Progress: It’s Electric!

The Gingerbread Diaries

(Today, Thursday, is my “Friday” since I’m off work tomorrow to prep for the party. Since I doubt I’ll even think about blogging tomorrow, I wanted to get this update written up now.)

Can you guess what Todd worked on this week?

If you said wiring, you’d be right. On Saturday he ran all the new lines he needed, wired new switches and outlets and started the box for the light.


On Sunday he finished the “light box”– a framework or soffit that will allow the overhead light to sit level despite the fact that the ceiling will be sloped. We certainly could have mounted it flush with the joists, but I was worried about it casting weird shadows in the room.

While Todd worked on that, I trimmed the drywall to form the corner of the new wall–anything to get us closer to a completed bathroom.



Now, in order to hook the new everything into the existing wiring, he had to open up another portion of the hallway ceiling. So we have another hole in the house, but this one led to pretty quick results and we now have the hall light switch at the back door instead of 5 feet away. No more stumbling into the hallway to find the light switch–how novel!



A light switch in a logical place--not so common in this house.

A light switch in a logical place–not so common in this house.

And as he was finishing up with the bulk of the wiring, I asked about the bathroom light (it still isn’t installed). Namely, if it would be installed before this weekend. Turns out he needs to cut a piece of drywall to fit the bottom of the box/soffit before he can install the light.

Need, of course, is subjective. If he doesn’t cut the drywall to size and install it with the light, he’ll have to take the light out when we drywall the ceiling. And that makes total sense, right? “Might as well do it right,” he says.

And I realize… “might as well” is part of the reason this project is far exceeding its 9-week timeline. (Well, that and the floor surprises and other things we had to do in a very if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie way that we weren’t expecting.) Scope creep, man, it’s real.

And I can’t even be mad–at Todd or the project in general–because of course I want to do it right the first time and not half-ass it. Of course I don’t want to make more work or have to undo work to proceed with the rest of the project.

And yet…

But, no, the reason why I really can’t be upset about the scope creep is that I started it.

I totally did.

“Might as well” may be synonymous with scope creep, but so are “why don’t we” and “while we’re at it.” And two months ago I reopened the discussion on the bathroom renovation with “why don’t we install a pocket door” and “while we’re at it, why don’t we bump out the wall to meet the pipe chase.” This entire project has a foundation in scope creep.

I don’t know why I’m surprised.

There are three things I’d really love to see happen before 2pm on Saturday (when our guests are expected to arrive), and preferably well before then (as before as you can get in 48 hours, several of which will be spent at work or sleeping, pfft):

  1. Overhead light installed (with or without drywall)
  2. Sink installed (keeps getting pushed back for larger projects, completely understandable)
  3. Door facing and hardware

That third one’s kind of a biggie. See, right now, if you close the door to have it meet the other side of the doorway, it comes loose of it’s little guides, and just swings on its tracks. Even with the door facing there’s a 2″ or so gap. Thankfully we figured out last night that a 2×4 and the facing should fix that gap and allow the door to close without leaving its guides. And then we still need to set the hook and latch deal that keeps it closed.

Obviously, beyond those three items, we won’t be working on the renovation further this week, and I hope Todd will take the next week off to just chill. We shall see. I mean, I don’t want the project to languish for months or anything, but once the basics are covered I think we can take some time and approach the rest on a less frenetic, less hurried pace.

And thank goodness the next project is 100% outdoors!

All in All It’s Not a Brick in the Wall

The Gingerbread Diaries

Because our walls are drywall, you see.


Or, at least these are. The rest of the house is mostly plaster on lathe with some sheetrock repairs here and there. But I digress.

Week 8 has wrapped and we finally have the beginnings of walls going up!

(Direct link for the feed readers: GBD 2.10 | Bathroom Renovation, Week 8: Going with the Flow)

Now, I thought we’d be tackling the wall earlier rather than later, but hindsight (lovely thing) says that leaving this wall as a bare frame while we worked on everything else made a lot of things easier while we were still knocking around. But a very important thing happened this week:


We installed the new toilet. And since we do respect bathroom privacy in this house, a wall became kind of necessary pretty quickly. Plus, with the party only a week away, we figure our guests would appreciate walls, too. Just a bit…

We spent a good amount of time under the house on Saturday prepping the rest of the supply lines for the toilet, sink, and tub. I cut CPVC pipe and insulation to the lengths Todd called out–it was nice to be useful. I also had my phone out, playing music because music makes everything better, only to be punished for that effort when the phone slipped from my hands as we were crawling out from under the house and landed, face down, on the edge of a brick.

Casualty count: 1 Droid Maxx phone screen. Damn.

(And, of course, I’m only 3 months away from an upgrade so, yeah, I’m going to try to deal with the cracked screen until then rather than pay the exorbitant insurance fee for a replacement. I’ve got a screen protector on it, now, that’ll keep me from glass splinters. It’s not pretty, but it still works just fine.)

We also trimmed two sheets of drywall that evening for the section of interior wall behind the commode and the doorway opening between the bathroom and my office. After 7 weeks it was suddenly very strange not to be able to talk to Todd through that opening when I was at my desk and he was working in the other room! Still, I’m glad that we’ve got it filled in.

Apparently we’re doing the drywall the “wrong” way, but ask me if I care right this second?

Todd tells me, after we’ve cut the first few panels, that you’re supposed to use the 4’x8′ panels sideways and stack them so that they run perpindicular to the studs. That last part makes sense for stability and stress and all that, but for the sake of efficiency, if you have a space that’s less that 4’x8′, it makes absolutely no sense to chop a panel into sections and fit them in when one tall piece will work. And you’ll see in that first photo that we ignored those instructions, again, when covering the studs for the pocket door and will, probably, continue to do so for the rest of the dividing wall. The skinny strips left over from the first panels will work great for building the new corner of the room.

Rules are rules, but loopholes are loopholes. And common sense trumps even that some days.


Todd’s last task for the week was to fill in those gaps between the new subfloor and the exterior walls. This blocks all those problematic drafts and will keep the insulation that will be added when we do the drywall from sliding down to the ground.

The to-do list for this weekend is to get the rest of the dividing wall in place, I’ll add some privacy film to the window, we’ll get the sink mounted on the recessed wall and hooked up, and maybe even get the new outlet and switches wired.

But with the party next weekend, I’ll be focusing on getting the rest of the house tidied up, decorating the dining room for our luau theme, and starting the food prep!

And So It Begins!

The Gingerbread Diaries

Our first room renovation has finally gotten off the ground!

Friday night, after chattering to Todd over dinner about where I though we might start, I noticed he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of a weekend spent tearing down walls.

Jenn: Am I being annoying?
Todd: No, not really.
Jenn: Am I micro-managing?
Todd: Maybe a little.
Jenn: Is that annoying??
Todd: Maybe a little.

In his defense, I was trying to put together a week-by-week plan to make sure we could meet our proposed deadline. It went something like this:

  • Week 1: Take the room down to studs
  • Week 2: Build new wall*
  • Week 3: Electrical and plumbing**
  • Week 4: Drywall and painting***
  • Week 5: Sink/commode-side tiling****
  • Week 6: Sink/commode installation; tub-side tiling
  • Week 7: Install tub
  • Week 8: Finishing touches

But he must have gotten into the spirit of the project because he got up and wiggled some loose clapboards out of the way, just to see what things looked like inside the walls. And on Saturday afternoon we started working on the wall in earnest. Before I get to the what all those asterisks mean, here, have a video!

(Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 2.3: Downstairs Bath Renovation, Week 1)

*A New Wall, Where Once Was Hall

So, my big idea a few weeks ago was that we could put a pocket door for the bathroom and it would a) be cool, because pocket doors are automatically cool, and b) save some usable space in the hallway since that door is usually half-open, unless the room is occupied. I have Yellow Brick Home to thank for that mini-epiphany–they were talking about an impending barn door project, I believe, which led me on a short path to pocket doors. Then I had the idea that we could gain a little more elbow room in the bathroom by bumping out the wall to where the pipe chase extended. It’s only about 6-8″ so it won’t impact the hallway in any huge way but I think those 6 inches will make a big difference for anyone washing their hands at the new sink.

This does mean, however, that we have to build in support for this wall by adding joists under the house. Thankfully this part of the house is 3-4 feet off the ground, so Todd’ll have room to work under there no problem, but we do have to cut into the existing floor to make it happen, so, yeah. That won’t be happening on a week night, it’s definitely a start early Saturday morning sort of project.

**Electrical and Plumbing in Stages

Everything in the room is moving, so almost all the supporting elements need to move, too. There’s an air vent under where the tub will go that will be re-routed to under the window, and an electrical outlet just above it that will move over to the new wall, under the light switch and next to the sink. I think. Then, of course, there’s the plumbing lines that all have to be moved.

Which ties into…

***Piece-meal Drywall and Painting

One thing we learned when we opened up the ceiling is that we do have room to raise the ceiling, at least on the hall-side, and slope it towards the exterior wall. This will make it feel less cave-like. There’s one pipe in the way, a big cast iron deal, that is the current commode’s vent. Because it’ll need to stay where it is (same with the vertical stack behind the current commode) until the new toilet is in place, that means the ceiling will need to be done later than the rest of (most of) the drywall. This is an inconvenience I can live with in exchange for higher ceilings.

Here’s a question–would you do the drywall and painting before you tile, or after? I think before, that way you’re not slopping paint over freshly laid tile and grout and have to be less careful. Not to mention this would also be before the fixtures go in and less funny angles to work in and around. Todd says it’s usually done the other way around. I suppose it doesn’t matter tremendously, since we’ll be doing things in a somewhat wonky order, anyway.

****Tiling Half the Room at a Time

Now, my one requirement for this project is that the room remain essentially functional for as long as possible. Which means that I don’t want the current toilet removed before the new one is installed. This is why half the room will be completed (walls, tiles, etc.) before the other half. Normally I’d want to be as efficient as possible, knocking all the drywall out at once, all the tile, all the painting. This is also a nod to Murphy’s Law, and a hedge against unforeseen delays, etc. I’d rather have guests using a half-finished bathroom downstairs than make them go upstairs, should we not make our deadline.

Ideally we’ll be able to work on smaller projects or tasks during the week, but I don’t want to depend on that too much since I know how our evening hours often find us drained or trying to take care of normal day-to-day stuff. And there are a few things that I can take care of on my own like fixing the window (more on that, later) and repainting the tub and painting and so forth when the time comes. At this stage of the game, though, it’s mostly Todd’s department since we’re dealing with structural stuff that I’m not as familiar with.

As far as budget goes, if you read the earlier post on the bathroom plans, I guesstimated about $2000 for the whole room, and we’re right around $400 spent so far. (Though that does include the reciprocating saw and blades, something that’ll be in use for far more than this one use, so give or take ~$100.) Still plenty left for drywall, tile, paint, and fixtures (and who knows what else).


A not-so-glamour shot of the wall-less bathroom after Sunday’s efforts.

While tearing down the walls we learned a few things:

  • The braintrust that built this room appears to have used floorboards for the walls. We thought it was beadboard, but that was just the “creative” spacing of the floor planks. It also meant that instead of removing panels, the walls came down one stubborn board at a time.
  • There’s evidence of fire damage in some of the studs and braces. Now, we know the upstairs caught fire in 1939, and the abundance of square nails in the framing leads us to believe this room might have been enclosed before the fire and suffered some damage during it. Whether it was a bathroom back then or not is anyone’s guess.
  • There’s a good chance that every time I ask Todd “Would you normally use <insert material or technique>?” Todd’s answer is going to be “If you’re going cheap.” This was the case for only putting a vapor-barrier on half the ceiling (of course the half that didn’t have the leak!), using quarter-round in front of the exiting baseboards (our stellar contractor’s option), and using larger quarter-round to “fill” an interior corner, among other things.This room was definitely the best first room to tackle in many regards!
  • We really need a shop-vac! (And a second pry-bar would have come in handy; you might notice in the video we keep trading the hammer and pry-bar depending on what section of wall we’re working on.) Dust masks are a must on this sort of project and my gel knee pads saved me when I was crawling around removing quarter round and baseboards. I have a feeling they’ll be a lifesaver when it comes time to tile!

That’s our progress so far! The next update (I hope to be able to do these weekly as the project continues) will include framing the new wall and installing the pocket door.