Sliding Around on the Newly DIY Refinished Kitchen Floors

THE FLOORS ARE REFINISHED!! THE FLOORS ARE REFINISHED!!!! FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE PURCHASING THE HOUSE IN AUGUST 2017 I CAN WALK AROUND THE ENTIRE HOUSE WITHOUT WEARING SHOES!

To say I am excited is an understatement. I am ecstatic! I am overthemoon. I am a proud mother with a new born floor and this baby has been long anticipated. Remember back in September 2017 when I ripped off the two layers of vinyl on the kitchen floors and thought refinishing the floors would take a couple weekends? Bahahahahaha. Boy, I am an idiot sometimes. Because, in realityland it took about ten thousand weekends to finish these floors. So I finished in March 2018 about 6 months after I started. At least I never lose my enthusiasm, because this house really whips my butt sometimes. I’d show you the welts, but, well… better not. Remember when I moved in and the kitchen looked like this?

The floors were gross old sheet vinyl and in TERRIBLE shape. No amount of cleaning was going to fix this mess. So I spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME removing all that disgustingness to get ready to refinish the floors.

Anyways, after I finally got about 90% of the tar based (non-asbestos!) adhesive off the floors, it was time to work on the bathroom. Since having a place to bathe is basically essential for living a normal & accepted lifestyle, the bathroom was the priority. As I finally finished the installing the necessary plumbing fixtures in the bathroom it was time to turn my attention back to the floors. But before I could finish the floors… there was prep work. Grr… no one likes prep work!

The kitchen had been used as a storage / staging ground for the bathroom renovation and looked absolutely horrendous. My Aunt Steph snapped this shot when she came to visit in early February 2018 and helped to clean the space up. Yes, this is the kitchen I’d been using for the last five months in it’s most “clean” state. Yes, I realize that’s insane. But, hey, at least the bathtub wasn’t in there any more. Progress right?!

My kitchen is weirdly sectioned into two spaces: the main kitchen in the main house and the back part of the kitchen which is in what I assumed was originally a porch when the house was build in 1909. Well, after taking a closer look at the walls in the space I realized the back portion of the room was in really, really rough shape. Far worse than the main part of the kitchen and a couple coats of paint wasn’t going to hide it. So, I decided to just demo that area back down to the studs and throw some drywall up before refinishing the floors. Bronwyn and I went to work pulling off the homosote (a drywall precursor) and exposed some unexpected results…

Demo is easy, but messy and we suited up with masks, goggles, and gloves. You can easily use a couple of mini crowbars and hammers to remove most of the homosote (or lathe and plaster, or drywall!). Once we pulled off that first layer we found a whole bunch of things. First, I was really not expecting to find siding AND lathe and plaster behind those homosote panels!

Second, apparently there used to be another window in here! It had been boarded up and hidden underneath the lathe and plaster and the siding had been patched on the outside of the house, so it hadn’t been obvious from either side. The kitchen is pretty dark in general though so a window west facing like this one could have let in a ton of extra light. I was tempted to see if it would be possible to restore it… but that would have been a whole ton of extra work and would have taken up valuable wallspace.

We paused and I debated just stopping demo here, I could still drywall over this mess. But seriously, what was going on here? What clues did this provide to explain the history of the house? A whole lot it turned out.

The bathroom door was probably not originally located here. It may have been off the master bedroom actually and maybe used as a sleeping porch? Or… I’m not sure what the use of the room was, but it was clear that there was an exterior wall separating this section of the kitchen from the current bathroom at one point in time. See the corner where the bathroom pink insulation meets the perpendicular wall of horizontal V-groove siding? There about an inch and a half of exterior siding that matches the rest of my house, sawed off roughly. It’s that slightly lighter / yellower color. Maybe the exterior of the house was light yellow at first?

Over here under the windows was another big clue. The horizontal V-groove siding is on the left. Then there a vertical plank of wood with that red mark on top and to the right of that, lathe and plaster. Look closely at the red topped vertical board, just to the left of it, there’s more exterior siding that matches my house, again cut off. This implies that the space where my current exterior door is was “outdoor space” sandwiched at one point between two exterior walls. The floors alluded to a couple more clues here too. Very difficult to see in this unsanded state but, in front of the lather and plaster, the original wood floor planks were continuous from the main part of the kitchen. Then right where the vertical plank is, the flooring breaks and in front of the horizontal V-groove the flooring planks are wider, cheaper, and possibly not fir, AND they stop at the opening to the main part of the kitchen.

I didn’t get a good picture of it at this stage, but the partially sanded floors also showed an outline of a wall dividing the main part of the kitchen from the lathe and plaster area of the back of the kitchen, stopping just short enough for a door opening. So here’s what I am now thinking: the house originally had a cold room and/or pantry attached to the main kitchen. The two big windows on the rear wall didn’t exist, but the room got light from the boarded up west window. The room was accessed on the right side of the main kitchen where the flooring continues into the space without interruption. Eventually the two waterlines and vent were added in there and the room was used as a laundry room in the mid-1900s. I have no idea how the space that now holds the master half bathroom and the main bathroom were utilized, but they may have been porch space that was converted to indoor bathrooms when those became typical indoors in the 1930s. I think the space in front of the current back door was exterior porch space the longest, and then eventually converted to indoor space. Though I don’t know why the exterior V-groove siding was used… perhaps it was a mudroom?

Ohhh the mysteries of old houses! What I wouldn’t give to have original plans! A hidden treasure trove in the walls would also be nice. But, to address this mess and what to do next was the current issue. Eventually after a couple weeks of looking at this I decided, the best course would be to demo all the siding and lathe and plaster and insulate this back wall. My parents came into town the last weekend of February and we did a big push of work in the kitchen. Within a quick half hour we had the remainder of the wall all knocked down to the studs.

The structure beneath was questionable without proper headers over the doors or window, but they’d been standing fine this long, so I ignored it and tried to forget about it and remembered that the whole house would probably fall down if the BIG earthquake hits anyways. Sometimes it works to be pessimistic?

I threw some insulation in the cavities and my mom and sister started hanging drywall and rough taping and mudding. It looked much better like this. Almost like a real house again.

Until you looked at the floors that is. The space in front of the back door and bathroom still looked HORENDOUS covered in tar and the drum sander wasn’t really picking it up. It was almost like the tar in these areas was too hard to be sanded. The floors looked black like this when I began working on the bathroom in November 2017 and stopped working on the floors.

Dust had covered the tar in the time since the vinyl flooring was removed and it just looked… greyer. My dad bought a $25 heat gun at Ace Hardware and worked on getting the last bits of tar off the floor. He spent about a full day’s time working on two main areas: in front of the bathroom door and in front of the basement door; as well as touching up beneath the toe kicks of the cabinets.

The heat gun died at least once, maybe twice and Ace replaced it since it was the same day of purchase! It was hard, gross, and tedious work, but he finished getting it up to the point where drum and hand sanders could do the rest!

That’s about as far as we got that weekend. My parents left and then it was time to really sand. Bronwyn and I started working after I got off in the evenings. We had a polisher from Erik (who provides me with all the tools I don’t even know exist until he brings them over) with 36 grit sandpaper and then the drum sander (my favorite tool ever!).

Bronwyn worked on the edges of the room with the polisher and 36 grit paper and I focused on the drum sander moving from 24 to 36 to 60 grit one evening after work. It was so satisfying working up from the lower to higher grits and seeing the true color of the floors come out more and more with each pass of the sander!

Mostly, I worked with the grain of the wood, but in tight spots like the mini-hallway to my bedroom, I could only run the drum sander against the grain. It left lines on the floor that we had to patiently smooth out with the polisher later when we moved into higher grits.

We spent ages sanding and we created SO MUCH DUST. Piles and piles on piles of saw dust. We were sweeping up ginormous piles of dusts in between sandpaper grits. Look at this one by Bronwyn’s feet! It’s almost as big as my cat Jacks!

The next day was a Saturday and we spent it filling all the wood scrapes and holes with filler and patching in new planks in two areas. There was a lot of woodfiller to be used! I bought a big box of that stuff that goes from pink to tan and we used EVERY LAST BIT.

The floors were never going to be perfect and I never expected that, but they are original to the house and I wanted to restore them the best I could. I knew that the tar had stained the wood in places and that it would always have dark patches and light patches, but it’s part of the story of the house, it’s character, and I was all about it.

The flooring was really rough by the backdoor where the wood transitioned from the fir planks in the main kitchen to god know’s what by the backdoor and then back to fir planks. Note on the lower right below that weird patch that I’d filled a ton of wood filler around. I think that’s where the wall separating the pantry / cold room and the kitchen was. It had been filled in with a series of 6″wide pieces of plywood which I found highly questionable and eventually decided to remove and patch properly with new fir boards.

Other spots were more fixable and I even used wood glue too to hold some bad areas together the wood was so effed up.

The whole space by the transition looked like a candy cane there was so many wood filler stripes. Here you can at least see that transition really easily though! Flooring clues to the past!

Another particularly rough area was over by the mini-hallway to my bedroom and the air intake vent. I used a ton of glue and filler here too. I think this area is so rough because there was originally a wall here and the master bedroom was originally entered through the dining room.

This was also when we learned Jacks had a thing for ductwork. He would crawl into any open vent and just walk through them like tunnels as we shut off the heat and tried to coax him out with treats and wet food!

Another rough area was all the edges near the bathroom. I’m not sure why these were so bad… Water damage? It wasn’t obviously apparent and it wasn’t anything a TON of wood filler wasn’t going to fix.

There were a lot of weird things going on in that corner actually. and I was grateful that the vertical V-groove paneling, baseboards, and quarterround I had planned would hide a lot of these questionable areas.

Other damages I had caused. There were definitely big gouges taken out of the floor when I was using a big floor scraper and trying to remove the layers of sheet vinyl. It was an unfortunate part of that task and one I wish I hadn’t resorted to, but, hey, more wood filler it was!

There were other planks that I gouged badly that I worried were actual damaged boards. See how discolored this one is? I figured it had rotted and needed complete replacement too… but eventually it all sanded out. Whoopee!

But wait, it’s not just filler and lucky sanding, there’s also legit patching to be done! The first spot was a small square by the end of the cabinets. You can see it below by the back wheels of the drum sander in this picture from when we first realized the drum sander would remove the tar. When we first got the tar off it looked like a concrete patch! How quirky! What was this originally?

Well by the time we got around to 60 grit sandpaper, it no longer had concrete on it, it was just a weird little patch job. I think the concrete was smoothed over it to bring the flooring level flush before they put in the first layer of sheet vinyl in the 40s. Why are you there patch job?! Were you an ash shoot to the basement? Or just… nothing but a patch? You can see the plywood patch here by the edge of the drum sander. This was before I decided to remove it when I was still trying to add would filler to ALL THE SPOTS!

I basically walked around my kitchen for hours bent over like this patching aaaallllllllllll the spots that needed it. FOR HOURS. It hurt. A lot. But back to the patch:

I popped out the patch and cut a couple of pieces of wood flooring to fit, before ripping off the tongue on one of the pieces with Erik’s table saw and dryfitting.

I nailed those pieces into the patch and then added a bunch of woodfiller around the whole thing.

Then I moved to the bigger patch job by the (maybe) former-doorway to the (maybe) former-pantry where all those small patches of plywood had been used to fill in the space left in the floor when the wall was removed. It looked bad and my attempt to just patch it hadn’t worked. So I got a hammer and chisel to get it out. Just look at all those little pieces! All slightly different lengths! WHY?!

It took, probably only twenty minutes to remove all those little pieces with the chisel, but it was still annoying to wonder why this had happened in the first place.

It was nice when they were gone. Now a professional would have probably feathered in the boards removing more from the (maybe) former-pantry and adding in long boards that stretched into the main part of the kitchen. But I didn’t do that, because a) that would have been way more work, b) I don’t want to be responsible to removing perfectly good floor boards and THEN HAVING TO PUT THEM BACK IN, and c) this patch helped explain the history of the house to me and I don’t believe in revisionist history, I wanted to have my new patch still tell the same story, just prettier.

I also wanted to finish patching the floor in under an hour. So there’s that.

The edges of the section I’d chiseled out were all off though since the planks had been so many different sizes! So I did need to fix that before installing my new pieces.

I grabbed my Milwaukee battery powered circular saw, set the depth to that of the hardwood floors (not so deep it would cut the wood subflooring!) and trimmed up some clean straight lines along the patch.

The new pieces were installed the same way, edges smothered in woodfiller. Have I mentioned how much woodfiller we used yet guys? SO MUCH WOOD FILLER! Even Jacks was all, “What’s up with this questionable amount of wood filler guys?”

But then he got over it and walked away without volunteering to help us at all. Little Bastard.

So that was an entire Saturday guys. Moving through 3 grits of sand paper and doing all the patching of the floors until it looked like this crazyness.

Then on Sunday after all the patches and glue were dry we were ready to sand again at our highest grit. But then we found more spots that needed patching! OF COURSE.

Finally finally, we patched everything that could be patched and sanded with the drum sander at 100 grit and did the polisher on the edges with 80 grit. Which took almost the whole morning. Then it was time to clean. Oh we swept, we vacuumed, we vacuumed again, and again.

After all the vacuuming, Bronwyn and I got on our hands and knees with wet rags and wiped the floors down. We started at the back of the kitchen working our way across to the main part and into the living room before washing our cloths and doing it all over again. Then it was finally, finally, FINALLY time to start sealing the floors.

We started with one coat of Minwax’s Sanding Sealer to seal the wood grain and provide a smooth surface for the poly coat we’d add on top.

I worked my way around the room in the same way we’d done the wiping of the floors, starting at the back of the kitchen by the bathroom and working my way into the living room.

I worked barefoot to avoid transfering anything from my shoes to the clean floors and we finished that first coat around noon.

Since it took three hours to dry and we were kicked out of our kitchen, both bathrooms, and our bedrooms, we opened a window and went to brunch!

It took longer than three hours to fully dry though. So that kinda sucked. We were delayed and it wasn’t our fault! We hung out for a while longer trying not to think about going to the bathroom. Finally, once the sealer was no longer tacky, we sanded everything with 220 grit sanding screens (like you’d use on drywall) and wiped the floors with wet cloths again. We were ready to put on the first coat of sealer!

I picked up a can of water-based poly finish from Minwax, because it has fewer fumes, and creates a less orangey finish. I wanted a lighter natural fir coat throughout the space, especially since I’d worked so hard to expose that natural wood! I pulled a satin finish for a less shiny look too. I hoped it would look similar to the wood in the Living Room and just be an easy transition. Spoiler alert: oil based would have actually created a more similar finish.

For the first coat of poly, I switched from the synthetic applicator pad I’d used with the wood sealer to a “fancy” lambswool one, but I found it left more bubbles than I’d gotten with the synthetic pad. (You can see my patched in wood planks here too by the paint tray!)

Applying the finishing Polyacrylic was a lot like mopping your floors, but with less dirty water. You start in one area and carefully wipe a liquid down and across the floors without letting it pool in any one area.

You could immediately tell the areas that had sealer vs those that had the first coat of Polyacrylic. Which was nice for working around the room and not missing any patches. It made the floors a bit darker which mean old oil stains like the one in the upper corner here, also got darker. I went with it.

When I was finished with the first coat things were looking really good! Bronwyn snapped this shot with her phone and we celebrated. But then we remembered we couldn’t leave the living room for another 3 hours while this coat dried…

I decided three hours was about the same amount of time as a movie, so I walked to the local theater, grabbed food for dinner, and watched Red Sparrow. When I got home it was the perfect time for Bronwyn and I to take quick showers, do another quick screen sanding of the floors, vacuum everything, wipe everything, and then seal one final coat.

I sent Bronwyn upstairs for bed and began the second coat, sealing myself into my room for the night. The next morning at 6am everything was dry and we did a quick sanding and wet wiping again, before putting on the third and final coat of sealer! Bronwyn stayed in the living room and by 7am I was in the car and on my way to work!

Despite the chaos of the rest of the room, the floors were looking SO GOOD!

I’d expected the slight stains and imperfections and loved them even more! It was a billion times better than where I’d started and I was ohhh soooo happy!

Sure the cabinets were half-sanded, and the walls need skim coating and painting, but this was a miracle! I’d restored these 110 year old floors out from under 2 layers of horrible horrible sheet vinyl and TAR based mastic! I’d done it! I’d refinished these terrible floors!

And there were so, so many doubts and frustrations, and hard days along the way. I’d be discouraged to do this project from the very start. I’d been told this was stupid, that I was silly to even try, that this project was a waste of time AND money by several people (older, white men at that!). I’d been told to put tile down over the old sheet vinyl or to just put another layer of sheet vinyl or linoleum on top. I didn’t want to do any of that, I wanted to restore my floors. And I did!

It was really hard, having people who you trust discourage you like that is really emotionally draining. I had so many things going on with these floors and with the whole house, I just didn’t have the time to listen to those comments or the energy to argue with those people. I had a mission and I just desperately wanted to give everything I could to save these floors. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have moments where I was ready to throw in the towel. Remember when I accidentally partially liquified my tar? I’m pretty sure I cried that day. But in the end I knew I could do it and I knew it was the best thing for the house, the right thing for the house. 110 year old original floors DESERVED this much work. They’d earned it.

I HATE sheet vinyl, I find it soooo difficult to keep clean. Hardwood floors were just a dream. Thankfully, there was one person who was the most knowledgeable person, who told me this was possible, and encouraged me on the worst days, to just keep trying different things until I got that stupid tar up: my contractor neighbor Erik. Thank god for him. I’d never have gotten from here: two layers of crumbling sheet vinyl…

…through this horrendous mess of tar….

… to fully restored wood floors with out my neighbor! I really should bring him some cookies or something else neighborly. BECAUSE THIS FLOOR IS EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED!!

The change felt so good! Being able to walk through my house barefoot for the very first time since moving in felt soooo good! Having a kitchen after 6 months without one felt SO GOOD! This project felt like the biggest of all accomplishments to date. Bigger than the bathroom renovation, which I know seems silly, but this project had so much more riding on it. I knew the bathroom renovation would work out, it was a gut reno, there were no questionable old elements, everything was brand new for the most part. This, this was restoration, this was SAVING 110 year old floors. And I did it myself! Well, myself with a lot of help, but still. There they are in all their glory: 110 year old original fir floors. Now just to finish the rest of that kitchen…

Have you ever SAVED floors before? Or liquified tar mastic? Or done a project everyone you knew told you not to do? How’d you get through it? Tell me in the comments below!

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Tiling Prep and Relocating a Heater Vent

Gotta keep chugging through this bathroom renovation to get to the pretty afters ya’ll! It’s a big change! But before I can show you that fun stuff, let’s go through the nitty gritty of the renovation. This is a real life blog. Let’s look at the ugly.

Before I could go much further in my bathroom, I needed to get a few things done. Post-insulation, my next step really should have been to drywall, but that was going to take more than just one set of hands, so I turned to the next item on my to-do list: prepping for tile! The original disgusting and uncleanable sheet vinyl floor was doing no one any favors. It wasn’t as bad as the kitchen (which was somehow disintegrating), but boy was it gross.

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Here’s a close up picture from demo so you can appreciate it EVEN MORE! IMG_0154

It was gross and it wasn’t staying. I had debated one hundred different mini-hex tile patterns before setting on a much more simple option from Home Depot. This shot of the overall bathroom palette really showcases the tile too. That high contrast has me all kinds of giddy!

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Before tile, comes prep though. It was time to conquer those vinyl floors! For that I headed out for more supplies. I picked up the following at Home Depot one evening.

First I cleaned out the bathroom of tools and random junk and swept the entire space to start with a clean slate! I measured my concrete board and cut of the excess length using a box knife again. If I could go back I would have used a circular saw and speeded things up, but at the time I didn’t own one. By going over the cut a few times with a box knife I was able to create a weak point which allowed me to then snap that section off.

Land of Laurel | Cutting HardieBacker

Then I had to cut a hole for the toilet. First I measured where that lined up on my sheet of concrete board and drew an outline. I took out my drill and drilled some holes in each of the corners.

Land of Laurel | Drilling Hardiebacker

Then I took out the box knife again to cut the rest of the hole out. Spoiler alert: I still snapped the HardieBacker in an unfortunate place that wasn’t my intention . Oh well! Just another seam to cover! That first piece was fairly easy to lay down in place though, but before I could move on to the second piece, I had some other work to do!

I originally planned to place a pedestal sink in this room and that sink was going to go right where the oddly almost square heater vent was. Well that wasn’t going to work! When I filed my mechanical permit for my new bathroom vent fan, I added on two quick HVAC ducting tweaks to the permit. This was one of them! I picked up more supplies from Home Depot (I was averaging 2-5 Home Depot visits per week for all of November and December!): a 90° angle turn register box, a couple of flexible angle pieces, and some foil duct tape (actual duct tape!). I used a small battery powered circular saw (borrowed from my neighbor Erik of course!) to cut a new hole the size of the register box in the floor and through the subfloor. Because there is a crawl space beneath the bathroom, I was able to climb around in there and use the new ducting pieces to extend the existing ducting about 1 foot so a new normal sized duct register would be closer to the bathroom entry wall and parallel to that wall.  I secured it all together with the foil ducting tape (NOT regular duct tape!) but waited to attach the register box until the HardieBacker was done.

I was exceedingly proud of myself for extending the ducting too! But then came the hole patching part of this job. I was trying to avoid going back into the basement crawlspace, because it’s gross down there and I hate it, so I was determined to patch the floor from above. I used some clamps I already owned to secure a couple of scrap wood boards in place and aligned with the level of subfloor. Then I just used my drill to tighten some screws through the floor and into those boards.

Land of Laurel | Patching Hole in Floor

I cut a piece of plywood to the dimensions of the missing floor and then screwed that into the new supports as well as an exposed floor joist. An easy floor patch! It seems crazy to put in this effort to move the vent 3″ over, but by turning the vent 90″ and using a modern size I was able to save a lot of floor space. This would have allowed me to have a pedestal sink too, but I later switched to a wall mounted sink and in this spot now lives a big basket of toilet paper.

Land of Laurel | Patched Hole in Floor

Once the floor was patched and the new register vent in (combined a two hour project), I was able to finish laying the HardieBacker! I cut the board to size and noted where the new vent location was. I made sure to dryfit the board before I grabbed the thinset again. I used the flat side of the float to glob a bunch of thinset onto the floor and then smeared it all around.

Land of Laurel | Spreading Mortar

It covered the floor patch job pretty easily and helped mitigate any change in height between my patch job and the existing floor. I then spread the thinset all over a 2 foot deep section of the floor until it was about 1/8th inch thick.

Land of Laurel | Thin Coat of Mortar

A quick switch to the square grooved side of the float allowed me to then make some nice lines in the mortar. This helps to establish some suction once the HardieBacker is laid on top. My grooves didn’t have to be perfect or straight, they just had to be there! See how you can no longer tell where my floor was patched? That’s the end goal! I had laid the piece by the toilet the night before and then returned then next day to do the remaining section. You can see above where I accidentally broke the backerboard trying to cut the toilet hole! Whoops…

Land of Laurel | Making Grooves in Mortar

Once the floor was covered with thinset grooves I was able to take my sheet of backerboard and lay it on top pretty easily. I left the boards in place and allowed the mortar to dry overnight, before returning the following evening to finish up. I took more mortar and smooshed it into the gap between the sheets of HardieBacker, wiping away any excess. Then I cut strips of the mesh tape to length and gently smoothed it over the mortared seam with my hand. The goal is to close the gap and then smooth the thinest layer of mortar over the tape. You can see below too that all this went down before the plumbing inspection was finalized so my new shower pan was full of gross water!

Land of Laurel | Taped Hardiebacker

At this time I also took out my drill and screwed the special HardieBacker screws into the floor. The screws kindly came with a special drill bit so I didn’t even have to worry about that. The HardieBacker needs to be screwed in every foot so further strengthen it’s connection to the subfloor. You can see how many screws that adds up to quickly! Unfortunately, I have the arm strength of a 2 day old newborn child and I couldn’t get any of the screws to recess into the HardieBacker! It was so frustrating, because this is essential to having a nice flat tile floor! I went over to my neighbor Erik’s house where he was working on his kitchen and borrowed his impact driver for an hour. With that, I was able to get all my screws in place with minimal effort. Seriously, ladies and gents, go buy an impact driver. If you ever need to screw anything in, a drill is just not up to the task! It’s better for making holes not filling them. The impact driver prevents me from stripping all my screws and makes screwing things in much easier. After seeing the difference between using my drill and Erik’s impact driver, you can bet your bottom dollar I bought myself an impact driver the next day. Shout out to Jeff Senn at Home Depot who spent a good hour with me debating the best model and brand of impact drivers. I landed on this Milwaukee combo kit which threw in a hammer drill and had some extra oomph to make up for my baby arm muscles. I’ve yet to use that hammer drill though, so perhaps I should have gone with a single tool…

I wasn’t done with the floor underlayment after I got all those screws drilled in though. I had measured during my dry fit of the second board where the new vent location was, but waited to cut it out a until after the HardieBacker was installed. Now it was time to knock this off the to-do list as well! I clued in this time and used a larger 1″ drill bit to make bigger holes in the corner of the vent this time and then cut from those. Then I cut it off from there with a circular saw borrowed from my contractor neighbor Erik.

Land of Laurel | Drilled HardieBacker

It came out much more quickly than using a box knife, I’ll tell ya that! then I got out a good ole hammer and some baby brad nails and drove them through the register box into the wood subfloor, securing it all together.

Land of Laurel | New Floor Register

Luckily it all worked out and then new matte black vent cover I picked up from Home Depot fit perfectly! I was more proud of this duct work than any other work in the bathroom thus far. It felt so very adult to do this quick switch! Woot woot! This room was coming together now!

Land of Laurel | New Vent Opening

And just like that, I felt I could walk barefoot in one more room at Berrybrier! Not needing shoes to protect your feet from gross bathroom floors is pretty amazing, let me tell you! Now this room was ready for tile and drywall and all the other bathroom renovation steps. It felt so good!

Have you ever prepped for tile? Thinking about getting started? You can totally do this. It’s EASY! I was shocked by how easy it was!

New Roof For Berrybrier + a Dormer!

Even before I bought Berrybrier, I knew the house needed a new roof. The listing actually mentioned this and – despite not seeing any leaks after a strong rain during escrow – it clearly needed to go. It was a hot mess of a roof in a city where waterproofed roofs are pretty dang critical. This was no DIY project my friends. It was time to bring in the professionals!Berrybrier | Roof.jpg

Although it’s not currently in vogue, I knew I wanted to replace the roof with another light colored shingle roof. The Portland summer sun is hot, hot, hot! When it bakes down on the house the upper floor becomes an oven of trapped heat. The lower level of the house manages to stay cool if it’s just a single hot day or even two hot days in a row, but any more than that and the house gets sweltering. A light colored roof can do wonders in keeping a house cooler. I picked Owen’s Corning’s Sierra Grey which I knew would go well with the exterior paint color I had in mind.

There was one other thing that I wanted to do when I replaced the roof though: add a dormer. The layout of the upstairs bedrooms with the stairwell made the house a perfect candidate for a dormer right at the top of the stairs. You see, when you walk up the stairs at Berrybrier there’s a large landing between the two bedrooms and across the landing from the stairs is a little door to a storage space. You can see the little crawl space door at the top here.

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Well a simple dormer added at the location of this crawl space could launch a huge amount of potential for Berrybrier. Adding a room in this space with a window would also allow more light into the stairwell. The future potential though is huge. A bathroom at this location would not only add incredible convenience to the upper floor bedrooms, but it would also turn this house into a 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom house effectively doubling its value from my purchase price. Equity, baby! It’s important!Berrybrier | Crawl Space

I went about interviewing roofers shortly after I bought the house and trying to draw up plans for a dormer to get approved by the city development department. That was stressful! And then there was the whole manner of finding someone who could build the dormer too. A couple weeks into my search I mentioned my need for a roofer to Erik from next door who – of course – had a guy. A few days later Rigo was at my house and he said he could build the dormer too. Woohoo!

After inspecting the roof, Rigo was able to tell me that it had the original cedar shingle roof below two layers of asphalt shingles. This meant, I needed a complete tear off of all three layers of roofing and a new layer of plywood sheathing before the new roof went on. Of course, this is about triple the work of adding a new asphalt single roof and thus about triple the cost. Oh the joys of homeownership!

Berrybrier | Roof Shot

Off to the computer I went drawing up plans for a dormer addition. It took me about a week of a couple hours work after my 9-5 job to complete the plans. I was able to go to the Portland Development Bureau’s homeowners’ night and get my drawings looked at after working hours. It’s a busy Thursday night at homeowners’ night and after waiting two hours I thought I would have to go home without a permit. Luckily, they squeezed me in right at the end and approved my plans quite quickly! Even better, Rigo and his crew were able to start work the same week I finally got permits for the addition of the dormer!

The first thing they did was rip off the entire roof! It was the very bitter end of last September at this point, but 2017 was a hot, dry summer and we managed to avoid any rain. I know, hard to believe it’s Portland, right? They spent about just a couple of days with a crew of 4 or 5 guys to rip off all three layers of roofing. The sheathing then took another couple of days. They layered waterproofing over the sheathing very quickly. They split the roof side by side and did demo, sheathing, and waterproofing on one side before moving to the other. This kept an assurance that just in case it did rain my house wouldn’t end up flooded! I wish I’d gotten a picture of this crazytown Frankenstein roof, but the guys did it so quickly while I was at work a basically blinked and missed it!

They did all of this work on the roof in the existing plane of the roof before on Saturday October 7th in the morning a crew showed up and cut a GINORMOUS hole in my roof! It was amazing to watch them just take a bunch of saws and just go at it! Here’s all the guys smiling once the hole was complete and they were ready to start the next phase of work.

Berrybrier | Whole in the Roof

Within just a few days, they’d built the shell of the dormer and completed the roof! I was amazed that just four days later the dormer went from a dream and a hole to an entire new room! From the outside, it looked like it belonged. I wanted an addition that looked intentional, like it could have existed from the beginning and this one had that vibe. Sure, it was only a shell that first week – just enough to keep the water out – but it felt right!

One thing I wasn’t in love with though? The dark black roof vents on the opposite side of the roof. They looked jarring against the light grey shingles and stood out way too much for my liking. I asked Rigo about them and he was quick to let me know they also made light grey ones (like were on the old roof) and he could switch them out in a couple of weeks. Yay!Berrybrier | Black Vents

Back to the dormer though! A quick couple days later and the dormer was sided and trimmed out to match the house. The guys finished up work on the interior of the dormer, adding appropriate studs and structural elements. The only remaining item was the window… which was on back order until November of course! Brrrrr! The weather was starting to get cold now and there was still a gaping hole in my house! A normal person would have selected a different window that was more readily available. But not me! See those green aluminum exterior wood interior windows? I was duplicating that in the dormer, no matter what!

Berrybrier | Dormer.jpg

This was a long phase of a crazy looking house, but wrapping up the new roof was a huge relief, despite the $12 grand now missing from my bank account, I felt like I’d really gained a sense of security knowing water wasn’t going to start pouring in one way or another. The dormer came in a 4k plus an almost $500 window. Both were huge investments in the house, the dormer obviously was an optional add, but the pricing felt right and the timing was good to ensure everything was waterproofed together.

Waiting on the window proved to be the most difficult thing due to the weather. The house was freezing! I slept in my sleeping bag in order to stay warm. The house felt like a stranger at this point because so much was going on. See that picture above? The windows were all taped off for painting, the new electrical meter and service had been rewired by the city, everything was happening all at once and boy did I have a thousand things to do! More on that soon…