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

Tag: Basement Page 1 of 12

Master Bath Got an Upgrade!

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Our master bathroom is located in the basement of our ranch house. It was fully renovated and put in use around Christmas time in 2019, and it has surely seen a lot of use over the last year thanks to the COVID lockdown. In October 2020 we gutted the upstairs bathroom, making this basement bath the only bath in the house. It served us very well, except we started wanting a stronger and quieter exhaust fan.

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The exhaust fan in the picture above was provided by our contractor. It was the cheapest fan – merely $14 from Home Depot. It does the job, but not as strong as we hoped, and it is noisy.

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Then the upstairs bathroom renovation started. Along with recessed lighting, Slav installed a new exhaust fan on the ceiling, and we were immediately smitten. It is so quiet that we hardly notice when the fan is on. It also comes with two CFM settings controlled by a motion/humidity sensor.

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When the main floor bathroom plumbing work started, we lifted the subfloor and exposed the floor joists for the plumber. Of course, the master bath exhaust fan was exposed too in the process. It seems to be a great opportunity to replace it if we wanted an upgrade! I told Slav. So Slav went ahead and picked the same model of exhaust fan as the one he installed for the main floor bath, just in a lower profile to fit in between the floor joists.

One difference between the low-profile fan is that it comes with a LED lighting. And instead of 80/110 CFM, it is made to be 80/100 CFM. Slav took down the old exhaust fan from above, through exposed floor joists:

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You can see the downstairs shower through the floor. One of the master bath recessed lighting is right next to it:

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It was not too hard to install the new exhaust fan. Slav connected the new fan to the existing electrical and exhaust pipe:

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And secured it well. He did have to cut the opening on the floor joist bigger to fit the new exhaust pipe, so he sister-ed the floor joist with a 2″ x 4″ to add some strength:

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He then connected the 4″ exhaust pipe to the existing pipe going outside of the house.

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The existing pipe is only 3″ wide, so Slav used a reducer in between the new and old pipe.

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And this is how the exhaust fan looks like in the basement master bath! It is larger and more powerful, but much quieter.

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And this is how the pipes will rest in between the two stories. We will be closing the subflooring soon. Before that, Slav will probably add some metal straps to secure the pipes to nearby floor joist so nothing will ever come loose.

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In addition to the new exhaust fan for master bath, Slav also upgraded the electrical boxes on the wet wall. He had added some electrical circuits to the bath, But this portion of the electrical work had to wait until the plumbing upgrade was finished.

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Loose connections, old wires. It is amazing to see what is hiding behind walls in old houses…

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We used to have one electrical outlet above the vanity. Slav replaced it with two new outlets including one GFCI, which will protect the circuits in this bathroom.

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He also added a new outlet behind the toilet. This will power the bidet seat we will be installing. The cold water line on the left side of the toilet flange will feed water into the bidet seat.

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With all the electrical and plumbing work finished, we are almost ready to close the walls! The very last thing we need to do is to frame in the pocket door on the entry wall of the bathroom. We are inching closer to tile work as every weekend passes. Although it seems slow, it surprises me how far we’ve come since the beginning:

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. Replacing all the subflooring;
12. Pocket door framing;
13. Drywalling around the pocket door, taping and mudding the entry wall and the ceiling;
14. Tiling and installing a new window stool;
15. Priming/painting entry wall drywall and ceiling;
16. Sealing the floor tiles and grout;
17. Installing new glass shower door;
18. Installing toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, shower trim, and vanity mirror/lighting;
19. Hanging the new pocket door and installing door trims;
20. Accessorizing the bathroom.

 

We Are Not Done with Plumbing Yet…

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Hi all! A couple weeks ago I was happy to announce that we were done with plumbing work in the main floor bathroom. But little did I know, plumbing was certainly not done with us yet! A few days after, on a Thursday night, as I was showering in our master bathroom, water started coming up from the basement shower drain as well as the floor drain in the utility closet. The water quickly got under the new flooring in the utility room, which fortunately held up well after drying. But boy, was it a scare.

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As any good home owner would do, Slav went to the big box store, rented a drain snake, and tried to clean out the sewage drain himself. Poor man worked over the entire weekend in snow and cold, only to make the situation worse by having the head of the snake stuck in the sewage pipe, under the house! Sunday night, we finally called an emergency plumber in, who ran a camera through all the drain pipes. The diagnose? A piece of old cast iron plumbing pipe under our house rusted through, and the snake head hooked to the side of this broken pipe.

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To give you a reference, above are the utility closet and laundry niche. The floor drain is located inside the utility closet, and our master bathroom was behind the wet wall. The snake head stuck right underneath the wet wall, somewhere behind the washer.

When we upgraded the bathroom plumbing and later the utility room floor drain, we did not replace all the cast iron pipes under the basement slab, only the drains that connected the utilities. Now looking back, based on how bad these cast iron connections look, we should have anticipated that the underground pipes were in pretty bad shape as well.

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And this is what the underground pipe looked like when our plumber broke the concrete slab and cut it out! The bottom of the pipe was completed rusted through. And the snake head probably finished the job of splitting it open.

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Next to the rusted cast iron pipe you can see one of the connectors. This portion of pipe was immediately downstream to the vertical kitchen sink drain, which we later learned that are usually in the worst shape for any house with cast iron drains.

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In the picture above is the kitchen drain. As you can see, we have replace the old pipes with new PVC ones till just above the basement slab. This upgrade was done when we upgraded the water lines for the basement and the kitchen, which was before the utility room was framed and drywalled. We did not want to go through the trouble of breaking the concrete slab then due to the cost, and now we have to do it – by breaking into the finished framing/drywall and with finished flooring! Guys, learn from our mistakes: do thing right at the first time, as early as possible, even it seems costly. It might not be the easiest decision to make, but you will not regret later!

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On the other end of the broken pipe there is the main connection under the house. Both main floor and basement toilets and the floor drain tie into it. Fortunately, it is in fairly good shape and our plumber was able to tie the new PVC pipe into it without replacing this piece.

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Below is the shot I took from the utility closet side. The plumber only needed to open a small portion of the dividing wall and remove very little framing. We were so happy that we did not need to replace this main connection, which would have required to demo some of the tiles in our master bathroom…

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The last connection the plumber had to address is the shower drain connection. The vertical pipe serves the main floor shower drain, and the bottom Y connection goes out to the basement shower drain as well as connects to the main drain line. By taking out the old pipe, we have to connect the showers back to the new pipe. At some point during the demo, it looked that we would have to demo part of the tiled master shower in order to replace this connection… But fortunately, our plumber was able to dig carefully under the master shower, and eventually replaced this connection without breaking the shower floor and wall tiles!

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After removing all the rusted pipes, our plumber finalized his shopping list, picked up pieces needed, then rebuilt our plumbing.

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Then he mixed some concrete and buries everything back up – After a 8-hour day of work, we have our laundry niche again minus some drywall:

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Now the pipes from the kitchen sink and main floor shower are completely upgraded to PVC! We could finally shower and use toilet at home again after days of gym showers and grocery store bathroom breaks…

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Slav reconnected the water and dryer vent. Now I could do laundry again!

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It was a huge undertaking plus lots of mini heart-attacks. but our plumber did a very good job to preserve our finished surfaces. At the end, we only had a few pieces of drywall open, and a small hole between the laundry niche and the utility closet. Inevitably we have to do some touchup paint work, but I was very grateful that we did not need to tile the master bathroom again.

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Our plumber also did a good job setting up protections around the work site. We did cover all the furniture in the basement with tarp, but the confinement kept most of the dust away from the media room so the final clean-up was surprisingly easy.

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It was a hell of week. On top of the plumbing issue, our dryer broke around the same time the plumbing issue happened. Fortunately, Slav was able to fix the dryer himself with some cheap replacement parts. And $4000 later (the emergency plumber/camera work + underground pipe replacement) we finally got some normality back into our lives. I have to say, this Spring has been tough. Probably because I was having high hopes for a “normal” Spring after the tough 12-month. Apparently, the difficult time is not over yet. Do not celebrate too early!

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Fortunately there was beauty in our lives too:

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My hellebores are blooming for the first time. How exciting.

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These hellebores were planted in the Fall of 2019. They did not bloom in 2020 which was a huge bummer. But this Spring, they showed me their beautiful faces:

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It will still be a few weeks before all the buds completely open. But they have already made me so happy in these cold Spring days that we had to pee behind our garden shed, along with the dogs.

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There is hope, guys!

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DIY Frame for Large Painting

Snow days are perfect for small DIY projects. Today’s showcase is a large picture frame I made for an oil painting.

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It may not look like much. But when compared to the look without the frame, I think it is a big improvement:

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We had this painting for a couple years now. Over time, we noticed that the frame slowly came out of plumb. I decided the best way of re-align the canvas without adding much more weight would be to add a strong frame around the original one.

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There are lots of tutorials online for frame making. I picked one of the simplest plan with a floating frame look:

Material list (for a 40″ ×40″ canvas):

  • Two 1″ x 2″ x 8′ red oak*
  • Scrap wood for corner reinforcement (I used a 42″ long 1″ x 4″ piece)
  • Wood stain/paint/finish desired
  • Hanging hardware

*You can use any wood species for the frame. I picked the relatively expensive red oak ($22/2 pieces after tax) for the look of its grain, with plan to stain the frame. We ended up painting the frame, so I could have used cheaper wood such as pine to get the same look.

Tools needed:

  • Miter saw (or handsaw + speed square)
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Pen or pencil
  • Wood glue
  • Nail gun and brad nails (or pocket screws if you want to get fancy)
  • Hammer or drill (for hanging the frames)

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The first step is measure and cut the frame pieces. I decided on having a small gap (1/16″ or so) between the canvas and the frame, so for 40″ canvas, I cut each side to be 40 1/8″ on the inner side. The canvas is about 3/4″ deep. For a floating look I made sure to have the 1″ side (actually 3/4″) facing up, to let the 2″ side (actually 1 1/2″) be the depth of the frame. I also chose to miter the corners for a more classic look. For simpler construction you can just butt joint the two pieces.

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To make sure the new frame is plumb I added corner pieces. Bigger/longer the corner pieces are, more sturdy the construction will be. I cut up a piece of 1″ x 4″ scape wood so each piece ended up to be around 10″ long. I also cut the ends at 45 degree so the corner pieces could sit flush against the inside of the frame.

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The corner pieces were cut with the 1″ side (true dimension 3/4″) facing the inside of the frame, allowing the 3/4″ canvas to sit flush with the surface of the frame, creating a floating look.

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Before assembling the frames I dry-fit all the pieces together on a flat surface. The whole frame was straight, square, and plumb, and I liked the gap around the canvas.

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At the last minute I decided to add a 1″x1″ piece horizontally. It added some strength, helped to keep the frame plumb, and provided more surface for the canvas to attach to the frame assembly.

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At this point I asked for Slav’s opinion on the finish of the frame. He requested dark color. So I painted the frame a shotgun black using the leftover paint from our front door.

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Even though this was among one of the smallest DIY projects, I still felt excited assembling the frame. We tacked together the frame pieces with 1 3/16″ brad nails (16-gauge or 18-gauge both worked fine) and a nail gun. You can also use just hammer and nails or pocket screws, just need to make sure to assemble on a flat surface with the front side facing down so the front of the frame is perfectly flush. We also used wood glue between the joints for added strength.

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After putting the frame together, we flipped it and attached the corner reinforcement and the horizontal brace again with glue and brad nails. We made sure that the frame and the corner pieces were on the flat floor, and pushed the corner pieces against the frame so the whole assembly came together flush.

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With both the painting and the frame face downward, we secured the canvas to the frame using 1″ brad nails from the back. This was the easiest way to ensure an even gap around the canvas. Just make sure that you clean the surface (in our case, the wood floor) really well before putting the painting face down.

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Total 10 nails (2 on each corner pieces, and two on the horizontal pieces) hold the canvas tight to the frame assembly.

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And this is how the painting looked standing up! Isn’t it nice?

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We kept the original hanging hardware and used the original screw onto which the canvas was hung before.

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I love the finished frame! The paint color on the frame is not exactly the color of the furniture underneath, but they match very well.

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Covered sides, floating look, and more importantly, straight and plumb!

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Compare to before, this art piece now looks much more finished:

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DIYing this frame piece turned out to be really straightforward, yet the finished look it delivered exceeded my expectation. I really adore this simple way of making floating frames. Now I want to make floating frame for al the paintings we have!

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