The Big Reno Has Begun…

It’s been more than 2 years since we put our plan on paper – and I started my own demo.  It has been a year since we finally consulted a neighbor architect to finalize the plans we had been debating and to mediate/make the final decisions on some things that Tad and I still didn’t quite agree on. Last fall, we definitely decided to hire the vast majority of this project out. This spring, the contractor got on board and put us on his schedule.  A month ago things got started and it is moving fast!

Here is the quick and crazy catch up of the last month.

Day One – demo of a little baseboard and door/window trim.  It took about an hour.


Next day – some prep got done to protect the windows, window trim we want to keep, and the fireplace.

Protection during demo

They also built a temporary wall to protect the kitchen from the construction zone.



Then, the serious demo got started. Walls went first. This is the view from the front door with the walls gone – looking through the entryway, through an old door opening we didn’t know about, into the front bedroom, through the old bathroom, and into the back bedroom.


The old bathroom was kind of a demo day all by itself.


The old bathroom gone and all cleaned up.


Sorry to the neighbors that first weekend – this was their view. Tad wanted to keep it as yard art. Um – No.


The ceiling was next. At this point, I was nervous – it was a buyer’s remorse kind of thing.


Open to the attic. No going back now.


Weirdly, they left the entryway walls and ceiling until last.  Maybe, the orange walls and the light fixture made the place feel less like a disaster area?


Nonetheless, it is done. All the old plaster and lath is gone. The contractor has vowed to never take on another project that involves this kind of demo.  I don’t blame him…


The final phase of demo was the old flooring.  This was a discussion to the very end.  We all agreed that the old flooring was in bad shape and was not salvageable as the finished flooring.  However, I wanted to patch the bad spots and keep it as a subfloor.  I argued that the old flooring should stay as an homage to the old house.  In addition, removing the old flooring meant that the radiant floor heat tubes had to come down. I was not excited at all about that. Everybody was against me on the flooring issue. There was plenty of discussion about level floors, structurally sound this and that, strong plywood subfloors, and the list went on and on.  I finally gave in. It was decided that the old floors would need to come out entirely.  In preparation, Tad and I took the radiant heat tubes and insulation down in the basement.

Radiant Floor Heat Art...

Tad thought it looked like some sort of modern art.


I was thinking more fun house – or haunted house.


The floors started coming out. I was at peace with it. I was even kind of excited about nice, smooth, flat, new floors.


Then, I saw this. A pile of perfectly good, old flooring in the dumpster.


I freaked out. I called Tad and insisted we try to salvage it – he was like, “Ok”. I was formulating plans in my head for reuse – benches, table tops, accent walls, etc. I called a salvage company to see if they wanted to come pick it up – they were closed for the week. I went for a walk.  I got back from my walk and decided to sort the good pieces of flooring out of the pile for reuse.  I searched for a half an hour without success. There were no reusable pieces. It was rotted, warped, and/or splintery. I texted Tad and the contractor to say the old flooring was crap and that I had moved on. I gave them permission to ignore my craziness over the flooring.  This time, I really was at peace with the flooring situation.

The next day the new subfloor went in. I was good with it.  I am still good with it. I like it.


Though, there is a small strip of old flooring hiding in the back. It couldn’t be removed because the closet wall that isn’t part of this project is sitting on old flooring. One small victory for me – and for the old flooring. Now, I really have moved on.


Next was framing. The new bathroom lay out was contemplated…


New, taller openings were framed – to the bedrooms


and the entry way.


Back to the bedroom opening. The old bathroom window/new bedroom window was supposed to be enlarged to match the other window in the room.  I was looking forward to this larger window.  Then, Tad nixed the larger window thing. Tad has spent many a conversation trying to convince me that it is going to be just fine.  I am not sure.  I fear it is going to be similar to the studor vent situation. The studor vent situation still annoys me.


Tad insisted on using these engineered studs


to create a perfectly straight center wall – for the television.


New ceiling joists were next, since the old ones were sagging and cracked.


The attic decking went in as soon as the new joists were installed. Electrical started the next day.


Plumbing is in process, rough electrical is finished, and the structural work in the attic has been completed for now. Weirdly, the attic will get it’s own story in the future. Tad has a vision.


The tub has now been delivered twice. The first time it was the wrong tub.


The second time, yesterday, it was damaged.


Despite not having an actual tub to install, they went ahead and framed in the tub opening to try to keep this thing on schedule.


The door sizes were finally confirmed and ordered. We are hoping to match the doors we have in the rest of the house – solid fir, 5 panel.


It required some research on Tad’s part. Initially, the contractor’s source said it would be 8 weeks to get the doors because they were a non standard size. That wouldn’t work with the schedule. Tad did some research and found a source that is less expensive and quicker. So, they were able to get the pocket doors framed yesterday. Good job Tad!


Now we wait.  Apparently, the tub needs to be installed so the plumber can get the plumbing rough in finished before we can get the first round of inspections.

In the meantime, we have ordered and received the bathroom fan,


the bathroom vanity sconces (you don’t get to see the actual sconce yet – you have to wait until it is in the room),


and the bedroom bedside sconces (again, you don’t get to see the actual fixture until it is installed – the anticipation…),


the toilet (yes, it is one of those weird half tank toilets – we will talk about that decision later),


the sink (it is the same sink that we have in our other bathroom – we searched, but couldn’t find anything we liked better), Ronbow-24-W-Ceramic-Bathroom-Single-Hole-White-Sink-217724-1-WH

the faucet,


and the shower fixtures.



We have decided on the bathroom wall tile – a handmade accent mosaic for the vanity area and tub apron (I knew immediately that this was the tile when I saw it),


and an artsy field tile for the shower and toilet areas.


The hardwood flooring for the bedrooms and living/dining areas will be the same that we have in the rest of the house – engineered, character maple, random length and width. So, that decision was easy. We were going to go with the same company that we previously hired, but their pricing was 50% higher than it was 6 years ago. Tad shopped around and we will save a couple of thousand dollars. It pays to shop around! Again, good job Tad!


We are preparing for the air conditioning installation.  Yes, we are getting air conditioning!  It wasn’t initially in the plans, but we decided this was the easiest time to install since the walls are all open. Instead of a concrete pad, we went with a stone pad.  The stone pad was Tad’s idea. I set it in place today. Most people wouldn’t even care that it is stone rather than concrete.  We care. We like stone. We think it looks better and it will last longer – because it is stone.  It was also less expensive than concrete.  Again, good call Tad!


The front door was removed to protect it.  I wasn’t even thinking that I was going to do anything with it, but then realized it needs some help if it is going to last another 100 years. So, I tracked down a craftsman to restore this original door. Hopefully, he will pick it up this week and get started. I am still debating whether or not it needs new hardware as well…


It probably needs new hardware.  Yes, I have added that to my list – new front door hardware.

Next on the list – bathroom flooring and, now, front door hardware.

Oh, and, the vanity mirror.  I was thinking we were going to just reuse the old bathroom mirror. However, I went to Restoration Hardware today – just to look around.  Their vanity displays have really tall, skinny mirrors.  I want this in our new bathroom.


Totally cool, right?

Project Planning…

Since we are planning the renovation of our main floor rooms, I pulled out my notes from years of reading and researching the whole “living small” thing. A lot of my notes and ideas are taken from architect/author Sarah Susanka books.


Here are my favorite principles from the Not So Big books:

  1. Choose quality over quantity – less square footage – better quality materials and fixtures – more beauty with unique and inspired details.
  2. Nine foot ceilings make spaces feel good/roomy.
  3. Flexible spaces allow for changing lifestyle demands.
  4. Open living spaces offer shared views and daylight – and allow living spaces to expand as needed.
  5. Adequate storage space relieves the burden on main living areas, enabling those spaces to remain open and free of clutter.
  6. Access to outdoor living areas increases the perception of space and improves comfort.
  7. The combination of warm, natural materials and modern fixtures/details creates an inviting mix of styles that appeals to both modern and traditional sensibilities.
  8. Natural light is the best – optimize it whenever possible.
  9. A consistent/uniform design element carried throughout the entire house will create nice flow and pull together all the spaces. In our house, we have chosen the woodwork (baseboards and window/door/opening trim) as our uniform design element – it is the same in every room.
  10. Utilize creative people who take pride in their work – buy stuff from these craftspeople and artisans.

I try to implement these ideas with all my projects – as applicable to the project – and no matter how small the project.

These principles seem pretty common sense. The principles also seem easy to implement. However, past experience has taught me that it isn’t as easy to implement as one would think. It feels like the planners and builders all want go cheap and easy – because, I think, they think we all want cheap and easy. I think that is a bummer.

Higher ceiling heights, more windows, larger windows, pocket doors, and unpainted woodwork and cabinetry all translate to higher labor and supply costs. As a result, planners and builders tend to want to minimize windows, put in regular swing doors even when there isn’t enough space, and slap up painted trim/baseboard/cabinetry.

I have been to a number of houses owned by planners and builders. They don’t preach what they practice. Most have great windows, pocket doors everywhere, beautiful unpainted woodwork and cabinetry – AND a bunch of other nice stuff like quartz countertops, walls without knockdown texture, recessed lighting in every room, exposed brick walls, accordion patio doors, etc. Let’s all take a lesson from this!

Ok. Time to step off my soapbox.

On to the actual planning for our project…

As you might recall from almost a year ago, we got started on the planning of our main level renovation. Then, Tad and I had a few conflicting thoughts on the project. I honestly thought we would have actually been done with the project by now.  Ha Ha!

Finally, we hired an architect because we thought we had made all the major decisions and we just needed some construction drawings – so we could get a permit – and get started. We don’t have any construction drawings yet. This isn’t the architect’s fault. This is our fault. The architect presented some alternate ideas. Some of these ideas have been great. Some of them not so great. Despite not implementing all his ideas, I have mostly appreciated the process. I think it will make the outcome of our project much better.

We thought we had debated all the new bathroom layouts and decided on the final one. Lo and behold, the architect offered some other options for our redo that we didn’t completely consider with the initial debate. After some discussion, we ended up liking some of his ideas. 

This is the layout we had previously settled on…Scan 14

Now we have decided this is a better use of the space after considering the architect’s suggestions.


This layout moves the vanity from a niche to the outside wall next to the tub/ shower area. This allows a more comfortably sized vanity – from 27″ wide to 38″ wide. That is pretty significant when you are talking about maximizing storage.

This new layout also spurred a discussion about the bedroom closet space (and how it wasn’t all that useful with the previous layout). This new layout eliminates the initial vanity bump back into the bedroom closet space so we can create a bedroom built in with drawers in addition to hanging space.

Main floor revision


Closet storage goes from 40″ to 63″. Again, the additional 23″ is pretty significant since I was wanting to maximize storage. About half of that will be hanging space and the other half will be a built in with drawer space. This will be beneficial since the room is small and eliminating the need for a dresser will be important in allowing for decent circulation around the room.

The drawing below is the elevation of the guest bedroom closet wall. I am pretty excited about the way it is going to look. The door on the left is the pocket door into the bathroom. The center is obviously the built in with drawers and a spot for the television (because you know we can’t have a room without a television in this house). Behind the door on the right is the hanging clothes part of the closet. We talked about a barn door for the closet – because I love barn doors.  Instead, I was talked into going with a regular sliding closet door. I like how organized and well thought out this looks. And – I already have a barn door in the house – I don’t really need another one if it doesn’t make sense…


The bathroom storage was moved from a separate shallow wall cabinet to below the vanity in the form of drawers. The drawing below shows 3 drawers – I think 2 deeper drawers will be more useful.  So, we will go with 2 deep drawers. The storage space will be about the same amount as previously planned – just more useful – I think – I hope.

The architect tried to talk us into a corner shower and no tub. Tad and I both agree that a tub shower combo seems more comfortable and visually appealing in this space. We also felt like we wanted a tub somewhere in the house – just in case – even though we aren’t tub people.

You might notice that the drawing below shows a 10″ soffit above the vanity and shower. Initially, the architect had an even larger soffit. He says that this saves money on tile and is kind of a standard design detail. Interesting thought, but Tad and I weren’t convinced. We will spend a little extra money on tile in exchange for higher ceilings and the feel of a larger space. We will have 9 foot ceilings in the bathroom – and no soffit.


During one of our meetings with the architect we were trying to brainstorm what to do in our living room to add some type of architectural detail. We talked about beams. We talked about a vaulted ceiling. We talked about different ceiling treatments. We talked about crown moulding. We talked about a lot stuff. Eventually, Tad came up with the idea to mimic the post and beam detail of our existing kitchen opening…



along the long living room that has the entryway and bedroom openings. Instead of two small doorway openings,


we will have a long beam with simple trim detail that will highlight the high ceilings – and hopefully, create the illusion of greater space in the entryway and tiny vestibule/hallway to the bedrooms. I think I am more excited about this than any other thing associated with the project – even if it was Tad’s idea :)


In summary…

  • We thought we had thought of everything. Come to find out, there were additional fresh ideas out there that we hadn’t considered.  The money spent on the architect has been well worth it. The additional ideas and suggestions have been greatly appreciated.
  • The principles from the Not So Big books are tried and true. These principles have guided us through a number of successful projects. I am pretty sure the principles won’t lead us astray this time either.
  • More to come as we actually get into the project – like the pocket door vs. swing door debate. I think pocket doors get a bad rap. In fact, I used to be a non-believer. I am now pro pocket door.

Main Level Project – already a “change order” or two…

As promised, I started a little demo for our Main Level Project.  The demo was pretty easy and non messy.  Though, it was more of a dismantling than a demolition.


It was all done in under an hour.  My issue now is what to do with the parts of the old closet.


I initially thought I might Craigslist it, but I am not sure anyone would pay money for these parts – I am pretty sure I wouldn’t.  Tad suggested that it could be donated to Habitat for Humanity, but I honestly don’t think it is in good enough shape.  So, now I am debating between Freecycle or donating to some organization that does pick up.

Anyway, it’s good to have an open space – even though it is tiny.



Our initial bathroom layout was drawn up to meet our preferences/priorities (of course) while also overcoming some challenges we anticipated with the actual space:

  1. The space is pretty small.  Even though we are converting a closet into a bathroom, I don’t want it to feel like it used to be a closet.  I want to still be able to meet all the recommended/required dimensions and clearances for a comfortable/functional bathroom.  Interestingly, This Old House magazine just came out with recommended numbers for a comfortable and functional bathroom.  It’s like the universe is telling us to get this project moving :) Scan 22
  2. We would like to  include a normal sized tub.  We don’t have a tub in our master bath – we aren’t really tub people.   Our other bathroom (the one we are eliminating) does have a tub, but it is a Greek tub (or is it Roman?) – short and deep.  I like the short and deep tub for space saver purposes, but it is hard to get in and out.  It is awkward as a tub/shower combination.  DSCN4111We do feel like we want a tub somewhere in the house.  The guest bathroom seems like the obvious place.  So, here we are – wanting to fit in a tub.  It takes up a lot of space at 5′-6″ long X 34″ wide. Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.41.38 AM
  3. I was hoping to have a layout where the toilet was tucked behind a wall or in an open alcove – out of sight from adjacent spaces.  We don’t want to recreate what we already have – just in a different area of the house.DSCN3371
  4. We are wanting 2 access points for convenience – one from our public space (the entryway) and one from our guest room (a private space). We both agree that we don’t want to walk through the guest room to get to the guest bathroom.  Optimally, I would also like to utilize pocket doors if at all possible – for good flow and utility in this small space – similar to the Douglas Fir one we have between our sunroom and laundry room.   Douglas Fir is fast becoming one of my favorite natural woods – soft, pretty, a little bit of grain but not overwhelming.DSCN4112
  5. Finally, the plumbing locations do have to work out with our basement restrictions.  We don’t want plumbing hanging down in front of the basement window –  DSCN4095and there isn’t any room for plumbing in the boiler area.DSCN4097

Ok – so – I laid out our initial plan for the new bathroom with masking tape. This first piece of tape (at the bottom of the photo) is where the wall will be moved out to – and is the doorway into the new bathroom.  The second piece of masking tape – right inside the existing doorway – (try to ignore all the yellowed adhesive tape that kept the old carpet stuck down) is where the end of the tub (and proposed plumbing wall) would be.


I am not completely convinced that this layout works for me. This is why I like to see the actual space – get in the space – be in the space.  Things always look a lot better on paper than in person.  The issue I have with our proposed plan is that when you walk into the new bathroom from the guest room you are immediately met with a wall. There is only about 31-ish inches from doorway to wall.  Then, you have to make a sharp right turn to get into the rest of the room. I think that this might be a bit odd and likely not good design.

Scan 14

As any curious DIY-er would do, I moved my tape around to see if there were other/better options. There is really only one option when we have the guest room access/door in the corner.  However, if we move the door over 34 inches (same width as the tub – so you don’t stub your toe on the edge of the tub as you walk into the room), it opens up a few more layouts for us to think about.

I’ve narrowed it down to just the feasible options (considering the above mentioned preferences and restrictions). Here are our 3 feasible options based on the basics.

Option #1 – keep the original proposed layout.


  • The clearances and dimensions are comfortable.
  • We get a normal sized tub.
  • The toilet is out of site from both adjacent spaces.
  • 2 access points are viable and pocket doors are possible.
  • The plumbing works out just fine in the basement.


  • The entry from the guest room is a little like an obstacle course – you immediately walk into a wall and have to turn directly right to get into the rest of the space.

Scan 20

Tad still likes this plan the best – you can see his smiling face above.  I might be convinced to keep this plan if we can do a half wall or a glass wall instead of a solid ceiling to floor wall.

Option #2 – move the door, but keep our proposed basic layout.


  • No wall to walk directly into.
  • The clearances/dimensions are comfortable.
  • Still get a normal sized tub.
  •  2 access points are maintained – pocket doors are possible.
  • The plumbing works out just fine in the basement.


  • The view from the guest bedroom – is – of – the – toilet.
  • We’ve now got a 30-31 inch alcove at the end of the tub. We could use it as storage. That would be a lot of storage! This might be an advantage?

Scan 18Tad is still thinking about this as an option – as you can see by his thinking face above.  He suggested we possibly only move the door over 20-24 inches rather than 34 inches – so you don’t see the entire toilet.  I am thinking about this suggestion as this option is probably my first choice at this time.  Will everyone stub their toe or hit their shoulder on the tub wall when they enter from the guest room?  That’s my question about Tad’s suggestion.

Option #3 – move the door, move the tub, move the toilet.


  • No wall to walk directly into.
  • The clearances/dimensions are comfortable.
  • Still get a normal sized tub.
  • 2 access points are maintained.
  • The plumbing works out just fine in the basement.


  • The view from the entryway –  is – of  – the – toilet.
  • We’ve got a variable sized alcove next to the toilet that now could be utilized for storage.  Again, this might be an advantage?
  • The window ends up in the shower – I was hoping to avoid this.
  • A pocket door is possible on the guest room side, but not on the entryway side.

Scan 19

Tad has already crossed this option off the list – as you can see by his sad Tad face above.  This is my least favorite option as well.

Still to do:

We still have to think about stuff like TP holder and towel hook locations.

We also have to work out plumbing vent locations/exits – and the exhaust fan exit.  I won’t accept an exhaust fan and vent pipes exiting the roof on the front part of the roof (because the bathroom is at the front of the house now – see that small window next to the front door).  We’ve got a hip roof so it will take some thought to get the pipes and vents and such exiting somewhere other than the front part of that hip roof…