Category: home renovation

Drilling through Your Problems

The new bathroom is officially finished and open for business. It turned out very nicely, with a tiled shower, heated floors, and a built in cabinet. I’m very pleased with it, and it’s a big bonus to have it right by my bedroom. No more stairs needed to go to the bathroom at night? What a world we live in!

The one down side of the new bathroom was the new shower head. Our one downstairs puts out a good, strong stream of water. The new one proclaimed proudly that it would do the same thing, but when it came time for us to actually use it . . . the stream left quite a bit to be desired. I don’t like having to wait for forever for the shampoo to rinse out of my hair. (First world problem, I know.)

So I talked to my contractor to see if he had any suggestions about what style of shower head we should get instead. He looked at the one we have, took it apart, and pointed to a piece of plastic sealed on the inside rim. “If you drilled this out, it’ll either break your shower head or fix your problem.”

“Do you really think I should do that?” I asked.

He shrugged. “The shower head doesn’t work for you now. You’ll have to pay at least $40 or $60 for a different one, and it’s not like you’ll be able to sell this one. Worth a shot, isn’t it?”

So I grabbed my drill, guessed at the bit size, hesitated one more time, and commenced drilling.

Layer after layer of plastic sheared away. Green plastic. Black plastic. White plastic. Some kind of rubber seal. I was sure we’d just ruined the whole thing. Finally we got through to clear space on the other side of the plastic barrier. We took the shower head, reattached it, and turned on the shower.

A strong jet of water came out. Plenty of water, in a nice spray, just like I wanted.

Shower head: fixed.

A helpful reminder that sometimes the direct route is the easiest, cheapest, and all around best way to solving a problem. Have a great weekend, all!

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Sealing Grout is About as Much Fun as It Sounds

The new bathroom is practically finished now. All that’s left is to put up the mirror, some hooks, the toilet paper holder, and . . . seal the grout?

There are some things required in construction that I had no idea were required. Grout sealing is one of those things. To the best of my knowledge, you do it so you don’t stain the grout with wine or food or something. I wasn’t really planning on drinking in my shower, or eating for that matter, but last night I found myself standing in the shower, grout sealer in hand, trying to figure out how best to get the blasted stuff onto the grout.

I had bought a specialty tool for the job. A squirt bottle with a little roller attached that’s supposed to make it easy for you to get everything just right. It made sense in theory, but in practice it left much to be desired. For one thing, you’re not supposed to get the sealer on the tile, or else you risk discoloring your tile for life.

(So riddle me this: why in the world was I standing there risking staining my tile accidentally by putting stuff on the grout to make sure the grout didn’t stain? Why not just embrace the fact that my grout might stain at some point, but my tile would be fine? Best not to ask crazy questions like that. Best just to stick to the prescribed technique of grout finishing.)

The roller was too wide for some areas and too thin for others. Worse yet, the grout sealer didn’t want to go on most of the grout at all. I tried different angles. No dice. (And don’t get me started on how long it took me staring at different grout sealers at Home Depot to decide which one I really needed.)

In the end, I gave up on the specialty bottle. Instead I went and borrowed a water color brush from DC. One of the basic little cheap brushes that comes with pretty much every water color set. I put the sealer into a plastic container and stood there getting my Michelangelo on for the next while, painting the grout by hand.

It doesn’t look like it should take that long. There’s not that much grout, after all. The tiles we got are two feet wide by a foot tall, so it should have been a piece of cake. Except when you’re using a little water color brush to get the job done . . . things take longer.

I got the first coat done for the shower. I was sick of doing it by then, so I haven’t started the floor yet at all. Tonight I’ll try to take care of both coats on the floor and the second coat on the shower. And then I’m going to do my best to forget that grout needs to be sealed ever again.

Yes, it’s supposed to be redone once a year or something. I think I might just live dangerously and put it to the test. After all, the odds of me drinking wine in my shower are pretty low . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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

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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.

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