Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.

Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.

This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.

It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Nothing major in this post, but often remodeling requires catching up on the details.  And every so often, someone throws a log in the road.  Sigh.

I finally made a list of the little things needed doing—things that kept getting put off.  Putting them on a list (that was staring at me every day) provided the incentive to get them done and off the list.

I had put up new lights in the workshop-to-be, and removed an inefficient heating register in the ceiling.  This left two gaping holes.  Filling them was not a difficult thing, but it was also something that did not bring a significant psychological reward.  No matter.  Done!  Ceiling paint will have to wait for the rest of the room renovation, so now the evidence of the repair is a slight difference in color where the joint compound it.

The ceilings in this house are all mildly hand textured (not the popcorn spray, but something applied with a trowel), so that means a perfectly smooth repair is not appropriate (works for me :-).  The two windows visible in the corner are going to be removed and the wall filled in; the new window will be in the center of the wall on the right, looking out over the back yard.

Now that I have installed many of the new Andersen high-efficiency double-glazed (two-pane) windows with their beefy solid frames, I really notice how awful the old windows are.  They have just one pane of glass, and flimsy aluminum frames.  When I walk in the workshop to clean the cats' litter boxes (under the two windows in the above photo), I can hear the outdoor noises like the windows were open.  If it's chilly outside, you can feel it.  Good windows really do make a big difference!

Moving on to some attic work (how I love it! not!).  I mentioned some time ago that I had planned to relocate the air return register from the hall to the new laundry room.  The furnace was originally in the garage (before someone converted the back half to a bedroom); when they moved the furnace to the attic, they left the old return register where it was and just ran a longer flexible duct, which meandered through the attic, through a partition into the garage attic, and finally over to the old register.  By relocating that register, I was able to shorten the duct by this much:

Full of dust, I might add, because the last owners never changed the thick in-furnace filter, and didn't put a filter in the register (made to hold one).

With all that excess ducting out of the way, it will be easier to run and insulate the new water supply lines.  The new short attic ducting:

And the new return air register (to the left of the new attic access hatch):

The ventilation in the attic was non-existent when I bought the house.  I very quickly installed a wind-turbine ventilator in the roof of the main section of the house, and soon after bought another identical ventilator for the garage attic.  Unfortunately, it sat in its box for about a year before I put it on my new list, even though it was a relatively easy install.  Done!

The new special-order, high-efficiency, forced-air gas water heater arrived at my local Home Depot.  I went to pick it up, and when they brought it out from the back, it was HUGE!  At least the box was.  Even with the bottom of the box cut away (with integral wooden pallet), and the front seats of my CR-V moved all the way forward, it still did not quite fit (and neither did I!).  But with the rear hatch tied down, I made it home.  Took about 90 minutes to get the six-foot unit into place—will take a lot longer to get all the connections made.  And since this is Southern California, I have started building cradles to strap it to the wall—an earthquake measure.

The other project needed before the new water lines go in is the relocation of my temporary kitchen/bathroom sink.  Right now it's in the new kitchen, but it's blocking the unfinished wall where the new water supply lines are going.  I'm moving the big sink to its permanent location in the pottery studio, which calls for the construction of a sink cabinet.

The new free-standing sink cabinet is going in an odd corner, so I first made a heavy cardboard template to use for cutting out the top and bottom of the cabinet.  I put it on saw-horses to get a feel for the size (the finished cabinet will be about 3" higher), and made adjustments.

I then used the template to build the recessed base, after tearing up the old floor tile.

Then used the template to cut out the 3/4" plywood cabinet bottom, except, oops.  The sheet of cabinet grade plywood was showing a couple of small delaminations along one edge, so I cut out my piece from the other side.  I had ordered three sheets of that plywood as part of my last delivery, and the other two sheets also had some delaminations, but I was able to salvage at least half of those other sheets.  Not this one.

Frustrating.  So I will need to take my receipts and photos and go back to Home Depot for more plywood, and drywall, and maybe some concrete backer-board for the new master bathroom.   And hoping they will give me a credit for the bad plywood.  In the meantime, I'm shifting work to the earthquake bracing for the new water heater.

And checking my list.

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