Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Search results: "patch it all" (Page 1 of 8)

Patch It All UP

If you’ve been follow along, you would know that the exterior of our house has been our recent focus. Getting a house winter ready and the foundation protected is a lot of work. That includes making sure that our roof and gutter are in good order, the foundation is sealed and has good drainage, and all the windows and exterior doors have no leaks. Unfortunately, this house we inherited do not meet any of these requirements. When we moved in, we found that the weather stripping on our exterior doors were peeling, the foundation was surrounded by weeds, flower beds, and patios with wrong slopes, and the 20-year old  roof was on buying time.

During the last three months (already?), we have changed our front and back storm doors, gotten rid of the front flower bed and weeds around the foundation, corrected the sloping issues of the front and back porch, and finally last week, finished grading around the house ! With our roof and gutter replacement in process, we are soooo close to the finish line of getting our house winter-ready!

This week, Slav gathered supplies and started tackling the last item on our to-do list: repairing the foundation cracks and getting the exterior of the house sealed. It took him four entire days to finish sealing everything – I was surprised that how much sealant this house drank up and how many different types of sealant he had to use for the job. These are just a sample of a subset of the product he had used:


1. Sealing exterior holes with the Sikaflex mortar fix

Among the hundreds and thousands pounds of stuff we removed from our ranch during our first month here, there was the satellite dish on the roof. Slav and I are never TV people. In fact, our only TV is currently used by Slav as a monitor. After the dish removal, we were left with many wires running along the house:




These wires entered nearly every room in the house:



Slav removed all the wires:






And we were left with many holes on our brick like this:



Slav cleaned them with a wire brush and filled them with a mortar sealant from Sikaflex:


This product drys to a color that is really close to our mortar. It might look a bit lighter in the pictures, but it is because that our mortar was dirty and old. We are planning to power-wash the house (it is fun to use the power washer again!) and the sealant will completely blend in. For now, the fix looks really natural and hardly noticeable:


2. Fixing the foundation cracks with concrete epoxy and DAP concrete sealant

The most serious problem we had on our foundation is the corner cracks. Slav cleaned them and glued the falling corner back on with this concrete epoxy and smoothed the gaps with the DAP concrete sealant.






He also went around the entire foundation and patched all the vertical cracks using the same DAP concrete sealant:




3. Sealing horizontal gaps/cracks with the Loctite non-sag sealant

We also see gaps where the exterior bricks meet the foundation. Since those gaps are horizontal, Slav opted for a non-sag sealant from Loctite:


It dries really fast so he filled these gaps in two steps. This is after the first fill:


And this is after the second fill. You can see that it became very smooth. I took this picture when the sealant was still drying. After it completely dried, it also blended in our mortal really well.


4. Seal drive way cracks with the Loctite self-leveling sealant

Moving down to our drive way, there are small cracks running down the control joints.


To seal them, Slav used a different product that self-levels. When he first applied it, it looked quite messy. But after 10 minutes or so, all the extra sealant sunk down into the joints and started to look pretty neat:


And after a few hours, the sealant looked like this:


Pretty cool, right? It dries very slowly so gravity can do its job of leveling the sealant.

Slav used this product on all the controlled joints in our concrete drive way, path and back patio:





The self-leviling product is also very good at handling small cracks:



However, it is definitely not dog-friendly:


Charlie laid down on one of the joints Slav had just filled and caught quite a big line of sealant on his fur! It dried so hard by the end of the day and we had to cut some of the fur off. 🙁

Slav covered the joints to prevent little paws from stepping into them:


5. Seal garage wall gap with concrete cement patcher

Last, there is a pretty significant gap between the old walkway and the southern side of the house:



The gap is so big that it would be really expensive and time-consuming to fill with any regular sealant. So Slav decided to use a concrete mix and basically just level the pathway with fast-set concrete.

Cleaning and patching around the house in hot sun is a lot of work – it took Slav a full week and it was so tedious. But it is necessary and we now have peace of mind knowing that our house is water-tight! If you still remember our big to-do list, I am happy to report that we also get the roof done this week! I will be back next week to show you the process, so stay tuned, my friends!


The First Wall Down (with videos!)

Happy Monday, friends and family! I am happy to report that we have knocked down the first wall in the ranch house. I am sure that there will be many more to follow, but this basement wall will forever hold a special place in my heart – this is my first time seeing a wall coming down and it is just so thrilling!

As usual, I tried to document everything with my lens, and it reaaaly annoyed Slav. He hates taking pictures, especially when he has to be in it. So I apologize for not getting many progress photos as I would like to get – we’ve all seen Fargo and you do not want to get on you guy’s nerves in a basement laundry room while he is holding a hammer.

You might remember our utility room from our basement tour, but in case you missed that video, let me take you back to the beginning – this is the utility/bedroom combo we inherited when we moved in:


We believe that there used to be only one room, based on our neighbors’ floor plans and the floor situation here. Switching out the old washer and dryer further convinced us that the wall between the laundry area and the purple bedroom was built later, likely by the last owner, because the old washer and dryer were too big to get out without removing the furnace.

After we moved in, the purple bedroom quickly became a storage space:


It has a closet under the stairs, which holds surprisingly good deal of stuff. Any closet in this 1964 ranch is appreciated.



We had a solid plan for our basement from the beginning – to convert it into a private guest suite. And the plan is to combine the purple bedroom and the laundry room to make enough room for a kitchen.

This is our current floor plan and you can see the laundry room and the third bedroom above the living room, to the left of the stairs:

Ranch basement_current

And this is what it should look like once we combine the two rooms:

Ranch basement_proposal 1

Although the basement renovation will not come until next year, we are super motivated to knock down this wall already, because our new front-open washer and dryer do not work well in this narrow space on the left.


We removed part of the door frame during HVAC installation, which made the room look a lot worse:


So on a bright Sunday morning, when Slav descended to the basement with his music, a hammer, and a pry bar, I knew exactly what’s happening and quickly grabbed my camera and followed him.

The frame was down in two songs:


After another 20 minutes, the purple dry wall was gone:


Then the dry wall on the laundry side followed. There was a lot of dust and debris, but the process was quick.


The framing here is not weight-bearing, and in fact very poorly nailed together. It was easy to take apart:


So much better! It was instantly brighter and the new utility room is so spacious! I always felt cramped down here, either in the laundry room or in the purple bedroom. Somehow the new room feels bigger than I imagined them together. It changed the entire vibe of the downstairs.

Yay for easy laundry access!


We are left with some dry wall to patch on the ceiling, but the concrete floor is continuous.



Since we are planning to change the water heater soon and putting in a kitchen eventually, we are not going to do any dry wall repair or electrical work for now. What we will do in near future, is to widen the doorway by a foot and a half to the right, so the kitchen and the living room are more connected.


The purple room has this weird moldy window looking into the living room. I am wondering if this was put in for fire safety concerns. We think it is dorky, but the window itself are too moldy to be saved.


After the wall was gone, I took a short video of our new utility room:

We decided to get all the storage out so we could map out the potential cabinet space for the future kitchen. So I took everything out of the room including the stuff in the closet:


After cleaning up, I taped out the potential kitchen layout. Below is option one – this is the corner to your right when you walk in the doorway:


It gives decent size of counter space for a simple kitchen setup and the closet on the left could be used as a pantry. However, these two walls does not offer any utility lines, including gas, water, and sewer. It makes more economical sense to put the stove and sink where the utility lines are and preferable with a window.


This wall faces the back of the house, which we could run a vent easily. It does have a shorter wall. One way of adding counter space is to lower the washer and dryer to counter height, so we could run a continuous “L” shape counter top. Luckily, the drawers at the bottom of Merry and Pippin are purely storage. They can be removed to make Merry and Pippin even shorter, to merely 38.5″. Standard kitchen counters are usually 36″ so we think that we could get away with it.


As of the furnace corner, the 2 feet dry wall behind the trash can will be trimmed down mostly, and the furnace will be concealed with a closet. We plan to replace the big water heater with a tankless one in the next a few month to free some space.


So, this is the new utility room we are left with after a day of demoing, cleaning, and organizing:

We love how big and bright it became – I found myself visiting this room a lot to daydream a simple, cute, and minimalist kitchen. If you have good ideas for cabinets or small appliance, tell us in the comments below!

Let’s Talk About the Kitchen

Since the day we moved into the ranch, I’ve been thinking about our kitchen.

The past

Ranch House - 7

Ranch House - 6

These shots were taken on inspection day. Decades of grease had soaked through cabinets and walls, and most cabinets were molded and beyond saving. We scrubbed down the walls, bleached all the cabinets, and freshened up the caulking. Any more attempt to improve this kitchen calls for a total overhaul, which we were not ready for.

The present


This is what our kitchen looks like now. Nine months have passed, and the kitchen remains the last room untouched.  We could have renovated it, but we had zero idea what we wanted. Should we open it up to the living room? Do we want an island? Should we eliminate the upper cabinets? How to improve the backdoor/landing space? What about the windows? We got stuck at… the layout – the very first step for any kitchen renovation.

We have a vague idea what we like and don’t like for a kitchen. We do like the east-facing windows- since we removed the awning outside, the kitchen has lovely morning light and stays bright most of the day. It makes me happy just to walk into the room.



My girl loves the morning array here. Isn’t she beautiful?


However, we do wish to improve the currently layout. With the back entry and garage entry at one corner and the only doorway to the living room at the opposite, we receive too much pass-through traffic to keep it clean.


This kitchen also seriously lacks prep surface. This little corner between the sink and the stove is all we got.


A bulky fridge protrudes into the room and made the back entry a lot narrower.


I also wish that my first view of home is not the side of this white monster.


Aside from the bulky fridge, we need to address the moldy cabinets, outdated lighting, and wobbling stair rails.




Where we are heading

It becomes clear to us that the kitchen renovation will not happen in 2018. But! There are cheap and creative ways to make this kitchen more user-friendly with the existing cabinets and appliances. For example, we can get rid of the soffit and rise the upper cabinets for more airier feel, or get rid of the upper cabinets all together. We can always play real-life Sims and shift cabinets and appliances around, which should help us to identify a layout that works the best for us. We could also test the concept of open floor plan by partially opening the living room wall.

When I modified our sideboard earlier this month, I rotated it 90 degrees and sat it in front of the wobbly stair rail. This simple change did not save us any floor space, but has made our kitchen feeling much more open. This experience taught us that temporary (and free!) changes – what we call Phase I renovation – can make the heart of our house a more pleasant place to be. And more importantly, real-life trail run helps so much more than just using our imagination.


Design decision I: free the cooktop

After discussing what we want to change in the kitchen, I hopped on SketchUp to make some preliminary designs. The first thing we would like to address is the location of the cooktop:


Our current electric stove/oven combo locates on one end of the kitchen. It is not a bad location itself, but with the sink sits so near, and the close proximity between these two makes prepping and cooking a one-man job.

Kitchen view

We would like to separate the prep space and the stove. The plan is to move the stove where the fridge currently sits.

Stove new location

This move can gains more floor space around the stove, so when one of us is washing and cutting the food, the other could move freely around the stove.

Stove new location_

In its new location, the stove will be flanked between the two windows, creating some symmetry in this room. We will also relocate the lower cabinet currently sitting on the left of the stove to its right at its new location. This cabinet holds our oils and spices, and move it with the stove will provide spice storage and a bit more counter space.

Eastern wall plan

Our fridge wall will look from this:

Eastern wall

to this:

Eastern wall plan

Design decision II: conceal the fridge

While the stove location being an easy decision, where to relocate the fridge became a big headache.


Northern wall

We would like to conceal the fridge as much as possible – at least exclude it from the view from our front door/living room. The new plan is to recess it into the opening created by removing the stove and the lower cabinet.

Northern wall plan

The pantry closet created 33 inch deep cove at the corner, leaving enough depth to hide the bulky fridge from the living room viewpoint. There will be a ~16″ gap between the fridge and the cabinets to the right, which we will try to add a lower shelf to extend the prep space. The old stove wall will look like this:

Fridge new location

Design decision III: Remove the Uppers and the Soffit

Since the fridge is taller than the bottom of the upper cabinets, moving the fridge will require a couple the upper cabinets on the northern wall to be removed.


Fortunately, removing these cabinets does not cost us much storage space. Due to the water damage and potential mold,  some cabinets remianed empty since we moved in.


The decision of removing upper cabinet got our minds spinning about the utility of the soffit. See, the only reason the soffit are here is for the upper cabinets to attach to. We have long known that the soffit was empty – in fact, it was once exposed to the attic and filled with attic insulation. We have since closed it up from the attic above before adding insulation to the attic, so the soffit around the perimeter of the kitchen can be safely removed.


Removing the soffit around the kitchen is a bit more involved, since we have to patch the missing drywall and also remove the last piece of upper cabinet. We actually use this upper cabinet for all of our dishes.


But due to its height and location, I could not reach anything from the far corners of the cabinet without standing on a step stool. So the space we actively use was only 1/2 of the cabinet. We can always pop up some shelving for our daily use of dishes, kind of like in this picure. It will not only create easy access to cups and dishes, but also make unloading our drying rack easier.

So instead of looking like this:

Fridge new location

Our kitchen will look like this:

Northern wall plan with shelves

Design decision IV: more prep surface

So far, the changes add 16″ more counter space for us, which is always welcome. However, with the new location of the stove, we will be moving our drying rack to the left of the sink, which eats up a large portion of current prep space. We are looking forward to adding a piece of uninterrupted counter space, either an island or a peninsula (like this and this).

Esatern wall plan_without wall

The plans is to prop up a table or a cart as our temporary island, just to get a feel for it. However, it can be hard to tell if it works well due to how closed up our kitchen is. As you can see from the layout below, Having an island in the middle of the room will almost definitely obstruct the traffic flow.


Our resolution is to partially open the drywall on the wall to our living room, just a few studs. This new doorway will create a second pass through from the backdoor to the living room, therefore reserve the space between the counter and the island for just cooking.

The eastern wall plan with new opening

Kitchen layout_with the island

Western wall_with doorways

We will not open this wall completely, because it is weight bearing, and we are not fully committed to the open floor plan yet. But it will allow us to experience the island design with the option of easily building the wall back up again.

Design decision V: letting more light into the living room

Now you got a feel of how the kitchen layout will change, we would like to try one more thing during this phase I trial run – opening up the upper portion of the rest of the kitchen/living room wall. Like I said before, we are not 100% committed to an open kitchen yet, so we plan to keep all the studs intact and only open the portion above the temporary island. Kinda like this:

Eastern wall plan_with wall

It shall bring big changes to the view between kitchen and living, as well as let more light into our dark living room. It will be a big improvement from the current view from the living room:

Kitchen view from the living

Moving forward…

We are planning the demo in April, after finishing the office renovation (only doors left!). We are using this short window of opportunity to refine our plans and to incorporate last minute changes. Tell us what you think! Give a thumb-up if you like our plan, and we are open to any suggestions from you seasoned DIYers. It is exciting for us to think that we will soon say goodbye to this kitchen:

Kitchen plan_current

and welcome this one!

Kitchen layout plan


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