Category: home renovation

Project: Bathroom

Over ten years ago, when Denisa and I were house hunting, we had a few “must haves” on our list. A garage. Four bedrooms. Two bathrooms. But as we went from house to house (more than 20 in two days), we began to see that a list of “musts” for a house is kind of like a list of “musts” for a spouse. There’s the ideal, and then there’s the reality, and sometimes you have to let some things slide. Sometimes, your “musts” turn out to be “would prefers”.

So when we bought our house, it only had 1 bathroom.

And in the years since then, we’ve plotted. Planned. Schemed. Every renovation we did had an ultimate end game in mind: a second bathroom. Because bathrooms.

I’m pleased to say that as of yesterday, we’ve finally put that end game into motion. The bathroom is being built. Not only will this mean we have a second bathroom, but it’ll be right next door to my new bedroom, which will be ever so much more convenient. (Score!)

How serious are things? Well, serious enough that I’ve already bought the toilet. A guy just doesn’t go around buying toilets for fun. (At least, I wouldn’t recommend it. Yesterday I had a part day due to snow, so I stayed at home and pored over all sorts of fun products. Which toilet should we buy? Which vanity? Lighting fixtures? Tiles? Towel racks? I was in decision overload by the end of it, let me tell you. Glad that’s done.)

So if all goes according to plan, the stuff should arrive next week, and construction will be finished two or three weeks after that.

And in case you were wondering, we’re going with a shower-only, but we’re also putting in some nice perks like an electric heater, heated tile floors, and a hibachi grill. (One of those things isn’t actually going in the bathroom. I’ll let you guess which.)

Will it be noisy and dirty around the Bryce household for the next while? Yes it will. Do I care? No I do not.

Because I want that second bathroom. Wish us luck! (Well . . . wish our contractor luck. I personally will not be touching many power tools on this job. I hope.)


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Staining the Shed


Saturday was the day. Nothing real on the agenda except for a biggie: the new shed had to get stained. This wasn’t a small job. It’s a 16 foot by 24 foot shed. Probably 20 feet off the ground or more in some places. (I haven’t measured.) And due to our crazy schedule, it had to happen Saturday. Not finishing was not an option. So after I got up and got my writing done for the day, I got things prepped for the actual staining. (Did I say nothing was on the agenda? I lied. DC had a 5k she was going to run (her first) and a birthday party to go to at 5, which meant we realistically had a five hour window to get two coats of stain on all 4 sides done. Because time limits make everything more enjoyable.)

The plan had been to use the same brand and color of stain as we’d used on the garage years ago, but that proved difficult to come by. So I used the very scientific method of bringing up that color sample on one web page and then comparing it to other stain samples on other web pages. Some were skeptical that this would work out (myself included), but it ended up being almost an exact match. (For future reference, yes. Navajo Red by Olympia is pretty much the same as Brick Red by Behr.)

Denisa and I took care of the eaves first, and I remembered in about 10 minutes why I don’t like painting. When you can stay on the ground it isn’t too bad, but as soon as you add ladders into the mix . . . it becomes much less fun. We ended up getting all three kids involved as well, and I’m proud to say we were able to finish in time. (Barely. Denisa was driving DC off to her party in the afternoon just as I started cleaning up.)

But it’s done. We still have to paint the trim (which will go up later this week), but it feels great to have that behind us now. Of course, my neck disagrees with me. I was okay yesterday, but I woke up this morning feeling like someone had shoved a steel pole straight through the back of my neck. If you notice me walking like Frankenstein’s monster, now you know why.

Ultimate the shed is going to be a combination screen porch and storage area. 1/3 of it for storage, and then a wall that separates the other 2/3 for entertaining in a screened in area on our property. It looks lovely, and I’m excited to have a place I can go where not every mosquito in the surrounding 20 miles can drop by and bite me.

Anyway. That wraps up all the typing I can spare today. I’m going to go find a heating pad or something. Or a doctor who might remove this pole from my neck . . .

Taking the First Step

Just a brief thought for you today. (At least, I think it’ll be brief.) I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about the creative process, and we were discussing how hard it can be sometimes to take that first step. To actually begin working on whatever it is you’re working on.

This morning, I saw the same feeling arise in the construction process, as we try to decide how to proceed actually building the front steps. (So now we’re talking about the first step quite literally.) I’ve been looking at pictures of houses. Studying front steps as we drive by other homes. Watching videos. Reading articles. And at times, it all seems so clear. I’ll go outside and expect I’ll know just what to do.

Except when I go outside and look at where I want the front steps to go, suddenly there are a slew of questions and doubts. How deep do I need to dig? How wide should the stairs actually be? What will I really make them out of? Because when everything’s theoretical, it’s perfect. It’s this Platonic ideal of “steps” in my mind.

Taking things from that theoretical plane into the actual world is really tricky. You need to make actual decisions. Commit real money. And (what’s worse) make tangible mistakes.

I think that’s what causes me to hesitate more than anything. The fear of Doing It Wrong. And that’s true in the creative process as much as it is in the construction process. Doing something the first time is almost always the easiest. Fixing something done wrong can be really difficult, not to mention embarrassing. Because you’re spending more time fixing something you already spent a whole lot of time doing in the first place.

Of course, I don’t think about all the time I’ve wasted in that hesitation before I begin. That doesn’t seem to count, somehow. And so it’s easy to wait. To plan some more. To think things through yet again.

But sooner or later, you have to pick up that shovel and start digging. And if you make a mistake, you make a mistake. Those stairs aren’t going to build themselves.

Home Renovations Update

Here we are at another September. The time of year most of the renovations around my home seem to occur. And this September is no different, although once again, I shall not be performing the majority of these renovations. I’ve learned over the years that, while I *can* do the renovations, the end result is rarely anywhere near as good as it would be if I simply hired someone to do them, and the amount of time it saves me more than makes up for the amount of money I would have saved.

So what’s on the agenda this year?

  • A garden shed/screened porch combination. First off, our garage is big, but it has a tendency to get cluttered, especially with a lawn tractor, lawn mower, bikes, snow blower, and all those garden tools that accumulate. So the initial plan was to build a small shed to house all that separately. But at the same time, I’ve really wanted a place where we could enjoy the outside without needing to get attacked by mosquitoes constantly. At first the thought had been to screen in the farmer’s porch, but it’s a small area, and not quite big enough for what we wanted. What if we were to combine the shed with the screened patio idea? Not like we see many (or any) of these elsewhere, but it made sense to me, so . . . It’s going to be a 24 foot by 16 foot shed/patio combination, built in the spot where the house used to have a barn in Ye Olden Days of Yore. We’ll declutter our garage and have a place to eat outside in the spring, summer, and fall. I’m excited.
  • Tearing down the front porch. I’ve never been in love with our front porch. It runs the length of our house and is too thin in most places to serve much use, and too exposed to really be a place you want to spend much time anyway. We’re tearing the whole thing down. We’ll put in some stone or brick front steps, and the rest we’ll landscape to cover up anything too exposed. Not sure what that’ll be like just yet, honestly. We’ll have to see what we have when we get in there. But I’ll be very happy to no longer have to shovel off that porch every winter.
  • Building a second bathroom. This will happen in November. The last piece of the home renovation project in the upstairs of the garage will finally(!) fall into place. I for one am very excited, as it will mean I no longer need to trek through the entire house to go to the bathroom at night. There will be much rejoicing.
  • Taking out the old staircase in the garage. It now leads quite literally to nowhere and is just taking up space. We’ll also insulate the floor where it used to lead to, so that our new movie room can be a bit better insulated. Because insulation. In conjunction with this, we might work on framing out a mudroom in our garage. We’ll have the additional space we need, and it would help us set things up so that we can renovate the kitchen next year or the year after. We want to have our current mudroom become part of the kitchen, and it would be much easier (and cleaner) to still have a place for people to take off shoes, store skis, etc.
  • Build a garden fence. Not sure if we’ll get to this. It depends how fast the other projects go. But Denisa wants a groundhog-proof fence so she can once more garden in peace. We’ll see how it goes.

I think that should keep us busy enough for this time around, don’t you? I’m excited to get these projects finished. A lot of them have been on my “Want Done” list for years and years.

Hooray for progress!

All Plugged Up

Some days don’t go like you plan. Some days, you think you’re going to zig, but then you just don’t zag. You end up getting a clogged main drain in your kitchen that causes two sinks and a dishwasher to overflow.

Or is that just me?

Honestly, I think things like this stick out mainly because we take them for granted for so long. You turn on the kitchen sink, and it just works. The water goes down the drain, and everybody’s happy. So when you turn on the sink and the water doesn’t go down the drain, but instead drains into the dishwasher (except you don’t realize that just yet), then things are alarming. And so when you try for a couple of hours to use different ways to fix that drain, and keep filling it up again to see what’s going on (each time sending more water to your dishwasher), you get even more aggravated.

And when you hear a dripping sound coming from your dishwasher? And you open it up and have a gallon or two of water flood out over your kitchen floor?

That’s not a good feeling, either.

Of course, I turned to research to try and solve the problem, but my plumbing didn’t line up with the plumbing I was researching, no matter how many links I clicked or pages I turned. So I called my genius handyman, who showed up and confirmed that my plumbing was . . . unique. After we tried for another half hour or so to clear the drain, the solution was clear:

Just rip out the plumbing and start over.

So that’s what’s happening at home today while I’m at work. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s going well. They already found an kitchen knife lodged in the pipe. Apparently those things can fit down the drain. Who knew? In the meantime, I guess I’m just happy to be here at work, far away from drains and plungers for a while.

How was your yesterday?

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