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

Category: DIY Built Page 1 of 12

The Guest Room Gets a Door

Our 2023 to-do list includes lots of small cosmetic updates. Installing a door for the guest room was the No. 1 on our list. This guest room sits at the northeast corner of the main floor. It used to be our bedroom, before we created a master suite in the basement.

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After moving our bedroom downstairs, we converted this room to a home office for me. It also functions as a guest bedroom with the help of a hidden murphy bed.

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We took down the bedroom door during this renovation, then taped and mudded the old doorway to give it a passthrough-like appearance. The plan was to install the future bedroom door onto the openings between the hallway and the living room. So when guests stay over, they could access the bathroom without opening their door to the living room.

The bedroom door before:

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The bedroom doorway after the office renovation:

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But before we got to installing the bedroom door, we worked on the main floor bathroom and the nearby kitchen. Now all the spaces around this small hallway have finished, it is finally time to close off the guest suite.

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The width of the opening between the living room and the hallway space is only 36″, so we decided to install a 32″ wide prehung door for this opening. Prehung doors come with door jambs hinges, making the installation very straightforward. As of the door choices, we decided to get a pre-primed 5-panel door that matches the modern look of the nearby bathroom pocket door. After bringing it home, I painted it the same white color to match all the trims on the first level

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Below is a picture of the ceiling at this opening. You can see how the two walls overlap a few inches, which is perfect to fit the door jambs. The ceiling smoke/CO2 detector had to be relocated.

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Framing and installation:

To frame the doorway, we need to know what the framing behind the walls look like. Slav marked where the door jambs should go, then cut off the baseboards and drywall to expose the framing.

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Then Slav cut the drywall off the other side of the opening. We have worked with this section of the wall before – The wall on the opposite side of the kitchen used to be a door to the second bedroom on the main floor. Shortly after moving in, we converted the bedroom to an office for Slav and closed this doorway in the process.

The hallway, 2017

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2018, before the office renovation:

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2018, After Slav’s office renovation:

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Slav removed the baseboards and drywall at this corner where the door jamb should go. It felt funny to see the framing we have put in five year ago.

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The door jamb for a prehung door is only 33″ 9/16, so we need to narrow the opening a bit. We installed a 2″ x 4″ on each side to support the door jamb.

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With the correct opening size, Slav installed the door jambs.

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Then he attached the door itself. Once again, the guest “room” became a room!

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Despite the opening on top of the door, we could already feel a sense of privacy in the guest bedroom. Interestingly, we found ourselves closing the new door while using bathroom too, even though the bathroom has its own door.

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Here is how the doorway looked like from the living room. We chose a left-handed door so we can keep the door open easily.

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We installed the mirror again on the wall facing the bathroom door. so our guests can use it to get ready before heading out to the common space.

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Closing the doorway with drywall:

To completely enclose the doorway, we put drywall over the opening above the door. Slav added some 2″ x 4″ above the door header to give the drywall panel some support , then attached drywall which we saved from the kitchen renovation:

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Then he used wood trims to cover the door jamb.

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And installed hardware and a door stopper:

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We managed to get everything installed just in time for a friend’s visit. I think he and his two dogs enjoyed the new private “suite”. ๐Ÿ™‚

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During the last a couple weeks, Slav mud and taped the new drywall, and I painted the drywall the same color as rest of the main floor.

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You might notice some yellow patches on the door frame – these are wood fillers I patched the nail hole with. I have not painted the trims yet. Because there will be more trim work ahead of us!

Future finishing work: door trims and baseboard

During the finishing work, we noticed that we now have three different trim style around this small hallway – the simple flush trim around the new door, the most decorative trim around the office door way, and the old trim around the linen closet door:

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The flush trim next to the closet trim does not bother me much. But the difference between the office doorway trim and the new door trim is too obvious to let go. We will add the same profile of trims around the new door so the two doorway looks symmetrical. Then we will caulk and paint everything all together. For now, let us celebrate the completed 95% done guest suite doorway!

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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… ๐Ÿ™‚

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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.ย 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!

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