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!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Master Bathroom — Part 4

This is an update on progress on the master bathroom, which has been my focus for awhile, and that will continue.  It's nice to do work you can see at the end of the day, versus work on water supply lines, electrical, and insulation in the attic that is out of sight (but very important, of course). 

When last I reported on work on the shower, I had taken a break after struggling with intractable concrete work (I thought I had been done with it!).  As you may recall, the drain piece that came with my shower pan kit had to connect with the 2" drain pipe a few inches below the surface, and needed a nominal 4" diameter hole around it for clearance (or so the instructions said).  My initial attack looked like this:

Trying to dig out the concrete with a cold chisel and hammer wasn't working, so it was back to the brute force method of cutting out a big hole with the old diamond-bladed circular saw. 

You'll note the thick dust, that, notwithstanding my best countermeasures, spread a thin coating throughout the rest of the house.  Full-face respirator required while sawing the 2" deep cuts.  Then attack with the 20-pound electric demolition hammer. 

The resulting hole was big enough to saw off the drain pipe 2.75" below the surface, using a shortened hack saw blade.  You'll note the 4" diameter sleeve in the photo above, to be placed in the hole before pouring new concrete to provide the requisite clearance around the drain pipe. 

But oh, they lied!  Four inches was not quite enough.  So attack with a router and straight-cutting bit to remove some of the white PVC sleeve.

I was now ready to install the tapered high-density plastic foam shower pan, after spreading thin-set mortar on the concrete floor (using notched trowel).  Easy-peasy.  Then after insulating the walls around the shower (to keep heat in and noise abatement), the cement backer board started going up.  Special screws used.

The ceiling doesn't get tile (just paint), so moisture-resistant (green) drywall was installed there (after more insulation).  The six 3'x5' sheets of 1/2" cement board I had went fast, so I turned to filling the walls at the other (vanity) end of the bathroom with plumbing, electrical, and insulation.

A couple of stainless steel grab rails are going in the shower, and those must be attached with long screws anchored in solid wood (no drywall inserts for that).  So that reinforcement was added before the cement board went up, and yes, it will be nice to remember where that is after the tile is all on, so I measured, wrote the measurements on the wood, and took photos.  Documentation.

So this is what the shower looks like now.  You can see the shower drain part that will be mortared and glued into the drain pipe.  You can also see sitting on the floor the plastic curb that will be mortared to the floor at the front of the shower pan (it has to be shortened a wee bit first). 

At the left of the photo, the side wall has been covered with drywall; it has a lot of screws in it covered with smudges of joint compound.  That's because it is not screwed to a solid stud wall, but rather to a pocket door frame—somewhat flimsy in a wall that's just 4.5" thick with room for a door inside.  So on both sides of that pocket door frame, I've screwed 3/4" plywood to the back of the drywall.  That stiffens the wall a lot, and on the bathroom side, will allow me to screw towel racks into something solid.  No drywall inserts here either. 

This next photo is of the other end of the bathroom—the vanity end, the outside wall end, the window end.  The drywall is up and painted.  I did this early so I could install receptacles and switches in the electrical boxes, so I could use them during the construction. 

I also painted the ceiling, so I could finish the heating/cooling register (new duct installed in the attic), and the two recessed lights (no trim rings yet).  I'm going to put up crown molding in the bathroom (nowhere else), just for fun.  The two lights are on dimmers; one also motion controlled.

The fourth wall still needs a mess of plumbing; I placed an order from SupplyHouse.com today to do that—that's where I get all my PEX materials.  Home Depot sells some PEX stuff, but it's for the crimp connection method, and I use the expander method, which requires special PEX-a tubing and ProPEX fittings.  

 I also bought more cement backer board today, so I can finish covering the shower area.  I need to go shopping and make some decisions about tile details.  Cement board will also go on the bottom half of the wall in the photo above (after plumbing is done), where tile will go.  Paint and regular drywall goes on the top half. 

The heavy base for the vanity cabinet goes in soon, and I may just build that cabinet while I'm at it, since I have the plywood on hand.  We'll see. . .

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Master Bedroom — Part 1

I’m now working on the new master bedroom, master bathroom, and new water supply system (mostly in the attic), all concurrently.  For the sake of clarity, I’m going to do separate posts on each of those over the next few months (more than one post each).  Since I’m starting to focus mostly on the bathroom and water supply lines, this post will be about work to date on the bedroom, and the complications associated with its expansion.

The master bedroom that came with the house, as you may recall, is now the home theater.  I’m turning one of the other smaller bedrooms (12’ x 9’) into the new master bedroom, by connecting the original adjacent communal bathroom directly with the new master bedroom (with a pocket door), and by moving one of the bedroom’s walls by two feet (into the garage), making the bedroom large enough to accommodate my California queen size waterbed (longer than a standard queen).  The expanded bedroom will be 12’ deep by 11’ wide. 

Here is the original floorplan, and the new plan:

Working on the new bedroom, and considering the incursion into the garage, I had to make some decisions (now) about the future of the garage.  Here is a photo of the area in the garage that will be annexed by the bedroom.  Note the old water heater that will be removed when the new water heater takes over (the wall therefore can’t be relocated until the new water system is done).  When I said I planned to take over two feet of space, that is actually between 20” and 25”, depending on how I deal with the constraints, and when. 

I could move the wall 20” as soon as the water heater is gone.  I could move the wall 22” if I also add some structure in the attic and move the bracket that holds up the back of the garage door rail.  To gain more than 22” width in the bedroom, I would need to move the garage door railing; in other words, move the garage door.  That is not practical, of course, if the garage stays fundamentally the same. 

The garage was originally much deeper.  One of the earlier owners added a four-inch concrete slab to the back of the garage, and a partition wall, to gain another bedroom (my workshop/music room-to-be).  (The previous owner actually put down carpeting in the front of the garage and was using that as yet another bedroom.)  But as a result, my Honda CR-V will only fit in the garage if the rear bumper is touching the back wall, and then the garage door will just barely close.  Not a good situation, as I need to open the garage door to gain access to the other side of the garage. 

So I had been considering adding to the front of the garage, but thought I could deal with that at some point in the future (thinking I may buy a Tesla Model 3 electric car in 2018, and not yet knowing whether that EV will be longer than the CR-V).  As the short garage bay in any case is a constant aggravation, I have made the decision to add six feet to the front of the garage, and to replace the wide 2-car door with a 9’-wide one-car door, and a window.  I could then move the wall 25".  The plan above reflects the addition on the front of the garage. 

Timing is still up in the air.  To go wider than a 22” bedroom expansion requires that I do the garage addition before the bedroom expansion.  Or I can do 20” or 22” soon and the garage addition later.  Still thinking, but no decision required before the bathroom and new water system are done.    

Back to the bedroom work already accomplished. 

I had mentioned that I removed the short partition wall, started here:

This shows the scars left from that operation.

This next photo shows the result after patching, and adding a new light switch and receptacle, and paint.  I also patched the ceiling where the ceiling fan had been, and added three recessed lights (each with a 10.5 watt LED flood light—very bright; I will need to add a dimmer before moving in the bedroom). 

The north wall of the bedroom also needs work, a complete restructuring to remove the old single-glazed sliding window, and add two high-efficiency Andersen casement windows.  The next two photos show the wall before and after removing the drywall.

No more immediate work on that wall until we get a bit of warmer weather (which could be mid-January; never know around here), because the wall must be removed and a new one built, leaving a very large hole in the house for a day.

Next post will be about the master bathroom; I’ve installed the pre-fab shower pan and will start putting cement backerboard up on the shower walls.