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Our House,Year Two: Weeks 30-31 – Our guest bath sorta takes shape.

20 Nov

Um so yeah I’ve fallen behind on the updates again (2 months!!) and there’s actually NO real reason other than I’ve been at this for over TWO years now and I think I’m tired! But a lot has happened in the house….we are so close to being done I can almost taste it  and its driving us crazy as I think we are both just fed up with living in constant chaos!

Anyway  enough of the moaning where were we…ahh yes I last left you at the guest bathroom…

The shower in here had been ripped out about 4 months ago  when we were remodelling the family room as we needed to break into the walls to put in a beam. This made having guests in the house a slight logistical challenge as there were 4 adults and 2 kids using one bathroom to shower! And so this room became pretty important quite quickly! Once the walls had been sealed and the shower pan made watertight we were ready to begin the tiling phase.

This is our only full size bathroom downstairs and as its now a windowless room we decided to keep it clean and simple and chose a mostly all white color scheme. We picked white subway tiles  for the walls to give it that classic finish and then a small mosaic for the floor to add in texture.

Guest bath floor mosaic tiles

The white subways went up first and already I was excited. Our tiler (who we nicknamed George Michael due to his uncanny likeness!!) was working so fast it was amazing to watch. He had the whole back wall done in no time.

Speedy Subways!

But then…… DISASTER.  We’ve actually been pretty lucky in that we havent made too many boo boos until now however we/I decided (having been inspired by this picture on Pinterest) that we should run the floor tiles vertically and not horizontally.

(I know stop me RIGHT NOW)

Dark Grout & Wiggly wall lines = tiling mistake no 1.


Why? Well our walls aren’t straight  ( yeah old house etc..) so the tile lines weave in and out against the wall and it looks messy. To make it worse I chose to highlight the lines with a dark grout  (again more Pinterest inspiration) so its even more obvious that they aren’t straight. Wahhhhhhhh

I must iterate at this time that our tiler totally  suggested we run them horizontally and was completely confused  by our request to do them vertically and we insisted. He did his best but in the end we messed up!

Note to self – just because it’s on Pinterest doesn’t make it ok!!!

Spot the tiling error…….

And now there’s nothing we can do about it… and we hate it. Like “I couldn’t sleep that night due to thinking about it”  kind of hate it.

I’ll be totally honest – we came very close to ripping up the floor and starting all over again but our budget just doesn’t allow for that kind of extravagance right now. So after a few deep breaths and a resigned “it’s not that bad” we have decided to live with it and move on. Ya win some ya lose some.

And so David installed the toilet just before he had to head back to the UK and  Jon fitted the shower pieces.

Jon “testing” out the new guest bath…

See you can sit on the toilet and almost shower at the same time..genius!  Actually there’s a big old piece of glass to go in there but not yet  because ya know that costs over $1k and it’s almost Christmas. I don’t imagine  a giant piece of glass going over well with the kids as their gifts!

Also we are missing a vanity (which is embroiled in the kitchen drama), lighting and a mirror but hey its progress and we are proud of it!!!!

Up next….the Kitchen.


Our House,Year Two: Weeks 30-31

3 Oct

It was time to tackle the guest bath. This was not a job we were looking forward to as it was an original bathroom from the old house which meant all kinds of renovation gremlins were no doubt hiding in wait for us.  So far we have just closed the door on it and focused on other things, we ripped out the old bathroom fittings a good 3 months ago and have basically ignored it since.

Well the time has come to face the music, we need to get this bath done asap and the starting point for this is putting down a new sub-floor and  getting updated plumbing in place.

Out with the old…

David ripped up the old flooring and gave the underneath a good clean out and then proceeded to renew the plumbing. The pipes (and drains) were old screwed iron ones and we needed to swap them out for code compliant plastic ones! We used shark bite fittings to do this job which made it a lot quicker as they have a push to fit solution on them…according to the man in the know this has revolutionized this task!

Can you spot him hiding in the picture above..if not here’s another great angle..

Hello Grandad!

It’s not pretty down under the house that’s for sure. We havent had the spare cash to do a full foam seal on the crawl space yet (something I would love to do for energy efficiency reasons) so there’s still gaps and all kinds of nasties down there! Also we found once looking around that some of the wood was rotten so a couple of bits of that needed swapping out too.

With the plumbing all finished we were able to lay down the sub-floor and start the waterproofing process. This was the exact same process we had done on the upstairs bath so I wont bore you with pictures again but if you really want to know you can see that here.

Whilst David was busying himself crawling around under our house Jon was putting up closets! We had decided to outfit the guest bedroom and office closets with Elfa storage systems from the Container Store. They were doing a cheeky 20% off so it was the perfect time to  jump on this project. I laid out a basic design online and then took it into the store for refining. If you are ever planning a closet/storage space then I highly recommend doing it this way as  the folks in store can get you exactly what you want that messing around online couldn’t.

This is where the guest closet netted out:

Guest closet design

We chose to have more hanging space in here for clothes as our families visit the most and are often here for extended periods of time and so need to be able to hang  lots of clothes, along with some space for shoes & folded items.

And this is what we did for the office.

Office closet design

The office space , whilst also being an additional guest overflow room, is more for us to store things in – like winter jackets and big boxes so we had less hanging space here and more shelves. We also added in an additional vertical bar for extra strength on the closet – given the use case for it.

And here’s Jon putting them up. He got them both done within  a couple of hours which was amazing. Its pretty straight forward  but you must follow the Elfa directions to the letter, use their screws & don’t try to freestyle then you wont have any issues!

Installing the Elfa system.

Our parents were pretty stoked with this development especially as they could now get their clothes off the floor!!! It hasn’t quite affected our storage situation in the house yet, I still have a giant pile of crap in the front room but it’s slowly getting smaller!

One other small but  definitely on the list of things to do was tiling inside the fireplace. We  had picked up some great dark grey tiles at Heath Ceramics for this and it was just a matter of taking the time to put them in. To complicate things Jon and I decided we wanted them to be done in a herringbone pattern.  So David and Jon laid them out on a board and then cut everything to fit perfectly inside the space and then began  putting them on.

Tiling a fireplace.

This looks so good and I am pleased with the way the pattern is coming out and the contrast between the light of the breast and the dark of the tiles.  This is quite possibly the most annoying job in the world ever but it’s about to get even worse – we have to get the sides done next!!!!

Coming in the next update – a tile-a-thon…..

Our House, Year Two: Weeks 27-29

26 Sep

To say I am behind in these updates is somewhat of an understatement. I’m not quite sure how I let 6 or is it 8 weeks slip by without even mentioning the house progress once but hey it happened! You’d be quite justified in thinking that we’d given up renovating and were happy to just live in our half-finished abode…whilst that feels like it might be true we are plodding along getting on with the kind of jobs that don’t feel like you are making much progress  but in actual fact they are readying you for  a big thing to happen… like tiling the master bathroom.

Previously the master bath was a semi-drywalled shell. I don’t think I’ve even mentioned it for months because nothing has happened with it. It has basically been waiting for us to make a decision on tiling and boy has it been tough. I’m not joking when I say that I have been to the tile showroom 10 times, and come out with a new idea or a “definite” plan each time. The woman in the showroom is about ready to kill me and in the end I will have only ordered a few of the total tiles we need from them. However I like to think I’m not all that bad as I do always return my samples !!!

Whilst I was driving the lovely folks at Ceramic Tile Design crazy, Jon pressed on with getting us to that point where we even needed them. The shower pan had to be formed with concrete and waterproofing. Here’s what that process looks like….

Prepping the shower pan

It takes 3 layers to ensure that  a shower has proper drainage in place. First up they lay down the tar paper barrier over the sub-floor. Then they added in the galvanised wire mesh which when combined with the mortar (concrete) gives you a solid surface for tile installation.

Then it was time to concrete the pan. For this we just made a home mix, it was on the drier side so we could manipulate it easily. Jon spread it carefully across the pan working hard to get a smooth and even finish.

Spreading the concrete in the shower pan

He used a trowel to apply the concrete and get it semi even  and then he smoothed it off using a flat bit of wood. I don’t think Jon has ever done concrete work on a shower pan before so I was very impressed with his technique.

The ultimate concrete smoothing tool.

Once the concrete was dry we moved onto the next layer which is a CPE waterproof barrier. This will provide us with a watertight surface for the shower pan. And then we added in one more mesh & mortar layer and then once dry you can tile on it!!!

We also had to build in the curb for the shower. This was done using a product called Kirb Perfect which made it super easy to create our curb and then mortar over the edges and leave it to set. It has a waterproof barrier underneath it already.

Its waterproof you know!


With the shower pan already to go it was inspection time yet again. We had to fill up the pan and let the water sit there and show that it was watertight in order to pass the inspection. It was a tad nerve-wracking to say the least but we passed with flying colors and that means we can move on and that our home done shower pan works! Technically we could shower in it as it is but I think we can wait!!!

Whilst Jon and David were working furiously in the master bath we had Felix back to finish off the floors in the front of the house.

Front room mid Varnish

The shine he gets on the floor is amazing He uses a Bona varnish that is rated for use in sports courts. We pay a little more for this extra hard wearing finish but with two small boys I can definitely say its worth it. The Bona stuff is also low VOC which is great – it still smells a bit but not enough that you would have to move out of the house for a day or two. Luckily between this area and our bedrooms is a lot of open air space and it was still warm so we all slept with windows open!

The finished front room.

The front room looks amazing all stained – so shiny and new. I’d love to say that it stayed looking like this but about 10 seconds after I took this picture we had to move all our crap into this space to clear out for the kitchen going in. The new floors are covered with white dust. I feel bad for Felix after all his hard work getting them so perfect and one day soon I promise that I will bring it back to this kind of shape.

Up next – the guest bath which needs a WHOLE lotta love.

Our Hour Year Two: Weeks 25 & 26

6 Aug

This week we had guests, good friends of Jon’s from his college days and their two teenage daughters. Yes these were people who were actually crazy enough to come and stay in the chaos that we continue to live in. How did that impact us? Well it meant that suddenly we had to find room for an additional 4 people to sleep!!

The delay in the extra flooring coming meant that the front of the house wasn’t ready to be sanded and stained  like we had planned so Felix decided to work on the back and we put the guests up in the front to stay. It wasnt pretty. We have no blinds, and only  1 bed. No doors and no bathroom downstairs.

The blank canvas

Yes this doesn’t exactly say “welcome” but thankfully our guests were fine with the situation and we adapted with airbeds and moving some rugs around. We did push it tho when they were informed that the bathroom downstairs was off-limits and you couldn’t get upstairs to the bathroom UNLESS you were prepared to climb a ladder. Ever hiked up a ladder when desperate for the loo? I didn’t think so!! Thankfully this was only for a 24 hour period whilst the floor was drying and it passed before we knew it.

The floors looked great tho once Felix was all done (the stairs are still to be done).  And when totally dry (some 2 days later) we were able to move some furniture back into this space and start living again in our downstairs which felt amazing. We hooked up the Tv for the first time in a year much to the boys excitement!

The family room.

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Our House, Year Two: Weeks 23 & 24

23 Jul

We like living in chaos. It’s like our third child.

I say this only because I cannot think of ANY other reason why, when we are already in utter chaos having ripped out the kitchen, we would then decide to go full pelt  and start demo on the guest room & office room .

Yes it MUST be because we thrive on insanity and living like total extreme hoarders.  I blame this craziness entirely on us deciding to take  a vacation which was meant to be in the form of a family trip to Mexico but the cost of replacing the ripped out kitchen quickly took care of that idea. So we changed it to a “staycation” and gave ourselves time to hang out at home which of course spurred us on to finishing what needed to get done. Also it was the first time in 6 months that the guest room was actually not in use so it was a good opportunity to tackle this job.

First up we had to empty out these two rooms which were cram packed full of stuff I hadn’t even seen for months. Hello my formal living room…you look awfully like a junk yard and not the vision I had for this space.

Cluttered living is so now.

Of course demo is tough and it takes time and we were down to a one man crew..well one and a half man crew. Jack insisted on “helping” daddy every opportunity he could get. I think for a 4 yr old being able to smash a wall with a hammer was beyond thrilling and the most fun he’s had in a long time! Who needs Mexico and its beaches anyway??!!!

Ripping out the drywall. A father son teaching moment.

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Our House Year Two: weeks 21 & 22

16 Jul

With the outside of the house all sealed in it was time to finish off the last bit of siding. David had it up in next to no time and then a final coat of paint was applied. This means that the outside of the house is  DONE…. as in the big jobs anyway. There’s still some light fixtures to go on and hand rails etc but finished house (on the outside!!).

The last bit of siding finished!

It was a big moment for us…we have been working towards this for the last TWO YEARS! so yes we took a little bit of time to reflect on this accomplishment….

The finished back

No more rain leaking into the house, no more cold drafts from bits of plywood covering up holes, and no further risk of Marin’s wildlife taking refuge inside our home (we hope!!).

So it’s no wonder that these two fellas were feeling very proud of themselves. A big round of applause please for our dynamic house building duo….. Howe & Son.

Feeling very proud!

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Our House Year Two: Weeks 19 & 20

11 Jul

Wow I am SOOO behind with these updates – ya take a week off work and it all goes to pot! Anyway here’s where we are at with the house now……

With the family room was sealed and the drywall done we were finally airtight. At this point you’d expect a big hooray and a rush of activity to get the inside done…well nothing else happened for a week or two on this space as we were waiting for the flooring to go down.

I am pleased to say that we tested the underfloor heating (on this downstairs loop) and it was working…yippee!! Feeling the warm concrete under our feet was amazing. We still have a few issues with the upstairs – we suspect a cut in a pipe somewhere as we cant maintain pressure on the line but we will continue to investigate.

The state of the great room

So with all this free time on their hands (ahem!!) Jon & David focused on getting the deck waterproof. This was one of the last jobs to completely seal in the entire house and it quickly became urgent as a rainstorm was scheduled to pass through. The last thing we wanted after finally getting to where we did was a giant downpour in the new family room ruining the drywall!!!

They were applying a kind of elastic liquid rubber barrier  made by AMES research laboratories  that seals in the deck with this mesh fabric as the base that holds it all together. I didn’t realize this but it takes 5 coats to get it completely sealed and then there a final coat that is the Safe T Deck  which is a skid resistant waterproof finish.

They have this nifty installation video here that shows you how easy it is to use…

Waterproofing the deck

I can’t even begin to explain how messy this job was. It’s quite literally the messiest job ever, the liquid rubber was getting everywhere and when that stuff dries you have a job on your hands peeling it off your skin…I know this because Jon got it all up his arms and we spent ages peeling bits of dried rubber off his arm (ripping out plenty of his arm hair in the process!) !!

Messy work.

The last bit of the house being boarded up with plywood was our door out from the master bathroom onto the deck. The door  from Western Windows had arrived and we were finally in a position to put it in. This final piece represents a massive leap forward for us as I can now officially say we are 100% sealed and locked up in the house!!

There is no more plywood acting as a deterrent to the outside world to stop them from entering our home…after nearly 2 years you actually need a key to get into our home! Amazing and wouldn’t you know it we don’t have enough keys for everyone that needs one so I can see a quick trip to the cobblers coming my way.

The final open area gets sealed!

Lastly it was a quiet week in our house as we were busy celebrating Charlie’s 1st birthday…… a BIG happy birthday to my gorgeous little man!! I can’t believe its been a year since you were born into a house with no roof and no heating…you are a trooper and we love you lots!!!

Our 1 yr old bundle of joy

Our House,Year Two: week 17 & 18

18 Jun

With the east gable finished it was time to move onto the back of the house and our last area of siding! David worked steadily to put up the siding and in a couple of days the lower back was done.

siding before a coat of paint and half way done!

We then employed our trusty helper Moses to give it a coat of paint and its ended up looking like this…woohoo I like where this is going.

the finish line is close (for the outside anyway!)..

Then it was time to crack on with the insulation in the  extension. This had to get done asap as the drywallers were booked in to come as soon as we passed the insulation inspection. Yes yet another inspection in the matter of a week or two! crazy. Continue reading

Our House Year Two: Weeks 15 & 16

29 May

This week we finally  finished siding and painting the east gable of the house which means that  the home-made scaffolding can at last come down and will of course be repurposed into new scaffolding for the back of the house.

A finished gable

With the gable done we could focus our attention elsewhere. Back onto concrete and getting the extension done!

All ready to be approved.

Jon and David created & installed all the rebar themselves bending steel bars to provide stability for the concrete, they laid them out on top of a metallic insulating barrier that will reflect the heat from the underfloor heating back into the concrete floor. They then laid out the underfloor piping, securing it  with handy plastic ties to the rebar so that it didn’t shift  and connected it under the house. That took me just a minute to type but this was a 2 day job  for those guys, and a lot of kneeling!

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Our House, Year two weeks 13 & 14…..

7 May

To be honest I am starting to lose enthusiasm for writing these long updates and I am seriously considering breaking what’s going on down into to smaller bite size chunks..but I fear that might be even more time-consuming and then I’d be even later with those so here it is…another 2 week wrap up of EVERYTHING we’ve had going on!!!!

The big news on site this week was that Adrian came to the end of his time working for us. I was gutted about this as although I knew why we had to call it a day (mainly financially : paying for full-time labor on site was KILLING us..I mean literally taking ALL our cash and then some) it also meant that we weren’t going to progress as fast as we had been doing up to this stage . Fast I hear you say? This is a YEAR TWO update..yeah I know but trust me we’d still be living without a roof if it wasn’t for  Adrian coming to our rescue. It turns out that working full-time (and travelling for a lot of that in Jon’s case) is a pain in the neck when it comes to renovating. If you could do this and ONLY this then heck yeah you can finish a house in 6 months. We even have friends who do it for a  living but that just isn’t we have other jobs, and two small kids and  a LOT going on.

So Adrian finished up where he could and as we were waiting for the rain to cease (again I know!) he packed up and set off to his next job. We let him go knowing that we might not be able to get him back should we need him but that’s the risk we are having to take. He wasn’t able to move forward at the pace he was used to as we needed to pause and wait for the electrics to get done and they would be at least another week and well you can’t pay someone to have time to wait .

So that week it was as if time stood still. We were stuck just waiting for the rain to stop and the new electrical panel to get done. That day finally came on Saturday and Gary and his trusty assistant arrived to spend a full day re-wiring the house and hooking everything up to a new upgraded panel. YAY no longer will the entire electric on the upper floor go off when I blow dry my hair (I kid you not!). Its dirty  & dangerous work electrical stuff mainly because you have to spend a fair chunk of time under the house and Gary claims we have Black Widow spiders living under there. Of course there’s no photographic evidence of this  as there was NO way in HELL I was going under my own house  into the crawl space to find out!!!!

The new electrical panel

I wont lie – that is not the most exciting image in the entire world ever but it marks a new stage in the house…new wiring that is not 60 years old !

As soon as that was done Jon and David continued on with project siding. The plan was to get the gable end finished as fast as possible so that we could move back onto finishing the back of the house and finally get sealed (after 18 months of open living!!). Jon actually took an entire week of work to dedicate to getting a few key things done so we could push this project ahead as fast as possible.

Working on the siding

Siding is a royal pain in the  ****, particularly when windows and electrical panels are in the way it means you have to measure everything EXACTLY or you just ruined and expensive piece of Hardie cement siding. As you can imagine this takes forever and there’s lots of measuring and double checking and measuring again before you even cut and then you have to fit the damn thing which requires two bodies and a large home-built scaffold apparently! We did purchase a nail gun for this job but Jon seemed happier hammering nails in to secure the siding so I think that’s one tool that might be going back (hooray as its starting to look like a mini Home depot in our pool house).

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