Random (but not really)

Monday, March 1, 2021

Broken Bottles

We’re getting our deck replaced.


But that’s not really what this post is about.

When they tore off the old deck, they exposed the (pretty damaged) original house steps. And I noticed something bizarre: what looked like broken bottles embedded in the bottom step of each set of stairs.


Front door


Kitchen door

Upon closer inspection, they really do look like broken bottles.


That almost looks like a Pepsi logo to me.


And this one has writing.

2021-03-01_Deck_Steps_018 (2)

This is the same picture in mirror image.

The lower part of the text there looks to be “BOTTLE OF MORGANTOWN” but I could be wrong.

So, why on earth were there bottles embedded into the cement stairs? Since there is no cement in the bottle, I am guessing the bottle was broken after the cement was poured. It’s a 1930s house, so is this some weird Great Depression thing?

This house just has so many surprises.

Written by Michelle at 5:20 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden,Photos  

Friday, November 8, 2019

Bathroom Remodel: Part the Last

I covered most of the big things about the remodel, but wanted to point out some of the smaller things or bits.

The Tile

As I mentioned, we had issues in that the the tub had been installed after the walls were put up, so once we put the new walls up, they were proud of the rest of the walls. This meant a lot of fussing to make sure everything was tiled and waterproofed. And again, my thanks to the gentleman at Davis Tile who spent so much time helping me figure out what I needed to do.

You can see here how the wall has three levels–the new wall with tile, the old wall with tile, and the wall without tile.

This wall–which showcases the new light that I ADORE– you can see again the steps, and also how I didn’t have enough space to put tile between the proud section of wall and the trim of the shelves we put in.

I suppose we could have gone out and bought tiny rectangles of tile, but it didn’t seem like it was at all worth it for that tiny section of mostly-hidden wall.

This is a pretty ridiculous section of wall.

Door trim, wall trim, old wall, tiled old wall, and tiled new wall.

You can also see the new air vent we put in. So much prettier than the other one AND more useful since it’s not under the sink.

You can also see that I suck at caulking; try not to pay too much attention to that.

I adore the cobalt blue tile I got to accent the white tile.

And here is a little more detail of the two built-in shelves. They could have been deeper, with the amount of space we had, but I chose to get pre-made ones, rather than try and make my own.

The Closet

Here is a little more detail of the closet.

You can see the top shelf–we tested to make sure we could easily get hard bins in and out of that space. You can also see how I made the lower shelves deeper than the top shelf. The reason I didn’t make the vertical board deeper to match the shelves is that I wanted it to be easier to get the brooms and such out of the tall open space. Plus, it allows a little more light in.

Towel Rack

As I mentioned before, putting the inset shelves above the toilet meant I had nowhere to put the towel rack. Once I discovered vertical rotating towel racks I knew this was precisely what I wanted.

I also discovered that some towels are made with loops for hanging on hooks, so this works perfectly for hand towels.

And this is right above the vent, so: warm towels in the winter!

And here’s the whole thing.

And if you stumbled here in the middle, here are the posts on the previous bits.

The Tub and Tiling
Walls and Built-in Shelves
The Closet
The Floor

Written by Michelle at 8:12 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden  

Bathroom Remodel: Floored (Part the Fifth)

A hotly debated subject during the project was the floor–and what was under the linoleum.
I said there was wood flooring in the closet and the rest of the floor was plywood. Michael disagreed and thought the entire floor was wood flooring.

For four months we debated this, because, well, just because.

One thing we did know was that part of the floor under the toilet was spongy and almost certainly needed replaced.

Which is why it took so long to get to the floor.

I’m not allowed to use power tools that might take off an appendage, and Michal flat-out didn’t want to deal with replacing the floor.

So in September I pulled out the linoleum in the closet, and discovered that there was wood flooring under the linoleum. (Why they put linoleum over hard wood I have no idea.

It was vile and disgusting and messy and awful and ridiculously difficult, even thought I hadn’t put the bottom shelf in the closet to leave myself more room.

But after using pry bars and chisels I uncovered: this

After some googling I found recommendations on how to clean up the adhesive, and after most of a bottle of paint thinner and an entire bag of rags, I uncovered planks that were in decent shape, and certainly good enough for the floor of a closet.

Some sanding and polyurethane later I was ready to put up the trim (I bought new trim because almost all the trim in the bathroom was either destroyed during removal or not worth the effort of cleaning to reuse.

All-in-all, I was quite pleased with the result.

The it was waiting for Michael to be ready to take out the rest of the floor.

One of the things we did early on was take a core sample of the floor to determine how thick everything was. Answer: Not very. This meant we were going to have to put a very thin floor down, because I was not about to shave the bottom of the bathroom door.

We’ve got solid wood doors in the upstairs that I spent several months refinishing soon after we bought the house. They may be beat up and damaged in places (someone repeatedly shut a small dog in the bathroom, which displeased the dog apparently) but they’re solid and quite attractive despite the damage.

So I was not interested in shaving wood off the bottom of one of the better features of the house.

But eventually we looked at options and after copious amounts of nagging, Michel cut out the top layer of the floor, to expose the plywood underneath.

Surprisingly, part of the subfloor remained in decent shape, so he only had to cut out part of the subfloor to replace.

We nailed studs to the existing joists to give the new section of floor more support, and then were ready to go.

One of the things we did was move the vent from under the sink to the opposite wall.

If I’d known how easy this would be for Michael, I might have chosen a different sink, but since we had almost in choice in tiny sink cabinets, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.

Back to the floor!

We went with a very thin vinyl floor, and managed to find an even thinner underlayment to go under it.

What surprised me was that the bathroom floor space is so small, a single vinyl board covered the floor from wall to tub. Would it have looked better to have the sheets run from wall to closet rather than wall to tub? Yeah. Would it have been easier to work with two shorter sheets / boards rather than a single one that had to be trimmed precisely.

Oh yes. Much MUCH easier. Lesson learned there.

But the floor was DONE and I could now finish everything up!

The final bits were a little bit of everything: adding the last of the tile, measuring, cutting and painting the trim, caulking (which I suck at), and looking for any little bits that needed finishing.

We got wooden thresholds, which I stained, and then we were done!

To be honest, finishing was underwhelming. This project has taken almost six months–it felt like the last steps should have been more exciting, but they were–considering everything that had gone before–relatively easy, and then it was done.

Written by Michelle at 9:33 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden  

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Bathroom Remodel: Rebuild These Walls and a Shelf (Part the Third)

Once the tub was mostly finished, we moved onto the walls around the toilet (the opposite walls were in decent shape and didn’t need demolished).

As I mentioned before, the space between the walls is ridiculously deep, so it seemed ridiculous not to build shelves into that space. The worry was that is the only section of open wall large enough to hold towel racks, so I needed another spot to hang towels. Once I figured that out, we had to figure out how to build the shelf.

Although it probably wasn’t load bearing, there was a stud running up the middle section of where the shelf would go. Thinking back to how we built the bookshelves into the walls in the computer room (Apparently I have no blog posts about any of that work–unsurprisingly, really, since then Grandmom moved in as soon as we finished.) I figured we could just cut out the middle of the stud and brace the edges. This led to so interesting discussions as we tried to figure out how to do this, including the following exchange:

“And just how is that board going to be held in place?”
“Um…. magic?”

We didn’t use magic.

We also put in more outlets, because two outlets did just not cut it, even in a bathroom we rarely used.

Michael built a three-sided box that we slid into the space.

There ended up being an issue, because the box was built with about a quarter inch of extra space on each side, for ease of getting the box into the wall. Then Michael nailed the box to the studs–without remembering that we needed shims to account for that quarter inch. So things were not quite square, but that box is going NOWHERE.

We then put up the rest of the drywall, and taped and mudded.

Painting happened in stages, because we were only going to pull the toilet completely out once. So the upper half of the walls were painted, and we put trim around the shelf.

Initially Michael used L-brackets to put up the shelves. I hated this, so once I got the pocket jig, I ripped out the L-brackets, repainted, and put in new shelves.

Now, we ended up having another issue here that probably won’t be a problem for anyone else ever, unless they also have a teeny bathroom. Because the cement board stood slightly proud of the “regular” wall, we had to order special corner-type tiles, and ended up with a space beside the medicine cabinet that couldn’t have tile–or anything else. If you stand at an angle you can see the unfinished edge behind the medicine cabinet. So…don’t do that if you come over to my house.

The trim was the very last thing to go up, since the floor was the next-to-last thing we did in the bathroom.

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Categories: House & Garden  

Monday, November 4, 2019

Bathroom Remodel: The Tub (Part the Second)

The plumbing bits were mostly Michael, since he’s 1) pretty good at plumbing and 2) has better upper-body strength than I do.

We replaced the fixtures and most everything inside the walls, as well as the tub drain.

The walls extremely problematic. The tub had been put in after the drywall and the cement board we got for the wall was much thinner. That meant we had to put boards up over the studs, to make sure the edge of the cement board was just over the lip of the tub.

Bathrom wall

We got foam board to insulate the wall as well (what we took out looked like shredded cardboard. UGH.

Putting up the cement board involved a lot of measuring and remeasuring, and would have been a LOT easier if there wasn’t a window in the middle of the wall.

Michael replaced all the pipe with PVC, because he finds it easier to work with, and who am I to argue with that.

Because the space between the walls was so deep, I ordered some shelves to inset inside the wall. You can also see here where we added studs not just where the shelves were, but also where the fixtures were going to go.

Once the cement board was up, I taped and then put thinset on all the joints.

I have an extra kitchen scale, so since I was only mixing small batches of thinset (and later grout) I covered the scale in saran wrap and was able to measure by weight, which I always find easier.

After the thinset dried, I applied the waterproofing.

I put two coats of the waterproofing up, because 1) I had the time and 2) I had far more waterproofing than I was going to use.

To keep the bathroom mostly usable during the project, we replaced the sink and fixtures and light relatively early on.

Because the bathroom is so small, and the space for the sink is so small, we had almost no choice in sink and cabinet. I wanted something with a cabinet because a small house means limited storage space, so the remodel was going to give me the most storage space I could get.

Then came the tiling.

The problem here is that no one feels that it’s safe for me to use cutting tools, so while Michael was working on something else, I put whole tiles up on the wall, because one website suggested putting up whole tiles and then filling in the pieces.

This did not work well for me, because getting the tiles the right size to fit in the spaces was annoying and was a problem more than once. I am all but incapable of visualizing things, so I frequently measured tile “backwards” from what I needed, which was frustrating, but also something I was expecting, and so had Michael double check before he cut.

All of which made the process more time-consuming, but wasted less tile.

Also, I did a lousy job bracing the initial row of tile, so they slipped some and were uneven. Don’t screw that up when you do tiling.

We ended up buying a small and inexpensive tile saw, because it ended up being cheaper than renting one. Michael says I probably could have used it safely, but didn’t, since I hate the emergency room.

The good think is that once you grout, the screw ups and errors in the tile become unnoticeable.

Since I had extra cobalt blue tile, I decided to create a pattern with the tile in the shelving niches. It was actually really fun, and if I’d felt more confident in the beginning, I might have done a pattern with the blue tile instead of just stripes. But I’m still pleased with how the tile turned out, despite only making stripes and the number of times I screwed up.

And about that tile…

I went to Davis Kitchen and Tile to see what they had, and in the hope someone might be able to answer a couple of questions for me.

The owner ended up spending probably an hour with me, patiently answering all my questions and helping me figure out what I needed. Considering I went with the cheaper tile, and told him up front that I was doing the work myself, he was amazingly patient and wonderful and kind.

If you need tile (or have a remodeling project), you should definitely go to Davis Kitchen and Tile, because they were marvelous.

Important for the tub & shower
Tile saw
Small metal ruler
Nitrile gloves
Leather gloves
Tile file
Circular tile bits for the drill
Wrist braces (these fit under both my leather and nitrile gloves)

Michael already had most of the plumbing tools, so I’m not 100% what would be recommend there if you’re not already doing plumbing.

Written by Michelle at 4:00 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden  

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Bathroom Remodel: This House (Part the First)

This project started on the 17th of May, 2019, and finished on the 3rd of November, 2019.

Yes, it was slow, but 1) we didn’t always know what we were doing 2) we had to learn a lot of new skills as we went (see previous) 3) we did it in our free time 4) we were extremely flexible in what we were going to do, and finally 5) we had another bathroom in the house.

We knew it was going to be difficult in parts, because this is a 1930s house, and things are often just weird. And we discovered plenty more weirdness as we went, which is what this first post is going to be about.

When we first moved in, the toilet leaked and the shower leaked, so we replaced the tub assembly, replaced the sink fixture, and attempted to replace the toilet–except that the bathroom is so small the door wouldn’t close with the new toilet in place, so that fixture sat in the basement until we put in the second bathroom when Grandmom moved in.

That project (adding a second bathroom) is why I felt that we would be able to do this project. We built two rooms (bathroom and computer room) from nothing, and did all the work ourselves, except for tapping the sewer line (because we had two months to get everything done (including emptying the spare room) before Grandmom moved in, and we did NOT have time to for major screw-ups)).

Was this hard? At times, of course it was. We didn’t know what we were doing. We often didn’t have the proper tools. And some things are just hard work. But I learned so much doing this, I feel like when the zombie apocalypse comes I’ll actually have value to contribute.

So here is how things looked when we (mostly) started.

Ugly Bathroom

Ugly Bathroom

We’d replaced fixtures (as I said) and Michael put in shut-off valves (because this house basically had the whole house shut-off and no others), but otherwise, this is how it’d looked since we moved in in 2001.

The we started tearing things apart, and found all kinds of excitement.

This was the first–but far from the last–time I wondered what the hell we were getting ourselves into.

It was nasty.

Ugly Bathroom

We also discovered they built walls across walls and put the tub in after they put in the walls, and just…. ugh. All kinds of ick.

We discovered multiple sockets / switches that had just been plastered over.

I found (I kid you not) razor blades in the wall.

We discovered creative ways were used to make things fit.

I discovered wood floor under the linoleum in the closet.

And some pretty disgusting plywood under the rest of the linoleum.

If that picture doesn’t make it clear, the bathroom is tiny. The floor space is 4′ x 5′ , not including the tub and the closet, so it was often problematic for both of us to be in the bathroom at the same time–especially when the toilet and sink were installed.

So what ended up being important for the demolition?

Tetanus shot
Utility knife (one for each person, really)
Shop vac
Many old shower curtains to be used as drop cloths
Leather work gloves
Dust masks
Rubber mallet
Drywall saw / knife
Audiobooks / podcasts

Did I mention to make sure your tetanus shot booster is up-to-date? And definitely the dust masks. Even wearing them both of us ended up with a respiratory thing when we were tearing out the shower walls–most likely due to the combination of mold, mildew, and dust particles.

And patience. Lots and lots and lots of patience.

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Categories: House & Garden  

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Flower Pr0n: I <3 Day Lilies

I love day lilies. I think it’s because they so exuberant. I have multiple cultivars (they don’t all bloom at the same time, so even without the Stella D’Oros I have about a month of day lilies).

I have lots of hostas not because I love them, but because they grow in shade, which I have a lot of, and they’ll thrive.


Visitor at the hostas.



Because I have so much shade, I also have several varieties of fern.


Here are the ubiquitous Stella D’Oros. These get put anywhere I want to ignore.


And two of the other day lily varieties blooming now.



Written by Michelle at 12:32 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,House & Garden,Photos  
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