Terrific Broth

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

Terrific Broth

Category: Live Green (Page 2 of 29)

A New Opening + Office Drywall

The most nerve-racking part of renovation is not the actual work, but the decision-making. This is particularly true when floor plan is modified, or new window/door opening is created. Will the result be what we imagined? Will we like it as we hoped? How much time and money will we waste if we want to change it back?

Since we settled on the office plan weeks ago, the new opening to the living room has been on our minds. To me, this new opening is what makes the room or breaks the room. With the help of Sketchup, we tried our best to imagine what the view will change from every angle. We think we like it – but will we actually like it in real life?


The only way to find out is to make the new opening. So Friday night, we gathered some courage and waved the hammer to the wall…

And made a new opening!


Do we like it? Well, we do not like it…

We love it!

A New Opening

Let me back up a little and tell you how the process went. According to our plan, the new opening is 6′, centered on the 10′ wall between living room and office.

I marked the proposed opening with blue tape on the living room side, which helped us to visualize the opening.


We were still waiting for our engineer on the new header size, so we could not knock done all the studs yet. To get a feel of how the two rooms connect, we decided to cut open the drywall while leaving most of the studs intact.



It did not take long at all to remove the drywall. We did have to relocate an electrical outlet, which involved cutting into one stud a bit.


We opened just 2 studs in the center, which is about 32″ wide, less than half width of the proposed opening (72″).


Slav cut open the other side. Suddenly, the two rooms were connected!


We immediately liked it. Even with only two studs open, the office already felt wider. This is how the same wall looked like before.


Framing the Old Doorway

With the new opening, we moved onto closing up the old doorway. Last time I showed you the office, we reversed the closet to face the bedroom, leaving the office/bedroom wall like this:


Our plan was to drywall the closet and the old doorway, and make one uninterrupted wall:


Slav took down the door and I popped the trims off:




I then proceeded to take the door jamb off. It is amazing how quickly one can learn on the job and feel confident. I am very comfortable with tackling these steps alone, which makes me very happy.


While we were working on the office, the living room inevitably suffered:


We then cut some 2 x 4 to size to frame the doorway:


We did not remove the header, which already supports all the weight. So the framing is basically for creating a structure for drywall to attach.

First Time Drywall!

Slav got drywall from Lowe’s and we cut them to size in the garage:


First piece up, more to go.


Putting up drywall is pretty straightforward. Size, cut, then Lego pieces together. We quickly finished the bedroom side:



Drywall finish requires a lot of sanding; so we will save it for another day. I loaded all the clothes back into the closet and was pretty happy to have enclosed bedroom again!


Remember what the closet wall used to look like? 😉


We next moved onto drywall the doorway. Slav cut a piece for dry-fitting:


And here came the challenge – our old wall is not straight. The old studs are bowed so our newly framed studs did not align.



Consequently, when we put new drywall against the new studs, it did not sit flash with the old drywall due to the misalignment.



The difference in height is too much for taping and mudding. Without taking down more drywall, there is not much we could do to fix the curved existing wall/studs. We decided to take off a slice of the new studs from its side to keep the new wall aligned with the old.


It does not fix the curved wall, but it fixed the misalignment and the curve is pretty small to notice. It is definitely a lot easier than replacing the whole framing behind the existing wall. The piece we took off is only 1/4″ thick, so we are not worried about the strength of the studs.

Then we could put the drywall up without a problem.


The Office in Progress

Done with the drywall, the office now looks like this:


We also decided to take off the center studs, so we do not have to pass the opening sideways:



We have been living with the opening for a couple days now, and it feels so natural to go in and out of the office from living room. Slav and I like to be on our computers in the evening, and I usually sit at the dining table in the living room. The new opening, although narrow, makes us feel like we are in the same room while having our own space. Needless to say, we are pretty excited to widen the opening to its full span!

We also like the changes in the little hallway leading to the bedroom. To remind you, here is the what the hallway looked like before closing the office doorway:


You can see that the hallway had doors on all four sides – office, bath, bedroom, and linen closet. Now with the old office door blocked, the hallway looks like this:


It has become a more private access to the bed/bath area, which makes the bedroom feel more like a suite than just a room. The new closet space in the bedroom is definitely a plus too. We are now 100% sold on the new floor plan!

While waiting on our header size, we are planning to start on the library built-ins. We got a foot of snow today and I am off next week. Cannot think of a better way of spending a few quiet days at home than assembling bookshelves!

The Office: Reversing the Closet

In case you missed our plan for Slav’s office, you can find it here. The office will get a new opening, and the existing door and the closet opening will be covered to make room for built-in library shelves. Last weekend, we kicked off the renovation by reversing the office closet to face the bedroom.


Demoing the new opening would have been way more satisfying, but we decided to work on the wall of build-ins first. There is a very good reason for this – and a very practical one – we do not have room:


Yep, this pile of books is sitting right against the office-living room wall, and we have to move them somewhere before we could work on the new opening. As a household that tries to practice minimalism, books and vinyl records are exceptions.


This is a picture from our moving day, and all the boxes are books. Soon after we moved in, these books were transported into the office and neatly stacked in the corner. Over the last seven months, these boxes functioned a dumping ground for coats, electronics, half-done projects… anything and everything we did not know where to store.


The other end of the room is not much better. Once clean and sleek, Slav’s desk has changed from this:


to this:



As you can see, before we could work on the new opening and desk, we have to give the books and all the electronics a place to go. The best we can do is to get the library shelves up first so we do not need to move all the books twice.



Had the decision been made, we started by taking the closet door off. I pried off the trims carefully, and found that the door jamb is attached to the framing lumber using blocks and shims:



After taking the trims inside off, I was surprised to see how big the gaps were between the door jamb and framing. Is it normal to have so much a big gap only covered by trims? Or is this because the original opening was intended to be larger?



I removed the door jamb off and unscrewed the top track for the sliding doors. Taking the top track off revealed the header, a pair of 2x4s joined together by small shims.



For a brief moment, the closet actually looked better. I guess it is because of the clean lines around the framing. Maybe instead of reuse the old trims, morden trim is the way to go?



The next step was to remove the drywall, which will open the closet to the bedroom behind. We took everything out of the closet including the shelf first:


Things had to get worse before getting better:


Slav cut into the drywall using a sawzall. Do not ask me why we have a sawzall. I had no idea.


It was pretty easy to remove the office side of the drywall. On the bedroom side, we wanted to only cut away the desired opening. While Slav was working on the demo on the office side, I traced the opening on the bedroom side, using old trim pieces as a template:




This opening is symmetrical to the existing closet in the bedroom. With my pencil lines as a guide, Slav went to town with the drywall demo:



Thing went pretty fast at this point. Within minutes, the two rooms were connected:


We kept the windows open during demo and had nice breeze through the two rooms. It was so tempting to keep them connected! The apartments I grew up in China always has windows on both southern and northern side of the building facing each other for cross breeze. I’ve not seen much of similar design in the States.


But we knew that we desperately need closet space and book storage, so the work continued. The next step is to frame the closet. As you can see, the closet wall was framed with studs 16″ apart, sitting on a bottom plate.


It was pretty cool to see pencil lines from decades ago indicating where the studs needed to go:


Slav cut away the studs flash with the bottom plate and top plate, then freed the bottom plate using a pry bar:



As we predicted, there is no wood flooring below the bottom plate. It was sitting directly on the sub-floor. Fortunately, we have the most standard oak flooring that can be found from any big box store, so patching the floor will not be costly or difficult.

To frame the office side, we simply transferred the bottom plate and studs over  a couple feet to align with the office wall. The studs had to be cut down to fit the old closet opening of course, but in general this step was very straightforward.



We attached the bottom plate to the side studs, and the vertical studs to the bottom plate and old header. We kept the outlet on the bedroom wall so we can use it in the closet down the road:


The next step was to frame the closet opening on the bedroom side. The rough opening could use some reinforcement so they would not be floating over empty space, and we need something to attach the door jamb to. We started by building a strong header mimicking the header design on the office side, using leftover lumber from the headboard project.

Someone was excited to put in the new header, I guess.


After the header was installed, we added two more 2″x4″ studs on each side of the closet opening. The door jamb can be attached to them later.


This was first time any of us did any framing. It was intimating to think about, but once we started, it was very straightforward with some common sense. We were pretty happy with our new(ly reversed) closet.


This is what the closets currently look like from the bedroom side. We can finally get dressed without walking back and forth between two rooms. The next step is to drywall, then we can start assembling all the Billy bookshelves. Cannot wait!



The Office: Design

Hi guys! I hope you enjoyed the “B.L.O.W” post last week. It was an incredibly messy and tiring task due to our low-pitch roof, but I am happy to report that we have already felt the positive result. The house was instantly warmer. No kidding. The first night after the blow, our furnace barely came on! Since then, the furnace has been coming on a lot less frequent and a lot shorter each time. We did not change the settings on our thermostat, so the house must be holding heat better. Less furnace time brings some additional advantages we did not expect, such as less noise, and less dryness. We sleep better at night, and no longer wake up with dry throat.

It is so nice to know that our little ranch is running more efficiently, which is our top renovation priority. To be honest, what we spent on insulation ($160 on rafter vents and $450 for the insulation) will take years to recover. But we’d rather putting our money towards increasing efficiency than burning natural gas, because the cost is also on the environment.

Speaking of the comfort inside, I mentioned in our new year plan that we are starting on the indoor space, and Slav’s office is the first one in order. We started demo this past weekend, and boy it felt good. I do not always have a clear vision for a room, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do for this room the moment I saw it. I knew I wanted to give it to Slav as an office, and I knew that I wanted to open it up to the living room instead of to the bed/bath. I wanted to keep it simple but masculine with wall-to-wall library shelves and a leather chair; a streamlined custom desk for Slav is a must.



A New Opening

Ranch main floor_3D

The office is room No. 4 in the floor plan above. It is immediately to the left of the front door, but separated from the living room by a dividing wall. Being a bedroom its entire life, this room opens through a small doorway to the hall, directly facing the main floor bath.


But small opening it will have no more – I knew from the get-go that I want to open the dividing wall, and make the office an extension of the living space. The view from the living room to the office will change from this:


to this:


It will make our living space feels twice as big when you walk into the front door – you now see the entire span of the first floor.





Closing the Existing Doorway and Reversing the Closet

This room also has a small closet. It is identical to the small closet we have on the bedroom side. In response to having a new doorway, we will close the existing doorway to the hall, and reverse the office closet to the bedroom side.


The master room will double its closet space, from this:


to this:


And the office side will gain an entire uninterrupted wall, from this:


to this:


Creating a Library Wall

This new wall gained in the office is begging for built-ins. We have thousands of books sitting on the office floor in boxes, and we are dying to get them onto the shelves. This new wall will be one of the first thing you see when you walk into the front door, so a wall-to-wall library will be a bold statement as well as a functional addition to the office.

My inspiration

We had IKEA Billy before and very happy with their look and quality. They are so versatile and can be easily modified for a built-in look. I’ve always chosen lighter color in the past for myself. But this time around, we would like to go for a darker wood tone, similar to my inspiration photo, for a more masculine feel.

A New Desk and Desktop

Aside from a new opening and a new library wall, we also plan to get Slav a new desktop computer (his current one is 10-year-old!) and I will custom build him a new desk. I am feeling a lot of pressure to create the perfect desk for him. It needs to have lots of work space and sufficient storage without feeling bulky. It also needs to incorporate the motorized legs and to conceal lots of cables. I want to give Slav the option of fitting three big monitors on it, even though he currently has only two. I also want to add better task lighting. The expectation is high! Last but not the least, I want the style of the desk to play well with the brown library shelves and continue the traditional feel in this room. It will be a fun design challenge to take on.

We have started on the closet this past weekend, and this was where we were that afternoon. We are making progress and I hope to be back in couple days to show you a more finished product. This is our first time framing, so wish us luck!


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