Tag Archives: home renovation

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…..

The Queen of Versailles..

17 Jul

I just saw this clip for this new Sundance awarded documentary chronicling the building of the largest house in America and the billionaire couple behind it. With the global recession hitting  all work on the house has stopped and now the couple need to sell it before its finished!! Its going to take another $30m to finish the house,  that’s quite the project to take on and it makes our home renovation seem tiny  by comparison!!!

The home has been modelled of the Versailles palace with a good amount of Vegas inspiration thrown in there too –  it screams excess in every way! What do you think  is building a home this big just a gaudy display of wealth or are they totally justified in building what they dream of?

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 taaadaaa..one 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 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 us..no 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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Renovation Realities (and other things I wish I’d known before…) No.1: There will be dust.

18 Feb

As we are about 18 months into what currently feels like a life long renovation I thought I’d start to share some of the realities of renovating a home. I think in the past here on this blog i’ve perhaps glossed over some of the  difficulties and hardships that a renovation can cause so this series of posts is going to put that right…I’d hate to think I was mis-leading anyone into thinking this process was all sweetness & light!!!

Number 1. There will be dust. Lots of it. 

A house made of dust. Literally.

Like in places you never even thought it could get (my bed??!!). Your clothes will get covered in it and your furniture will get ruined. It will take you forever to clean it up by which point it will have returned and you will have to start from scratch. Over and over.  You will spend a fortune on Swiffer’s in the fight to hold your ground, and you will lose. Your incredibly expensive Dyson that you treated yourself too will be reduced to a job site vacuum and will never quite function properly again. The dust will win for now.

It wont matter what project you are doing in the house, there will be dust, debris, particles.

So accept the dust as an inevitable fate for now – buy as many dust busters as you can, clean up frequently, pray you don’t get allergies and repeat this mantra “It will be over soon, it will be over soon”.

Our House,Year Two: Week 4

6 Feb

The extension pressed on this week with the removal of the old wooden stairs and Deck that will be replaced with our new master bathroom and closet! I was soo happy to see the end of these wooden stairs – they were unsafe and looked horrendous and it feels like a major milestone has been achieved that they are now gone. We just have to figure out how to get rid of all the old concrete that was on this side of the house.

No more rickety old wooden stairs!

Here’s a view of the house with no deck so you can see the full-scale of what’s going on- it’s quite amazing really. It’s at times like this that I remember this is more than just a lick of paint folks! This is MAJOR construction work going on right here and we are living in the middle of it.

See the 2 bits of plywood? That's our bedroom right there!

It’s a go big or go home kind of project!
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Our House,Year Two: Week 3

2 Feb

Its been a while since I posted what’s been going on at home and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we havent been doing anything to the house..which was true until the last 2 weeks!  After having the Xmas break off we came home in the new year and well got busy with life…the house had to wait a bit as we were both super busy at work and settling the kids back into routine. But all is back on track now and  we have been able to focus on the house.

We also had a few permit challenges getting the extra 4ft that we were pitching for approved there was a LOT of back & forth with the planning dept about wall width.  The drawings had to be redone and then edited a couple of times but finally we got the call that all was approved and the permit was ready to roll. Then we had to get the inspector to come and approve the foundation that we’d built whilst waiting to get the permit (yeah we took a chance that it would get aok’d and typically I would NOT recommend doing this but we got lucky!!).

The extension foundation pre-concrete and approval!

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Looking Back: 2011

23 Jan

2011 was a HUGGEEE year for our family. Not only did we begin one of our biggest projects EVER, we lived through a ton of stress and drama and we also expanded our family to 4. These are  my highlights of the year….

Starting the year off with a bang, demo-ing the upstairs!

Living with the back of the house like this for months!

Getting upstairs drywalled was a major moment.

The arrival of our gorgeous baby boy during one of the biggest storms SF has ever seen!

Living in a plastic wrapped house.....for longer than should be legal!

Getting windows and siding- finally we were watertight!

Escaping the house for a much needed 4 week break to the UK to see family & friends.

Moving into our bedrooms upstairs after sharing for a year!

Ending the year with some family fun on the slopes.

Wow what a year, we laughed and yes we cried, had some moments where it didn’t seem like things would ever work out and yet here we are, we survived our first year of renovation.   The next question is – how many more years are still to come???!!

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