Archive for the 'remodeling' 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


Basement Task Lighting

The remodel trudges on and we’re ever so slowing getting the electrical wrapped up on our end. Cutting holes, pulling wire, stapling, adding junction boxes, wiring up lights, etc. Then when the electrician gets done with his test hopefully we’ll see his face again so he can help us hook everything up and look over our work. Only then can we get the underfloor electrical inspected and put the floor back down. If the electrician doesn’t start showing up after his test I might have to take extreme measures like kidnap his dogs until he does. There are only so many excuses a person can take before they snap!

Anywho since Flannel Man and I work opposite shifts we do most of the small tasks individually at night after work (his “night” starts at 2 am). At night it’s just me and the dog. She needs to be in the same room as me at night to see what I’m doing…you know to supervise for consistency. The other night after cutting in some ceiling boxes I decided to take a self portrait with the dog because there is always a lack of pictures from these individual work nights. Most of them turned out blurry or dark but for the first one worked out. It just makes me laugh.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s all going on in this photo shall we?


What a great little summary of our lives right now! It’s not all doom and gloom like my last post might have sounded. We’re still having fun just more antsy to get things done.

With all of the basement recessed lights in we still had some task lighting to figure out before we could get the basement electrical inspected and close up the floor. The alternating recessed lights look great and give a nice even amount of light. We’re very happy with the look and the amount of light they put out. It’s like night and day with the new recessed lights vs. the two old flushmounts that were lighting this space before. But this is going to be a multifunctional space so task lighting will be beneficial and add another dimension to the lighting scheme in the room.


The first area that is going to have task lighting is the desk that will be built-in to the nook under one of the windows. On our current desk I use a desk lamp and it works well but I also have a much larger L-shaped desk right now. With the limited surface area that can fit in this nook I wanted to go with some overhead pendant lights that don’t take up any desk space. The pendants will be right in front of a big window so I don’t want them to be too big or take up much visual space. We also want a bit of an industrial feel to this room so I’m leaning toward a clear glass shade or a more industrial wire cage shade.

Schoolhouse Electric, Lowell

Hudson Valley 8001

For now we just cut in the electrical boxes and wired up a nearby light switch. The electrician wanted take a short cut and consolidate light switches putting it on the other side of the room near the sink or the entrance. But I didn’t want to have to walk across the room everytime I used the office lights. That is beauty of assisting the electrician you can put things wherever you want them as long as you can make it work. We’ve had plenty of time to do minor changes like that with him taking the month off.


Another area we want task lighting is what we’re dubbing “the reading area.” Very creative right? This space will have either a daybed or banquette similar to a window seat sans the actual window. It’s a nice spot to curl up and read a good book because it gets a lot of natural light in the afternoon from the patio door and has a view of the back yard. But it’s not deep enough to do much else without impeding on the traffic flow. There I wanted to have two armed sconces on either side of the daybed that switch on individually by hand. This part of the floor above was not tore up and with the manual switching thankfully it wasn’t needed. There is an outlet on that wall we’ll be able to pull the power from and with a little drywall patching we can easily add those later. I’d love to get some sconces like these in the space:

Hudson Valley 4721


Finally, there is the Awkward (with a capital A) sink area. As I explained previously this area is going to become our utility sink…well actually that is how we use it now and we’re going to keep it that way. It had its own ugly flushmount light and switch but the light was a few feet behind the sink. So when you turned it on and stood in front of the sink it created a big shadow on the whole space. After tearing up the floor above we saw that the beam took up almost the entire soffit above the sink which explains the strange light location. The beam is very big and covers almost the entire countertop so the best place to put task lighting would be recessed into the soffit. The lights could stick out below the drywall but anything more than an inch or two and I would hit my head on it when I lean over the sink. It’s a tight area!

Ever since we bought the house I had had a plan in my head for this area. Line the soffit with either recessed or non-recessed puck lights tied together on one switch! Imagine the nice triangular rays of light hitting the back wall which will someday be covered in a pretty mosaic tile…sigh. It would be cheap and easy. But nothing is ever as cheap or easy as you’d hoped. The distance between the bottom of the beam and the drywall was just shy of 3 inches. As I explained my idea to our electrician and our local the electrical supply company they both thought it would be easy to find a recessed light that would work in the space. Upon further investigation it wasn’t. Everything that is that shallow is made for kitchen cabinets and is only rated to be mounted on or in cabinetry. I couldn’t find a single puck light rated for drywall. Which seems crazy considering I was even looking at fixtures that were flushmount to the underside of the drywall out in the open! But after talking to a few lighting companies they said they get too hot for drywall applications. I could only find one fixture that was UL listed for drywall and it was a very expensive mini LED recessed light. So we went back to considering all kinds of ugly and unconventional options like a track light on the front of the soffit, recessed lights a few feet behind the sink with gimbal trims, and battery operated lights. We even considered removing the bottom part of the soffit and replacing it with stained wood but we thought that would look strange with the rest of the soffit continuing on across the hall in all drywall. With the batrooms now over this area putting a light back where the old one was wasn’t even an option anymore because there is now a duct there. After agonizing over the decision for weeks we bit the bullet and just bought the LED lights. We knew we’d never again have the floor above open for access and without that we wouldn’t be able to wire anything to the soffit space where we really wanted the lights to be.

It took weeks for them to arrive because they are a new product that is custom made for now. At least that extended lead time coincided with our missing electrician. When they came I was initially a bit bummed. They didn’t look like they were worth the outrageous price we paid for them. You could see each of the three LEDs inside and the lens looked small compared to the trim size. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt and we installed them anyway. Installation was didn’t exactly go as planned…

    Late one Sunday night I marked out the evenly spaced lights and put a nail in the center of each one and thought:

    How luck am I that I didn’t hit any of the 2×4’s above! Maybe this is going to work out after all.

    Then I put in another nail on each edge of the 2” holes we had to cut and hit not one but two 2×4’s.

    Bummer. Now what?

    So I moved each light in an inch.

    If they are all evenly spaced the distance from the side walls doesn’t matter.

    Hit two more 2×4’s.

    Duh! OK I’ll just space them out instead.

    Hit a 2×4 on the first hole.

    For the love of…

    So I go back to the original layout and Flannel Man offers to help by somehow fitting his hand under the beam from the floor above. A lot of yelling and confusion ensues.

    “Which one can’t move?”

    “This one?” *knock, knock*

    “And this one can move left?” *knock, knock*


    “My left or your left?”

    “Mine. And the far one can move over the width of my middle finger.”

    What the? “Can you convert that to inches?”…

A few scratch pieces of paper full of quick calculations later and I realize there is no combination where the lights can be evenly spaced. So we take the layout that is the closest to even and learn to deal. No one but me will notice right?

The lights are low voltage so we had to find a space for a transformer that was accessible too. Originally, we thought we could put it in the wall above the light switch or even all the way down into the back of the cabinet below but the easiest location ended up being in the ceiling of the reloading room. So Flannel Man ran 14-2 wires for each light individually across the basement bathroom ceiling and into the unfinished reloading room. Then another 14-2 back to the switch in the wall. This turned out to be much easier than daisy chaining with the tight clearances. We had to add a junction box to gang everything together first because the transformer barely has enough room for one wire much less four. (Note: You have to read the specifications for your transformer carefully though to make sure you can have that much wire between the transformer and the lights. If it’s too far away you’ll lose too much to line loses and the lights will be dim.)


When everything was up and running Flannel Man switched the lights on for the first time and I’m pretty sure I heard a chorus of angels. It was heavenly. Perfect! Exactly what I had envisioned! The lights look so much better lit than they did when I first took them out of the package. I couldn’t be more happy with them.

Look at all of that light! The soffit went from being an eye sore to useful. This is no longer the dark little corner of the basement no one wanted to use.

Note the old light location on the left.

Getting new wiring to this switch was a real pain because this wall lines up with another wall below. But somehow Flannel Man managed to fish a new wire down there using the existing wire.

The new lights almost transformed the space. And the only reason I say “almost” is because the extreme mess and ugly orange countertop below.

Just keepin’ it real people.

Seriously though aren’t those beams of light on the back wall awesome?! Imagine this area being a concrete countertop with a big single basin stainless steel sink, a tall arched pull down faucet, a glass mosaic backsplash that runs up the whole wall, and new distressed white cabinets below. Won’t that look great someday?!



P.S. For anyone else looking at the Juno mini LED lights these lights we went with the 2 1/4″ MD1Ls in the 3000K temperature, flood optic, and white finish. I wasn’t kidding when I said these things are custom made! We considered the gimbals but they stuck down from the ceiling slightly and cost more. Plus we didn’t think we’d ever really adjust them. The 35 degree angle of the flood gave us just the right amount of light on the back wall so a gimbal wasn’t needed. You can find a lot of great detailed lighting calculation info here. For the transformer we got the 60W white one but later found out we could have went with a slightly smaller size for only four lights. There was almost no price difference between the transformer sizes so we didn’t bother to return it.

The Dark Obstacle Course I Call Home

Living through a remodel has been interesting to say the least. It all started with a huge hole in the floor and mortar dust everywhere. Back when we were excited about this remodel and progress was quick. But it’s only gone downhill from there. Now we’re living in shambles and progress has slowed to a halt. If we can ever bribe our electrician back into returning to the “jobsite” I’ll let you know. Let me describe the state of our house right now.

We’re parking outside because both the garage and the shed are full of stuff. In one stall of our garage is the green drywall, cement board, and plywood. In the other is the pile of old stuff we wanted to give to ReStore but they wouldn’t take. In front of the storage shelves there is the main bathroom tub and toilet, lighting for both bathrooms, the massive tile saw I bought off Craig’s List, and other random tools. There is no clear flat path to the vehicles outside so maneuvering and stepping over things is required. Bringing in groceries is especially fun.


Similarly our screened in porch is where we’re storing a wide array of 2×4’s and massive pile of regular drywall. Probably not the best spot seeing as we never got around to covering the drywall with a tarp and it’s rained a number of times since we moved it there but nothing has gotten wet yet. **crosses fingers**

Inside the kitchen island is covered in full size floor plans and elevations I drew in CAD. The outlets in the island are littered with extension cords to power the many areas we don’t have power. They create a nice tripping hazard in the busiest room of the house.


Underneath the overhang of the island is our electrical storage area. It looked like this for 0.2 seconds before we realized we need to buy twice as much stuff.


The dining room looks like an episode of “Hoarders.” It started out looking organized (below) but it’s since spiraled out of control.


The living room only has half of a floor right now so the couch and chair are not directly in front of the TV. Sitting this close to the TV just can’t be good.

The room has no electricity so one of those kitchen island extension cords powers our TV and the floor lamp in the corner. If you want any light you have to climb over this maze of stuff to reach it. In an attempt to organize things I put all of our screws, nails, caulks, and foams on the built-in bookshelf.


The other half of the living room, master bedroom, and two former bathrooms have no floor, electricity, or insulation. The massive hole in the attic where the chimney was is dumping cold air into the space like it’s a walk in freezer. We tried to cover up the space by laying batt over it but we need to get that drywalled stat!


We tried to keep the study and guest bedroom nice by leaving the carpet in there for now. The idea was we could close the door and forget that our house is a mess but for all our good intentions it hasn’t really worked out that way. The attic access hatch is in the study closet so that room is also cold, full of tools, and littered with small pieces of debris people bring in on their shoes walking back and forth. We also ended up storing the boxes of our bathroom stuff in here because it makes things easier to find if they are kept out of that black hole that is our dining room. In the guest bedroom where we’re sleeping right now we put the boxspring and mattress on the floor because our four post bed frame would take up too much space. Both of our nightstands and dressers are also crammed in here.

It looks nice in these pictures because this was our first day of moving in here. Right now the freshly washed pile of laundry is on the floor because I haven’t taken the time to fold it yet and there is no good place to put the clothes anyway. Living out of a stack of boxes in our closet sucks. You can never get the same number of clothes back into the box as there was orginally because things got shuffled around. Then you’re left with a pile of boxless clothes and the only answer is to wear those first so they can spend their days in the laundry basket instead of on the floor or the top of the dresser. Plus with the cold weather I had to dig out some warmer clothes and now I have two big bins of winter clothes blocking Flannel Man’s dresser. I need to take control of this situation soon!


Then there is the basement…you know the only place we have a working bathroom…which has no electricity and tools scattered all over the floor. Down there we’re also storing all of the tile, grout, sink, faucet, showerhead & valve, towel bars, shower curtain rod, and mirror. The new recessed lights are in and wired up but the power for this space is feed from above (aka. our master bedroom) so our electrician jerry-rigged up a temporary solution. He wired the basement power to an end of an extension cord so that we can plug it into one of the extension cords from our kitchen. So to turn on the basement lights you have to balance your way across the open floor joists until you to the temporary piece of plywood laying loosely on top of the of floor joist next to the wires. Make sure you don’t step on the ends of the plywood or you’ll be falling through the floor! Then you turn around and tightrope back to solid flooring, go down a flight of stairs and find your way through the maze of tools and storage in the basement to the bathroom. Needless to say we rarely use the overhead lights because it’s such an ordeal for something as simple as turning on the lights! Instead we put a desk lamp on the floor with an extension cord to the unfinished side of the basement where we still have power. It works OK. Just enough light to keep you from stubbing your toes but as soon as you turn the corner to the bathroom it’s still pitch black. Luckily, the basement bathroom is on it’s own breaker so we always have lights in there. Taking a shower in the dark would have been horrible!


To make things even more interesting we have booby traps hanging from the ceiling for you to smash you’re head on. The remodel style recessed lights need to be able to pull out in case you ever need to access the wiring. The electrical inspector needs to see them hanging from the ceiling and we were having a hard time getting the flimsy feet to hold them in place without really pounding them in. We were afraid if we did that we wouldn’t easily be able to get them back out for the inspector so we had to leave them hanging from the already low ceiling. It’s hard to take a picture with no lighting but they are directly in front of the door when you walk into the basement and in the hall to the bathroom (bathroom door on the left).


You have to plan ahead when you think you might have to go to the bathroom. Because the “holding it” dance is pretty hard to do when you’re running down a flight of stairs and feeling around in the dark for a desk lamp. We were so spoiled before with bathrooms on the main floor and light switches!

Then you get to the bathroom. Ah yes the baby blue bathroom. I know the color doesn’t sound as offensive when you consider we used to have an avocado and harvest gold bathroom. But at least those bathrooms worked when we bought the house. The only thing working in the basement bath when we bought it was the faucet.


Both the toilet and the shower were broken and they had been for some time. Not wanting to waste money on replacing fixtures that we’d tear out in a few years when we gut the bathroom we attempted to fix them for the time being. A whole toilet replacement kit and a shower valve piece later and everything was up and running. The only problem: they weren’t running very well. When you flush the toilet you have to hold the handle down for a good 7 seconds before the bowl is empty. Very annoying. The shower valve well that’s a barrel of fun each morning trying to solve the where-is-the-right-temperature-water puzzle each morning. I feel like Goldilocks. You see when you turn on the shower it’s always either too hot or too cold. So you adjust the dial but the water temperature doesn’t change adjust again still the same temperature. Repeat 5 more times, get frustrated, and crank the dial all the way to the end where the water is scalding/freezing. Then repeat the process only in the other direction. Eventually find the ¼” of space on the dial where the water is actually mixed. Rejoice and finally take your shower. The best part is this ¼” of mixing area isn’t always in the same spot. Here’s a very simple diagram showing you what I mean:


So there you have it the truth about living through a remodel and it’s not glamorous. I think I’ve had more stubbed toed, bruised shins, and hit heads since we started this remodel than I’ve had in my life before this remodel. It could be worse though we could have no shower and be showering at a gym or be living in a 400 sf garage.

More Basement Lights & Even Less Floor

With a layout figured out I had to quick research recessed lighting brands, pick a housing, and find a place that had it in stock and for the best price. Menard’s lighting department stinks. Home Depot had a lot more recessed lighting options. But after a little searching online I found a local electrical supply shop that blew Home Depot’s prices out of the water. Housing, trim, and switches were all cheaper and they had almost everything we wanted in stock. The stuff they did have to order was shipped in two days later and they had great customer service unlike my experiences at Home Depot. Whew it makes me tired all over again just writing it out! We settled on some basic Halo 6” cans. The H7ICAT (new construction) for all of the spaces we could access with the floor up and the H7RICAT for the few spaces we wanted a light but didn’t have access from above.

Originally, I wanted smaller cans because I’ve read the 6” cans are not as in style as they used to be. But looking at the size of the space and how many more cans we would need with the 5” or even 4” cans plus the added cost of the housing and trim didn’t make sense to us. 6” cans were in stock, filled up the big space nicely, and made finding a trim easier.


When it came to installing the lights this handy video was much more helpful than the short directions that were a bit lacking for us novices:


In order to install the lights from above we had to cut off the pieces that a supposed to fit on the bottom of the floor joists or as they call it the “automatic leveling flange.”


We cut all of the holes we could from above so we knew we wouldn’t hit a floor joist or other obstruction. The adjustable hole cutter that failed at cutting ductwork worked good on the drywall.


The recessed lights were quick and easy to install. Here you can see how many more lights we’ll have the existing two we have now.


In the hallway we had to cut the two lights from below because the floor above is not torn up. We used the exposed ceiling in the reloading room at the end of the hall to help determine where the floor joists were but it was still a bit of a guess because above that beam the floor joists switch from 12″ on center to 16″…fun!


We weren’t so lucky with our other remodel style light near the entry door. Here is where we found out the floor joists in this area are neither 12″ or 16″ on center. A random width was used so that the floor joists lined up with some basement walls and the end of beams. It took a few tries but we finally got it right.


So everything was installed it should be pretty easy to finish everything up right? No. Not when your electrician waltzes in and says in addition to all of the subfloor you have removed you need to tear up half of your living room floor too. So the tool storage space also known as the floor behind the couch had a be cleared.


Under the carpet and carpet pad we found a note from the previous owners. Ten years ago they had the all white carpet installed that now needs to be replaced.


When Sophie awoke from her slumber she was surprised to find out that the living room had no floor. “Seriously?! WTH are you doing to my house?”


“OK I’ll forgive you this time only because you made me a huge dog bed and put it in a sunny spot.”


With the guidance from our electrician we’re running all of the wire. Existing conditions meant we had to add a giant junction box to our bedroom. The nice thing about installing it ourselves is that we are able to hide it behind a future nightstand.

The Remodel Expands…Again

As you know we’re in the middle of our master bedroom, master bathroom, and main bathroom remodel and to re-route the plumbing and ductwork we decided to take up the floor. While we were tearing up the floor I half-jokingly suggested that we should redo the basement lighting while we were at it. If I remember right Flannel Man’s exact reaction was, “Woman why do you have to make everything so difficult?!” But the longer he thought about it the more work it would be to install the basement lighting later rather than now. We would need to tear out most of the ceiling to route wiring later. So the remodel has officially expanded…again.


Backstory: The remodel started out as two bathroom remodels but because we wanted to steal space from the master bedroom it expanded to include the bedroom too. When I worked out a master bathroom layout and we saw how tiny the master bedroom was going to be we decided to move the wall between the living room and master bedroom which is where the fireplace is. So we had to pick between boxing in the fireplace and loosing the space or removing both fireplace and chimney. We picked the more labor intensive option where we gained space. Then we decided against installing temporary master bedroom carpet that we would just tear out later to install hardwood floors. But the only good location to stop the hardwood floors was at the entry. Which now leads us to installing hardwood floors in all three bedrooms and the hallway…so half of our house.


The finished half of our basement is a huge 620sf rec room with no real purpose besides storage right now. It is a strange shape with a fireplace nook that cuts the space in half, a not so useful wide hallway, a low beam encased in a soffit, a shallow nook under the window, a kitchen countertop with a sink, and a stove outlet coming out of the floor nearby. The basement level:

We were told the original owners had a daughter who was mentally disabled so they built the basement to be a mini suite for her to live in. She had her own bathroom, kitchenette, and seating area near the fireplace. The space is completely above ground with two big windows and has a door to the back patio so it would have been a great “apartment.” The original owners lived here for 25 years before they sold the house and moved to Arizona. Unfortunately, they couldn’t convince their daughter to come along and she later committed suicide. : (

The second owners lived here for 10 years and they used the space for mostly storage. When we toured the house the room was packed to the gills with stuff.


We didn’t realize how big the room really was until our final walk through.

Gotta love that retro carpet.

Shallow nook around the window.

Kitchenette with soffit above and stove outlet on the floor.

The hallway for example was much wider than it had looked previously!


Someday we hope to turn it into a multi-functional space we’ll use on a regular basis. I’m a big planner (I know what a surprise right?) so I had started planning out the room’s layout when we bought the house three years ago.

We’re going to have a TV watching area in the center of the room.

A built in desk in the nook under the window with an island on casters right behind it for additional workspace while maintaining flexibility. One side of the island will have an overhang for seating.

The current sink and countertop will be redone and used as a utility sink because we don’t have one anywhere else in the house. The extra wide hallway to the bathroom and unfinished side of the basement will have floor to ceiling built-in storage hidden by sliding doors on either side of the soffit. With an infrared sensor we can hide the TV equipment and DVDs in this storage area.

The mini room where the massive fireplace used to be will be an exercise/future kids space with big sliding barn doors. For now we hope to use it as an exercise room but if we ever have kids we could use this configuration where we use a bookcase down the center for a divider to create a small play area.

The left over area between the patio door and main door will have a glass display case and a deep bench or daybed for reading. If we go with a deep bench we might try to fit a small table with chair in front of it or just design it to work with the height of our card table. A daybed on the other hand could work for a guest bed since we don’t plan to have at guest bedroom in the future.


So I had to come up with a lighting plan for the space and fast! Originally, there were only two ugly semi-flush light fixtures for the whole space. They did not put out nearly enough light so at night the space felt like a dungeon.


We wanted even diffused light that was adjustable depending on what we used the space for. Some task lighting was a must too. The basement has lower ceilings than the main floor so I wanted recessed lighting because it would make the space feel taller. We’re going to put all of the recessed lights on dimmers so we can adjust them for whatever we are using the space for. After talking to my lighting department at work I came up with this layout:

The space will go from 2 fixtures to 12 + task lighting! I put the recessed lights on an 8’ spacing because they are about 8’ off the floor. As a general rule that seems to work pretty well except that it’s a long skinny space and I didn’t want a single row of lights going down the room. How boring would that be? It would make this space look like a commercial corridor. So I took the width of the room, divided it in three, and put a zig-zag pattern of lights going down the room.

This uses less lights than a square grid (two lights per floor joist which run from the top to bottom of this picture) and adds interest.

Once I had that all drawn up I had to figure out which floor joist to start in and if I wanted more lights on the top or bottom line of lights. That was all decided on by where I could squeeze lights in under our master bathroom. That area is congested with plumbing and ductwork so finding a place to lights after the fact was a real treat. I found a way to make it work though by limiting the number of lights we had under that area and using task lights for the desk and sink. In the tightest spot we will need to use a smaller remodel housing to fit in the same floor joist cavity as the toilet waste line.


The exercise/storage room/possible play area will have it’s own light switch.

The desk will have two mini pendants hanging in front of the window for extra light.

The sink area will have four small recessed lights in the soffit above it. Currently, the space has it’s own flush mount light and switch but the light is behind where you stand so it only casts a lot of shadows on the sink. Not a very good design but with the floor tore up above we can see the beam takes up most of the soffit so there isn’t going to be much room to work with there.

The reading area will have two adjustable wall sconces on arms flanking the daybed/bench.


So what do you think? Do you like the new plan? Have your remodeling projects expanded again and again like ours?

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