Hall Bathroom

I LOVE our hall bathroom!  We finished it about 2 years ago.  At the time I was 9 months pregnant and so excited to stop using the 24″x24″ master shower.  I even took a bath in the new tub (something that’s happened maybe once more since Nadine was born).

Here’s our experience in renovating a TINY  bathroom (mostly) ourselves on a moderate budget while living in the house with one other bathroom (the master bath) AND having guests periodically.  We wanted it to be nice and go with the modern style of our house, last a long time but not break the bank since it’s ultimate purpose will be as a kid’s bathroom.

This is what the bathroom looked like before we moved in (it’s from the house’s MLS posting).  The shower was handicap accessible and made bathing Honey really easy (that’s about all the good things I can say about it… that and that we could have played checkers on the shower floor):

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We started by demo-ing the old bathroom.  The wall tiles came off very easily and we gave them away for free to someone on craigslist.  We also sold the vanity/sink/faucet combo on craigslist.

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After demo, Kevin moved the plumbing so we could achieve our ideal bathroom configuration (without enlarging it):

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At the same time, Andy worked on re-framing around the tub to accommodate the pocket door  and a cut-out shelf above the tub.  Then Kevin installed the tub and shower plumbing.

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We immediately re-installed the old toilet (and apparently decorated with some flowers) so that the bathroom was semi-functional for any guests who were staying with us (mostly Andy’s parents and his younger brother Tim… whose standards are pretty low… though at one point we taped cardboard to the framed but not finished walls to give Tim’s girlfriend some “privacy” while she was in there).

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Then we put up new drywall and cement board around the tub, and Andy tiled around the tub.

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This was his first time tiling a wall (he had done a few floors in his condo), and I think it looks really excellent.  He got some help (mostly in the form of advice) from my Uncle Joe who had done some tiling professionally a few decades ago, and our contractor, Kevin Sullivan also gave him some tips on water-proofing (he used tar paper and some sort of tar like tape).  We chose to use Schluter edging (the metal strips at the edge of the tile) to finish the tile.  We saw this in a neighbor’s house and preferred it to a bull-nose or quarter-round tile, we think it looks a bit more modern.  Also, due to the door being adjacent to the tub, we weren’t able to run the tile past the edge of the tub as is proper  (we technically could have on the opposite size, but we wanted to keep it symmetric. We also did a little bit of glass mosaic tile as an accent in the cubby (which was tricky to tile) and as a boarder at the top of the wall.

We removed the old toilet to prime and stain the floors, we installed baseboards and caulked the seam between the bottom of the baseboard and the floor (using painter’s tape on the floor to get a clean line) as well as the seam between the top of the baseboard and the wall.  Next step was painting.  First, I painted the baseboards and crown and then the wall. We chose a light turquoise wall color that went well with the accent tile around the tub.

Then we assembled and installed the vanity, sink, mirror, medicine cabinet and light fixture.  Those were all pretty simple jobs.  I actually sort of like assembling Ikea furniture- it’s as close as I can get to meditating.  It took a while because I was 8 months pregnant and Honey wasn’t really helping.  Although this vanity can be installed entirely floating, we knew this would eventually be a kid’s email, so Andy assumed there would be one or more child climbing on it, so he wanted the extra support.

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We weren’t able to install the medicine cabinet in the wall in front of the sink because of the plumbing in the wall (the vent pipe) so we installed it on the side.  I think I prefer it this way.  When I put on makeup and my contacts in the morning, I open the medicine cabinet and use the inside mirror since it’s a little closer to me.  We even installed an electrical receptacle inside the medicine cabinet for charging our toothbrushes:

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The final touches were the shower curtain, bath mats and a soap/shampoo dispenser.

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I love the shower fixtures.  The shower head is plenty tall (we based it on Andy’s brother Jeff’s height plus a few inches… he’s the tallest person we ever thought would use our shower).  The only thing I wish we had was a volume control for the tub.  Now that Nadine bathes in there daily, she sometimes demands we turn the water on… and the only options are to have it off, a trickle of super cold water, or full blast water at any temperature.  Due to the drought, we are currently opting for the trickle of super cold water.

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It’s hard to see in the photo above, but the electrical receptacle above the sink has a built-in night light that automatically turns on when it’s dark.  I love it.  You can also see our Melody portable indoor/outdoor bluetooth speaker which we also love (we play music during Nadine’s bath… she has a pretty luxurious life).

Full disclosure, this is what it looks like now (2 years later… with an almost 2 year old):

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Because the floors are a bit slippery, I had to find bath mats with a non-slip backing… I found these at TJ Maxx and they work really well.

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What we would have done differently:

Overall, we’re really happy with this bathroom, however there are a few things we may have done differently:

  • We’re still on the fence (2 years later) as to whether switching the locations of the toilet and sink was a good idea.  We like how it turned out, but it was pretty expensive to do.
  • The only thing we dislike is the sink/faucet combo.  We’re not sure if it’s the shallow sink or the faucet we paired with it, but this particular combo makes it VERY easy to splash water everywhere if you’re not SUPER careful.  Actually, I think it’s IMPOSSIBLE to wash your face in the sink without getting water all over the surrounding counter and splashing it onto the wall.  I’ve resorted to leaving a wash cloth on the towel rod, just for cleaning up water on the sink.
  • For this reason, we probably should have located the vanity directly adjacent to the right-most wall instead of leaving a 3″ gap.  The intent of leaving a bit of a gap was to break up the space a little, which it does accomplish.  However, a lot of water gets splashed on that wall and the small gap means it can drip down the wall next to the vanity and it’s pretty difficult to clean.  I think we may replace the sink down the line (and since it’s an Ikea sink and Ikea vanity, that probably means replacing the vanity too since there are probably not too many other sink/counter combos that fit that vanity).
  • Pretty minor, but our shampoo/conditioner/soap dispenser came off the wall after about 2 years of use.  We bought some super-strength mounting tape and glue and it seems fine now.  We probably should have done this initially instead of just using the mounting tape/glue that came with it.
  • We don’t really use the electrical receptacle inside the medicine cabinet.  It seemed like a great idea when I saw it on Pinterest, but in reality, it’s too crowded in there to let our toothbrush chargers live there full time- so we keep them elsewhere and plug them into the above sink outlet when we need to charge our toothbrushes.
  • We bought a towel shelf that we never installed.  I thought it would be too crowded and we don’t really need it (we have a linen closet down the hall).  I’m still trying to figure out how to use it somewhere else in our house.

Sources:

 

Q&A With The Famous Krones

Now that we’re famous, everyone’s like: “tell us more about your fascinating life and beautiful home!”… so here you go!

Q: It looks like you’re making a sudden come-back, tell us more!

A (Mary): Well, we were really getting famous back in 2013.  I mean, we had something like 7 comments (2 from our contractor, 2 from strangers, 3 from Andy) in 2 years!  Then we decided to have a baby (actually, we decided that well before 2013).  Did you know babies and toddlers are a lot of work?  Ours is named Nadine and she’s sort of demanding.  We had to choose between caring for her, doing projects, writing about projects, and sleeping… so the writing and sleeping stopped.  Actually, I had been thinking about posting to the blog again for a long time, but then I would realize I’d rather sleep.

A (Andy): Well, the Eichler Network got us motivitated to “rejuvenate” the  old blog.  We actually have done a few projects (renovate the hall bath, hallway, nursery, guest room, repair some more beams, build a deck, renovate the master bath…) but we’ve just been too lazy to update the blog.  Our daughter is not one for home improvements, she likes to help but we just don’t think she should be handling the nail gun quite yet.  We have to move in baby steps, you know, hammer and chop saw first, followed by the table saw and nail gun.  Our goal is to have a 4 year old that can repair radiant floor leaks.

Q: What’s it like to suddenly be famous?

A (Andy): It’s pretty amazing… The limousine to the studio, the constant oohhs and awwhs and people pushing each other just to get closer to the front door so they can get a glimpse of our famous house.  Sometimes I think I’m dreaming but, uh, oh wait, yeah, that was a dream. I will consider myself famous when I have someone taking out the trash on Thursday nights.

A (Mary): I’m much more visible in the public eye now (like at music in the park)- so I have to be more fashion-conscious.  To that end, I started wearing skinny jeans.  See, I’m really fashionable now!

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(outfit: skinny jeans and shoes ordered online from Gap because we have a toddler and I can’t really go into a real store now, top from Costco because we have a toddler who tolerates Costco as long as she has enough samples to eat).

Q: All of your photos on the blog are so beautiful!  Tell us about the camera you use?

A (Mary): In 2011 we started using our state of the art point-and-shoot Canon digital camera.  Then we went to Oktoberfest in Germany and it got a little beer on it and it was never the same.  Fast forward, 4 years and it turns out our phones have surpassed the quality of our beer-soaked digital camera.  So, long story short, we use our iPhone6’s for most of the photos.  I know!  Amazing that you can get such beautiful quality photos from a phone!

Q: I know Andy’s “real” job is to be a computer guy (technically, a CIO), what about you, Mary?  Are you an interior designer? A writer?

A (Mary): I’m a data scientist.

Q: Wow, cool! Data science is so hot right now.  How do you find the time to do so much?

A (Mary):  Well, I don’t sleep much.  I also don’t relax much.  I should probably do more of both and less of everything else. I’m going to book a day trip to a spa in Sonoma right now.

A (Andy): Sleep is not all that much fun so we just sacrifice eating and sleeping to get projects done.

Q: Nadine, what do you think of the beautiful home that your parents are re-building for you?

A (Nadine): BID-E-OOOOS! (Videos… she wants to watch videos of herself on your iPhone).

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Q: Nadine, where’s the moon?

A (Nadine): THERE!

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Re-Plumbing the Hall Bathroom

In January 2013, we found out I was pregnant and immediately began converting our guest room into a nursery (more on that later) for the baby who is now a feisty toddler named Nadine.  We started by removing the old drywall and paneling, which lead us to discover that the shower in the hall bathroom immediately adjacent to the nursery was leaking into the shared wall and had created a LOT of black mold on the drywall.  At this point we realized we would need to remove the shower in the hall bath.  Since we were removing the shower, we decided to renovate the whole thing (funny how things snowball).  The irony was that this was the “nice” bathroom (relative to the master bath), because the previous owners had renovated it shortly before we bought our house.

When we moved in we thought that although it’s not our style, it was functional and we had bigger fish to fry (like the leaking roof).  Actually, maybe it was good that there was a leak in the shower because otherwise we would have lived with a functional yet unattractive bathroom for a lot longer.  It also gave us an opportunity to install a bath tub.  While not a necessity for the first year or so, I can’t imagine Nadine living without a bath tub now- she HATES showers (which we discovered while staying with family who didn’t have a bath tub).

So began the hall bath renovation.  Since had decided to start from scratch, we came up with the idea to switch the locations of the toilet and sink.  Originally, the sink was next to the shower (which we were converting to a tub).

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This layout felt very un-natural to us.  If you spend a few hours browsing bathroom pictures on Pinterest, you’ll find that this combination is really uncommon.  I think it is because the water from the shower/tub can spray onto the vanity, like this (no, we didn’t expand the size of the bathroom… It’s still TINY… I must have just zoomed in on the 2nd try):

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In fact, even though the existing vanity was only a couple years old, it was already suffering some water damage (I’m sure it would be less if we had a proper tub instead of a walk in shower).  In addition, we thought it would be more convenient to perch ourselves on the toilet while Nadine was taking a bath (in reality, we sit on the edge of the tub or the bathroom floor).  The disadvantage of the new configuration is that the toilet ends up right in front of the door.  I personally don’t mind it, but it is a consideration for some people.

Unfortunately our house is on a concrete slab foundation.  For houses on a raised foundation with a crawl space or basement, this probably wouldn’t be a big deal.  Also, we had in-floor radiant heat to work around.  Speaking of which, once we demo-ed the existing tile, we noticed a wet patch on the bathroom floor.  Thinking maybe it would dry, we decided to trace it and see if it got bigger or smaller over a few days.  Sadly, it got bigger and we had to get that repaired first.

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Once we were ready for the actual switching of the plumbing, the first job was to demo and empty out the bathroom, down to the studs, which Andy did. Then, we had to decide where we wanted the new locations of the plumbing for the toilet and vanity.  Toilets are pretty standard, but vanities are not.  So we had to first/purchase find the new vanity and sink (so we knew its size)  and determine its location.  This was lot harder than it sounds.  The room is quite small, and by code, the toilet needs a total of 30″ of space from the tub, leaving only about 27″ for a vanity, so we had to find a vanity that was 27″ wide or less.  I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of options for vanities out there (24-25″ is actually a common size), it was just hard to find one that also looked modern and would be easy to keep clean (my top requirement), had a lot of storage (Andy’s top requirement), would last a long time, and was relatively affordable (both of our requirements since this was a hall bath that will eventually be a kid’s bath).  Once we decided on a vanity, we also had to decide on its location.  How high did we want the top? Did we want it to butt up to the wall, or leave some space between the edge of the vanity and the wall (we chose the latter)?

Once those decisions were made, the actual plumbing work was done by Kevin Sullivan, our go-to plumber/contractor (and also a neighbor).  He owns an Eichler himself and is very familiar with them, including how the plumbing and radiant heat are typically laid out.

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The above picture was taken when the tub, toilet and sink “rough in” plumbing was complete, and before the tub was installed.

I’m really not familiar with the details of how this was done, except that there was a giant hole in the bathroom floor for a few weeks and plumbing tools and pipes and parts all around the house, then, one day he was gone and everything worked.  I am however familiar with how expensive this is to do.  Inevitably, when you start a project, something unexpected comes up.  I think Kevin had to move some radiant heating lines and also deal with the plumbing in the master bath which shares a wall with the hall bath.  We had originally considered re-configuring both bathrooms at the same time (the master bath also has the sink next to the shower), but that would have left us without a working bathroom, and we weren’t sure if we wanted to go through the added expense to do the same switch-a-roo in the master bath.  This was, by-far, the most expensive part of the bathroom renovation, and it’s something that probably goes un-noticed by most people… except other Eichler owners.  Our neighbors (owners of the same model as ours) were visiting the other day and they asked if the bathroom configuration had always been that way or if we switched it.  I think that ultimately it was probably a good decision.

Solid-Stained Concrete Floors

Remember how our house originally had 9 types of flooring?

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I’m happy to say, we’re down to 8!  We’ve eliminated the “Sewing Room” and “Bathrooms” flooring as well as some of the “Guest Room / Beer Room” and “Hallway/Dining Room / Kitchen”, and “Andy’s Office / Atrium” flooring.  However, we’re in the process of adding some new tile in the atrium and have gone with solid “stained” concrete in the “Guest Room” (now Nadine’s room), “Sewing Room” (now guest room), Hallway, and Bathrooms.  Eventually, we plan to do all the floors in the whole house in solid stained concrete (the atrium is different because it’s uncovered and not technically in the house).

The system we are using is mostly Behr products purchased at Home Depot.  It’s called Solid Color Concrete Stain but it goes on and looks more like paint- and the process is more like a painting process.  Since we wanted the same flooring throughout the house, we spent a lot of time considering our options.  I am against carpeting (although Andy is not) because it stains easily, is never really clean, and it is said to be inefficient with the radiant floor heating system.  Wood and pergo were also out due to the incompatibility with the radiant heating system.  Cork was out mostly due to our dog’s claws (which we knew would scratch hardwood thus assumed would scratch cork even more). That left 2 viable options: tile and the concrete.  We chose solid stained concrete for the following reasons:

1. Andy doesn’t like grout lines in tile- he hypothesizes (because he doesn’t actually do the floor cleaning) that they trap dirt and make it harder to clean.

2. If we go with the concrete (we’re on a slab foundation, so we’re really just using what’s already there), we have the option to switch to tile later with minimal effort (or so we think… I’ve read some anecdotes about trouble putting tile on top of finished concrete…).

3. Cost.  Considering we’re doing the labor ourselves, the cost of materials is much less than buying tile at about $5/square foot.  This may consideration may not be valid if we were paying for the labor.

Once we chose on the general “concrete” route, we still had several options.  We could have gone natural by either grinding & polishing the existing slab or adding a skim coat.  After a lot of research, I found some horror stories with both methods- one from a neighbor 2-doors down (so I assumed we would have the same issue) plus it would add a lot to our materials/rentals cost and be much messier and more difficult to do one room at a time-  so we decided to go for a solid paint-like stain on our existing slab, without grinding it.  I saw some really cool pictures of a solid stained concrete floor in an Eichler (here), and after many test samples and debates with Andy, we decided to go for something similar.

Here’s the process we used and some comments on how it’s held up after 2 years:

1. Remove all existing flooring and tile mastic, down to the slab:

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Andy did this step.  Depending on the room, some were relatively easy (generally speaking, the smaller rooms with older tile, like the bathrooms) and some were a real pain.  I ended up buying him this jack hammer (with the scraping blade attachment) for Christmas, which has helped quite a bit, but it’s still a manual labor job that’s noisy and messy.  The pros we hired to re-tile the atrium even used it plus our neighbors and family have used it, so it’s been a worthwhile investment for us. But make no mistakes, there is a lot of very difficult labor involved in this step.

2. Remove as much of the old black stuff as is possible reasonable.  Originally, our house, like most Eichlers, had 8″x8″ (asbestos-containing) vinyl tile that was adhered with an (asbestos-containing) black glue/mastic.  Even though the previous owners had removed almost all of the tiles (there were a hand full of tiles still left in closets), there was a lot of the black stuff left under the new mastic/tile they had installed.  Needless to say, you SHOULD wear a mask/whole body protection/not attempt this step yourselves due to the asbestos containing nature of the black stuff.  Having read a lot about it from the Redneck Modern blog, we initially tried using Bean-e-doo to remove it.  We did this in Nadine’s room, which was the first room where we did the stained concrete.  It was a real pain (for Andy… I was pregnant at the time and nowhere to be seen)… it was pretty expensive and difficult to clean up and didn’t do an amazing job (there was enough of the black stuff left that we knew we couldn’t go the bare concrete route without grinding the slab, which we didn’t want to do).  Following many coats of Bean-e-doo, Andy used a de-greaser and washed and rinsed and repeated many times.  Maybe it was because I was pregnant, but I was super afraid of the black stuff (I’m sure it causes cancer!)  and wanted no sign of it ever around anywhere that my baby would ever be, much less sleep every night (ha!  she doesn’t actually sleep at night!)… so I really forced encouraged Andy to be meticulous with this step and remove as much of the black stuff as humanly possible.  This is what the the floor in Nadine’s room looked like after this step:

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You can see how it leaves a bit of an oily residue which is more pronounced near the center of the room and the door.

Given the labor involved in the Bean-e-doo step (and the stuff stinks, despite being pretty natural) we had smartly decided to do some tests in her closet- we did one patch without any Bean-e-doo, where Andy had just done some scraping with a metal blade. In retrospect (in my non-pregnant state), as long as the stuff is well covered (i.e. with several coats of stain and top coat), toxicity shouldn’t be a problem- with asbestos the real issue is in disturbing it.

3. Etch the concrete.  This step is so that the paint-like stain has something to really “grab” onto and help with adherence.  Also, if you skip the Bean-e-doo step (which we eventually did… keep reading), it removes some more of the black stuff.  After having done 4 rooms, we still haven’t been super consistent with the brand of concrete etch that we use. It’s one of those things that we tend to pick up on the way home from work as needed (you go through a lot of it).  The Behr brand seems pretty decent- they carry it at Home Depot, so it has been our default (though I think we found brands that work better). The goal here is for the super smooth concrete to become a little more porous.

4. Patch the concrete.  Again, we weren’t super consistent about this step and tended to be more thorough in areas where we knew it mattered most (i.e. not in the guest room).  If there were any cracks wider than 2mm or so, Andy would chisel them out to about 1″ wide and 1″ deep.  Same with holes and divots (most often those left from carpet tack strips around the perimeter of rooms that once had carpet).  We also tried different types of concrete patch and they all worked pretty well.  I was told (by a woman working in the local hardware store’s paint department) that the patch should cure for 30 days before proceeding to apply any primer or stain/paint.  There are special types of fast-curing patch that you can buy, but we didn’t find that it really mattered.

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Once the patch was dry, we scraped and sanded to get it to blend in with the rest of the concrete as much as possible.

I will say that for HUGE HOLES (like 2′ by 2′ where we moved plumbing in the slab) we did let the concrete cure for at least 30 days.  This actually wasn’t as big of a pain as you may think… we always had other things to do in the meantime.

One thing that we discovered is that this stuff should be done AFTER etching- because the etch eats through new stuff MUCH faster than old stuff… so if you patch first (which we did in Nadine’s room) the etch will make the patches more apparent.  Also, we found that not etching the patch doesn’t seem to affect the ability of the primer/paint/top-coat to adhere.    At this point, 99% of the work is done.

5. Clean and dry the concrete.  If you’re like us, there has been drywall, tile mastic, etc. falling on your neglected concrete floor for the last several weeks/months while you tackled other projects (like re-building walls and gestating).  I used some scrapers to remove any chunks, scrub brushes where needed, then a final 2-3 passes with my Shark Steam Mop.  Then, let it dry for at least a day.  This is a relatively easy step and pretty rewarding.

6. Prime the concrete.  We used the Behr Concrete Primer made especially for this.  I’m not sure how necessary this step is- we did a test in Nadine’s closet without primer and it didn’t seem to make a difference… but since that was a no-traffic closet (thus not the best test) and the stuff is cheap (a little goes a LONG way, we are still at the top of the first can even after several hundred square feet of priming) and very easy to apply, we’ve been consistently applying it before the stain. We just mixed it up with a paint stir stick, poured a little directly onto the floor, then spread with a paint roller attached to an extension stick.  On the first few rooms, we went around the perimeter of the room with a paint brush, but eventually realized I could do a good-enough job with the roller.  Also, we did the floors before the walls got painted and baseboards were installed, so it didn’t matter if I got a little on the wall.  But going on it looks a bit scary and we questioned whether we just ruined all of Andy’s hard work:

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But after it dries, it’s just a bit shiny.

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7. Stain.  This is the super fun and easy step.  It’s like when you’re a kid and someone puts out all the ingredients to “make pizza” for you and you just come along and throw some toppings on a piece of dough and claim it as your own.   We used Behr Solid Color Concrete Stain in “Pebbled Path” (we did lots of test patches of different colors and found that this one hid dirt pretty well).  The consistency is between that of a stain and a paint, but it is definitely opaque like a paint.  We eventually learned to do this mostly with a paint roller on a stick (I used a brush a little bit around corners and existing molding etc.).  As you’re applying the paint, it can get some tiny bubbles in it, but those seem to fade as it dries.  We did 2-3 coats in each room. You should apply the coats thinly, so after the first coat, you may still see some patches of the black stuff peaking through, but here it is after the 2nd coat (sorry, we only took pictures of this in the bathroom apparently):

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It goes on glossy but it dries very matte, like below:

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8. Apply top coat.  We used this Behr product in low luster.  Again, I don’t think this step is absolutely necessary, and I’m on the fence as to whether it was the right choice or not.  For one, you need to let the stain cure for 30 days!   They don’t say this anywhere on any package (neither the primer, paint nor sealer) so I had to call Behr to figure this out.  We haven’t experimented with doing it in less than 30 days, so I’m not sure if this is a hard requirement- but this was a real pain given that we had stained Nadine’s floor about 35 days before she was born (meaning we had to wait until about 3 days before she was born to seal it).  I was also worried that it would make it more difficult to fix scratches that do occur- but this hasn’t been a problem- I’ve confirmed that you can apply a whole fresh coat of stain on top of the top coat (and then another top coat) without any problems (we did this in the bathroom about 6 months ago).  The biggest down side is that it makes it more slippery.  In a glass house with cement floors and a toddler who likes to play “how can I hurt myself today”, it can be dangerous (even though all of Nadine’s socks have little no-slip things on the bottom).  The advantages are that I really like the look- it looks much more finished with the top coat, and I think it helps protect the paint from scratches.  They sell some sand-like stuff that you could add to help with traction, but I think that would a.) not feel very good on your feet and b.) lead to more scratches in the paint/top coat, so we didn’t use it.

This was our moment of truth.  In Nadine’s room, where we had done the Bean-e-doo, we noticed that after applying 2 coats of stain and letting it cure for 30 days, it would still scratch VERY EASILY if anything mildly sharp hit it (like a ladder leg or a shoe).  I was hoping that the top coat would fix this (I had spot-patched all of the little scratches prior to applying the top coat).  It did not.  And on top of that it turned yellow almost immediately. It was sort of an epic failure… 3 days before Nadine was born.  This is what it looks like today… it’s only gotten worse… it’s a bit tacky so it attracts dirs and scratches super easily.  This is sort of the worst case scenario:

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Luckily, the test patch we did in her closet (without Bean-e-doo) had no problems at all!  So… our conclusion is the the Bean-e-doo was a waste of a TON of time and a lot of money and we weren’t sure how to fix it.  Our only solution was to get a very large area rug and deal with it later.  Now, 2 years later, it’s still bad and I choose not to look at it.  I’m thinking that we may be able to strip it and try again- but there really is no good time to empty out her room to do that- maybe when she goes to medical school.  Anyhow, we learned our lesson early and the rest of the house is holding up really well.

This is how the bathroom looks after 2 years:

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This is 2 days after a regular weekly cleaning- so you can see how there is dirt, but it blends in pretty well.  Also, there is a tiny bit of an “orange peel” texture to the paint- but it’s not noticeable- from a normal person’s perspective, I think it looks similar in texture to a large polished tile, but without grout lines, which is sort of what we were going for.

Tips:

When painting a room’s entrance, be careful about the threshold with the next room/hallway.  When Andy painted our hallway (after already having done Nadine’s room and the bathroom) he was not careful and left a visible and messy “seam.”  Nadine’s room is a lost cause, so we just left it as-is, but this really annoyed me in the otherwise beautiful hall bath, so we re-painted the whole room (see below).  In the future, I will do all thresholds with a paint brush (and maybe some painter’s tape)- so at least the seam will be well thought out.

Which leads to the next tip… it’s proven perfectly fine and relatively easy to re-paint an entire room.  We did this in the hall bath.  We just cleaned the floor really well with all purpose cleaner, let it dry, applied 2 more coats of stain, waited 30 days, and applied 2 coats of top coat.  So far (6 months later) it has held up really well.  I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to put anything on top of the top coat, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  This is a HUGE advantage for us, as we are always having to dig into our slab for some reason or another (e.g. repairing leaks in the radiant heat system).

It is slippery (and even without the top coat it is still pretty slippery).  We’ve managed to avoid any tragedies by using small rugs in the bathroom (with a no-slip bottom) and installing a runner in the hallway (the most likely area for Nadine to be running).  Nonetheless, we still have to be VERY careful, especially when it is wet and it does make me nervous (but what mom isn’t nervous?).

IMG_3394

The end result isn’t going to be perfect nor look like a new or newly polished concrete.  You can see where we patched cracks and holes, but only if you are looking closely.  I don’t mind this at all.  The rough patches also seem to collect dirt a bit more easily, but we went with a color that is pretty close to that of dirt, so it’s not super noticible.  Here is what the hallway looks like where we patched a large crack (I probably should have cleaned up the dog hair before taking this picture…):

IMG_3652

The hardest part for us about doing the stain and top coat was to keep it clean long enough for it to dry, in particular, to keep the dog hair off of it.  I found that cleaning with a damp rag RIGHT before applying either was necessary.  Apparently we have a LOT of errant dog hairs that fly around our house.  The 2nd hardest part was to get Andy not to step in it… there are 2 of his foot prints in the hallway, but thankfully they are now hidden under our rug.

How it’s holding up:

Other than in Nadine’s room which I described extensively above, it’s holding up very well after 2 years.  So far, we only have one scratch that occurred when we were installing baseboards in the hallway. Some day I may get around to touching it up, but it’s not noticeable enough for me to exert that kind of effort.  We’re still planning on installing it in the rest of the house, room by room.

Cost Break Down:

Please note that we did not pay for ANY labor in this project- if we were to do that, it woudl substantially impact the cost.  Instead, we paid with many many many hours of our own time.  Given the amount of experimenting that we have had to do, I think it was the right decision for us to do this ourselves (if it were tile, which is much more straight forward, it would probably be a different story).  Also, once the demo is done, it’s a pretty easy job.  With that said, we may hire out the demo in the future, since that is the hardest part, and also pretty difficult to mess up.  So all together, the costs for us have been as follows:

Etch: $20/gallon.  We didn’t measure exactly, but I’d say that a typical room (10’x12′) used about 1.5 gallons, so a gallon covers about 80 square feet.

Patch: $10/container.  It makes sense to match the size of the container with the size of the room… because once you open it, you can’t really re-use it again.

Primer:$20/gallon.  A gallon seems to cover maybe 500 square feet?

Stain:$30/gallon.  A gallon seems to cover maybe 250 square feet?

Top Coat:$20/gallon.  A gallon seems to cover maybe 250 square feet?

So overall, the materials cost about $0.57/square foot (but you’ll need to spend a minimum of about $100) which is pretty darn cheap (our atrium tile is about $6/sq ft).  Also, it’s interesting to see that the largest portion of this cost (about half) is the concrete etch which is really what cleans the existing slab- so if the slab has a lot more to clean, you’ll need to spend more… also if you do want to use something else to remove the black mastic (we do NOT recommend Bean-e-doo, but maybe something like a paint remover would help- I can’t say for sure since I haven’t tried it and don’t know how the stain will react with it) it will also add substantially to the (low) cost.

 

2 Years of Silence….

Oops… I see it has been over 2 years since our last post… mostly because our fee time has been absorbed by this little lady:

Nadine Newbo

(Photo from Just a Hobby Photography)

Who is actually now this little lady:

July4SereneLakes

The good news is that we were officially finished with her nursery before she was born.  I’ll try to write about it before it becomes a “big girl room.”

More to come…

Painting Eichler Siding

Painting Eichler siding takes forever.  It’s probably the most tedious thing I’ve ever done (and I worked as a file clerk filing service reports at a car dealership all through high school)… but after 8 months  all of the siding is painted! (granted I took a break for about 3 months due to cold weather) Those tiny grooves that make Eichler siding so unique also make it such a pain to paint!  I hope that nobody ever has to paint Eichler siding, but if you do, here is my advice:

Storage– we purchased the Thinline Breckenridge 5/8 siding from Jeff at eichlersiding.com.  We purchased in about 4 increments of about 10 sheets each- that seems about as much as the Ford Ranger can hold.  When we got it home we kept it in the garage in a stack on top of some 2×4’s (so that air could circulate underneath and they weren’t directly on the floor).  During the winter months we noticed that the sheets started to twist after a couple weeks (we weren’t always quick with our installation…) so we weighed down the stack on each corner with some heavy things (tool boxes etc) found in the garage.

Preparation– Before priming, we would lightly sand each sheet by hand with medium grit sandpaper to remove any rough patches and then sweep with a regular broom to remove the dust.  At points we got lazy and would skip one or both steps.  It turns out the sweeping is the most critical step, the light sanding can probably be skipped all together.  If you skip the sweeping, be prepared to see large particles in the finished product- I ended up sanding these once they were primed and hung, but it would have been much less work to just sweep in the first place.

Priming– According to Jeff from eichlersiding.com, you should prime the siding prior to installation.  We did one coat of Zinsser 1-2-3 primer, purchased in 2-gallon buckets from Home Depot.  It comes in 1-, 2- and 5-gallon buckets, but the 2-gallon is the most economical and the empty buckets are super handy (see below).  After a lot of trial and error with different methods and supplies, this is what I finally settled on: First, I would insert a metal 2-gallon paint grid directly into the 2-gallon bucket (like this but the 2-gallon size).   If the bucket was more than half full, I would pour 1 gallon into another empty primer bucket so I was never working with more than 1 gallon of primer at a time.  Then I would dip my 6″ mini roller with Purdy 1/2″ nap roller cover attached to a 4′ wood extension pole into the bucket to fully submerge the roller cover.  With the siding on the floor still in the stack (note we didn’t protector the floor at all since we don’t really care about getting paint on it- we just cleaned up major drips), I would stand on the sheet I was about to prime and use the roller to smear the primer onto the siding.  The smearing action is key- you don’t want the roller to actually roll, otherwise it won’t get paint all the way into the grooves… you need to put a bit of pressure on it to get it to smear properly, which is why it’s best to stand over it and use the extension pole.

Once there was paint smeared on the whole sheet, I would go over the whole sheet again with a 2.5″ or 3″ angled brush to get rid of any areas with too much paint and to make sure paint got into all the grooves (the ends are especially tricky).  I would also make sure I got the edges primed, especially the underlap edge.

Tip: Screw a cup hook into the wooden part near the base of the brush (between the metal and the handle) so that you can hang the brush on the edge of the paint bucket without it getting too much paint on it.  It’s pretty important to keep a relatively dry brush in order to be able to properly get rid of too much paint build up.

After the top was dry (usually overnight) I would put it onto a table next to the stack of siding on the floor with the back of the siding facing up (painted groove side down).  Then I would use a roller to paint the edges and the outside 12″ or so of the back.  Since the back is pretty smooth, you can actually let the roller roll for this step (enjoy it while it lasts!).  Once the back was dry, the sheet was finished and we would stack them on their side until we needed to install them.

The preparation+priming steps take about 30 minutes per sheet once you get good at it.  I would typically do the front (groove side) of one sheet and the back (non-groove side) of another sheet on the same day (usually after work).  It’s hard to do more than that because you definitely want the sheets to dry flat (at least the tops) to avoid any drips.  On days when the demand from Andy (the husband/ siding installer) for primed siding was high, I would drag some sheets out to the driveway to dry.

Tip: Store the roller cover in the bucket of primer when you’re done (assuming there’s at least 1.5″ of primer left in the bucket)… it will never dry out this way and you won’t have to wash it.  If you know you’ll be primering again in the next day or 2, store your brush in a gallon size zip loc bag (remove any air before making sure it’s completely sealed).  If you do this, you will get some build up on your brush over time.  If you want your brush to remain as clean as possible, wash it when you’re finished.  I found washing things in the back yard (the paint grid, roller frame and brush) with a hose that has a spray nozzel to be easier than washing in the kitchen sink… but then again our back yard is mostly weeds and dirt- if you care about your grass/landscaping, you may want to do your cleanup elsewhere.

Prepping for Painting– Once the siding is primed and installed (see more on installation in this post– that was Andy’s job), it needs to be prepped again.  The first step is caulking where the siding meets the eave or any trim.  This step could probably be avoided if you were to install trim at the top of the siding (like the Eichlers originally have), but we decided to skip the trim in most places (the exception being the back of the house- for some reason the gaps were HUGE there… too much for caulk to cover up).  For caulk, we used big stretch in white, which has been amazing (we scored 8 tubes from our neighbor in exchange for Andy letting him borrow the Ford Ranger!).  It says it can fill up to a 2″ gap!   When applying it, be careful not to get any in the siding grooves.  Also, if the gap to be filled is 1/4″ or wider, it’s best to use backer rod to fill the gap prior to caulking (it will save you lots of money in caulk!).

The next step is to fill any gashes left by the guy installing the siding (Andy).  I did NOT fill in over nail holes (though I guess you could if you were super meticulous!), just if he missed a nail or otherwise mauled the siding.

Finally, you’ll notice that you will see some tiny holes inside the groves, usually in a straight line across 5-6 groves.  This is because the siding is made of ply wood and while the top ply is solid, the ones underneath (which the grooves cut into) are made of multiple pieces that often have gaps between them.  It’s rare to get a whole sheet of siding without these “groove holes”.  Filling them is a bit tricky because you don’t want to fill in the groove, just the hole in the back of the groove.  I did this by pressing some plain wood filler into the hole with my finger, then using a putty knife to scrape any excess off the surface of the siding.  Then, I would use my specially designed groove tool  to run down the groove and remove any excess.  This takes a bit of practice to make sure you leave enough to fill the hole but not so much that it will cause a drip in your paint.

Tip: Design yourself a groove tool.  I used a wood shim trimmed at the right spot so the narrow end is slightly thinner than the groove- I started using a paint scraper, but that’s too thin to do the trick.  Be sure to write something on your groove tool so that your husband doesn’t mistake it for a wood scrap and throw it away (I went through about 3 groove tools this way).

Groove Tool 2

Over time, wood filler will build up on your groove tool and you may have to fashion yourself a new one (the one pictured above is at about the end of its life- eventually it will get too fat to fit in the groove).

Painting– Finally, you are ready for your first coat of paint! We used flat exterior Behr Ultra paint in “Amazon Stone”.  My painting setup consisted of the following:

NumberedPaintSetup

1. A 2-gallon bucket (we used empty primer buckets left over from the priming- don’t worry, you’ll have plenty- 2 gallons covers about 8 sheets of siding, so prime 8 sheets before you get started painting). This is your “working” paint bucket.  I like to fill the bucket with about 1/2 to 1 gallon of paint, enough so that I never have less than 1.5″ or so of paint in the bucket.  Also, label the bucket so that if you have any helpers or curious husbands they know that it’s not primer.

2. A paint stirrer- it’s important to stir your paint before you start.  The can says to stir it while you work as well, but I never seemed to need to (if I took a break longer than 10 minutes I would seal the bucket so it wouldn’t dry out).  These are free wherever you buy your paint.  I don’t advise leaving it in your working paint bucket- it’ll get grimy and in the way- just wash it right away.

3. A 6″ mini roller frame (the same one you use for priming is fine since you should wash it after every paint/primer session) with Purdy 1/2″ nap roller cover.  Get a separate roller cover devoted specifically to your paint color- unless you primed all of your siding ahead of time which I did NOT do- so I was constantly switching between priming and painting and it was super nice not to ever have to wash the roller covers!

4. A 2.5″ or 3″ angled brush.  Again, having one just for your paint color is ideal (a separate one for the primer).  Also, see the cup hook tip above, this is very important!

5. A swiveling paint can hook.  This makes it super easy when you’re standing on the ladder or even next to the ladder.

6. A sturdy ladder.  I like our little giant (we got it at Costco a couple years ago). Unless you’re really tall, you’ll need a ladder to reach the top of the siding.  Something sturdy is also important- our 5′ aluminum ladder is too wobbly for me!

7.  A pair of gloves.  These latex work gloves are my favorite- I found mine in the garden section of home depot- I think they’re kids-sized.   I tried disposables but they tear frequently, don’t fit as nicely and I hate throwing them away.

8. An old rag or paper towels to wipe up major spills or drips onto something painted a different color.

Now for my painting method.  I like to start at the top in a 2′-3′ square section and work downward.  It’s very important to work in small sections at a time (start with a 2′ square then work up to a 3′ square once you get the hang of it).  Just like the primer, you need to smear the paint onto the surface- if you roll it like you’re painting your bedroom wall, it won’t get into the grooves.  The problem is that because you’re working vertically instead of horizontally (and you may be standing on a ladder), it’s hard to get as much pressure on the roller to do a good smear- so you need to load the roller up with more paint.  Once you get the paint smeared on your square, put the roller into the bucket and switch to your brush.  You will have drips!  Use the brush to go over each groove (I hold the brush parallel to the groove) making sure to get rid of any drips and fill in any areas that were missed with the roller (you should have had so much paint on the roller that you didn’t miss much).  This is why it’s important to work in small sections… so you can get the drips with the brush before they dry.  After going over the grooves once, I like to go over them again just to be safe.  Your goal is to get the excess paint out of the grooves, so it’s best to keep a relatively dry brush (another reason you may want to wash and dry your brush when you’re finished each day rather than keeping it in a zip loc bag).  You’ll also notice that you can elongate your square a bit as you work the paint downward with the brush.  Once you’re happy with the section you just painted, move on to the one underneath it until you’ve completed a 2′ to 3′ wide section of siding.  Now, look up… did you miss any drips?  This is pretty much your last chance to get them before they dry, so do a final check now.  Congratulations, only about 80 more of these to go (on the first coat).

Tip: When you get to the bottom, don’t forget to paint the bottom edge of the siding near the foundation.  This is probably the most important part of the siding to protect and the easiest to overlook!

Tip: After a while your roller cover will get pretty matted down and be less effective… splurge on a new one, you deserve it- after all, you’re painting your whole house by yourself!  However, don’t be tempted by the giant 3/4″ wool rollers (thinking they’re SURE to get into those pesky grooves)… they’re a waste of money and don’t get the paint in the groove- stick to 1/2″ nap, those seemed to work the best.

Tip: Do NOT try to paint in cold weather (if it’s going to drop below 50 degrees in 3-4 hours after the paint is applied, and especially if it drops below freezing).  I learned this the hard way!  The paint doesn’t dry and in the morning mixes with the dew/frost (and slides completely off the metal flashing at the top of the siding) and makes a giant drippy mess!

I (and Jeff the Eichler siding guy) HIGHLY recommend doing a second full coat of paint using the same method as above, but it will go a little faster this time.  Contrary to what your helpers will tell you, it doesn’t count as 2 coats already just because you used a roller and a brush!  Siding is an expensive investment (ours was about $4000 before the primer/ paint… and we didn’t pay for installation…) and you definitely want to protect it!  Also, if you do a better job now, your paint job should last longer (and by that time you will have saved up enough money to hire a professional to paint your house).

Also, after experiencing first-hand how tedious it is to paint your eichler siding, your helpers will recommend that you get a paint sprayer.  In Jeff’s words: “spraying is quicker, but in our estimation, spraying does not apply nearly enough paint to afford good protection. Using a brush to get the primer/sealer and topcoat in the grooves seems to be the best approach. Then follow with a good roller to smooth out the paint. Always keep in mind that your goal is to give the porous wood the best protection against the elements”.  Note that I didn’t “follow with a good roller to smooth out the paint”- I did it for the first 5-10 sheets, but then realized it was causing more drips so I stopped after brushing and everything looked fine (IF you do 2 coats… the first one doesn’t look great- you can see brush marks).

The last issue that I had to resolve is the gap between sheets of siding:

SidingSeam

Because this gap is a bit deeper than the other grooves, it’s difficult to get paint to fill it in properly.  On smaller gaps this isn’t an issue, but on larger gaps you can even see some of the white Tyvek under the siding.  I decided to address this with my good friend Big Stretch caulk.  Since caulk expands and contracts with the wood (and Big Stretch does an amazing job at this without cracking), I prefer to use that over wood filler (which does not expand and contract- it just cracks) to fill in the gap.  After applying the caulk, I ran my index finger down the length of the gap to make sure the caulk got into all of the crevices and to remove any excess.  Because I didn’t address this issue until after painting, I had to wait for the caulk to dry and then paint over the caulked groove.  I highly recommend doing this in the post-installation pre-painting prep step.  When you’re finished, it should look like this:

Caulked Eichler Siding

Overall, the siding looks pretty good and you can’t see the drips and caulked gaps from a distance.  Here’s the painted east side of our house (notice we still have to hang the trim and paint the foundation):

PaintedEichlerSiding2

Tip/Warning: Get some helpers.  At best they will speed the job up, at worst you’ll have more fun working with other people/animals (even if it’s your dog or the dog you’re dog-sitting).  If you do manage to convince someone to help you (thanks Diane, Val, Nancy, Honey, Beau and Sandy!), you’ll need some extra materials.  I recommend getting a full second setup as described above.

I do NOT recommend having one person roll and one person brush.  As described above- the paint will dry before the brusher gets to it and you’ll have a lot of drips.  They’re not the worst thing in the world, but if you’re OCD like Andy and me, they WILL bother you and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about them once they’re dry:

PaintDrips

I also recommend doing the prep work and second coat and letting your helper do the first coat of paint- it’s the most rewarding and the hardest to mess up (assuming you’ve assigned them to memorize all the instructions on this page before they are allowed to start).

If you don’t want to get a full second painting set-up, you could get a second brush (or hijack your primer brush for the day) and ladder and have one person ‘cut-in’ at the top of the siding where it meets the eave.  This is a tricky and time consuming part, so make sure your helper has a steady hand and a little OCD.  You could also have your helper work on painting the foundation (assuming you’ve prepped for them- more details on that here), be on drip-patrol, prime the siding, keep your beer/lemonade glass full or just keep you company.

Here’s our cost break down for JUST the painting and priming (not including the siding itself, siding installation, trim nor the foundation paint).  If your siding is already installed and painted, you can probably skip the priming step/cost:

Primer: 5 buckets (2 gallons each) @$30/bucket: $150

Paint: 9 gallons of siding paint @ $35/gallon: $315 (note that we got the 5-gallon price for the first 5 gallons- they couldn’t get the formula to work for a 5-gallon bucket though, so it came in 5 1-gallon cans… which was fine with me- we just had to make sure there was a bit of intermixing)

Supplies: 2 Brushes, 2 Roller Frames, 6 roller covers, 2 paint hooks, 2 pairs of gloves, wood filler, 5 tubes of caulk (before we got the free caulk from our neighbor), Caulk backer rod: About $150.

Ladders (already owned and will be re-used many times, so not fair to count them here)

Pedicures for the lead painter because she paints in flip flops (2 @ $30 each): $60

Total: $675 (this does not include paint for the trim and foundation, though you’ll probably have enough leftover siding paint to use on the trim that will be the same color as the siding)

 

Accessorizing an Eichler

We finally finished the front of the house (minus landscaping) back in December by accessorizing.  We replaced our old front door, lights and house numbers seen here:

Old front door, lights and house numbers

With these beauties:

Eichler Entryway

The door is a solid core door purchased at San Rafael lumber.  It was not easy to cut, drill and hang- it was HEAVY!  We custom mixed the door color to come up with something that was like chartreuse with a bit of olive (we started with Gliden’s “Granny Smith Apple” matched to Eggshell Behr Ultra Paint, but had it adjusted a few times to make it more “olive” and less “neon”.

The sconce, doorknob, escutcheon (the plate around the doorknob), and deadbolt are from mid-century modern line at Rejuvenation.  Their website is not great- but they’re very helpful if you call or go into a store.  The store in Berkeley only carried the light, so we had to order the door hardware through the website/phone.  Originally the deadbolt didn’t have all the pieces so I called and they shipped the missing part over night.  The door hardware is pretty pricey (more than I wanted to spend but our neighbor talked Andy into it) but it’s as close to authentic as it gets and they’re commercial quality.  We went for the 5″ inset that was original to the Eichlers.

The peephole and house numbers are from Home Depot and we got the stainless steel door bottom guard from Ace Hardware (Andy did need to modify it a bit with his grinder to work with the slope of the floor in the atrium).  The LED security light on the left is from Costco.

Andy even made a custom stainless steel doorbell plate to work with our existing doorbell:

Custom Door Bell

We’re really happy with how the front of the house looks and have received several compliments from neighbors.  One neighbor even stopped by to tell Andy we had the “most improved house in the neighborhood”!  That really made Andy’s day :-)

Eichler Facade

Eichler Boilers and Math

FIRST: I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT BOILERS AND THIS POST DOES NOT CLAIM TO KNOW ANYTHING.  TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR HEATING.

So, our dreary old boiler (circa 1958) “seemed” to be on the fritz a few weeks ago and now it’s working “fine”.  I say “seemed” because it appears to be working now and I say “fine” because it’s working as well as any 55 year old boiler should work.

The Story: Sometime in December (2012) we were noticing a gas smell coming from the hallway adjacent the boiler.   Obviously, any time you smell gas you should call the gas company. Oh, we also noticed our heating bill was $100 more than the same month last year. So, not sensing any danger, I called a plumber.

The Plumber: (Who, by the way, I trust and would recommend to anyone who asks) The Plumber looked at the boiler and said, “you’re not burning all the gas in your boiler and the orange colored flame indicates the boiler is inefficient”.  There was also pounds and pounds of black carbon inside the boiler that had accumulated over the years. Finally, he pointed out that the boiler (in it’s current state) could be a carbon monoxide problem. He said he could clean the unit to see if this might help.

The Cost: We then talked about boiler units and the cost. He recommended the “Solo 110 Triangle Tube” for our house (our square footage about 1750).  The unit is $3,500 and the install would be about $3,000 (all estimates on the high side). I shrugged, I really don’t have $6,500 dollars just laying around. $9,500 with a new water heater system!!

The Cleanup: I took off the smokestack and the top “dome” lid to the boiler and power washed the whole thing with a garden hose. FYI: There is a TON of copper in these bad boys and they’re probably worth something just for the metal value. Anyway,  I removed about 5 pounds of black carbon caked to everything and after using the shop vac to suck up all the water I used a blow dryer to get the unit dry enough to start up.

The Realization: When I started the unit I noticed the gas was coming out with WAY too much force and the flame was having trouble burning all the gas.  I adjusted the valve “thingy” (photo below) and the boiler burned with a consistent blue flame (mostly). I’m now convinced the unit was receiving too much gas  and could not burn all the fuel efficiently.

THE MATH: My TOTAL Yearly Natural Gas bill is $1,221.  If I subtract $168 to heat my water and run laundry ($14/month) the total cost for the current (old) boiler is $1,053/year. Now, considering this thing is so old I probably need to spend $200/year on maintenance and considering this old tank runs around 70% efficiency, maybe even 60%, my yearly cost to operate is “old bertha” is $1,253…ugh.

Now, replacement cost is $6,500 and the new boiler would be 95% efficient (claims the manufacturer).  So, the difference in cost would be 25% or 35% less per month based on efficiency. I’m sure I can get this down to $5,000 but let’s use $6,500 for now.

On a YEARLY basis a new boiler “could” save $263 (25%) or $368 (35%) per year.

So, best case, I save $568/year (I’m not paying for the maintenance of $200).   Or, maybe the new unit is only saving $263/year because I don’t have any maintenance with the old unit.  My best guess is that it’s somewhere is the middle between $263 and $568, or $415/year.

($6,500 install cost) / ($415 yearly savings) = 15.6 Years to break even but with piece of mind

Now, this doesn’t account for the increased cost of gas and assumes the new unit will be completely trouble free (probably about 90% chance of that).

I also have to consider the new unit won’t last 50 years but I’ll probably sell the house by then.  I think a respectable life on a new boiler is 25 years because they have electronics and they are not as heavy duty.

Oh yeah, there’s the whole environment thing too.

-Andy

Here’s the Unit (Notice the electrical starter we added, this was about $700 to retofit on the system).

2013-01-23_17-29-41_629

 

Picture Showing Handle/Lever “Thingy“:

2013-01-23_17-30-11_459_ima

 

Eichler Beam Repair

One of the hallmarks of Eichler homes is the post-and-beam construction.  When it’s in good shape, it’s a nice architectural feature.  However, when neglected, the beams can quickly deteriorate.  Some of the beams in our house were in such bad shape they needed to be replaced (like in the office and above the garage door).  Others only had a little bit of rot and could be saved after a little beam surgery.  Hopefully we are finished replacing beams and can devote ourselves fully to beam repair.

Here’s the beam over the garage on the corner of our house- my first attempt at beam repair (much of the rotten part is actually inside the garage in a hard-to-see corner).  It’s the same corner that had a serious leak when we moved in and everything but the beam was replaced when we replaced the garage door.  It’s actually a pretty short beam- it only runs about 4 feet into the garage- I think it’s mostly decorative and not so structural.

This is the exterior side of the beam which is still exposed, even with the roof extension.  You can see the bottom was in pretty bad shape (I scraped out some of the soft wood with a putt knife).  The other side of the beam was actually in worse shape.  Luckily it’s now covered by the roof extension (and the roof is no longer leaking).

On the recommendation of our neighbor (another Eichler home owner), we used the Rot Doctor’s Restor-It system.  All together it was about $60 from Jackson’s hardware in San Rafael- but considering the severity or the rot, I don’t think my trusty “everyday”  Elmer’s wood filler ($8/tub from Home Depot) would hold.  Also, $60 is very reasonable in comparison to the cost and labor involved in replacing a beam (and doesn’t require big strong men nor a kitchen table on the front yard).

The first step is to apply the Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer- it’s a 2-part mixture (I mixed equal parts in a glass measuring cup reserved especially for chemicals).  It’s supposed to stop further rot and also harden the existing wood.  In theory, if you don’t stop the rot, there could be mold spores in the wood that continue to rot the wood after you fill it, causing a continuous repair cycle.  I know this because I read the entire brochure that came with the sealer.  It can also act as a primer for rotted wood, which I haven’t tried yet.  I can say from experience that paint bubbles when you cut corners and paint directly over rotted wood- even if you use primer first, so I’ll probably be testing this priming feature pretty soon.

You are supposed to apply it with a natural bristle brush (I used a foam brush which it says NOT to use, but I didn’t see that instruction until after I did it- everything seemed ok though).  When you apply it, it soaks in quite a bit and leaves the wood looking wet:

It really stinks (I used a respirator when applying it) and takes a few days to dry.  At this point you could prime and paint- but it wouldn’t be pretty given I dug away the soft wood with my painter’s tool … so the next step is to apply the flexible epoxy filler.  Again it’s a 2-part system where you mix equal parts from 2 separate jars:

I used a plastic putty knife and eyeballed approximately equal amounts of the two parts (cleaning the putty knife in between), applying it to a piece of scrap wood (my palette).  It says you can be off by up to 10% in your 50/50 (by volume) mixture, so it seems to be an inexact science.  The cream colored part (A) has a plasticy texture and the blue part (B) is a little more paste-like.  I used the putty knife to thoroughly mix the two together.  For some reason, I’ve been afraid of using a 2-part wood-filling system, but I actually like it a lot- every time you mix up some new filler it’s like getting brand new container of filler (no crusty old filler)!  It is a little bit more work though- you have to mix each time you need more (In the end, I used about 4-times what is shown in the picture, so I had to mix it in about 4 batches- the instructions warn against mixing more than you can use immediately- I really took that to heart).  Application is very similar to any other wood filler- I just used my metal painter’s tool (a putty knife with a funky shape)- though my neighbor uses a plastic sheet and a squeegee.  The texture is a bit more like bubble gum or silly putty than regular wood filler, but it takes enough time to dry that you can really work with it without worrying about it hardening on you right away.  It dries a bit harder than regular wood putty (which I guess is a good thing)- but that means it’s more work to sand.  I used my trusty Rigid R2300 random orbital sander and it seemed to work pretty well.  Here it is after I applied it:

On this side of the beam where the hole to be filled is a little deeper, I considered filling it in 2 stages, letting the first filling dry first before doing a second filling- but because it’s mostly hidden once the siding is installed (the left/back part of the beam is inside the garage), I just did my best with one application and the sander.  Here it is after sanding, priming and painting:

Here’s the other side of the beam:

It definitely looks much better- and I have high hopes that it will stay looking this good for a long time.  As we continue to replace the siding we’re finding spots in the fascia that need the same treatment, so maybe I’ll try our neighbor’s squeegee method next!

Removing water marks from stainless steel applicances

We’ve replaced all of the appliances in our kitchen with stainless steel appliances.  We started with the refrigerator (Samsung) when we moved in about a year and a half ago, then the range (Electrolux) about a year ago and finally the dishwasher (Samsung) about 6 months ago.  We really like the look and function of everything, but I noticed the refrigerator and dishwasher started getting “water marks”- some looked like splashes, some like water drips, some like the marks left after cleaning with a wet sponge.  The water mark’s would not wash clean, even after repeatedly scrubbing- even when using special stainless steel cleaner.

We had the same sort of marks on the dishwasher (more like long drips though).  The range top was fine, but the front stainless steel on the range door had similar marks.  After trying to live with these for over a year, I finally did something about them.  After a little googling for ideas, it turns out to have been tarnish.  Though stainless steel won’t “stain” (rust) it WILL tarnish- and I think this depends on the specific type of stainless steel that is used (for instance the range top was fine and I know some appliances have a special finish where you don’t even see finger prints).

The solution? Silver polish!

I used the Wright’s Silver Cream that I have for my silver candle sticks- it actually says on the jar that it can be used on stainless steel too.  You apply it with the hexagonal sponge included in the jar, then buff it off with a paper towel and THEN use the stainless steel cleaner to remove all traces of the silver cream.  As you can see by the black paper towels, there was quite a bit of tarnish on our appliances.  After an hour or so of cleaning all of our kitchen appliances, they looked BETTER than new!