The back bedroom project is still underway, though. After gutting it back in March and April, we pretty much ran out of time and money. In May I was able to get all the framing done: I filled in the existing exterior door, framed two windows, added a real closet, and created a rough door opening where the end of the hallway once was. In June or thereabouts I was able to buy a roll of wire and run the almost all the electrical. And there I stopped for a couple of months.
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.
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.
(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.( Read the rest of this entry » )
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.( Read the rest of this entry » )
Well, I didn’t get nearly as much done today as I thought I would, even though we were on the job longer than yesterday.
First thing we did when we got there today was move all the rolled-up demoed carpet from the basement to the garden shed, which took an absurdly long time. Then I got back to work on the remaining drywall in the bathroom.
Just like yesterday, it resisted. A lot. Mostly because it was laid directly over wood (so I couldn’t punch through it and had to scrape at it from the edges instead) and was fastened not with brittle drywall screws but with big honking two-inch eight-penny roofing nails, placed randomly in ones and twos across the sheet.
There’s still sheets of maybe 3/8″ plywood against the studs in the non-plumbed walls of the tub, so I don’t know what’s back there yet, but so far the only visible rot is in the bottom of the side sheet of plywood and a 2×4 blocking in the plumbing wall just at the level of the tub/surround seam.
I did manage to find where the knob & tube wiring interfaces with the romex that goes into the new-work switch and socket. All the lights in the entire house (plus the refrigerator) are wired into one double circuit breaker, and there’s a carrier line for that circuit that goes above the bathroom ceiling, so I hope I can cut and cap the wires coming down into the bathroom without killing any other lights (for now).
WTF part #2: the duct tape “repairs” on the shower surround weren’t actually repairs. Apparently they bought a shower surround built for a modern hotel-style valve and faucet/shower placement, and then just duct-taped over the misplaced holes and drilled their own.
Here’s some more shots of the bathroom gutted down to the studs.
I was going to try to save the 3″ tongue-and-groove boards inside the closet, but when I tried removing the first one carefully, it broke right away, so I said the hell with it and just pulled them down with my gloved hands:
Meanwhile, Jen was shoveling up more rotted pears from the yard and dousing the basement in Simple Green.
Jen wants me to post this part:
Why Jen Hates The Previous Owners:
Not only did they let their cats pee all over the carpets downstairs, but they left bags and bags full of junk in the basement. Not only did they leave their crappy little 2×4-and-plywood desk screwed to the wall in the bedroom, but they left hundreds and hundreds of pounds of trash in the garage and shed — and we’re talking a busted fridge, a busted stove, broken snowboards, a computer monitor, old magazines, a safe that looks like it’s been blown up, and lots lots more.
Worst is the southeast corner, where apparently the previous previous owner put in a retaining wall with the plan of having a waterfall and a little pond. The previous owners allowed that entire area to be overrun with morning glory (I saw the 2007 high-res satellite photo on the monitor at the permit office, and large parts of that area weren’t green), and at this point Jen literally cannot tell where the ground is, there’s so much rotted wood, asphalt shingles, old dishwashers, pond liners, broken bricks, broom handles, wheelbarrows, etc., etc., strewn everywhere and now all grown through with bindweed.
Not only does this represent hundreds more dollars just in dump fees, but it’s also going to take months and months if not years just to clear it. All the while it’ll be a hazard to everybody, not least our daughter who will certainly be bipedal and running around by next spring.
WTF #3: Jen found it almost impossible to scrape up the adhesive underlayment left over from the vinyl flooring in the downstairs basement. She called me down to look at it, and I discovered that in most of the bathroom area the cement underneath the mastic was rough and pebbly. This means to me that when the POs jackhammered up the old slab and installed the bathroom fixtures, they didn’t bother floating the new cement afterwards to smooth it out but just called it a day and slapped the vinyl over it.
She then demolished most of the stud wall between the walk in closet and the platform the spa tub was going to go on, all of which is in the way of the planned basement bedroom.
I spent about an hour up in the attic trying to shovel the rockwool insulation away from the basement ceiling, but they don’t call it rockwool for nothing. That crap is dense, and it sticks together in clumps. At that point we got called away because our friend finally called us back about a 10% off coupon from Home Depot she had for us, and we dropped everything and headed out. That was about 4pm. Unfortunately, we had a lot of big heavy stuff to buy at HD, and not much time before we were supposed to pick up our daughter Thekla from her nanny/daycare at 6pm (we were an hour late), so we were rushing around and I’m sure forgot a bunch of stuff that we needed but wasn’t specced out on the materials list.
We rented one of HD’s trucks (since 4×8 greenboard ain’t fitting in the trunk of my Saturn) and drove it the couple miles to the house, where our friend Chris was kind enough to meet us to help unload. (I’ve never driven anything before that beeped when I backed up. ) After getting the truck back we discovered that we had forgotten to load the toilet, but Jen threw herself on the mercy of the delivery coordinator and got them to deliver it for us tomorrow for free.
Plan for tomorrow:
- Make nice with the building inspector when he shows up and get him to sign off on the reframing plans.* The only conceivably controversial part will be the new basement stairs going through the old entry hall area, since there might need to be a widening of the foundation wall opening.
- Drop the bathroom ceiling and just clean up the fracking rockwool when it falls down (I’ll just put R30 fiberglass batts up when I’m done).
- Pull up the vinyl flooring in the bathroom and see what condition the subfloor is in.
- Demo the stub wall at the end of the tub.
Really, that should about do it. If I get to capping the wiring and plumbing I’ll feel really happy.
And now I’m going to bed. By the way, Flexeril is a wonderful wonderful thing.
* This is the preliminary inspection. Seattle has a class of permit called “Subject To Field Inspection”, meaning the job isn’t complicated enough to require full engineering drawings and formal review; instead the inspector just eyeballs the plans and the building before the work starts and approves or not, and then comes out when you’re done and checks that you did it right.