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

Category: Small Upgrade Page 1 of 4

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.

 

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!

Home Stay+ Bath Door Refinish

Today marks the start of home stay week 3. It is frustrating to watch the world to get sicker each day, while doing nothing is actually my best way to help. I wonder how I’d feel about this time when it passes, like ten years from now. But for now, the uncertainty gets the upper hand sometimes.

To keep my mind occupied, and more importantly, to make myself feeling useful, I turned to DIY. Tangible, tedious, fulfilling, and therapeutic. I’ve organized the garage and built cedar planters for the patio. This week, I refinished our master bathroom door.

The second-hand bath door

Our master room has two doorways, and this is the door we mounted between the media room and the bath.

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I do not think Charlie digs the concept of glass door at all.

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We got this door second-hand from Resource Central’s resale store. It is made from solid wood and double-paneled glass. It is super heavy.

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From distance the door looked pretty nice. But when you looked it closely, its color read rather yellow and it had screw holes from hanging blinds.

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We’d like to re-stain it to espresso to match other doors in the basement.

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First step: Sand

The first step of finishing any wood product is to sand off the old finish down to bare wood. We moved it into the garage and I started by covering the glass with plastic drape.

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02 before

I usually use random orbital sander on large surfaces, but for the rather narrow door frames I chose my small 3M hand sander. I only had 80, 120 and 220 grit sandpapers on hand so I started with 80 grit.

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The wood is fairly soft. A few passes with 80 grit sandpaper took the finish right off.

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The dimension of the door was written on the side of the door:

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Came right off with the 80 grit sandpaper.

06 side after 80

Before sanding:

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After 80 grit:

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It took just 5 mins on each side.

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To sand the inside trim I took the 80 grits sandpaper off the sander and held it with my hands:

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Trim before sanding:

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After 80 grits:

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After vacuuming the sand dust away, I proceeded with 120 grit sandpaper.

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And finished everything off with 220 grits sandpaper:

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Step 2: Clean and patch (then sand again)

By this point the door frame was very smooth. I cleaned off the sand dust with a damp microfiber cloth:

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Then patched the staple and screw holes with wood putty:

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After a light sanding where the putty had been applied, the door was ready for the stain!

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Step 3: Stain!

For the stain I picked Varathane in espresso color. I recently read about shellac as a wood finish and decided to give it a try.

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Rubbing on the first coat of stain. I immediately liked the color of the stain and how easy it was applied.

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You can see how much the espresso color of stain darkened the wood. It looked warm, but did not read red or yellow. I am very happy with this color.

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After letting the first coat of stain dry for a couple hours, I applied the second coat. I do not think the second coat darkened the wood much more, but rather filled in the raw spots and enriched the color. It added more weight to the appearance.

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This was how the color looked like in bright sun light after the second coat had dried. With cooler and dimmer lighting, it read a lot darker. I think it would match the other two doors really well.

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Final step: Seal and protect

After the stain dried I applied the shellac. It is pretty thick – kinda a maple syrup consistency, and dries very fast. I had to work very fast to make sure each layer was thin.

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Can you tell that it added a lot more shine to the wood? It was very pretty in person with just the first coat!

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I applied three thin layers in total, with one hour of drying time in between.

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After the last layer had applied I let the door sit. It takes time for the solvent (ethanol in this case) to evaporate completely and the shellac to harden. We have not mounted it yet. But I like the finish! Do you?

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