The Big Renovation – the 2 month update and a mind teaser…

What? Has it really been 2 months since the last renovation update here? Whoops.  Where did the time go?

It felt like I didn’t have much to report because things seemed to be moving pretty slowly for a while.

A large portion of the time was waiting around for the air conditioning installation. I believe it took them the better part of a month to get the AC system ready for initial inspection. We all kind of sat around in the heat waiting, waiting, waiting. Finally, inspection day arrived. They passed. Sneak note, though – we still don’t have working AC. More on that later…


Once that initial inspection passed we could start moving along again. Though, the stuff that was happening didn’t seem like it was all that dramatic – because it is behind the walls and construction kind of stuff. Which, honestly, isn’t all that interesting to look at or talk about – for me. Tad, on the other hand, would strongly disagree with that comment. The construction stuff is definitely Tad’s favorite part as evidenced by his request to FaceTime when the insulation went in (because he was out of town) – and he couldn’t wait to see it – and a picture via text wasn’t quite good enough.

Insulation - attic & AC

Anyway, over Labor Day weekend, the place went from construction zone back to livable space.  It was an overnight transformation! It was weird! It was exciting! It was rejuvenating! However, before I disclose this much anticipated event, lets step back and do a quick review of the last 2 months.

There was some actual work by the contractor and the subcontractors. There was very little work by myself and Tad. We had a lot of discussions about things. I think overall there were more discussions than work. Anyway, let’s get to it.

New windows came in and were installed.


This falls into the actual work category (rather than the discussion category). The windows are nice. The small bedroom window that was supposed to be a large window seems to have worked out just fine. It isn’t going to drive me crazy as I thought it might.


In fact, I think I might even be happy that it is small because it lines up with the dining room of our neighbor – which is a little awkward and not all that attractive.


The window I am most excited about is the new bathroom window. I had to be excited about something during this slow period. I was looking for anything. The new bathroom window was it. Anyway, we were wanting an inswing Marvin wood window similar to our fireplace windows.

This wasn’t possible due to the small size of the opening. Then, I thought a new casement outswing window would be ok. I figured with new technology, the frame would be minimal and the glass would be optimized. I thought it would be an improvement over the old casement outswing window.

Closet window

I was wrong, it still required the same wide frame leaving minimal glass.

I prefer a functioning window in bathrooms (even though we also have ventilation) so it took me a day or two to get over the fact that I couldn’t have a window that opened unless I sacrificed the amount of natural light coming in. I opted for more light. We got a fixed window pane with rain glass. I like it a lot, there is significantly more natural light, and we saved several hundred dollars – yay!


Another benefit of the new bathroom window is that it is finally straight.

Here we are with the old crooked window.


Here we are with the new straight window. As you can see, I also got some painting on the exterior window trim done (so, there was a little work on my part). More on that later…


The framing for the tub was done on some random afternoon.


According to Tad, it was framed incorrectly. The discussions were very involved. After a detailed explanation, I agreed that it was framed incorrectly. The framing was corrected on some random weekend. The tub was set in place on some random evening. There was yet another discussion about how it was framed – because it was wobbly at one of the front corners. According to one of the contractor’s guys, it was correct the first time and shouldn’t have ever been changed to begin with. Then, it was discovered that the tub was not correctly set in the frame. The tub was reset. The wobble was eliminated. Sorry about the blurry photo. You would think that I could have gotten an in focus photo considering the amount of time and the multiple changes that were made to the tub framing, but no. Anyway, after a lot of discussion and some randomly timed contractor work, all is as it should be with the tub – we think.


We also had many discussions about shower storage. I wanted a niche for shampoo and soap bottles. I don’t like bottles sitting around the edge of the tub. I don’t like the shower caddy thing that hangs from the shower head. I like niches. Though, I have never actually had a niche myself or seen one in person. There was a niche drawn in by the architect. It should have fit. In reality, it did not fit. I will not have a niche. The tile guy tried to talk me into those bulky, porcelain corner shelves. Nope. I don’t like those either. I figured that a shelf on the wall opposite the shower head would be the way to go. Everybody looked at me like I was crazy. Eventually, Tad got on board. We have tentatively decided on something like this.Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 1.34.31 PM

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 1.35.17 PM

The purpose of this shower shelf tangent (and all the discussions) is that we needed some sort of structure to support the shelving behind the cement board and tile. So, blocking was added at 35-38 inches above the tub deck (the work part of this took 5ish minutes – if that). I include this specific measurement not because I think this is the standard or a recommendation, but because I aim to point out that if you do add blocking in your project, you may want to make a note of the measurement. The contractor made a comment about putting in blocking but not remembering the height of the blocking when it came time to install whatever the blocking was for. He suggested I write it down. So, I did. And now, I have it here, as well – in case, I lose the paper with my measurements on it.


We also added blocking in the bedroom hallway for a large/heavy mirror that we will hang there. I am not sure exactly where I will hang it, so we have 2 sets of blocking – one at 70 ¼ inches from the floor and one at 79 ½ inches. Again, this is more of a note to myself than anything else. As long as I remember that I documented it here when we go to hang the mirror…


The doorbell was a bit of an afterthought. We had several days of discussion about doorbells. We went from thinking we would just reuse what we had, to changing it out completely with a new one, to not having one at all, and going with a wireless one. Research, shopping around, and checking out other people’s door bells led to the final decision. We kept a wired doorbell rather than changing out to wireless. We kept the innards from our old doorbell which was wired by the electrician.


The outdoor button has been replaced with a new button and relocated to a better location. This new location required Tad to drill a hole and run a wire prior to insulation going in.



There was also a test and meeting of the minds to figure out how the innards of the doorbell went back into the box. I got it wrong. Tad did an internet search. Tad’s niece’s boyfriend got it right (smart guy) by just looking at it. The electrician got it wrong – he installed it backwards. Tad fixed it.


My contribution was to replace the cover. There was discussion about which way the cover would be installed.

Opening to the top – so you don’t see the innards, but exposing the innards to some dust collection?


Opening downward – so the dust doesn’t collect, but you see the innards?


I decided I didn’t want to see the innards and I could live with a little unseen dust. In summary, a lot of discussion, a little bit  of work, and a fun mind teaser.

Doorbell - far view...

This last Saturday Tad spent a half a day installing the new button.  A half a day you say?  It should be easier than that.  Yes, it should.  There is a whole story there. The story is second hand because I was at work, but this is the story told by Tad when I got home from work. The hole had to be drilled bigger to accommodate some part of the new doorbell. He thought he cut the wires too short, but then discovered that there was some sort of easy connection provided. Initially, the button was slightly crooked. So, a new anchor had to be drilled and installed in an effort to straighten up the button. It still wasn’t straight, so, a third hole was drilled between the two misplaced anchors. Then, the wires were in the way of the button being flat to the wall. The button was loosened and the wires rearranged. Finally, a working, straight, flat doorbell.


Oh, and, this isn’t just any doorbell. We happened to be at a friend’s house checking out progress on their kitchen renovation and they had a fancy doorbell – with a camera, motion sensor, and app for your phone. Of course, Tad had to have one…



While the doorbell was just a bit of an afterthought, the security system ended up being a complete afterthought – and a little bit of a flail. I forgot to notify the security company that we were going to remove one panel and one motion sensor for the renovation. It was removed during demo without incident – or contact from the company. Eventually, it started beeping and I couldn’t turn it off. I called the company, they said I would need a service call. They couldn’t come out for over a week. In the meantime, I had to email someone at the company and call several times to get the beeping to stop. Eventually, they remotely turned the system off completely to stop the beeping. Over the next week, someone called me 2 or 3 times to check the status of the system because it was showing as down. There was no documentation of our problem or scheduled service call. Despite no documentation of the scheduled service call, the service guy did show up, typed in a code on the panel, and charged me $120. I received a customer survey. I filled it out – honestly. They called me a few days later because I didn’t rate them well on the customer survey. The guy told me he would discount the service call bill. He didn’t. The guy also said that he would have the sales people call me because we were wanting to make some changes to our system. The sales person emailed me. She really didn’t want to talk to me in person. She sent me a new contract – that has a charge for new installation even though I just need a panel and one motion sensor re-installed. I declined and asked to speak with someone in person. They sent a sales guy out to my house. He sent me the same contract I received previously, but the price of installation has now been bumped up to double what the initial contract proposed. At that point, I decided it is time to move on. We knew we were going to do something different, we just weren’t sure what that would be. So, Tad ran a wire just in case we need it for the security system panel. I did a little research. We have tentatively decided that we will go with a new company – DIY installation and monthly monitoring cost less than half of what we are currently paying. So far – no work (other than Tad running the wire), multiple discussions, and no progress (other than a tentative decision).


Next, it was insulation. All work, no discussion. Spray foam for the attic


and exterior walls.


Tad has been obsessed with spray foam for a while now. He really, really wanted spray foam. As mentioned earlier, we had to FaceTime on insulation day so Tad could see it “in person.” Tad is very happy.  He got spray foam insulation everywhere.


When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. It is very messy. When they sprayed the bedroom exterior wall, it sputtered into the bathroom/closet hall, onto the exposed brick wall, and onto the tiled floor.



I didn’t think it was that big of a deal until I went to clean it up. The brick wall was relatively easy to clean up. Being that the brick is pretty sandy, the foam just peeled off. The tile floor, however, was a different story. The foam would scrape off but left discoloration and a residue. I tried multiple products in an attempt to clean up the residue without success – water, soap, soap and water, every household cleaner I own, alcohol, vinegar, etc. I was already thinking about the pain of having to replace the tile. I was a little annoyed. Then, I discovered a light buffing with a fine drywall sponge and a disposable nail file did the trick – the discoloration and residue was removed and the tile remained intact and without scratches. I vowed forever gratefulness to the drywall sponge and nail file. These tools have gotten me out of many a mistake in the past. I can add “clean up spray foam mess” to that list.


Batt insulation was specified for all of the interior walls. Of course, this batt insulation business for interior walls is not necessary for energy conservation or for code requirements. Tad requested it for sound proofing purposes.


Drywall installation started the day after the insulation inspection.


Drywall installation took one and a half days. All work, minimal discussion. The discussion was about where drywall goes and doesn’t go.  This evolved into a discussion about the long beam in the living room, the correct framing for it, a difference of opinion about the framing, and a tentative plan for final trim. The beam discussion is still ongoing (definitely, more on that later) – but, thankfully, did not get in the way of the drywall installation.

Insulation - for sound

The concrete board on the tub front was initially too thick. Was it because the framing was incorrect? There was some discussion, again, about how the tub was framed correctly or incorrectly. No, the framing was deemed correct. The concrete board was deemed to be the wrong product. It was replaced with a thinner version. Again, all is well with the tub – we hope.


The purple stuff is sound dampening drywall – per Tad’s request.


This house will be so quiet, it will be like living in a padded room…



Taping and finishing the drywall was about a week and a half. One guy, all work, no discussion.


Smooth, soft, and sanded – quite lovely.


The temporary, protective living room and dining room walls were removed. Wow, what a difference natural light makes!


Did you think that was the big reveal?  The reintroduction of natural light into the construction zone?


It was a big step, but still the place remained a construction zone with drywall dust and white walls. So…

Tad primed and painted the ceilings while I was at work. A lot of work on Tad’s part, some discussion about my paint choice. More on that later.


I, then, painted walls for three days while Tad was at work. A lot of work on my part and no discussion – initially. Eventually, there was a critique of the paint color choices. Everybody’s got an opinion – more on that later, as well.


Now, for the long anticipated, big reveal!



Hardwood flooring to be specific!


The single thing that resulted in the miraculous transformation was flooring!


Yes, the flooring was installed, sanded and finished over Labor Day weekend!


Yep, it feels like there is an end in sight!

Next up, Tad is keeping us all on schedule…


Oh! The mind teaser question and answer.

Question: How to get the big solid plastic box into the metal frame with the metal screw tabs in the way (and not bendable)?


Answer: Tilt and slide in sideways.

Doorbell mindteaser - puzzle...