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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Functional Bathroom

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Since the completion of putting the tiles in place, we have made some big strides towards finishing the master bathroom.  The first thing we tackled was putting our shower panel in place.

You may remember that this shower panel gave us a lot of headaches with the permit inspector.  In the end, we won the battle with the inspector, so it was fine to put the panel in place.  We knew that the panel needed to hang on brackets that are screwed into the wall, so before we put the drywall up, we installed a horizontal 2 by 4 at the heights we would need to screw in the two brackets.  Now that the tile was in place, we need to drill through the tile in order to screw in the brackets.  Drilling through tiles requires a special type of drill bit.  We needed to do this in the last bathroom remodel when installing the pedestal sink. We bought the perfect size drill bit (a little wider than the screw because we learned through experience that tile does not give like wood does) and got to work.  Drilling through tile is long and tiring.  Jim did the majority of the heavy lifting while I sprayed water on the tile during the drilling (trying to recreate a wet saw type drill).  We ended up putting three brackets in place (two on the top, one on the bottom), so ensure the panel stayed in place on the wall.  We also had to hook up the hoses to the water supply and make sure there was no leaking. At first, we did this before screwing on the brackets (so we could see exactly where the brackets needed to be.  The problem was the panel had to be away from the wall while we drilled.  We came up with an apparatus to hold the panel in place.  After the first bracket, we disconnected the shower panel to screw in the rest.   The grout we used on the tile has a special grout boost that is not supposed to get wet for 10 days after installation.  Therefore in order to test the shower panel, we grabbed a bucket and a bunch of towels.  It worked!  Success!

The panel with all the knobs and body sprayers!

The panel with all the knobs and body sprayers!

Close-up of the panel!

Close-up of the panel!

Rain shower head

Rain shower head

Hand-held sprayer (we haven't screwed in the holder for it yet)

Hand-held sprayer (we haven’t screwed in the holder for it yet)

Most of the panel I could get in a picture (the space is limiting for picture-taking)

Most of the panel I could get in a picture (the space is limiting for picture-taking)

View of the shower - it just needs the glass door!

View of the shower – it just needs the glass door!

Last one!

Last one!

The next step towards a functional bathroom was installing the toilet.  We bought the same toilet we installed in the downstairs bathroom since we liked it.  Therefore, putting it together was pretty easy.  The only hiccup we encountered was that a regular size wax ring (what you put between the toilet base and waste pipe to make an air tight seal) was too short.  With the extra height of the mortar and tile, the wax ring was not sealing.  Luckily, Home Depot sells extra large wax rings which worked perfectly.  After a few easy steps, the toilet was installed and working!

Toilet all set up!

Toilet all set up!

We already had the vanity in place, but we needed a counter top.  We had decided on a vessel sink which we already had, so we had planned to get a granite counter top.  Since it was such a small space, we thought we could get a discount on the granite slab we needed.  If it was extra granite from a previous job, the company wouldn’t have much use for it.  We also believed we could install it ourselves, so all they had to do was finish one side and cut out two holes.  After going to two places and getting really high estimates, we went back to the place that did our kitchen counters (I’m not sure why Jim wanted to try the other places first since we had a good experience in the kitchen).  They gave us a granite counter top for more than half of what the other places quoted us.  We also liked the color granite better.  A few days after we ordered it, we were able to pick it up.  The literal picking up of the granite wasn’t super easy, but between Jim and me, we were able to get the granite out of the trunk of his car and up to the master bathroom.  Next came the hard part.  The available space above the vanity is 36 1/8 inches. Therefore, Jim had the granite guys cut the slab to 36 inches.  This gave us some wiggle room, but too much space that there would be a huge space between the wall and the granite.  Well…we thought it gave us some wiggle room. Turns out, an 1/8 inch doesn’t leave much room to wiggle.  The problem was that the walls were not perfectly straight, so the granite did not just slide into place.  It took a lot of effort to get the granite on top of the vanity.  The wall ended up taking a serious beating.  Every time we had to shimmy the granite one way, the wall would get ripped up a little.  The granite slab got stuck a few times, but Jim was able to dislodge it every time.  After about 30 minutes, we got the granite slab in place.  We had a counter top!!  The wall was hurting a little, but with a little TLC (spackle, sanding, and paint), it would be like new again.

The counter top on the vanity!

The counter top on the vanity!

Another view

Another view

Picture from up high!

Picture from up high!

The walls all beat up

The walls all beat up

Wall scrapped up on the other side

Wall scrapped up on the other side

Once we had a counter top, Jim was able to get to work installing the vessel sink, faucet, and sink plumbing.  It took some effort tightening the pipes under the sink to make sure there was no leaking, but overall, Jim didn’t have any problems.  The sink was now completely functional!

Installed!

Installed!

Close-up of vessel sink and facuet

Close-up of vessel sink and faucet

Trying to get a picture of the whole vanity

Trying to get a picture of the whole vanity

The sink with medicine cabinet and lights!

The sink with medicine cabinet and lights!

We are getting close to finishing the master bathroom!  Can’t wait for the final reveal!

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Front Yard Facelift Part Two!

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Since Jim and I maibe crazy, in addition to working on the master bathroom, we have also been working on the front yard.  I last wrote about our front yard facelift was back in March.  We had begun to build the retaining wall and were close to finishing.  Since the slope in our front yard is so noticeable, we weren’t really sure what to do with the retaining wall at its ending point.  We didn’t want to continue it along the side of the house since that part of the house is level and leads up to a fence.  We played with the idea of having it gradually decrease in height.  This is how we left it at the writing of the last post:

We aren't sure if we are definitely leaving the end like this, but it is the working model right now

The wall back in March

Well, we decided not to keep the wall like this. We decided to have it round its way back to the house.  That meant more trench digging and leveling of the bottom stone.  We took a long break from working on the front yard.  The weather was going back and forth from cold to warm and we were just pretty focused on the bathroom.  Finally, in May, we decided we better get moving on the front yard again.  At one point, the wall collapsed since we had not filled in dirt behind it to keep it in place.  It was only at the curve, but it meant Jim had to re-level that entire area.

While Jim worked on the trench and the retaining wall, I worked on getting up all of the grass that was in front of the old fence.  We planned to extend the plant bed out about 5 feet from the walkway, so all of that grass needed to be gone.  Also while Jim focused on the wall, I extended the plumbing pipe that pokes out of our front yard.  I am not really sure what it is for, but I notice it in front of a lot of people’s houses, so it is pretty standard.  It is probably a way for plumbers to access the pipes, but who knows.  We didn’t think it would be good to bury it under all the dirt we planned to had to the plant bed though, so we extended it.  It was ABS piping, so we had already ordered the extra pipe we needed.  I was proud of myself because not only did I attach the plumbing pipes, I used the miter saw to cut the pipe to the right size!  I’m pretty scared of saws, so Jim normally handles that end of the DIY stuff…but I did it all by myself!

New trench for the wall

New trench for the wall

Base layer of stones laid down!

Base layer of stones laid down!

All the grass up!

All the grass up!

All the grass I dug up!

All the grass I dug up!

I thought I took a close up of the pipe before we cut it, but I didn't!  You can see it in this old picture from march though. It is a black pipe sticking up from the ground under the window

I thought I took a close up of the pipe before we cut it, but I didn’t! You can see it in this old picture from march though. It is a black pipe sticking up from the ground under the window

The pipe after it was cut (Jim did that part)

The pipe after it was cut (Jim did that part)

The new extended pipe!

The new extended pipe!

Another alteration we had to make was with the one downspout that ended in our future plant bed.  Since we were trying to level out the area, tha downspout would be under all the dirt if it wasn’t raised. Luckily, Thompson Creek (our gutter guys) came out for no charge and raised up the down spout.  Jim still wanted the water to be let out farther away from the house and the plant bed, so we invested in some downspout extenders.  The plan was to have the extender go to the retaining wall and then release the water at the end of the wall.  Jim decided to cut one of the stones in half so there would be a place for the extender to go.  It worked out great.  We plan on getting a grate to cover that part of the wall, but we haven’t yet.

The little hole in the wall for the gutter extender to drain out of. This is where we will add a grate!

The little hole in the wall for the gutter extender to drain out of. This is where we will add a grate!

The next weekend, Jim had a lot of shifts at the Rescue Squad, so I decided to be productive while he was gone. We wanted to put landscape fabric on the inside of the retaining wall to help prevent soil from seeping through the cracks.  I did that and then I started to fill the plant bed with soil to help level out the area.  I didn’t end up finishing because we ended up needing 62 bags of soil in all.  I also went to a nursery that weekend to buy the shrubs we planned to install in the plant bed (we decided it with the help of our awesome friend Kate).  Once the soil was down, the plant bed was ready for the plants!

The night before the plants arrived, Jim decided to make one more alteration. The other downspout in the front of the house also led right into our plant bed. It had a bulky, cement block to help funnel the water that was just in the way of our plant bed.  Jim decided to use extenders to have the downspout empty at the end of our plant bed.  He dug a trench and then buried the downspout extender underneath it.  It really clean up that section of the plant bed.

The downspout with an extender before

The downspout with an extender before

The spout out of the way!

The spout out of the way!

You wouldn't even know it was there!

You wouldn’t even know it was there!

Memorial Day weekend, the plants were delivered. We paid to have planted and for them to put landscape fabric down beforehand (to help prevent weeds from growing).  They mulched around the plants but we decided to do most of the mulching ourselves.

Plants in place! (no mulch yet)

Plants in place! (no mulch yet)

Another view

Another view

Last shot

Last shot

This past weekend, we finished up the front yard.  Jim worked on the capstones while I mulched the plant beds.  The capstones needed to be cut at the curve so they fit nicely and also they needed to be glued down.  Jim did an awesome job.  In addition to mulching the plant bed, I also added landscape fabric and mulch to the two trees in our front yard, the bush covering an electrical box and the mailbox flower bed. I needed to weed a little bit before putting in the landscape fabric too. You may remember planting the mailbox flower bed last year. We planted lavender plants and dahlias and it was adorable.  Little did we know that lavender plants get really huge.  They also apparently need to be pruned?  Dahlias are annual plants, so we took them up with they died over the winter. In order to save a little money, I planted dahlia bulbs in April so they would grow and bloom in place.  This flower bed turned into a disaster. The lavender plants started to overtake everything.  After a little research, I decided to give the lavender plant its “early summer” pruning.  I’m not sure if I did it correctly, quite honestly, I may have killed the plants.  The dahlia plants have started to sprout and they have grown very tall but have not blossomed yet.  I think I maybe didn’t plant them deep in the ground which is why they are so tall.  The area looks a little silly.  It is definitely a work in progress.

Awesome job with the capstones

Awesome job with the capstones

Perfect cuts

Perfect cuts

The last thing we needed to do to complete the front yard facelift but to plant some annual plants around the skypencil shrub.  I decided to go with 5 marigold flowers.  I planted them around the skypencil and it looks pretty cute.

Yard work is a lot of hard work. In the end, it was completely worth it.  We love the new look of our front yard and we definitely upped the curb appeal to our house.  Now we just have to remember to water all those plants…

View of the front

View of the front

Another view

Another view

IMG_1238

Another view (no marigolds yet)

Another view (no marigolds yet)

The mulch and capstones in place!

The mulch and capstones in place!

A different view

A different view

Trying to get good shots!

Trying to get good shots!

I just love it!

I just love it!

Cute marigolds around the skypencil!

Cute marigolds around the skypencil!

The new pipe all buried under dirt and mulch!

The new pipe all buried under dirt and mulch!

Our silly mailbox flower bed...it is a work in progress

Our silly mailbox flower bed…it is a work in progress

A little bump of mulch for our Japanese Maple

A little bump of mulch for our Japanese Maple

Weed free with mulch!

Weed free with mulch!

Here is a BEFORE picture from last summer:

Work needed to be done!

Work needed to be done!

The new and improved front yard!

The new and improved front yard!