Friday, January 11, 2013

Fit to be Tiled... Bathroom Planning

Yesterday, I shared the decor inspiration for my bathroom remodel.  If you didn't happen to catch it, it is this print, by Mae Chevrette:

The Woods by Mae Chevrette

I originally wanted to tile the shower in clear glass subway tiles, but then changed my mind when I saw them installed as a sample.  They looked a bit too sleek and modern compared to the rest of the house; especially since I wanted to stick to a warm palette that complimented the alcove and hallway directly outside the room.  

I do love the sheen and sparkle of glass tile, though.  My personal style is casual and neutral with a dash of unexpected sparkle, so it only makes sense that I'd do the same when it comes to decorating the house.  I found this Ivory Iridescent 3/4"x3/4" glass mosaic tile as part of Home Depot's "stock" tile, and at $4.99 a square foot, it is very reasonably priced.

Home Depot's stock glass mosaic tile
To update from yesterday's chat with the contractor:  Todd, my plumber, came over to look at the bathroom to see what would need to be done to install radiant heat under the tile floor.  I don't have an estimate yet, but from his comment ("that'll be a job!"), it might be more than I've budgeted for.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Things to Come

In the span of nearly fifteen decades, styles obviously come and go.  What was once considered the height of interior design can quickly become outdated, stale, and--let's face it-- flat out ugly.

Such is the case with my upstairs bathroom.  In the 1960s, aqua tile was IT, as shown in this photo by Pam Keuber of RetroRenovation.  I suppose it is fine if you have a charming ranch or split-level, but not so much if you have a traditional postbellum gable-front house.  Since I'm not ready to show you the entire horror that is the upstairs bathroom, I'll give you a preview:

You're looking at the ceiling above the toilet.  Yes, the ceiling is tiled... isn't everyone's?
This particular bathroom has some serious issues, other than the feeling of being trapped in an aqua- tiled box.

1.  The tiles in the shower have come loose from the adhesive mortar, causing tiles to sometimes fall off and break.

2.  The bathtub doesn't have a stopper.  This doesn't stop anyone from taking a bath; see #3.

3.  Old lead drum trap.  Old houses sometimes do not make any sense.  At one point, I'm sure the bathtub was a claw-foot tub, much smaller than the "standard" 5-foot tub of today.  When the bathroom was remodeled in the 1960s, the drum trap was never moved, and sits beside the tub (under the floor), about a foot in front of the drain inside the tub.  What does this mean?  It means that water draining from the tub has to make a 180-degree flat turn at some point, enter the drum trap, then gravity can take over and drain the grey water.  The problem with drum traps is that they're not self-cleaning as in modern plumbing.  Using drain cleaner can slightly improve the issue, but drum traps have to be cleaned manually on a regular basis.  At times, my tub has taken two entire days before it has drained completely.  The trap has recently been cleaned, so it takes a mere 2-3 hours now.  Here's a visual:

That there is almost accurate, except that when water immediately leaves the tub, it leaves in a straight, horizontal line, then makes whatever wonky turns it has to take.

4.  Nonexistent grout in some places.  Since I've lived here, I've been attempting to do something to stop the seepage of water under the tiles, short of ripping the walls out and remodeling.  When tiles fall off, I put some silicone adhesive on the back of it, press it into place, wait until it dries, and use silicone caulk to waterproof the seams.  I tried regular grout, but the cement backing just doesn't want to work with it.  It pops right back out within a week or so. 

5.  No modern ventilation.  There is no exhaust fan in the bathroom, but there is (lucky me!) a window in the shower.  This isn't as bad as it seems, unless it is winter.  In summer, I just leave the window open, but it is definitely not an option when it is 20 degrees (F) outside.  Steamy air just wafts through the upstairs hallway and I save money by not purchasing a humidifier.

6.   There is no heat in the bathroom.  

7.  The bathroom has zero storage. While there is a cabinet under the sink, it can only hold a few bottles of body wash, a plunger, and that's about it.

Don, my contractor, is stopping over today to update his bid with changes I'm considering.  Originally, I wasn't going to switch out my toilet for a new one, but I'm going to go with a 1.28 gal/flush version rather than the 1.6 gal/flush toilet that is currently there.  I'm also getting a bid on radiant floor heat versus a hot water baseboard heater; and lastly, checking to see whether a cabinet can be installed in the narrow space behind the tub.

Updates to follow, but here's a tiny preview of the inspiration for the new bathroom:

This print is by Mae Chevrette, and can be purchased at Mae's shop on Etsy.  I have several of her prints, and I just love her work.  Definitely check her out!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Iceberg, Dead Ahead!

A few nights ago, Lily started barking at the dining room door.  I don't believe in "things that go bump in the night," unless it has anything to do with someone breaking into the house.  Thankfully, this wasn't the case.  I opened the dining room door and heard a drip.  Then another.  I ran to grab my flashlight, since dripping anything + electricity isn't ever a good idea.  Shining the light on the ceiling revealed the worst-case scenario:  the ceiling was leaking.

We've had quite a lot of snow since December 23rd, to the tune of nearly two feet.  The roof over the dining room doesn't have a steep slope, so snow tends to just sit there.  I generally don't worry about it too much, especially since it hadn't leaked up to this point.  Suffice it to say that this particular roof is no longer a worry-free zone.  Small, dark stains started to appear in a linear pattern where the water dripped through the drywall seams in the ceiling.  I did what any sane person would do at nearly midnight:  I cleaned up the water in the dark, put down towels, and several buckets to catch the drips until morning.

the next morning
By morning, the small stains turned into a slow, dripping leak over stretches of drywall seam, in two different places.  The harsh winter sun revealed the issue: we had an ice dam on the roof. 

Ice dam at roof edge

Ice dams generally occur in homes that are poorly insulated.  The edge of the roof that overhangs the house houses a wall of ice when the roof below heats up and water attempts to drain off the roof.  Eventually, the water backs up, filters under the shingles and into your house. Eventually, your ceiling turns into this:

Water damage
Note how the water extends to the light fixture.  While no water dripped into the light, we cannot be sure that the electrical housing wasn't affected.  We won't be using that light until the electrician looks at it.

So, how did we get the leak to stop?  

A trip to the folks at This Old House for some much-needed DIY advice did the trick.  We cut off the legs of a pair of pantyhose and filled them with calcium chloride salt, knotted the end, and tossed them on the roof so that they hung over the edge of the ice dam.  We're lucky that we can access the top of the roof via a small window in the alcove upstairs, and we pushed the tube o'salt into place.  Experts recommend that you safely remain on the ground and toss the tube onto the roof.  

None of our local home improvement stores had roof rakes in stock, but we plan on getting one so that we can keep snow off of the roof and avoid ice damming completely.  Alternately, there are calcium chloride "pucks" (called Roof Melt) on the market that can be thrown onto the roof safely from the ground.  These run about $30 for a 60-puck bucket (including shipping on, but I couldn't find any of them in my area, either.

According to This Old House, another way to get the water to stop is to get into the attic and blow cold air at the area where the leak is coming through the roof.  This will freeze the water, stopping the leak immediately, allowing you to get the salt working on the ice dam so that the water drains off properly.  

We're not using the dining room until summer, so the ceiling will have a chance to dry out completely and we can begin to gauge how best to tackle fixing it.  One thing is for sure, though:    Insulating just moved to the top of the To-Do list for spring/summer.

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