Monday, October 11, 2010

Goodbye Screen - Hello Curb Appeal!

I don't even know how to express my immense sense of gratification and satisfaction. As I shared earlier today, from Day One in this house I wanted to remove the screen on the front porch. As you see below (the shot from the realtor), the screened-in porch made the house appear very close to the street:
In this shot (taken during the holidays last year), you can see a closer view. Honestly, we don't have that many bugs in the city and it just never made sense to me to have it.

So, (drum roll, please) after several years, I present to you the front of my house sans screen. I am so excited I can hardly stand it:

Obviously, if you look too closely, you will see the desperate need for cleaning the paint on the front of the house but, like I said, I'm just ecstatic. I look forward to more curb appeal next year when I can bust out some new landscaping too.

Post Script: Front Porch Steps

I admit to my mildly obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I won't lie. After seeing my "after" picture of the stairs from the other day, I thought to myself, "Self, now look how crappy the stair risers look after you painted the treads." So, yes, I succumbed to my overly developed need for aesthetic symmetry and painted the stair risers too. So, it's done and now I can sleep better at night.

However, spending all this time on the porch the past few days has made me realize that I really hate that screened in porch. I've pretty much hated it from before I even bought the house - driving by the house several times and thinking that I wasn't interested because of that ugly screen. In my opinion, it makes it appear too close to the street. Here's a shot from the holidays last year so you can see what I'm talking about:
Yes, it has to go. So this is my project today and we'll see how far I get on my own. I'm a bit fearful of what this will entail (e.g., who-knows-how-many-years-old rusted-out screws) but I'm going to see what I can do here. Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Front Porch Steps

I have returned with yet another minor home improvement project! [insert superhero music here] Huzzah! Yes, that's right, this Bangor Foursquare owner will remain the proud owner of said property, so says the paperwork. Woot! To celebrate the end of seemingly interminable months of drama, I decided to find myself a three-day weekend small project: the front steps.

As you can see, they weren't in such great shape paint-wise. What they really need (along with the rest of the house) is a nice long soak in some paint remover but I do not have the time or money to afford such extravagant measures at this time - so, it was good ol' elbow grease to the rescue. After about four hours of scraping (man, I'll be feeling it tomorrow, alright), I put the first coat on these puppies this afternoon.

It's not perfect but it's certainly much improved. Just in time for the snow and salt that will remove the paint from them again, I am sure.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Final Bathroom Renovation Breakdown

Okay, sports fans, here is the final breakdown (and the more exciting before-after pictures). It's a lot of fun to review these numbers and remember the planned and unplanned adventures of this renovation. Of course, feel free to peruse previous posts to revisit the fun along with me (especially the discovery of the hornets nest):

$217.52 Electrical contractor to run new 220 and new breaker
$125.00 Exterminator to treat and remove huge hornets nest
$154.10 Plumber for two trips - one to fix shut-off valve to house, one to wait for city to arrive
$26.60 Waste materials to dump

Tile and tile materials
$362.18 including white subway tile and trim tile, floor tile, mastic, grout, Schluter Ditra

Miscellaneous building materials
$56.89 for new studs, joint compound, plywood subfloor

Trim and molding

Plumbing materials and supplies
$208.00 Bathtub/shower and sink faucets
$95.54 miscellaneous extenders, supply lines, etc.

Big stuff

$158.00 Toilet
$288.00 Vanity/sink
$76.95 Beadboard
$98.00 Lights
$575.00 Tub refinish

Total bathroom renovation costs $2617.25

Overall, I feel pretty good about the costs of the renovation. I was hoping to stick close to $2,000 and I would have been there if it hadn't been for some of the unexpected expenses, which I should honestly expect. Anyway, I think that it was worth it. You can judge for yourself, of course:










After again (just because I love this tile and refinished tub so much)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Miracle Method = Like New Tub

I am very excited to finally have a completed bathroom! Woot! Woot! The Miracle Method guy just left and for a mere $575 I have virtually a new tub. I know I could have gotten a brand new tub for this amount but it would have been some cheapy fiberglass version. Instead, I kept my nice old cast iron tub and it just got a face lift. It's guaranteed up to 15 years, they say, and honestly it looks just like new. I am very happy with it. Even better, I can stand in the bathroom for the next several hours and get a free trip - yes, it's pretty stinky in there. Anyway, it's totally worth it. I'll post my final before-after shots tomorrow along with the budget. But we can safely call this one a wrap!

Tub before

Tub after

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Downstairs Powder Room

True to form, the paint is literally still drying on the upstairs bathroom and I am already setting my sights on the next home improvement project: the downstairs bathroom. There's probably some advice in there for other Type-A personalities and home improvement but it alludes me at the present time.

So, my thinking about the downstairs bathroom (or what has come to be lovingly referred to as the Harry Potter Bathroom) is that it's a nice weekend project. The sink will be staying put as it's in good shape, is pleasantly petite, and just had its faucet replaced several months ago. Structurally it's as good as it's going to get. So this project will entail a new floor, a new toilet, and maybe a new light/fan.

I've already picked out the new tile - just some black and white hexagonal tile, which should only take an hour to lay (seriously, people, this bathroom is small: 24"x67" at its WIDEST part). Although I should be more conservative and less optimistic about my timing - who knows what kind of mess awaits me under the ucky existing vinyl. I certainly learned the rotten-floor lesson from the upstairs bathroom.

A new toilet is another issue altogether. Thank goodness the rough-in is the standard 12" (the bathroom looks to have been added in the 1970s or 1980s) but, as I said, this is a seriously width- and depth-challenged room. The current toilet is a round front and a petite 25" deep. It's hard to find anything that is that small, other than the Kohler Rialto at Home Depot, which I found courtesy of a story on the This Old House webpage. I'm honestly not a big fan of the look of the Rialto, however, nor of the price tag. But, small bathroom beggars can't be choosers, I suppose. My recent trip to NYC showed me that small bathrooms have a certain art to them but I wonder if there was a time when these fixtures were more easily found - the days before McMansions, I would guess.

Other than that, I need to find a less ugly light/fan combination that is also relatively petite (i.e., not having much depth to it). Also not having much luck so far. Anyway, if you run across any of these things in your travels I'd love to hear about them.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bathroom Reno 2010: Done! (almost)

It wasn't a terribly sexy home improvement day but I feel good that I can finally say that my part of Bathroom Renovation 2010 is DONE! I don't want to do the big wrap-up, budget, before-after thing yet simply because I'm having the tub resurfaced at the end of the week and I'd like to wait until it is all officially done before I take the exciting after pictures. But, as far as I'm concerned, my part is done and I feel pretty darn good about it.

Here's what I did today: I took back that nasty Home Depot paint (they were nice and gave me a refund) and took that money right over to Sherwin Williams and got my tried and true Harmony. After painting the closet doors and trim, I put the new knobs on them:
I'm very happy with them and thank Sarah again for the bajillionth time for donating them to the cause. Hooray!

I also spent a good hour or so cutting off the legs of the radiator cover to fit the height with the new floor. This was slow work with the hacksaw but it got done and it got subsequently painted:
Then I finished up the last piece of chair rail on the dividing wall between the tub and the vanity area. This wasn't a big deal but I needed to miter the sides and put in the little miter cap on the end where it meets the tile. (I forgot to take a picture, I realize now, and I'm too lazy to do it now - sorry.)

Beyond that, I had to take the bathroom door off before I painted it to plane down the top and bottom a little since it wasn't closing well. It was the first time I used my little hand planer and I'm pretty smitten with it. Anyhoo, the door is now painted and closing relatively well. It still sticks a bit but I don't know how much of that is the heat/humidity and how much is the door but I'd rather not plane it down further until fall or winter.

After that, I put on the last coat of paint on the trim and it was a wrap, peeps.
I am looking forward to taking pictures of the bathtub refinishing process on Friday. It should be pretty cool, well, if you're into that kind of thing anyway (which I know most of you are). I will then report back with the final budget and the before-after pictures. Woot!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Not my day

Today may not be my day for home improvement. I was hoping to finish up the bathroom today and put up some shades in one of the bedrooms but it's not looking good. I bought said shades yesterday - the same ones I bought for the other bedrooms upstairs over two years ago but, for whatever reason, did not at the time buy any for that room. Well, I thought I measured correctly but obviously I did not as they're about an inch too short for the windows. I was able to rig up something for one window with some little spare plywood action but the other two are not cooperating. I took a break from that task to paint in the bathroom.

Unfortunately, that task also is not progressing as planned. While at HD yesterday buying said shades-from-hell, I decided to pick up some paint for the trim/closet doors in the bathroom. I have never bought paint from HD before and now I realize why. Here's the thing, though: I wanted to get the non-VOC kind like I usually get at Sherwin Williams (theirs is called Harmony) so I got HD's brand (Fresh Aire). Really the same price. Really not the same quality. Ugh. It's all smeary and watery. Yuck. So, I'm going to go back to SW and get the good stuff. At least I only painted the closet doors one coat but it's still an hour of my life that I won't get back (or $36).

The only thing working so far for me today is that I was able to put up the trim where the tile around the tub meets the ceiling. At least that looks nice (despite my blurry phone picture). Okay, back to the shades. I might be back later. I might throw in the towel and quit while I'm still sane and my blood pressure is still relatively low.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crossing some more off the list...

I was able to cross a few more things off the punch list today and, boy, does it feel good to be back at this! Hooray for home improvement!

First, I finally got sick of my towel on the counter and hung up the towel bar. Good deal from Target:
Then I grouted the floor under the heater (sorry for poor quality photography):

And then the corner by the shower:
After lunch, I tackled the closet doors. As I said yesterday, these were a donation from The Amazing Sarah, and are perfect! It took me a bit to scrape off the gold paint with which someone at some point felt the need to embellish the doors. Then I had to run to HD to get some new hinges that would fit since they're pretty narrow. Then it took me a while to hang the doors by myself, but I did it, by golly:
They, along with the trim and wainscoting, will now need to be painted and that's about it. I do have some quarter round I need to put up along with the last little piece of chair rail and then that's it, folks. I will wait to put up the final, final, final pictures (and budget) after the tub gets refinished but it feels nice to get back in the swing of things!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Still Kicking!

I admit it. I was burned out - emotionally and home improvementally - but I have returned, fair readers! After a several month respite during which I licked my wounds and contemplated the universe, I have returned today to finish ye olde bathroom renovation! As I've said before, I really only have a few hours left of work to do so it felt really good today to get back to working on about half of what's left. Here's what I tackled today:

I apologize for the fuzzy picture (my camera died last month so these are from my phone), but I finally tiled that spot under the heater that's been driving me nuts. You can see the not-quite-after shot below:

I'll grout tomorrow. Then I can put the cover for the heater back on and get it painted, along with the rest of the trim, probably next weekend. I have been contemplating building a cover for the heater so it will look more like the vanity so that's why there is a bit of a space with the baseboard there on the right.

Believe it or not, I also finally tackled my "gap" problem! Wait, that deserves a few more exclamation points (!!!). I guess I needed the months off to ponder this problem because when I went about tackling it today it really only took about 45 minutes to fix. You see below the nagging corner:

I shaved off some drywall there in the middle, put on some corner bead, and found some tiles (gasp!) that were exactly the right size for the remaining gap between the old tile and the edge. Quite pleased am I. I will grout this tomorrow as well:

Then I can put on the last piece of chair rail on the side, paint up the whole mess, and be done with it.

The remaining things may get done tomorrow, if I feel up to it. Really, besides the painting, I need to cut the bottom of the closet doors that Sarah gave me, install them, and paint them, and then put up the quarter round between the top of the tile around the tub and the ceiling. I'm planning to have the bathtub dude come in a couple weeks and resurface the tub once all of this is done. And, then, guess what? I'll be done, done, and done!

Post Script: For my very loyal readers, I wanted to mention that Mancha, my cat of 15 years, had to be put to sleep a couple weeks ago. She had been very ill with kidney failure for several years. She was a loyal home improvement buddy, always wanting to hang out for painting, drywalling, and general companionship, and was therefore a frequent feature in the blog. She will be sorely missed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stairs After

I did find a "before" picture, after all. Boy, do I not miss that ugly old carpet. So, here's what the stairs look like now, painted and refinished:

I wonder what else I can get to on my punch list this summer. I know I need to finish the banister and newel post - waiting for a day that I don't mind the stink as much, probably. I do need to do something about that bathroom upstairs. I think I'm going to have to face reality and just pull down some of those tiles [insert very sad face here] and redo the corner as it was supposed to be done in the first place. I'm really not motivated to demo even a few of my beautiful tiles so maybe I will need a few drinks in me to work up the courage first.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Primed and Ready: The Stairs Edition

As you may recall from last summer, the upstairs floors and stairs were refinished. Beautiful, yes, thanks to Don Dickel. One project I put off and put off was priming and painting the stair risers, which were not refinished.

So, now returning from a short trip back to Washington to see my mom graduate from community college at the ripe young age of 77 (see below), I have decided to get on top of my punch list for the house.

Yes, this also means I am taking a respite from the bathroom final details - I'm still not feeling motivated enough to pull out tile and fix my errors...perhaps soon.

I was absolutely certain I had a "before" photo of the stairs before I began priming them but, alas, such is not life. To make matters more complicated, my trusty old digital camera took its last sub-par photo while I was in Washington. So, instead, the below photo comes to you courtesy of my cell phone, uploaded to Snapfish. It's actually not a bad photo, really. Anyway, you see the primed stair risers, ready for painting.

If I finish both coats of the paint today I'll also post those. Off I go...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Still alive - but barely

Well, loyal readers, I am back. How long has it been? At least a couple months, I guess. There's been a lot of activity in the Bangor Foursquare. Unfortunately, little to none of it has surrounded progress toward finishing the bathroom. Mostly, the activity in the house has focused around domestic drama. In the spirit of over-sharing with complete strangers on the Internet, Mrs. Foursquare will soon again be Ms. Foursquare - hopefully getting to keep the home into which she has put so much heart and soul over the past two and a half years; here's hoping, anyway.

So, today, I made a meager attempt to get back into the groove and finish up some loose ends. There really isn't much left to do, thankfully, but what is left is perplexing. As I think I mentioned previously, I literally worked myself into a corner during this renovation. As you see below, I wasn't thinking through some of the details as I went along and didn't plan for how I was going to marry the tile board with the side of the wall separating the room. Now, I have a wonky gap between where I ended the tiles abruptly and the edge of the drywall on the side of the wall:
What I was hoping would work was a similar set up that I have on the other side of the tub area, next to the window, as you see below:
Unfortunately, however, this solution doesn't look like it will work on the other side. So, I'm stuck. I'm loathe to pull off tile and/or drywall. Yes, I know, lazy craftsmanship (or craftswomanship, in my case), but I just don't have the heart to do it. Maybe this means that I'm not yet ready to really finish this project. Hmm.

In other, happier developments, however, Sarah from Bangor Bungalow came over a few weeks ago bearing gifts:

These doors are going to be absolutely perfect for the closet. I need to cut a bit off the top and bottom to make them fit and then paint them and get rid of the gold accents someone put on the glass but they will then be exactly what I was hoping for. Thanks, Sarah!
So, once I muster up the wisdom and courage to figure out my gap issue, and trim these doors, all I will need to do is put up a little quarter round where the tile meets the ceiling around the tub and then paint the trim and wainscoting and I will be done, done, and done. I'm hoping to get the tile resurfaced in July or August and then we will call it officially over. As always, I appreciate any potential soutions to my gap issue. If nothing else, from this renovation I will have learned to think through every little detail before beginning a project. These few things left have really been frustrating and they were all of my own making. Live and learn - or, rather, renovate and learn.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bathroom Reno: Update

I have lost count on the bathroom renovation. My lack of recall may be linked to the noxious fumes that I woke to this morning emanating from my heaters. When I went downstairs to the basement to investigate, I was certain the fumes were coming from the general direction of my furnace. Nothing spilled or leaking - but definitely caustic. It smelled like gasoline or burned rubber. Not good. And, you've got it, probably not cheap to fix either.

So I called the nice people over at Dead River Company to come look at it. Have I mentioned before that I am from the Midwest? We Midwesterners know nothing about heating oil - I grew up with natural gas and electric heat. Here in New England, we feel the need to be even less environmentally conscious. Believe me, my investment in heating oil is not without misgivings - I have tried to convert to natural gas several times but, believe it or not, they stopped running gas line about a block from here and will not extend it until 10 people on the block sign up so no go on the natural gas. But I digress.

It appears that the smell (which the repair dude said he could not smell - eek!) came from the nozzle not firing as well as issues related to some soot build up in the chimney. I have no idea what this is going to cost me - hopefully the bill will take a while to arrive.

So, while I waited for all of this to happen today and for my headache to subside, I decided to work a bit more on the bathroom. There hasn't been much to report as of late - a lot of uninteresting things like adding the millionth coat of JC to the tub ceiling or to the corner bead. I did finally get the overhead light installed last week - I needed some longer screws to get it affixed to the ceiling, but here it is in all its old fashioned splendor:
Today I was able to sand the last coats of the JC around the tub surround finally paint (yipee!). You can see the fruits of my labor - it needs another coat but you get the general idea:

So, what's left? I will put some quarter round between the tub walls and the tub ceiling, some outsider corner moulding where the drywall meets the tile and then I still need to paint the trim and beadboard. I also have yet to find some replacement closet doors. I'm really not liking any of the styles available at the box stores and I refuse to spend a lot of money on doors for a closet. I'm considering trying to be creative and cutting out the slats on the old doors and seeing if I can replace them with some frosted glass or frosted plexiglass. I guess if I screw it up, oh well, since I was going to ditch them anyway. Here's to an evening of oxygen-rich air!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bathroom Reno Weekend 6

That's Mancha, chillin' in the window that is indeed open. It's a beautiful day today in Bangor, Maine and while Mancha soaked up some rays I put in a few more hours on the bathroom. You'll notice I'm counting in weekends now since the day count thing isn't really flying any more.

A combination of sexy and very unsexy work today. First task was filling nail holes with some painter's putty. I got frustrated trying to use the big knife to fill in little holes in awkward places so I used my finger instead. I now am missing some skin on those fingers so I guess I wasn't supposed to do, yeah.

I then put on my last coat (woot! woot!) of JC on the tub surround ceiling. I am admittedly getting much better at skim coating and felt pretty happy with my work today. I'm sure that once I prime it and see all the imperfections I will be pissy but for now it's okay. My plan is to use some quarter-round for that gap between the ceiling and the tile.
I then figured out a quasi solution to my tile-meets-wall problem area by the window. I was generally displeased with my attempt last week to resolve the problem, which entailed putting in some edge tile and then grouting the strange gap between the field tile and these new tiles. So, I bought some trim and put it up today. Once the adhesive dries (I couldn't use nails because it's over tile on the top half of the wall) I will prime and paint it and caulk around the tub edges. I think this will be a better solution to my lack of planning - but we'll see.

I then did a little touching up of paint, particularly behind the toilet, which was really bugging me.
And, then, most sexy of all - I put in the new vanity lights. It was a breeze to take out the old ones and install these new ones (Hampton Bay Classic Collection from HD). My only complaint is that they had little stickers on the metal pieces warning you about wattage for bulbs and now there is adhesive that I can't get off but I'll figure something out.
So, tomorrow (if I'm up for it), I'll put in the new overhead light, prime the tub surround drywall and maybe paint it, and perhaps paint the trim as well. Only a few things left to do after that: closet doors, threshold, something around heater (maybe), and then some towel bars. I can then call this renovation d-o-n-e.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bathroom Reno Day Whatever

Well, it's not pretty, it's not right, but it's a solution. I grouted those gaps between the old tile and the edge tile today by the window. It's still wet so I'm hoping it will look better when it dries. I guess, no matter what, it will be covered by a shower curtain so it's not the end of the world if it's a little wonky. Honestly, most of the bathroom is a bit wonky so at least I'm consistent. Besides that, I thought maybe I'd at least prime the casing and baseboards today but after nail setting all the nails (which was disconcertingly painful given what I would assume to be advancing arthritis), I opened up my painter's putty and spackle to find one dried out and one moldy. Ew. Unfortunately, this Bangor Foursquarer is tapped out until payday until Wednesday so painting will have to wait another weekend. In fact, after adding up the budget to this point yesterday, I found I have spent approximately $2,000 on this renovation. Not bad, I know, but a large chunk of that has been in the past month. I'm an education professor, for goodness sake, I don't make much money. This was my budget all along but a few bucks here and a few bucks there quickly adds up. Luckily, the last items remaining (spackle, caulk, outlet cover) will not cost too much. Perhaps next weekend I can then prime and paint and then even get the lights up. In the meantime, I think I will add another coat of joint compound to the tub ceiling and surround in preparation for said painting.