grumpy about the construction project (random update)

It’s been more than two weeks since I posted something about our renovation. At this point, we are truly overwhelmed and numb. The kids started school a couple weeks ago, and I think Jesse quite nicely captured all of our moods when she posed for her dad’s camera as she headed off to her first day:


Nick, on the other hand, remains indifferent to the current reality of our lives. In fact, he seems pretty indifferent to reality in general. It’s great to be six and remarkably well-adjusted.


Here’s a seriatim update on what’s going on with our house.

I know, I know, WTF language is that? It’s lawyereeze. If you look it up, dictionaries will tell you it means something like “in a series” or “in order.” But when I was growing up in the trade, lawyers used it in briefs to mean “in no particular order,” so seriatim is a really, really short way of telling the court this: I have a bunch of stuff I want to tell you, and I’m going to do it like a random list because I didn’t have time to organize it well, or at least none of the points are related so I can’t really organize it at all, and I used a fancy Latin word to say all that so please forgive me and get over it.

In other words, don’t expect me to be witty or to have a point here, peeps. I’m just passing on information randomly as it comes to mind. And also photos.

Right, so here’s what’s going on.

* * * * * *

We passed some inspections. That’s a good thing. Electrical, HVAC, insulation, some other stuff I can’t remember.

When you pass an inspection, the inspector leaves a green tag somewhere in the house. We stick them in random locations around the house, like these three that are attached to the kitchen door.


But the insulation guy handed me the “approved” sticker instead of tagging something, and I knew exactly where it belonged.


Because my body has enough insulation these days to exceed all modern building code standards by an unhealthy margin (though I don’t know if building codes allow the use of blubber in lieu of fiberglass batting). That’s Kristi behind me. I don’t usually do selfies, but passing an insulation inspection calls for one. Doesn’t she have a great smile? That woman is so upbeat it drives me crazy.

I’ll make her grumpy yet.

* * * * * *

We’re refurbishing our powder room. I used to call it a toilet or half-bath, but everyone in the TRADE calls it a “powder room” so I’m going with the flow. It wasn’t really supposed to be part of the job, but the flooring in the whole area needed to come out, and that meant the toilet and vanity needed to come out, and then since the plumbing was accessible… you know how those dominos tumble. But we’re doing most of the work ourselves because it wasn’t part of the original project and we’re cheap.

You’d think I could take a before photo of this little room. But no. That would require planning.

Here’s the after effects. Drywall patch where the plumber ripped into the wall to update the lines.


That is not drywall mud stained with my blood sweat and tears. It’s just pink until it dries. I cut the little holes for the plumbing perfectly.  PERFECTLY, I tell you. I could not make that happen again in a million years.

And that plywood on the floor you see, I put that in for the tile underlayment, and then here’s a shot after we put in the backer board and waterproofing and crack isolation membrane (please, no butt crack jokes):


I have no idea why it’s out of focus but it’s too late to do anything about it.

Then we tiled. Anthony had this lark of an idea involving a yin-yang, so we went with it. We installed one-inch hexagonal mosaics, and we just pulled out a few of the white tiles in appropriate spots.

I like this shadow-look, right after we did that, with the blue crack isolation membrane showing through.


Then after we inserted the black tiles and the baseboard trim pieces it looked like this.


And then we put a bolder yellow paint on the walls and installed baseboard trim tiles and grouted.


Once the toilet and pedestal sink are in, you will be able to sit on the shitter and speak your universal ohm in whatever way you please as you stare at that yin-yang, and then you can stand on the yin-yang as you wash your hands, breathing in your inner peace since you have just flushed away your impurities.

Anthony has the best ideas.

There are some minor technical difficulties involving the tolerances around the edges, because this is an old not-level little room, and I couldn’t get the hex tiles close enough out to the edges for the baseboard tiles to cover because they’re not thick enough, so now we’ve had to order some black quarter-round tiles to install like trim around the base. Nothing is easy in a renovation.

* * * * * *

Bob the Plumber did a bunch of plumbing and Mike the Electrician did a bunch of electrical work. Bob really likes clean angles for plumbing, and I have to say, I am all for it. Look at this work of art around the utility sink and its exposed cinderblock wall.


Look at how beautiful that is, how he works his way around the other mechanicals with beautiful lines and spacing. It looks like part of a circuit board.

Do you see the electrical lines to the left in that frame? Here’s a better shot.


Oooooh Mike, Mike, Mike. You gotta do better than that to keep up with Bob the Perfectionist Plumber.

I’m not being fair. Mike’s going to clean that all up when the finish electrical work is done and he hooks all that spaghetti to the circuit panel. Mike is just as fastidious as Bob. I’ve gotten a lot of lectures and information from those two guys, and I don’t mind at all. I like more information better than less, and it’s nice to have contractors who actually deign to tell me what’s going on instead of patronizing me.

Even if most of the time I have no idea what they’re saying, so I just nod and say, “uh huh, uh huh,” as though I have a clue.

* * * * * *

Insulation happened. Remember all my bare stud walls, and in particular the gaping opening into the garage?


All better. Insulation is installed in the wall cavities now, and it really made the house feel more closed up and clean. It’s all covered in giant plastic sheets that serve as a vapor barrier. The sheeting covers all the windows and stuff too, so that the drywallers can just go crazy without worrying about getting mud all over things. It makes sense and also it’s kind of weird, like a whole-house condom.

See that misty look over the windows? I thought there was something wrong with my contact lenses and rubbed my eyes for a full 20 seconds before realizing the windows are just covered by the plastic vapor barrier.

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The insulation isn’t the color I expected. I thought it would be pink. Insulator Man told me this is some sort of environmentally friendly stuff, not so much toxins and chemicals. Yay.

* * * * * *

Anthony and I have been doing some rough carpentry.

We replaced some sections of subfloor planking, along our main travel path through the house, which were really cracked and were frightening the children.

Here’s an illustrative spot. Old pieces out.


New pieces in.


This was a remarkably challenging task. I had to use the circular saw, set to the correct depth, to cut the old planking out along a line that was halfway on a joist, but without cutting the joist itself. Since the blade is round, we had to finish the corners of the cuts with chisels. Hypothetically you could wing it with a reciprocating saw, but we don’t have those mad skills. I guess you could use some sort of grinder with a small circular blade, but I don’t have a grinder.

I should really get one.

Then we had to measure and set those angles to cut replacement pieces out of OSB, because it’s too expensive and annoying to get planks that are the correct width, and waste pieces of OSB were lying around from the project so they were “free.” (We’re still paying for it, of course, but you know what I mean.)

We put in the second layer of plywood underlayment in our future master bathroom, to support floor tiles. We had to make some notch cuts in the plywood, which once again raised the issue of how to finish a cut that you make with a circular blade. There’s always this little bit left at the bottom. As I trotted off to get a hand saw, Anthony hollered, “it’s okay, I’ve got it.” And he laid into the plywood with a tree pruning saw.


Sigh. Englishman. So practical and brutal.

But it worked. And how could I get mad at a grown man wearing a shirt covered in glow-in-the-dark paw prints of North American mammals?


My man. I love him so much that it makes no sense at all.

We also studded out a little book cubbie in our future master bedroom —

I hate that word “master” in this context, by the way. it sounds so, so… antebellum. Why not just call it what it is, which is “the homeowners’ bedroom.” Or “the parents’ bathroom.” Why are we still talking about masters?

Right, so a blasted cubbie was supposed to go in an otherwise-lost space between the parents’ bathroom vanity and the kids’ bathroom tub. But twice, the carpenter stuck nails into the water line running into the tub. Ejemplo:


Argh. It may look like an innocent nail, but water just pours out of a nail hole like that. Twice, aka two times, the carpentry crew put nails in that same pipe. So I finally said NEVER MIND and we decided to stud the cubbie out ourselves. We also decided to make it much more shallow, to avoid any possibility of nails or screws from studs or drywall getting anywhere near water pipes. Here’s the space I’m talking about.


See that cavity where the little remnant of insulation is? Whenever I look in that future cubbie, which will have a deep bit of unused space behind it, I think of Edgar Allan Poe and a Cask of Amantillado.

What exactly is behind that little piece of insulation? A carpenter who drove too many nails into my pipes…?


Creepy tense music in the background….

Oh thank goodness. Nothing.


And if I do ever hear anything scratching back there, I can just break the drywall with a taekwondo punch (accompanied by a mighty loud KIYAP) and set whatever is in there free. Brick masonry would be much harder to deal with.

* * * * * *

The shower pan is in for our parents’ bathroom. I like to lay tile and do underlayment and such, but pouring a custom shower pan is beyond my pay grade. You need mad, mad skills to do something like that. Joey is Kristi’s tile guy, and he agreed to pour our shower pan even though we’ll be laying the tile ourselves. Joey’s a firefighter in real life, but for fun he does tiling.

Here’s Joey, posing with Talon from the carpentry crew:


Look how perfectly their baseball hat brims are broken in. That’s the kind of commitment I like to see in contractors who do work on my house.

So here’s what the mud looks like that becomes the shower pan. It’s got the texture of… buttermilk biscuit dough, after you cut in the butter but before you add the liquid. That was not what I expected.


Then Joey got in there and did stuff that involved pushing the crumbly mud here and there, and packing and screeding, and dropping little plops of the crumbs in spots that weren’t perfect, the way a pastry chef might plop a bit of flour as he worked a puff pastry dough out to size.


Mad, mad skills. Here’s the finished product.


One tile-ready shower pan, slanted to drain just so. Anthony and I installed the wonderboard on the walls, which is why that part looks messy instead of professional.

* * * * * *

Tools are always a thing. My Makita cordless power drill died about a week ago, so I had to get a new one. I’m a Makita girl, but that Makita drill really didn’t hold up too well. A good power drill should last more than 10 years, most of which are dormant. I went back to Dewalt so now I have a Dewalt 12-volt drill with those new little batteries. Much lighter. I could have gotten a 20-volt, but I already have a corded Milwaukee keyed-half-inch-chuck drill, so I didn’t need that much power.

I know, I know. I’M A TOOL DORK. Would you ever have guessed?

So here’s my latest Home Depot story. I finally caved in last month and bought a jigsaw. I’m not a jigsaw fan. I think of jigsaws as Girl Saws. They’re lighter, and they’re offered up in TV shows as an easier alternative to more powerful and effective tools. Screw that. I say, Girls, go for POWER. But a jigsaw has its place in the pantheon of cutting devices, so I finally took the plunge. I went to Home Depot, because I don’t know why, and found a good-looking Makita. It turns out, my new Makita jigsaw requires a B-SHANK blade. But Home Depot doesn’t carry B-SHANK blades. Typical. Home Depot sells a power tool, but doesn’t sell the replacement blades that would allow you to ACTUALLY USE THE TOOL.

I hate Home Depot.

* * * * * *

In all the swirling commotion, we decided to go ahead and repaint and spruce up our one original full bathroom, which in future will be the kids’ bathroom. Like much of the house, it was some shade of tan. Actually, the tiles in there are sort of flesh-tone which I find extremely unappealing. This is what it looked like before, after the towel rack fell off.


My iPhone actually captured the colors pretty well in this pic. isn’t it hideous? Oh and by the way, do you see the location of the air vent right behind the toilet? Word of advice to all future designers and builders: never, ever, ever put an air duct in a location where small boys might be potty training. BAD IDEA.

We’re too lazy to rip the tile off in the midst of everything else that’s going on, but I picked a new color for the walls and I spruced up the white trim and cabinetry with a brighter shade of white.



I was mighty pleased with my color choice. I think it’s cheerful and perfect for a kid’s room, but not too tacky. And it’s strong enough to take attention away from the flesh tiles. I’ve now attached a hotel-style shelf and towel rack over the toilet, with plenty of wood bracing installed from the other side of the wall cavity (sorry, no picture).

I asked Anthony what he thought of the color. Actually, I encouraged him to be positive about it. “Isn’t it a great color, Anthony, huh? Huh? Don’t you love it?”

“It’s a lot like one of those loud Korean colors, like from the Korean quilts your mom has.”


I asked Nick what he thought of the new color, as he was taking a bath the day after I painted. He snorted. “Actually, mommy… I didn’t even notice it!”

From boys to men.

* * * * * *

Tomorrow, drywall installation begins. This is huge. All the mechanicals will be covered up. The studs and insulation, the bare unfinished look of a half-baked shed in the woods, the holes and dirty things. We’re rounding the corner. The end of this project isn’t so far away.

Here’s what our new spaces look like tonight.

Downstairs, in our future kitchen and mudroom.

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Just for fun, a panorama:


And upstairs, in the future parents’ bedroom and bathroom, and one other bedroom.


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Panorama fun.


We’ve lived with these views long enough now that I have trouble imagining how it’ll look all drywalled up. By next week, I won’t have to imagine it. I’ll be a lot less grumpy then.

One thought on “grumpy about the construction project (random update)

  1. Whenever I think “master bedroom,” or especially “master bath,” I find myself humming “Master of the House” from “Les Mis.” That puts the term master in an appropriate context for me.

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