The Rest of the Story

With the tub reglazed and moving into a house without a functioning kitchen or bathroom it was time to crack the whip on the 1st floor bath.  I had to resume working on the tile around the tub so that I could at least take baths.

Since a few days had gone from when I started the walls, when I went to resume I quickly noticed that the tiles on the long wall were not lining up with the shower head wall.  The bottom row is the only row I had to cut to size and at some point I did not pay close enough attention to keep them aligned.  The American Olean 4×4 had built in spacers, loved that about them, but I knew if I didn’t correct alignment by the time I got to the top my chair rail tile wouldn’t line up.  Thankfully I had bought 1/8″ spacers, so I used them to slightly widen the space until the corners lined up again; four rows with spacers meant I was 1/2″ off.  So fortunate to catch that when I did.

The first real challenge I had was the soap niche.  I had never done one, but YouTube and a few visits to look at tile shop displays was all I needed to feel comfortable with moving forward.  Planning the location of a soap niche is very important.  I purchased pre-fabricated soap boxes for both showers, which had to be screwed to the joist before the cement board.  I measured up approx 22″ from the tub, which is where I thought five, whole pieces of the 4×4 plus the 2×6 bullnose border would fit.  Missed it!

First, the tile actually measured 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ and I didn’t know before I started that the bottom row would not be a whole piece, so I actually needed a 3″ wide border.  I was stymied for a couple of days until I had another one of my MacGyver visions.  I had initially bought the wrong cove base, but hadn’t returned it yet.  It was 4×6 with a bullnose, so I cut it down to the 3″ I needed.  The mitered corners were easier to measure and cut than I thought they’d be.  10 days after moving in I took my first bath; no more inconveniencing friends and former neighbors.

Once I got passed the soap niche and tub area I turned my focus back to the floor.  I had grouted the white area, but not the black as I wanted to do it with the soap niche.  In hindsight I should have chosen a neutral grout color, like gray, and used it on the floors 20181225_175135and walls, but noooooo my mind/vision was fixed on black on black, white on white.  Before I could apply the black I had to use my Dremel tool to clean out the grooves where the white grout had gotten into the wrong areas.  I was on my hands and knees for hours.  After getting all the areas cleaned out I vacuumed and applied blue painters tape around the edges in hopes that would be enough to stop the black grout from bleeding into the white areas.  Theory and reality did not match on this occasion.  When I pulled off the tape the “rug affect” looked like a hot mess and I cursed myself for thinking I could pull that off.  At least the soap niche turned out alright.

Fixing the bleed over was more hours on my hands and knees using my Dremel tool to clean out the black.  In some areas I had to mix more white grout to touch up, but amazingly, given my amateur status, the “rug affect” was a success and I could turn my attention to finishing the rest of the walls.  All tile work was completed on January 8, over three months from the day I started.

My birthday gift to myself was going to be the completion of the bathroom by installing the toilet and sink.  Unfortunately my Signature Hardware hardware fixtures, purchased in Spring of 2018 did not allow that to happen.

I started with the sink.  I really wanted a console sink, but I decided to be prudent given the master bath extravagance and save the $400.  I got the pedestal base in place and set the sink on top and placed it against the wall.  It did not lay flush.  I thought for sure it was my tile job, so I pulled out my leveler and it was not the wall.  The sink was defective; there was a hump in the middle.

I turned my sites to the toilet only to find that one of the two tank bolts were missing.  I was PO’d.  So much for that birthday gift.  I called Signature Hardware, had to send them 20190112_193101the pictures and video above to prove the sink was defective, but once received they agreed to replace the sink.  Fortunately for me I live about 15 minutes from their warehouse, so I didn’t have to wait for delivery.  I returned it myself and was told they had to open four boxes before they found one that was flat across the back.  Apparently they had gotten a bad batch from their manufacturer.  I got a new pack of tank bolts too.  This cost me another week.  When I was able to work on the bath again I started with the toilet.  Easy, peasy, I had it connected in about 30 minutes, flushed it once all was well.  Back to the sink.  I had to connect all the faucets parts first and as I was working on that, the toilet started to run.  Long story shortened they sold me a toilet that had been returned/defective.  That was why there was only one bolt originally.

I am now beyond PO’d.  My track record with my Signature Hardware fixtures up to that point was not good.  I had already dealt with two bad drains, two bad aerators, the sink, missing bolts, and now a defective toilet.  There customer service with each call was stellar, they always replaced parts quickly and without question.  For my inconvenience with the sink they refunded me 10% of the purchase price, a whopping $21.99.  In a previous blog I had talked about ordering sink faucets with the wrong reach that they would not let me return, so needless to say I wanted a manager to explain how I got a returned toilet.  I wasn’t overly irrate, but I listed all the issues I have been having with their products and shared I had never had problems like these when purchasing from Home Depot or Lowes and that they were supposed to have a high end product.  I told him I regretted ever buying from them and that I feared connecting the fixtures in the master shower (the only items of theirs left to install – 10.16.19 update the master shower system is a complete disaster).

He asked me what he could do to make me happy, as my experiences weren’t a true reflection of their workmanship and quality.  He opened the door and I burst through it.  I asked for the console sink I really wanted and he gave it too me with no hesitation.  I’d rather have things work right out the box as the time lost, translates to money lost, and the value of the console doesn’t equate.  It took another two weeks before my schedule allowed me to put everything in, but on February 9th I had a fully functioning bath.

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The towel rod, and toilet paper dispenser are American Standard TR Collection and the sink and shower faucets are American Standard Hampton Collection all ordered from Build.com.  The original tub filler that came with the shower set I had to swap out for a longer one, Delta 7″, as when I filled the tub about half of the stream went directly into the overflow due to its cup design.  That also came from Build.com.  Next to Amazon that is my favorite online store to shop for my house.

Trying to be a more positive person is something I’m seeking on this new journey, so that is the inspiration behind my decor.  It is a tribute to all the positive people that have come into life keeping me sane and motivating throughout this restoration journey.  The wall paper that line the shelves in the closet and the back of the medicine cabinet is called Dream Big from Wayfair.com.  The shower curtain, filled with motivational quotes and hooks, double sided so curtain and liner don’t share a hook, were great finds from Amazon.  My other accessories: soap dispenser and trash can came from Bed, Bath, while the paper hand towel dispenser  and linen like paper towels came from Amazon.  All complimenting my black and white color scheme.  I may have mentioned this item in an earlier blog about the electric, but I absolutely love my exhaust fan/light.  Purchased from Build.com the fan comes on automatically whenever it senses humidity in the room.

I still need to touch up some areas with paint, hang the doors and medicine cabinet, but the functionality is complete.  Of all the things I’ve done in this house, I think I’m most proud of this bathroom.  My goal was to restore it to its original look and I think I accomplished that.  I see the flaws, but I also marvel every time I walk in it amazed by what I accomplished with no assistance.  I actually tell myself I’ve done good.  I’m giddy, excited, to get the medicine cabinet complete.  It will be an inspired by DIY/HGTV project with salvage material.  Check back often to see the COMPLETELY restored bathroom.

 

Busy With Small Projects

How do you eat an elephant………………….one bite at a time and that is what it’s going to take to get my house finished.  One would think now that I’m living here I’d have more time to work on things, but that has not proven to be the case.  I had to come to the reality that I have not been growing my consulting business in over a year and I’ve probably jeopardized some of my existing clients by being overly focused on my house.  Thanks to those that have shown patience and understanding.

Now that the 1st floor bath is fully functioning (next post) I have been tackling quick small projects in the evenings.  In no particular order:

I’ve installed all the cold air vent covers.  Only three, but I did need to buy a metal drill bit to get a hole through the metal frames that were behind the drywall.  I got the grills from Amazon.

I put the access panel up in the guest bedroom.  The City plumbing inspector required me to put a mixing valve on the water lines for the master tub and those lines ran in the ceiling of the guest bedroom along with the connection for the tub.  I needed to create access to that area, so hence the need for the panel.  I got the access panel from Home Depot.

The kitchen door is lockable, but I knew the knob on the door was not original and it looked terrible.  The new knob I found looks like originals I have on other doors and I found it originally on Build.com.  It was almost $50, but as I’ve said many times I’m trying to restore, not renovate, so I made the splurge.  I realized a couple of weeks had gone by (you just lose track of time working on a house) and the knob hadn’t arrived, so I contacted Build.com.  Turns out it was a special order for Baldwin, the manufacturer and it wasn’t scheduled to ship until March.  I cancelled the order and found the exact one on Amazon for $20.  I had it in FREE two-day shipping with Prime.  My price must have been a fluke or special, because now the same knob is on Amazon for $40.

This next project actually took multiple evenings because of a brain freeze mis-drill.  I hung the master bathroom vanity light.  I’ve had the light for a few months, but didn’t like it.  This was my first and LAST time ordering from Houzz.  As soon as it arrived I had buyers remorse and contacted them that day for a return.  I got no response.  I don’t shop where I can’t return, so done with Houzz.  I decided after we ran wires, but before drywall that I wanted the light to come from the ceiling instead of the wall (inspired by some HGTV show).  Fortunately I had enough extra wire to make the move.

I went up into the attic access panel and measured the length of wire and the distance of where I wanted the light to cascade.  I thought I had enough, but totally snoozed on allowing for the height of the ceiling joist.  I cut the first hole and quickly realized the light needed to be on the opposite side of the joist.  So, more drywall patching was in my future.  I’m getting pretty good at it now.

Unfortunately there was one casualty, the LED mirror.  I cleaned it for the first time and it fell off the wall.  Fortunately I caught it, so it didn’t fall forward and the glass did not break.  The bottom of the metal frame, which houses the IR and on/off switch, landed on the back splash and both broke.  The light no longer functions, so I guess it’s a good thing I hung the ceiling light, which I’m learning to like.  Build.com carries the same Eglo light.  I contacted the miror manufacturer, Innoci-USA, and they said it’s not covered under the warranty.  They are willing to send me a new IR and on/off switch if I pay shipping and handling.  I’ll get the parts, but may never install them.  I don’t miss the neon-like light it cast.  If I understood what 6000K lumens provided (basically a blue tone, daylight) I wouldn’t have gotten it.  At night you feel like you’re on Time Square.  The glow is so neon-like you barely can see yourself in the mirror.

I ordered and hung the dining room chandelier, which means I’m now ready for my final electrical inspection.  I wanted something that would compliment the original wall sconces.  I was hoping to find something in pewter, like those lights, but couldn’t find20190209_130333 anything I liked that was affordable.  I started looking at other matt, silver, finishes and found this light originally on LampsPlus.com.  They didn’t carry it in brushed nickel, but Build.com did.  To get the right size chandelier I followed the guidelines outlined in a video found on LampsPlus.com.  I ordered the same satin threaded bulbs, but in E12, from Bulbs.com I put in the wall scones.  I’ll post a picture of it lit once they arrive.

20190111_232428I stained the moulding around the stain glass entry foyer window.  I really need to put the frame back together, so I can finish that area once and for all.  As you can see I managed to get stain on the wall, so some touch-up painting is in my future.  The front door is scheduled to arrive the week of February 18, so I may need to spend a few evenings in this area.

The remaining projects were more decor related and helped to clear out some more boxes.  I put all my mother’s figurines back in their storage cases and put out some of my framed pictures.  I also hung two pictures.  Gilbert Young’s “Fleeting Moments” will definitely stay in that location, but my Shackelfords photo picture I will probably end up relocating after my new sofa and over-sized chair arrive.  I think it may get blocked by my floor lamp and make it hard for people to see it.

A friend of mine was shopping for bar stools for her house at the Frontgate Outlet Store and sent me some pictures of blue pieces she thought I might like.  I liked several and 20190210_193814decided to go take a look.  I had planned to get two ottomans to use as my coffee table, but one of the only two had a defective leg.  I did get the navy leather bench for my master bedroom.  It looks awesome at the foot of my bed.

The last project to share was the connecting of my receiver, CD/DVD player, and phono to the Leviton Home System my dad ingeniously researched for my house.  I can now listen to the TV, records, radio, DVDs and CDs through the speakers located throughout the house.  I must admit, it’s pretty cool.

20190211_003324I found those peach crates on Offer Up.  I had similar to store my albums in college, but stupidly got rid of them years ago.  I found LP dividers, similar to what record stores use, along with sleeves for 45s, and vinyl record cleaner on Amazon.  I felt compelled to get my old-school way of listening to music up and running given I’m living in an old house.  My mix of vinyl (most of it was my mom’s) is pretty eclectic.  That entertainment system has to be the most coolest feature of the house, at least until my car wash shower is complete.

Hunker down for the next post.  It was almost 6 months in the making.

 

Blue Is My Favorite Color

I found another great tradesman/finish carpenter, Tom Milfeld, and in the nick of time.  My kitchen cabinets were delivered on Monday, November 12 and I was moving in on the 17th.  In addition to having great skills, he is an absolute DELIGHT to work with.  He has allowed me to be his assistant saving me money and I’ve learned some great tips on replacing floor boards, cutting with a circular saw, etc. that I’ll put to good use.

Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses, so thanks to all the sweat equity employed on this project by me, friends, and family, I was able to design the kitchen and master bath of my dreams.  The HGTV 2017 Urban Oasis kitchen had blue cabinets, so that’s when I first started thinking of painted vs. stained.  I grew up with brown, wood, cabinets and definitely wanted something different.  I did not select the same shade of blue they used, Benjamin Moore Van Deusen Blue HC-156, because I was not going completely custom.  Instead I selected Sherwin Williams Naval, the stock color offered by Shiloh Cabinetry, the builder of my kitchen cabinets.  I carried the Naval into the master bath vanity made by Homestead Furniture.  They matched it as close as possible, so not a custom color.

The bathroom vanity was tackled first.  I utilized my Walabot gadget to locate the studs.  I totally forgot my father and I had installed wood blocks in between each stud in anticipation of my floating vanity.  Tom’s measurements and cutting out of plumbing fixture holes were exact.  We placed a temporary support beam on the short wall, which greatly aided in hanging this very heavy cabinet.

 

I love the trough sink I found on Build.com.  I will lack counter top space, but since my drawer/storage space has quadrupled from what I’ve had over the last 4 decades I’ll work around that.  Sherwin William’s coordinating color system on their website really makes it looks like I know what I’m doing from a design perspective.  The Icycle and Pacer White are perfect complements to the vanity.

 

For as many bad contractor experiences I’ve had, there have been equally good ones and another noteworthy one is Ohio Valley Solid Surfaces.  I am a repeat customer of theirs as I worked with them when I replaced the Formica counter tops with Corian at my former house over 15 years ago.  I also purchased remnant granite tops for my two full bathrooms about 6 years ago. Their crew arrived the morning of November 12th promptly and the quickly unloaded my much-anticipated blue cabinets.  I had priced my cabinets through Pease Home Improvement, but went to Ohio Valley Solid Surface for my counter tops as I hoped to luck up and find another remnant slab.  I was able to find a remnant piece of soap stone that I will use as the top for the built-in.  Turns out they were also a dealer for Shiloh Cabinetry and their price came in $600 under Pease, so with the help of Emily Womble they became my one stop shop for kitchen cabinets and counters.

The process for hanging cabinets was simpler than I thought and my house only presented one wall that wasn’t square enough to the point you see a slight gap between the wall and cabinet.  The style of my doors intentionally matches the doors on the built-in I saved and will eventually relocate back in the kitchen.  My doors are inset (again like the built-in), so it was very important that the cabinets be level or they would not open and close properly.

I love the soft close feature and wish I had splurged and had them added to my vanity.  They were standard with Shiloh Cabinetry and would have added $350 to cost of vanity.  The goal was to get the cabinets hung by Friday, November 16, the day Ohio Valley would return to measure for the counters.  I have totally snoozed on his name, but the same gentleman that installed my Corian counters at Inner Circle, came and took the measurements.  I think employee longevity is a testimony of a good company.  By meeting the November 16 measurement deadline, I was guaranteed to only live without counters for a week after my move-in.

20180415_182937One of the fortunate outcomes of self-funding this project was that at the time I ordered the cabinets I didn’t have the money for the counter tops.  Cabinets were a 6-8 week lead time whereas the counters were only a week, so I had time to find more funds.  If I had placed the order with the cabinets I would have gotten Silestone’s Pietra (sample B).  It has blue and grey swirls and was the top vote getter by people attending my house blessing gathering.

When I had to finally commit, Emily shared with me some new options of overstock slabs they had on hand.  Selecting one of them could save me about $900, so I took a serious look.  Yes, I loved saving the money, but I actually think the Neve Corian Quartz I ultimately selected for the kitchen looks far better installed than what my original choice would have.  It’s almost marble like, less busy, and oh so elegant looking.  In the master bath I was able to select another overstock slab, sample A above, Ceasarstone Misty Carrera.  The sample was honed (non-shiny), which is what I wanted, but the overstock piece was shiney.  Again to save the money I made the change.  I didn’t go with one stone for both, despite both being blue, because upstairs needed something that would coordinate with the hexagon tile I laid for the tub.  Misty Carrera had a brown undertone to it whereas the Neve had a grey.  The Misty Carrera is on the vanity, but it will also be the bench and ledge for the shower.

The same crew, plus one, that delivered the cabinets did the counter tops and as with the delivery they were punctual in their arrival and efficient in their install.

Ten days after moving in I was able to stop relying on the basement utility sink with the addition of the faucets.  On the first floor my goal has been to maintain the original charm of the house, sticking with decor reminiscent of a 100 year old house.  I went with a bridge faucet and stainless steel farmhouse sink.  Ohio Valley crew drilled the holes exactly where I wanted them, but in retrospect I should have put a little more distance between faucet and sprayer.

The master bath is all about modern luxury.  I wanted the faucets for the tub, shower and sink to match.  I bought all my bathroom fixtures in March, so I’m long past the window to return even though they just got installed.  Unfortunately my faucet has the wrong reach for the sink.

The vessel sink version of the same faucet reduced the reach by 2″, but is an inch taller.  Signature Hardware gave me a 50% discount on it for not being satisfied with the first one, but sadly the flow rate on this faucet is half of what the original faucet provided.  I probably would have been happy with it if I had not bought the first faucet.  Now I have four faucets I don’t like the function of.   My plumber took the aerator from the original faucet and placed on one of new.  It worked fine, so I contacted Signature Hardware and was sent new aerators.

Once the new ones were installed the new faucets worked fine, but the list of problems with Signature Hardware’s products are growing.  This will be the last project I’ll do and use their product.  Highly disappointed.

20181210_001735In addition to the faucet mishaps their pop-up drain I purchased for the first floor bath tub and master sink failed to hold water.  You should be able to see some pieces of metal in a cross shape at the bottom of the drain pictured on the left, but they broke off when my plumber attempted to tighten it to stop the water that was gushing into the basement.  He ended up replacing both with drains from Home Depot, which worked fine.  Signature Hardware did agree to refund my money on the drains, but I’m petrified about connecting the master shower and tub given how poorly these performed.  Water running into the basement was no big deal, but if the master tub and shower fixtures fail they’ll ruin drywall in the living room and guest bedroom.

 

From Master Bath to Master Bedroom

With the walls complete in the master bath I moved on to the master bedroom.  Pinterest photos of painted attic spaces helped me decide to place Sherwin Williams Pacer 20181017_125405White in the closet, dormers, ceiling, and angled walls and Sherwin-Williams Indigo Batik on the vertical walls.  As I learned in the bath, a consistent, even, smooth primer coat is key.  As you can see by the dark spots on the walls, there were several areas I missed with the primer.  It’s hard to distinguish the white from drywall mud 20181019_155056.jpgand paint sometimes.  That picture was after one coat, still wet.  Even dry it was clear two coats would be needed.  I don’t cut well in painting, so having a dark color next to a light was a test for sure.  Most places I did OK, others I did not.  I think I’m going to lower my standards on this as I’ve got way too much else to do to correct them all.

With the paint dry I set out to hang more light fixtures, outlet covers and the speakers.  I really love this light I found for the master closet on LampsPlus.com.

Brass wall plates were used in the house originally, but only 8 were left.  I decided to put those upstairs where three of the original gold light fixtures are being returned.  I’m still amazed by what was under all that soot on these fixtures.

My mother was a collector of brass, so I love the idea of putting a small bit of her in this SWEET space.  I’ve named my house Janet or JT for those that knew her well.  The original face plates were for duplex outlets, but I found some brass ones for the Leviton Decora switches also.  I even found a brass cold air exchange register.  With the paint on the walls I was curious to see how the original wood trim would look next to the colors, so I went in the basement and found the wood for the trio of windows and the two dormers.  Once cleaned up the wood is going to look fabulous next to both colors, but doing that little exercise revealed to me more bad drywall installation that had to be addressed.

I’m not sure why they left these gaps on each side of this window, but the trim did not cover them.  Sadly, in hanging my favorite original light fixture I also got another sour taste of their poor routing around the gang boxes. In that regard I had to return all the standard size face plates for Midway (I refuse to go Jumbo), just to cover the gaps around some of the outlets.  Making these repairs cost me a half day, which is a half day I really couldn’t afford to loose.

Color on walls reveals imperfections.  Perhaps I should have paid the drywall crew the $1400 they wanted to apply the primer.  He said in doing so he could catch and correct all the imperfections not caught in final sanding.  I caught some at the primer stage and corrected.  More at the first coat and corrected, but those minor dings not caught after the final coat of paint I’m calling “character”.  After all JT is almost 100 years old.

20181021_190135The vintage, Edison, bulbs I put in the light fixtures give off a soft, warm, yellow glow.  At night the room won’t be bright.  It will feel tranquil and peaceful, exactly what a master retreat should be.  I made sure to get a soft warm light for the can light as well.  Hopefully the LED bulb in the ceiling fan will cast a warm light also, if not I will hunt down a suitable replacement.

I haven’t hung the fan as I discovered I didn’t like the size I had selected, 52″.  This is what I was advised by Keidel, based on the size of room.  They were so wrong, so I’m glad I didn’t purchase all the fans for the house or any from them.  I got the fan from Build.com and they allowed me to return it for a 60″.  I only lost $14 in return shipping, it shipped for free.  I’ll get a 60″ for the living room too.  Thankfully the same fan for the master came in the larger size as I really like that choice.  I didn’t get as lucky with the living room fan, but I found one I liked better and it will match, almost exactly the entry foyer light.  It came at a higher price tag though.

My awesome electrician, Mr. McGhee, is helping me with the fan install, so to not waste his trip I won’t hang the master until all the paint is finished downstairs to allow us to hang them all. He lets me be his apprentice.  I’ve never hung a ceiling fan, so can’t wait to learn.  Enjoy this 360 degree span of my master bedroom.