Bathroom remodel – the demolition

Honestly, we had not planned on doing the demo ourselves. We both have been very busy lately, and since I had a carpenter coming to do the tub framing, I thought “why not have him do that too?” But then I saw his estimate and changed my mind. There is really no reason to pay 3 guys $45 an hour to rip shit out and destroy. I can rip shit out and destroy just fine, and it saves me money on therapy .

Here is a before:

The bathroom before destruction

The vanity was easy. After disconnecting the water and drain, placing a rag in the drain pipe and removing the doors and drawers, the whole things came apart just by using a hammer. Piece of cake.

Removing the vanity top

vanity demo

Taking apart the vanity

We found weird writing on the inside. They totally stole my idea of weird messages under wallpaper (see except the execution was poor if you ask me. Go big or go home.


Removing the toilet was also relatively easy. After shutting the water valves flushing once and disconnecting the water, we removed the bolts, the tank and then the bowl.  A little bit of water spilled out on the  floor but nothing that a towel cant fix. Word to the wise, have a empty bucket near by. Also once the toilet is gone, place a rag into the drain to avoid breathing septic fumes. All was left to do is scrape off the old wax ring.

Removing the old wax ring. I probably should be wearing gloves.

I wasn’t sure how to disconnect the fiberglass tub so I called Jeffrey, the Plumber of Last Resort (all caps because it says that on his business card, I swear).

"Someone called a plumber?"

After taking off the shower trim (that’s the part with the handle), he turned two screws (on the top right and the top left) to shut off the water.

Turning the water off to remove the tub stall

After watching some Youtube videos online, I thought I needed a special magic plumber tool to disconnect the drain. Jeffrey used the handles of a pair of channel lock pliers shoved in the drain and a screw driver to make it turn. Genius!

The plumber's magic trick

The floor was a little more involved, multiple layers of  plywood and linoleum on top of the old original hardwood.

Layer number one reveals layer number two

Layer number two reveals old bathroom floor plan on hard wood.

Then it was the turn of the fiberglass tub/shower stall. Now everyone told us that we would need to cut it to get it out, and that it would create evil fiberglass dust that would get everywhere and cut your skin and make you want to rip out your own eyeballs (contractors are drama queens, just saying). Well it is true to some extent but we were very careful. We bought a respirator, a real one, the Darth Vader kind ($35), and a saws-all for $99. Louis got into a Tyvec suit, rubber gloves, I taped up the suit at the wrist and ankles. He wore  a hood and the respirator. He went into the bathroom alone with the fan on and a shop vac.

Removing the nails that hold the tub surround in place

After cutting the tub in manageable pieces, he vacuumed out and wiped down a bunch of the dust. We threw away the rags and the suit, and took the whole shabang to the dump ($16 of dump fees). That’s it. We lived. But not the mouse we found in the wall.

RIP mouse

Categories: Home improvement | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When in France….

Did I mention that during the bathroom remodel Louis kept joking around about including a bidet? “This bathroom plan is worthless if you don’t include a bidet. We need to rearrange everything…. don’t fight this, we need a bidet.” I explained that I wasn’t even sure I could find a bidet in the US and that changing the plumbing would cost way too much. “No bidet” I said, “you can use one when we go to France”.

Well, we are in France, visiting my parents in Paris. Last night, I was brushing my teeth when I noticed the bidet in the corner.
Me: “Louis?”
Him: “Yes?”
Me:”It’s time.”
He popped his head in.
Him: “Time for what?”
“Time for the bidet,” I said while turning on the faucets. There was a mix of fear and excitement on his face followed by a look of extreme contentment as his butt cheeks touched the warm water.

The bidet

The next day, after breakfast, I am trying to get ready to go out. I knock on the bathroom door.
Me: “Can I come in? I need the mirror to put my hair up….”
Him: “Just a minute.”
I wait……
Me: “What are you doing in there? are you…???!!?”
Him, screaming: “I’M IN FRANCE!”

Categories: Home improvement | Leave a comment

Thrift shop finds – Dinosaur land

They were trying to look awesome and threatening, all lined up in a row. A display full of prehistoric dinosauria. There was a T-rex, with its huge head and little arms,  a Triceratops, a Brontosaur, a Diplodocus, a Stegosaurus, a Plesiosaur, some Raptors, a Mammoth and others I’m sure my nephews could name. There was also a few modern whales and gorillas. They were sitting there, covering an entire table at the Chicken Alley thrift shop waiting for someone to take them home. “Ted already took one of the long neck ones,” said Sandy, as I was picking up the large brontosaur. I nodded. I didn’t know who Ted was, but I felt a twinge thinking about the great ancient beast I had missed out on. I picked three, payed for them and shoved them in my bag. The brontosaur’s neck stuck out of my purse.

Large head and little arms?

“What are these for?” said Louis when he got home, “your nephews?”
“No, they are for us.” I said.
“I love you.” he said, and that was the end of it.

The Brontosaur will go on his bedside table, the  mammoth, in the new bathroom, and the T-rex…we’ll see. It will stay in the kitchen for now.

The brontosaur

The wooly mammoth

Categories: Thrift Shop Finds | Leave a comment

Bathroom remodel – the plan

Believe it or not, picking everything is not the easy part. Especially when you are quite indecisive. Me? …hmm …never. Anyway, I did a tremendous amount of research to plan this bathroom remodel, compiled a lot of information and ended up with this:

My inspiration board

The tub: I wanted cast iron, nothing else. I don’t like the feel of the other stuff, and I wanted the durability and the heat retention capabilities of cast iron. Well, they don’t have a whole lot of choice out there when it comes to cast iron. Here are the best options:

The Villager: the most affordable cast iron tub around, $350, by Kohler. It has an apron front so no need to tile the front. The problem with the Villager is that it is really shallow: 8.6 inches to overflow. 33 gallons capacity. Great to bathe your kids, not so great to bathe yourself.
The Mendota: $800, by Kohler. Apron front. Depth to overflow: 10.8 inches. Better, but still not a great soaking experience. 45 gallons capacity.
The Bellwether: $600, by Kohler. Very slick clean lines. Apron front. Depth to overflow:  11.3 inches, getting there. 44 gallons capacity.
The Tea for two: $1,500, by Kohler. Needs a special drain that cost about $300 to $400.Drop in tub, which means that a carpenter has to built a knee wall which has to be durarocked and tiled (more $$). Depth to overflow: 13.6 inches, nice, the deepest from Kohler. 60 gallons capacity, not so great if you have a 50 gallons water heater.
The Highbridge: $ 1,350, by Kohler. Needs a special drain that costs about $150. Drop in tub (see above). Depth to overflow: 12.8 inches. 50 gallons capacity. The highbridge has a really large front lip to allow built in storage but you can just built a knee wall and tile it if it is also going to be a shower.

I chose the Highbridge. I really wanted those extra inches of soak and it was more affordable than the tea for two. I ordered it through Faucet and it was delivered 5 days later.

The tile: I love glass tiles, love. I had always planned on dimensional glass tile until I saw their price. Holy thinset! It’s $20/sq ft and up, and when I could find tiles for $5-6 per sq ft that are really great, well, I just couldn’t justify the expense. Especially in the bathroom where I needed 77 sq ft for the tub surround and 50 sq ft for the floor. You do the math.

Here are some good affordable choices:

Marble mini hexagon, Crema Marfil: $6.99 sq ft   Tumbled-p/m-hex-cre-t.htm





Lantern white porcelain tile, Merola: $6.95 sq ft





Large multicolor slate floor tile, Daltile: $4.84 sq ft




Penny tiles, Merola: $5.94 sq ft



Ceramic white pebbles, SomerTile: $8.6 sq ft×11-in-Quarry-White-Gloss-Porcelain-Mosaic-Tile-Pack-of-10/4513164/product.html/ 





I went with mat white penny tiles for the tub surround and white ceramic pebbles for the floor.

Vanities:  Vanities are sooooooo expensive. It’s insane. I looked and looked and found a few options I liked at Lowes that could have worked but Louis wasn’t sold on the traditional look. So we went modern with Ikea’s Godmorgon. We bought a 55 inch vanity AND a high cabinet for extra storage, all for $700. And that includes the sink/top! and it looks really slick. So yay for IKEA.

Faucets: For the faucets I did not go with IKEA. I wanted something a little more heavy duty. So I went with Danze D236010 single handle faucet from the Prince Collection for the vanity, and Kohler K-T10581-4P from the Bancroft Series for the shower.

Lighting: Turns out recess lighting is pretty much rocket science and I will be dedicating a full post to what I learned while trying to make sense of it all. Let me just say that I picked halogen compatible gimbal trims and IC rated new construction cans that have yet to be installed.

Art work: A Picasso lithograph that was in my bathroom growing up and that my mom gave me.

Toilet: I almost forgot the toilet! We went with a Sterling Karsten double flush round. It is really nice. It saves a ton of water and also takes less room than the old toilet.

All is picked and planned, now let the work begin….

Categories: Home improvement | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Thrift shop finds – Finel Bowl and Fondue

So I walked in the Chicken Alley Thrift Shop today, all nonchalant, looked around, talked to Sandy about the wedding, and then I turned around and BAM! The most amazing bowl that was ever made. Finel made in Finland, the mushroom design. This is the find of the month my friends, maybe the find of the year. See pic below.

Need I say more? I didn’t think so. So I picked it up and held it tight, turned around again and BAM! The most awesome fondue set that was ever made. $5 bucks. Not kidding.

I brought them back to their new home. Mya was pretty excited. She is totally jealous of course, because she can’t really use the bowl or the fondue set (no opposable thumbs is a drag sometimes). Too bad for you My My….

Categories: Thrift Shop Finds | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am the ace of cakes

Yesterday, I took a break from home improvement to make a turntable cake for DJ Di’s birthday and it came out really awesome. I am pretty proud of myself. Fondant is relatively easy to work with but if the cake underneath is not perfectly smooth and square, you can still see all the imperfections after you cover it up. It was kinda painful and took me about six hours! but she was so happy that it made it all worth it.

Baking the cakes

Macerating the strawberries with orange juice

Layering and frosting with cream cheese/greek yogurt, lots of bumps and crevasses.


Finishing touches with gumpaste.

Voila! Pretty badass for my second cake.

Categories: In the kitchen | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Wallpaper city

When trying to tackle wallpaper removal, it really comes down to this: are you feeling lucky? If you are lucky, the previous owners primed the wall before putting the wallpaper up and all you will need is a round scorer thingy, a spray bottle with warm water or wallpaper chemical remover and a little bit of elbow grease.  After scoring and spraying, the paper will come off in large chunks if you pull nice and slow and keep wetting as you go.

Exhibit A, the living room wallpaper. Nice and easy.

The sexy school teacher removing wall paper, the day after buying the house.

Finished in a single evening. Voilà!

Now if you are unlucky and the wallpaper was put up on a non primed wall, watch out. A non primed surface will increase removal time about ten fold. And if you are really, really unlucky and there was a sale on glue at the hardware store the day that they put said wallpaper up, then you’re really screwed.

Exhibit B, the den and hallway. A daunting nightmare.

See, it looks like the paper is coming off, but don’t be fooled by this lovely blurry picture of Louis in action. The wallpaper is actually splitting in two layers leaving a second layer of paper and glue on the wall. Then there is no way around it, power tools are needed.

Behold, the steamer!

The steamer looks like a good idea, and mainly it is because it will save your ass when nothing else has worked, but don’t you go thinking that it will make the task a piece of cake.  The steamer mainly works EXACTLY where the steaming paddle rests which is a rectangle of about 8’x10′. And it needs to rest on the wall for at least 7 seconds to work. You do the math….it takes FOREVER! On the up side, you get a facial at the same time.

Thank god Louis and I had rented the steamer on a friday so we were able to keep it an extra day no charge. Yes, plan on the whole week end. And it’s not over. After steaming the second layer of paper, we were left with that:

A horrific amount of glue (top). Now grab a sponge, a bucket of warm water and wall paper remover and wash those walls until clean (bottom). Change the water often.

PS: after hours of working, we decided that if we were to ever put wallpaper up again we would write creepy messages on the wall first for people to find later. Messages like :”I’m standing right behind you” or “the walls have eyes”…..

Categories: Home improvement | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Buying a fixer upper

In 2009, I was a 31 year old single professional with 10 years of savings in the bank looking to finally own a place of my own. My real estate agent was a really sweet nervous guy, the complete opposite of the archetype shark you imagine. Thankfully, I knew what I wanted and the right questions to ask.  I also knew what to watch out for:  water stains on dry wall, electrical outlets without ground, mold etc….by the time I was looking at my 20th house, I was a pro.

The problem was that the houses I could afford were seriously scary, unsanitary scary. And when they weren’t too scary, they were “slit your wrist” depressing. Nothing cute, no character, no potential, just terrible. And the attitude of the agents showing me these “gems” was just laughable. My favorite was the male agents that kept suggesting that I better come back with my boyfriend or husband. One day I snapped at a particularly obnoxious one and said: “You do know that 1 out of 3 first time home buyers is a single woman these days, right?” “Of course” he had answered looking shocked. That had felt really good.

One day of September, I heard of an open house in a neighborhood I liked. My mom who had been visiting for a week was leaving that day, and we drove by the house on the way to the boat. I liked it instantly. It was a one level bungalow with a big oak tree in the front yard, a little brick patio and a trellis overgrown with trumpet vine (see below). Someone had loved that house.  I dropped my mother off and went back for the open house.

The inside was quite shocking.  Probably the worst collection of wallpaper I had ever seen, mustard yellow shag carpet, cobalt blue painted kitchen cabinets. The house was seriously stuck in the 70s. But it had a good feel to it, it had potential. I stood there, in this god awfully decorated living room (see below), trying to contain my excitement.

The horrendous living room.

I had a just met a new guy a few weeks before, a school teacher, really sweet, not really my type (ha! right). I called him from the house and he stopped by on his way back from work. We sat on a small bench on the back deck and chatted for a while. It just felt right.

The next day I made an offer on the house, well, me and 4 other people. The bidding war that followed was an emotional rollercoaster, but I eventually got the house. On November 30th at 4 pm, I signed the papers and the house became officially mine. Around 8 pm, Louis helped me set up my bed in the dining room (the room that needed the least work, see pic below) and I slept there from then on, moving the bed around as we renovated one room at a time….

The traveling bed.

Stay tuned for home renovation tips and updates.

Categories: Home improvement | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: