Monday, December 17, 2012

In case you were wondering ...

Yes, I did finally finish the deck. Here's a look at it prior to my screwing in the outermost boards, the ones that overhang the stairs and outer edges.

I finished the deck, sealed it and everything, in August, and things have been relatively shut down around here since then. In September, I traveled on business to China for little more than a week, and then it took about 21 days for me to recover my sleeping/waking schedule to where I could get things done. By then, October was upon us, and the garden required a lot of cleanup.

Before we knew it, Thanksgiving was here, and while we were able to decorate the house, it's just been crazy around here.

I'm hoping that I'll get some time this winter to get back at finishing up the upstairs bathroom. Fortunately, the changes we'd made last winter (new faucets and sinks/counter) have served us well, to where we once again have his/her sinks in the morning and can get things done more efficiently. Also, the slower work pace has allowed me to rethink some of the ideas in there around the lighting that we have and the mirrors and the like. So we'll see what we'll do...maybe even less drastic, who knows?

Anyway, that's about all for now! A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours, and here's hoping that 2013 will give me more time to get some work done AND post on it!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Stairs finally finished ...

Here's the side view...there are a couple more shots on Flickr if you click through. All in all, they're sturdy and solid, and that's most important. Well, that and they look nice too.

I'm pleased with how they came out, though obviously a good carpenter would find a few imperfections (gaps don't match between every single board or step, use of shims to compensate for not-so-awesome stringer cutting).

Nonetheless, this part is done. New handrails, balusters, stringers, risers and treads.

Now, on to the surface decking, which will hopefully be the only thing I need to replace on the deck itself. I'm hoping that the joists themselves are in good shape. We shall see.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

risers installed

risers installed
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
Of course, it began raining once I finished the risers and started on the treads. So now I have to delay the work. I have the treads all laid out and ready to go, it's just raining.
I got the bottom tread boards cut (around the posts and attached, with the shims and all.

It's nice and solid, so I'm excited about nearly being done with the stairs, finally. Maybe there will be a break in the weather a little later...

Monday, August 6, 2012

The trouble with time ...

Despite my silence over the past eight months (awakened by my cousin, who "complained" that I never update the blog), things have been progressing, albeit on a variety of different projects here at Building a Better Bungalow.

When we last left you, I was in the process of sanding down the vanity in the 2nd floor bathroom. After much sweat and sanding, I got the whole thing stripped down, and then I got to staining it. I'd never truly stained anything before in my life -- just painted -- and aside from an occasional over-absorption in some areas (which I then quickly buffed out and restained to match as best as I could), I was pleased with the final result.

I then switched out the drawer knobs for pulls, so I had to fill and stain the knob holes and re-drill holes for the pulls. This was a bit more challenging, but I made it through just fine. After all that was finished up, we installed the new sink/counter and new faucets, and now we have two working sinks upstairs (which we did not have prior to the renovation)! It's great to have water pressure in both sinks...apparently the waterfall faucets that the previous owner had installed must have been corroded to hell and back inside, because they were non-functional, for the most part. I was happy that new faucets solved the problem that started us down this road to begin with.

After the sinks became functional again, it was spring-time, and that put this project on hold -- waiting for us to select new light fixtures, new mirrors and get an electrician out to move the light fixtures to where we want them. No more recessed lights, and a center-room light, will be nice! But that will come later this fall, hopefully.

Since spring, obviously, it's been gardening time -- my vegetables have been doing well despite the drought conditions, but I keep them very well-watered. I barely water my perennial garden, and fortunately, they're mostly natives and drought-tolerant, so they're actually doing well, although the ultra-warm spring we had really threw off their bloom schedules quite a bit.

I had hoped to get the backyard in better shape -- get new concrete laid in the back and for the sidewalks, dig up the patio pavers that were the base for the old hot tub and move them to a more functional spot, and plant grass where the hot tub formerly was.

However, our deck, which had been poorly constructed and maintained by the previous owner (and then not maintained very well by us, either, unfortunately), decided to crap out. Several of the stair treads warped tremendously and popped their screws, making for a quite dangerous situation. I had hoped to put off renovating the deck for another year or two in order to totally demolish, rebuild and expand it, but there was no way to put it off.

I decided to pull all the surface decking off (treads, risers and decking) and replace it, because it was heavily weathered and installed incorrectly in many instances (cupped upward instead of downward). Furthermore, the screws that the PO used clearly were not the right screws, as they'd corroded and rusted, which is what started much of the problems.

I considered composite decking, but at the end of the day went with cedar. My parents just had a full composite front porch put in, and I don't really care for the look all that much. Plus, I'm confident that I can take better care of cedar than composite, so I went with the cedar.

I also decided I'd replace the balusters and handrails, so basically I was stripping the deck down to the structural pieces, which were in pretty solid shape overall. I began with the handrails and balusters, and replacing those was surprisingly simple.

That having worked smoothly, I confidently moved on to the stairs, and that's where I stand now. You see, one of the reasons the stairs warped and popped loose was that the idiots who installed them used thicker boards for the treads, but only two stair stringers across about 38 inches. None in the middle at all. In reality, we're lucky we never busted through the center of the stairs.

That meant I needed to add stair stringers, and that's when the fun began. Since I had to add two stringers, I decided I would just get rid of the original stringers as well in order to fix the stair run -- another mistake by the original installer, which gave us a bottom step that was approximately 10 inches off the sidewalk (while the other steps were "standard"). For several years, we've had a limestone step up against our stairs in order to "add" a step. No longer will that be necessary.

Now, little did I know that building stair stringers would be an ultra complicated process. But finally, yesterday, I got the third and fourth stringers secured to the deck. There were several issues that came up along the way, most of them involving the poor design of the original deck, which would not accept any standard style stringer attachment.

So, my reinforced stringers are cut and installed, and they are close to level, though I'll need to shim them here and there in order to get the treads screwed down right.

Then, it's on to replacing the decking itself, and trying to figure out why the PO spaced the joists in some erratic pattern (20 inches apart here, 12 there, no rhyme or reason to it). I'll probably end up having to pull down the joists and either move or replace them as well.

Once again, fixing other people's mistakes. I don't have any pictures currently, but will try to be better about taking some or at least uploading the ones I have on my phone to Flickr in order to share them here.

For now, here's hoping I don't go too long without posting again. Or else my cousin will complain. :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

When a DIY plan works ...

Man, it's great to see the fruits of hard work actually come to fruition.

On the right is one of the faces of our bathroom vanity, sanded down by me (about half with my palm sander and half sanded by hand). On the left is the other face (or, what they both looked like before I sanded the one down).

I'm thrilled that this worked, I really thought it was going to be much, much harder to sand in all the crevices and such. It sure wasn't "simple" but taking my time and tinkering around got the job done.

I've also sanded down about half the face of the actual cabinet, and that's coming off nicely as well. I'm happy that this is going well thus far. Again, it's a lot of manual labor, but that's OK. That's the whole point of DIY -- it makes the finished product that much more satisfying!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The benefits of half-assed previous work...

Well, for once, I benefit from the previous owners' half-assed work.

This photo is the old sidesplash for the vanity/sink top that we're getting rid of in the upstairs bathroom. Note how well this sidesplash was attached to the wall. That bead of silicone seal or whatever it is? Yeah, that's the only thing that was holding it to the wall. It was just resting on the top.

Furthermore, I was pleased to find out that these geniuses didn't bother attaching the entire top to the vanity in any way. It was attached to the plumbing, which was the only thing holding it in place. Nice.

That means that removing this will be much easier, which further means that we can keep the vanity and refinish it, rather than spending hundreds of dollars on a new one. Also, because I'll be able to lift this top out undamaged, I can donate it and get a tax writeoff, potentially, as it won't be a broken or damaged item. Score!

So, today I disconnected the plumbing for both sinks and prepared to remove the sink/counter top when I can get some help. I also played around with the sander, seeing how easily the finish would come off the vanity, and it looks as though this will be pretty much a no-brainer of a project.

More this weekend, I'm sure...lots to do. Also, will try to post some pics as I go along.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It begins ...

As mentioned in my previous post, we've finally replaced the bathroom skylight with roof. Finally, there will be no more leaks.

Anyway, to save money on the final bill from the carpenter, I decided I would finish the interior of the project myself (insulate and drywall), mostly because we've decide to us this as an excuse to partially remodel the bathroom.

What's staying: The floor, the toilet, the shower and the shower surround. Also staying: the linen cabinet behind the door.

What's going: The sink faucets, the counter top.

What's changing:
-- Because we're afraid that a 60-inch vanity won't make it up the stairs of our fine Chicago bungalow (we've had trouble with getting the furniture we wanted for upstairs because of the narrow, steep staircase), and there's really nothing wrong with the vanity at the end of the day, we've decided to sand it down and stain it to our liking, along with the matching linen cabinet. We were going to get two separate, smaller vanities, but I checked and found that the floor tile was not run all the way under the current vanity. So if we had gone that route, we'd have had to redo the floor entirely.
--Currently, there are four recessed can lights in the bathroom. They provide plenty of light, but not the kind conducive to shaving or showering or things like that. I hate them and want them out. I'd like to have a more traditional, center-of-the-room light that illuminates the entire room, and then sconce-type lights by the new mirror/medicine cabinets.
--We're definitely getting a new vanity top and new faucets, so we're psyched about that. We might even be able to use both sinks!

What we're "afraid" of:
--Well, I'm nervous about the water pressure. When we changed out the shower head and toilet up in this bathroom, it solved the water pressure issues in those two areas. I'm hoping the same thing will happen here. If not, we will have to have a plumber come out and figure out how to fix the situation.
--We're not sure how the refinishing of the cabinets will go. Hopefully, it will be no problem at all, and that will save us some real money when all is said and done.
--Hopefully we can get the vanity top off the current vanity without any damage. Otherwise, it's square one for the vanity.

So, here's hoping I can keep up and give you all some great updates, with construction now getting back on track here at the bungalow!