Monday, March 30, 2015

Full bathroom!

Here she is in all her finished glory!
You mostly saw this last time, but we added the shower curtain.
And... Whoop, here's the sink side!
Light, bright, clean, and open!
This shot might not look like much, but here, you can see the little set of buttons next to the light switch. We have a timer for the vent fan, so it can run longer than a shower to clear the humidity, without someone forgetting to turn it off.
Do you remember what we started with? The glass shower doors cut the room almost in half. The toilet had a permanent old house smell. The light fixture was as yellowed as the tile accents and it barely let any light through. The vanity cabinet blocked most of the heat vent, so it blew at hyperspeed into the tiny little space. 

Warning, pedestal sinks installation is not for amateur plumbers! It was pretty challenging getting that darn thing into place and making connections that we could barely reach behind the pedestal!

What's your favorite feature? I'm kinda thinking the bead-board walls and pedestal sink.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bathroom progress - tile shower and tub refinish

It's pretty fast and fun to make a hot mess by demolition. It takes a lot longer to put it back together!
This bathroom had a decent tub, so we didn't replace it, saving the rough ugly walls to simply cover back up. Next time, we think it would give a better product and make a few things easier to just replace the tub.  This is a pretty traditional house, so we planned to make a pretty traditional bathroom, with a hit of pizzazz in there. Let's put this mess back together! 
Had to level/smooth the walls some with thin-set in a few areas before installing the tile.
Brian worked with the plumbing for a few weeks before getting to this point. Hello tub/shower faucet!
We finished the floor tile first, but saved the grout for a later step. It's 12x24 inch tiles, which to me is where some of the more modern flare comes into the bathroom.
White subway tiles are a budget friendly and classic look that lighten and brighten this tired old bathroom!
Once the tiles were in and grouted, we turned to "freshening" up the tub surface. We thought this would be a fun new product to try and save a lot of time and money over replacing the tub...  We thought.
Here's the product, it includes a special cleaner and basically a spray paint.
Lots of masking to get this ready!  We had already painted the room, so our masking skills were warmed up.
We grouted the floors after the tub was sprayed to make the best line between the two (didn't want to spray white onto the tan grout). The problem with that plan was that the tackiness of painters tape caused some blemishes in the under-performing tub coating.  Since we sprayed over white, you really can't see it unless you get your nose in there and look for it, so all is not lost. We just think it wouldn't have cost too much more time or money to put in a new tub in the end.
Put the final touches on the plumbing and you have a fresh white new shower!
Next up, the other side of the room...  We need a toilet and sink.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cutting heating costs

One of the things we learned while we were taking our year to "just live with it" at this house is that it's off the charts drafty, air-leaky. Brian has been reading about some do-it-yourself spray foam insulation. Of course we had to try it. He had fun learning how to spray the tight knee wall areas in our second story.
Here's the product we used, and the sweet protective suit that came with it.

He had to work in some seriously tight spots...

Since I'm a slacker blogger, I can tell you the resulting savings from this winter! In February, when adjusting for heating-degree-days our house was 22% more efficient. December were similar, January had a hole in the ceiling for the bath fan install.
Our assessment is that this is a great product. It costs the same as calling the pros if you have a big job, but is great for those smaller jobs.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Things are happening!

When we moved into the white house, we were knee deep in Superior Condo construction and tired of living under-construction that having been our nearly perpetual state at the yellow house.  We committed to living here for a year before doing anything major.  You can see when we painted the living room and did a little lighting/electrical update in the dining room.  We didn't consider those major.  Knocking down walls or taking on plumbing projects pushes into major.  Well, we've made some things happen here at the white house...
Noah taking the lead on re-building his bathroom

Dad teaches tile removing technique

Before shower/bathtub

Before sink and mirror

Noah working hard to get it taken down

Once he was nearly knee deep in broken tiles, he took charge of cleanup

Tile gone, sink and toilet gone, mirror out. Ugly light remains.

Bath surround gone.
We had to open up the wall at the bathtub because the valves were leaky and it didn't have a built in shower, just an add-on shower piece.  We wanted a shower in there!  This was a one-owner house, built in the late 1940s.  There's evidence that this wasn't the original bathroom, but we estimate that the updates were done in the 1960s.  It had served it's time!  Another funny thing that we observed - once the toilet was removed, the old house smell that we just couldn't clean away was finally gone!

Updates coming for the bathroom:
Shower
Electrical outlets
Exhaust fan

Of course, the whole room is getting updated, but those were the major drivers.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Good times in Bad Lands

So I haven't posted since September - just after our Badlands trip.  Let's just say sending your baby to kindergarten is one of those life events that changes everything! The good news is we haven't had a vacation since, so I'm not behind on blogging in the vacation department...

This trip was the last big hurrah before school started.  We went Labor day weekend seeking adventure.  We had a fabulous time!  We spent 3 nights sleeping in the back country and the days hiking in and out.  We couldn't cover too much distance because there's no water, so we had to carry enough for the time we were out - and when you're 2 people carrying water and gear for 3 campers, there are limits!

 Here's our young outdoor's man all loaded with his "share" of the gear.  He carried his sleeping bag and clothes.  There was also a water bladder in there - his "gas" for the hiking.
 The weather was nearly perfect.  At dusk everyday there was a strange phenomenon where it became very windy for an hour or so.  We were trying to settle down for the night in our tent and had to listen to it flapping and flapping in the wind.
The first day we hiked to the backcountry to find a place to camp, Noah spotted a porcupine!  He waddled off before I could catch him in a picture.  We also spotted some larger animals bounding on the prairie in the distance.
 We filled up our cells with lots of strong prairie sunshine.  It was much needed!  It helped us all to fun.
 The landscapes were terrific!
 I love the picnic shelters that the park service puts out there!  Yes, even though we enjoyed soaking up all that sunshine, we couldn't take THAT much of it since we're from a cloudy place and unfortunately spend a lot of time indoors.
The second and third nights, we left from this same parking lot and picnic area.  There's something of a trail out here that we thought we could follow to get into a "forest" area.  The trail wasn't very clear (we should have done a little more homework, so it would have been easy to follow), but we did make it to the forest we wanted to see.
 We followed "the wash" for a long ways - until it dead-ended.
 The second evening we set up camp on this small table - we were protected in case of rain since we had followed the wash as high as it went before getting too narrow to make camp.
 Here's the narrow area where we certainly couldn't make camp any more.  It was great for exploring and climbing!
 Day 3, hiking to the forest.
 Noah was often caught running ahead.  We would use landmarks like this to catch up with him!  Other times, he would fall behind and we had to offer snacks at landmarks like these to prod him along.
Can you see the forest now?  Figuring out the path to get there was a challenge!  Some clouds moved in on this 3rd afternoon so we were happy that we might camp in the protection of a forest - though we didn't know what a badlands forest might really be like!
 We made it!  We're now up in the forest along a high ridge.
 This campsite was named "Ram Skull Mountain" after we found this artifact hanging around.  There was evidence of a campfire nearby, we weren't the only ones to think it was a great camping spot!
 Here's what a Badlands forest looks like - in case you aren't up for the same kind of adventure we enjoyed.
 I told you some clouds were moving in.  After a short time of exploring, it started to rain, so we made tracks for our tent.  Turns out our <6 year old backpacking tent was no longer waterproof.  We spent an hour in the tent taking turns reading and diverting water.
 There was a fantastic rainbow when we got out after the rain.
One last trek around the odd mud hill formations and across the prairie to head home.

A few more logistical notes.
Normally we wouldn't eat freeze-dried backpacking food on a trip like this, but we did this time.  It was easy, though expensive, to just hit up our local backpacking store and buy the meals-in-a-bag.  As I mentioned earlier, we had to carry all of our water on our backs for this outing, so didn't want to plan for dish-washing water in addition to water to consume.  The option to add boiling water to the meal worked.  I don't remember all those that we tried - spaghetti and beef stew were definitely on the list.  I do remember that all were palatable for hungry hikers, and Brian had to pick peas out of one meal.
We hiked out with heavy backpacks full of food and water each afternoon, then the next morning, hiked back to the van with light, nearly empty packs.  I believe the MINIMUM recommendation is 1 gallon per person per day - that's a lot of water weight to be carrying around!  We regrouped and enjoyed lunch each day at the van. This is how we first introduced Noah to backpacking (before he was willing to carry a pack), and feels like a great way to us to get out into the wilderness with children OR out to a place where water is scarce.
You have to pack a small shovel on trips like this - it is your bathroom.  Established hiking trails will often have latrines, but this was backcountry camping.  The shovel doubled as a toy/distraction for our young explorer! Here's the shovel, go dig a hole.
Our tent went back to Marmot over the course of winter and they are replacing it under full warranty - this year, we will stay dry when adventuring!