Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Can a Bathroom be Charming?

'Before' Bathroom - definitely not charming!
The word for today is 'charming'.  And that's a pretty big goal 😂.  The bathroom we found in this house wasn't remotely charming - oddly placed shower that created lots of dead space, tired vanity, one light fixture (with pull chain) and no electrical outlets.  I'd like the updated bathroom to reflect its vintage past, but also work well for the new owners.

How to do that?  I went back and looked at a bathroom we did in another bungalow in 2014.  It took its cues from an American Standard advertisement for a 'Sanitary Bathroom', which was a huge trend in the 1920's, about the time this house was built (click here to see the story about Sanitary Bathrooms).  Gleaming white, easy to clean fixtures were the name of the game.   I'd like to do something similar for this bathroom (but not a clawfoot tub, most buyers prefer a tub/shower combination).

2014 SoPo Cottage Bungalow Project

But fixing this bathroom isn't just a cosmetic makeover.  We had to gut the bathroom, move the door, and replace all of the plumbing and electrical.  Best of all, we decided to eliminate the steam radiator (which freed up a huge amount of space) and replace it with an electric baseboard.  This lets us add a BIG storage closet - and seriously, who doesn't want more storage in an old house!!

I'm thinking about a classic hexagonal floor.  I've pinned a dozen of them on Pinterest, but like this one the best.  It's not too busy, but still reflects a vintage style.  Sadly, I can't find a pre-made black and white tile anywhere - everything is out of stock.  So I'm going to have to make my own. Yikes!  It's a bit daunting and I'm sure I'll regret it as I spend hours on my hands and knees figuring out where the black tiles should be placed, but it will give the room that vintage style I'm going for.

What else?  Well, I'm going to use the same sink as the last bungalow.  I love its graceful curves and antique styling.  But since it doesn't provide any storage space, I'll include a built in cabinet for lots of storage.

The sink wall will be wallpapered in this paper.  It's a very subtle pattern, but I love it!

Finally, we'll install a classic white tub with crisp white subway tile with a bit of black as an accent.

So what do you think?  Will it be charming?

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Curb Appeal Project

Sometimes you need to start from scratch

This house had nice curb appeal when we bought it, thanks to its classic bungalow styling.  But the front porch was its least attractive element, but that's about to change!

For some reason when they trimmed out the porch, they created these funky strips of soffit (the stuff that's supposed to go under the eaves), including the type with holes punched in it for ventilation.  And if that didn't look odd enough, they also cut them at wonky angles, which didn't exactly help the way they look.

The porch also only has a glass door (the screen part seems to have disappeared).  It's a narrow, short door and doesn't project a welcoming look.

And then there is the stair problem.  Stairs are all supposed to be the exact same height.  These are 5", 7" and 6"!  Technically they're grandfathered and we could leave them, but since that's a safety hazard we will be replacing them with steps that meet modern building codes.  Speaking of safety hazards, there isn't any exterior lighting, so we will be adding that as well.

Last problem, there aren't any house numbers - and it's been that way for many years.  The neighbors have already asked me to please make sure we install numbers, because they're tired of having packages delivered to the wrong house (can't say that I blame them!).  

So what's the plan?  First, I'd like to replace all the sheet metal trim with AZEK PVC.  It looks like wood, but doesn't require any maintenance. It comes with decorative styles that will add a bit more interest to the facade.

Next, we'll install a real front door.  This will provide a bit more privacy when you're in the house and will let us add a pop of color.  I did a couple of mockups and liked this simple door the best.

And the house numbers?  Well I want to do something special.  So I'm having house numbers custom made of stained glass.  This is a traditional look that will add a special touch to the front of the house.  This glass transom will be installed above the front door.  Here's the mockup I received for the glass. Won't it be great?

It was simpler to tear everything off and start fresh.  That let us properly install house wrap, as we start trimming it out.  Can you see the progress already?  The door and the house numbers are on order, but we won't see them for a bit.  But in the meantime, I'm already pretty excited about the changes!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Thing About Infrastructure

Even as I write this, I know it will be the least read of all the posts on this house.  I guess infrastructure is boring!  But in many ways, it's the most important thing we do.  Sure, this house will have lots of pretty finishes and features, but it's the stuff behind the walls and in the basement that make it function well.

And we're changing a lot of that stuff!  Let's start with plumbing.  Can you believe this mess of pipes taking waste water out of the building?  Do you see the electrical panel right above it?  That's a big no-no.  We all know water and electrical don't mix and having them right next to each other like this needs to get fixed.  For example, see how the washing machine drain goes up high - right in front of the panel?  Imagine what would happen if it came loose and sprayed the panel.  A disaster!  

So we're starting from scratch on the plumbing.  All that old cast iron got torn out.  We also ended up pulling out the old water lines.  With two new bathrooms and a kitchen going in, it was easier to just start with new, modern materials than try to tie into all the old stuff.

Farewell old cast iron pipe!!!

The guys got the rough in plumbing installed, so we are well on our way to having brand new bathrooms. See all that new white PVC?  That's the waste and vent piping.  The red and blue lines are all new water lines.  

Look at all those new water and drain lines!

They also plumbed in a new laundry room in the basement, including a utility sink (something I've always wanted in my house but never seem to get!).  Won't that be nice?  And a south facing window will bring in lots of light.

It's the same story for the electrical.  We need modern conveniences in this house and that requires a lot more power.  Forget about the bedrooms with one ungrounded outlet each (the bathroom didn't have a single outlet!) - now we will meet new building codes with grounded outlets everywhere and integrated smoke detectors.  So the old wiring gets torn out and new wiring gets installed.

  And that means we need a brand new electrical panel, which gets relocated away from all the plumbing!

Look at all those new electrical lines running into a brand new panel

Figuring out lighting plans always takes a bit of trial and error.  For example, I want recessed lights on the 2nd floor, but with a steeply pitched roof, that was a bit tricky.  If you use a standard light, it would point the light at an angle - not a good look or function!   Luckily I found a recessed gimbal light that looks like it will work when we tested it out on the bathroom. 

Heat pump with heat and AIR CONDITIONING!!!
We're also getting another big upgrade - a heat pump which will provide heat to the new 2nd floor, but it will also provide air conditioning.  There will be an additional head on the first floor, which should keep the majority of the first floor warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  The steam boiler in the basement will stay - I'm still old school and want that back up system for the winter.  This is Maine after all!

Speaking of heat and air conditioning, we will talk a lot about insulation and energy efficiency in a future post, but we're getting everything ready for that now.  Unfortunately, there is a huge insulation material shortage, so we have to wait through an 8 week lead time for insulation!  It's crazy how slowly everything moves forward now.  

What else?  Supporting all the structure of the new dormers meant we had to carry the load down to the basement.  The concrete of the basement floor wasn't thick enough for all that load - so we had to have 6 holes cut and dug into the floor, to provide a big concrete footing for the posts.  A big job, but critical!

All these changes remind me that renovating isn't for the faint of heart.  It takes an enormous amount of work to bring a 1920's home into modern living standards. But it's worth it, the result will be a wonderful home for the new owners.

We hope to have all of our city inspections next week.  And then we sit in a holding pattern, waiting for the insulation guys.  Patience isn't one of my virtues - but I'll do my best to twiddle my thumbs for a few weeks!

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