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

Category: DIY Built Page 1 of 12

Installing Recessed Lights to the Main Floor

Since last time we were in the kitchen together, we have crossed a couple big ticket items off the to-do list:

  1. Demoing the kitchen and the dividing walls between kitchen and living room. All existing tile, drywall, and floor will be removed including soffit.
  2. Demoing the hall closet space for housing the fridge.
  3. Running utilities – installing new gas line for the new gas stove, adding new plumbing and waterline for the fridge and dishwasher, modifying plumbing and waterline for the new sink and garbage disposal, rerouting the hood vent in the attic.
  4. Slav wiring for outlets and switches.
  5. Tiling the floor.
  6. Adding exterior insulation and installing drywall; repairing ceiling drywall and skim-coat the existing walls.
  7. Installing stair railing.
  8. Priming and painting all the new drywall in the kitchen and stairwell.
  9. Installing recessed lighting for the kitchen and the living room.
  10. Cabinets installation (90% done!).
  11. Countertop template and installation.
  12. Tiling the backsplash and finish window trims.
  13. Appliances installation.
  14. Installing under the cabinet lighting.
  15. Finishing the room with door trims and baseboards.

Yes, you read that right. We are almost done with the cabinet installation! Our contractor still needs to put on some trims and decorative moulding. And I will come back next week to show you the complete installation. What I want to talk about today, is the work Slav has been working on during the past three weeks: installing recessed lighting for the kitchen and living room.

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Installing kitchen recessed lighting

We have been wanting recessed lighting for the main floor ever since we installed them in our basement suite. They are so nice to have when you want to brighten up the space for activities and gatherings, while the dimmer function makes moody lighting possible. The question has always been how many to install and what the layout should be. Now we have set on the new kitchen design, we could finally pinpoint where these recessed lights should be.

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After discussing the lighting location, we marked them on the ceiling, then Slav drilled from below and used utility flags to mark the locations in the attic. We decided to install six of 6″ cans over the 10′ x 11′ floor space (without the cabinets), plus two 4″ cans directly above the two windows as task lighting.

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With the flags poking out of the insulation in the attic, Slav were able to locate them quickly and cut the openings from above.

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He then attached the cans to the bottom chord of the roof trusses, and wired all six of the 6″ cans in a daisy-chain fashion.

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It took a whole afternoon to complete all the wiring and installation. And this is the final results!

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When Slav wired for the kitchen electrical a couple weeks ago, he prepared switches for the recessed lighting with wires going into the attic. After all the can lights were linked, he connected the circuit to the switch, and everything worked immediately:

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The two tasking lighting above the windows were put on a separate circuit. These lights are turned on by a switch next to the sink, while the six bigger can lights are controlled by two 3-way switches installed at each end of the kitchen.

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Living room recessed lighting installation

The following weekend, Slav repeated the same procedure in the living room:

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The above picture showed 12 markings, but we ended up installing only eight recessed lights. These 65W-equivalent recessed lights provide pretty good coverage. If we ever want to make the room brighter, we could upgrade the lights to 75W- or even 90W-equivalent down the road.

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Typical Slav, repurposing my wine (plastic) cup for less drywall dust. 🙂

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Here is the final results! It took only a few hours to install all eight lights in the living room, but probably equal amount of effort to patch these 12 holes. Ha!

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The living room did not have overhead lighting before. Per fire code, there needs to be some form of light that can be switched on at the front door. So the previous owner wired a wall outlet to a switch next to the front door, and connected a floor lamp to it. It is a rather creative approach to satisfy the code, but not very practical in my mind. Since we had to open some drywall to add switches for the new recessed lights, Slav took the opportunity to rewire the outlet so it stays constantly “hot”.

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As you can see, now we have three switches at the front entry: the leftmost switch controls the outdoor porch light, and the rest two are for the two new circuits for recessed lighting.

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The two cans closest to the front door are on their own circuit. The recessed lighting we installed in the living room has a night light function, so we can keep the front door area lit for the night if needed.

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We have been living with all sixteen recessed lighting in our living space for a week. They are pretty nice! The living room felt a lot bigger at night now it is well-lit. For darker lighting we could simply dim all the lights, use the night light function in the living room, or just to leave the task lighting on. There are so many combination already, and we still have the under-the-cabinet lighting to add into the mix!

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Finally, a mirror in the main floor bathroom!

Speaking of lighting, Slav also added a backlit LED mirror in the guest bathroom. The new mirror offers several light colors with different brightness, and an anti-fog function, all of which are controlled by the three touch buttons on the mirror.

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The clivia miniata started blooming a couple days ago. I think the mirror and pretty blooms completed the bathroom quite elegantly. Don’t you think?

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What’s in store next

As I speak, our contractor is finishing the cabinets installation, and we will have the countertop templated tomorrow! For the countertop installation we went with a local mom-and-pop stone shop, which operates a lot quicker than big box stores. Our quartz countertop will get installed in just a week after template appointment, then we can start tiling the backsplash and installing appliances. 🙂 We feel so relieved now we can see the end of the finish line, and personally, watching the to-do list getting shorter is so satisfying.

Here is what is left to do in the kitchen:

  1. Countertop template (tomorrow!) and installation (in a week!).
  2. Tiling the backsplash and finish window trims (targeted to finish by mid-May).
  3. Appliances installation.
  4. Unpacking the kitchen (the part I am most looking forward to!).
  5. Slav installing the under-the-cabinet lighting.
  6. Trimming doorways and completing baseboards.

I can totally see us cooking in the new kitchen on the Memorial Day. Maybe not everything on the current to-do list will be complete, but I think the kitchen will be functional enough by the end of May. What do you think? I cannot wait!

Main Floor Bath: Pocket Door Installation

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Happy Spring, everyone! I hope you are enjoying bluer skies and warmer temperature than we do. As you can tell from the pictures, we had quite a few storms in the past weeks.

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Stuck inside we made good progress in the main floor bath. After upgrading the master bath exhaust fan, Slav finalized all the electrical connections and fine toned the rough plumbing. It is important to make absolutely sure that everything are set to the correct height and depth before closing the wall! One of the things Slav did was to raise the toilet drain a bit higher to accommodate the height of the new subfloor, cement board and tiles. Can you imagine a toilet here seeing the bidet power outlet, bidet waterline, and toilet flange together in one picture?

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Now we were (finally) ready for the subfloor!

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Subfloor installation

To install the subfloor, Slav first added supporting structures around the parameter of the room:

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The 2″ x 4″ strips were sistered onto the nearby floor joist with liquid nails and screws. They will be supporting the edge of the new subfloor, and bearing some weight of the tiled wall.

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After double and triple check to make sure everything between the two stories were set correctly and secured properly, Slav installed the new subfloor with liquid nails and screws. It felt so nice to have something solid to walk on again! We have been balancing ourselves on floor joists like acrobats for a couple months… 🙂

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Shower niche framing

One small detail we would like to add to the shower area is a shower niche. Slav modified the framing and installed a tile-ready shower niche casing, centered on the end wall of the shower. It will get tiled over, along with all the surrounding walls:

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Demo the old door

The very last task we needed to complete before closing all the walls, was to install the pocket door. Pocket door is not a necessity, but due to the small size of this bath, we felt that it would improve the traffic flow and was worth the upgrade.

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As you can see from the picture above, the framing was heavy on this wall. There used to be an enclosure for a ventilation pipe we since removed, and a linen closet is located on the other side of the wall.

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The header of the door would also needed to be raised due to the height of the pocket door.

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Slav carefully cut away all the framing that would be in the parameter of the pocket door framing. He left all other framing in place, and managed not to damage the drywall on the closet side.

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Also removed was the starting piece of the wooden floor. This piece on the very edge was full of nail holes from the old carpet and in pretty bad shape. Slav replaced it with a brand new piece of the same flooring, left from last time when we patched the floor in Slav’s office.

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Pocket door framing

For the pocket door installation, we picked up a standard pocket door framing kit:

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Everything needed for framing the pocket door except the door slab itself were included in the kit. This universal kit is designed to work with doors that are 24 inches to 36 inches in width. There are marks already engraved into the framing lumber to indicate where to cut for different door sizes.

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To frame in the pocket door, Slav first built the rough framing:

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Onto which the header of the pocket door framing kit was installed and the split studs was secured:

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This is what the split studs look like! The actual door slab will be inserted in between and nest inside whenever the door is open.

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Our doorway only permits a 24″ door. We splurged for a frosted glass door which comes pre-primed. While Slav was framing the doorway, I painted it with my go-to door and trim paint – Behr‘s ultra pure white:

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Installing pocket door was actually pretty easy. I do not know why I was so intimidated by it! Slav installed the door slab into the track all by himself. And I had to say, it operates like butter!

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So smooth.

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Encouraged by the pocket door installation Slav caught a second wind and installed the drywall before calling it a day. All the sudden, the bathroom looked like a room again!

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Here is it, the bathroom, ready for tiles:

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With brand-new frosted window and door, new subfloor and shower pan, new plumbing and electrical!

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The next step, tiling!

Starting next week, we will be installing and waterproofing the walls, and starting the tile work! It has been a rough a couple months just finalizing the utilities and dealing with additional plumbing issues. But finally, we could move onto tasks that will bring much more substantial changes into the space. So stay tuned, friends! May the fourth be with us!

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulating the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights from the attic;
5. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and wiring new switches;
6. Installing a new exhaust fan;
7. Installing recessed lights and drywall the bathroom ceiling;
8. Upgrading the sewage pipe for toilet and shower;
9. Purchasing a new toilet, a new bidet, a sink/vanity, and sink and shower fixtures; Upgrading/installing water lines to all the fixture;
10. Upgrade master bath (basement) exhaust fan from above;
11. Installing new subflooring;
12. Pocket door framing and installation;
13. Drywalling around the pocket door to close off the entry wall;
14. Installing water-resistant wall on rest of the room and waterproofing;
15. Tiling and installing a new window stool;
16. Sealing the floor tiles and grout;
17. Finishing/priming/painting entry wall drywall and ceiling;
18. Installing and painting pocket door trims;
19. Installing new glass shower door;
20. Installing toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, shower trim, and vanity mirror/lighting!

Storage Headboard DIY

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Happy Chinese New Year! This year’s zodiac animal is ox, which represents hardworking and progress. Hopefully the whole world will start moving again soon!

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Inside of my own house, the bathroom renovation has been static because Slav’s busy. I did manage to get some small DIY projects done myself and hang some art pieces, but honestly, I miss having a bathroom on the main floor.

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The latest DIY project I completed is a storage headboard for the Murphy bed:

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And now the Murphy bed area looks like this:

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The design concept

I have shown you how we installed the Murphy bed in my retreat room.

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However, the depth of this closet is 25″, a lot deeper than the required depth for the Murphy bed, leaving a significant gap.

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We knew at the time of installation that we needed a headboard to prevent pillows from slipping off the bed. In addition, we’d like to add a shelf above the bed for reading lamp, books and water or the night. Naturally, we decided to DIY this piece so it does not fit the space perfectly, but also can be customized exactly to our liking with the functionality we needed.

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I always wanted to give this wedge bolster pillow a try as a removable headboard. So the plan has always been to build a plywood box that fills the gap and also supports the wedge pillow from the bottom and from the back. This box should also provide internal storage for pillows and linen. Last, we prefer a floating design in order to expose the floor space for future refinish.

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The build

Unlike most of the furniture building, instead of completing the entire storage box in the garage then mounting it to the space, I decided to assemble this floating storage at the spot. This does not only save material, but also add structure integrity to the whole build as well as the closet. It also means that I will be measuring, cutting, and attaching different pieces to the side and back of the closet as I go.

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The first piece I cut was the bottom of the storage box. This board will support the wedge pillow, so I decided to place the bottom board just below the top of the mattress. The width of the closet measures 58″ at this height, and the unit should not be deeper than 14″ so the Murphy bed can open and close normally.

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So I cut a piece that is 14″ x 58″. Before installing it permanently, I popped it up with a stepping stool to the desired height and tested with the wedge pillow. Despite a 4″ gap between the mattress and the front edge of the board, the wedge pillow stayed in place well. This gap is required for the Murphy bed to operate normally.

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Having known that, I started with on the top surface  of the storage box. I wanted the headboard to be hidden from the front view, so I chose to have the top board sitting 16″ above the bottom one, just a dash lower than the top of the wedge pillow.

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The width of the top surface should be less than 12″ to accommodate the thickness of the wedge pillow.

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I cut a 58″ x 10″ plywood piece for the top. Again, before mounting it in place, I popped it up with a planter which happens to be 16″ tall as a trial run.

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Slav was around for this part of the operation and laughed that “your furniture design depends on the objects you had nearby…” Kinda true…But hey, it was the perfect height for the top surface!

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Since the closet already had plywood sides and back, both top and bottom boards can be directly mounted to the side wall panels. Now I only need to make a front panel, which functions as a door for internal storage access, as well as the backing board for the wedge pillow.

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I cut two pieces of plywood boards as the front panel so they are easier to open and close. They are both an inch taller than the top board, so when mounted vertically, they not only cover the whole front edge of the top shelf, but also create a small curb for the top shelf.

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As you can see, the design of the headboard is extremely simple. My goal has always been keeping the headboard construction minimal and completely hidden when the bed is in use, while satisfying all the features we want for the Murphy bed area: storage, back support, and a horizontal shelf.

The installation

With all the pieces cut to size, I edge banded the pieces and cut some scrap wood strips to link the top and bottom boards onto the side walls.

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To mount the front panels/doors, I used hidden hinges to connect the door panels to the top shelf.

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A few L-bracket were mounted on the bottom board as a stop, so the door panels can stay vertical without swinging inward.

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Then I placed the wedge pillow on the bottom board and in front of the doors – now we have the storage headboard for the Murphy bed!

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Just like we planned, You cannot see the headboard when standing in front of the bed.

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The space inside the storage headboard now stores allthe pillows and beddings we have for this bed. When we need to fold the bed up, the top shelf is perfect for storing the wedge pillow. Therefore, everything for making the Murphy bed is stored in the Murphy bed alcove without occupying additional closet space.

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The finishes

I switched the painting above the bed to a set of watercolor art, and added a white lamp and a couple plants:

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The large and cool-colored art toned down all the wood color, making this little alcove a bit lighter and more relaxed.

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And this is how he Murphy bed area look like now!

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This headboard build completed all the DIY build in my retreat room/home office. The best part of the project is that I used exclusively the scrape plywood pieces from the Murphy bed build and the gear closet build, so the only cost for this project is four hidden hinges for $2.75! (We had the plywood edge band, L-bracket and screws in hand.) This is the charm of DIY – functionality, perfect fit, and saving!

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