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

Category: Renovation Page 1 of 29

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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Main Floor Bath: Plumbing Progress

Happy Spring, everyone! We have been getting lots of snow in Colorado, which improved the drought conditions in the recent years. Below is a glance of last weekend’s storm:

It was pretty intense. With all the stormy weather it was hard to transport building materials home. But we managed to make significant progress in the main floor bathroom! For one, the plumbing is now complete. We even had the shower base installed:

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Allow me to update you on what happened in this room recently. In late January, after the electrical upgrade, the room looked like this:

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We’ve since added insulation into the walls, and ripped up the rotten subfloor to inspect the plumbing underneath:

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It was apparent that we should upgrade the old metal drains and vent pipes, and upgrading all the copper water lines to PEX. At the mean time, we would need to convert the old tub drain into a new shower drain, and move the toilet drain a few inches. And of course, all the water lines also need to be brought to the new fixtures.

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Given the scope of work and tools needed, we eventually decided to bring in professional help. Before the plumber could come out, we had to purchase all the fixtures and a shower base, and prepare the new subflooring for the shower base installation. The weekend before the plumbing work, Slav worked in the room for a few hours, removing the old and rotten subflooring, and framing in additional support for the new shower base.

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To better support the new subfloor and the new shower base, Slav added 2″ x 4″s along the entire perimeters of the shower base area:

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Including the space in front of the shower base, in the middle of the room:

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All these new 2″ x 4″ framing gave the new subfloor a solid perimeter to be attached onto, and this new shower base went on top:

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We picked this black base to match the tiles for rest of the bathroom floor. It also has an anti-slip texture.

coming soon

On the day our plumber came, he was about to set the drain, put down the new subfloor Slav prepared, and installed the shower base with mortar and screws in just half a day:

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He also installed the new waterlines and valve for the shower:

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Our plumber strongly recommended everything bathroom to be Delta, so we chose this shower faucet for our new shower:

Besides the shower pan and valves, the plumber also placed all the sewage pipe and installed a new toilet drain:

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The new toilet drain was pushed a few inches to the right, to make room for a 24″ vanity. The blue (cold) water line to the left and the outlet were prepared for a bidet seat. We like our bidet seat in the master bath so much, that we are installing one here over this new toilet:

Between the shower base and the toilet, there will be a new vanity.

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We picked this vanity to pair with this sink faucet:

There used to be a medicine cabinet above the vanity. Slav strongly prefers mirror to medicine cabinet. So our plan is to tile the entire wall using the same tile as those in the shower.

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Then this mirror and this vanity lighting will be installed above the vanity:

Baldwin 3-Light Dimmable Vanity Light

Now I can totally image how everything will come together – can you? From the picture below you can see the tiles we picked. The black tile will go on the rest of the floor. The big white marble-looking tiles will go around the window, cover the entire vanity/toilet wall on the right, as well as the entire bathroom/office wall on the left. We will be installing a glass shower door to separate the shower area from rest of the room. Unlike the downstairs master bath, which was kept modern and minimal, all the fixtures will lean towards a bit traditional. The goal is to make this bathroom look classic yet still clean.

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Finally, another update on our lengthy main floor bath to-do list!

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;
5. Installing a new exhaust fan;
6. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and wiring new switches;
7. Installing recessed lights and ceiling drywall;
8. Upgrading the sewage pipe for toilet and shower;
9. Purchasing a new toilet, a sink/vanity, and shower fixtures; Upgrading/installing water lines to all the fixture;
10. Pocket door framing/installation;
11. Replacing all the subflooring;
12. Walls and waterproofing;
13. Tiling!
14. Installing new window stool;
15. Priming/painting drywall and ceiling;
16. Caulking and sealing the grout;
17. Installing new glass shower door;
18. Installing toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, shower trim, and vanity mirror/lighting;
19. Installing pocket door trims, and updating the closet and front door trims at the same time;
20. Accessorizing the bathroom.

 

 

 

Main Floor Bath: Closing up the Ceiling!

Over the last weekend we went from this:

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to this!

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Before the New Year, Slav had finished wiring for recessed lights and a new fan. However, he was too busy at his day job to install the recessed lights or close up the ceiling.

After the holidays Slav picked up the project again. The goal of the weekend was to install all three recessed lights, and close the ceiling with new drywall.

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Slav started by installing the drywall around the ceiling fan. To create more place for attaching the drywall, he sistered another 2″x4″ onto the middle joist.

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Then Slav installed the recessed cans along the middle joist.

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The next step was to put up drywall around the recessed cans. The bathroom is small and the moisture resistant blue board drywall is heavy. So Slav put up the drywall in pieces.

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After securing all the ceiling drywall, Slav took a trip to the attic and removed all the plywood pieces. He then reapplied the insulation onto the bathroom ceiling. Believe or not, I could tell the difference in the climate immediately after the bathroom ceiling was closed up and insulated! The bathroom, although unheated at the time, immediately went back to almost the same temperature as the rest of main floor.

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Slav did a good job cutting the ceiling drywall around the ceiling fan and lights:

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And all the corners were aligned with very little gap between the wall framing and the new ceiling.

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We then installed temporary light bulbs and the bathroom was immediately bright. This small bath will get a vanity light down the road, but during the rest of the construction, these ceiling can lights will become the main source of lighting.

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With the ceiling closed and the climate under control, we can officially move onto the next stage of bathroom renovation: the plumbing. This will be the first time Slav does plumbing work. However, I am confident that with his self learning skills and attention to detail, he would deliver more customized and much neater result than any contractor. So please, be patient with us and cheer on!

Here is an updated to-do list in the bathroom:

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;
5. Installing a new exhaust fan;
6. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and wiring new switches;
7. Installing recessed lights and ceiling drywall;
8. Upgrading the sewage pipe for toilet and shower;
9. Purchasing a new toilet, a sink/vanity, and shower fixtures; Upgrading/installing water lines to all the fixture;
10. Pocket door framing/installation;
11. Replacing all the subflooring and closing up the walls;
12. Waterproofing (in preparation for tiling);
13. Tiling the floor, then the walls, including a shower niche;
14. Installing new window stool/trims;
15. Priming/painting untiled drywall and the ceiling;
16. Caulk all the seams and seal the grout;
17. Installing new glass shower door (hire out);
18. Installing new toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, shower fixtures, and mirror/vanity lighting;
19. Installing pocket door trims, and updating the closet and front door trims at the same time;
20. Accessorizing and enjoy!

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