Terrific Broth

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

Category: Renovation Page 2 of 26

Finally! The Master Bath is Complete!

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It’s been a long journey to get to this reveal post. But hey, we are finally here! Let us unpack, shall we? (And if you are interested, you can see the old bath here.)

The glass shower

This new bathroom features all upgrades we had craved for years. Starting from the new shower glass. We’ve been living in student housing and cheap rentals before this house, and all of them sported shower curtains. Having a piece of clear glass that we can see through into the shower, that is seamless, custom-made, and that requires a squeegee, is like ten Christmas’ wishes come true at once.

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The shower door and installation was done by L & L glass, a local glass company in Denver. Our experience with them is nothing but great: efficient communication, quality choices of the products, fair price, and quick and reliable service. Every interaction with L & L glass we had, from the showroom quote, in-house measurement, to the actual installation was a breeze and a pleasure. I cannot recommend them enough.

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To create a see-through shower we chose clear glass, and Slav picked brush nickel finish for the hardware. To keep the view of the glass unobstructed, we opted for a single knob instead of a long handle on the door. The fixed panel is held by silicone and a single clip, and there is a door sweeper under the moving panel as well.

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For a basement bathroom moisture is the biggest enemy. We stopped the shower glass at the height of the soffit to allow steam to escape. The new bathroom fan was mounted right outside of the shower to help with the moisture removal.

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The floor-to-ceiling tiles and large shower niche

We like to keep the bathroom squeaky clean, so floor-to-ceiling tile is one of the first things we agreed upon. For the color, I listened to my minimalist heart and went with two contrasting tones. I showed Slav the inspiration photo below and he immediately agreed. So we basically used the same colors and sizes for our tiles.

The inspiration photo

Our bath:

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In person this color combination looks even better than the photo. While the slate keeps the room grounded and feeling steady, the white lightens it and makes it restful. Both of slate and white tiles we picked have warm undertones, so the room does not feel sterile.

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We picked pebble tile for the shower which is so nice! It is like a foot massage every time taking a shower.

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Same as the tile choices, I found out what shower niche to install with the help of Pinterests. As the inspiration photo below, we chose to the one that spans the whole width of the end wall.

The inspiration:

Image result for small bathroom remodel light gray

Our bath:

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Unlike the photo above, we made ours even simpler using the same white tiles in the shower. We did that to further reduce visual clutter. I think it worked very well with our small bath and see-through shower doors.

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I crave some green color in the basement but there is not enough lighting for plants. This Buddha head brings a bit green into the bath.

The new water-wise toilets and bidet

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Although the shower and tiles are the most prominent elements in the bath, the most important piece in any bathroom will always be the toilet. Not only we got the water-saving toilet from our favorite local water-conservation non-profit, we also splurged for a bidet seat. Bidets are necessity at home in East Asian and central Europe, so not having one during the time living in the States felt weird to us. We vowed to make this house ours which means it will fit our needs and desires. A bidet in our master bath is certainly a right step towards our goal.

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The new double-sink vanity + medicine cabinet storage

In order to expand the footprint of the master bath, we removed a linen closet in the hallway during demo. We chose a vanity to add storage:

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The sink + vanity combo is another of our favorite in the master bath. We do not like to store things in the open so choosing trough-style sinks with limited counter space is a conscious choice.

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In this way we can keep the sinks as big as possible, while keeping the vanity narrow to save its floor print. With our narrow bathroom, this particular vanity allowed 38″ space in front of it, which enables two people to walk around without problem. It also leaves enough room for us to operate the 29″ wide shower door.

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The middle drawers do not interfere with the shower door:

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In addition, we mounted a medicine cabinet above the vanity:

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This medicine cabinet holds a ton. It is only 4″ thick inside but 48″ long and 26″ tall. It is at least four times bigger than the one we previously used and provided more than enough storage for our daily use.

Where do you store your toilet brush? 

To date we have used our bathroom for a couple days. It is very functional despite not having a towel bar or a toilet paper holder. With the brand new tiles and drywall it is hard to decide where to drill for these items. We are still on look out for a few things, such as a toilet brush. Is there an elegant yet functional toilet brush out there? One can be stored off the floor? If you have good suggestions, let me know!

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

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Three weeks have passed since I left you with the photo above and this length to-do list mostly for the basement bathroom. Since then I have been slowly figuring out the big ticket items. I’d like to give you an update on our progress, and here is the to-do list first:

Getting new bath vanity and sinks
Bathroom fixtures! Vanity! Toilet!
Glass shower door by professionals
DIY install 4 new doors for the bathment bedroom, bathroom, and entry, including a pocket door between the bath and the bedroom
Closets in the bedroom!
Baseboards and trims in the bedroom and media room

Vanity, sink, and plumbing

As you can see the first four items are all for the bathroom. We actually bought vanity and sinks before summer, but the incompetent contractor (whom we have fired) did the plumbing wrong and they have to be returned. Thanks for IKEA’s full refund policy we were able to minimize the lose, then we found this similar one on Wayfair:

Faycelles Rigel 48" Double Bathroom Vanity

Ordering vanity and sinks online felt intimidating. Before pulling the trigger, we triple-checked with our new plumber that this one would fit our space AND work with the rough plumbing. It will be delivered to our home this weekend, and our plumber Chris will come first thing next week to look at it in person and make sure it is really gonna fit. Speaking of Chris, he is truly amazing! He is not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also super transparent about his approach. After giving us all the information we need, he even suggested NOT to book him until we figure out the shower door installation, which should go in first before the vanity.

A new glass shower door

Following Chris’s advice, we shifted our focus on finding a shower door. Slav wants a see-through glass shower door to make the bathroom feel bigger. After getting several quotes, we trusted our business to a local company called L and L Glass. They are specialized, professional, and never pushed any product on us. Among all the quotes they are not the cheapest, but we have already learned in a hard way to not go with the cheapest!

Our final choice is very similar to the inspiration photo below. The difference? Ours will be composed of two clear glass panels, one fixed and one swinging door. We also opted for a single knob instead of a handle for the door.

Seneca Adjustable 72.75" x 74" Hinged Frameless Shower Door

To date, the shower door will be installed after the Thanksgiving weekend, then Chris will come in the following week to install the vanity, sinks, faucets, shower fixtures, and toilet. After he puts everything together, as the last step – we will install the medicine cabinet which has been collecting dust in the basement for 6 months!

Doors, doors! And doors…

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With all the bathroom work scheduled in early December, we might (!) have a complete bathroom by mid-December, minus the doors. Yes, the doors. There are three empty doorway waiting for their doors, and as we are on it, we will replace the basement entry door under the stairs too.

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This entry door and the media room-bedroom door are easy-peasy. They are both in standard sizes, so we simply ordered the doors from Home Depot website. However, the two doors leading to the bathroom are merely 76″ tall. That means we need to either cutting the standard door down, or customize-building them. I am still trying to figure out the best  and cheapest way to go about it. Luckily we do not have to have doors to actually use the bathroom…

Now the fun part: working with the PAX

With all the bathroom stuff (almost) figured out, I finally had some mental capacity for bedroom closets. Slav is completely hands-off on this project, so I am taking full responsibility of the design, the purchase, and the assembly (hopefully Slav will lend a hand there…). Although there are a lot of decision to make, it feels like a good break from the bathroom decisions!

To make things easier I decided to design and purchase my closet first. My request of closet is simple and does not require fancy add-ons, And because it is sitting along a long wall, the design challenge is minimal. Slav’s side of the closet is a lot more complicated because of the location of our basement windows. So I hope what I learned from designing and installing my closet will be helpful to the design of Slav’s. So stay tuned for the big closet post!

Baseboards and trims

The very last thing we need to tackle to complete the basement reno 1.0, is to install all the baseboards and trims. This step should come after installing the closet and doors, which means we will likely not get to this part until January. Since we have already picked out the profile we wanted, it should be a fun and easy project when the pressure of bathroom and holidays is behind us. Right now, the bathroom and the closets! I cannot wait to come back with some completed installation of…anything, the closet, or the bathroom, anything really! We will get there, I promise!

Life Happening + Basement Electrical

Life happening

For the past three months, we’ve been on pins and needles waiting for the basement bathroom to be completed. The promised July 8th deadline was abandoned with no new deadline, and the progress was very slow.

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When I say slow, I mean SLOW. The three pictures below showed the tiling of two of the bathroom walls, which took three months. THREE MONTHS! Some days we came home saw three tiles laid, and other days we only see tools being moved around.

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When an adult decided to not do his job there is really nothing you can do. By adult I mean our contractor. I considered firing him multiple times during the renovation, especially after he missed the July 8th deadline. But Slav advocated to keep him at least the quality of his work was decent. But when the wall of dark tile was laid, we could definitely see a drop on the quality of the work. And this was the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

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Another red flag with this contractor is that none of his subcontractors showed up on time. His drywall-er came in at night without notifying us, and his plumber friend never showed up. More recently, after we painted the basement, his electrician who wired the can lights was expected to come back and finish the rough-ins and installing the outlets and switches. But for weeks, our contractor failed to get him back. More ironically, this electrician is actually our contractor’s brother! How could we trust a contractor if his own brother does not want to work with him?

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When October rolled around, we realized neither electrical or plumbing would be finished by professionals. Our then contractor, despite his lack of experience, was planning to finish everything himself. This explained why he was not making progress – he does not know HOW to finish these things properly.

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By this point we just want to get the project wrapped up. We did not need a functional basement right away when we hired this contractor, but that was assuming the project would have been finished by July 8th. Slav’s mom is coming for Christmas and we are looking forward to hosting more family and friends in the coming spring. Besides we are just too tired of seeing exposed electrical wires by now!

In the bath

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So, this was the state of the union as of Oct. 23rd, the day we let the incompetent contractor go. It may look like we were close to the finishing line, but unfortunately we were not.

The Unfinished surfaces

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For one, the dark wall of tiles are not grouted, and the white tile wall has several unfinished edges we have to cover somehow. Slav will finish the grouting himself – we have ordered the right colors of grout and silicone caulk. And I will be tackling the painting drywall work as soon as Slav finishes grouting.

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On a side note, Slav actually does not have any grouting experience either. But he is handy and good at learning new things. And he takes his time. If there is one bright side of this unfortunate contractor experience, that is I now appreciate Slav a lot more for his dependability and responsible work ethics. Apparently not everyone is a man of integrity but I am lucky to be with a good one. 🙂

Installing fixtures and finishing plumbing

The next step will be installing all the bathroom fixture, including the toilet, vanity/sinks, medicine cabinet, and shower fixtures. We have brought in an expert for the work, who pointed out several plumbing mistakes our previous contractor made with the first glance. Nothing cannot be fixed, and we are looking forward to a functional toilet down here really soon.

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Bathroom electrical finish

In addition to general electrical finish, such as outlets and switches, we needed to add two more mini can lights in the soffit which involves drilling the tiles. We brought in a wonderful electrician (his name is Paul) who installed these babies in just one morning:

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Paul also installed all the switches and outlet for the bath. His work completed the electrical in the bathroom, including two ceiling can lights, two mini can lights on the soffit, and one bathroom fan.

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Finishing the electrical for the rest of the basement

We also asked Paul to finish the rest of the electrical here for us. The previous electrician, the brother of our previous contractor, seemed to have done a decent job (phew). With Paul’s help, we added breakers to the subpanel, finished all the can lights, installed all the switches for can lights as well as all the outlets:

living room can lights

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controlled by two three-way dimmer switches:

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Bed room can lights and switches:

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Paul also installed the wall sconces in the bedroom.

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They are on dimmer and give the best warm light in the evening:

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The new to-do list

As we are coming down from this intense rollercoaster ride, here is the to-do list we still have to tackle for the basement reno 1.0.

Finding new bath vanity and sinks (the one we purchases back in June does not work with the plumbing our contractor did… SAD!)
Installing bathroom fixtures + medicine cabinet + vanity
Installing a glass shower door
Installing closets in the bedroom
Installing 4 new doors for the bathment bedroom, bathroom, and entry, including a pocket door between the bath and the bedroom
Installing baseboards and trims in the bedroom and media room

These tasks will for sure take us beyond the holidays, so we would have to move into the basement without baseboard or even doors. But that is OK as long as we have a working bathroom! So for now, we are focusing on bathroom finishes and everything bathroom. Stay tuned, friends!

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