Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blog Stuff. Not House Stuff

I discovered Hackosphere from one of the other blogs (I don’t remember which) and I’ve been tweaking the blog the past few days. I think some of the new features that come with the basic Blogger Beta - or is it now the New Blogger, or maybe there is no more Old and New Blogger and it’s all just Blogger. I’m not really sure, either way, I was not thrilled with the new look of the default Blogger. That pretty much goes for most of the templates they offered. It's not that they're bad, I'm just picky, I guess. I'm still not happy with the way mine looks.

The old ones weren’t that great either but at least someone with basic HTML skills could easily hack the old templates. The new ones rely heavily on Widgets, and hacking a Widget is beyond my skill level at this point. Fortunately, others out there are skilled at hacking them and they’ve posted a bunch of stuff to allow Widget neophytes like myself to customize their blogs. I’ve decided I’m going to keep tweaking it until I’m quoted by a national news media outlet, but I promise, no more blinking text or scrolling titles.

I also feel bad because I posted a bit of a rant in the discussion forums today. It wasn’t meant as a whiney, childish rant, but it may have come out that way. I love HouseBlogs.Net and it was only out of my frustration of not being able to use it that I posted. After I posted, the whole thing seemed to go kablooy and I hope it wasn’t my cause. Anyway Nick, I didn’t mean to rag on you. You guys over at HiP do a bang-up, and I’m sure largely thankless job of keeping HouseBlogs.Net up and running. You had mentioned the problems were a recent thing but if the truth be told, the issues I wrote about have been ongoing for me. Maybe it’s my browser. I don’t know. Regardless, I love HouseBlogs.Net, and if I haven’t said it, I’ll say now: Thanks for keeping the site up and running.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pretty, Shiny Things & A FedEx Rant

Let’s start off with the rant and go from there. FedEx – Ugh! We live in a sparsely populated area. I get that. Does that mean that a huge corporation like FedEx can’t coordinate a little better between FedEx Air and FedEx Ground. Yes, that’s exactly what it means.

FedEx has NEVER tried to make a delivery to my house when I’m home. Never. They always come when I’m not here. Most of the times this is not an issue, but when a signature is required, it becomes a major issue. The FedEx Air facility is only a block from where I work. It is new, clean, and well staffed. The FedEx Ground facility is an “Un-Manned” facility about 12 miles away. You can’t call to arrange Will-Call because there is no one there during the day. You can call and leave a message, but they either ignore the messages or they get your message and then say, “Yea, right buddy. I don’t think so” as they press the delete button.

If you go to FedEx Air to try and talk to a real person it’s as if they have no idea that FedEx Ground even exists. So when I get a package from FedEx that requires a signature in person I’m forced to drive around town to try and find the FedEx truck that has my packages. That happened today. Actually it started yesterday because that was their first attempt. I think they try three times and then return the package to the sender if I don’t find them. Once yesterday and once today I spent about 20 minutes driving around town looking for the FedEx truck. The first truck I found was FedEx Express. I have no idea where they are located, but they’re not affiliated with FedEx Ground either and the guy was no help. On the second scouting expedition I found the truck with my boxes. Very frustrating!

Anyway, I got that off my chest, so lets move on to some pretty, shiny things. This is all the bounty from DEA Bath. This is why I was chasing the stupid FedEx guy all over town for the last two days. For some reason the bill came to a few hundred dollars less than I had originally figured. I wrote the order out in Excel, so the math is right. I know I got everything, but I’ll have to go over the invoice to find out where the difference is. I won’t show you all of it, but a few things are neat-o enough to warrant pictures.

The first two are of the sink trap for the vanity. It is 16 gauge nickel plated brass. It also has the cool little clean-out finial.

This is the new flush valve and rear spud for the high-tank. Also nickel plated brass. In fact, everything’s nickel plated brass

This is new flush tube and seat bumper for the high-tank. The seat bumper fits around the tube and then mounts to the wall. When you lift the seat up it hits the rubber bumper instead of the tube. There wasn’t enough room for one on the upstairs high-tank because the whole thing was too close to the wall, so I'm excited about the seat bumber.

This one’s not much to look at. It’s a 36-inch flexible supply pipe. It should be enough to do the supply lines for the sink and the toilet (fingers crossed). They start with flexible copper tubing and then plate it, so I should be able to bend it slightly in to shape so it can make the connections between the shut-off valves and the faucets.

That's it for now.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ship Building

For me it’s cabinet building time again but every time I’ve thought about it for the past few days the Elvis Costello song "Shipbuilding" pops in to my head. It’s a great song, although not really lively and upbeat. The song is about how some people are happy about the economic benefits of war because it revitalizes certain segments of the economy, and they seem to forget that many people will die so that can buy “a new winter coat and shoes for the wife. And a bicycle on the boys birthday”. It has a very slow and haunting melody to it, and if I remember correctly it has a wonderful horn solo. I could have worse songs stuck in my head.

As for the cabinets, they should be pretty simple because they are two small built-ins, which means a lot of the construction really won’t be seen. I still have gobs of the salvaged beadboard that is covered in layers and layers of healthy, delicious lead paint. Hmm, hmm, good. You know what that means! Yep, it’s time to strip some paint. Yeah! This really is good paint stripping weather.

The corner cabinet behind the door will pretty much just be a face frame against the wall. There will be two inside walls, but they don’t need to be perfect. I won’t need to be as selective with the wood, and I can use the back, unfinished sides. Hopefully I can get these out of the way this week.

It's just a rumor that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we'll be shipbuilding

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tile Ordered!

It’s official. It’s all very exciting. Today I contacted Subway Ceramics and gave them totals for what I need. Hopefully I’ll hear back early next week about dollar totals with shipping, and delivery times. Until then it’s a waiting game.

I played around with the room a little bit to maximize tile usage. I'm definitely doing built-in cabinets on either side of the door. The one behind the door will be a corner cabinet which I think will mostly be used to store the toilet brush, cleaning supplies, and things like that. This will go at least 4 feet up, but maybe more. On the other side of the door, as you enter the room will be a cabinet roughly 12X14 inches and about 3 feet high. It may have one drawer and then a cabinet underneath for towels. I will finish the tops of both with the 2-inch hex tile that I'll use on the floor.

The tile for the wainscoting will have a 6-inch high coved base tile, then 3.5 feet of field tile, topped with a wood cap. I may do a 1-inch high colored boarder tile either just below the cap, or maybe in between the top two rows of field tile. Around the tub area the tile will go 7-feet up the wall. So it will be about 4-feet up on all walls and 7-feet up around the tub.

Here’s a final floor plan…

I think the next piece of the puzzle is to build a few cabinets.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Artist Rendering of Your Home

That’s what some friends of mine gave me for Christmas this year. Actually, they gave me a gift certificate for one, in honor of the new paint job. I contacted The Artist several weeks ago and she waited for a sunny day to take some photographs of my home. Today she stopped by with the photos taken from different angles and we picked out the best one for the portrait.

The Artist will do a pen & ink drawing of my home and then water color it. The friends who gave me the gift certificate had one done of their house – an 1880s Victorian – and it really looks nice. It was really a very thoughtful gift. I was quite surprised by it.

So as I said, The Artist came by today and we talked about the best view. I chose my favorite view of the house. It’s as if you were standing on the corner and you can see the front and right side of the house. It captures the scale of the house well, and shows both the front porch and the back wrap around porch.

The Artist will not paint in things like telephone poles and the fire hydrant on the corner. She will also leave out the 1920s Mission Revival garage structure in back. She will be adding a picket fence, because I plan to build one some day. I’m sure the house probably had a picket fence of some sort when it was built, so while it is not a true rendering of what the property looks like today, it is probably accurate of what it looked like at one time.

The Artist said she is going out of town on February 18th and she should have it finished before she leaves. Pretty damn cool, don’t you think?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Once More In To The Ditch

I had a Petch House miracle today. I ran new natural gas lines for the dryer and for the bathroom heater and I did it with only one trip to the hardware store Gasp! I know, it’s pretty amazing. I mapped out the pipes. Measured under the house. Went to the store and bought the pipe and fittings. And everything fit on the first try! If you didn’t know any better you might start to think I know what I’m doing.

I started referring to my little home away from home under the house as “The Ditch”. It sort of feels like your laying in a ditch when you’re under there. Once you crawl under the house you have about 3 or 4 feet of level ground and then it starts to slop upwards. About 10 feet away there is a big tree stump under the house and all of the ground for a good 8 to 10 feet around it slopes up towards the stump. The stump is cut off about a few inches from the bottom side of the sub floor under the butler’s pantry. Because of the slope it feels like you’re laying in a ditch under there.

I’ve gotten accustomed to working around the stump, but went I first started working under the house a few years ago it was spooky with a capital S. The stump is still pretty much intact, but there a little cubby holes and nooks and crannies all around it. You just never know what the hell might be living in there.

More importantly than everything going smooth as silk with the pipe fitting was the fact that I had no leaks! Needless to say, natural gas leaks under the house are a bit more troublesome than water leaks. They are also a lot harder to detect. Gas is lighter than air and so it will collect in the joist bays and pool until a spark sends your house flying off the foundation. They make a soapy solution you can use to help find leaks. You brush it on the fittings and watch for bubbles. That is helpful if you know you have a leak and you’re trying to find it.

What I do is when I cut off the gas before I start working I write down the readings on the meter and use those as a bench mark to see if everything is OK when I turn it back on. I also close all the valves where the pipe feeds in to appliances in the house. After everything is hooked back up I wait an hour or so and look for any changes in the meter. I used to wait over night but I feel more confident now. After running dozens of yards of gas pipe, with hundreds of fittings I’ve had only one leak the whole time.

That one leak was when I plumbed most of the house for natural gas a few years ago. Residential natural gas runs at about a quarter of a PSI. Very, very low pressure. To get inspected I had to fill the pipes up with 20 PSI of air and then the inspector would come by and watch the gauge for a few minutes to make sure it didn’t drop. If it dropped that meant I had a leak. Twenty PSI is about 80 times normal pressure the gas lines will see.

Anyway, I got everything hooked up and filled the pipes with 20 PSI of air and I had just the tiniest of leaks. It was so slight that at 10 PSI it didn’t even leak. I crawled around under the house for days brushing on the sudsy leak solution trying to find the leak and I couldn’t find it. It was so frustrating. I went to some on-line plumbing forums and one guy suggested I go up to 30 PSI and mix up a solution of half dishwashing liquid and half water and brush that on. Sure enough that worked.

I had a plug in a T fitting that was supposed to be for my future laundry room dryer. The plug was a piece of crap, or maybe it got a little dirt in it, or whatever. I replaced the 39 cent plug with a new one and the leak went away. That T with the plug is the very same T fitting I hooked everything up to today. That’s what made me think of it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tile Crunch Time

It’s the moment I’ve been dreading. Over the past 2 months I’ve written volumes about tile selections but now it’s time to put my money where my finger tips are. I must order tile. I would rather spend another day under the house with leaking copper pipes than have to make a final decision on tile.

I’m glad the salvage floor tile came up for two reasons. First, I saved a lot money. That’s always a plus. Second, and equally as important, I didn’t have to make a choice. It was a take-it-or-leave-it moment. Not so with the wall tile. I did have a line of some locally salvaged subway tile, but the deal fell apart. Actually, it didn’t so much fall apart as it ever so slowly crumbled apart. In fact, I’m still not quite sure what happened.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. Dealing with salvage and used things is always a crap shoot. I’ve very much become accustomed to the fact that I’m not always going to get what I want. That’s why I always seem to come up with 10 ideas for the same thing and hope one of them will work out. I think I may have only about a 60% success rate with the things I bid on at Ebay. Most of the time my method is like bidding with a shot gun. I make 5 low-ball bids on similar items and hope I’m the only bidder on one of them. If that’s the case, I get the item for the opening bid and get a good deal. This helps on those rare occasions where it’s something I will die if I don’t own. I then bid an absurdly high amount to ensure I get it. If I pay too much I can just think back to all the great deals I got in the past. It’s an odd little game I play with myself.

But back to the tile….

I’m 99.9% sure I’m going with Subway Ceramics. I’m going to take some finally measurements this weekend and call in an order on Monday. I’ve come up with a few ways to reduce the amount of field tile I will need to buy. I was going to build or buy a free standing corner cabinet that would go behind the door. I’ve now decided to do a built-in cabinet. This will be a nice balance to the built-in cabinet I’ve been planning all along for the other side of the door.

Also, I was going to put subway tile on the floor under the tub. I thought it would be easier to make it water tight with the 3X6 tile than with the 1-inch hex tile. I’m now going to go with the salvage 2-inch hex tile. It’s not only wider but it’s also more than twice as thick as either the subway or the 1-inch hex. Much easier to seal. Also, I can come to down to 7 feet around the bath area instead of the planned eight feet.

Finally, I’m considering going with a simple 1.5-inch cove piece for the base instead of the 6X6 inch tile with the cove. This would mean buying more field tile but the base tile was much more expensive per sq ft than the field tile so this would actually save a lot of money. Another option is to do what I’m calling a “Traditional Eureka” installation and have no base tile at all. The field tile would just go all the way down to the floor. All of the bathrooms in a turn of the century hotel here in town were done this way. I think it would be a rustically elegant installation that I am seriously considering. I wish I had more time to think about it, but as I said, it’s tile crunch tile. Decisions need to be made.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Last Piece Of The Plumbing Puzzle

And it is a puzzle. This small area of the house - 10X6 feet - now has pipes and drains for two bathrooms and a laundry room under it. Along with that, the first floor sub panel is on the wall just opposite this space, and there are two CAT5 and two coaxial cables from the second floor that feed right up through this area as well. If you remember that old “Pipes” screen saver, well picture that with a bunch of romex and telecom cables thrown in to the mix. It’s a wonder I didn’t fry anything with the soldering torch.

It took three tries to fix the stupid leak in the stupid pipe from yesterday. In the past when I’m faced with one of these pin-hole leaks I’ve been able clean the copper around the leak, apply a little flux, and then resolder. It wouldn’t work this time. I eventually had to take the thing apart, clean it all real good, and then resolder. What a pain.

Someone yesterday suggested poor quality flux might have been the problem. While I’m sure there is crappy flux out there I happen to know I use the same brand as the largest plumbing concern in town. No, I think the problem was that I didn’t clean the copper well enough. I have this 4-in-1 pipe cleaner that will clean the inside and outside of half inch and three-quarter inch pipe. It’s pretty worn out and dirty. I think that was the culprit. Anyway, it’s done, so let’s move on.

That last piece of puzzle is the gas line for the dryer in the laundry room and a wall heater in the bathroom. A few years back I planned for this so I have a ¾-inch T on the main gas line with a plug in it ready to go. It’s just under the floor. I would say it’s maybe 12 feet of pipe, another T, 2 elbows, and two valves. I predict 14 trips to the hardware store.

I probably won’t use the heater that is going in the bathroom very often. It is an old unvented radiant gas heater I bought on everyone’s favorite bottomless money pit called Ebay. It doesn’t meet code and I won’t use it that much, but if I put it in the wall I want it to work. It’s mostly eye candy, but it should at least function.

I’ll wait for someone to gasp in horror that I have an unvented natural gas appliance in the bathroom and then I’ll exclaim how I use it all the time and it’s the greatest thing in the world. I’ll then bend down and turn it on and watch as they bolt from the room with their hand covering their mouth and nose to escape the deadly emissions emanating form the appliance. Oh, what fun it’ll be.

That’s the heater in question. There are 3 ceramic radiant that go in the black area. I think it’s kind of neat. For real heat for the bathroom I want to put a “warm floor” under the tile. I’ve been looking a few models on line and they aren’t cheap. It’s just some wire and a programmable thermostat and they start around $500. At least the ones I looked at are they much. Oy! This bathroom is going to break me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The State Of The Bathroom

The state of the bathroom is good, but there are some problems.

One of the immutable laws of The Universe states that no matter how many copper joints I solder in one day one of them will have a pin hole leak. If I solder two joints, one will leak. If I solder three joints, one will leak. If I solder 500 joints, one will leak. This law is written just for me and today it played out exactly as it was written, but that wasn’t the worst part.

Before I get to the dumb mistake I made (not the leaky solder) I want to say that I really don’t care for working with copper. In my opinion the PEX method, even though I’ve never used it, is much better. It’s not available around here, so it wasn’t an option for me. Of all of the mechanical things in the house like plumbing, electrical, and gas lines, the copper joint seems the least accurate. I can attach two wires together with a wire nut and pull on them as hard as I can. If they come apart I didn’t do it right. I tighten down a pipe and you can feel it tighten. With the copper solder you prep the pipe ends, you heat it, and then put on the solder. It looks fine. You can pull on it and twist it and it seems secure, but you don’t know it’s a good solder until you turn on the water and see if there is a leak. It’s very frustrating.

To make matters worse, once there is water in the pipe it makes it even harder to repair the leak. As you heat the pipe any water, even a very small amount near the joint you are trying to fix, will boil and turn to steam from the heat of the torch. If you are soldering near an open valve the steam can escape out the valve. If not, the steam tries to escape out the joint you are trying to repair. There are a few tricks to employ, but this mostly means cutting the pipe some place to release the steam. Now you have another repair to make. It’s all very frustrating.

My leak today was, oddly enough, the very first solder I made. It was just a tiny, tiny pin-hole leak. Now though, once I’ve discovered it, I now have the pipes filled with water under pressure. It’s 5:30 at night, I’m hungry, and tired and I’m in no mood to drain the pipes and try to make the repair. Instead, I wrapped a towel around the leak, filled up the tub, shaved, brushed my teeth, and then went and shut off the water. I’ll fix it tomorrow.

Aside from the leak, the rest went well, except for the one minor mistake I mentioned earlier. The last thing I do is cap off the pipes above the floor where the valves will eventually go. I leave the pipes uncapped so as I solder pipes under the floor any steam that accumulates in the pipes from residual water will have a place to escape. The very last thing I do is cap the pipes and then turn the water back on and check for leaks. Well, I forgot to cap the pipe for the toilet. When I turned on the water I had a major geyser in the bathroom. It’s just sub floor, so it’s not the end of the world. The only real problems is that the water drained down through the floor and soaked the ground under the bathroom. This is where I have to go tomorrow to repair the pin-hole leak. Bummer.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I Miss The Nickel & Diming

Today I made a large purchase from DEA Bath for some shiny nickel plated bathroom things. It’s all the exposed plumbing and some assorted toilet parts. It’s going to come to over $1,100 once shipping and taxes are factored in. Ouch! I know it’s very un-American but I hate spending money and I hate having debt.

The debt is very minor at this point. I sort of got a little behind when I was doing the kitchen and the idea was to pay it off when I was painting the exterior, which was relatively affordable. I’m not sure what happened, but I finished painting the house and I still had the debt. Now it’s growing. It’s a home equity loan, and I’m investing it in the home, so it’s not the end of the world. I just like to complain about it. Now that I’ve done the complaining we can move on.

At the beginning of December I called DEA Bath about selling them some vintage toilets and sinks that I didn’t need. I was going to get store credit for some of the plumbing parts I wanted. The biggest item was going to be a marble vanity. Because the vanity has exposed plumbing, I needed to get that item nailed down before I could rough in plumbing and electrical. I spoke with a guy named Tim Daley and he was about as unhelpful as anyone could possibly be.

This is not run-of-the-mill, garden verity stuff I’m dealing with. I’m rebuilding a 100 year old toilet, sink and tub. I had a few questions and he was unable to answer them. At first it was fine because I know that not everybody is an expert. I would give him a few things to follow up on and I would call back in a few days and he had not followed up on them. He wasn’t able to get me pictures of the vanities I asked for, and he seemed not to know the inventory well. He would email me work orders to review and he would have part numbers and pricing wrong. It was annoying but I tried to be patient.

Finally, after about three weeks in to this I started to get very impatient with him. I told him I was going to be driving down with the vintage plumbing parts and I needed to make arrangements. I asked him when he thought he would have all the parts I ordered ready for me. The idea was that I would pick up everything I ordered at the same time, and save money on shipping. Tim’s answer was, “It’ll be ready, when it’s ready”.

That was pretty much the end of it. I told Tim I was taking my plumbing parts else where. I would buy the vanity else where, and maybe if he had time in a month or two I would call back for some of the other parts. A lot of this was done via email and after I emailed them saying I was taking my business else where I got a call from the owner. I was so disappointed at this point that I did return his call.

I’ve dealt with DEA Bath in the past and my last experience was exactly the opposite as this. I didn’t handle this well at all. The first time I felt that Tim was dropping the ball I should have asked to speak to the manager. Eventually my short fuse ran out and as a matter of principle I couldn’t go back. The trouble is, there are some things DEA Bath has that I can’t get other places. So today I called them and placed an order.

I got a guy named Jim this time. He was very knowledgeable and very helpful. He knew the inventory and what parts go with what parts. I gave him a wrong part number at one point – I transposed two numbers - and he immediately stopped me and questioned it. I told him the part name and he knew exactly what I was talking about. I asked him if all the parts were in stock and with out putting down the phone he assured me they were and it would ship tomorrow. I really wished I had gotten Jim the first time.

If you have vintage plumbing in your house and someone tells you it can’t be repaired because the parts aren’t available, call DEA Bath first. They really are good people and know their shit. However, if a guy named Tim answers the phone either ask for someone else, or hang up and call back later.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

130,000 Guests Are Arriving Now

They started flying in about a week ago. They only stay a few months. They make a lot of noise, and eat everything in site. Most people don’t mind them, but the ranchers hate them. Apparently 20 of them can eat as much as a cow in a day. I like them. They are Aleutian Geese on there way north and Humboldt Bay is a major stopover and feeding ground on their way north.

I watch every morning as band after band of geese fly and cackle over head. Right now they are trickling in but soon the huge formations of geese will be backed up to the horizon like planes at Kennedy airport on Christmas Eve. It is quite a spectacle. Green fields at the south end of the bay are brown with geese every morning. At the height of the season there will be more Aleutian Geese in the county then there will be people.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Tile Smashing Good Time

I made another trip down to smash up more salvaged tile today. I only a had a few hours, but I hit a vein of easily obtainable tiles, so I made a good haul. I may go down tomorrow one last time. We’ll see how I feel. I’ve been running crazy for the last week and a half. If it wasn’t the tile then it was the plumbing. I got a lot done but my house and my life is a chaotic mess because of it.

I’ve been able to get 15 boxes that are the same size, and then another 4 boxes of different sizes. I took one of the 15 boxes and counted 206 tiles in it. They are 2-inch hex tiles so I figured 36 tiles per sq ft. That works out to roughly 5.5 sq ft per box, times 15 boxes, means I have roughly 85 sq ft of tile. Of course, there will be some waste when I go to clean it, but I’ll assume the other 4 boxes of varying sizes will account for the waste.

I have about 70 sq ft of floor space to do. With a normal installation I would order an extra 5% to 10% to account for waste during installation. Considering the tile, I think this will be a worst case scenario when it comes to waste, so lets say I need 80 sq ft. As I estimated, I have 85 sq ft.

This all assumes I don’t do a boarder. If I do a 6-inch boarder of some other tile, then it puts me in a better position. I’m leaning away from a boarder now because the salvaged hex tile is half inch thick and the new tiles, or at least the samples I got, are only 3/16 of an inch thick. I would have to shim all of the boarder area by 5/16 of an inch. If I’m off a little bit it could look crappy.

In other news, I posted a question about cleaning grout off tile over at Urban Revivals on thier Discussion Blog. It’s not really a blog and it’s not really a forum. You ask a question using a web form and a few days later, if they answer, they post your question and an answer to their “blog”. Anyway, someone else asked the same question I did only a day before I did, so they posted their question and answer. The question was, how do you remove old grout from salvaged tile. The answer was a dermel Tool. Specifically, here was the Q&A….

Aggie of Chicago writes: How do you remove adhesive from used ceramic tile?

Urban Revivals replies: We use a dremel tool with stone grinder bits. Set the variable speed so you can grind it off the tile, without going so fast that you nick the tiles.

I think Stucco House also came up with this response, so she gets a gold star by her name. Of course, the best part of this is, it means I get to have hours and hours of fun grinding grout off tiles. I’m fortunate this is good grout grinding weather. I’ve been thinking about though, I really don’t have to get it all off. In most places the grout was only an eight of an inch think or less. In some of repaired areas it was thicker, but those make up a small minority of the tiles. All I have to do is take it down below the surface of the tile and when I regrout you’ll never see it. Either way, it’s going to be a butt-load of work. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m saving seven or eight hundred dollars. That is a motivating factor, if there ever was one.

A Tile Smashing Good Time

I made another trip down to smash up more salvaged tile today. I only a had a few hours, but I hit a vein of easily obtainable tiles, so I made a good haul. I may go down tomorrow one last time. We’ll see how I feel. I’ve been running crazy for the last week and a half. If it wasn’t the tile then it was the plumbing. I got a lot done but my house and my life is a chaotic mess because of it.

I’ve been able to get 15 boxes that are the same size, and then another 4 boxes of different sizes. I took one of the 15 boxes and counted 206 tiles in it. They are 2-inch hex tiles so I figured 36 tiles per sq ft. That works out to roughly 5.5 sq ft per box, times 15 boxes, means I have roughly 85 sq ft of tile. Of course, there will be some waste when I go to clean it, but I’ll assume the other 4 boxes of varying sizes will account for the waste.

I have about 70 sq ft of floor space to do. With a normal installation I would order an extra 5% to 10% to account for waste during installation. Considering the tile, I think this will be a worst case scenario when it comes to waste, so lets say I need 80 sq ft. As I estimated, I have 85 sq ft.

This all assumes I don’t do a boarder. If I do a 6-inch boarder of some other tile, then it puts me in a better position. I’m leaning away from a boarder now because the salvaged hex tile is half inch thick and the new tiles, or at least the samples I got, are only 3/16 of an inch thick. I would have to shim all of the boarder area by 5/16 of an inch. If I’m off a little bit it could look crappy.

In other news, I posted a question about cleaning grout off tile over at Urban Revivals on thier Discussion Blog. It’s not really a blog and it’s not really a forum. You ask a question using a web form and a few days later, if they answer, they post your question and an answer to their “blog”. Anyway, someone else asked the same question I did only a day before I did, so they posted their question and answer. The question was, how do you remove old grout from salvaged tile. The answer was a dermel Tool. Specifically, here was the Q&A….

Aggie of Chicago writes: How do you remove adhesive from used ceramic tile?

Urban Revivals replies: We use a dremel tool with stone grinder bits. Set the variable speed so you can grind it off the tile, without going so fast that you nick the tiles.

I think Stucco House also came up with this response, so she gets a gold star by her name. Of course, the best part of this is, it means I get to have hours and hours of fun grinding grout off tiles. I’m fortunate this is good grout grinding weather. I’ve been thinking about though, I really don’t have to get it all off. In most places the grout was only an eight of an inch think or less. In some of repaired areas it was thicker, but those make up a small minority of the tiles. All I have to do is take it down below the surface of the tile and when I regrout you’ll never see it. Either way, it’s going to be a butt-load of work. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m saving seven or eight hundred dollars. That is a motivating factor, if there ever was one.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Mind Is In The Sewer

Woo-Hoo! The sewer lines for the new bathroom are all hooked up to the main sewer line for the house. Gary came over and helped me with it, or, really I guess I should say, Gary came over and I helped him with it. I was very nervous about this. Digging up something that’s been in the ground since 1895, modifying it, and then burying it again makes me nervous. I had fears of finding a crumbling, rotted sewer line that needed to be replaced. It turned out it was in very good shape.

It switched from cast iron to clay pipe about 6 feet out in the yard so we cut in to the clay and the cast iron to put in the new fittings. Here’s some shots…

The little stretch of ABS you see at the top I put in yesterday. This is the new washing machine drain on the left, and then I finished what a started last year with the upstairs bathroom sink. That is the part that goes to the right. The piece you see on the bottom went to one of the old rental bathrooms. In the picture it has already been cut off and capped. This was all under the addition at one time.

Ta-da! The new sewer is all hooked up. We added a clean-out, which the house never had. It went pretty smooth. Gary was much more meticulous about measuring at putting everything together than I was on the parts under the house. He also used a lot more adhesive than I did. I hope I won’t have problems down the road. I don’t think I will.

And finally, here it is all buried again. Whew! When everything was hooked up and we were gathering up tools and such I made the awkward move to pay Gary for his time. He’s given me lots of plumbing supplies over the years, and bought lots of plumbing supplies for me at cost, and given me tons and tons of advice, but he’s never actually done any physical work for me. This was a first and I wanted to compensate him. In the past even when I didn’t give him actual currency, I always made it up to him in some way. What passed between us were neighborly gestures.

Yesterday I had to run over to his house for something. When I walked up he was getting in to his truck and it was all loaded up for a job. He said he was doing another bathroom for a friend. This one was much more involved than mine. It consisted of a shower, tub, toilet, bidet, and double sink. He made diagrams with pipe sizes and elevations. It was done very nice and very professional looking. He showed me everything he had drawn up for the guy and there was a parts list with prices. As I was looking at the parts list he said, “This guys not a neighbor, so I’m charging him for all of the parts and the drawing”. Gary wasn’t actually doing the work, he was just supplying all the right parts and giving advice on code and requirements. The cost for the parts for all the drains and copper came to $139.

So I went to the bank today and got 2 crisp $100 bills. My parts came to a lot less than $139 because mine was a smaller bathroom and a lot of it just came out of his garage. It’s just left over stuff. It was kind of tough to come up with an amount. I feel I might insult him if I give him too little or if I give him too much. Every time I’ve ever tried to give him money for parts or help he tries to give it back. So as we were finishing up today I said, “Well, I’m going to insult you if I give you too much or too little so take this and let me know if you need more”. I gave him the two bills folded and he said, “Oh, $100, no that’s fair”. I said, “Uh, no, there’s two of them.”

He immediately started in that it was too much money and I immediately cut him off. I ask him how much all this work would have cost if I brought in a professional to do it and he said it would have been around $2,000 for plumbing a new bathroom and tying in to the sewer. We also did the laundry room. I said, so take the $200. It’s more than fair and I feel guilty about giving you so little. He says something about taking his wife out for a nice dinner and then asked if I’m sure I can afford it. It’s a nice little dance. It’s a part of what makes society bearable. Even so, there was a part of me that feels I should have given him more. Maybe he was insulted and he was just being nice.

We gathered up the tools and extra parts and headed back over to his garage. I went on and on about how I was relieved about having that done (I really am) and I mentioned that now all I have to do is run the copper under the floor and all the plumbing will be done. Gary immediately ask if I have enough copper and fittings. I said I think I did and he pulls out 2, 10-feet pieces of half inch copper and hands them to me. He then grabs a bag of 50, half inch copper elbows and hands those to me. “You can never have enough of these. Just use what you need and bring back the rest.” I awkwardly and grudgingly excepted it.

He then asked me about the vanity and tub I’m putting in. He has a bunch of those flexible braided supply lines. He pulls open a drawer full and asks, “Do you need any of these”. I tell him how I want to do the ridged, nickel plated supply lines because the plumbing under the sink will be exposed. He pulls open another drawer and hands me 3 pairs he salvaged from some place. I said I only need one pair and he says, “Some of the plating is a little warn so use the best ones, and just bring back the rest”. I’m really starting to feel awkward now. We chat for a little while longer and I as I head back across the street with my latest cache of plumbing supplies I’m thinking to myself, if Gary was insulted and thought the $200 I gave him was not enough, he sure has a funny way of showing it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Neat Little Do-Hickey

I spent about 4 hours under the house today and it was sooooo much fun I think I’ll do it some more tomorrow. I’d say I got about 95% of the drains run under the house and about half the vents run above the floor. It took one more trip to Gary’s garage and one trip to the hardware store. I knocked over an almost full jar of ABS glue and was too embarrassed to go ask Gary for another one, so I went and shelled out $5.00 for a new can.

Gary stopped by to see how things were going. He said I mounted the drains too high off the ground, but this is not so much a drainage issue as it is an ease of work issue. I found out the hard way that it’s easier to hook everything together if it’s not so close to the joists. In the end it worked, so that’s what’s important. Tomorrow he’ll come over and we’ll tie it all in to the main sewer line. After that I just have to finish the copper under the house and the plumbing will be done. Wooo-Hooo!

And this brings us to the Neat Little Do-Hickey. They are called pipe insulators, I think. Before I explain them, here’s a few shots.

These things are great for running pipes under the house. You drill a one and three eights inch hole where you want the pipe to go. The little insulator as two flanges on it. You put it around the copper water pipe and press it in so only one flange is in the hole. It holds the pipe exactly where you want it, but you can still slide it up and down from under the house to fine tune the position. Once the pipe is connected to the rest of the plumbing you push the insulator in all the way and it seals the hole so no drafts or bugs can come up in the wall. Then screw it in to place and that pipe aint going no where. It is a great little invention.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shopping At Gary’s

I thought I was going to get together with Gary on Sunday to go over the drains for the new bathroom. For those who don’t keep up, Gary is my neighbor who has been a plumber for 40+ years and has helped more than I can think of when it comes to all the new plumbing I’ve put in the house. Really, every last piece of water and gas pipe just about as been replaced in the house and Gary either gave me the parts or bought them for me at the wholesale cost, and then gave me detailed instructions on how to put in all in and meet code.

We didn’t get together on Sunday as planned so I started in on the copper supply lines myself. A lot of times this stuff isn’t rocket science but it is helpful when you have someone who can look at your work and tell you that you’re doing it right and it will pass inspection, or more importantly, tell you when you are doing it wrong. This is in addition to the tools he’s more than happy to lend me. Did you know they make a special saw just for ABS?

Anyway, today we went over the whole thing. This is a bathroom from scratch so for someone with my skill level it’s pretty involved. We started with a simple lesson on the different types of fittings and where they are used. Two parts can look similar but have two very different uses. He then came over and I showed him where everything was going to go. I try and be very well prepared when he comes over. I mark all bathroom fixtures with screws drilled in to the floor or wall where I think the center of the drain will go. I mark all places where there is a clear shot through the ceiling for vents. I also dug up the sewer line in the side yard and marked on the side of the house where the center of the toilet will be on the inside.

We spent about 10 minutes in the room and he looked around at what was going on. We then headed back over to his garage where he has crates of ABS fittings and dozens of feet of ABS ranging in size from inch and a half to 4 inches. We went over the whole thing and I started to get a little lost. It’s not really difficult, but it is something you have to think about, or at least I do. Gary can just see it in his head and parts just start flying out of crates. In no time at all I have 2 milk crates full of fittings, several lengths of pipe, a right angle drill and all the bits, saws, ABS cement, and a roof jack. I have to make 4 trips to get it all home.

There were a few parts he didn’t have so while I was laying it all out in the bathroom he ran down to the shop where he works and picked up a few more things. When he got back he checked my work and made a few changes. Tomorrow I’ll start drilling holes and gluing everything up and then sometime in the next day or two we’ll cut in to the sewer line I dug up and tie everything in.

To Gary this is nothing. I think he enjoys helping me, which is great for him. For me the benefits are incalculable. Just not having to run to the hardware store a dozen times over the next 5 days makes his help worth it. If I had to pay someone to do this it would run over a $1,000, I’m sure. Most of the stuff I could probably figure out with a book and a lot of thinking, but this just makes it so much easier. I can’t even begin to tell you.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Five Things…

I was tagged to list 5 things about myself that many of you probably don’t know. I started writing this yesterday but it was coming out way to long. I don’t know why I feel a need to explain everything in such detail, but sometimes the less detail the better, and this is one of those times.

So here it goes….

One: I’m a high school dropout. Not one of my greatest achievements, by a long shot. I almost made it through the 9th Grade, but not quite. For some reason I hate to conform and I hate being told what to do. That’s still causing me problems to this day. I was just very disruptive and eventually it was agreed that I not be allowed back on campus. My troubles started very early, and frankly, I’m amazed I made it as far as I did. If any of my teachers are out there, I would like to formally apologize now. I’m very sorry for the trouble I caused. To give you some idea of how bad it was, on the first day of my 7th grade English class my teacher called me out in to the hall and said something to the effect of, “All of the teachers have warned me about you and I want you to know I won’t put up with your antics”. I didn’t last long in her class.

Two: I had a whirlwind, 3 week romance with a Russian woman in St. Petersburg, RU. This was not one of those internet Russian bride things, either. In fact, this happened in the mid 80s when the internet was still only the domain of Universities and the military. The Wall had not yet fallen, Ronald Reagan was still rattling is saber, and it was in the early days of Perestroika. I wanted to achieve world peace one Soviet at a time and it began and ended with a beautiful 24 year old Russian woman named Elena. I was about the same age at the time. For 3 weeks we drank gallons of cognac and made love like bunnies in one of the most beautiful cites in the world.

Three: I’m a devout atheist. This was a slow, evolutionary change for me. I am a huge skeptic and I question just about everything. Something about the belief in a God didn’t sit well with me early on, but I could never really articulate it. At one time I felt guilty about not believing in God and I kept it to myself, but not anymore. The belief in God is a question of faith and I need more to go on. To me, all belief systems that are based on some spiritual higher power are like an upside down pyramid. You can pile all the evidence you want on top that a God or Gods exist, but at the end of the day, it all rests on the one tiny notion that can’t really be proven. Besides, if a God does exist, a doubt this entity that created the Universe is so petty that it cares one way or another that I believe in it.

Four: I’m the most impatient person in the world. Sometimes I wish I would hurry up and die just so I could find out if I’m right about the whole atheist thing. Of course, the Catch-22 is, if I am right I’ll never know it, because there will be no afterlife.

Five: My big fantasy is to write a book and be interviewed by Charlie Rose about the book. Writing the book would be great, but the interview by Charlie Rose would be the real achievement. In this fantasy, he finds me so fascinating that it is a rare hour long interview that gets aired. Oh, and I’ll need a very patient editor.

So now I’m supposed to tag 5 people. I’m not really sure, so I’ll just pick Chicago 2-Flat, A House Made, Stucco House, Here is the house....where it all happens, 1951 Ranch Redo.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Big Smack Method

I got another 5 boxes of tile today. I'm trying all kinds of things to get it up as best I can. The floor has moods and variations to it so there is no one way. If one method works well in one area then it doesn’t work at all in another. It can be frustrating.

The building is mostly deserted and I work alone. I don’t mind working alone, so it’s ok. The cold is a bit of a problem, though. The building is across the alley from the building that burned down last month. When that building burned down they shut off the gas to the whole block. Since the building I’m working in was empty at the time, no one bothered to relight the pilot light on the heater. Normally that wouldn’t be too bad here in Eureka but we’re smack-dab in the middle of a freakish cold spell. Over-night lows are in the 20’s and daytime temps stay in the high 30s to low 40s. So I’m in this building sitting on a tile floor and it’s just above freezing. Not an ideal circumstance.

The couple that owns the building also run a business 2 stores down. When I go down to work on the tile I first go to the business and get the key from the woman running the store. We haven’t talked much but today she seemed curious about why I was getting the tile. She asked me how I was getting it up and at one point she asked, “So do you score it with a knife between the tiles first?” Ding! The light bulb went off over my head.

As I said, I’ve been trying all kinds of things. This scoring method made it in to my bag of tricks, but doesn’t always work to keep the edges from chipping. Nothing works every time. Some methods are slower than others but the loss percentage seems to be the same no matter what I do, so I decided to get more aggressive.

There are some tools in the store. One of them is a 6 foot long pry bar. It weighs 10 or 15 pounds and has a ball handle at one end and then a flat, 2-inch wide pry bar at the other. It is heavy and very solid. I started using it with very good results today. I slide it back and forth along the floor and smack the leading edge of the tile field in several places along a 3 or 4 foot wide face. It demolishes the tiles it hits, but it loosens large sections from the floor. I then have to deal with separating the tiles from the grout. This is where the real loss occurs.

This Big Smack method has similar loss percentages as the other methods, but it works much faster. I able to free more tile quickly, and in a frigid room, that has become very important. I think I have 13 boxes now. I’m going to go back tomorrow and try and get another 5 or 6 boxes. I’m supposed to work on the plumbing on Sunday, and Monday I may not be able to get anything done anywhere. We’ll see how much more I can get.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Tile Salvage

If you would have asked me yesterday I would have said I was done with tile salvage. It just seemed to be too far gone to save. Even if I could save some of it, I’m not sure I could get enough. Then there’s the whole labor aspect of it. The thing seems like it’s going to be very labor intensive.

Then I got a few comments from people who think it can be saved. I went back down there last night and my friend Chuck was pulling up the boarder. I think that boarder is too big for my small bathroom anyway, so I was not planning on using it. Besides, Chuck is the one who told me about the tile in the first place, so he has first dibs on it anyway.

Then at work today I started thinking that maybe it can be cleaned up and saved. I mean, what the hell do I know about cleaning old tile. So I figured I would get as much as I can now and worry about cleaning it later. I would never stop kicking myself if I figure out a way to clean and then found out it’s all in the dump.

I spent 2 or 3 hours down there today and got 5 boxes of tile. I was less selective than I was on Tuesday when I only got 3 boxes. There will be a lot of half pieces needed to fill in along the boarders. I settled on two methods for pulling up the tile. There is The Full Pop and The Single Pop method.

With the Full Pop I hammer two 5-five inch scrappers under the tile, spaced 6 or 8 inches apart. I then hammer pry bars under the scrappers and pop up a large section all at once. This is very destructive but it results in more than a dozen tiles coming up at one time. I’m lucky if half of them are salvageable.

With the Single Pop method I use a hammer and a half inch chisel to pop up a single tile at a time. This is more time consuming but I’m able to save more tile. The Single Pop method can only be used when at least 3 sides of the hex tile are exposed. Often times a Full Pop exposes a vein of 3 sided tiles. The two methods sort of work together.

So tomorrow I’ll go down again and maybe Saturday as well. I’ll just keep popping tile until I’m sick of it or feel I have enough, which ever comes first. While I was taking a break I found an old photograph in the building of when the place was a saloon. I photoed the photograph and took some shots of the room as it is today. The big chandelier is still there, and of course, the floor.

As I think I said the other day, the tile floor extends under the front façade of the building about 2-feet out on to the sidewalk in front of the building. It ends with a marble curb and there is some tile patterns along with the word “OBERON” written in tile right in front of the door. I assume the saloon was called The Oberon. Here’s some photos. It's looks like it would have been a nice place to have a beer. I was told yesterday that Jack London stopped in once.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Electric: Done-diddely-un

I was able to finish up the wiring today in the bathroom, and took care of a few other issues in the proposed laundry room at the same time. It wasn’t too bad, but it did require a few wonderful trips under the house to crawl around in the dirt and cat poop (I think I’m feeding those cats too much). It also required 3 more trips to the hardware store. I think that makes 8 in all.

I still haven’t found a 3-inch roof vent for the bathroom fan, but I’ve decided to wait on that until after the plumbing’s done anyway. When I talked to my neighbor Gary a few days ago about the rough-in plumbing, I mentioned that I was almost finished with the wiring. He mentioned that plumbing should be done before wiring. I’m not sure if this is just a plumber’s point of view or if that’s the way it’s normally done. I can see that if you had a lot of wires in the way it might make it more difficult to run pipes for water and drains. We’ll see if it’s an issue.

When I rewired the whole house a few years back it was about as major a rewire as you can do. The house had a total of 4 outlets in the walls. The main panel was from 1951 and all of the ceiling fixtures were still using the 1895 wiring which fed from a “panel” in the attic. I replaced EVERYTHING from the utility poll on down.

When I got to the butler’s pantry and scullery I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with these areas. I made the decision at the time that the scullery was going to be the downstairs bathroom, and that’s what I’m doing now. I went ahead and wired that room with it’s own dedicated 20-amp circuit.

The butler’s pantry was another story. As far as butler’s pantries go, this is kind of a large one. I knew I wanted a laundry room in part of it, but I couldn’t really make a decision at the time, so I wired it as a normal room. That means an electrical outlet every 6-feet along the walls. Now fast forward 2 years and I partitioned the room for a smaller butler’s pantry and a laundry room. When I did this, not only did I orphan two outlets in the “laundry room” but when I removed the beadboard they were left hanging in the air.

To make a long story short, since the lights for the bathroom are tied in to the circuit that runs the outlets in the butler’s pantry, I went ahead and got rid of those extra outlets that ended up in the some-day-to-be laundry room. When I do the laundry room I will give it a dedicated 20-amp GFCI circuit.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Four hundred square feet of 1902 encaustic tile free for the taking. A beautiful multicolored boarder with a field of 2-inch hex tiles. All free and ready for the taking. The only problem is, someone repaired the floor with a Portland cement base grout.

The 2-inch white encaustic hex tiles were made by Cambridge tile. These are the same people who made my 1895 fireplace tiles. The boarder was made by A.E.T. (American Encaustic Tile). I think both companies are (or were) located in Ohio.

There is a building in Old Town that was recently vacated by a kitchen wares business. The new owner thought the floor was too far gone for the upscale dinner house he wants to open. I had mentioned to some friends about my bathroom and ideas for tile. They told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on…, wait, that’s an old commercial. Anyway, anybody who has spoken to me the last two months knows I’m working on my bathroom and when word came that an old tile floor was going to be ripped out I got a call.

I had great hopes for this tile. The floor was in bad shape, there is no denying that. Still, there was plenty of good tile to be had. I only need 100 square feet, or less, for the bathroom and mud room. There should have been plenty.

In days of old, they laid tile floors in a mortar bed of a lime based cement. The lime cement is very forgiving. It holds the tile fine, but not to the point that the tile can never be recovered. The lime based mortar moves with the building as the building settles and ages. Portland cement based mortars are not forgiving at all. They will hold on to the tile until the end of time.

At some point, someone regrouted the floor with a Portland cement based grout. As I tried to pull up the tile it flaked and chipped at the edges when it tried to separate from the grout. This first picture is of the underside of the tile.

These two tiles had some writing in pencil on the bottom so I shoved them in my pocket. I didn’t clean them at all and that is pencil writing from 1902. The tile just lifts away from the old mortar bed with a little persuasion and is left in almost ready to use condition. The writing says “Seconds Della” on one and “Seconds {unknown}” on the other. I think the Seconds refers to the quality. I acquired a single 1902 subway tile from the Vance Hotel, also in Old Town, and it is stamped “Second” on the back. I think because of the cost of shipping from the east coast (all the way around So. America) second quality was cheaper and so that’s what we ended up with.

Anyway, above is a shot of the A.E.T. boarder with the Cambridge Field. Notice the narrow grout lines and notice the dark color of the grout. This is not original. That black grout is the Portland cement based grout that was added later.

Here you can see the side of the tile. There is the black grout on top and then the lime mortar on bottom. The lime mortar cleans up easily. The black grout chips the edges of the tile when its removed. And removing it is not easy at all. It’s really too bad. Encaustic tiles costs big bucks today. If that stuff could be salvaged it would go for upwards of $20 a sq ft. Encaustic tile is the same all the way through. It’s like the linoleum of tiles.

Of course, it's possible that the Portland cement based grout is original, but I don’t think so. In some places there were major repairs made to the floor - apparently this place was a saloon for many decades - when the repairs where made and the tiles were re-laid they use a Portland cement based mortar to relay the tiles. Those tiles disintegrated when I tried to remove them. In some cases they couldn't get the tiles to all fit back the way they came out and they used nippers to reshape the tiles. Then they filled in with this black grout. It was under the tiles in places, like they "back-buttered" the reshaped tiles before putting them in.

Monday, January 08, 2007

OK, Gary, I’ll Let You Help

As part of our agreement for the HAJOCA toilet I said I would grab whatever garbage Gary had and take it with me when ever I made a dump run. Neither of us pays for city garbage service, and neither of us really enjoys going to the dump. I don’t pay for it mainly because of the work I’m doing on my house. I seem to be making dump runs anyway, so I just take the garbage cans with me. It works out well. Gary rarely has more than 2 garbage sacks, so it’s really no big deal.

In addition to taking his garbage when ever I go to the dump I slipped his wife $50 for the toilet. It’s a great deal for me because he’s saved me so much money on plumbing that the garbage and the $50 doesn’t even begin to make up for it.

I told myself this time I wasn’t going to lean on Gary so much for the bathroom. It’s sort of the general issue of me not wanting to ask for help, but it also goes back to the fact that he’s helped me so much in the past, it just feels odd to keep asking.

Today when I got off work Gary, his wife, and their little girl were all sitting on the front stoop of their house across the street. It was a pleasant afternoon and they were just sort of hanging out. I was planning to go to the dump today so I strolled over to chat and to see if he had anything that needs to go to the dump. As I walked across the street I kept repeating to myself, “Don’t ask about plumbing. Don’t ask about plumbing. Don’t ask about plumbing.”

There has been one code question that has been gnawing at me, though. I don’t know how to size the vent for the drain. If I have a 4-inch drain for the toilet, does that mean I need a 4-inch vent stack going all the way up the side of the house. I was planning to call the building department about this today because it could be an issue. There is plenty of room for a 2-inch vent. Three inch would be tight. A 4-inch vent would cause a lot of problems.

I chatted with Gary for a good 15 minutes about everything but plumbing. In the end he said he had a few sacks and he would toss them in the back of my truck. I told him I would be going to the dump in an hour or so. As I walked away he said to me, “Now, when you get to that bathroom plumbing you let me know if you need anything”. I said, “No, no, no this time I’m doing it myself, but I do have one question about code, though”. I couldn’t resists.

I asked him about the vent. I couldn’t help myself. As he explained it to me, all of the vents on the house must equal the diameter of the main sewer line, and the bathroom vent can’t be less than 2-inches. That’s beautiful because I have a 4-inch sewer line and I already have 2, 2-inch vents. I can do a 2-inch vent for the new bathroom and there will be plenty of room for it.

After we talked about the vents Gary was emphatic that I not go to the hardware store for parts. I told him I don’t feel good about getting all that stuff from him. He goes on and on about how it’s all just sitting there and it doesn’t cost him anything. It’s all just leftover parts. He’s telling me about stuff he’s given away in the past week or so and goes on and on about how he’s dieing to get some of the crap out of his garage. How could I say no? I’m practically doing him a favor.

In the end, he wore me down. We agreed that I would use stuff from his garage and he will come over next Sunday and help me lay out the drain system and the adjoining laundry room. The guy has been a plumber for 40 years and he has every tool and every part imaginable. He’s going to help me lay everything out. He’ll supplying me with all the proper tools. I’ll do all the installation, and then when it comes time, he’ll help me tie everything in to the main sewer line.

All I can say is, he had better generate a lot of garbage, because I am going to owe him big-time for this one.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Commence Nickel & Diming To Death

I’ve started that phase of the project that requires me to make one or more trips to the hardware store a day and spend anywhere from $2 to $75 per trip. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up. You also have to factor in the gas money because inevitably you make pointless trips to get things you either forgot or just plain got wrong in the first place.

This nickel & diming happens when it comes to roughing in the electrical and plumbing. This weekend I did the electrical. It was pretty straight forward and required exactly 5 trips to the hardware store.

There is still one or more trips that need to be made for electrical. I bought an exhaust fan that required a 3-inch exhaust pipe and a 3-inch roof vent. They had the pipe, but not the roof vent. They had 5, 6, & 7 inch roof vents, but not 3. They had 3-inch wall vents, but I’m venting through the roof. I asked the guy why they don’t stock 3-inch roof vents and he said, “I don’t know. Most people get the 5 and then get a reducer and reduce it down to 3-inch”. That logic seems to work for him, but it seems easier to just get a 3-inch roof vent. Why cut a 5-inch hole in the roof when I only need a 3-inch hole. I’ll look else where before I succumb to “stocker-boy-logic”.

I’ve also noticed that if there is more than one selection for what is essentially the same thing, the one I need is always the more expensive one. Those marketing guys get you every time. This is not a case where one item is a better quality than the other and so it cost more. This is just what I need to do the job and do it too code. They know this and they get that extra buck off me every time.

Next I’ll start the plumbing. I’ve known for quite some time that this room was going to be a bathroom, so 3 years ago when I re-plumbed the rest of the house I stubbed out hot and cold water lines just under the floor. I’m really glad I did this now because from what I’ve been told copper prices have gone through the roof the last few years. I think I’ll be able to do the whole room with one 10-foot piece of half inch copper. I also still have a lot of short sections of copper, elbows, couplings, and Ts left over. There will be many trips to the hardware store, but hopefully a lot of money won’t be involved. Famous last words, right.

I want to do the drains before I do the water lines, though. I’ve never done drains before, so I’m a little nervous about it. Everybody tells me drains are easy, so I should be able to do it. I’m going to try and not get my neighbor Gary involved until I have to tie everything in to the existing sewer line. He always wants to give me a bunch of parts for free and I just don’t feel good about it. Running over there in a pinch for the occasional fitting I need is fine, but when I did the kitchen island drain he gave me the whole damn thing for free. It just feels odd.

Finally, I acquired the last piece of hardware for the bathroom today. I bought the TP Holder from someone local. It looks good as it is, but I might get the nickel plating redone when I have a few other items replated next month.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Close, But No Cigar

I finished up the framing in the bathroom and there is not enough room for the laundry bin I dumpster dove for a few weeks back. There is a chance I can use it in a cabinet that can go behind the door, but it won’t be a built-in like the one in front of the door. I’ll have to wait and see how much room there is behind the door once everything is built.

Today as I was banging around in the room there was a knock at the door. It was a woman from the building department. She had a clipboard and a little name badge. She introduced herself and then asked if I was all done with the construction. Huh? I haven’t gotten a building permit since 2004.

The first 2 years I was in the house I got 5 permits from the building department for all new plumbing, electrical, natural gas, and water heater, along with 3 demolition permits for removing the rental kitchens and baths, removing the asbestos siding, and
removing the 2 story addition. As far as I knew everything was signed off by the inspectors.

I grabbed all my permits and showed the woman that everything was signed off by the inspector. To be honest, I’m still not really sure what permit or construction she was asking about. I wish I had pried a little more and asked specifically what construction she was referring to.

In the end, she asked if she could take a few pictures of the exterior. I said sure and then I asked why. She said they wanted to keep their records up to date. When we were flipping through here clipboard of the permits and other paperwork for my house I noticed she had a very detailed hand drawn outline of the house. It was on graph paper and was pretty specific. I didn’t realize they had something like that.

Oh, and if anyone from the city is reading this, this blog is purely fictitious. I don’t really live in Eureka or own The Petch House. This whole thing is all an elaborate hoax and a figment of my imagination.

That should fool the little SOBs down at City Hall.

Duuuuu, My Name Is Greg

You need to picture me saying that while I’m slightly hunched over with a glazed look on my face, one finger up my nose, and the other hand scratching my butt. That’s about how I feel right now.

Two days ago I mentioned how I must put the toilet first, because the vanity would stick out to far and might block the door. I said that I was within and inch or two of the door on paper and I didn’t feel comfortable with those tolerances.

Well, it turns out it was more like 5-inches away. I was basing my calculations on a 30-inch wide vanity. I looked at so many vanities on-line and at other places and most of them seemed to be about 30-inches wide. When I actually got my vanity in my hot little hands I never bothered to measure it. Duh! It’s only 27-inches wide.

Yesterday I spent a good 30 minutes trying to squeeze a few more inches here and there and at the very end I actually measure the vanity. It was all a big waste of time. The bathroom set-up now goes vanity, toilet, tub.

The set-up is now officially chiseled in stone, or wood, I guess. I finished framing the wall, for the most part, and framed the built-in medicine cabinet, so there’s no turning back. The last thing to do is figure out how wide the cabinet in the corner will be.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Place For Everything

So this is what the placement of the vanity, tub, and toilet looks like.

This shot is taken standing in the door. Ideally it would be vanity, toilet, tub, but I put the toilet first for a few reasons. First, with the vanity first, the outside corner comes dangerously close to the door. The door opens in to the bathroom and swings right in front of what ever is first. When I placed the vanity first, and left enough room for the toilet to meet code, I was left with about a 2-inch clearance, and that was on paper. In real life, 2-inches can evaporate quickly. I have this vision of the last thing I do is hang the door and then find out it slams in to the vanity.

The other issue with having the toilet in between the tub and vanity is there is really no place to hang the TP holder. The wall opposite the toilet is too far of a reach, so it would have to go on the wall behind the toilet. That seems odd, or does it. I can't decide.

If I could overcome the TP issue I think I can steal a few inches from the tub area and move everything down 2 or 3 inches. That would leave me enough room to feel comfortable about having the vanity first. I have 24 hours to come up with a plan, because tomorrow I finish the framing and that means I will be framing for the in-wall medicine cabinet.

Oh, and a free standing TP holder is out of the question. I’m not a big fan of them.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Last Piece of the Puzzle

Round and round he goes, where he stops nobody knows.

I got the bathroom vanity today and this is the very first one I looked at a few months ago. I then looked on Ebay for a vanity. I tried to negotiate with DEA Bath for a vanity, but that fell through. I drove to Upper Lake and was insulted by Sheldon to try and buy a vanity. And after all of that I got the one I first looked at, but not before the store that had it almost burned to the ground and the vanity ended up in two different storage units, until it was delivered to my door today.


The reason I didn’t like it the first time I saw it was because of the color of the vanity. Anybody’s who has read my blog over the past month or so knows I got my hands on a very, very nice pair of 1890s sink legs. I then had the matching wall brackets made. The wall brackets and sink legs need a marble apron to go with the vanity. I thought I would have a hard time matching the color of that first vanity and so I decided against it.

I then drove all over hell and half of Georgia and came up empty handed and so I went back to the start. In hind sight, it turns out that not being able to match the marble is not such a bad thing. First off, any 100+ year old vanity I get is going to be in less than pristine shape. I accept that, and in fact I relish it. If I got a white marble vanity it would be a few shades darker than it’s original white after so many years in service. If I went and bought new marble skirting, the new skirting would be brilliant white in comparison. Not good.

By getting the darker marble I can get new marble skirting and then stain it to match. I already played around with water colors on a scrap piece of marble and it should work fine. So really, no matter which antique marble vanity I get, getting marble skirting to match would be difficult. The problem with the first vanity – the one I ended up getting – was going to be a problem with any vanity I got. So it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the marble vanity for the bathroom….

Ta-Da (bowl not in picture)

It’s actually very dirty and desperately needs to be cleaned, but you get the idea. The best part is, now that I have it, I can finish up the framing in the bathroom and seriously think about rough-in plumbing and going in to debt up to my eyebrows buying tile.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Even if 2006 was a good year, I hope 2007 is even better. Happy New Year Everyone!