is a similar spot to the left of the tub as you see below, and we did essentially the same thing over there.


However because we’re leaving the chimney exposed, we’re not making this a full wall bump-out but instead part of a ledge/shelf that will be tub-level made with the pool table slate we salvaged.


In addition to the  shelf, the pool slate is going to be part of a tub surround that will widen the long edge of the tub and also cover the gap between the tub and chimney. It might be hard to envision from these photos but I’m sure it’ll become clearer as we go along.


Below is the basic framing, before the additional bump-out was added to mask the missing flooring.


And here it is with the green board covering the tub skirt/apron and the bump-out (still need to add the little strip to cover the rest of the 2×4).


We were able to cut and install part of the long wall where the sink and toilet go. I was not looking forward to cutting out all the holes for the water supply and electrical, but it turned out okay. We want to replace the shut-off valves as one was dripping a little bit, so might as well do all of them while we’re at it.


Hoping to work on it more in the evenings to at least finish piecing the walls together and be ready for mudding by the weekend. It’s crunch time!

Slooooowwww Going

I really thought we’d have the cement board AND most of the green board installed in the bathroom by the end of the weekend.

On Saturday I worked on removing the drop ceiling over the tub (there was a can light over the tub, but there are several light sources in the room and no reason for yet another one), and I chiseled up the remaining floor tile  under the sink and toilet . I also cleaned the original flooring as much as I could in those areas, but I didn’t want to get too carried away since we have a ways to go before the room will stay clean.

We had my mom over for Easter brunch on Sunday but we were both too tired to do much of anything else.

As part of my birthday present yesterday, Pete and Rod worked on redoing the framing on the exterior brick wall. I had removed the framing, thinking that I might leave the brick exposed on that wall, but I decided it’s just too sloppy looking — there are big blobs of cement in several spots that are just not attractive as you can see here.


Pete lamented that we’d be a lot farther along if I hadn’t removed the framing, however I think we were better off redoing it even though it has set us back some. For one thing, the framing around the window covered well over an inch of the glass block at the bottom (because it was apparently easier for them to do it that way).

Secondly, the original window casings were still intact on either side of the glass block (there’s no budget for replacing that window, so it’s going to remain as is) and we discovered that the window weights were still loose inside the casings. In addition to many air gaps between the brick and glass block, here are two open boxes that allowed more heat to escape.


With those cleared out, I filled the cavities with spray foam and also filled the gaps between the brick and glass block. I got rid of the kraft-faced fiberglass batts that were behind the tile.

As far as insulation goes, I did some research on insulating a bathroom — in particular a brick bathroom — and found this thread on, which stated “The simple answer is ‘you don’t’.”

It appears that we are better off simply sealing the air gaps like we did and leaving the walls alone. Taking care of the planes above and below the brick walls is also recommended, so it definitely helps that we installed open cell foam insulation in our attic remodel, and we continually work on sealing air gaps from the basement (but need to work more on weatherstripping windows and doors on the main floor).

Anyway, back to the framing.

I am still going to leave the chimney exposed. I found a great blog post on exposing brick in the bathroom, and I’m going to follow her suggestions on cleaning and sealing the brick (I didn’t plan to seal the brick, but after looking into it more I think it’s a good idea).


The light fixture above the sink will not be returning. Instead I found a pair of sconces that will look nice here, so Pete set up the wiring for that.


Finally, we were able to install one sheet of Durock. Sigh. I guess there’s always next weekend.


Buh-Bye Bagster!

I scheduled the Bagster pick-up for Tuesday when I knew it’d be filled to the brim with fireplace and bathroom carnage.


One thing they don’t tell you is if you want/need it to be picked up on the day you specify you have to pay extra ($65 in our case). Our street is not well traveled and there is almost always plenty of parking, so it wasn’t imperative that it be picked up on Tuesday and I declined the extra charge.

We set up the Bagster on the parkway in between ours and our neighbor’s trees, but still on our property. Waste Management specifies how far it needs to be from any obstacles. We thought about putting it in the back by the alley, but we don’t really have the room there and the telephone lines would have been in the way.

We put a couple of work horses in the street to discourage parking too close to the Bagster, à la “Chicago Dibs”.

Once you schedule, they guarantee pickup within 3 days, so they had until Thursday to pick up, and that’s when it happened. As I was enjoying my morning coffee I saw the truck turning the corner and rushed to the living room to watch (so exciting!).




It took no time at all to hook it up, lift it and drop it, and he was on his way. Our total cost was about $30 for the Bagster from Home Depot and $168 for the pickup.

It would have cost almost double that for a huge 7′ x 10′ x 2.5′ roll-off container from our local waste management company with a limit of 2200 lbs.—and they’ll charge extra if it exceeds that. The 4′ x 8′ x 2.5′ Bagster can hold 3300 lbs. and was just the right size for our project. I have no idea how much ours weighed but I couldn’t imagine it would reach that limit.

So happy to watch that drive away!

Meanwhile, in the Bathroom…

On Saturday as I was demo’ing the fireplace I was stacking the stones on the front porch because I didn’t want to put out the Bagster until Sunday when we’d be doing the bulk of the destruction. So once the porch was pretty full I turned my attention back to the bathroom where I could dump debris in the bathtub.

One last look.


I was anxious to see what lay behind the wall. I wondered if the entire room was demo’d in this 1990s remodel or if an original wall was covered.


Nope, more brick, but that’s perfectly okay.


This is about as far as I got on Saturday.


Not looking forward to that ceiling…


On Monday, our friend Rod came over to help us, and between he and Pete, they made quick work of the demo. While I picked up tile, they did this (yay, I didn’t have to do the ceiling!).




The rest of the afternoon was spent removing screws, nails and various debris. Plus lots of cleanup, obviously.



Needless to say the Bagster was filled up in no time at all.

No April Fool’s Joke Here!


Yep, all that’s left is the white “crime scene” outline of the stone monster. Pretty apropos, I’d say.

I’m happy to say that I demo’d probably 95% of this thing myself. I did as much as I could on Saturday while Pete was at work, and then on Sunday I continued with it while Pete did some clean-up in the bathroom. It took a LOT of vacuuming with the Shop-Vac — there was a ton of concrete chunks and debris.


I didn’t think I’d be able to remove the hearth pieces myself but chiseling the cement underneath would release the bond to the stone and they lifted up pretty easily from there.

There was a wire mesh on the cement board to hold the stone and that was probably the biggest pain and mess. There were nails holding the mesh to the cement board and they were difficult to access because of the mesh and cement pieces. I had to get the mesh off in order to access the screws that were then holding the cement board to the framing.


By the end of the day Saturday I had removed all the stones from the lower section of the fireplace. Once I removed the cement board from the left hand section I could get the camera in there to see what lay within: lots of dust and a peeling baseboard radiator (I knew that was there but not how badly it was peeling).


The other unknown was the condition of the hardwood floor. You can see the contour from the stone below, which is less noticeable once I dusted the floor. From across the room you can barely see the difference even though we refinished the exposed part of the floor before we first moved in.


Once I cleaned it up the girls had some fun exploring and playing hide-and-seek.


On Sunday morning we were able to remove the hearth framing. It was held to the floor with about 5 screws, and you really have to look to see them in the hardwood.


Next we laid drop cloths and plywood to protect the floor for the upper section.


Getting the first stone out at the ceiling  was the hardest part, and most of the remaining stones were barely held in place!


In no time at all, they were all down!


Again, it was a REAL mess to get that wire mesh off, but from there it was just a matter of finding all the screws holding the framing together.


I’ve already been trying out new furniture arrangements. This was one of the early tries, but the wing chair didn’t stay there long.


I cannot tell you how huge the living room feels!


I might do some swaps with things from other rooms, and of course the house needs to be thoroughly cleaned with all the dust that has been flying around recently.

I’ll also be taking some time to contemplate how I want to proceed with the fireplace. For now, I’m totally happy with it the way it is!


I’m on Fire (in a sense)!

Here’s one last look at the stone veneer fireplace that I’ve been wanting to demolish as long as the bathroom tile (almost eight loooooooong years).


Since we have the Bagster ready to go for the bathroom, it made the most sense to me to fill it up as much as possible — and what better way to fill it up than with fireplace façade debris?!

I wasn’t sure how easy/difficult it would be to remove the stone, so I wanted to test it out before the weekend. First I removed the mantel from the short end.


I’ve always known that this veneer is cemented to Durock that is attached to 2×4 framing, so no big surprise here.


With my trusty chisel, chipping away at the top released the stone from the mesh pretty easily. Others are a little more difficult and requires chipping from all different angles.

It only took about an hour (plus a bruised finger from whacking it with a hammer) to remove most of one side.




I anticipate that the top section will be a little more difficult and painstaking because it will be harder to access. Once the demo is done, there will (eventually) be plaster work to do in order to smooth out the textured walls that were covered by the stone. We were pretty much forced to cover the texture way back when — because there were so many cracks it would have been very difficult to match the original texture.

In any case, gonna be a busy, happy demo weekend!

This Finally Happened Today


That’s right people; it’s a drop cloth in the bathtub, which could only mean it’s the day I’ve been waiting for — for almost the past 8 years!

It was a pain to start, but while Pete worked on the one tub wall, I worked on the other.


After a couple hours, we were down to the Durock on both walls.



We were able to find most of the screws that held the cement board to the studs, and this is where we stopped for the day.


I knew the chimney was behind the wall opposite the shower head, however I didn’t expect that it wouldn’t span the entire width of the tub. Still, I’m planning to keep the brick exposed in some shape or form; possibly exposing that entire wall.


We probably won’t go any further until next weekend, but we’re on our way!

The Weekend Project(s)

While I’d much rather be demo-ing a bathroom, there’s still lots of snow on the ground and nowhere to put a Bagster (c’mon Spring!). In addition, this past weekend was frigid cold, and I don’t want to be hauling broken tile outside so might as well get some other little indoor projects done.

One thing was to move the laundry room shelving to another wall. I’m not sure what my rationale was at the time, but I had the shelves on the door wall, so they were parallel to/opposite from the washer/dryer. I decided it would look better and feel roomier if they were perpendicular to them. While it means a few holes to patch and paint, I think it looks and works much better here.


Next, I finished varnishing the shelves for the linen closet and put that back together. The walls still need painting but we have to repair a crumbling plaster wall first which we’ll address when we demo the bathroom.


Finally, in addition to adding a coat of Butcher’s Wax to protect the wood, we worked on adding a stemware rack to my grandfather’s antique workbench which we use as a dining room sideboard.


Using leftover trim from our attic remodel, I thought we could use some parts to make our rack. This is the cap to the baseboard.


Taking two pieces and putting them together like you see below would create the rails that the wine stems hang from. Pete took a small square piece of wood and glued it to the notch you see there so we’d be able to thread a screw through it to secure to the workbench top.


The pegs of the workbench were the right distance apart to center each rail behind them.


Et voilá!



Now I’m debating about building a little wine storage rack to fill the space below the stemware. Anybody have any cool/unique DIY wine rack solutions?

A Hole for Cats (or a Very Large Mouse)

In preparation for the impending bathroom remodel, we’re transitioning the cats to use the litter box in the basement. I never wanted to have one in the bathroom in the first place but the basement was such a mess that I was afraid their curiosity would get them into trouble. Over the past several months we’ve slowly rearranged and reorganized the unfinished part of the basement and think we’ve plugged every hole and put away anything that might have been dangerous.

I still had a giant litter box that I bought for Henry and Ella, so I set that up before we let them venture downstairs.

Lena is always the one peeking under the basement door when we’re downstairs, so although you could tell she wanted to explore she cautiously peered down from the top step when I first opened the door. I had to get Romy to lead the way, which she did immediately with Lena eventually following. They both took to the new litter box with no problem.

We’ve been leaving the basement door ajar to let them explore on their own, and for now we’ve kept the bathroom litter box in place to wean them from it. They’re still using it a little bit, but they’re definitely preferring the basement one.

We used an antique iron as a doorstop in the hallway to make sure the basement door doesn’t close shut, however my goal was to be able to keep it closed which is why a long time ago I bought a Cat Door (I bought it from Amazon). It’s really intended for doors only, but I definitely wasn’t going to cut a hole in one of our beautiful original doors. I thought we could modify it to work in the kitchen wall instead, which is just on the other side of the basement stairs.

Several years ago and before Henry and Ella showed signs of their Feline Leukemia, Pete had cut an arch in the drywall on the basement stair side using the paper template they provide. That’s as far as we got until last weekend.

We thought it would be a quick little afternoon project, but it took the better part of the day to finish it all off and make it look nice. Here is the spot in the kitchen that allows access to the basement stairs, which is immediately as you enter the kitchen from the main hallway.

First we removed the trim in the kitchen and punched starting points through the drywall from the basement side that would match up with the hole we already made there.


We wanted to make it as close to the top stair as possible, so it’s right next to the wall stud. Peek-a-boo!


Pete found some scraps from our attic reno trim project that would cover the bottom plate and I quickly stained the stud with the gel stain I recently bought.


He also found a scrap 2×6 to plug up and create the opposite “wall” of the access hole and then we screwed the arched cat brush (included in the kit) to the studs.


I put a quick coat of stain on the wood arch trim (on both sides of the wall), then Pete cut the baseboard trim to fit around the hole and we’re done! (I decided to just use the darker stain instead of using the kitchen trim stain since the walls and floor of the access were darker too.)


Lena was a little unsure about it on her first go-through as you can see, but she’s comfortable with it now.


I might take the bathroom litter box away sometime this weekend and then after a few days once they’re used to that we’ll be able to keep the basement door fully closed.