Back to the Bathroom!

When we started our master bathroom renovation, the big goal was to have it completed by the time we went on our trip, since Nik would be going to back to teaching soon after returning. Well, we didn’t quite make the deadline but we’re back at it in earnest, so I’m hoping within the next few weekends this project really starts to wrap itself up.

When we left for vacation, we were in the middle of the frustrating cement board installation on the shower walls:


It was going very slowly, and we were really struggling to get the cement board to break in the right places – it can’t really be “cut”, so you’re supposed to “easily score and snap it”, according to the website. But, it’s 1/2″ thick cement fiber board, and unfortunately, neither of us is the Hulk.

But this past Saturday, refreshed and renewed, we got back at it, and began using a revised method of breaking the 1/2″ thick concrete boards by raising the desired part up off the ground on some 2×4’s, with the part we were planning to break off in the air, and then stomping on the break point that we scored with a blade. This worked about 90% of the time, and we were even able to use a modification of this method to bust out a circle using some scoring and a hammer to  go around the shower faucet.




I think the big difference was moving the boards outside…where I wasn’t worried about what was under them. Previously, we’d been attempting to do this in the bathroom, over the newly tiled floor, so I think we were being overly delicate. Anyways…

We got the boards mounted and screwed reasonably well into the studs with the alkali resistant Hardi screws. A few of the screws crumbled edges of the board, but nothing bad enough to not move forward. Seeing all the pieces in place after finishing (and no more studs to be seen!) was such a refreshing sight! It made me feel like a legitimate contractor (if I ignored the fact that this single part of the project took us about a month and a half to do). So that was Saturday.

On Sunday, we ran some errands in the morning and ended up at Home Goods looking at mirrors. Nik has been worried about reinstalling our old huge mirror because he felt it would be hard to mount safely, plus building a nice frame around it would take time and I think we’re both about ready to be through with this project. We found some nice sized simple mirrors for $80 each, so we bought two to mount side by side. When I saw how excited Nik was at this purchase, I felt bad that I haven’t been giving him more breaks like this! We also got the sink backsplash affixed to the wall, and I sealed the doors with polycrylic. To fully wrap up the sink area, we need to mount the mirrors, caulk around the backsplash, install the doors and attach the pulls, and line the cabinets with new liners, most of which are easy jobs that we can get done this weekend:


Later on Sunday, Nik got to work on some of his lesson planning for teaching, and I got to work mixing up a small batch of mortar to patch the shower seams. This involved smearing mortar on the seam, embedding a a 2″ strip of alkali resistant tape, and smoothing it over. I can’t remember if I mentioned our shower niche, but it’s that black thing:


Close-up of the tape:



Now that this is done and dry, the next step will be waterproofing everything by rolling on 1-2 coats of red guard membrane, which we may begin to tackle tonight. The next step is mortar and tile, which I can’t wait for!

Bathroom Break, Part II

As promised in the last post, I’m going to pick back up with our trip, at day 7.5! We have a (fun?) weekend planned of finishing our shower cement board installation so I’m excited to show an update on that next week.

So, back to Utah. After a morning of Canyonlands, we headed out towards Capitol Reef. In my googlemaps perusing, I saw a tiny little park off of our route, called Goblin Valley State Park. After a bit of research, I decided we’d be stopping there. The road leading to this park, both the highway (and by highway, I mean the tiny two-lane road) and then the side road, were so desolate, hot, dry, and remote it was actually a little scary. We’re glad we filled up with gas at the last station, a hundred miles back, because there wasn’t gas for another hundred at least! Goblin Valley is a small valley filled with short, sandstone shapes that look like little mushrooms, so-called ‘Goblins’. The park lets you walk right down among them which was really cool. We only lasted about 30 min, because it was so hot, but we got some good pictures!







After leaving here, we got to Capitol Reef National Park. We kind of just did a drive-through, with plans to hike some trails in it the next day, but those plans ended up changing. We did stop for a scenic point called the Goosenecks Canyon, however, although cloudy skies obscured the famous sunset at this place:



We stayed at a nice resort just outside of Capitol Reef, which was a bit touristy (they had teepees you could stay in, but at $260 a night this was out of our budget!). It did have beautiful views, though, and they had a cowboy on site who gave us a short horseback ride the morning of day 8:




After our horseback adventure, we packed up and headed out of the Capitol Reef area south on Scenic Route 12 (also called the “Million Dollar Highway”, containing a portion referred to as “Hell’s Backbone”). It was beautiful driving, unusual canyons and constantly changing scenery. We were aiming for a trail head in Grand Staircase Escalante National Park called Lower Calf Creek Falls, which was a long trail at almost 6 miles round trip, but we decided it was higher on our list than any of the hikes in Capitol Reef. We found a gourmet lunch spot a few miles before we got to the trail head, so we stopped and it was delicious! We sat on their patio, and Nik (reluctantly) had to share his space with the restaurant’s ancient resident patio cat, Jezebel.



After our yummy lunch, we continued down the road, and it turns out they were doing construction on Hell’s Backbone. This portion of the road is essentially a narrow ridge along the top of a canyon – the ground literally drops off on either side of the road! And with the construction there were areas missing guard rails and road markers, and they actually had an escort truck leading each cohort of cars past the construction. Nerve wracking!! We finally reached the trail head to Lower Calf Creek Falls and it was a beautiful hike through a canyon with smooth, striated red sandstone, with an amazing waterfall at the end.







After our hike, there was about an hour left to go to get to our hotel outside of Bryce Canyon. On Day 9, we woke up early to get into Bryce before the crowds. The drive in was surprisingly forested terrain, and it was chilly as well (Bryce has high elevation). Despite it being called a canyon, it actually was not formed by a river, but whatever weather elements caused it, the outcome was beautiful. These first two pictures are fun – that very high point in the top right of the first picture is zoomed in for the second picture and you can see teeny people standing up there. Just to give an idea of the enormous scale of this canyon!!


We hiked the Navajo trail to go down below the rim, which was pretty intense going down into the huge spires, the technical term for which is “hoodoos”:




And on our way out we stopped to see Natural Bridge, which was also beautiful:


After our morning at Bryce, it was on to Zion! The last half hour of this drive actually entered into Zion National Park to reach the main town that everyone lodges at, and it was unbelievable. There were numerous tunnels we had to drive through because there wasn’t enough room on the side of a cliff to make a road. It was really breathtaking! We woke up super early on Day 10 to get into the park, because the crowds were intense and due to the busy summer, they only allow entrance to the park on a shuttle…which you have to wait for. Even at 7:15am, we had to wait about 30 minutes to board a shuttle! But it was worth it!


We knew the park would get crowded so we picked our top hike and got started. We wanted to do the infamous Angel’s Landing, which is just steep and strenuous for the first 2 miles to Scout’s Overlook. At this point, most people turn back, but the adventurous ones can continue another 0.5 miles on a narrow, steep trail that at some points has 1,000 foot drops offs on either side of a 3 foot wide trail with a chain in the middle. It was pretty intense, and we were indecisive of whether we wanted to risk it. Several people die each year falling off this trail. But we went for it, and unfortunately there aren’t a bunch of pictures of the narrow, chain rope portion (since my hands were on the chain, not my camera!) but the view at the top of the final peak was fantastic. It certainly felt so high that angels would land here! Here’s some pictures of us on the way up, and finally at the top:


After the exhilaration of not dying on that hike, we decided to do one more easy hike all the way at the north end of the park that is a riverside stroll leading up to the other infamous Zion hike, the Narrows. Where the riverside path ends, the Narrows begins…IN THE RIVER. Literally, the river is the trail. So only serious hikers who have the right equipment to essentially the bottom of a canyon, often wading and swimming, continue much past this part. Flash floods through these slot canyons claim lives each year so there’s a lot of information warning about weather conditions. A lot of people go up the Narrows maybe half a mile or so, just to see what it’s all about though, so here’s a picture of that (note that I couldn’t even begin to get a picture of the river and the sky in the same frame, that’s how monolithic the canyon walls were!):


So, that was the end of Zion. After this last little hike, we headed out because it was getting really crowded. As in, the trails were wall-to-wall sweaty people. Crazy.

We headed out, grabbed lunch, and got on the road to Vegas! I don’t have many pictures from Vegas, but we stayed at the MGM Grand, and walked the strip for the evening. We got some food, but we were really too tired and hot to enjoy it – I was over 100 degrees even in the evening, plus, I think I was still on an adrenaline high because I kept thinking how only 8 hours before, I was on the top of Angel’s landing! We did see the Bellagio Fountains which were beautiful. And we spent $60 in slot machines, and walked away with 7 cents. The only other time I’ve played slots, I put in $2 and walked away with $60, so it seems the tables have definitely turned.

The next morning (day 11), we wandered around a little more, then caught our flight in the afternoon. We got home at 1am (with the time change), and it felt GREAT to sleep in our own bed! This was a perfect trip, because we obviously had an awesome time, and with how much hiking we did, we were also ready to go back to real life and our jobs after 11 days. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think Zion was mine, despite the crowds. What continued to shock us every place we went was that each park was so different. Different rock, different shapes, different trees, different landscape and animals. I was worried that we’d get tired of the “same national park scenery” but that was never an issue. Everything was amazing – you forget what unbelievable places are right in this country!

I haven’t added up exactly what we spent, but I’m pretty sure it was well under $4000, including all hotels, rental car, flights, meals, excursions, and our park fees. In grad school that would’ve been an insane amount to spend on anything, but now that we’re real adults, for the amount that we saw and did and the length of the trip, I think I did a pretty good job keeping it reasonable. It was certainly an unforgettable adventure, and I already want to start planning our next one!

Bathroom Break, Part I

It’s been a while since we had an update…but it was for good reason! Nik and I have been traveling for the past couple weeks, and we’re finally back and ready to finish up our bathroom. But since we have no progress to show from the last few weeks, I’ll show vacation pictures instead!

Nik attended the American Society of Microbiology conference for undergraduate microbiology teachers in Denver (to prepare him for his job search for a tenure-track professorship at a smaller liberal arts school where he’ll get to do teaching and research). I met him out there the last day of the conference, and this is where our trip began. We essentially road-tripped from Denver to Vegas (~1000 miles!) and stopped at numerous national parks in between, including Colorado ski country (Beaver Creek, specifically), Grand Mesa National Forest, Moab/Castle Valley Utah which was near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and finally Vegas.

While planning this trip, I was worried that the busy itinerary might kill Nik…he likes activity, but he also enjoys relaxing, which I have a particularly difficult time doing. But by the end of the trip, he was the one that was asking if we could fit one more hike into a busy day – I think he caught the hiking bug! Also, we were in an insanely beautiful area of the country, and I think even a person who loathed hiking would have wanted more!

I had rough plans of where we were going each day, and was armed with a guidebook I bought that highlighted the best hikes at each park, but other than that things were flexible. Our hotels ranged from very nice resorts (still at reasonable prices, with the off season rates) to extremely spartan lodgings to save some extra money, but all of them worked out perfectly with our route, and at the end of each day we would probably have slept just fine on a hard floor, we were so tired! I’ll show some snippets from each day of our trip – I’ll do the first week in this post, and our last few days in another post (too many pictures for one post!).

To start, here’s a map of our whole trip route, with some of the stops highlighted. We did this in ~10-11 days, but the travel really wasn’t too bad. Most days we didn’t drive more than 3 hours in the car, and it was all unbelievably scenic.

IMG_1 Map

Day 1/2 – I met Nik in Denver, and we had some good food and beer, and caught up with some of my good friends from college, their fluffy malamute Yeti, and their sweet little boy Logan. Then we headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens, (which were amazing!) and ended with a beer at the Vine Street Cafe before heading out to the mountains.






Day 3: Headed out to Beaver Creek, Colorado, and did a short detour off route 70 to the Loveland Pass (passing by Arapahoe Basin and a few other ski resorts) to really test out the rental car! The views were spectacular – the pictures really don’t do it justice! And there was quite a bit of snow still visible on the mountain tops. When we got to Beaver Creek in the afternoon, we decided to do a quick hike up one of the ski trails before dinner and found ourselves in beautiful lupine fields and aspen groves (which we mistakenly thought were birches at first).  A good first hike!







Day 4: We headed out bright and early (6:30am!) from Beaver Creek to get to the Hanging Lake trail head about an hour west. We were warned the parking lot for this popular hike fills up early – and this was true! It was grueling though – my altitude-naive lungs were quite winded after the 1.4 mile uphill hike (think stairmaster nonstop at 10,000 ft elevation) to the falls, but they were so worth it! The water was so clear, I even got a good picture of a lurking trout – which my dad promised to identify for me, so here’s the pic, Dad!









After the morning hike, it was onward Palisades, CO which is famous for its peaches and distilleries and breweries. We had great pitstops at the Palisade Brewing Company, Talbott’s Cider Company (we got delicious “Grow a Pear Cider”), and the Peach Street Distillers.  That afternoon, we headed to Grand Mesa National Forest. We passed isolated alpine lakes, and saw numerous yellow bellied marmots. And at our destination, we stayed in this teeny cabin, which was a little sketchy, but ended up being a comfortable evening.






Day 5: We woke up bright and early in our tiny cabin, and set out for a couple short hikes. Grand Mesa is a high, flat mountain, so it was all alpine forests and lakes, and beautiful wild flowers. It was so empty here – it felt like no one was around for miles, just very peaceful and serene. And it was cold – probably in the 50s when we woke up. After our morning hikes, it was on to Utah that afternoon! We stopped at The Colorado National Monument which is right on the border of Utah and saw some impressive canyons and rock formations (and wild bighorn sheep!):









After touring the Colorado National Monument, we headed on to Moab/Castle Valley Utah where we stayed for 2 nights, passing through the infamous Professor Valley, which made us feel so tiny. We got to Moab early enough in the afternoon that we did a quick evening hike through a beautiful wash in Arches national park, called Park Avenue.






Day 6: This day was devoted to the rest of Arches National Park, starting with a 3 mile crowded and strenuous hike to Delicate Arch early in the morning, then views of Skyline Arch and Balanced Rock, and ending with a quick hike through the Devil’s Garden area of the park to see the super-wide Landscape Arch (305 feet across!). We ended the day with a late afternoon kayaking trip through the Colorado River, and dinner with a stunning sunset at the beautiful Red Cliffs Lodge.











Day 7: We woke up to our second morning in Castle Valley (we were staying about 30 min outside of Moab, UT) and I took an early stroll around our beautiful bed and breakfast, with views of the red cliffs and the famous Castle Rock. Then we headed to Canyonlands National Park, and did a few short hikes to see views of Schaffer Trail Road, White Rim, Mesa Arch, and Grand View.








Alright, so that’s just about the first week of the trip so I’ll stop there for now. Still to come is Gobin Valley, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante Park, Bryce, and Zion! I’ll try to post before the end of the week, with a promise to make more bathroom progress this coming weekend to show next week!


Coming Together

This past weekend was productive again, thanks to a 4 day weekend with July 4th. We hadn’t planned to go anywhere, and I was anticipating working Monday, but the company unexpectedly gave us the day off. Every time we have 4 days off in a row, we tend to travel to visit family, so 4 days off and staying at home was an unusual situation. It resulted in a lot of progress with the bathroom with things finally starting to feel like they were coming together. And after 4 days, I was definitely feeling antsy to get back to work on Wednesday. Win-win.

Saturday morning we got started with the shower pan, and everything went very smoothly with the proper mortar. We mixed it to a pudding-like consistency, then got the pan placed neatly in the middle. We checked the levelness of each side, and as we hoped, everything was level and sloping towards the drain. I was afraid to step on the pan for 3 days afterwards (even though the mortar should’ve been set within 24 hours), but I finally stepped on it last night and it feels super solid. Done!



On to the wall paint. We were debating between two colors, both light gray and one that was more blue/cool toned and one that was more brown toned. We ended up going with the brown-toned gray and I love the color. Of all the expensive renovations we’ve done, getting paint on the walls so they’re not the awful yellow-white “landlord” paint is usually one of the pinnacle moments that transforms a room.

After paint, we started measuring for the floor trim. We added fresh baseboard and fresh shoe trim over that (~$40 for new trim). Getting the shoe trim attached was tricky, because unlike all our floor installation downstairs we actually removed all the baseboard to do this renovation, and remounted the baseboard higher. This meant when we shot a nail through the shoe trim, there was only a fraction of an inch of baseboard behind it, so in some places we couldn’t get good attachment with a nail. Liquid nails solved the problem in those spots. Then we filled and painted nail holes and caulked the gaps.


Before trim


After trim

Then we finished sealing the vanity with polycrylic – this is supposed to dry clear, but after earlier uses sealing stained furniture, we do tend to notice a bit of yellowing, which showed up more in some places on our white vanity. If it continues to yellow over time, we can always sand down and repaint…but for right now, it’s good to go.


We then got the vanity top all unpacked and opened up our new Pfister Ladera faucets which we purchased at Home Depot for $99 each. When I picked out this sink top, I noticed it had what they called 8″ wide spread faucet holes, and I asked if the wide spread faucets are more expensive than standard faucets. “Oh, about $5-10 more” says the salesman. WRONG. It was hard to find a nice looking widespread set for under $120 at Lowe’s, while the standard 4″ center set faucets were all in the $50’s-$70’s, so we moved on to Home Depot which had a slightly less expensive selection. There is also a matching shower faucet set, which we haven’t bought yet, but when the time comes I liked the looks of it.


Usually Nik does all the fancy plumbing work, but with two faucets to install, I sat next to him and watched each step and repeated. I noticed he assigned me to do the faucet on the side that I would use…reasonably assuming my disinterest in absolute perfection would result in a faucet head installation that wasn’t up to his standards. But, they both came out looking great in the end.


We popped the vanity top onto the sink just to see how we liked it, and to decide if we wanted everything against the wall, or slightly shifted. We picked our location, then went through a grueling process of lifting one end of the vanity while I added a bead of silicone caulk around the cabinet tops, then slowly lowering the vanity top back down precisely to create somewhat of a seal. We got it done, but ended up doing another bead of caulk around the edges once it was in place to make it look prettier.

Nik finished up the actual plumbing installation and hooking things into the pipes, so the sink is functional! I still need to seal the countertops, since they are actual marble (a veneer, but still real stone) and Nik got a splash of water on them and confirmed they definitely get water stains. We bought Rock Doctor countertop sealer, so that just needs to be applied in a few coats which should do the trick. There’s also a backsplash piece which just needs to be adhered in place and sealed, and then the sinks are ready for use.

Next, Nik cleaned off the toilet plumbing area (I know it’s just old wax, but it looks like poop so I refused to deal with that mess). He purchased a new foam ring ($13) and got it situated around the hole. We lowered the old toilet in place and attached the plumbing, and Nik has since confirmed it is functional. It does still need a bead of caulk around the base, but that isn’t urgent.


While purchasing faucets, we also browsed the lighting aisle for a new vanity light. Nothing really caught our eye, but we decided to go ahead and buy one since the old one had already been removed and we were down a light in the room. Nik got it mounted and installed in no time, and I think it fits the bill well enough, for $100.


We’d like to get started on our shower soon, which will include installing thick cement board around the space, waterproofing it with 1-2 layers of roll-on red guard, applying mortar, tiling, grouting, installing the faucet hardware, and finally installing the shower doors. We might have to hold off a bit with the cement board this weekend, since we ordered a shower niche insert that unfortunately won’t arrive till Monday. We know the approximate dimensions we’d have to cut out of the cement board for this niche to fit…so we might go ahead and get that started this weekend.

I’ll leave you with a picture of our freshly opened sunflower from this morning…the bees have already found it!



Grout and our Short-lived Shower Pan

I’d like to say last weekend was productive, but it was one of those two steps forward, one step back weekends. Our two steps forward was getting our drain, shower pan, and the last of the tile installed, and grouting all of our floor tile. Our one step back was ripping our shower pan back out on Sunday. Let me explain…

First, we purchased the Oatey 2″ offset drain from Lowe’s which shifted the drain just enough since our pan was a tad off. Early on Saturday Nik got the pipe cut down, and adhered the drain on with plumber’s PVC primer and cement. It fit perfectly! On to the next step.


Next, the instructions for the shower pan say to lay it over a bed of mortar, to hold it in place and offer additional support. They said the mortar should be ~3/8″ thick towards the drain which is closer to the ground, and up to ~3/4″ thick towards the sloped edges. So pretty much filling the cavity under the pan. Simple enough. Here’s a picture of the pan fresh out of the box:


And this is what the bottom looks like (set on the ground, one end was slightly lower than the other, so we used some thin strips of black plastic-y material we had to make it just a smidge higher):


I went to Lowe’s, and instead of purchasing our normal latex-modified mortar that we use for tiling, I asked the associate what he’d recommend for a mortar bed for putting a shower pan over. He quickly referred me to the “thick bed mortar,” as the product we were definitely looking for, which I purchased 100 lbs of. We got it home, and upon closer inspection of the instructions, it seemed this product was more for building an actual shower pan. As in, a concrete do-it-yourself pan that you make into the shape you want using a wooden frame, then screed it to make it smooth, then tile over. Definitely not our application. But, mortar is mortar right? (Wrong).

We tried mixing it up as per the instructions, and it was like crumbly wet sand. At this point, intelligent people would’ve said…this doesn’t seem like the right mortar, let’s stop. But we stubbornly pressed forward and packed it into a mortar bed under where the pan would go and placed the pan over it.


The pan seemed to be resting high, so we pulled it back up, smoothed and thinned out a few areas of mortar, put the pan back down, repeated this a second time, and gave up after the third adjustment and said let’s just let it sit and see how it looks tomorrow. We then added our last couple rows of missing tile going right up to the pan (in my dress, of course, since we were running short on time getting out to our nice birthday dinner!)


Sunday morning I reached under the pan from the exposed sides and the mortar there just crumbled under my fingers. We also had some dried mortar left over in the garage and it was super crumbly as well. So Nik grabbed the edge of the shower pan to try to lift it up as the final test, about 20 hrs after setting it, and the pan came right up, with little to no effort. The mortar under the pan was a partially dry crumbly mess, that shoveled right off the subfloor in approximately 5 minutes.



I saved a bag of it and brought it back to Lowe’s, saying they recommended the completely wrong stuff, and thankfully they gave me my money back for all 100 lbs.

In retrospect, we’re confident that our standard latex-modified mortar will do the job just fine – and if the Lowe’s employee that I mistakenly trusted as a person who knows things about what they sell  hadn’t interfered and recommended the wrong thing, we probably would’ve done it right the first time. Unfortunately, we had just installed the last row of tile leading to the shower pan so we wanted to wait for that mortar to thoroughly dry Sunday before attempting the pan re-install, so it is still not done.

On Sunday we instead devoted ourselves to grouting the floor, since all the tile was down and we didn’t want to deal with the pan again yet. We mixed 75% Delorean gray with 25% bright white (TEC brand grout) to make a medium gray that was a little lighter than the tile color, and then got to work spreading. We mixed up 2 lbs of grout and that covered about 2/3 of the floor, then did a final batch of 1 lb of grout to finish it up. We made just enough (literally down to the last teaspoon) and got it done.


After the initial spread with the grout float, we followed up 20-30 minutes later with a lightly damp sponge rub-down, followed by another lightly damp sponge rub down, then a 45 minute wait and a final lightly damp towel buffing immediately followed by a dry towel buffing. It’s Friday, and my hand muscles are still sore!

I was a little worried about buffing the tiles clean, since some people had left reviews that the leathery nature of the tiles made buffing tricky because they weren’t shiny smooth tiles, but we had no issues.

Here’s how it looked Sunday night – we’re very pleased with how it turned out.



Finally, we purchased new floor trim (baseboards and shoe trim) that I painted our trim white paint color, so that can now be installed over the tile floor…although wall paint might come first so we don’t have to be careful painting next to the new trim.

Cost for this floor tiling was mortar (~$42 for 2x  50 lb bags), the tile itself ($130), the cement board ($55), cement screws (can’t remember, I think they were about $15), 1/3 bag of grout ($10), and the new floor trim (~$40). A tad under $300.

Our goals for this week are to finish the last coat of paint on the vanity followed by a coat of polycrylic sealer, get the shower pan in properly, paint at least part of the wall so we can install the floor trim, and maybe move onto installing the hardibacker cement board around the shower so we can move on to tiling the shower wall in the next few weeks!

On an unrelated note, our garden is becoming quite prolific, with jalapenos and roma tomatoes soon to come!



The Converted Vanity

On Saturday, we picked up our shower pan and shower doors, FINALLY. The biscuit color made the cut and matches pretty perfectly with the tub, so that’s what we went with. The biscuit was about $25 more than the white pan, for some reason, but when the guy did the return of the white one (we bought both colors so we could compare, planning to return the unwanted one), he accidentally returned the biscuit one and refunded me the higher amount. I pointed out his mistake, but clearly he was having that kind of day, so he said don’t worry about it. Not that I’m ever worried about not giving Lowe’s enough of my money.

We got the pan home, and it fits about 95% into the shower spot. The drain is shifted a tad too far over, but we think Lowe’s carries an offset drain that will fix that issue. The rest fits well, and I’m impressed with how sturdy it feels for $200. Despite the sturdiness, the instructions say to “lay the pan in a bed of mortar.” We can’t figure out why this is necessary, but perhaps it is because our pan doesn’t actually get screwed into the studs so the mortar kind of supports it and holds it in place? The amount of mortar to use is vague, so I contacted the company and they recommended going with a ~3/4″ bed towards the edges of the pan, and about 3/8″ bed towards where the drain is. The pan slopes towards the drain, so this makes sense, but that is still a THICK bed of mortar that will be heavy. I pity the next person who tries to renovate this bathroom, because it would take a jackhammer to remove such a thick block of mortar that is hidden under a fiberglass pan, no less. I’ll just say I am eternally thankful the people who installed our previous shower insert didn’t put mortar underneath it.

Laying the mortar will be simple enough, but getting the 40 pound, 36″x48″ pan laid on top of it and kept level, into a space with 3 walls surrounding it will be tricky. We’ll have to tackle this soon, though, hopefully on Saturday. My 30th birthday is also on Saturday (and Nik’s is on Tuesday!) and while installing a shower pan for a milestone birthday activity sounds depressing at best, when I think about the difficult but rewarding renovations I have the privilege of doing beside my mostly-tolerant husband in the house that we are thankful to be building a life in together, there are minimal complaints here!

I’m sure we’ll have pics from the shower pan process, so I’ll save those for once the pan is in. The rest of this post, I’ll show pictures of our converted vanity. I already showed how we removed the bottom of the vanity and mounted it on plywood for a new base:





The vanity was then measuring about 26 and 3/4″ tall, and our goal height was 34″ (so-called ‘adult’ vanity height). The vanity top is about an inch thick, so we were looking for 6″ legs. We found some we liked a little more than what we went with, but they were only 4.5″, so we would’ve had to find a way to extend them and then cover that extension with trim. Then we found the 6″ ones that we went with. They seemed a little unsubstantial so I had the idea to actually do 4 across the front, one around each set of doors. Here are the feet, and the piece of trim we used to hide the transition:

Nik attached the feet with straight brackets, then installed the trim with wood glue and finishing nails:


So here’s what the corners looked like finished:


Next we flipped it and applied a bead of caulk at the trim seam:


And finally gave it a coat of primer that night, in addition to the drawers and doors:


I think it looks great, and once there is real paint on it it will look like we bought a new vanity! We puzzled over colors with the new vanity top for some while, and settled on a just-off-white color called Silent White (Clark and Kensington) for the vanity, and a slightly darker, blue-grey tinged color called Paper White (Benjamin Moore) for the walls. We got a sample for the walls before we’ll make the final decision, and we also bought a sample for the vanity paint that should be able to cover the whole thing without buying a larger portion of paint.

For a price breakdown of the vanity upgrade, we used half a sheet of plywood for the base ($11), 7 feet cost $21, the feet brackets were about $16, the trim was $12, and the sample paint was $5. So far the total is $65, but we still need hardware which will probably be about $35. So a “new vanity” base for $100. Not too bad, considering poorly built ones on Wayfair sell for over $900.

This week we’re working on getting the vanity painted and sealed, and like I said, hopefully getting the shower pan in Saturday and finishing up that last bit of tile next to the pan. So maybe we can finally grout the floor on Sunday.

Finished Console

Two posts in one week! Well, I did promise I’d have some pictures up soon of the project we just completed for our good friends Lindsey and Dave, so here it is.

They were looking for a console to hold their TV boxes with some extra storage, and we were looking for a way to thank them for all the help they gave us at our wedding. So we started looking for a piece of furniture that would fit their living room space. We finally found this buffet on Craigslist and I haggled the price down a bit with the seller:


This piece was big, 48″ wide and about 17″ deep. And it was heavy and solid – after working with it, most likely mahogany. It had a solid piece of wood on the top and the door/drawer fronts and veneer with some damage near the feet on the sides. So we decided we’d keep the solid wood sections stained, and paint the rest of the body. Stripping the old varnish off the wood was first on the list:


Then came sanding the sections to be painted, and patching the veneer with wood filler.  A lot of filler goes on, then is sanded smooth.



The drawers and doors also got stripped and sanded, then the stained along with the top. The wood grain was really beautiful:

Then the body got dragged inside (I hope the phrases I use here aren’t searchable or the authorities will certainly be after me) for primer. We needed 2 coats since the redness of this wood soaked right through the first coat of primer – one of the reasons we think it was mahogany. Then finally paint, which i forgot to take a picture of:


The challenge with this piece ended up being the doors. Lindsey wanted non-solid doors so they could use the remote through them, so we suggested glass or radiator grate as an option. She bought some small pieces of crafting-grade radiator grate though JoAnn Fabrics and tested the remote through it and it worked! So we went with that.

nik 2

A router has been passed down to Nik from his father/grandfather, so he learned how to use it and purchased a bit that could make cut outs for the door. He also bought a router jig that helps you to cut straight edges with the router. I still don’t entirely understand how routers function…but from my limited understanding, it’s essentially a fast rotating bit that cuts smoother than a jigsaw, and also allows you to turn corners (because it’s rounded) and, if you buy a bit with a cool profile, can add ornate edges to your cut.

Nik did quite a few practice cuts on scrap wood, then felt confident enough to tackle the doors. They came out great, and he left a small edge for us to butt the grate up against to secure it in place, kind of like when you have a picture frame and the glass butts up against the frame and that holds the glass in place. The radiator grate was thin aluminum that was just trimmed to size with heavy duty scissors.

nik 1

nik 3

nik 4

After that, we finished staining the newly cut door edges, then sealed up all the stained parts with water based poly, and put all the parts back together. This piece came with cool old handles, but they were very tarnished, so Lindsey and I had fun spray painting the handles a soft silver color, and then the door handles were replaced with some new crystal knobs to add a little glitz.

The inside is basically an open cavern, so we’re working on a little shelf to put in there, but other than that, this project is finally done! The paint color we used was the same color as the little shelves we added to our master bath:


To be honest, I was not really sure about this color when we finished it and it was sitting in our living room. I thought it should be changed to a cream color. But we decided we’d give it a try in Lindsey and Dave’s living room and see if the lighting there changed our mind, and it definitely did! We all think it looks great in their space. One more funny note, is the door and the drawer stains match 100% – but once they were installed, the vertical grain on the doors reflects light much darker than the horizontal grain on the drawers. Wood is always interesting! So here’s the official before and after:



A well deserved thank you to Lindsey and Dave for being amazing friends and offering so much help at our wedding to make it a flawless day!