Plumbing Part 2: Fixtures

If installing trim felt like bounding progress with every hiss of the nail gun, installing fixtures felt like victory with every turn of the wrench.

My friend Steven and I had an aggressive goal: install the toilet, tub, and sink in one night. See my notes on the pictures below to see how we did.

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Just bringing the tub from my shop into the house was glorious. And difficult: that tub isn’t light, and it had to be turned on its side to fit through the door. I am glad that I had the foresight to measure the tub to make sure it would fit through the door before finishing the outside wall. I probably would have wept if I’d missed that and had to tear wall out to get the bathtub in the room.

Interestingly, the most difficult part of making the tub work – from paint to plumbing – was installing the feet. The parts are simple enough: grooves in the bottom of the tub, a shim, and the foot. For some reason, though, it was amazingly difficult to re-attach the feet evenly.

I did discover one interesting bit of history when researching the tub before: people used to use United States Mint – coins – to level feet. From the article:

When we used to remove claw foot tubs from old buildings we would always find coins under the feet.

We did end up trying to use quarters as shims at one point, but it didn’t work very well for us. An hour of finagling did the trick, and when we finally flipped it over we were as close to level as we were going to get.

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Next up was the sink. Older wall mounted basins are tricky to install faucets on because there’s a limited amount of space between the back of the sink and the wall. Trial and error with a handful of washers gave us the right spacing for the 90º fittings, and the sink followed on the tubs heels into the bathroom.

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Fortunately, my math was good during the framing stage, and the supports I’d tied into the studs lined up perfectly for the brackets.

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As I said before, this sink is really, really heavy. The thin cast iron wall brackets provided good support, but I didn’t like the thought of hundreds of pounds of metal crashing on to my bare feet. Wandering at Home Depot led me to some wonderful prefabricated brackets that matched the dimensions for my sink perfectly. The icing on the cake? They were already white, so installation was as easy as placing them and driving screws  into the wall.

Once the brackets were in, we finished installing the drainage for the sink. The chrome p-trap looks marvelous against the black underside of the sink.

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Steven’s advice on the type of faucet to purchase was much appreciated: buy one that you can service from the front, because you don’t want to have to unmount your sink from the wall to do routine maintenance. We heeded his instruction and purchased an industrial grade foodservice fixture from T&S Brass. Not only is it built like a thank, but their factory is about 20 miles from where we live, so parts and service will be easily accessible.

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Installing the actual pipes for the tub supply and drain wasn’t too bad. Drilling through the tile, on the other hand, was a bit nerve-racking. All-in-all the process was fairly smooth, and we were thrilled with the shiny sharpness of the chrome.

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Over time, cast iron will tend to crack ceramic tile if there is direct contact between the two. I bought porcelain ‘tub coasters’ to avoid this. With a few creative items under two of the feet, we made up the last bit of difference in leveling, and the installation was complete.

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Running water in the bathtub was euphoric. We’d come a long way since the beginning of our journey.

Moving from unfinished seams to clean lines with trim felt great, but moving from an empty room to fixtures with running water made the light at the end of the tunnel real.

Attention to Detail: Trim

It has been exactly 90 days since the last update, and for good reason. March, the month before our April 7 wedding, was perhaps the busiest time of my life to date. Between frantically finishing the bathroom, wrapping up wedding details, and moving my wife’s entire life into our home, items an endless to-do list competed for our attention every minute of every day. 

The good news is that the bathroom is finished (it’s gorgeous), and I’m married (to a phenomenal woman, also gorgeous). 

Now, to pick up where we left off.

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After the tile was grouted and the grout cured, I cleared ample space around the mitre saw in my shop to get ready for trim work. Overall, the process wasn’t bad, just slow. I’m not an amazing carpenter, but I’m not bad either. That generally means I measure twice, cut a little long for safety, mark the difference with a pencil and cut again.

Doing trim gave me a second wind in the project because the progress was so visible. Up until this point, I felt as though most phases were characterized by long bouts of labor with minimal visible results. Working on the same thing and feeling like you’re not moving that far forward is discouraging. Trim, though, makes an immediate difference, event when it’s not painted. Every time you tack a new piece in, the room looks a little cleaner and a little more complete.

I was really pleased with the results – the lines turned out really clean. I did learn that caulk is a wonderful friend in an old house: crooked walls and straight cuts are hard to make up, and a few awkward spots required extra finish work. White trim, white walls, and white caulk made my work look really good, maybe better than my actual ability. I can’t imagine how much time and skill would take to install stained wood trim with perfect joints.

For a bit of detail on the actual trim, see my comments on several of the pictures.

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If the wall looks slightly curved, that’s because it is.

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I decided to track down the same traditional ‘picture molding’ that is in several other rooms of my house. While it may not have been characteristic of the period to have the molding in the bathroom, I think it really added to the overall look and feel. To be honest, though, the best part is that the ceiling line is so crooked from the bent joists (remember this?) that normal crown would have been an absolute nightmare to hang. Win-win.

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2012-02-29 Bathroom trim 09

I believe that when they built this house in the late 40s, it was much easier to mill two separate pieces of wood for base molding: the base board and the top cap (the rounded decorated bit at the top). Luckily, Home Depot sells these components – made out of composite materials instead of wood – and they look really darn close to the original stuff.

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Looking good!

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So fresh and so clean-clean.

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Whoa, this picture looks greenish-yellowy. Must have been late.

I salvaged the casing and the jamb from the original bathroom door so that the entrance would look identical to all of the others in the house.

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Trimming out the window was fun, but time consuming – learning as you go means that you have to be extra-careful.

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Because this is a new window retro-fitted into the original opening, a standard stool (the flat part) wasn’t going to work. I made measurements and worked with my carpenter friend to trim and route a custom piece. (It still feels good whenever I set something on it, knowing I formed it out of raw wood.)

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The trim doesn’t look great with only one coat of primer on, but I thought I’d include this to show some of the more time-consuming detail work. The end-caps for the piece of trim under the stool are really hard to get right, and if the corner doesn’t look really clean, it’s extremely noticeable. The final product looks a lot better than this picture with a little sanding and paint, but I was really happy with the precision.

Checkered Floors: Tile

The final coats of paint on the ceiling and bead board were just dry when Ben and I started in on the tile this past Thursday. As usual, Ben showed me the ropes and we moved very quickly laying the new floor.

Other than running out of thin set and prolonging the project to two days instead of one, everything went incredibly smoothly. We were shocked by how little tile we had leftover – literally any less wouldn”t have been enough. Also, it just so happened that waste from cutting the 12×12 sheets on one end of the room fit perfectly to make up space on another wall. In Ben”s words, “This just doesn”t happen. Ridiculous.” Once the mortar cures, I”ll grout, and then the real fun begins.

The best part of the process was seeing Julie light up when online casino she saw the tile.

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The master, showing me how to lay out the room.

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Yours truly, learning on the job. Tile isn”t so difficult, but I highly recommend recruiting someone who can show you which mistakes to avoid.

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Straighter lines than I expected.

Walls of White: Bead Board, Ceiling, and Window

Progress is a funny thing. Everything we accomplished up to finishing sheetrock was great, but much of the time it didn”t feel like leaps and bounds were being made. It felt more like we were pouring hours and hours into the same-looking construction zone.

Putting bead board up, finishing the ceiling, and replacing the window changed everything. Each hour of labor made the worksite look more like a finished water closet.

The 7 days between hanging drywall and having finished walls and ceiling were quite a blur of work, and fairly taxing on my sleep schedule. We”re cooking with gas now, though, and next up is tile.

Extra-special thanks are due to Eric Whitlock for helping hang breadboard on the three largest walls (and letting me borrow his nail-set), my dad for tackling the seam in the ceiling with the first two rounds of mud (and doing a mighty fine job that, with some careful sanding and feathering, made for a near-perfect finish), and my brother-in-law Ben, for his ever-perfect measurements.

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I found this Porter-Cable 150psi buy viagra online compressor (and hose) at a roadside garage sale for $40, just days before we were going to hang bead board. I had heard my dad constantly complain about his cheap, stubborn, and inconsistent compressor, so I gave the find to him as a gift. Of course, he let me borrow it for my project.

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First sheet up. Starting to look like a bathroom.

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Man or giant? Whitlock nail setting the first seam.

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The finished room. Looking good!

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Ceiling mudded and sanded.

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My beautiful (and hard-working) fiancée, rolling on the first swaths of paint.

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Old window removed. God provided us a summer-esque evening to work in.

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Making a giant hole in the side of your house is a strange feeling. Also, windows are far easier to replace than you”d think.

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A new window was worth not having to re-glaze this fossil.

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So fresh and so…good at actually keeping heat and cool inside the house.

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The new window and the finished walls.

The Green Room: Walls of Sheetrock

If I could pick one person to hang drywall with, it would be my brother-in-law Ben Stoner. Not only can he add and subtract fractions in his head with deftness, he”s a master of the tape measure and can think 3 steps ahead when making cuts. I”d actually cut my teeth on hanging sheetrock with him when I helped him finish off the attic space in a house not too far from my own. More than anything, though, we can communicate on the same page, and that makes the entire process much, much more smooth.

As if the week hadn”t been long enough, Ben”s availability meant that we started hanging the ceiling late Saturday afternoon. We were on quite a roll despite having to fabricate a few custom ceiling supports where a seam didn”t line up on a joist.

We were making such good time, in fact, that we decided to go ahead and start hanging walls. We charged forward with a tape measure, jab saw, and sheetrock knife, and we were able to finish hanging the three main walls. We worked for hours straight, and it was after midnight by the time we made our way out the door.

And this is the part where my exhaustion rears it”s ugly head. The next morning, as I was lying in bed thinking through the next steps and which materials were left, I sensed a slowly sinking realization that there were several rolls of unopened insulation in my shop. Insulation that was meant for the walls. Whoops.

When I told Ben, we both had a good laugh and kicked ourselves for such an obvious fluke.

Overall, the repercussions were minimal – my dad and I pulled the walls down, installed insulation, and had the walls back up in short order.

Next up: bead board.

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There”s no teacher like a good mistake, and my dad had the biggest laugh of all. “Now casino online that”s a good story to tell.”

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Three walls re-installed.

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The finished product. The joists on the lefthand side of the room weren”t exactly square, so getting the sheet up required a few additional screws around the light fixture. Thank goodness for drywall mud.

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We”re waiting to put the walls on the outside until we have a working bathroom. Finish work at night will be much easier when I can actually take up residence in the house again.

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Wired: The Electrical

Friday night I was exhausted: we went from a fully functional bathroom the previous Saturday to a demolished, cleaned, plumbed, sub floored, and framed room in only a handful of days. I was up early again on Saturday, though, to meet one of the nicest guys I’ve had the privilege of knowing. Caleb is the husband of one of Julie’s good friends, and he just so happens to be a sharp electrician.

We met at the house before the world was awake, sipped good coffee, fired up a healthy dose of California rock’n’roll, and re-wired the entire bathroom by the time the neighbors were starting their days. A heartfelt thanks to him for offering his early weekend morning to help us out.

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2012-02-11 Bathroom electrical 03

Remnants of the old wiring.

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Dear bathroom: meet your new friend, the fan. I think you’ll get along swimmingly.

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If you look at the back joist (the ‘lower’ one in the picture) as compared to the top, there’s quite a difference in straightness, and it’s not due to the camera lens. (This actually caused a bit of an issue when hanging drywall in the ceiling, but we’ll cover that later.)

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2012-02-11 Bathroom electrical 09

This doesn’t have to do with wiring, but if you look at the joists, you can see shims that I ripped and attached between the top plate of the new wall and the old plaster portion of the ceiling. Drywall is thinner than plaster, and making up the difference is necessary in order to avoid obvious seams or lines on the finished surface. In theory, of course.

Framed: The New Wall

After the plumbing was finished last Monday, my dad and I took to the lumber and framed in the new wall. We gained 12 square feet, which sounds small, but makes a big difference relative to the original footprint.

We were able to get the sticks up in one night, and I spend the next two nights problem solving boxes for medicine cabinets, tie-ins for a shelf, and supports for the wall-hung sink. By Friday night, we had ourselves a completely framed-in room.

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Old trusty. Wondering what the metal grating is? That’s the heater. For the entire house.

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If you look at the right side of the photo, you’ll see the dining room door that we are closing off.

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The finished wall.

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Boxing in the medicine cabinets.

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Victory. It was a long week.

Supply and Waste: Plumbing

The dust from broken plaster finally settled and a quick clean-up made the way for water and drainage. My gracious friend Steven (with whom I used to plumb) came over the day after demolition and we roughed-in the supply and waste in one evening.

In order to place and cut the opening for the toilet flange, we installed the first piece of subfloor as well. Seeing the space make progress back towards being an actual room in 36 hours gave us a great sense of accomplishment, and inspiration to keep pushing forward.

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Working quickly can mean leaving quite a trail of mess.

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Steven preparing the opening for the new vent.

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Sink drain (right side of the photo) and the first piece of subfloor.

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Hot, cold, and copper stub-outs.

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New veins below.

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Gnarled old supply lines.


The last 5 days have been quite a blitzkrieg of work. We started demolition on Saturday afternoon and had the entire footprint completely gutted in 24 hours. (For the record, I also taught children’s church on Sunday morning. After the long night of work I didn’t understand anything I said to the kids, and I don’t think they did either.)

A special thanks to Vicky and Matt Hammond for letting us borrow amazing tools of destruction, crushing through plaster, and helping us make quick work of the old cast iron tub with a sledge hammer. Interestingly, “The Hammer” happens to be Matt’s nickname at his job, but we’ll let him tell you that story.

Here are a few pictures of the demolition process. Re-construction is underway, and updates are coming soon.

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We plan to re-use this same door jamb, so we were careful when prying it out.

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It was time.

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We found several layers of beautiful linoleum. Ahem.

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One slight tug on the channel locks and the drain crumbled like a hollywood marriage.

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Still looks small.

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With a bit of careful prying, the existing tile came loose in clean, carry-able sheets.

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My beautiful fiancé showing no mercy.

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2012-02-04 Bathroom demolition 29

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From the left: The Hammer, Vicky, Julie

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Cleaning up.

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Cute with a crowbar.

The Bathroom: Before

Here are pictures of the bathroom before the storm.

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I removed casing from the window to take measurements for a new one.

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An extra couple of feet will make a big difference, but it”s still going to be a tiny bathroom.

online casino ericdodds, on Flickr”>2012-01-29 Bathroom remodel before 07

This is the original 1949 cast iron sink.

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No moisture issues here…

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Looks like a pretty bad spot. How bad?

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You can see through to the crawl space when the lights below are on. Yikes.

Next up: demolition.