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.

 

No More Tape Pulls and the Start of the Crown Moulding

My finished carpenter, Tom Milfeld, returned today and I finally have all of my cabinet hardware installed.  I had a theory on how to create a template out of some scrap wood, but had tremendous fear in trusting my measuring skills and drilling holes.  I told Tom I could forgive him if he drilled wrong, but I’m so hard on myself that I wouldn’t quickly forgive myself.  He put my plan into action and in about two hours had all my drawer pulls installed.  HEAVEN.  The knobs and pulls I got from the same company the cabinets came from, Ohio Valley Solid Surface.  Emily Womble, my sales rep, was a big help in steering me in the right direction on the hardware.  I had the mindset of putting a similar pull as to what is going on the restored built-in, which I’m so glad I did not do.  I selected Jeffrey Alexander, Tiffany Collection.  They look awesome; perfect complement to my bridge faucet from Signature Hardware.  I’m going to start calling myself an interior designer soon.

With that done he got to start on putting up the crown moulding.  I’ll have two levels of moulding that will go all the way to the ceiling.

Tom decided to start with the single small cabinet.  He got the first layer on with no issues.  His measuring skills are always right on point.  This is a flat piece that just needed a simple 45 degree angle cut to allow the corners to meet.  The actual crown piece poses more of a challenge as it comes off at an angle creating a compound miter cut.  He had the perfect tool and made it look super simple.  He intentionally cut the length over, so had to make a few trips down to the basement.  He decided to glue and pin nail the corner, which needed to dry before it could be hung.  He’ll finish up next weekend.

Since the rain held off today, I also got the flood light replaced on the outside, so now I’m ready for my electrical inspection.  My electrician recommended a unit from RAB Lighting, which I was able to pick up from Richard’s Electric.  I got the STL110HW model and unlike Ring it works from 13 feet off the ground.  Piece of cake to install thanks to a hanging hook, so I never felt I was in danger of falling off the ladder.  Today was a GOOD DAY!

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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.