...because home doesn't happen overnight.
Someday this is going to be a really awesome bathroom. For the past two years, it’s been this unfinished eyesore that I shield my eyes from every time I pass by in the hallway. I pretend it’s not there. When we have guests over and they want a tour, I’m all “…and here’s where we hold our Amazon deliveries for inspection…” When I’m embarrassed, I try to be funny but I think it comes across as awkward instead and then everyone ends up feeling uncomfortable. And even though we don’t mind guests traipsing through our bedroom to use the only functioning bathroom in the house, I’m guessing they feel a little weird doing it. So for the sake of our houseguests comfort, we really want to tackle this bathroom. Getting the mound of bathroom finishes (tile, tub, toilet, vanity, wall sconce, plumbing fixtures, etc.) out of the garage would be nice, too.
Maybe 2014 will be the year we park a car in our garage?!
Two weeks ago our plumber adjusted the water lines for the tub. We tried leveling the concrete floor in here over a year ago (life has totally gotten in the way of this project) but the water lines needed to be sunk a little deeper into the slab for us to tile over properly.
During renovation we had the plumber update the water lines for the tub. At the time, he was afraid they were too high and he told us to give him a call if we needed him to adjust them. So two years later that’s just what we did. He didn’t charge us for this most recent work since it was his error. I love our plumber. He’s a man of his word, returns our calls and shows up when he says he’s going to. (He’s Pete the Plumber in Lebanon, Ohio for any locals needing a good plumber.)
Some jackhammering was involved in sinking the lines so Steve patched the floor this weekend. We have to let it cure for a while before we can start any tile prep but the good news is the floor is level! Dirty, but level!
We also decided to create access to the water shutoff in the bathroom. (We’re overly paranoid about water leaking, pouring, seeping, dripping and flooding into our home.) Our hope is we’ll never have to use it but if we need it, it’s there.
The bathroom shares a wall with my workspace in the kitchen. The water shutoff is located behind this base cabinet. We thought creating access to the shutoff within the cabinet would be discreet but effective. To prep for an access panel, Steve removed the cabinet doors (Ikea cabinets make that super easy, btw.) and emptied the cabinet.
Steve picked up an inexpensive access panel from Home Depot for about $12. He traced its dimensions onto the back of the kitchen drywall from the bathroom. (We had already cut out a panel of cement board for access to the water shutoff during renovation. It goes back in place with a few screws.) He drilled a small hole in one corner (seen above) to get started then used a small hacksaw to cut out a square. He did this from the bathroom side and was careful not to cut through any pipes.
He cut right through the drywall and the back of the cabinet.
As you can see, he had some helpers. Everett was so excited. He thought we were making a secret passageway. Sorry, buddy, just trying to give you somewhere else to pee.
Then Steve slipped the access panel into place.
The cabinet frame and new access panel are both white so the result is pretty inconspicuous.
Then we loaded everything back into the cabinet.
It’s like it never even happened. Having access to the water shutoff gives us peace of mind. Man, I hope we never have to use it. Now we’re just waiting for the concrete to cure and then it’s on to tiling! We don’t have a set deadline for finishing the bathroom. We’re working on it when we can – in between the kids’ activities, Steve’s work and business trips, episodes of New Girl, birthday parties. But it’s something we’d really like to see to completion before nicer weather hits and all we’ll want to do is GO OUTSIDE.
The plumber asked to see the floor tile and tub fixture for measurements when he was here adjusting the water lines. I sorted through the beast that is our garage to find them and then I got excited all over again about this bathroom. After sharing one bathroom with four other people for the past two years, having two working bathrooms is going to be such a luxury!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
That’s a little before-and-after action of our living room. So, so, so many things have happened in between those two pictures. (Like, two years, kiddo #3, lots of hard work and not a lot of sleep.) I don’t consider the room “finished” but we’re awfully close. One of our biggest undertakings in this space was vaulting the ceiling and it’s something I want to share in more detail now that we’re living on the other (cleaner, less stressful) side of it.
If you have been following along, you already know we removed the walls separating the original kitchen, dining and living rooms. When the walls came down, part of the plaster ceiling came down, too, and it gave us an idea – a wonderful, awful idea. Why not rip out the 8′ ceiling in the future kitchen-living space and vault it? We knew it would be a major renovation but we also knew it would totally make the space.
Steve did a bunch of research online (he found finehomebuilding.com especially helpful) and in person with several contractors and a professional engineer at a local lumber yard. We went back and forth between the options of installing collar ties or a structural ridge beam. In the end, we were advised to install a structural ridge beam. (You can read more about these events as they occurred in real time here and here.)
We hired a contractor as this project was way beyond our DIY skill set. Our contractor worked closely with an engineer at a local lumber yard to create an LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beam specific to our roof pitch, room dimensions and length of span. Like I said, waaaayyyy-haaay-haaay beyond our skill set.
An LVL beam is constructed of multiple layers of thin wood held together by adhesive. This allows for a smaller yet stronger structural support when compared to a solid wood beam. The compact size allowed us to run electrical along the beam (for track lighting + two ceiling fans) and box it in without taking up too much space at the peak. The LVL beam was manufactured off site, signed off on by a professional engineer and installed by our contractor.
These photos were taken after the structural ridge beam was installed. The fireplace wall is a block wall. A support was installed for the beam to rest on the block wall.
At the other end of the beam is an interior wall – no block wall. To support the beam properly, the slab on either side of the doorway shown above was jackhammered and dug out. Footers were poured and the corner studs were replaced with glued and nailed 2 x 4 posts. The header above the doorway was beefed up as well to support the structural ridge beam. On a side note, the boys look so little!
With the ridge beam installed, we were finally able to envision how the space might look someday. It felt so much bigger yet we hadn’t touched the house’s original footprint.
How much did all of this cost? To have the LVL beam manufactured and installed, we shelled out $5,600. That was with us demo’ing the walls, the drop ceiling and most of the rafters. That price does not include insulation or drywall around the beam or affected walls. It does not include the cost of installing tongue and groove on the vaulted ceiling either. (You can read about that DIY project here and here.) That’s no drop in the bucket, for sure. But we bought the worst house on the street for well below $100,000 so it was within our budget and the result was a game-changer.
And a slew more because the boys were behaving and Mabrey took the longest. nap. ever…
…then my camera battery died which explains the somewhat grainy shots. Damn.
We bought a crappy house for not a lot of money and vaulted the ceilings to make it less crappy. We like it here. The end.
Pssst! – We made it to The Homies finals! Whaaaaat?!
Click here to find out who won the epic Barcelona chair giveaway.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
From a renovation standpoint, we aren’t completely finished with this house. We have another bathroom to tackle. The garage is a mess. We’d love to do more outside: new driveway, more landscaping, a small kitchen garden, new garage door and mailbox upgrade. Among other things. But the light at the end of the tunnel is getting a little closer and brighter every day. It feels good.
Still, we can’t help thinking about the things we would have done differently knowing what we know now. Fortunately, there aren’t too many things we would change if we had the chance to do it all over. Can you guess our biggest renovation regret?
It has something to do with this room.
Okay. I’ll tell you.
We wish we would have installed radiant floor heating under the tile in the mudroom / dining room / laundry room.
At the time, we were feeling the pressure to finish things up so we could move out of our interim apartment and into the house before our third baby was born. We seriously considered installing an electric radiant floor heating system in this room but, in our haste, decided against it. HUGE REGRET.
We didn’t move into the house until baby #3 was two months old so taking the extra time to install this upgrade wouldn’t have been that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things. If you’ve ever survived a full-on renovation, you are probably familiar with the pressure to get things done in a timely manner. Every added project pushes subsequent projects out on the already lengthened schedule. Sometimes you make decisions in the heat of the moment that aren’t the best decisions long-term. Choosing to forego radiant heating in the mudroom was one of those decisions for us.
The wall on the left is a cinder block wall. On the other side of it is the original garage. It’s one of the few walls we didn’t insulate during renovation. Thus, on cold days the tile in here is frigid. Seeing as how this winter is one that will go down in history (crazy cold, tons of snow), we are realizing the consequences of our hasty renovation decision for sure. Our piggies are freezing whenever we step (bare)foot in this room!
I guess if you want to look on the bright side, the cool tile feels refreshing in the summer?
We’ve resorted to using a small space heater in the room when we spend longer periods of time eating meals or playing board games at the table. It’s actually a very affordable, effective lil’ heater with many nice features (remote control, programmable thermostat, timer, oscillation, small footprint, overheat protection, etc.) and if you’re in the market for one, we’d highly recommend it. It’s quiet and heats the room quickly and evenly. But, of course, radiant heating would have been the better solution here.
Yeah, we’re kicking ourselves.
One thing we don’t regret is the tile floor. From a design standpoint, I was on the fence about using tile in this room. We have engineered hardwood throughout the rest of the house and I was afraid that having a tiled room (besides the bathrooms) would look out of place or feel less cohesive. But I can’t imagine having anything else.
We normally enter / exit through this room and it’s a dumping ground for shoes, coats and bags. It sees the bulk of dirt, mud and snow that our house is privy to. The travertine is the perfect “dirt” color and super easy to clean. The light gray grout still looks new two years later. No regrets there.
Keepin’ it real so you can fully appreciate how hard this tile works…
…complete with tennis shoes, un-hung coats, un-zipped backpacks, laundry in-progress and library books stacked in the laundry nook waiting to be returned. #lifewithkids
So there you go. Our biggest renovation regret. Maybe you can learn from our mistake. We have. Next time (ha!), we’ll install radiant floor heating. Or we’ll move to New Zealand.
What is your #1 renovation or home improvement regret?
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
As you know, we chose to go with mostly Ikea products for our kitchen remodel. (You can read more about the design, purchase and installation of our kitchen here, here and here.) Before making the decision, we did a ton of research online. What was the price comparison between Ikea and other cabinet sources? Could Ikea cabinets support granite? How would the frames hold up long-term? How easy / difficult was DIY installation? What level of quality should we expect with Ikea cabinets and appliances? Which items should we look to buy from other sources? Soft-close hinges sound nice but are they worth the hype? And so on. We had so many questions and, surprisingly, so few answers. I wish there had been more access to personal stories regarding Ikea kitchens.
In an effort to bring those stories to light, I would love for House*Tweaking to become an unbiased medium for sharing Ikea kitchen experiences. Even though our kitchen remodel is finished, I love a good kitchen renovation and it’s fun to see all the ways others have used Ikea products to meet their needs and style.
The first story I want to share hails from a reader who chose to go the Ikea route after reading about our kitchen. Leigh and her family purchased a foreclosed summer home on a street lined with beautiful houses. It was the worst house on the street, she says, which put it well within their budget.
Though outdated and cramped, the kitchen was livable so the homeowners simply gave it a facelift by painting the cabinets, laying peel-and-stick linoleum and purchasing new stainless steel appliances while they focused their attention on other projects and saved for a full-on kitchen renovation. They lived with the kitchen like this for two years taking mental notes of how the space did / did not work for them. Then a little over a year ago, they plunged into a complete remodel. They researched blogs for inspiration and decided it would be best to take down the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room to create a bright, family-friendly kitchen.
I asked Leigh several questions about her kitchen remodel. You can read her answers and find “after” shots below.
Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?
Cabinets, doors, drawer fronts, hardware, microwave, hood vent and countertops.
What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?
We were redoing the kitchen in our summer home and looked around at various cabinet makers and determined that Ikea was the best quality for what we were looking to spend. Additionally, there was very little time between placing the order and delivery where some of the other semi-custom lines would have taken up to 18 weeks for delivery.
Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?
We designed it ourselves using the Ikea kitchen planning tool. We also got assistance from the kitchen reps at Ikea who were very helpful and informative.
Did you assemble and install all Ikea kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?
We assembled the boxes and some of the install by ourselves (or should I say my husband did). It was last winter when we started to assemble it and my husband was a trooper doing all of the demo and assembly in an unheated house with no running water! We did seek help from a local specialist in the area who installs Ikea kitchens for the Cape and islands and his price seemed to wash out the savings we got by buying Ikea cabinets.
My husband was determined to save the money for something he could do himself. He is not a trade specialist by any means but he has a hard time paying people to do things he can to himself. He was very overwhelmed when the boxes arrived and numerous times said there was no way he could do it. Through determination and hard work, he assembled them all himself. He bought some new tools to do the assembly. He did do most of the install as well. Once everything was in place, we hired a finish carpenter to come in and put moldings above the cabinets. We had planned to do this from the beginning to give the cabinets a finished look. We didn’t like the moldings that Ikea offered.
The finish carpenter was a bit of a perfectionist and he ended up pulling out a lot of what my husband had thought he had leveled out and redid it. All the cabinets that were hung were great but the lower cabinets were apparently a bit off. He told us that when they came to template for the countertops, they may not have signed off on the template because there would have been gaps. We felt very grateful to have worked with the finish carpenter; he was excellent. He built a custom cabinet for the refrigerator that matches the Ikea pantry. Although we had purchased Ikea panels to wrap the island and end cabinets, he suggested we do those custom as well. We agreed and couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out. We feel that it really made the kitchen look more expensive and more custom than it actually is.
How did you customize your Ikea kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?
As mentioned above, we used custom molding at the tops of all the cabinets and also around the island and end fridge cabinet. To paint the custom pieces we first tried Benjamin Moore’s paper maché which was suggested by another blog. It did not match our cabinets so we took a cabinet front to our local paint store and had them color match it. It worked perfectly. The advice on the trash pull-out from Aubrey & Lindsay’s blog worked great for us. The only tweak we made was to fit a top slide out drawer above the trash bins for extra storage.
I bought all new white plates, bowls, etc. from Ikea. I have a few of the organization systems but have not found them to be terribly useful. The rubber mat rolls that ikea sells have been helpful and look nice at the bottom of each cabinet.
We splurged on some things to give the kitchen character. I had fallen in love with a few things I saw on other blogs including a glass tile backsplash. I contemplated doing white subway tile but decided on a family trip to the Cayman Islands that the color of the water made me so happy and I wanted to incorporate that into our plan. Of course, it is a beach house so something bright and fun was a good fit. We wanted nice countertops. I like the look of carrara marble but knew I did not want marble due to etching and the high maintenance. I did a ton of online research and visited a few stone yards before landing on Caesarstone. I learned a few months before that London Fog Casearstone was coming to the U.S. market while visiting one of the stone yards. I saw a sample about three months before it hit the market and knew that I had to have it.
Have you encountered any problems with the Ikea products in your kitchen?
We have not encountered any problems with our cabinets. We are really happy with them. We have more expensive cabinets in our kitchen at our primary residence and the Ikea cabinets are right up there in quality. We love the soft-close hinges – something our other kitchen does not have. I looked into other fronts for the Ikea frames because I originally wanted something that was a brighter white but am very happy with the color. In fact, I think a bright white would be too harsh. I do wish that Ikea had the option of a solid, off-white wood door front in the same style. There is a lot of humidity in the summer here so the laminate material will probably work better for us in the long run. Also, they are super easy to keep clean with kids and entertaining.
What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?
I love how open and bright it is. I love the design, the ease of cooking in it and cleaning up. I love the aesthetic. I love the island where people can sit and eat while we cook. I love that I don’t have to treat it with gloved hands and that my kids are learning to cook in the space. I love how it opens to the living room and our new porch. I love that it allows us to entertain when in our previous kitchen it was just too tight. I love that it is all of my favorite colors and designs. But most of all, I love that we did it ourselves and can enjoy our sweat equity!
Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?
Of course! I would suggest all the items they sell for a kitchen remodel. We only did a few select appliances because we were able to reuse the appliances that we bought earlier when we did a “band-aid” of the kitchen shortly after buying the house. I really do think that the quality at Ikea is nice and you can’t beat the value.
Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?
Yes, I would. Regardless of budget.
Resources of note:
countertops – London Fog Caesarstone
sink – Julian
faucet – Grohe
microwave – Ikea
hood vent – Ikea
refrigerator – Kenmore Elite, counter-depth
dishwasher- Kenmore Elite
stove – GE gas with electric oven
backsplash tile – Daltile Whisper Green
flooring – hardwood, refinished to match the rest of the house
lighting – can lights in the ceiling, wired above island in case we ever want to put in pendants. (We did not do under-cabinet lighting. We figured this was an area where we could save and we don’t miss them.)
window – Andersen 400 series
paint – molding is a custom color-match; walls are Benjamin Moore cameo white
Thank you, Leigh, for sharing your Ikea kitchen experience and allowing me to feature it on House*Tweaking. I know it will be helpful and inspirational to many people contemplating a kitchen remodel.
Okay, readers. How do you feel about me featuring real life Ikea kitchens from time-to-time? Of course, I don’t want it to seem like I’m forcing anyone to buy Ikea. I just want to scout out some of the inspiration and information that I wish would have been available when we were getting ready to renovate our kitchen. I think so many times homeowners swear off Ikea because they fear the end result will look “Ikea” but I really believe it’s an affordable, quality source that can be tweaked to meet different needs and styles.
Do you have an Ikea kitchen (it doesn’t have to be 100% Ikea) that you would be willing to share on House*Tweaking? If so, please contact me at email@example.com for consideration. Thank you in advance!