Some Progress on Remodeling

Some Progress on Remodeling

Our 1940s house’s bathroom and mudroom

This timeline of the project doesn’t account for the daily, sometimes multiple trips through out the summer to Home Depot, Lowes, OSH, or the mom and pop hardware store around the corner.  I think they will all know me on a first name basis when we are finally finished.

Late June

Well, the week after school got out for summer, we broke out the tools and removed the paneling and dry wall to see what we were dealing with.  There was no turning back now.  We decided to work within the existing footprint to limit construction waste and a few of the costs.  We started interviewing subcontractors and getting bids to do the work beyond our home improvement skills.

Most of the stuff we were removing could not go into the city trash because the city sends our trash to a facility that burns the trash and turns it into energy.  We had a neighbor use a WM service called Bagster, and we decided to give it a try.  After reading online about the pick up fees, we bought the bag at home depot and set it up on our driveway.  It filled up fast.  The Bagster didn’t save us any money, but it was convenient.  Actually, it was down right expensive at a cost of $29 for the bag, $150 for Waste Management fee to pick up(we knew about this one,) and then when we scheduled the pick up, the city added their own $30 fee on top (this was a hidden fee.)  In retrospect, I would get a dumpster.  On the bright side, it was kind of fun watching the crane show up, drag the bag down the driveway, and load it.  Yup, I took pictures!  I wanted to get my money’s worth.

Bagster Pick Up


We celebrated the 4th with friends, family, and the neighbors at the annual block party, then had a lovely short vacation at Asilomar.  Then we waited, and waited, and waited to get started on the actual construction.  We were waiting on a handyman and plumber to be available, who was married to a friend of my husband.  In the meantime, I started shopping for fixtures, pantry cabinets for the laundyroom/ mudroom, vanity, mirror and faucets.  I knew the big box home improvements stores don’t keep much mid century reproduction stuff in stock.  Special order items would take forever to get here, so I had to get started.

My son asked why I went around tapping all the faucets as I browsed.  Apparently, it is really hard finding a faucet without chrome  plated PLASTIC.  Since I wanted a durable all metal faucet, including the drain, I had to special order it. Eventhough it killed me to spend the money, I settled on an expensive faucet from Franz Viegener that was much more than I budgeted for.  I didn’t want us forced to replace it in a few short years because the chrome quickly corrodes off the plastic on the cheap faucets kept in stock at home depot and Lowes.  In my opinion, it pays in the long run to buy quality products.  This is indirectly a  green choice because unlike the cheaply made products from China, they won’t end up in a landfill within a few years.  Plus, replacing faucets is a real pain.  I know remodeling isn’t generally environmentally friendly due to all the construction demo ending up in landfills, but I am doing the best I can by making long lasting choices or buying “made in the USA” wherever possible.

I went under the house to see just how bad the crawl space is. I hate going under the house, but I am much smaller than my husband.  I also hate heights so we have an agreement…he goes on the roof; I go under the house.  Well, it is worse than we thought.  The 1971 addition was build partially over an old concrete patio.  It ran the length of the original foundation and out into the addition by 6 feet.  The only access was a tiny crawl space channel, 2 feet wide by a foot and a half tall, less than half the space for moving around under the of the rest of the house.  It looked like the opening was cut to accommodate the pipes, and that is it.  I am petite at 115 lbs. and even I had a hard time navigating under there.  This space problem really limited our choice of plumbers unless we wanted to remove the entire sub-floor or haul a jack hammer under the house and remove all the concrete out.  Aggghhhh!  We decided to remove some of the sub-floor boards in the bathroom to access most of the plumbing.  With our plan to reuse as much as possible and keep as much construction debris out of landfills, this seemed like the best option at the time.

This remodel was quickly turning into a huge can of worms, and not the good kind for compost.  There was no room for the toilet drain to fit in where we had planned to put it, due to the crazy concrete patio under the house.  My husband ended up renting a jack hammer from home depot and took out a small section of the patio under the floor, just wide enough for a plumber to crawl under and later fit the toilet drain plumbing.  200 lbs of concrete debris later, we were now looking at this remodel as if it was built on a slab whenever we were making choices.  We removed a few additional sub floor boards, around the area the tub was going, and where the old sink came out of.   I re-cut the replacement sub-floor boards and helped with some of the new framing.  My husband was very meticulous about the framing and and did the majority of it.

The kids and I had fun visiting a local vintage tile factory in Gardena.  They still make all the old retro colors and sizes that they have been making for 60+years.  The tough part was deciding what colors to use.  After browsing for 45 minutes or so, they kindly sent me home with about 8 free color samples: Creamy Banana Yellow, Mammie Eisenhower Pink, Robins’ Egg Blue, Sky Blue, Minty Green, Seafoam Green, and Black.  I will definitely use the black as an accent, but I am torn between the others.  I really like the pink, and my husband said it would be okay, but I know he doesn’t really want it.  He compromised on the tub instead of a shower, so I think I will cross the pretty retro pink off the list.

Early August

Plumbing and electrical finally began.  During this time, I spent a few days chemically striping the years of old paint off the kitchen door that we found in rafters of the garage when we first moved in.  We saved it just in case we could ever use it for this project since it matched all the other doors in the house.  It had at least 6 layers of paint, including some of the colors I currently have our house; it colors included minty green, seafoam blue, butter yellow, and pink, plus many shades of beige.  The only color the door had that I don’t currently decorate with is the pepto bismol  pink. It was a cool 3 panel door that still had the hardware to swing both ways in between the livingroom and kitchen, just like in “I Love Lucy’s” TV show kitchen.  We think it was probably removed about the same time the was addition was added, based on the last colored it was painted.

As we uncovered the paneling, moldings, and drywall in the mudroom, we discovered lots and lots of termite droppings.  For many years, I put off treating for termites, as long as we could, until the kids were old enough that I would not have a panic attack about doing it, but before the house fell down.  Anyway, 3 years ago, we finally had the house fumigated for the termites, and apparently it really needed it.  Although when we opened the walls, we only had to replace a few studs, they were busy little bugs while they were here.  They ate most of the window framing in the bathroom.   Just in case, while the walls were out, we had the two rooms inspected for new live termites.  I was thrilled when the owner of the company said we were fine and didn’t need any treatment.  I avoid chemicals whenever possible, so this was great news.

In demo, we also found petrified rat droppings in the tiny 6 inch gap between the flat roof space between the laundryroom ceiling .  UGGGHHHHH!  We had roof rats in the attic briefly when we first moved in 15 years ago and spent weeks getting rid of them through trapping, poisoning (I won’t do that again,) and sealing the space where they chewed through to enter.  I freaked out about the rats in the attic back then, but had forgotten about them until the demo.  It gross finding the old droppings, but at least there are no more rats sharing our house.   Gracie, the cat, enjoys helping out with pest management whenever she can.  She has enjoyed the remodel process and keeps inspecting under the house through an opening in the bathroom wall that goes under the hall bath tub to the crawl space of the main house.

Gracie the cat likes that the walls are open. She had been sneaking under the house through the space under the hall bath tub. She has even removed the plastic covering the door opening a couple times to get through, she likes it so much. Bad kitty.

Back to the bathroom: We moved up the opening in the window to give the room a bit of privacy.  The window really had to be replaced, both because of the termite damage, but also because it had two 30+ year old holes from a b-b gun used by the previous owners son when he was a teenager.  We replaced it with a double pane vinyl awning window with low e coating.  Unfortunately, I will have to do some re-stuccoing outside for this one.

During the planning, I really wanted a cast iron tub, but my husband was dreading the installation, plus he really preferred a large shower stall.  He must really love me, because he agreed to the tub.  The first plumber we hired said he would plumb it, but not bring it in to place.  Once drain plumbing was nearly finished, my husband and his best friend added additional joist cross bracings under the area the tub would go.

When the tub showed up in a giant crate and was brought to the driveway on a fork lift, I understood why everyone was so reticent, and why cast iron tubs aren’t popular remodel choices these days.  It was super heavy, and with added weight of the crate, it weighed 440 lbs. according to the shipping label.  Opps.  My husband and his friends aren’t college kids anymore.  Back then, they would help each other out by moving anything, as long as free pizza and beer were at the end of the day.  They made a good try at moving it, but decided to wait until morning when there was more light and no one was tired.  Instead, after much consideration and a sleepless night, I hired professional furniture movers from a local moving company to bring in the cast iron tub.   The company sent out 4 huge guys built like linebackers.  45 minutes later the tub was in place.  The movers stuck around while we made adjustments, came back in, and then moved it a little more.  Money well spent!  I joke that it saved our marriage and my husband’s back.

My husband also ran the venting for the bathroom exhaust fan up through the roof, and then finished of the new flashing around the vent for the sink while I insulated the interior walls.  Remember, I don’t do roofs so I was happy to insulate.  We also added extra 2 x 4 throughout the bathroom walls in all the places we would later be putting towel rods and hooks.

Late August

We spent an entire day installing the old original door into the new opening to our bedroom.  Now, I know why so many people buy pre-hung doors!  It was really hard building the jams from scratch, routing for the hinges, dealing with a tiny warp in the door, and leveling it all.   I have yet to put in the vintage “new old stock”  Schlage handle I bought on ebay…maybe next week.  By the looks of the old Schlage box, my husband thinks there is a good possibility it was manufactured at the same time his grandfather used to work for the company in San Francisco.  It matches the rest of the door hardware in the house.

I drilled a small hole into the laundryroom exterior wall to accommodate the new “to code” grey water diverter valve and piping.  While the walls were opened it was easy to brace the pipe to a stud not far from the laundry sewer drain.  Now my laundry hose for the greywater will no longer have to look bad and go out the window to the surge tank.

Around the same time, we also recessed all the other laundry supply lines and drain pipe into the wall, recessed the dryer gas line, and had the plumber add new lines for the cast iron laundry sink.  One of the things we didn’t like about the laundry room was the washer and dryer had to stick out about 8 inches extra from the wall to allow for the gas and drain.  This change is getting us a few more inches to move around the room.  In a tiny house, a few inches can make a difference!  For the last 3 years, we had a make shift laundry sink, kind of Frankensteined into the old exposed laundry pipes.  My husband bought the plastic veritek sink at a yard sale for $2 as a temporary fix until we had the time and money to do this remodel.

One cool thing happened recently…I got the matching sink to our “Memoirs” cast iron tub for a great price, I mean a really great price.  I was planning to buy it anyway.  Lowes mis-listed it at $8 on their website, and it should have been $183 like the in store price.  Even though the internet would not let me check it out at the crazy price and kept giving me error codes, I decided to call and after about 20 minutes of being put on and off hold multiple times, the customer service supervisor honored the price. With tax it came to $8.70.  Yeah!  We now have it waiting in the garage for installation.

I really liked that the 1/2 bath used to be adjacent laundry room.  It came in really handy during the baby and toddler years.  It had a layout that I was able to set it up the perfect cloth diapering station.  I had a changing table, storage for wash clothes, diapers, and diaper bail. The sink was right next to it all.  It was great for diapering since it was next to the hot water heater and gave us almost instant warm water for wash cloths to clean baby bottoms.  (No disposable wipies here.)  It worked out well, being adjacent to the laundry room for washing the diapers, only having to carry the pail a few steps.  Had I not had the extra room, cloth diapering would have been much less convenient.  This convenience is now gone FOREVER.  For the last month, the laundry room has looked like someone took a machine gun to it with tons of holes to run the new wiring through. The dry wall went up the third week of August, and the opening between the rooms is  now gone.  It looks like a complete room again, just empty and white.

One thought on “Some Progress on Remodeling

  1. Hi Leanne! I found your site while I was looking for other sites that use the Fruit Shake template. I found what you are doing there so interesting. We inherited a house that looks very much from the era and style of yours, but down in San Diego. A few years ago we remodeled the bathrooms that had the original Mamie Eisenhower pink tile.

    We don’t live there right now, as we are based in the Philippines, but hope to live in the house at some future date. I also dream of keeping a few hens, and doing organic gardening. Thanks for all your great ideas! I especially like that you are in a similar climate/ecosystem.

    What are your laws there regarding keeping chickens? The way I understand the law in the area our house is, the coops have to be 50 feet from all houses. Roosters are not allowed by law. I wish they had that law here in the Philippines. We have roosters in every direction. And they don’t wait until dawn to start crowing.

    Good luck with all your projects!

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