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Since my last post I've gotten a bunch of smallish projects done, and I'll address those before going into the stairs project and the painting project:
(Plumbing and Electrical!)

Originally published at Casa de Lovely
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We're finally able to go ahead with upgrading the electrical service from 125 amp (and a totally-full, out-of-date, not-terribly-safe panel) to a nice shiny new 200 amp Siemens panel.

The plan is to install a new mast and meter in a better location on the house (where the wires won't cross over the roof at no more than five feet clearance), run conduit back to the same room in the basement as the old panel, install the new panel there, put in a 100-amp breaker and run a feeder cable to the old panel. That way I can leave the horrible mess of electrical spaghetti untouched for now, and as I remodel rooms put new circuits in the new panel and retire circuits from the old panel until I can remove the old panel completely.

Originally published at Casa de Lovely
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Originally published at Casa de Lovely. Please leave any comments there.


I am so sick of working on this bathroom. Rather, I'm so sick of working on this bathroom and having one stupid thing after another break or go wrong, or just be poorly designed (or have the instructions not match the equipment).

But before I start ranting, here's the progress so far (and there really has been a lot of progress, just a whole hell of a lot slower than I wanted):

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The Baby Gate

Since we have a little one who will be bipedal any day now yeesh, Jen's been after me to put up a baby gate at the top of the stairs. The instructions said it needs to be installed into a solid if not structural elements, which presented a problem. The staircase has sidewalls, but they have about three 2x4 studs each -- you can wiggle them about an inch either way without even needing any effort -- so I couldn't install the gate into the obvious opening. There are structural columns at the top of the stairs which are in place of the original outer wall of the gable cottage but which now form one of two arches from the addition on either side of the fireplace -- one into the stairwell and the other into the living room. But they're too far apart for the gate.

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Originally published at Casa de Lovely. Please leave any comments there.

Here's where the sink is going to go. What's wrong with this picture?
IMG_0286

(And no, "it's red" is not the correct answer.)


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Originally published at Casa de Lovely. Please leave any comments there.

Friday all the inspectors showed up.

First was the electrical inspector. She actually arrived when I was on my way back from the hardware store so I talked her through most of it on the phone, only arriving as she was finishing up.

Everything passed, except one of the boxes in the ceiling should have been face-up (into the attic) for accessibility. She was concerned about the remaining knob & tube, but I convinced her that the rest of the house was running off it and I would be happily removing it room by room as I renovated. I had her look at the little subpanel, and even though she couldn’t officially “inspect” it since it wasn’t included on my permit she said everything looked okay.

(Apparently she asked Jen if I had an electrical background. She said what I would have, which is no, I’m a complete newbie, but I read books.)

Second, the building inspector. As I figured, everything looked good, except for a couple missing nail plates over holes through the studs. He gave me a pass with the stipulations that I install nail plates and insulation (which I already had on site) and that the plumbing inspector passed me. All good so far.

Then the plumbing inspector showed up, and I wasn’t done with running the PEX. I’d hoped he’d arrive later in the afternoon, but no such luck. In any case, it didn’t matter, since he took one look at the new tub drain and said it didn’t pass. There wasn’t a vent close enough to the drain, and Nate had installed flexible Fernco compression fittings (not the metal-covered ones) to connect the toilet and tub drains to the cast iron stack (which apparently aren’t approved for indoors, notwithstanding my plumbing guru’s book — maybe it’s just a Seattle thing). The inspector took pity on us and basically went outside his purview and described what he would do if he were the plumber and officially allowed to tell us what to do. Heh.

Now, at this point, we had a non-code tub drain, half-installed PEX supply lines, cuts in the old lines, and no water to the house. I was utterly exhausted, and Jen was dog-tired after removing about a million nails holding down the carpet on the stairs. Our plans for closing up this weekend so we could possibly have an operational bathroom by next Friday were quite obviously scotched.

So we discussed it for a few minutes and did what we should have done in the first place: called a plumber.

The plumber arrived about an hour later, looked around, came up with a plan, and handed us an estimate for just $1700 (and that was contingent on us doing all the necessary demo). We handed him a check and a house key so he could do the work on Monday, and went home planning to break into my current job’s 401(k), which up to now had been sacrosanct. (All of our credit cards were near the limit already.) He’s going to do the drain right using 2″ pipe the whole way plus a vent and a test cap, install the PEX supply lines correctly using 3/4″ tube on the main line instead of 1/2″, and install the shower valve, which is reportedly much more difficult than it looks.

Jen called her folks when we got home, and we got more good news: they were sending us a check as an investment in our daughter; it was supposed to be a surprise, but they figured they should tell us so I didn’t tap my 401(k) on Monday morning before the check arrived. It’s going to be enough to cover a lot of things and a huge load off our minds.

So we won’t have a completed bathroom by move-in day. Not possible. But it should at least be minimally operational by then, even if we have to hang plastic around the shower or at worst have to take showers at our friend Alexia’s house a mile away. The rest of the work can be evenings and weekends without having to drive twenty miles each way.

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Originally published at Casa de Lovely. Please leave any comments there.

(or, Welcome to The Bathroom Renovation Death March, or, Plombieren Macht Frei.)

This is where things got bad. I was running out of time and the to-do list just kept getting bigger as I discovered step after intermediate step that I hadn’t planned for.

The plan was to finish up the framing, including framing in the hole where the old closet door was and building the stub wall to go at the foot of the tub, then to run the electrical back to the breaker panel, then tap into the existing feed lines and run PEX to the faucet, bath and toilet. Didn’t even come close.

First off, of course, is that I didn’t even get to the house until after 3pm, what with having to run around and pick up supplies, including my busted Craigslist Special circular saw from the repair shop way the hell up in Kirkland (about fifteen miles out of my way). Then I ate a sandwich and finally got to work about 4pm. I called the city and county and scheduled all the inspections for the following day. I was committed now.

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Originally published at Casa de Lovely. Please leave any comments there.

I haven’t been posting the last few days because I’ve either been too goddam busy or too goddam tired.

The difference between the DIY reality shows and reality is that the shows never show people covered in filth on top of a ladder working with heavy tools at arm’s length in the middle of the night.

Monday I pulled down the ceiling and dropped a huge pile of rockwool all over everything — I pulled one nail off the corner of each sheet of drywall and the whole thing came down. There were a bunch of nails in the joists, but the drywall must have been completely rotten. After I cleaned all of that up, I scraped up all the vinyl flooring and the linoleum underneath it (at least I hope it was linoleum). Also, the building inspector showed up for the preliminary inspection, and signed off on all our plans, including the stairs; what was especially useful is that he let me know that on old existing buildings they’re understanding about what’s possible and what isn’t, and with respect to the winding stairs that the 6″ inner width of the tread was the most important part and that if we missed the 10″ middle width by a quarter-inch or so they could let it slide.

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