Sliding Glass Door Replacement

It has been awhile since I posted about the Great Project Spiral of 2017. Never fear, the project is still going and still spiraling. I’m trying to get back to actually making progress and sharing some of the details…

Let me just say that the old sliding glass door wasn’t in great shape. The exterior has numerous chunks out of it. The track had parts that were broken and allowed in some cold air. And the glass itself was old and not terribly energy efficient. Mmm hmmm.

I’ve wanted to replace this door since moving in, but this is a pretty pricey replacement and this project has already gone significantly over budget. Bah. So I was trolling Craigslist earlier this summer to see if they had something to offer as a more budget-friendly alternative. Voila! For $100 and the inconvenience of driving out to the sticks, I got an Anderson sliding door, just a few years old, recently removed from this guy’s house (and yes, I can tell you exactly what he’s doing on his project, that his brother in law is flying in from Georgia to help install the new cabinets, that if I’m interested in cabinets, he’d sell me those as well…)

The door is in great shape and weighs about twice what the old one did and looks 1000% better.

Earlier in the summer, I proposed a project swap to my friend Nick, because he recently put in a sliding door at his house, and this project was kind of daunting to a newbie like me. So I watched their dog for a weekend and Nick installed the door with me helping. I clearly got the better end of this deal.

Naturally, I put it off until the weather turned cold and it gets dark really early (smooth move, Reenie, smooth move). So I snuck out of work a little early, went home and started disassembling the existing door. By the time Nick got there, it only took a few minutes to get the old door completely removed and start installing the new one.

It took us a couple hours but really impressively smooth for a project in this house (and it isn’t because everything was perfect!). I couldn’t have done it without Nick! We had to shim and level a fair amount, but by the time it was truly dark, the door was in and operational! And heavy! And beautiful!! The inside of the door is stained wood, but I’ll probably paint it all white when I do the trim.

The only truly unexpected glitch is that the door opens from the opposite side. I never even thought about that as an option. It isn’t a bad change, just a change. I’m going to be trying to open the wrong side for years to come!!

The only problem, as I discovered when I went to lock up for the night, is that the new door was missing the lock grab. It had the lock on the door part, but just this opening and no hardware for the wall side. Sigh. Naturally the next day I stopped at Lowes to find they don’t carry such a thing, just whole handle/locksets, which I don’t need. So I pondered it on Saturday for awhile and then realized “HEY! The old door has one!” Sure enough, it isn’t a perfect fit, but it does fit and I can now lock my sliding door. Woooo!

There you have it: a new used sliding glass door. Maybe the best $100 I’ve spent on this project.

Floor Tile at last!

Last week the progress finally felt like it was moving forward at more than a snail’s pace. I had scheduled a lot of time to be home (woooooo) which helps in the progress department.

Monday night I picked up tools and made sure I had all the supplies– and then spent the evening with my second family (one of the many) playing games and catching up.  And then I set some tiles on the subfloor to pretend I accomplished something (#honestproject).

I picked this tile from Lowes. I loved the large tiles, the color, the variation in the tile, but the shimmer in it nearly scared me off. I got over it, purchased the tile, and don’t even notice the shimmer on the floor. Whew. Crisis averted.


Tuesday night I installed the backer board for the tile. It was, of course, more complicated than I hoped and the pros say to put it down with mortar and screws (I wasn’t initially anticipating the mortar part). So getting the last wonky spots by the tub leveled with shims and floor leveling compound and then getting the whole thing covered in backer board took the evening.

Wednesday night I started on the tile. This is my first time tiling (which kind of surprises me) but I suppose you have to start somewhere. They make it look so simple on HGTV. And it isn’t rocket science, but as I spend the entire long evening getting so few tiles in place, mostly learning to use the tile saw, and figuring out some complicated cuts. It makes me appreciate the pros and that I am far from being a pro!

My sister recently tiled at her house, so they loaned me their tile saw and tools and I am so grateful to not have to buy my own! My brother in law warned me that since they had bought the $90 saw, the blade guard is trash and doesn’t work so the saw sprays water at you while it cuts. Okay, that sounds harmless. And it was harmless but not without its own particular charm. Mind you, it isn’t just spraying water at you – it is spraying tile dust water at you. So by the end of the evening, your hair has the same texture as straw, sort of cemented together in tile dust. Your entire front is soaked, and you have to clean your safety glasses off after every cut. Fancy.

And still, I’m so grateful for the loan of the saw so I didn’t have to rent or buy one (and believe me, I would have bought this same saw because of the price).

The trickiest spot is that heating vent, that would have been mid-tile which wasn’t working (ask me how many tiles I broke trying to make that work).  And of course, it was the first line of tiles while I was getting used to the saw and its nuances. So I did a thin row of tiles along the edge and incorporated the vent as the second row (on the edge) so as to make the cuts around it. Live and learn.

At 9.30 pm, I realized my mortar was setting up fast and I might need more — and of course, the Blue Store closes at 10. Sigh. So I drop everything, run to the store for more mortar, meant to pee there and forgot, and was home by 10 to continue. I think it was around 11 pm as I stood on my deck, a torchiere lamp lighting the tile operation, being sprayed in the face with tile water and dust, moths fluttering around my head, mortar goop all over my whole body, cringing as I used that loud saw, hoping the neighbors had fans in their windows to muffle the racket. I just had to laugh at myself and the whole situation. Yup, this is the definition of insanity or tenacity. You decide.  I finished up around midnight– and by finished, I mean I put things away because I was half done with the bathroom and it was past time to go to bed. Of course, I couldn’t shower because there was freshly installed tile that I couldn’t walk on… so I slept filthy and showered in the morning when the mortar was dry.


Thursday evening I finished up the tile. It felt like I was getting the hang of it and I made more complicated cuts with less trouble and less broken tiles. I finished up shortly after 10 pm. Wooooo! It really looks great. I’m not saying there aren’t imperfections and I guarantee this won’t be my best ever tiling job, but I am saying I like the tile a lot. And I like the idea of one day having all the things we love about bathrooms like floors and walls and sinks and toilets. It is going to be so great.

I was planning to go with a lighter gray grout that would contrast with the darker charcoal tile but in the end (with some coaching from a friend) I went with the matching charcoal grout which was merciful with my newbie tiling job.

I started Saturday with a trip to buy a new toilet. There are a lot of toilet options out there ya’ll. I wanted a dual flush toilet (less water for pee, more for poo) because I’m on a septic and it just seems like the thing to do. There were so many options when it comes to buying a new toilet. So I compared some prices and features, read some reviews, and ultimately got this one.  The only thing I didn’t do on purpose was the elongated bowl — I’m not opposed to it, I just didn’t pick that on purpose. They really should let you test drive toilets in the home improvement stores. I’m sure they have them up on a high shelf for a reason, but it would have been nice (and the most awkward thing ever) to sit on them and see how the height / seat / bowl feels (I mean if I had no shame).


So I bought the toilet and then grouted the tile around the toilet in case my dad would be able to come help me install the toilet. I wanted everything as ready as it could possibly be since I’m now going on Day 4 without an indoor working toilet and I’m getting a little desperate.


Blessedly my dad and Grandpa came over in the afternoon for a couple hours and we had to modify the flange assembly to the proper height now that the floor was in. And in this case when I say “we” I mean my dad for the most part. He’d done all of the previous flange fitting stuff and was into the details and I was not. I’m so grateful for his help! I want this toilet on right so I never have to think about it again or find it is rotting out the subfloor with a bad connection. Grandpa watched baseball for the most part and was the first to inaugurate the new toilet moments after it was installed.

I finished grouting the rest of the floor on Sunday and man oh man am I loving the new floor and the new toilet. The toilet does feel almost dangerously tall after my last short toilet was installed under the tile and at an angle. This one is tall and level and doesn’t rock at all. Amazing. First world upgrades my friends. This is living.

There are lots of youtube videos and lots of tutorials online if you’re thinking about trying to install tile yourself. As with everything, it is work — but on the other hand, it isn’t rocket science and it is a whole lot easier than floor leveling and plumbing. I will also say that it hearkens back to dreaming within my means. I can’t afford to hire a professional right now but I can afford to learn a few things. Not such a bad thing, notwithstanding the midnight tile sawing and being sprayed in the face.


A few tips I didn’t see other places, if you’re thinking about tiling:
  • If you use a cheap saw that sprays tile water at your face, go ahead and start the project wearing a hat. It makes the clean up afterward about 100 times easier. Obviously, as with any power tools, you should already be wearing safety glasses.
  • Clip your nails before you start. Maybe you’re like me and can’t find your nail clippers because your whole bathroom is scattered around your kitchen, but if you have shorter nails, there’s less room to get them jammed full of mortar and you’ll spend less time trying to pick them clean and cringing at how bad they look at work the next day.
  • Be prepared to be very messy. If you are tiling your only bathroom, you basically tile yourself out the door and then have to wait for the mortar to set — meaning you should either dash over to a friend’s house for a shower or sleep gross (I chose the latter because it was the middle of the night).
  • Rags. Get out lots of rags. I found it super helpful to have a couple wet wash clothes for wiping mortar and rinsed them regularly throughout the evening. It goes without saying your clothes will get messy.


Apparently I never posted this… so here’s what happened over here in May.

Several weeks ago: my dad came over last Saturday for a couple hours. Our goals were to finish the sink plumbing (the one that had rusted through) and then level the floor. Of course, we got started considerably later than planned, so…

My dad had gone to the real hardware store and the guy gave him a fernco that should work. We had to make a gasket out of these little rubber sheets (my new favorite plumbing lifesaver) and this tape. Then my dad clamped the fernco on tightly over the gasket and the old pipe and voila! Solved! Now that we had that figured out, we could get to the floor leveling.

So the floor… it is hard to put in to words just how wonky this floor is. The tub is level. And the subfloor is 4 inches lower in the corner by the toilet than in the front of the bathroom door. It sinks two inches over the bathroom doorway alone. Gah. There is no indication it is moving still, but last weekend we added some braces to insure it doesn’t. My dad calls this the “belt and suspenders” approach which is a vast improvement over the previous homeowner’s “no belt, no suspenders, and probably no pants” approach.

By the time my dad headed home for dinner, we got the section by the toilet level, the new subfloor installed, and the toilet reconnected (again) – still wobbling away on a temporary platform because clearly #wearethatfancy.

Fast forward to Monday evening (yes, a full two days later), I’m working on the jagged floor vent in the bathroom (which is maddening and took 3 trips to the home improvement store to not find a solution) and suddenly I can’t help but notice the bathroom smells like sewer gas… I look over and the fernco that had been tightly installed is now sitting a couple feet away on the floor and the hole (thus the sewer gas) is sitting open. Great. So I guess that isn’t the solution we need after all.

I think I’ve figured out the solution, and believe it or not, it isn’t simple (shocking) and it is going to require removing some more drywall. This will mean all but the drywall on the wall behind the toilet is being replaced. And that piece isn’t in great shape …. Mmm hmmm. One step forward, one backward. That seems to be how it goes over here.

The Next Week:

That Saturday, I cut the old cast iron plumbing stack out, ripped out the unsecured and rotting stud walls surrounding the old stack, and figured out what I’d need to do to get the new stack in place. I put in the new fernco on and the new sink connection, but still need to plumb the stack up through the ceiling and out the roof.

Yard season is starting up again and it is feeling like everything needs to happen right now!! Gah! So I did some yard clean up during the week, mowed a couple times (different parts of the yard). I figured out some other details that I needed to think through (bathroom closet, where I need electrical, what I need to buy for the plumbing stack, etc).

The following week:

Saturday was go time. My dad had lined up a Grandpa sitter (my mom is out of town) so we’d be able to hit it hard on Saturday and get the floor finished up and maybe even the plumbing stack out the roof.  Instead the sitter canceled, complicating our plans. I got up early and pulled the remaining drywall and insulation off the walls on either side of the patio doors, filled the trailer with demo trash from the deck, removed the rest of the drywall in the bathroom, cleared the building materials from the clogged dining room to the deck so we’d have more room to work, and pulled out saws and tools.

My dad and Grandpa showed up around 11:30. We hitched the trailer up and Grandpa got to ride along with me for some errands so my dad could work on leveling out that floor. Grandpa was a good sport for the ride, told me what a good driver I am repeatedly (obviously it bears repeating), and waited patiently as I unloaded the trailer into the dumpster. We went from there across town to pick up something for a job at work, and again, Grandpa waited patiently at the lumber yard. But that long drive through line at Wendy’s nearly did him in. By the time we got back to my house, he was tired from all the running around (or waiting in the car) and was ready for some good ole’ Tiger’s baseball. I covered him with a blanket and he was on the edge of his seat (figuratively) to see if the Tiger’s could pull off a win in 1968 when they were down by 3! (Spoiler alert: They do win). Grandpa is not always content to just sit and watch by himself, so the fact that he was content to do so was a huge gift. What a guy!

Late afternoon, my brother Donal and his family showed up so CK could run the hills with his buddy Daisy. They visited with Grandpa, Donal helped my dad for a bit, and CK ran the hills and “helped” with the project. He loves a good project! CK removed a few nails with his tiny hammer, picked up nails with the magnetic stick, and then uninstalled and reinstalled my heating vent about 100 times. Always such a help!

By dinner time, my dad had gotten the new subfloor installed and leveled (except one piece on the end that I needed to redo). Woooooooo! LEVEL SUBFLOOR!!! I made a run to Lowes to get the plywood I needed for that one remaining tricky piece, ate some leftovers for dinner, and promptly fell asleep on the couch. Like a boss.

Sunday I got that final piece of floor in and the rest of the floor screwed down. I framed in the new closet wall and plumbed the vent stack back up into the ceiling. Apparently my dad doesn’t trust me to cut into my roof by myself (which I find moderately amusing) but if he is that concerned, I can wait for him on that. In the meantime, getting that closet framed means I can move on to install backerboard for the tile and get a floor in. Wooooooooooo.

The Situation

Just in case that last episode I shared wasn’t exciting enough,  the plot thickens or grossens (is that a word?). There are moments where I think God is having a chuckle at my expense, and this weekend felt like that.
Saturday I got up and took a trailer load of demo trash to the dump. It was perfectly terrible unloading it because some high school helper I had decided to dump all of my cans of tile shards on top of a trailer load full of drywall, paneling, and garbage bags. Right. There is a reason we never turn our back on the help, even if we explained exactly what we wanted. Sigh. Unloading it was a ROYAL PAIN in the behind and took nearly two hours. While I was at the dump, I got to observe some real characters. Like the old guy with a shiny white truck who came to look after each load of trash was dumped. He clearly thought I had something special but was disappointed in my load. One rickety old pick up that looked like it was on it’s last broken leg with an equally rickety trailer pulled up. The two uncouth looking men start unloading next to me and I look over as half a dozen mice run out from under the trailer toward mine. Eewwwww. It felt like a scene from a horror movie. I did score when a couple pulled up with their remodeling trash. They had four old style solid wood doors and one of the corresponding door frames. Before they threw it, I asked if they minded giving it to me. The lady’s mom went on and on about what nice doors they were and she didn’t understand why her daughter didn’t want them. It worked out nicely for me. So I got those four wood doors and what looks like a brand new sink vanity top and faucet (I’m going to build a new bathroom vanity). Otherwise I got a sore back and got rid of a lot of heavy trash I’ve had in my life for too long.

While I was there, my dad and my brother Emmet showed up to see about the crooked wall — they were there until mid afternoon and was no easy task but … THE CROOKED WALL IS STRAIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This feels huge. And I do mean really terrific, really ‘uge. This means my next step is framing the bathroom wall and putting a door back on my bathroom. First world improvements people.
Where was I? Oh right, the dead chicken saga, because I’m pretty sure the fact that I’m still talking about it means it is officially a saga.  Here it goes.
I am typically in and out of my pole barn a few times a week. In the winter it is less because it is so cold out there. But still, in and out enough to be lived in. Last summer I had made great strides toward having a wood working area and a paint area amidst the storage, but for the winter, the paint area gets filled with patio furniture and lawn/garden stuff.  Once it gets warm again, I’ll move that back outside and have a workspace again. I’ve also spent the last 3 months filling my normal wood working area with pieces that I’ve disassembled out of my house. So the barn is a hot mess right now. I need to build some wood storage, organize the lumber from the house, etc. Anyway, I’ve been out of town a lot in the last couple weeks, so I hadn’t been out there much.


Saturday I ran out to get a tool for my dad and noticed some animal droppings… uh oh. This is bigger than a mouse, the only critter I’ve previously hosted in the barn. There were two boxes knocked down and spilled on the floor from a high shelf. Weird. I didn’t think much of it because CROOKED WALL PROGRESS but after my dad left I was cleaning up and opened one of the big sliding doors. These doors are anything but air tight and latch somewhere in the middle of the door, so the bottom lets in quite a bit of cold air in the winter. Anyway, I open the sliding door and notice an abundance of white chicken feathers along the bottom of the door… and then I notice blood… and some more feathers heading into the barn….


HOLY CRAP DID THAT DARN RACCOON DRAG A CHICKEN CARCASS INTO MY BARN?!?!?!?!? Which probably means there’s a nest of little coons gnawing on that carcass as we speak. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.


I looked briefly and couldn’t see anything obvious. But of course it is probably on one of the high shelves, nested in a box, hidden out of view. And I have absolutely zero interest in coming face to face with a mean Mama Coon. But oh crap oh crap oh crap.


On Sunday I went to TSC and purchased replacement chicks which my dear friends offered to raise alongside their chicks until they were big enough to go outside. Look, fluffy chickens!


My friend Mark is the guy to talk to if you have any sort of animal problem and he sent me home with a big live trap for the coon and offered me a gun. I declined since I don’t really do guns (or haven’t in the past) but currently have at least 4 good friends / brothers with guns standing by if I catch this raccoon. Wish me luck.


In happier news, my crooked wall is fixed. I can officially begin reassembling my house after the longest demolition project ever. Also I’m still completely gaga over this wood clad wall. Eeeeeee. It’s so pretty with the red china cabinet!

Still working over here

I realize I dropped off the planet a few weeks ago, after getting home from a fabulous trip with people I love. Maybe it is because a blow by blow of slow tedious things I’m doing is boring even me. Or maybe it is because I’ve been over scheduled the last few weeks and haven’t spent enough time working on The Project. Or maybe I just thought you deserve a break.

Never fear, The Project goes on. Since I last checked in here, a few things have actually happened:
1. I removed the bathroom tile which took about a week because it was a beast (side note: the subfloor is gross, blackened by an age old toilet leak and needs to be replaced).
2. The trash barricade has moved from the deck to the trailer and I’ve now started Barricade 2.0 on the deck since I haven’t emptied the trailer yet. Getting that stuff out of my life is going to feel huge. I mean really ‘uge. It will be terrific. Really terrific. Everyone thinks it is terrific.
3. I ripped the rest of the drywall off of the crooked wall in the laundry room and the layers of drywall / tile / wallpaper off the crooked wall in the bathroom. It was amazing to rip off what seemed like innocent drywall and find a wall full of plastic tile and revolutionary war wallpaper hiding behind it. AMAZING I tell you. Basically the crooked wall is now only hosting the wood paneling that is planned to stay. My dad says we should be able to straighten it up without removing all the wood (fingers crossed). That fateful morning when he was digging into things to see how hard it is going to be to fix, he said repeatedly, “This isn’t what I was expecting to see…” Why yes, welcome to my shack. It is never what you expect to see. Once you open the walls up, you can see that the wall was crooked before the addition went in, they notched out the joists to accommodate said crookedness instead of fixing it while they had it open! What is wrong with people? Shout out to Chester who helped remove nails and screws while I ripped down layers of bathroom wall, uncovering a time capsule of previous bad decisions.
4. I ordered and picked up two pocket door frames- for the laundry room and sewing room doorways.
5. I cleaned up messes, again and again and again.
Still going…

Still projecting, still spiraling… Week 4

My apologies, dear reader, I meant to post this while I was away. But I was so terribly busy being away that I completely forgot.

Week 4: If you are still following along this long project, kudos to you. You have more patience than I do. Or possibly it is more enjoyable from a distance with less dust in your hair. Regardless, here’s what happened in week 4 — not to mention finding myself in week 4!! And worse yet, finding that I’m still doing demo in Week 4!! I never saw that coming… and I think Week 5 will contain even more because PROJECT SPIRAL!!!

Last Monday night I pulled all the staples out of the furring strips on the ceiling. And in the process, began doubting their structural integrity… They just seem not terrible securely on the joists — which is all well and good if you are supporting a bunch of cardboard ceiling tiles, but seems less than ideal if you want to hang a drywall ceiling and have all the seams not crack (like the ones Mr. HA did in the kitchen). Mmm hmm. So I removed all those staples and solved nothing, uncovered more questions and still moving forward, one step at a time.

Standing on the stepladder, yanking a million staples, I decided that DIY home improvement and your success with it is about 25% knowledge / experience / handy skills (and the willingness to acquire the skills you don’t already have) and about 75% your ability to withstand the impossibly tedious, time consuming, and often filthy tasks. Like bashing out tile for two weeks. Or pulling staples out of a ceiling for an hour and a half. Or removing 9,000 screws from a dusty floor. While doing these mind-numbingly boring tasks, you have a lot of time to wonder why you are doing this.

Thankfully, I came to the solid conclusion that I am still glad I’m doing this project which is a good place to land since it is too late to go back. I am pulling out all of these staples myself because I have more time than I have cash piled up, and by doing it myself, it is happening now instead of 5 years from now. Not to mention doing this project now, during the winter, gives me something productive to do with myself rather than sitting under a blanket on the couch hating my life and wishing for spring.  All in all, I’m okay with this trade off. Clearly, I enjoy a challenge and this house provides all of that and more.

I am hoping (fingers crossed) I may be able to get a morning of my dad’s time on Saturday to do the joist bracing and check out the wonky crooked wall and discuss the ceiling furring strip situation.

Tuesday evening I worked later than I prefer and arrived home with zero umpf for anything. I managed to get the drywall removed from the shiplap wall across from the fridge. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this but I LOVE FINDING SHIPLAP IN MY WALLS! It is a very old house with a lot of old house issues but this is definitely one of the perks. Removing the drywall paves the way for possibly straightening that crooked wall this weekend or at least talking about it with the expert. I’ve decided I want to leave the shiplap exposed rather than covering it with new drywall. I haven’t decided if should paint it or just sand it and leave the wood with some stain or varnish. I love the rustic warmth of the wood and am leaning toward just leaving that unpainted. Mmmmm shiplap. I also measured and calculated my next big trip to the Blue store. How many sheets of drywall, how much door trim, etc. Admittedly, this is a moving target still, but it’s nice to have an idea.

I also measured and debated with myself about putting in pocket doors. I’ve always wanted one for the sewing room and I would love them for the laundry room and bathroom as well. Looking at it, the sewing room would be the easiest, followed by the laundry room. The bathroom poses a lot of issues (flooring being very different levels, electrical switches in the way, etc). I think I should leave the bathroom door alone but I might go ahead with the other two. It adds some cost and some complication to the project, but it seems like now is the time if I’m going to do it since the walls are already open. Not to mention I already have the doors – I’ve had them forever, sitting in my barn waiting for the day I finally get to this project (both secondhand, obviously).

Crooked wall between bathroom and laundry room

I had plans out of the house Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings so not much got done. I’m not good at balancing home time and away time. I’ll be home almost every night for a week or two and then gone every night the next week. I suppose that is my way of attempting balance.

Saturday I had to box up some vases and miscellaneous jars to move the red china cabinet in the laundry room so I could access the infamous bathroom window. Time to pull that thing out. It is on the crooked wall I’m fixing so why not remove it while we’re in this thing. I started removing trim, etc to get the window out and then my dad showed up to help me jack up the ceiling. It was simpler than I thought and jacking up the middle (sagging) joist and bracing it on both ends was enough – we didn’t have to do each joist!! My dad couldn’t stay long so after he jacked up the second end so I braced it in the attic and worked on getting that window removed. I was on the schedule to set up for Mass, so I had to cut my workday short. Even so, I’m very happy with the ceiling which is now flat!! And getting that dream-come-true open concept bathroom (sarcasm).




Sunday I pulled the rest of the bead board off the bathroom walls, removed a lot of nails, swept up some things, and spent the rest of the day in more restful pursuits. One of my stops included the Blue Store to scope out the tile offerings there. I will be visiting the other home improvement places over the next couple weeks to decide on new bathroom tile.

That’s right: bathroom tile. I’m going to spiral there. Haven’t done it yet but there are two layers of bathroom tile calling my name… I wanted to leave it (for now), I really did, but I can’t rebuild the bathroom doorway with the floor in the way and the door frame needs rebuilding before the drywall goes in. And if I’m going to be pulling up the bathroom floor, I might go ahead and remove the laundry room tile (the last of the old burger king tile). Again, I was  planning to leave it… but it makes more sense to tile the bathroom and laundry room in the same tile since they are both abutting the kitchen just steps away from each other. Amiright? They are both small spaces and I’m going with pretty cheap, generic tile so it won’t add too much to the project.  Not to mention if some girl is going to learn how to install tile, why not tile the tub surround and two rooms, right?

The Spiral Continues… this is ridiculous.

Week 5 Goals:

  • Show the cousins how to care for the pets
  • Secure hanging wires so no one gets electrocuted
  • Clean the house
  • Find some summer clothes, pack for my trip
  • LONG WEEKEND WITH SOME OF MY FAVORITES IN THE SUN (Yes, I’m more than a little excited)
  • Maybe some bathroom floor demo when I get home but let’s keep our expectations low, shall we?

Week 3

This is the week you think you might need your head checked because the enormity of what you’ve begun starts to sink in. There layer of dust coating everything on the first floor and every time you think about cleaning it, you realize the next thing you do will just add to it. You haven’t done laundry and are three pairs away from a serious underwear crisis. The dishes are piling up. The dogs are desperately needy. And you are way past the point of no return. People who do this on TV or for a living never show you the dark side of DIY… Week 3 into a demo project is definitely the dark side.

Monday evening I worked on removing screws from the tile backer board in the dining room. It was mostly just a slow and frustrating endeavor because most of the screw heads were filled with mortar. Gah. The idea was unscrewing the backer board would mean a cleaner removal, but instead it made for a wasted evening since one or two screws could be unscrewed and the rest couldn’t be no matter how hard I tried. So I started prying up backer board to see how bad it was going to be and then called it a night — too late, as usual.

Tuesday evening I spent with two of my favorite kids. CK (almost 3) asked some important questions about the renovation process: “What is this little ramp for Aunt Reenie?” (Good question, young man, it’s because the King of Half Ass who used to live here added a second layer to the bathroom tile without removing the first so he had to ramp up this tile to meet it). “What are we doing?” His perpetual question. CK liked inspecting the project and feels that it is basically his project since he helped remove drywall (which of course he calls to mind over and over again). He asked a lot of questions about everything and made Daisy nervous with his running through the house. I introduced him to my favorite DIY show, Fixer Upper, and he was excited by the projects, the saws (that match HIS saws), and was bored by the final reveal and the beautiful details that make me drool. I snuggled a small hobbit, we played with the dogs, and enjoyed ourselves. Sometimes you need hobbit snuggles more than you need to rip up more tile.

Wednesday evening: I pried up all of the backer board in the dining room and started on more screw removal. Now that the backer board was gone, I could get more removed with the drill, but a lot of them had to be pried up and or broken off. Slow and tedious but not unpleasant necessarily. Daisy liked it because it wasn’t noisy so she could hang out with me during the screw removal part and lean over to lick my neck whenever she was so inspired. The deck is looking worse by the day – full of demo trash. This thaw is particularly poor timing because it means the yard is a muddy mess and it doesn’t lend itself to driving a trailer or truck up to the deck to take a load to the dump. It kills me but I think next weekend will have to be soon enough for that. In the meantime, I am that klassy neighbor.

Thursday evening: Kitchen tile demo begins. Once I got into it, it became clear that the backer board is different, the grout is different, and the install is different. After I smashed out the first row, I was able to just pry off the tiles, most of them in tact or partially intact. This makes for much faster going than having to smash them all to bits and then shovel it out. I worked for about 4 hours and got about half of the kitchen floor removal done and more bags and boxes of tile bits on the deck.

Friday evening: Dinner with long lost friend and then home to The Project. Let the weekend insanity begin! I nearly finished removing tile from kitchen floor – late into the night. I managed to get the tile and backer board and screws off the floor under the fridge and get the fridge back in it’s place. The tile under the stove and kitchen island were left and the chaos was bad… time to collapse.

Saturday: Daisy and I met Lindsey and CK and a marvelous photographer at a park in Dexter for a “kids and pets” photo shoot. This particular photographer is amazing and I love her work. She was looking for people to shoot kids and pets and offered a couple free images. We thought CK and his Daisy girl would be awesome. CK was kind of a stinker and Daisy did better than I thought and of course, Melanie got some awesome images. It was a quick half hour shoot and a foggy, beautiful drive home on the back roads for Daisy and I.

The weather on Saturday was amazing, getting up to 57 degrees. It meant I could leave the patio door and kitchen window open for most of the day which made the dust situation SO much better while working, not to mention that it smelled (prematurely) like spring, which is like a taste of heave. Daisy spent a lot of the day running around the yard, another high point for any sort of home project. We even saw a glimpse of the sun after over a week without it. It felt amazing.

I got the rest of the tile removed and a good bit of the backer board removed and screws out. My dear friend Karen came by early afternoon, bringing lunch and work gloves. What a babe. In just a couple hours, we moved the stove to remove the flooring from under it and we finished getting all the tile and backer board and screws out. Hooray!!!

We also busted into drywall on the crooked wall by the bathroom. It is wider at the top than the bottom and I really want to shorten this little foot long stub wall that is just in the way. It is supporting a beam up above so I will ask my structural guy for his okay before pulling it out entirely, but I think it will be doable since I only want to remove a small part of it. This wonky little wall had layer upon layer of drywall, plasterboard, wall paper, the works! On the broader face of this wall is some delicious old shiplap. I decided I would have my dad look at the structural part first, but it is quite likely I’ll pull out the shiplap to use elsewhere and re-drywall this wall once we repair the structural oddities. #projectspiral

Karen helped me add to the trash barricade, put boxes of tile on the front porch, and sweep up the mess before heading home to feed her people. She left me in a much better frame of mind from her company and the kitchen in a better state for all of her help.


The demolition part of this project has felt endless. I’m excited to be finally getting to the part where I get to put the place back together (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway).

Saturday night I hung out with some of my lady friends (after a quick project consult for my sister in law who is in the middle of her own project spiral). Sunday I went to Mass, drank a lot of coffee and did some very necessary reclaiming of regular life things. I threw a lot of dusty laundry in, did a lot of sweeping and vacuuming, ran the dishwasher, and cleaned the disgusting bathroom. Naturally as soon as I cleaned the tub (with the last of the tub cleaner), Daisy rolled in mud and poo outside and needed a bath. Suzie already needed a bath so I dirtied my freshly cleaned tub and got two clean dogs out of the deal. All of this made life seem a little more manageable and gives me renewed energy for the remaining parts of this project. (Close your eyes and imagine the smell of clean dogs and clean laundry. A vast improvement in my life).

Let me also just say that I love the People of Craigslist. I myself have benefited from the “free” section of the site (closet doors, wood, etc) so I figured it was worth a try. I had about 300 tiles in good shape and although I was tempted to keep them and use them for paths and edging in my garden, I did not actually want to haul them all to the barn (so very heavy!), store them, trip over them, haul them into the garden, or ever see them again. I posted them free on Craigslist Saturday evening, complete with photos of how not awesome they are (below for your reference). By Sunday morning, 10 different people wanted them. Sunday afternoon a nice couple came to get them all off the porch. The pregnant wife was so excited to use them in her garden and to get them all for free and I was equally happy to have someone haul them away. Booyah. Craigslist win!

Week 4 Goals:
a) Run electrical for outdoor fixtures & plugs
b) Move electrical plugs / switches to their new locations
c) Cut down remaining pieces of studs in living room doorway and figure out how to put in subfloor across the gaping hole
d) Schedule my dad for half a day of joist bracing
e) Jack up ceiling and brace in attic
f) Pull all staples from dining room ceiling furring strips

Dining Room: Demo Week

Wednesday evening I worked on the prep for the dining room project. I put away other project boxes that had lingered too long (from make all the things Christmas). I removed switch plates, etc. I used to always just have a cup or plastic container for things like this, but I’m switching to gallon ziplock bags because you can label them easily and they fit all the plates and hardware better. I’ve found in the past my cups and buckets and containers get spilled during construction and it makes it significantly more complicated finding all the pieces when it is time to reinstall.

I removed one tiny section of the wall paneling and took down some trim. It only makes me slightly nervous that I’m removing insulating layers from the walls during a particularly cold week. Oh well. Once I pulled the paneling and trim down, I immediately removed all the nails so it is ready to be stacked and stored for future projects. Right now I’m stacking it in the kitchen, but I anticipate taking it to the barn one load at a time. Is it weird that I’m kind of excited about using this wood paneling for a future furniture build? It is high quality, real wood, tongue and groove planks- thick and sturdy. I just don’t like it on the wall.

Fun Discoveries:

a) The door trim throughout the room was installed before the tile. So there is mortar on the bottom inch or two of the trim at the bottoms. This also makes it tricky to uninstall. Gah I hate this floor.

b) The half-assery runs strong with the previous homeowner. Not kinda strong, strong strong. This shelf was mounted to the wall. Clearly instead of removing it (easily) since it was hanging on brackets, they just painted around it. Wow. I mean I really should not be surprised, but sometimes it blows me away.

After pulling just that small bit of paneling off one of the outside walls, I have found several layers of wallpaper on the old plaster walls which aren’t in good shape. I’m actually thinking if I can pull the rest of the paneling off that exterior wall first, I could put in boxes for the future exterior lights and switch, run the appropriate wiring, and then put the drywall up just on those walls sections for the sake of the warmth and keeping the wall insulation in the wall (and not falling out holes in the plaster). Fancy.

Thursday evening I pulled down most of the remaining door trim and a lot of wood paneling. The paneling in the dining room is nailed a lot of places but not glued so it comes off fairly well and mostly in good enough shape to re-purpose. The paneling in the kitchen was obviously installed at a different time since the stain is different, the paneling is slightly different … AND it is glued to the wall as well as nailed. These pieces are very difficult to remove and will probably not be salvageable. Oh well. All of the paneling was installed before the tile floor, meaning you have to kind of dig it out around the floor. It also means I will have to remove the floor before putting up new drywall. Not exactly what I had hoped for but it definitely means I cannot possibly save the floor – that isn’t disappointing at all. I’m fascinated to see what is underneath the floor though… fascinated and a bit nervous.

Fun discovery: There are ceiling tiles in several places throughout the house. In the upstairs bedroom, I removed one of the tiles to see what was going on behind it. It was glued to the original plaster ceiling with construction adhesive. So I planked right over the top of them and called it good. As I removed crown molding last night, insulation seeped down the seam at the ceiling and it feels like these cardboard ceiling tiles are instead of a drywall or plaster ceiling. Noooooooo. I’m really hoping there’s another ceiling under there otherwise this is going to get a lot more complicated.

Friday night I had one hour before I went out for the evening. I finished pulling nails from a bunch of trim boards and took several trips to the barn to move paneling and trim out there and out of my disaster zone.


Saturday I got up and started work promptly at 9. I turned off the electrical circuit in the dining room so I could remove the boxes and keep going on the paneling removal. Donal and Lindsey and their crew came late morning and we got CK set up with a tiny hammer, safety goggles, and he adopted a piece of trim as his “pry bar.” He was very excited for the projects, as usual.

The adults pounded away and made a royal mess for the next several hours. We got the rest of the trim down, all the paneling, all of the bead board, all of the drywall down except the living room doorway room since the Christmas tree is obstructing that. Getting that far and feeding the baby and getting the tot down for a nap and all the rest of it. I’m so happy with how much we got done! I couldn’t have gotten close to that on my own! And Lindsey even vacuumed up the chaos on her way out. I’m the luckiest.

Happily, the ceiling tiles do have a ceiling underneath (sweet relief). There were a few gaps that we had to fix but overall, I think we’ll be able to put drywall up on the same furring strips.

Next up: My structural guy (okay my dad) will come take a look and confirm that I can pull out the stud wall without a problem. I will also spend the next week pulling staples out of the ceiling shims and nails off the studs. I can also get started on the electrical I need to run.

The Dining Room Project

The 2017 Project Spiral has begun!!!

This project was one of the first things I knew I wanted to do when I bought the house. Sadly, it is also one of the more involved projects, so it had to wait a few years. I’ve been planning to do it this winter for awhile and my head kind of spins when I think about all the interrelated and complicated parts of the project.

Here’s a couple good pictures from when I first bought the house. They show the walls better than anything since then since the furniture is always in the way.

The goal: Take down the wall between the kitchen and dining room and widen the doorway from the dining room into the living room so there is better flow on the first floor. When we take down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, it also extends into the kitchen – basically anywhere with bead board on top, wood paneling on the bottom will be redone.

Currently the dining room is small and awkward if you have a table full of people in it and the kitchen is quite large with some dead space. Taking down the wall in between makes both rooms work better and means I can turn the dining table the other direction and it all just flows better. I can’t completely open up the space between the living and dining room (because of a chimney right in the middle) but I can double the size of the doorway and I think it will make it less choppy.
In addition, the kitchen has a drywall ceiling (that needs better mudding at the joints) while the dining room is these old cardboard ceiling tiles. Once the wall comes down, I want a continuous drywall ceiling — so the tiles have to go.

The pieces and parts of this project:
  • Remove all trim – some will be reused, some won’t
  • Remove all the paneling from the dining room walls and parts of the kitchen walls
  • Remove ceiling tiles from dining room ceiling so after the wall comes down, it can be one continuous ceiling with the kitchen
  • Repair kitchen ceiling
  • Add electrical to have lights on the deck and plugs on the walls on either side of the patio door
  • Run electrical for new lighting in the kitchen
  • Drywall dining room walls and ceiling
  • Open up doorway between dining room and living room to double the current size
  • New trim, drywall, etc for that opening
  • The Floor — remove horrid 1986 Applebees & McDonald’s floor tile
  • Level floor (this is not going to be easy bc it is really, really wonky)
  • Install new floor (or live with painted subfloor for awhile)
  • Trim (some old, some new)
  • Paint everything
  • New curtains for the patio door
  • Add headers for farmhouse trim (most of the trim will be new since the old trim is varying widths)
After all this happens, I need to add a lot of insulation to the attic above the kitchen and dining room – but until this project is done, it seems futile. I’m thinking insulation is going to be a big project for fall 2017.

As you might imagine, there is a lot of room to uncover issues that may end up being the bane of my existence for the next couple months. But no pain, no gain, right? Besides, it will make the winter go faster when I’m up to my eyeballs in a major renovation project right in my living space, right??

Here goes nothing…

Make All the Things Christmas

It was a big Make-All-theThings-Christmas over here. I went overboard which is so unlike me (said no one ever). The last couple years I’ve sewn a lot of things for the growing crowd of nieces and nephews. This year I’ve been doing more woodworking and did more along those lines for the kiddos. Although the last several weeks have been filled with panicked making of all the things – it has been good. Really good even. There’s something special about making things for your best people that you know they will love, not to mention some much needed home time and project therapy time when life is crazy. And it is certainly true that it is better to give than receive.  Here’s a round up of the projects, complete with messy before and after pictures:

Craft Carts

Two of my nieces are very creative and crafty girls. They have a little craft ghetto in their unfinished basement and I asked their dad to send me a picture of their work areas to inspire me. The craft-splosion photos made me all mushy inside, remembering the weeks my sister and I would set up our rickety folding table next to the furnace in the basement, huddled over glue guns in the dimly lit room creating Christmas magic for our friends and family. It also just made me happy they have that spot to be creative. We creative types need that. And it inspired me to make craft carts for them. I took a used kitchen cabinet, added casters, painted it, added a planked top, and a pegboard on the back so they’ve got a spot to hang all their tools. It was a stash busting project in that I could pass on some cabinets that weren’t needed for their original purpose. Ten year old me would have been thrilled and it didn’t disappoint – the girls loved them and I imagine they will be put to good use for years to come.


Magnetic Chalkboard

This one might be my favorite. I saw various tutorials and then kind of winged it. 1 x 3’s for the frame, kreg jigged pocket holes and wood glue to connect them, I stained the frame, made chalkboard paint out of clearance black paint and unsanded grout, and D ring hangers on the back. I might have to make one for myself.  (In case you try this at home, I used a sheet of metal found in the plumbing aisle – rather than the triple the price sheet metal found otherwise.)


This was a fun project. I bought this little desk a dozen years ago at a furniture sale at the school my mom attended as a kid. I went with my aunts and we all found some fun little pieces. I used this desk for several years at my old house but I don’t have a use for it at the new place. I sanded down the old crusty paint job and decided the original desktop wasn’t good enough to keep. So I made a new planked top out of 2×12’s I had in the barn. I used the kreg jig to make pocket holes to connect the two pieces and then stained it. The 2×12’s weren’t perfect but they add to the rustic charm. I painted the bottom (same chalk paint I had made for the chalkboard) and then finished it with poly.


Doll high chair

Thrift store find originally. Came looking a little rough and needing some love but I loved the pretty wood scallops and knew I could rescue it (duh). I glued and nailed a few loose joints, added a tray, and painted it. I think it came out adorable. My two year old niece loved it and reported that her baby said “I like it” and “thank you.”


I used an old twin bed head board and foot board to build a bench for two small nieces. I used deck boards from my stash to build this bench and was really happy with how it turned out. I sprayed it with my Critter sprayer using outdoor paint, home mixed for a custom blue. One of the girlies who received it was thrilled, the other informed me she doesn’t like sharing and would like me to build her a doll high chair instead. Hopefully she will enjoy it in the future. I want to make one for my house now, of course.

Water Towers

My two year old nephew is a super engineer nerd in the making. I’m so proud. On the way to a family wedding this spring I explained to him about water towers and how they create a pressurized system. That was an innocent beginning to a full blown obsession. This kid loves his water towers. He regularly watches youtube videos of water tower demolition and likes to play demolition. He was using a counter height stool the other day to demolish. Naturally, he isn’t terribly careful and he makes me nervous knocking down that big stool in close proximity to his little brother. There must be something we can make!! This was a last minute addition to #makeallthethingsChristmas but turned out so great! My sister traced water towers on some 2×6″ scraps. We cut them on my dad’s bandsaw and then my dad insisted on routing the edges (I get my whole ass tendencies from someone). Far from perfect but just the thing for this small water tower enthusiast. We painted them to match some local water towers that CK loves and had just enough time for the paint to dry before we wrapped them and headed out the door.

Youth Chair

I found this youth chair at a garage sale this summer. The prices was low and some of the joints were wobbly. I pulled the wobbly joints apart, cleaned them out, and reglued and added a few screws. Spray painted it to make it look like a whole new chair. Since his baby brother needs the high chair, this chair will certainly be put to good use immediately.


I made my Hobbit baby nephew a blanket. Typically I try to make a blanket when a baby arrives but I was six months late on this one. I used a quilting cotton on one side and a super soft fuzzy fabric on the back. Very cozy.

Jedi Robe

There I was, doing lots of wood working type projects for a bunch of the kids, but I couldn’t figure out what to do for 7 year old Andrew. So I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a Jedi robe. I’ve made a few of these in past years for other people and they are usually a big hit. Not to mention that any kind of snuggly wearable blanket seems like a great idea, right? I was just slightly nervous he’d think he got left out of the big impressive gift bandwagon. No worries! Even too big for him, he loved it! Wore it that day for the remainder of the party and wore it back again the next day for the next party. Glad he’s enjoying it! He also discovered how much faster he can get down the slide at my parent’s house in a jedi robe. You can make it practically to the wall!

There it is! The #makeallthethingsChristmas round up. I’m glad I did it but I make no promises for how next year will look.