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!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Guest Bathroom - Part 7

Plodding along, I am.

Work on the guest bathroom is now done for the time being, to be continued late this year.  The bathtub is next, when work continues.

This is one of those posts that goes into the details that are important if you're actually planning to do something like this.  If you're looking at this post for general interest, I would advise to just click through the pictures and go back later if you decide you want to know how exactly the process was done.  Just saying.  

In Part 6 I completed work on the woodworking phase of the vanity top construction.  The next step was to apply an epoxy finish to the cherry and rosewood to make them waterproof.   The first coat is always rough, because the epoxy soaks in at different rates depending on the grain of the wood — so high in some spots, low in others.  I applied the epoxy with a roller, and then used a foam brush dragged lightly along the surface to level it out and eliminate the tiny air bubbles.

After the first coat of epoxy, I used a random orbit sander to take down the high areas, and then dry sanded with a large pad to get the surface level.  After the second coat, I wet sanded with 220-grit paper.  After the third coat, I started by wet sanding with 320-grit paper, and continued through 2000-grit paper, and then went on to rubbing compound and finished off with furniture paste wax.

I had applied four coats of epoxy to the kitchen countertop, which sees a lot of use every day.  The guest bathroom countertop will rarely get used, so I judged three coats to be sufficient.  In my remodel/renovation work, I am not aiming for cosmetic perfection, because there is so much work to be done, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life on the house.  So much fun stuff waiting! (and waiting)

So this is what the "finished" vanity top looks like:

Down below the top, there was plumbing to connect.  Although it would be rarely used, the vanity was not intended to be a museum piece.  It needed to be functional, which meant water in and water out.  Down below were the connections for the water supply lines and the drain.  Starting with this:

And ending with this:

Back above, a mirror was needed — bought from my local glass store.  I would frame it with cherry molding — a simple rectangle section with one edge beveled.  The mirror would run from wall to wall, and from the top of the backsplash to the ceiling.  I found the right side was straight and square to the top of the backsplash, so I glued the molding to the drywall behind on those two sides (using plain wood glue).  Gravity clamps worked well.

I did not attempt to attach all four sides of molding first, and then install the mirror, fearing that a slight discrepancy in the left or top wall measurements (they were not precisely straight), would mean the mirror would not fit.  Easier to trim the molding afterwards if it did not fit — before I glued it in place.  Sigh.

The right side molding went up using a single finish nail to hold it in place while the glue dried.  I used mirror mastic (applied with a caulking gun) to attach the mirror against the back wall.  Once the mirror was attached in place, I added the molding on the left and top, and filled the small irregular gaps with caulk.

All worked well.

Then lighting for the vanity.  An experiment.  I had bought a strip of LEDs that I planned to run around the sides and top of the mirror.  The self-adhesive strip had peal-off paper backing, so I could stick it up anywhere.  But where?  I considered a number of alternatives, and then picked one.  No idea if it was better or worse than the others.  I could have just stuck it to the wall, but I elected to install a triangular section molding a few inches (9 cm) in front of the mirror, and then stick the LED strip to the back of that.

I made the molding from cherry, but it was too prominent, and accentuated by its reflection in the mirror, so I decided to paint it the same off-white as the wall, hoping it would blend in.

The LED strip itself came in a roll and looked like this:

The LEDs needed a nominal 12-volt direct-current power supply.  I searched through my collection of old plug-in power supplies (wall warts), but found no 12-volt DC examples.  I did have a 9-volt one, which I knew would work, although giving less brightness.

Previously, I had wired an electrical receptacle underneath the vanity, controlled by a switch next to the vanity — for the very purpose of operating an LED light strip.  Which is also why I put that pink nylon string through the wall before I closed it up.  Now I taped the output wire from the wall wart and pulled it through to the base of the LED molding.  Then soldered the wires together and applied heat shrink insulation over the bare solder joint.

Underneath, the wall wart (direct-current power supply):

This is what the LED strip looks like up close (the actual strip on the back of the molding, and the reflection in the mirror):

And the whole thing:

Like I said, this lighting treatment was an experiment, and now that it's done, I think I would have done something more conventional if I had it to do over again.  On the other hand, I may decide I like it once I have had a chance to use it.

One thing about the LED strip — I assumed that the adhesive on the back of the strip was applied directly to the strip, so when I pulled off the paper backing, I expected the strip to stick firmly on the molding.  Didn't happen that way.  Actually, there was a thin strip of double-sided tape between the LED strip and the paper backing.  When I pulled the paper backing off, I didn't notice that the sticky tape was sticking to the paper backing (and not the LED strip).  So the LED strip did not stick well to the molding, but the paper backing was very sticky.  I discovered this halfway through the job, and separated the tape from the paper backing.  The second half of the job was good, but I'm having to go back with super-glue to stick the LED strip in place where it's pulling away.  Little things, so aggravating!

So now — putting some plants in the ground, some retaining wall work, some exterior scraping and painting.  And beginning work on the garage extension.  Clean out the garage, sell/give-away the old wide garage door, raise the old garage door header (which supports the garage roof trusses), and then order a big truck-load of wood.

I've started detailed design drawings (to scale), to determine the exact sequence of work, and to prepare a list of every single piece of wood I need to buy.  And just picked up the new garage windows today.  Will keep me busy for awhile.

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