Living Color with Exterior Paint Inspiration

Living Color with Exterior Paint Inspiration

Did y’all know that Living Coral is Pantone’s 2019 color of the year? How fun is that?! It’s such a happy bright color and I have a special attachment to it.

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When I first bought Berrybrier, the house was looking seriously rough. The newer aluminum exterior, wood interior windows were a positive note though. But they were green…

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Cutting Copper Pipes to Install Water Shut Off Valves

Cutting Copper Pipes to Install Water Shut Off Valves

So after the bathroom was painted I was pretty excited to be at the stage where things were really looking good. I was dying to get the toilet and sink installed and finally have a full working bathroom! To do that, I first needed to install some shut-off valves. When I first contracted my plumber to do the rough in plumbing, I definitely thought that would include water shut off valves and then I’d just hook in the fixtures. I don’t know why I thought that…. because what I actually got was copper stubs sticking out of the walls. It was a bit daunting, but I watched this youtube video where a very reassuring lady told me I’d be able to do this just fine. I took one last look at this room with it’s copper stubby left wall and headed to Home Depot for supplies.

Continue reading “Cutting Copper Pipes to Install Water Shut Off Valves”

Unexpected Plumbing Repairs: Cutting Cast Iron Pipe and Repairing the Sewer Line

Unexpected Plumbing Repairs: Cutting Cast Iron Pipe and Repairing the Sewer Line

Nothing like a Thanksgiving dinner to clog the sink, right? That’s exactly what happened to me on Thursday evening! My sister and I were working on doing some dishes, she had a full sink of water and started to let it go down the drain. My sink is connected to my dishwasher which has an open pipe in the corner of the kitchen that the dishwasher then drains into. When Bronwyn let the water start going down the sink drain, the pipe for the dishwasher started gushing out water all over the floor! We quickly plugged the sink back up to prevent any more water from going down and called quits on dishes for the night. 

The next morning I saw that both the sink and the pipe had drained overnight. I tired flushing things out with baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water to see if that would fix the clog. It did nothing and I could only get a few cups of water down the dishwasher pipe before the water rose to the top. Not a good sign. A little while later, I headed into the crawl space to see if I could figure out what was going on (a lofty idea for someone as naive as I am about plumbing!). I am not particularly fond of my crawl space. It’s damp and filled with spiders and there’s lingering molten tar that dripped down between the floor boards when I accidentally liquified the tar mastic in the kitchen . I should probably replace the plastic tarps that are affected by the latter… but that would just add more to my to-do list! So instead I leave it be and crawl through the grime. The crawl space is accessed through this half-door in the corner of the basement. You can see it here at the edge of this photo from when I first toured the house. 

So, I climbed into the crawl space and opened up the flexible coupling (this type) with a screw driver to see if I could identify the problem. It’s one of those rubber-like couplings with metal clamps on either end, so it’s easy enough to loosen the clamps and open the pipe. Of course, idiotically, I didn’t think my plan through. When I opened the clamp and pulled it up the pipe, the whole thing started gushing dirty dishwater in all directions! It started off by splashing right up into my face of course! Yuck!

After I drained an unexpectedly large amount of water all over myself, I removed myself from the dark cavity that is my crawl space and texted my neighbor Erik. This was clearly over my head. He popped over shortly after with a snake and we stuck that into the pipe where I’d opened the coupling. After getting the snake in nothing seemed to be happening, but when Erik went to remove the snake, the whole pipe moved with it. Uh oh. I reached out to steady the pipe and realized it didn’t even matter! The whole pipe section had just snapped off. And snapped off not close to where we were snaking, but farther down the pipe. See the dirt in the picture above? That’s where it broke, buried down in that! So I slathered a smile on my face and pretended I loved the crawl space and got to work.

I took out a shovel and started digging in the dirt to figure out where the pipe had broken and found the house’s 4″ cast iron sewer line. The old galvanized pipe that connected the sink and dishwasher drains to the sewer had corroded away and the slight motion from snaking it, broke it off right where it connected to the sewer. Not good! Because it was broken, I couldn’t even get it out of the sewer line and simply sub in a new section of pipe. Nope, I had to get way more involved and replace a section of the sewer line itself! Erik headed out with the promise to help me tomorrow. After I finished digging out around the pipe I called it quits for the night and stuffed a rag in the broken off pipe to prevent the sewer gases from filling the basement. The only good thing about this clog is that it caused me to find this corroded (now broken) pipe. This pipe had been leaking into the soil hidden below where I’d be able to see it if I had not been digging!

The copper pipe that runs perpendicular to the sewer line above is a random pipe that does not connect to anything. Helpful vestiges of plumbings past! 

There’s a special tool that would have made cutting the cast iron sewer line quick and easy. It’s a ratcheting soil pipe cutter. You can buy one for about a billion dollars or rent one. Home Depot rents ’em, but the store closest to me didn’t have one so I went to a local tool rental. They pulled it out of the back and I took one look and teared up. There was no way this could work. My basement wall is oddly angled on this side. Guess why? Because the sewer line was built first. And when they carved out the basement, rather than moving the pipe and making a straight wall, the built the concrete wall about 1/2″ away from the sewer line. The ratcheting pipe cutter gears were about 1.25″. It wasn’t going to fit!

On to plan B! Sawzalling the cast iron pipe with diamond blades. I headed to Home Depot to grab that and the rest of the supplies needed. Two cast iron sawzall blades for $15 buck each was a lot better than paying a plumber. I also headed to the pipe section to look for the proper couplings and accoutrements. Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing so I just took out a ton of parts and put them on the floor and then texted pictures like this to Erik until my phone died and I was left to fend for myself in the plumbing section!

I ended up with a four inch wye pipe with a 2″ offshoot and then because I couldn’t remember if I needed a 2″ or 1.5″ pipe to connect to the sink and dishwasher lines, I just bought a bunch of parts for both sizes. I definitely prefer to err on the side of way too many things to return than oh hey let’s run back to Home Depot four times. So $200 later, I had everything I could possibly use. 

I bought Erik a bagel sandwich for lunch which is definitely not enough to repay him for the next several hours he spent helping me in the crawl space. I set up the light and then I clambered into the crawl space with my corded sawzall and Erik followed with his battery powered sawzall. We then spent the next fourty or so minutes crouched over simultaneously sawzalling at the cast iron pipe. It took a LOT of effort and was so very uncomfortable and not fun. And of course Erik did his section faster than me and then traded so he could finish off my cut. Apparently he’s stronger or something boring like that. Ugh!

But then the cast iron pipe was completely cut! It was a wonderful sight to see! 4 inches over 40 mins, but hey, who’s counting? Look at this glorious exposed sewage. Just delightful!

Then it was time to get the fittings together. Ugh. This was a gross project. First I got the special cast iron to ABS pipe couplings fit over both ends of the cast iron. That took some work to get the rubber fitting over and then I slid the double clamp over the rubber fitting and started lining up the rest of the pipes. Erik cut a short section of 4″ pipe to fit into the coupling. The wye went in next and then Erik cut another 4″ pipe section to fit the remaining part. 

Stuffing the section of pipe into the wye and then into the coupling was a bit of a challenge. But about 5 minutes of fanangling later and I made it work. But then, of course, I had to take everything apart to glue it all. I used ABS pipe glue stuff which smells disgusting and sticks to everything. It has a ball to apply and you put glue on both ends about as wide as the radius of the pipe. 

The rest of the pipe fit more easily together, it’s like highstakes marble races, but the marbles are sewage. Again, delightful! A 2″ to 1.5″ pipe converter went on the main wye first, then a 45° angle, then a section of 1.5″ pipe, then a 90° angle.

That then connected to another forked wye pipe, this one was 1.5″ all around. That allowed me to slip on the original pipes from the dishwasher and sink drains into the new wye with a couple short sections of 1.5″ pipe and a whole lotta glue. 

A bit of tightening of the coupling clamps later and the plumbing was all connected!

Erik ran upstairs to flush the toilets a couple times and run the shower to test the lines. A couple more rotations to tighten the clamps on the sewer line later, we were leak free and basically done! I threw the rest of the dirt back into the space and called it quits. Typing this took no time at all, but in reality I climbed into the crawl space at about 12:30pm that day and came out about 4:30 and then spent and hour and half cleaning up. Not too shabby, but it doesn’t count the couple hours of digging from the day before!

It’s funny how projects like these: gross and dirty, but quick can make you feel so accomplished. I could never have done this without my neighbor though. I simply wouldn’t have had the confidence to even try. But saving several hundred dollars sure feels good! Plus the more of these I do, the more confident I get to try this on the next round. Though I hope that next round is a long ways away!

In the meantime, I saved a whole lot of money. At least 4-6 hours of a plumber’s work so let’s call that $400-$600. And honestly, it wasn’t all that hard once I got going. I think I could do it again… if I wanted to! Has anyone else tried plumbing things? How’d your project go? Did your DIY job hold up over time? There’s one connection I’m a little nervous about…!

Laying 1″ Hex Tile in the Bathroom

Laying 1″ Hex Tile in the Bathroom

I thought walls were a huge step, but, baby, I’m falling head over heels for my tiled floors! The floors were something I’ve just been dying over for months. I found dozens of complicated multi-colored tile floor patterns that I wanted to try, before finally settling back down and going with a clean, classic, and readily available option from Home Depot (my home away from home). I’m still saving those ideas of fun multi-colored patterns for the future though! There’s still the upstairs dormer bathroom and that has got to take shape eventually… so finger’s crossed! My inspiration for this room just got me all kinds of giddy about the tile I’d picked, but seeing it finished is even better!

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I bought three cases of the tile at $53 bucks per case. I ended up returning an entire case of the tile in the end and only using the first two cases, or about 18 SF of tile. Saving that extra money was almost as exciting as the tile itself! And I’m allllll about my tile! I picked this tile for the spacing of the flowers. You can get options with more or less space between the flowers, but I preferred this since it had enough that you’d easily see the flowers in the small bathroom, but not enough that you’d feel dizzy! Here’s the shot from the website showing the tile in all it’s ungrouted professional photo glory.

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Including the tile, here was my short Home Depot shopping list compiled here for you. That’s it! Tiling isn’t so bad, y’all.

Once I gathered the supplies and completed the prep work in the bathroom I came home from work one night in mid-November ready to tile! I finally turned on my ancient furnace which helped keep the house above freezing, which was a refreshing change. After that, I went ahead and dry laid all my tile so I could assess how it would fit in the space. I used this dry lay to also take the tile nippers out and make all my cuts. Luckily with 1″ hex tiles, a quick nip will cut through the tile pretty neatly. Not every one was perfect, but plenty were good enough!

Then it was time to start setting the tile. I carefully picked up my dry laid tile and stacked it sheet by sheet in order of how I’d place the sheets. I made a pile of all my cut tiles I could pull from as needed. Then I popped open my thinset container and used the flat side of a thinset float to spread out a thin coat (about 1/8″) before making grooves with the v side. This is the same process I’d used to lay the HardieBacker during prep. Then I had to actually lay the tile! It all started off smoothly.

First, I spread my thinset about 14″ deep across the back end of the floor by the shower pan, made my grooves, and laid a sheet of tile. Then I back filled any cut tiles and moved on to the next sheet in the row. I did this for the first and second rows without issue. It started to get warmer in the bathroom as the furnace heated the house and as I worked my way across and down the bathroom floors, my thinset started drying at the edges before I could lay the next sheet. Not dry-dry, just drier… I tried working faster and faster, laying the tile as quickly as I could. The room felt hotter and hotter as my efforts increased in speed. By the time I finished I was sweating heavily and the last sheets had a couple spots where the spacing didn’t feel perfect. After tweaking them to make them better, I began to clean up and realized it wasn’t just the little bathroom that was hot. The whole house was oddly warm. I checked the newly installed thermostat: 86°F. Apparently the thermostat went rogue and decided it should feel like a tropical island in November in Portland, OR! So if the tile’s not perfect perfect, I blame the thermostat!

In all, the dry lay and then wet lay of the tile took most of the evening for even just this small room. I was pretty excited to return the next day and finish up with grout! I left the heater on at a more reasonable 70°F temperature to keep the tile and thinset warm enough to set fully overnight. but already things were looking pretty good! I wish I’d taken more pictures of the ungrouted tile, but I’m a terrible blogger and an undivided focus DIYer, so I only took this one overall shot when I finished.

Berrybrier | Ungrouted Tile.jpg

The next evening, grouting I was much better though! I poked any thinset to make sure it was fully set in place (it was!) and double checked the heater was at a more reasonable temperature (it was!), before cracking open my pre-mixed grout. You can get mixable grout for cheaper than the Fusion Pro stuff I used, but I didn’t want to worry about mixing multiple batches or making it the wrong consistency. I figured for my first time grouting, I’d take the easier approach. Also, I’m lazy. Ha! I debated white, grey, and black grout options, but ultimately, picked up a gallon of the charcoal which is the black Fusion Pro option. Black hides the most, I decided, and dingy grout is no one’s friend! I got a little nervous when I opened the container though, because it looked kinda blue! Also shout out to my filthy partially sanded kitchen floors photobombing below.

Berrybrier | Fusion Pro Grout in Charcoal

Once I actually started grouting, the grout looked more black. That was better! Whew!

Grouting was easier than laying the tile, just take the grout float and smoosh grout into the open space between the tiles, smoosh over a few times to make sure the gaps are fully filled. After smooshing, wipe away the excess and you’re left with something that looks a little crazy. You have to let the grout set a minute or two before wiping up the excess though.

Berrybrier | Groat Float

But then you just dip a sponge like this in some warm water and ring it out really well and wipe up the excess grout. This sponge helpfully had a more abrasive side I could work at any tough spots with.

Berrybrier | Grouting Sponge

As I wiped with the damp sponge, it started looking like a real floor pretty quickly! If any water started to pool, I wiped it up with sponge and rung out the sponge again before making another pass.

Berrybrier | Wiping Grout

After the first wipe down, it looked better, but it definitely needed another go round. By getting the majority in the first pass with a slightly more than damp sponge, I found a damp sponge could get nearly all the rest of the grout haze on the second pass.

Berrybrier | Grout Cleaning

That second pass got 95% of the grout haze and all of a sudden the floors looked DONE! It was momentous for sure! I’d not had a proper bathroom in a long while at this time and no bathroom meant I couldn’t actually stay at the house since there was no where to shower! Sure there was still some grout haze on the tile, but I would get that after the grout and tile set fully. It was really looking close to done in here. Walls, tile, who needs paint and toilets anyways?

Berrybrier | Freshly Grouted Tile

There was one casualty of the grouting though: my hand. If you’re using dark grout, wear gloves! The grout stained my hand and finger nails and no amount of soap and water could get it off. After a week though it slowly faded away… thankfully!

Berrybrier | Grout Hands

This felt like a small price to pay for floors that made me want to drool with happiness! I adored the high contrast look and classic feel. The dark grout was practical, but also seemed more contemporary. Overall, this project was a 2 night success! 5 out of 5 stars, would recommend. Significantly easier and less annoying than drywalling. And arguably, way more fun to pet! Because petting tile is a thing right?

Berrybrier | 1

The high contrast floors feel so clean and classic don’t they? I just love black and white floors. Gwen’s kitchen floors makes me drool with envy. Black and white can go modern or traditional. Here I think it walks a nice middle line, just like me. This floor also reminds me of my Oma who had black and white hex floors in her Jack and Jill bathroom at her house in Berkeley. Hers was white with black dots only, forcing you to make the flowers with your brain. Something I have many memories of staring at that floor and doing! It’s funny how little things like this can remind you of someone. 20 years later, I’m still staring at hex floors. And loving it!

Berrybrier | White and Black Hex Flower Tile Floors.jpg

Have you ever tiled anything before? Did you think it was a difficult or easier DIY project? I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to tile more things soon! If you’re getting ready to tile, better check that thermostat though. Can’t have another one going rogue!

Tiling Prep and Relocating a Heater Vent

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!

Adding Insulation to the Bathroom

Adding Insulation to the Bathroom

Now that you’ve seen the big transformation of the exterior of the house, let’s get back to the ugly, shall we? The bathroom was chugging along here at Berrybrier, slowly but surely. My progress was actually pretty good considering I ran home from work every day, stopped eating dinner for November and December, and got straight to work from 5pm to 9:30-10pm during the week and pretty much all day on every weekend. It was a backbreaking schedule I wouldn’t recommend! But, I desperately needed a working bathroom so I could, you know, live in my house!

So after the electricians finished their work and the plumber did his rough in, I insulated the bathroom straight away! Insulation cost about $50 bucks at Home Depot, but I ended up with WAY more than I needed. There are other projects around I can use it for (the dormer, the small powder bathroom off my bedroom, etc), so I don’t mind the excess. I’m tempted to hire someone to blow in insulation in the exterior walls down the line, but it’s not in the budget right now. I’m up for trying to make this house as warm as possible, one room at a time! Alas! What do those of you with old uninsulated houses do? How do you keep warm? I didn’t turn on my ancient heater until late November 2017, when I got really desperate and until then it was so COLD in here!!

Back to the insulation though: this is easy. Like, the easiest. You can do this if you have one hand free. Insulation is designed to be the standard width of the distance between studs (which are set at 16″ on center) and stays in place with friction. It really takes no time at all to whip out a wall, especially if it’s a full height wall without obstacles. The steps are über simple!

  1. Wear long sleeves, pants, gloves, and a respirator mask.
  2. Measure height of space needing insulation.
  3. Cut insulation
  4. Stick insulation in between studs.
  5. The end! You’re done! You just insulated something!

It was super quick to knock out the exterior wall of the bathroom. I used a utility knife to cut the insulation shorter around the window. I’ve since learned that this cheap tool makes cutting insulation EVEN EASIER, so if you pick it up at Home Depot, it’s well worth the $10 bucks. The insulation knife cuts all the way through the insulation at one time while the basic box cutter take a few slices on the same line to cut through the paper and the backing. The pictures I have of the space aren’t great. They were mostly taken at night with my work light illuminating the space since the electrical wasn’t done!

Berrybrier | Insulation.jpg

The ceiling takes a little more work and requires at least two hands because you have to hold the insulation up and secure it. I used my staple gun to shoot staples into the ceiling joists securing the insulation. I also left some extra room for the electrical for my future can light. I erred on leaving more room around the electrical than I should have. The new electrical is fine to have butted against the insulation, but I gave the old electrical a wide berth. I do not want any house fires! I did use extra smaller pieces of insulation to fill in all the spaces around the walls of the bathroom, hoping that added insulation would help keep this space warmer!

Berrybrier | Can Light Location

Overall insulating the bathroom took one evening to complete! A short project with obvious progress is always pretty great. You can see above that my door way does not have the proper 4×12 header it would get these days. It’s an old house and this wall is not structural, so I left it this way. Plus I had bigger things to conquer, like drywall! And tiling! And cleaning up the disaster that was my kitchen…

Berrybrier | Kitchen Mess

Yeah the kitchen became the tool library / trash room / storage room and it was absolutely insane looking. For months. This room looked horrific from September 2016 to March 2017. Next time someone yells at you for leaving a dirty shirt on the floor, point them to this blog. They haven’t met crazy messy yet!

Have you insulated a room before? Worked on a bathroom reno in house you were living in? How did you survive?! My neighbors did their only full bathroom recently and they told me they’d been showering at the gym for 4 months!

Bathroom Progress – Plumbing and Electrical!

Bathroom Progress – Plumbing and Electrical!

After demo’ing the main bathroom at Berrybrier I’d been ping ponging between my house and my cousin Kristen’s basement for showers and sleeping. In the midst of all the other chaos going on at Berrybrier: the new roof, electrical work, the extremely invasive floor rehab, and the exterior painting fiasco, the bathroom plumbing was completed! I hired a plumber to do the rough in plumbing only, figuring it couldn’t be all that hard to install the fixtures so I might as well do that part myself. Also, I’m cheap frugal.

The rough in was no small job though! It involved new toilet, sink, and shower locations as well as running new pex lines from the main house inline. He also installed a shower surround which is part of my grand scheme to eventually demo this and flip the location of this shower to the other side, giving me a master bathroom. (There’s a floor plan here if you want to see how that could work.) But that’s a project for years out. For now, My crazytown bathroom seriously needed a new floor plan! See how the wall is recessed starting at the mirror? When they installed a larger bathtub, they stole 10″ of space from the room behind it and moved the plumbing back. There was an electrical fuse box at the top of the wall though, so they left that part in its original location. They didn’t build a proper new wall though, so it was a bit of a nightmare of sistered in framing pieces all crazy. The mirror makes the bump back a little difficult to see, but if you stare hard enough at the below it comes together, especially once you notice the mirror is crooked!

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Before the plumber could install the shower surround I had to rebuild this wall and make it more stable. It wasn’t structural, but I didn’t trust the existing hobnobbed-together framing. I chose to reframe the wall at the original location, removing ten inches from this main bathroom and gaining the original 10 inches in the half bathroom off my bedroom that desperately needed some extra space. I also needed to fur out the wall on the right side of this bathroomto hug in the shower surround which was 48″ wide since bathroom was 52″wide. I psyched myself up about reframing this wall for several days, talked about it a bunch with Erik (my contractor next door neighbor who saves me from my own stupidity), and rented a framing nail gun and air compressor from the local Tool Lending Library.

The electricians had begun working on the house this week and when I got home the night I planned to frame the wall… the electricity was off in the house. Arg! I was mad, because there was no way I could frame a wall in the dark without any electricity. No!! I needed to get the wall built that night so the plumber could install the shower surround onto it the next day! This is why renovation is stressful! You’re juggling about ten different schedules.

I stormed around the outside of the house ripping off the old cable cords the painters had refused to remove and pulling the lattice off the front porch rail. I could see Erik who was working on his house peering out his dining room window at the crazy lady yanking off the lattice in a bit of a rage nextdoor . He knew my plan was to reframe the wall that night.  I finished ripping off the lattice and went inside my house where I’d left my phone. I picked it up and read a text from Erik, “I thought you were building that wall tonight?” Simultaneously I heard a knock on the kitchen door. I opened it and there stool Erik, toolbelt on and drill in hand. “I came to help frame the wall!”

“I don’t have any electricity! I can’t do this in the dark!” I said. He didn’t falter, “Let me go get my battery powered light!” Within a few minutes, the whole bathroom was lit up by a surprisingly small light. But then my rented air compressor didn’t get to a strong enough pressure. Erik went and got his air compressor, but that didn’t work either. Maybe it was the nail gun itself? Or the fact that we were running it off of an extension cord that ran from Erik’s garage, over the fence between our houses, and through my backdoor?

So with that off the table, we turned to screws and his impact driver. But then he said I’d bought the wrong kind of screws and ran over to his house where he had better ones. And then he cut all the 2x4s with his circular saw using his foot as a stand in about 2 seconds. Then after watching me drive in one screw, he said, “Why don’t I do the next one? I’d let you continue, but I think we both want to finish this tonight…” And then my neighbor built me a wall while I stood outside the bathroom and watched. So… he’s a nice guy.

I don’t even have a picture of my newly framed walls because it was crazy dark the night the wall got built and the next day the plumber arrived to install the new water lines and my new shower surround right in front of it. So if you look closely at the picture below you can tell which 2x4s look newer and those are the ones that make the new walls.

Berrybrier | Shower surround.jpg

The plumber even put in blocking for my new sink as well as getting the necessary new pipes for my new plumbing locations. He also reworked the vent pipes and an outside gutter that was draining into my sewer line. I didn’t quite expect butt ends of copper pipe to be the rough-in plumbing, but I put “figuring out how to cut pipe and install water shut off valves” on my list of things to stress about later. Overall, I paid him $1178 to move all this around which was a pretty good deal for this extent of work. I’ve heard of people being charged more than that just to move a toilet! I’m lucky to have basement/crawl space access to all the pipes, allowing for an easier install.Berrybrier | Plumbing Rough In.jpg

You can see in the picture of that the shower pan was full of water too! It had to stay that way until the plumbing inspection, which of course was two weeks out. It got pretty gross!

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And because, literally nothing goes smoothly during renovation, when – two weeks later – the inspector came through, he walked into the house and saw some coats, vacated the house, and failed the inspection. Apparently although the Portland Bureau of Development Services states in numerous places online and in pamphlets that inspectors can review unoccupied residences without a representative of the owner, by “occupied” they really mean is there can be no personal belongings on site. At the time I was living at my cousin Kristen’s, but I hadn’t removed all my personal belongings from the house! I called the Bureau and begged them to reschedule my inspection without a two week wait. Luckily, they understood my interpretation of their rule and rescheduled the inspection for two days later, provided a representative of the owner was on site.

My angel cousin Kristen volunteered to wait at the house for the inspection since she typically worked from home on that day. The inspection sheet was supposed to come out at 8:00 that morning and provide a 3 hour block of time when the inspection would take place. I checked at 8:00am. I wasn’t on the list! I called the Bureau in a panic. Every day I didn’t get an inspection was another day I couldn’t live at my house!

Again, I lucked out and got a very sweet member of the scheduling department who told me my previous help had gone through 4 out of 5 steps to schedule my inspection, but failed to actually schedule it. However, they were able to squeeze me on the existing job list that day! Woohoo! So the inspection happened and it passed on the condition I open a mechanical permit for my new vent fan.

Then the electricians went in and installed the boxes and wires for a new sconce, can light, and vent fan! All of a sudden the room was coming together! I was so excited to be able to take the reins and start knocking out the rest of the work in this room myself!

Berrybrier | Sconce Location.jpg

And with that I was one step closer to having a bathroom! Wouldn’t it be nice to shower in my own house again?

New Roof For Berrybrier + a Dormer!

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!

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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…