Archive for the 'bathrooms' Category

Drywall’n In The House Tonight

Getting back to where I left off last we had our electrical inspection and……wait for it…..we didn’t pass. Boo! Luckily it was just very minor things that could easily be added/fixed. There were two locations where the holes we drilled to run wiring in the 2×4 walls were 1″ from the edge of the stud instead of the 1 1/4″ required per code. Yes our inspector was nit picking over 1/4 of an inch! (But overall the two inspectors in our area are actually pretty good guys.) I guess next time we need to measure where the center is instead of eyeballing it. We were able to quickly fix this with some $.60 metal cover plates to keep screws or nails from hitting the wire. Just hammer them in over the thinner area and you’re good to go. They do make the drywall bulge out a little in those areas though (kind of a bummer) but our existing walls are so wavy it will fit right in!

The one other request the inspector had before he passed us to continue had to deal with smoke detectors. He was requiring that we add one to the master bedroom but noted that starting in 2012 a new state law was requiring them in every bedroom for existing homes also. So any future inspection we ever have in the home he could ask us to add them in the other two bedrooms and the basement. We ended up installing 6 new detectors when all was said and done. I was bummed our nice clean bedroom ceilings would be ruined by smoke detectors that would be an eye sore when you’re in the bed sleeping. So I searched around and found a slim smoke detector, Kidde’s Silhouette.

I love the way the look! Too bad they don't have a smoke and CO combo unit that looks like that. Flannel Man added old work round electrical boxes for the smoke detectors but I failed to tell him these new smoke detectors I bought were square. Whoops! I ended up being square to the walls in the master bedroom but in the two spare bedrooms they are at an angle. For now they are staying that way because the boxes are foamed in place.

To follow up the inspector had no issue with us not having two outlets in the tiny hallway/entry to our master bedroom and said that because one wall was existing there were exceptions to the 12′ rule. He said we had plenty of convenience outlets around the room and noted that we had more outlets in the new smaller master bedroom than we had originally in the bigger master bedroom so it was no big deal. Apparently he doesn’t whip out the tape measure to keep everyone to the 12′ rule like he does for the 1 1/4″ rule (above) because it is not a safety hazard. Makes sense to me. We’re glad we have practical and relatively easy going inspectors compared to nearby cities. I’m telling you the country is where it’s at!


The electrical inspector returned to pass us so we could start adding insulation to the walls. You can find some good tips for insulating around electrical with fiberglass batt here. Like I said before we used some kraft faced insulation we already had plus some new unfaced insulation which is significantly cheaper. Because we were adding visqueen (aka. poly sheeting) to the mix we thoroughly slashed any facing that was going under it.

We picked the 6mil thick visqueen which was unnecessarily thick but it was only a few bucks more than the 4mil so we figured why not. The 6 mil wasn’t that much harder to work with but the one benefit I do see to the 4 mil is that the thinner sheets are see through. Why is that beneficial? Well what we didn’t know having never used visqueen before is that you typically keep the plastic covering the windows until after you’ve drywalled, mudded, and painted saving you time from having to tape them off again and again. So our nice treetop views out the new windows will be covered up for a long time. : ( Not a big deal but it’s kind of depressing not being able to see outside in ¼ of my house.


First we moved all of the drywall from our screened in porch and garage which was a task in itself with 8×10′ pieces. The stairs from the garage were too tight of a bend so the person on the stairs had to lift their end over their head onto the stair railing, crawl under the piece while the other person held the free end, pick it back up and position themselves first through the small opening for the built in leading to the master closet.

The first area that got drywalled was the master closet which only need a few pieces.

At the last minute I convinced Flannel Man to switch the attic access to just inside our new closet. Originally it was in a spare bedroom closet but to get to the access all of the shelving and things in the closet needed to be moved. It’s always been a pain and we’re just using it for spare storage right now. This new location will mean nothing needs to be moved to access the attic. Flannel Man built up the sides with spare 2×10 pieces so that the insulation won’t fall out of the hatch when it’s open.

The old closet door.


With all of the drywall to hang Flannel Man and Papa Flannel went into overdrive. Papa Flannel would stop by the house and wake up Flannel Man early everyday and they would work on it for 1-2 hours before Flannel Man had to go to work. He also came over on weekends he was available and the three of us had a hanging party. OK well not a party but I can pretend if I want right?

We also tried a new to us product called Green Glue to help soundproof some key walls. This is not the right way to apply the glue (DON’T DO THIS!). We tried it on our first wall and it was a complete fail. I’m doing a separate post on soundproofing and the right ways to use Green Glue so stay tuned.

Two layers of drywall were also used on those key walls for better soundproofing. This is the wall between our master bathroom and the bedroom.

The backside of that wall.


The view of our living room was slowly changing. For the first time in months we couldn’t see from one end of our house to the other.

Next up our master bedroom exterior wall.

And finally the long wall between the master bedroom and the living room. This wall is another wall we soundproofed.

Outlets in the wall had to be kept out extra deep. The electrician oringally thought that was an error on our part until we explained one side had two sheets of 1/2″ drywall and the other only had one. Another good reason we hung our own boxes!

The second layer of drywall going up. Notice the seams of the first piece were caulked up with acoustical sealant.

The view of the master closet from the bedroom now that there is drywall.

This has been our makeshift door to and from the construction zone for months. Every piece of drywall was brought through here. It’s going to be a built in bookcase for the entry but for now it’s our super skinny doorway.

My corner of the master bedroom. Sorry Flannel Man I called it!

The same corner from the entry door. Notice the awesomely slim smoke detector.

This stuff is so expensive! I hope it works well.

The right way to apply Green Glue.


Yipee we finally got the living room side of the long wall done. The 10′ pieces were harder to handle but they make quick work of this +20′ wall. Less seams are always good.

The green drywall is started in the master bathroom.

master entry smk det


Our Remodel: Now with More Electrical and Bonus Insulation!

I’m still playing catch up with blog posts vs. real life progress so bare with me. I have a bunch of posts half written so I’m not going to take the time to re-write them in the past tense. It’s my blog so I can do things like that. This all means there are many more posts to come and soon!

We’re now onto running the electrical for the main floor. Wiring the basement lights seemed to take forever but with our electrician being more available things are really moving along. Just like before we’re helping out the electrician in every way we can by drilling, stapling, and pulling the wiring ourselves. The electrician left us this handy tool to help drill in tight spaces.

Trust me this thing has a lot of power. Throw on a long drill bit and this guy will cut through anything it can reach! We’re also working on wiring up all of the outlets with pigtails (except for the last outlet of the chain which only has one wire and doesn’t need pigtails).


In a previous post I showed the tape outlines of the furniture we’re going to have in the space and they have really come in handy for deciding where to put electrical outlets. I had drawn up the general placement of all of the switches and outlets in the rooms to meet code but with the walls built I’m not reworking everything to make for an easier installation. Like moving outlets a little so they can be attached directly to wall studs without having to add extra bracing or sliding an outlet to be hidden by a piece of furniture. I’m irrational and would rather not look at a bunch of random outlets I needed to add per code if I don’t have to.

We’re hoping to get away with not needing an outlet on both sides of the short hallway/entrance to the bedroom. If the inspector considers it a hallway we only need one but if he considers it part of the bedroom we’re right at 12’ between the one side outlet and the other corner of the hallway (there is a much more convenient existing outlet right around the corner but technically it’s too far away to count). Putting an outlet right at a corner would look strange so we’d put it in roughly the middle of the short wall but that has existing drywall and electrical so it’s not easy to add. Plus having two outlets in a short hall that is so skinny I’ll never plug anything in there seems silly. We’ll see what the inspector says. I did add an extra outlet next to the chair in case I ever want to have a floor lamp there for reading and at the last minute I added a second switch there for the overhead light which I think will be more convenient to turn off at night than the one near the entry door.

The one exposed junction box we needed due to existing conditions and the outlet will be hidden by a nightstand.

The master closet will have two lights and a high outlet (for some fun task lighting…more on this to come) controlled by the switch. This ceiling is a hot mess because of the chimney removal.

Here is half of the area we refer to as mission control. At the end of the hallway has a bank of three switches on both sides of the hall. They control (1) the entry chandelier, (2) the hallway ceiling lights, (3) the hallway movie theater lights (downward facing night lights at the base of one wall), (4) the living room switched outlets, (5) the spot light that used to be on the fireplace, and (6) the flood lights at both the front and back of the house…this is the most random switch placement ever. Both flood lights can also be controlled by a switch in the basement next to the patio door.

We’re keeping the mission control area because there is no other good place to put all of these switches but we’re going to organize them a little better. The outdoor flood lights have been separated. The back flood light (pointing toward the fenced in dog yard) will be only controlled from the basement patio door switch. The front flood light will be controlled from a switch next to our front door for when guests are coming or going. No more accidentally hitting a hallway switch and having both the front and back flood lights on all day!
The two newly freed up switch spots will be kept for future living room lighting. For now though we just ran un-connected wiring up to the attic and left it coiled in a roll up there. The switch plate will be filled with some blank off pieces so the three gang is now only a one gang. It’ll look strange but it’s much easier to make these changes now when we have the wall open.


The bathrooms are where the electrical boxes need to be a lot more exact. Wanting to have sconces on either side of the mirrors, all of the switches in a neat organized group that doesn’t interfere with the vanity backsplash tile or wainscoting, and hidden outlets in some of the cabinets makes things more difficult.

Sorry to say but electrical is normally a bit of a hack job (ducks from tomatoes being thrown) with electricians having a lot of say on where things get placed. Most homeowners don’t think about every outlet or switch. When I was getting quotes from electricians they were shocked to see I had electrical drawings showing where I wanted things. Yes I know I should have “building design nerd” tattooed on my forehead. But like I mentioned before going with a part-time electrician where we acted as his assistants allowed us to make those placement decisions and it was our time that was spent working out all of those details and putting in all the boxes ourselves. There was a lot of dimension checking on my part between the CAD files I had drawn up and what the actual space ended up being (which was luckily not too far off). Then a lot of things we considered when we were placing bathroom electrical boxes:


– What size the mirrors will be and where they will be hung. You want the sconces to be in the top third of the mirror height but not all the way at the top and you need the light from them to be at a pleasing eye level for flattering/useful task lighting. In the main bathroom I picked out sconces with a glass shade that point downward so the electrical box is hung higher so the center of the bulb is at the right height. In the master bathroom I have scones that point upward and have a shade that diffuses the light. You want that around eye level as well because if they are too high or too low you’ll be able to see the bulb. Another thing we considered was that Flannel Man and I are about 6” different in height so we came up with a happy middle number to use as our average eye height.


– Where will the vertical storage cabinets be in both bathrooms and how far away should the sconces be from them? There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in placing these sconces (hmm should have thought of that before) so when there were wall studs in the way we had to go to shallow pan boxes that are only ½” thick. The wiring has to be run in a way so that you only have one wire into these shallow boxes (so they have to be the end of a daisy chain or each have their own separate line back to the switch).

Here we had to the left sconce before ending the daisy chain at the right sconce because it is only a shallow pan box.


– How high will the vanity backsplash tile be and how will the edges be trimmed out? In the master bath we’re going to use some type of pencil tile trim to finish off the edges nicely. We don’t have that picked out yet so we’re guessing on an average size for that. The three gang box of switches will be very close to where the tile ends so that will be interesting. In the main bathroom we’re using exterior trim for the wainscoting which will top off the vanity backsplash so…


– What height is the wainscoting running at and where do I want the light switches in relation to that? Turns out the wainscoting will be right around the average height you’re supposed to put light switches but I thought it would look stupid to stop the trim and put switches so I put half of the switches above and half below.


– I didn’t want the GFCI outlets for the vanities breaking up the pretty backsplash tile and Flannel Man didn’t want to cut them in the side of the tall vertical storage cabinets so we wanted to place them on the open wall space next to the vanities just below the lip of the vanity top. They will be easy to use right there but visually not right in your face.


– That meant we had all of the light and exhaust fan switches plus the electric floor mat thermostat (per the manufacturer this needed to be in its own single gang box) plus the GFCI outlet all in the few inches between the door and the vanity in both bathrooms. The means a double gang box + two single gang boxes for the main bathroom and a triple gang box + two single gang boxes in the master bathroom. I wanted this group of boxes to look neat and organized not just hap hazardly placed on the wall so that entailed lining up the boxes in as much of a grid as possible. Drawing them that way on a CAD drawing was one thing but installing them and running all of the wires to these congested wall cavities was another. Through some creative thinking we came up with the idea to construct some of supports and attach the boxes separate from the wall to make everything fit. We’ll see how it all looks with the switch plates on…I hope it looks OK!


– The grille and light/grille combos for the exhaust fans needed to be centered over the showers and in the case of our big master bath the toilet so final sizes needed to be known.


– The flushmount ceiling light over the roman tub in the master bath had to be centered…well that is what I thought until I realized it the tub needs to be a few inches off to account for the tub faucet being on one end. I know we could have avoided that little problem by putting the faucet on the front or the back but I didn’t want to half to crawl over the faucet to get in the tub and I didn’t want the faucet along an exterior wall where I couldn’t reach it. Having it on the side allows us to build a hidden access panel in the half wall between the tub and toilet. So after confirming where all of that would be we just centered the light over the window which is what it is closest to anyway. That exact spot was over a truss so we needed another pan box for the tight space.

An overall view of the master bath electrical:


We also started adding insulation to the exterior walls now that the weather is getting colder. For now we can only put insulation in the wall cavities with no electrical wiring until the inspector comes by to approve everything. Only after we stapled everything up did Papa Flannel point out that we had used the wrong type of insulation. We bought paper faced batt which is what we bought for the exterior wall in the garage. But because we’re trying to save energy by cutting down on infiltration as much as possible we’re using visqueen on these walls and any other future walls we open up. Visqueen is just a big plastic sheet that covers the wall from top to bottom with no seams. It is a vapor barrier and so is the kraft paper on the batt so we’re cutting lots of holes into the batt paper we’ve already hung up and bought.

(The floor in the main bathroom has to stay open until the inspector can approve the electrical for the basement sink lights.)


In a mad rush to get everything done before the inspector came over we quickly installed the bathroom exhaust fans and the grille/light combo boxes. We picked out some inline fans that will sit in the attic so that we can use the existing roof penetrations. We also loved the minimal appearance the grilles and grille/light combos have in the space and how much more quiet the system is since the fan is not in the space. So we went with a FanTech single grille with light in the main bathroom and a dual grille with one light in the master bathroom.

Cutting in the new small 4″ hole with the old 8″ exhaust fan hole nearby.

Up in the attic we installed the larger master bath fan (note the Y connection is simply resting on top of the fan in this picture so we don’t lose it):

And the smaller main bathroom fan:

Light/grille combo box shown nearby:


But really what would this post be without some more people falling through the ceiling?

Yup our electrician managed to stick his leg through the ceiling not once but twice in the same spot on the same day. The first time I was concerned he was OK. The second time I was just annoyed. His excuse was “the drywall is old and brittle.” Um I think the real lesson is you don’t weigh what you used to. And since when is walking on drywall OK? Seriously. We got no apology either for all of the mess he made. Now we have to replace most of the ceiling in the main bathroom. Luck for him that was the last day we needed him before the inspector came.

We Are Now The Proud Owners of a Custom Walnut Vanity

Back when I came up with these new bathroom layouts 4 years ago I knew we would have an odd amount of extra space. In the main bathroom the shower/tub combo wasn’t changing size and toilets are all roughly the same size. So we could make an extra long vanity (though it wasn’t quite long enough for a double sink) or add some vertical storage next to the vanity or the shower. I opted to keep the toilet in the nook next to the shower and have some tall storage next to the vanity because I was over having the toilet two feet away from where I brush my teeth. Having some tall vertical storage next to the vanity just made sense because that is where you would use it most.

We already had an existing linen closet which is nice but in an odd spot right behind the door to the bathroom. You can only open it when that door is closed or you’re playing bumper doors. So consequently it doesn’t get used that often and we store everyday items elsewhere. It is our only linen closet in the whole house though so I didn’t want to remove it. Adding the vertical storage cabinet solved the dilemma of where to put everyday bathroom items and we can use the linen closet for less used items. You can never have too much storage in a bathroom right?

In my design I kept the tall storage cabinet to a width that would allow us to use a standard sized 36” wide vanity. But after seeing that was the current size of the vanity we decided having a little extra width would be nice especially since two people will be using this sink. So we upped the width to 3.5’ bringing the vertical storage down to 18” wide which seemed like a nice size. Not too small but not so big you lose stuff in it. Having decided on the sizes we didn’t look at the plans again for a year or two.

To contrast the very white space I wanted dark cabinetry. You can see my design board here. I really like the look of the Restoration Hardware vanity but we needed more drawers, a different size, and a lower price tag.

Cut to the middle of demo when it was order time and I was ordering fixtures and materials like a mad woman. Looking again at the vanity and cabinet sizes we had set our minds to I found it wasn’t easy to find a matching vanity and tower to fit the space. What would work the best was semi-custom cabinets from kitchen suppliers. But the prices really added up and the quality of the cabinets was just OK. So we went to plan B (which was secretly Flannel Man’s plan A all along) and had the cabinets custom made by Flannel Man’s co-worker.

His co-worker has a cabinetry business on the side out of his house. Someday he hopes to build a big shop and possibly even make cabinets full time. So far he has the land bought from his father in-law and some plans worked up. He was able to build the vanity and tall storage cabinet for much less than the semi-custom kitchen cabinets and they would be a better construction made with solid walnut not veneer. I was sold!


I’m going to start posting pictures of the finished product here now because I have a lot of pictures and it breaks up the story better. Drumroll please…

He was able to give us a great deal on the black walnut lumber because it was cut from his and his father in-law’s land (they own 30 acres and 60 acres respectively just outside of town) and dried in a barn on the property for the last 10 years. Talk about being local! Because it was custom I got to design every inch of the vanity and cabinet. Flannel Man thought I was just being difficult with the details I wanted but if we’re buying custom cabinets I want to make them…well custom. For example one of the things I really wanted was a flush inset style door or basically no overlay (the front of the door is flush with the face frame). To me that style makes a piece feel instantly older and it fits with the craftsman feel we want. As one cabinet maker put it that style is “right at home with the shaker and mission style cabinets.” It takes more time and costs a little more but it takes a lot of skill to do well which is what that style highlights.

Of course I also wanted shaker style doors, drawers, and side panels. And for the furniture feel that I’m liking right now the base of the cabinet has feet that are flush with the face frame instead of a recessed toe kick. We will have him put a recessed toe kick behind the feet though (currently not there) so that I don’t have to try to clean up under there but we haven’t decided if we are going to use matching stained walnut or go with a white painted piece that blends in with the floor tile better.

Either way we’re tiling completely under both cabinets so they could be changed out in the future if need be without redoing the floor. The way we see it the tile is more permanent than the cabinets so we want to make it work in other possible configurations in the future.

The cabinets were made with stain grade birch plywood and then every part of the cabinet you see (the doors, drawer fronts, and side panels) were made with solid walnut. A simple clear coat on top was the perfect finish to show off the beautiful grain of the wood.

Just for fun the cabinet maker kept a piece of slug he found in the lumber where we could see it inside a drawer. Knowing our hobbies he thought we would enjoy it.

We didn’t need the cabinets yet (heck we just put in the subfloor) but he was done making them and he didn’t want his kids to ding them in the basement. So for now they are sitting in the out of the way space where the fireplace used to be in our basement.

I had the vanity made an inch deeper than a standard vanity so there is a little more room behind the sink to clean.

To make the transition between the granite top on the vanity and the tall storage cabinet easier I had the carpenter make the tall cabinet an inch and a half deeper. That way the overhang butts up to storage cabinet without having an exposed corner that would need to be shaped and cut.

The drawers in the cabinet I wanted to be extra tall for all of those tall items that normally fit anywhere else. That keeps them from being stuffed horizontally in a drawer or crammed under the sink never to be seen again. For the first drawer I wanted a big cut away so that it can act like an extension of the countertop (it’s just a few inches shorter than the counter will be). This is where I want to store items used everyday like contact solution and makeup so they don’t clutter up the counter as much. Easily accessible and easily hidden!

The top of the tall cabinet has fully adjustable and removable shelves. Someday I want to replace the panel on this door for a stained glass panel to give it even more vintage flair.

Tucked away back there are the side panels for both the vanity and tall cabinet the later of which has a small exposed edge the whole way of the cabinet.

And what everyone is probably wondering we paid $1500 for both of these cabinets. That is the same price the big box stores wanted for their veneered particle board cabinets full of formaldehyde! The higher quality plywood cabinets from the kitchen cabinet stores were far more. We’re very happy with the results and can’t wait to be able to use the vanity and storage cabinet!

So what do you think?

Things Are Taking Shape

You guys I have some more good news we have all of our walls framed up! Flannel Man has been getting up early almost everyday and working with his father on the house for a few hours before going to work. I’m so lucky to have such a dedicated husband and talented father in-law. Papa Flannel is amazingly fast at rough carpentry. He can knock out a full flight of stairs or a 20′ wall in no time flat. The guy is a machine. The new view from the entry is of the long wall between the living room and the master bedroom.

We’re also working on the second layer of plywood floor for the master bathroom.

The size of the new master closet.


We still have all of the electrical to do up here. The existing wiring is all run from the attic (see outlets hanging where the old living room wall was) so that means a lot of time spent in the attic rerouting/correcting that.

To redo the basement electrical we had to add this big junction box to the master bedroom. It still looks like a tangle of wire right now but eventually it will be covered by a double blank plate. We tried to put it at a height that will be hidden by the nightstand.


A better look at the master closet. It’s huge! See the hole in the ceiling and the diagonal piece of subfloor? That is where the old non-working fireplace was. I’m so glad I convinced Flannel Man to take it out instead of just boxing it in! The door on the right is to the master bedroom and the smaller hole on the left is the built-in bookcase in the entry we’re going to replace.

Looking through the built-in bookcase opening.

This 24″ wide space has really come in handy. It’s our new doorway for tools, supplies, and walking back and forth.


With the walls all up I took the time to tape down some of my furniture and layout plans to help visualize where everything will be…and to assure Flannel Man it will all fit OK. I knew it would work because I drew it up. ; ) Here’s a little tour:

When you enter the master bedroom there is a view of an upholstered chair and nightstand from the mini hallway into the space.

As you walk into the room you see a four post bed with windows and nightstands on either side.

Along the blank wall is long, low dresser with art above.

Turning around there is a small, slim TV hanging on the wall opposite the bed. The closet door is next to it and a hamper in the corner where the ladder is. (Entrance to the room is on the far left.) Check out the awesome light show!


Onto the closet. Now the closet is twice the size of the old walk-in closet but you have to keep in mind that I will no longer have a dresser because the master bedroom is smaller and there are more pathways that need to be kept clear. So we’re going to make a built-in closet system with drawers. It will really act as my dressing room. Which is exactly what I wanted (no not because I’m a girly girl with tons of clothes and shoes!) because Flannel Man works nights so he is sleeping when I get ready in the morning. It’s not a big deal in the summer when there is light filtering under the blinds but in the winter it is still pitch black in the morning and I use my old school cell phone as a nightlight to find what I need. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if my socks are black or brown with that light and I’ll admit on a few of those rushed mornings I went to work with brown socks and black shoes. See I told you I was not a fashionista! Anyway with the dressing room I can close the door and turn on the light to get dressed in the morning without waking up FM.

The closet plan is still in flux but here is what I’m leaning toward. When you walk in the back wall has single hanging for long items, a bank of drawers with shelving above, and double hanging. In the corner is the built-in bookcase that faces the entry. There was a smaller version of one there before but we widened it and will be adding convenient drawers in the bottom. It puts the normally hard to reach corner space to better use.

To the right are some more drawers with the top drawer being a short jewelry drawer. Above is an open wall area for a jewelry cork board. Behind the door we might have deep shelves specifically fit for four of the large Rubbermaid bins we use for off season storage.

To the left is more double hanging and a hanging rod with shelving below for either shoes or bulky items. On the left over wall area we’ll try to squeeze in a tall shelving unit for shoes and accessories. It is also going to be lined up to be behind the same wall cavity of the TV so we can store our TV equipment out of the way in the closet.


Finally, there is the master bathroom off of the bedroom.

We Have Real Floors and Everything!

The electrician finally came to finish hooking up the basement electrical. We now have working lights in the basement people!! I can’t even begin to explain how awesome that is. Then the inspector came to approve everything so we could close the floors back up. The inspector was surprised when he found we had removed all of the floor layers instead of demoing the drywalled ceiling in the basement. Papa Flannel thought the same thing and we had to fight him on the idea of pulling up the floor. I guess we’re just strange. But upgrading to a better constructed all plywood floor that won’t squeak and is more stable sounded a lot nicer than re-drywalling 650sf of ceiling and keeping the old plywood/particle board floor in it’s less than stellar condition. Plus doing so gave us the change to try to even out the waves in the floor.

Lesson for the day: Just because something is typically done a certain way doesn’t necessarily make it the best way.

Originally the floors were ½” plywood with ½” of particle board on top. We were able to salvage and reuse a lot of the ½” plywood. There were a few areas were we didn’t cut away all of the plywood. Along the exterior walls we cut to the first floor joist unless we had to access the space and under the master closet we didn’t need to reach any utilities. In those areas we added some screws to help eliminate the squeaky floors. This meant our base layer had to stay ½” plywood then we topped it with ¾” tongue and groove exterior grade B finish plywood. Ideally the bottom layer would be ¾” to help span the joists but ½” + ¾” tongue and groove was sufficient over the floor joist spacing we have for the type of flooring we’ll be installing. If you aren’t sure check out the handy Deflect-o-lator here.

With everything set to go we could finally start using all of the plywood we had bought. After carrying it all in Flannel Man & I were balancing our way across the floor joists to measure what size we needed to cut them down to. We’ve been walking on exposed floor joists for over a month. The only way to turn on our basement lights or get to the master bathroom area was to walk across them. You think we’d be primed to be tight rope experts by now right? But earlier in the day FM stubbed his toe badly on the plastic boxspring corner (the big four post bed frame couldn’t fit in our makeshift master bedroom so the boxspring and mattress are on the floor). Cut to back to Flannel Man needing to walk +30 feet across opened floor joists and …CRASH!

Yup. Balancing on a floor joist with a still slighting numb stubbed toe is not a good idea. Flannel Man’s whole leg went through the ceiling below but he caught himself on the floor joist with his other thigh. He had a massive 6” long bruise on his inner thigh the next day. I’m sure the male readers are wondering…it was a close call but luckily nothing got smashed. ; )


How to fix uneven floors

I’ve heard of people using self leveling cement or asphalt shingles to level an existing subfloor but since we pulled up ours we only needed to level our floor joists themselves which made things much easier.

Before we put down any plywood down we double checked how level the floor joists were. We knew originally there were some dips in the floor that we were hoping to correct them as much as we could especially in the bathrooms. So we went to our trusty home improvement store and bought a sheet of plywood in every small thickness we could find. Then we cut them down to 1 ½” wide strips using the table saw at FM’s work (it’s so handy to be able to use big tools we don’t have at his work). We learned cutting flimsy 1/8” thick plywood is much easier when it’s stacked on top of another thicker piece of plywood.

One of the ways to forcing yourself into getting tasks done is to inconveniently place large objects in your way so that you eventually get sick of walking around them and do something about it. Here is the main artery of our house.

Bedrooms and what we someday hope to call a bathroom to the right. Kitchen, laundry, dining room (aka. box central), and living room to the right. Only working bathroom down the stairs. Yeah this trip hazard didn’t last there long.

With the strips cut we tried to decode the puzzle of what needed to go where. It was a lot of trial and error. Some places needed only one shim for a few feet others needed two or three shims that stopped at different lengths to taper down the ends. Where we had kept the base layer of plywood and it needed lifting we pulled the nails out so we could slide shims underneath.

Each layer was glued down with Loctite’s PL-400 adhesive.

We used all of the 1/8″ strips up and had to go buy and cut more before we could finish. There were a lot of the thicker strips left. Where we had less than gradual tapers in the strips we hit the corners with an orbital sander for a smooth transition between the floor joist and the fill in strips.

The corner the master bathroom is in was the worst. We think that corner of the house has settled slightly (due to some poor grading and having no gutters on the house for 35 years). We needed as much as 3/8″ thick strips in places!

Then we put down more adhesive along all of the floor joists for the plywood and nailed it down using long rim shank nails. For the best results you’re supposed to stand on either side of the spot you’re nailing to ensure everything is tight to the structure and help reduce squeaks in the floor.

In the bathrooms we wanted an even stronger floor so we used only new plywood and used screws instead of nails. They were placed every 6” around the edges and every 8” in the center. In the bathrooms we’re considering the future tile floor a permanent floor so burring screws under layers of glue and plywood was fine by us. Sophie wasn’t willing to let me get any good pictures but I thought it would be fun showing you a quick timeline. Papa Flannel calls her a cat because she always wants to know what you’re doing but we just call her curious. As usual I’ll give her a voice.


“Hey what’s up?!”

“What you don’t want to pay attention to me? OK I’ll walk over here.”

Sniff sniff sniff.

“Still working on that hey?”

“I’ll just mosey on over here for a little bit.”

“Third times the charm! Pet my big head please!”


The finished first layer of plywood in the master bathroom. The room is looking more finished everyday!

Ductwork & Plumbing Win

As soon as we had the floor up we started working on re-routing the ductwork. Though we are hiring out the plumbing and electrical I have experience working for mechanical contractors and can easily run ductwork myself. Just give me some sheet metal self-tapping hex screws and let me at it!

We needed to both add and re-route duct runs. Originally, there were only two runs for the master bedroom area; one under each window. With our new plan everything had to get moved. Unlike electrical or plumbing you can’t drill through floor joists with a 6” round duct you need to remove it back to the main and put it in a new floor cavity. That is why we went through all of the trouble to take up so much of the floor. Don’t get me started on those high velocity systems that can be drilled through floor joists. Just avoid those at all costs OK? Moving on.

Flannel Man had never worked with ductwork so our first duct run was kind of like Ductwork 101. We started with the easiest runs in the master bedroom where the floor cavities were relatively empty compared to the bathroom. The duct run under the south window was pretty straight forward.


Where we tapped into the main Flannel Man first tried a hole cutter that was in the ductwork aisle but all it did was dull and throw sparks. On the back of the package it clearly said for drywall only. So why was it being sold in the ductwork section? Who knows. For future reference the only ductwork hole cutter I’ve ever had good luck with uses a drill bit. With a dented circle in the main we turned to a spade bit and jigsaw for this connection. Then we added in a collar to connect the round to the main. It has bendable teeth on one side and a crimped round on the other.


When we got to where the fireplaces used to be and had angled floor joists. So we had to pop down below the ceiling which fortunately was a perfect height to tap into the supply main. We’ll eventually build a soffit around the duct to hide it but this whole nook of the basement will eventually be storage so it’s not a big deal. Of course in our rush to get it done we forgot to put in the damper at the end of run. Duh. So we had to rip apart the last straight section and reinstall it.


The second master bedroom was not too far from the old run so we were able to salvage a lot of straight pieces of ductwork. The boots and fittings get pretty tore up when we removed them. Everything was pop riveted together so it was a combination of drilling through those and just brute strength. The old ductwork was a nice heavy gauge (much thicker than today’s standard gauge) so I was glad we could reuse a lot of it. We removed the old run and patched the hole in the main then cut a new hole.


Because the main was run tight to the bottom of the floor joists we couldn’t just tap a 6” collar straight in the side like we did with the previous run. Instead we went with a top tap off boot which has a square end. Why square? Because cutting a square in a tight spot is a lot easier than a circle.


As we constructed the new and salvaged ductwork we sealed all of the seams with duct sealant. It’s a cheap and easy way to save energy and make your system more efficient. No need to dump air we’re paying to heat/cool in the floor cavity. I also sealed any seam in the existing ductwork I could get my hands on.


Before we could get the bathroom ductwork figured out the plumber came to do the rough-in. It was a nice change to pace to just hire a professional and let him do his job!


Progress after the first day.


Working on a new stack location (see the rags stuffed in the old stack and the new location in the upper left). On the right the main bathroom toilet.


Master bathroom. On the left a sink drain. On the right the toilet.


Almost complete after the second day. Initially, we really wanted all copper piping because we know how to work with it in case we ever need to change or fix anything. But the cost was significantly more for both materials and labor. So we ended up with a compromise of having extra copper used on the ends of the rough-in. From there we can use solid copper and easily solder on valves but the majority of the run is easier to install PEX.


Master shower drain.


New stack location in the 6″ wall.


On the third and last day the inspector came by an approved everything.


In the main bathroom we didn’t have to move the duct because one wall was staying. Yay! We also were able to fix the reason the basement bath (which is directly below this bathroom) has an extra low ceiling in the shower. Originally, the tub drain crossed over a duct which required the duct to jog down. Thus the claustrophobic shower I get to use everyday. With a little maneuvering we were able to straighten the elbows without even removing any of the duct.

That means that someday when we get around to remodeling the basement bathroom we can raise the shower ceiling. Someday previous owners we will have corrected all of your mistakes!


With the plumber gone and everything approved we were back on ductwork duty. Only this time we were in a real pickle. My plan got thrown out the window when we pulled up the floor and saw how many floor joists were already full of ductwork and later piping. With the size of the new master bathroom and the fact that it now had two exterior walls and two windows I needed to get two floor registers in the room which is difficult when bathrooms have limited floor area for a register. The old master bathroom duct would work it just needed to be extended a few feet. But on the opposite exterior wall there wasn’t anything and there wasn’t any way to add another run since every floor cavity was full with either ductwork, piping, or both. There was an existing floor register under the big 6’ slider that used to serve the bedroom but that is where our tub is going so that wouldn’t work. After a lot of hemming and hawing it finally occurred to me just change the basement registers around. So without having to change the majority of the runs we swapped the upstairs and downstairs registers.


The only problem was that the tub drain P trap came into that space and we had to cross the toilet waste pipe to get to the exterior wall. Hmm this calls for some creative ductwork…


Our nosy dog needs to be right in the action even if that action is on a plywood island in the middle of a construction site. See that guilty face? That is because 3 seconds after this picture she decided it was boring and wanted to get back off the island.


To get over the toilet drain we only had 3″ of height to work with. Two straight boots with a rectangular band bent to cover the joint. Lots of duct sealant and self tapping screws later:


Check out this sh*t! Ductwork WIN! Round to vertical flat oval. To round. To an offset elbow. To a round straight piece. To a boot. To an extreme short straight rectangular. To a boot. To a round straight. To an up boot. All done with the standard ductwork pieces Menard’s carries.

Yes this register will get less air because of the increased static pressure but I’m going to balance the dampers as best I can to overcome that and a low flow register is better than none at all.


Meanwhile the house is getting messier. Now I can answer all of Flannel Man’s “Hey Honey where is the _insert random tool here_?” questions with “It’s behind the couch.”


Our big bathroom remodel is cosmetic plus the fact that we wanted to expand the size of the bathrooms. The bathrooms were both functional for the most part so the plan was to salvage as much as we could to donate/sell/give away. After making a call to our local ReStore I was excited to find out they would be scheduling a day to come pick up everything we were saving. The doors, toilets, light fixtures, shower and tub surrounds, sinks, and vanities were all going to go to a new home! However, the next day I got a call back saying they won’t accept anything that is more than 10 years old. 10 years old?! No wonder our ReStore stinks. Other people post about amazing mantels or multi-paneled doors but ours is full of cheap builder grade crap. I called around to places listed as “salvage yards” but only found one place that would take building materials. The conversation went something like this:

    “Hi I’m remodeling my house do you take older building materials?”

    “Yes actually we love old stuff! In fact we often pay people for the stuff…”

    Hmm I doubt you’re going to pay me for an avacdo green toilet.

    “…The only requirement is that it needs to be from the 1940’s or older.”

Dang it! So what are people with homes from the 1950-2000 supposed to do? Fill up the landfills? Great. Craigslist I hope you can come through on this one.


We had saved the shower and tub surrounds for both bathrooms but a we found out they didn’t fit through the front door and since apparently no one wants them they got cut up in a fit of frustration.

Don’t worry this isn’t on our front lawn anymore…just our driveway. Klassy. Yes with a “k.”


You may remember we left the main bathroom in this state during demo hoping we could go another couple days of having a bathroom upstairs. It’s seriously a luxury you guys even in the bathroom is missing a wall and straight out of the 70’s! Unfortunately, our harvest gold beauty threw in the towel early and that night while I was in the middle of my shower it switched to cold and even with the handle pushed all the way in it the water wouldn’t turn off! Eeek! The plus side to having a bathroom open to the rest of your house is that Flannel Man was able to hear my shriek right away and went to turn off the water main.

The next weekend we tore out the main bathroom. You can see how the old vs. new footprint of the bathroom compares. The new wall between the two bathrooms needed to be 2×6 to fit the main stack.

The best way to remove plywood where you can’t access the nails. Use spare 2x4s as a lever and pivot then stand on one end.


With the top layer of particle board off we started removing the plywood subfloor below. As we removed subfloor we put it back down so we could stand on it.


The rest of the bathroom walls went up. For the plumber to come we needed the walls up but we also needed the floor up. So we took the floor up. Added braces built the wall then cut the plywood on either side of the sill plate. This way the plywood was sandwiched between the sill plate and braces between floor joists.


We tried not to remove the subfloor along the exterior walls if we didn’t need to because the west wall (the side with the new casement windows) is load bearing so extra stability is always good and bracing between floor joists was needed along all of the exterior walls.


Here’s my rough sketch showing the layout of the new bathrooms to help you visualize. The main bathroom:

And the master bathroom:

This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
DIY Savings