A Year In Review

I know it's been a while since my last blog - over a year! - but do I have some good news for you!

The drywall, mentioned last year, is complete, save for one significant piece: the new bathroom. The reason, unfortunately, is due to a misunderstanding. I'm not sure it if was my misunderstanding, or that of the city, but several months ago I called for a plumbing inspection. They realized that I had never actually gotten a plumbing permit, so an inspector came out to inspect the pipes. And, as it turns out, didn't like any of it. In fact, he said that he was going to pull my plumbing permit, and that I would be forced to hire someone else to do the plumbing for me. This was obviously the last thing that I wanted to hear.

But, we had to get it done. So, we called around. And called. And called. Of the dozen businesses we contacted, only a single person managed to return our call and send someone out. The gentlemen was nice enough, but the result was a quote for roughly $4,500! All this for 20 feet of pipe! I carefully did that math, and realized that if I were to re-apply for the plumbing permit, tear out all the pipe, and replace it myself, then repeat that another 40 times, I would still come out ahead. It may take a little longer, but at least it would get done. More importantly, I'm pretty sure they wanted that money up front, or at least in a few weeks, and that's not the kind of funds I had access to - especially then!

So, I decided to do it myself, again. I tore out the pipes, and after rethinking my design, rebuilt the new bathroom to use the downstairs bathroom's pipes, and the master bathroom to use the existing exit. The next step was testing it; I had been told before that I needed to fill the system with 10 feet of water to test it, so I started filling. And found a leak. In replacing the old pipes, I'd shaken loose some connections. So, I fixed those, reminding myself that I am still paying for far less than someone else doing it. After a second test, the new bathroom was leak-free! Hooray! One down, one to go.
A maze of twisty pipes, all alike?
The master bathroom was a little harder to attach, but I still needed both halves done, since the new bathroom shares the master bathroom's vents. Unfortunately, I discovered another leak there. Eventually, I'll get all the plumbing figured out; I've learned quite a lot, including "don't skimp on the solvent, no seriously, drown that sucker."

Oh, and that "requirement" for me to get someone else to build it? Yeah. I called the permit office, and they said there was no such requirement. None. In fact, there were no notes on the file at all. So glad I wasted a month and a half working on that, let me tell you...

There are, of course, a few more things than plumbing. I needed drywall in the bathroom (waiting on the plumbing to pass so I could install those), cement board in the shower (also waiting on plumbing to pass), tile on the floor (waiting on walls and the laundry hamper), and of course all the stuff in other rooms.

As I was working on the plumbing, Lindsay and I also put in some time working on other rooms. The storage room, hereafter referred to as the "little room", is nearly finished! We installed floors, painted the walls, and cut the trim. The trim needs another coat of varnish before it's installed, and the window needs a shim - it's not precisely level. It'll get a fold-up ladder, too, for emergencies.

All the rooms, new bathroom and nook included, have working electricity and lights. The windows (apart from the plate-glass one in the hallway) are all installed. The hallway, too, has been mudded, sanded, and painted.

The one thing that was holding me back was the plumbing... and it passed! Friday, June 23rd, I walked over to the office and requested an inspection; I was able to get one that afternoon, and it passed! And that's when things really started to get crazy...

Drywall up! (Mirror for fit)
Saturday, we cleaned out the bathroom, I installed sheetrock over the plumbing, cut the toilet pipe flush (ha ha), and Lindsay started working on mudding and taping. The boys helped me puts up some protective plastic over the joists.
Drywall again

Cement board around the tub
Sunday, I finished installing sheetrock, and put up the big pieces of cement board.

Monday, I installed all the fiddly little pieces of cement board, Lindsay continued mudding, and I went to Lowe's to buy materials.

Tuesday, I planned how the laundry hamper would look, added an end-cap to a wall, and swept and taped the floor, then added thinset to seal the cracks. Next I built the bottom frame of the hamper. A friend of ours came by and helped caulk all the cracks, attach some angles, and lay out tile so I knew what to cut. Lindsay finished mudding the boys' room, and moved on to painting.
Fiddly cement board being installed

Mudding the last bits of sheetrock
Wednesday, I cut tile, and Lindsay mudded in the bathroom. I laid about half of the tile. Lindsay also painted the last bit of wall in the boys' room.

Thursday, I helped Lindsay finish up the boys' room by adding curtains, then moving all their stuff upstairs. Huzzah! The room was done! Well, mostly; it needs a little more paint around the edges, and the closets need sheetrock work, and the light needs to be replaced with a light-and-fan.

Trying to get the tile straight
Friday... Friday was my day off. Which I sorely needed. And I do mean sore. I'd been staying up until 1 AM or later cleaning and getting everything ready for the next day almost every night of the week.

Saturday was back to tile; I re-cut a few pieces that I had mis-measured, and with the help of another friend, finished laying the last few pieces. Well, almost the last few pieces. One piece was trod upon by a child, and I didn't realize until the next day. Ugh.

Sunday, I fixed that last piece. I really hope it holds, because I could only wait a couple hours before I had to move on to grouting. Lindsay cleaned the bathroom (again), and I filled all the cracks with grout. As a side note, either I'm doing something really wrong, or grout goes a lot farther than it says on the container; I usually get more than twice the square footage from a bag of grout than it says. Anyway. Grouting is a pain, not because you have to do any hard work, but because you have to walk very carefully. After filling all those lines in, you have to go back and use a sponge to scrape off any excess grout. If the tiles aren't perfectly aligned, you have to do some "creative scrubbing" so it looks right. Then, you have to wait until it dries, then wipe it down again. And again. And again, to get all the haze off the tiles

Monday! More mudding and taping, sanding, and general wall-readiness. The ceiling is done except a bit that was skipped, the walls are mostly done, and the tile needs cleaned again. But the walls got primed, mostly, as did the ceiling. We're probably going to have to go back and fix the joints; we were in a rush, and didn't get that last "super nice finish" spread of mud on there. Always something else...

The tile, lookin' good!
Tuesday, we finally got paint on the walls! I glued in the flange for the toilet (after some careful trimming of the sewage pipe), installed the humidity sensor/fan switch, and with some help in guiding the toilet, installed the toilet! On a roll, I also marked the spot on the wall for the sink, installed it too high, then too low, and finally just right. It's a weird sink to begin with, but I think I got it installed right eventually. Also, we shot off fireworks and nearly ate ourselves into food comas.

Wednesday, Lindsay did the second coat of paint, and I installed the water shutoffs. We pulled up the plastic, and scrubbed the floor once again. Tired, but seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, I installed the face plates for the lights and outlets. I also realized that I needed a different size hose for the toilet. The sink, while installed, leaked at the sewage pipe; it's so old, I think it needs replaced. One more thing, right?

It looks like a real bathroom!
Thursday, I bought some grout sealer, then sealed the grout, which is not nearly as hard as it could be. Then again, I wonder if I actually used enough sealer, because the bottle says it covers 200 square feet, but I only used maybe a quarter of it. Whatever. I realized that after a year of sitting in storage, the rubber seals on the toilet had all failed, and I would probably need to replace the works; luckily, the cost of replacing every single seal, the handle, the shutoff float, the flapper, and even the bolts inside only came to $20. In fact, it came in a single package. I didn't even used some of the extra rubber washers, or the leak-test blue die tablets, though I kept all those things for later use.

Friday... is my day off again. I mean, I still have my normal job, but there's no work on the house going on. Except for writing this over my lunch break, I guess.

However, apart from some fiddly details (a little paint here and there, some edging, and a light over the sink), the bathroom is ready to use! We're going to have a ribbon cutting ceremony. It'll be awesome.

The last two weeks have been an enormous leap forward. It's taken me years to get to this point, but now, I can honestly say that things are getting done. There are still a million things to do, of course, but now I can see a way for them to get done. It's an awesome feeling.

The little room is useable, though it still needs edging and a bit of work in the closet, some railings on the window, and the vent cover installed. The hallway could use some edging too, and of course the shelves. The bathroom needs edging, paint, and some touch-up work, but especially needs the shower done.

Speaking of the shower, I need to rant for a second.

I was able to replace the entire inner workings of a toilet for $20. I bought water shutoffs and escutcheons for an entire bathroom for $20. I can buy a bathtub faucet for $13, or a shower head for $6. But why... WHY is it so expensive to replace knobs? Now, if I wanted some of those ugly clear plastic things, I can get a pair for $8. But I don't want those. They are hideous, and a pain to clean. Even the metal ones ($12 for a pair) are pretty terrible. I want something that will last forever without needing more than the gentle spray of shower water to cleanse it. And such things exist; metal knobs that look neat and are heavy duty. Only they are $20 each. EACH. Why, if I can outfit a bathtub for $20, do the handles cost twice that? I can buy an entire sink fixture for $40. I would be cheaper for me to buy faucets to turn the handles. I... I just don't understand.

Ahem. Sorry about that.

Anyway. Once those little details are done, it's time to move on to the master bedroom, the dungeon, and the master bathroom, probably in that order. I installed a door betwen the master bedroom and the master bathroom, and it does an excellent job of keeping the rest of the house cool.

Hopefully, before this time next year, I can be telling you about how we've moved the master bedroom upstairs. Won't that be nice?